S+L logo

Daily Scripture reflections
by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing

Rev. Anthony Man-Son-Hing is a priest of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Born in Georgetown, Guyana on 23 November 1965, Anthony moved to Canada along with his family in 1974.

He attended elementary and secondary schools in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and received a Bachelor of Arts at Wilfrid Laurier University (1988), He pursued Theology studies at Saint Augustine's Seminary in Toronto (1988-1993) and was ordained to the priesthood on May 14, 1993 for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Fr. Anthony is currently serving as Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and Ste-Marie parishes in Elliot Lake, Ontario as well as Pastor of Ste-Famille parish in Blind River, Ontario.

— The following content is reproduced with permission of Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing

His Word Today: Virtue

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
18 August 2018, 9:16 am
Good morning everyone,

When a child sets out on the morning of the first day of school, his or her parents are already marking a major moment of passage.  Hopes and dreams for the future are all wrapped up in the little one who ventures forward - regardless of whether or not there are words to express them.

The same is true for God as we are watched at all moments of our lives.  God dreams about all that we can become, God hopes that one day at a time, one day after another, we will come to realize all that we can be.  The prophet Ezekiel speaks of this dream in terms of being virtuous (cf Ez 18:5) and what we must aim for is to do what is right.

These sound like simple words but living up to them is anything but simple.  Thankfully, it is not impossible, but in order to live up to our potential in God's eyes, we must strive to remember every day that we are not alone as we make our way through this journey.  Day after day, as we look for signs of divine presence, as we ask for heavenly guidance and sharpen our ability to recognize such grace, we come to see that He is always with us, and there are always new opportunities for goodness.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Clothed

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 August 2018, 9:17 pm
Good evening everyone,

How often have we taken the time to truly appreciate the significance of the moments that mark major milestones in our lives?  Sometimes, such moments fly by us and are gone before we even realize that they are gone, yet if we take the time to understand how God is at work within us and at such moments, there is wealth to be celebrated and shared.

Every moment of our lives, we can pause to consider God gazing at us, seeing within us a beloved son or daughter who has been bathed with water and anointed with oil, clothed with an embroidered gown, with sandals of fine leather on our feet (Ez 16:9-10).  These are the priceless ornaments that the Lord has given us - not physically visible, but part of our spiritual wardrobe.

When we allow our faith to shine in the words we speak to others, when we allow our belief in the living God to direct our thoughts and actions, others come to see and appreciate the precious garments with which the Lord has adorned us, and we come to appreciate all the more, how precious we are in the eyes of our heavenly Father.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Sight and sounds

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 August 2018, 7:12 am
Good morning everyone,

The word of God was addressed to Ezekiel, the prophet: they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear (Ez 12:2).  These words are alive, speaking to our hearts even today - many generations after the time of the prophets.

Who of us has not set out on a new path, filled with ideas and plans; filled with the dreams of possibilities ... and then found ourselves at some point wondering whether we have truly lived up to every possibility that we could have?  We can sometimes tend to shy away from admitting our shortcomings, especially if we tend to be perfectionist in other facets, but it is precisely at such times - when we are aware of our shortcomings, that we also have a wonderful opportunity placed before us.

It is often in the moments when we ourselves recognize our own shortcomings that we learn to rely on the strength of God.  To do otherwise is to run the risk of thinking that we can control all things, or that we can be the masters rather than students of the divine Master.

Give thanks today if you find yourself in a situation where you are aware of weakness, for in that moment of vulnerability, it is the strength of our merciful God that will teach us to be truly wise.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The Assumption of Mary

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
15 August 2018, 7:55 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God.  The belief among Christians that the Mother of God was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life is not documented in the scriptures, although the account which appears in the book of Revelation is believed to speak prophetically about this event (cf Rev 11:19; 12:1-6, 10).

The Roman Catholic Church holds this belief as a Dogma, defined in the Apostolic Constitution entitled Munificentissimus Deus (God is most generous) which was published by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950.  This was one of the very rare occasions when the Holy Father spoke ex cathedra (which literally means from the Chair).  In order for this to happen, the Pope must speak in union with his brother Bishops, and it must express something about the faith that is believed by the people of God (cf MD, 12).

Today is a day of great rejoicing for the entire Church.  We give thanks to God for the great grace accorded to the mother of Jesus whose soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord (Lk 1:46).  In recognition for her role in our salvation history, she was the first mortal to be taken up into heaven, and because she has been given this great privilege, we too can look forward to the day when we will enter into the joy of heaven.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
14 August 2018, 7:19 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we celebrate and pray with one of the Polish Saints - Maximilian Kolbe - who was born on 8 January 1894 in Zduńska Wola, in the Kingdom of Poland which (at the time) was a part of the Russian Empire, the second son of weaver Julius Kolbe and midwife Maria Dąbrowska. His father was an ethnic German and his mother was Polish. He had four brothers. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Pabianice (in central Poland).

Saint Maximilian's life was strongly influenced in 1906 by a vision of the Virgin Mary which he said he had at the age of 12. He later described this incident:

That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.

In 1907, Maximilian and his elder brother Francis both joined the Conventual Franciscans.  After a period of formation, Maximilian professed his final vows in 1914 and was known from that day forward as Maximilian Maria Kolbe.  He was sent to Rome where he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy (1915) and a second Doctorate in Theology (1919, 1922).  At the time, the Freemasons were mounting organized attacks against the Holy Father and there was much unrest in Rome, so in October 1917, Maximilian - who was not yet ordained a priest - organized the Militia Immaculatae whose aim was to work for the conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.

In 1918, he was ordained a priest and the following year, he returned to the newly-independent Poland where he continued to actively promote devotion to the Virgin Mary.  From 1919 to 1922, he taught at the Krakow seminary but was forced to take a leave from his teaching duties because he was suffering from tuberculosis, however this did not stop his zeal from being shared.  In January 1922, he began publishing a weekly periodical entitled Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculate) which continues even today, and he was also instrumental in establishing Conventual Franciscan seminaries and publishing houses in Poland, China and Japan.

After the outbreak of World War II, which started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, Father Kolbe was one of the few brothers who remained in the monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital. After the town was captured by the Germans, he was briefly arrested by them on 19 September 1939 but released on 8 December. He refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens in exchange for recognizing his German ancestry. Upon his release he continued work at his friary, where he and other friars provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in their friary in Niepokalanów. Kolbe also received permission to continue publishing religious works, though significantly reduced in scope. The monastery thus continued to act as a publishing house, issuing a number of anti-Nazi German publications. On 17 February 1941, the monastery was shut down by the German authorities. That day Kolbe and four others were arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner 16670.

Continuing to act as a priest, Kolbe was subjected to violent harassment, including beating and lashings, and once had to be smuggled to a prison hospital by friendly inmates. At the end of July 1941, ten prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, My wife! My children!, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

According to an eye witness, an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell, Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer to Our Lady. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. "The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection. He died on August 14. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.

On 12 May 1955, Kolbe was recognized as a Servant of God and was declared venerable by Pope Paul VI on 30 January 1969. Beatified as a Confessor of the Faith by the same Pope in 1971, he was canonized by Saint John Paul II on 10 October 1982.  May this holy man, who willingly received what the Lord gave him (cf Ez 2:8-3:2) intercede for us and help us to be courageous in living our faith.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The Encounter

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
13 August 2018, 7:41 am
Good morning everyone,

Have you ever noticed that for some people, setting out on an adventure is an exciting affair, while it can truly be a traumatic experience for others to venture beyond the confines of their usual routines?  Yet, it is those who brave the unknown who sometimes are rewarded with truly remarkable encounters.

The prophet Ezekiel described a vision of heaven in which he saw God and the angels (cf Ez 1:2-5; 24-28).  This vision of a reality that was previously unknown may very well have caused some people to be filled with dread and foreboding but Ezekiel uses words that portray a very serene experience.

As we move through life, I wonder whether some of us grow anxious or worried about the adventure that lies beyond.  Yet for those who believe in the existence of God, this earthly life that we live is a training ground upon which we learn how to relate with others, how to relate with God and how to see ourselves as precious children who are loved.  The prospect of encountering God in all His glory, surrounded by the angels should not be a cause for fright; rather, for those who have faith, it is the moment for which we prepare every day as we live our earthly lives.  Therefore, be not afraid; rather, think of it as the encounter for which we have waited all our lives.

Have a great day.

What is he saying?

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
12 August 2018, 8:37 am
The gospel passage we have heard today follows on last weekend’s gospel.  Jesus is explaining the fact that he is the bread that came down from heaven (Jn 6:41).  These words are as true today as they were when he first spoke them, but even now, we can find it difficult to understand what these words mean.

God sent his son Jesus into the world so that we might understand his desire to be close to us – to all his beloved people.  We understand what it means for two people to be close friends, confidants, husband and wife.  This is the kind of relationship that God wants to have with each one of us, and he chose to live among us, in the form of another human being so that we could understand his desire. If he had remained far off, we would never have come to understand this level of his love for us.

It’s not always easy for us to understand this relationship between God and us.  We can easily grasp the fact that Jesus was a human being, the son of Joseph and Mary, but we find it more difficult to comprehend how he can say I have come down from heaven (Jn 6:42).  In order to understand this, we must first hear him tell us that the Father has sent him, and that the Father draws us to him (cf Jn 6:44). 

It is God who has always desired this relationship with us.  It is He who invites us to gather in this place and in other such assemblies, around his table.  It is He who feeds us with special food just as he fed Elijah.  We heard about this in the first reading today (cf 1 Kings 19:4-8).  Just as God provided food for Elijah, he also provides the bread of angels for us at this Eucharistic table.  Strengthened by this food, we too are sent out – just like Elijah, and just like the disciples – to share the good news of the gospel with others.

We need to be reminded of this simple food.  That’s why we need to keep coming back to his banquet, to receive the Eucharist over and over.  We also need to hear the encouragement that Saint Paul offered to the early Christians at Ephesus.  His words also speak to our hearts: we have all been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit (cf Eph 4:30).  Therefore we need to remember every day that we are much more than just physical beings existing in the world.  This is why Saint Paul urges us to resist all temptations toward bitterness, anger, wrath, slander and malice, and instead to be kind to one another, tender-hearted and forgiving of one another (Eph 4:31-32).

Here then is our homework for this week: we have gathered in the presence of our God, let us present our prayers to him today: praising him for his goodness and asking him to help us.  Let us receive graciously the food that he offers us so that it will strengthen our hearts and souls, and let us set out on the journey, seeking only to practice the virtues that he has taught us.

His Word Today: Saint Clare of Assisi

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
11 August 2018, 7:26 am
Wax covers the face of Saint Clare
inside the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi
Good morning everyone,

Today, we remember and pray with Saint Clare of Assisi.  Her life provides us with a most valuable lesson for our time.  Chiara Offreduccio was born in Assisi on 16 July 1194.  Clare's father was very wealthy and her mother was from the noble family of Fiumi.  Therefore she could have led a life of luxury.  However, even as a child, Clare was devoted to prayer.  She was 18 years old when she heard Francis preaching during a Lenten service held in the church of San Gregorio in Assisi, and she asked him then to help her live according to the gospel.  A short time afterwards, on the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father's house and proceeded to the chapel of the Porziuncula (the little chapel that had been restored by Francis) where her hair was cut and she exchanged her rich gown for a plain robe and veil.

Francis placed Clare with the Benedictine nuns of San Paolo near Bastia, where she stayed for some time until being transferred to the the Monastery of Sant'Angelo in Pranzo, another Benedictine convent.  She remained there until a small dwelling was built for her and for her sister Caterina (who had also chosen a life of poverty) next to the church of San Damiano in Assisi.  Throughout the remainder of her life, Clare lived lived a simple life of poverty, austerity and seclusion from the world.  This allowed her and her companions to fulfill what she referred to as her obligation to follow Christ.

Clare understood the need to separate herself from the temptations that are presented by worldly possessions.  She chose to contemplate the goodness of God who gazes (even) on the faithless in silence (Habakkuk 1:13) rather than to allow herself to be distracted by the promise of worldly possessions.  Let us ask her to help us too, so that we might always keep our eyes fixed on Him who calls us to be his hands, his feet, his eyes and his ears in the world today.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Lawrence

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 August 2018, 8:47 am
Saint Lawrence distributing the treasures of the Church
by Bernardo Strozzi (1581-1644)
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Lawrence, the Martyr, one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome who is believed to have been born in Valencia (Spain) on 31 December 225 AD.  As a young man (most probably as a student) Lawrence met Sixtos (the future Pope Sixtus II) who was a Professor of Philosophy in Ceasaraugusta (the present-day Zaragoza, Spain).  Lawrence eventually travelled with Sixtus to Rome and, after Sixtus was elected Bishop of Rome in 257, he ordained Lawrence as a deacon and entrusted him (along with six others) with the responsibility of overseeing the treasury and the riches of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.

Sixtus must have recognized in Lawrence a great capacity for generosity, for as Saint Paul wrote to the early Christian community at Corinth, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully ... for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:6-7).  In the same year as Sixtus was elected Pope, the Roman Emperor Valerian published edicts against Christians.  One year later, Pope Sixtus himself was apprehended and put to death, and four days later, Lawrence was also martyred.

The Roman Emperors subjected many of the early Christians to such torture and death because they could not understand the message that Jesus had come to preach - and the natural human tendency is to ignore or banish that which we do not understand, however the secret to being a disciple of Jesus is to give generously all that we have received out of love for our brothers and sisters.  That is what Christians have always been called to do in imitation of Christ himself.   Will you welcome this invitation today?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Engraved

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
9 August 2018, 7:12 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the prophet Jeremiah assures us that the Lord will place his law within us, and write it on our hearts (Jer 31:33).  What would our hearts be like if God were not part of our lives?  Would they be lacking in form - not physical form but rather the form that comes from knowing that we are deeply and intentionally loved?

Our God loves us so deeply that he has constantly been at work, placing his law - the law of love - within us, inscribing it on our hearts.  When we take the time to step away from our busy lives and to allow ourselves to marvel in the presence of God, we get a glimpse of the love that He has engraved within our very beings.

Even in the absence of words, if we spend time in silence and contemplation of this truth, the Lord will reveal some wonderful realities to us.  Dare today to stop long enough to feel the heat of the sun on your face or to notice the gentle breeze that tickles your skin.  Give thanks today for the marvellous gifts that our loving creator has prepared for us, revealing such blessings in the depth of our beings.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Dominic

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
8 August 2018, 7:33 am
Saint Dominic at Prayer
El Greco (circa 1605)
Good morning everyone,

Today, we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of Saint Dominic, a Spanish priest and the founder of the Dominican Order.  He was born in Caleruega, halfway between Osma and Aranda da Duero in Old Castile (Spain).

Dominic was educated in the schools of Palencia (they became a university soon afterwards) where he devoted six years to the arts and four to theology. In 1191, when Spain was desolated by famine,[9] young Dominic gave away his money and sold his clothes, furniture and even precious manuscripts to feed the hungry. In 1194, around the age of twenty-five, Dominic joined the Canons Regular in the canonry in the Cathedral of Osma, following the rule of Saint Augustine.

Around 1205, Dominic began a program in the south of France aimed at converting the Cathars, a Christian religious sect with gnostic and dualistic beliefs, which the Roman Catholic Church deemed heretical. As part of this, Catholic-Cathar public debates were held at Verfeil, Servian, Pamiers, Montréal and elsewhere. Dominic concluded that only preachers who displayed real sanctity, humility and asceticism could win over convinced Cathar believers. However, even Dominic managed only a few converts among the Cathars.

In 1215, Dominic and six of his followers established themselves  in a house given by Peter Seila, a rich resident of Toulouse. Dominic saw the need for a new type of organization to address the spiritual needs of the growing cities of the era, one that would combine dedication and systematic education, with more organizational flexibility than either monastic orders or the secular clergy. He subjected himself and his companions to the monastic rules of prayer and penance; and meanwhile received written authority to preach throughout the territory of Toulouse.

In the same year, Dominic went to Rome to secure the approval of the Pope, Innocent III. He returned to Rome a year later, and was finally granted written authority in December 1216 and January 1217 by the new pope, Honorius III for an order to be named The Order of Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum, popularly known as the Dominican Order).

The Dominicans still exist today, preaching God's word so that all those who hear it can be restored and rebuilt (cf Jer 31:4).  May His word always find a place in our hearts and fill us with joy.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Incurable

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
7 August 2018, 7:17 am
Good morning everyone,

A long time ago, I heard it said that a cold will last for seven days if it is treated - and a week if it is not.  Why then does it happen that people get colds that seem to go on forever?  Are there that many viruses flying through the air?  When we have one of those colds, it can seem that there is no cure.  Admittedly, that might have something to do with a compromised immunity system, but even more serious are situations where no matter what we seem to do, our faith is always weak, even to the point of suffering.

Jeremiah says that this wound is incurable (cf Jer 30:12) but there is still hope because God recognizes the fact that human beings are frail: that no matter how good our intentions might be, there is a part of us that only He can heal.

Perhaps it is a grace for us to recognize and to admit to the fact that we are incurable.  There is nothing that we can do or say that will earn us favour with God, and often it is only when we recognize our own weakness that we are able to grasp God's true strength.  It is only when we recognize our own woundedness that we can come to understand the fact that our God is the master physician.  It is only when we admit to ourselves - and to God - that we are lost and need help that we begin to comprehend the depth of his words: You shall be my people and I will be your God (Jer 30:22) ... always!

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Transfiguration

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 August 2018, 7:20 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.  Saint Mark recounts the details of that wonderful day when Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves (Mk 9:2).  I've been up that mountain and I can attest to the fact that it's not an easy climb.  In fact, these days, tourists are transported aboard a series of mini buses to the top of that mountain and when you get there, you truly feel as though you are apart from everything else that is going on in the world.

On that mountaintop, those three disciples were witnesses to something truly extraordinary: Jesus was transfigured before them and his clothes became dazzling white ... then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses and they conversed with Jesus (Mk 9:3-4).  Miraculous things happened there: three human beings were able to gaze on eternal beings; the connection and continuity between the teachings of Elijah, Moses and Jesus were emphasized; and the disciples got a sneak peak at the glory of heaven.  Later, as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what they had seen there until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (cf Mk 9:10).

The details of the conversations that these three disciples must have had with their other companions are not recorded in the bible, but we can imagine how it all played out, perhaps in the Upper Room on the day of the Resurrection.  With the doors closed, they may have finally been able to tell the others about what they had heard and seen at the top of that mountain: how they had been filled with exceeding joy, how they had wanted to put up three tents (cf Mk 9:5) so that they could stay there for awhile, how they never wanted that moment to end.

Perhaps we too have experienced such mountaintop moments: as we have held a new-born baby, in the arms of a loved one or as we have witnessed the moment of physical death.  When we get glimpses of heaven, we never want them to end ... but they do come to an end because the task of one who has seen heaven in this way is to share the good news that we have learned so that others may come to believe.

Have a great day.

Food for body and soul

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
5 August 2018, 8:11 am
A number of years ago, I was invited to work with a group of Christian faith leaders to organize an outdoor faith gathering.  One of the first planning meetings took place early in the morning – a breakfast meeting.  We began by talking about the importance of such gatherings: people from various Christian faith traditions don’t always gather to pray together, so this was a significant moment indeed.  At one point, after we had discussed the significance of this gathering, someone said that we should pray, asking God to provide everything that we needed for this endeavour to be successful, and so we did ... then someone else observed: We should make a list of the people we need to contact, any reservations of space that need to be done, advertising that has to be done, etc.  In other words, we can’t always rely on God to provide for our needs if we’re not willing to do our part too.

We see evidence of this in today’s first reading.  The Israelites have been freed from slavery in Egypt and led into the Promised Land, but even there, they are not happy.  The problem was that they had not yet realized the need to ask God for what they wanted.  Instead they just murmured among themselves and misdirected their anger toward Moses and Aaron: If only we had died ... in the land of Egypt ... but you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger (Ex 16:3).

The same was true of the crowds who followed Jesus.  They knew that they wanted bread, but they did not truly understand the significance of the bread that Jesus gave.  Instead, they kept looking for more signs (cf Jn 6:30).

Have we ever found ourselves in such situations: asking God for help, but unaware of the fact that we too need to contribute our talents in order to find solutions to the situations that challenge us, or somehow expecting that God will provide us with some kind of magical response to our prayer?

Like the Israelites in the desert, like the crowds who went to Capernaum looking for Jesus (Jn 6:24), we too need to do our part.  First, whenever we encounter a challenge, it might help to look at it not in a negative light but rather to try seeing it as an opportunity.  If we are able to train ourselves not to see life as a series of negative experiences but rather as possibilities for positive outcomes, we will also be able to set out in search of Jesus, and we will also be able to recognize the signs that he provides: the true bread from heaven that our Father provides for us (cf Jn 6:32), his constant presence, his support and his love that strengthens our resolve to be his disciples day after day.

It was because Saint Paul had encountered the Lord, and because his heart and soul had been nourished by the presence of the Lord that he was able to advise the early Christians living in Ephesus: put away your former way of life ... and be renewed in the spirit of your minds ... clothe yourselves with Christ (Eph 4:22-24).  Let this be our prayer this week.  Amen.

His Word Today: Saint John Vianney

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 August 2018, 8:11 am
The incorrupt body of Saint John Mary Vianney
above the main altar in the Basilica at Ars, France
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney, TOSF (Third Order Franciscan) who is known in English as Saint John Vianney.  He is also referred to as the Curé d'Ars (in reference to the parish in Eastern France where he served as pastor for most of his life).  Born on 8 May 1786 in the town of Dardilly (not far from Lyon), John was the fourth of six children born to Mathieu and Marie (Belize) Vianney who were devout Catholics and who often gave assistance to the poor.

By 1890, the anticlerical attitude which was part of the French Revolution (1789-1799) forced many loyal priests to hide from the regime in order to continue ministering to the faithful.  Despite the danger, the Vianney family often travelled to distant farms in order to attend Masses celebrated by priests on the run.  John realized that these priests were risking their lives every day and began to look on them as heroes.

Religious peace was reestablished in 1802 but it wasn't until John was 20 years old that his father allowed him to leave home in order to pursue an education (which included arithmetic, history, geography and Latin).  He struggled with the studies but persevered because of his ardent desire to be a priest.  In the end, despite having had his studies interrupted due to an army draft (which he managed to avoid), he continued formation and was ordained a priest on 12 August 1815.

In 1818, he was appointed as pastor of the little church in the town of Ars where he lived for the remainder of his life.  The aftermath of the French Revolution had resulted in religious ignorance and indifference among the people, so he had to work all the harder to instruct them and to show them by his own example the importance of a relationship with God, with Jesus, with Mary and with the Saints.

His reputation spread throughout France and beyond.  As early as 1827, people travelled extensively in order to consult with him.  By 1855, the number of pilgrims reached 20,000 per year, and he spent between 16-18 hours a day (in summer months) in the confessional.  In winter months, due to the cold, he reduced this length to 11 or 12 hours a day.

Saint John Vianney died on 4 August 1859 at the age of 73.  There were 300 priests and more than 6,000 people present at his funeral.  On 3 October 1874, Pope Pius IX proclaimed him Venerable and began his cause for Canonization.  On 8 January 1905, Pope Pius X declared him Blessed and proposed him as a model for all parish priests.  In 1925, it was Pope Pius XI who canonized him and who - in 1929 - made him patron saint of parish priests.

Let us ask him to pray for our priests, that the Lord will inspire them to be fervent servants and that He will continue to prepare the hearts of many young men to hear his call ... come, follow me (cf Mt 4:19).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Listen

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 August 2018, 6:47 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the scriptures place us with the prophet Jeremiah in the court of the house of the Lord where he speaks to the people.  The words he speaks were meant for them to hear, but it is also good for us to hear them as well.  The Lord instructed Jeremiah: whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing (Jer 26:2).

Every day, the Lord longs to speak with us, to instruct our hearts and our souls and to demonstrate his tender love for us, but He can only do that if we are willing to listen - as Saint Benedict once said, with the inner ear of the heart.  In our prayer, we need to learn to listen with the inner ear of our hearts so that we can hear the Lord's voice.

If we have already established this discipline, we know how fruitful it can be; if not, let us set a resolve to begin listening for the Lord's voice today.  He will always speak the words we need to hear: words of encouragement when our hearts are desolate, words of challenge when we go astray, and most of all, words of love to gladden our hearts.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Eusebius

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
2 August 2018, 7:15 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of Saint Eusebius, who was born in Sardinia (Italy) in the third century (283 AD).  This was a very difficult time to be a Christian because the Roman Emperors were persecuting Christians, putting them to death.  However, the blood of martyrdom has always (and continues to) watered the faith of Christianity and made it more fervent.

Eusebius' father suffered a martyr's death in Sardinia and then his mother took him to Rome where he was eventually ordained a priest and later was appointed as Bishop of Vercelli (in the Piedmont region of northern Italy) where he lived with the other clergy, devoting his best energies to forming them in piety and zeal.  In this way, he reminded them by word and example that we are all like clay in the hands of the potter (Jer 18:6), constantly being formed into the people we are meant to be.

Today, let us ask this holy man to pray with and for us so that we too may allow the Spirit of God to form us into the faithful disciples God intends us to be.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Alphonsus Liguori

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
1 August 2018, 7:45 am
Good morning everyone,

Today we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (known as the Redemptorists).  Born in 1696 in Marianella, not far from Naples (Italy).  Nearsighted and suffering from asthma, he could not pursue the military career he first wanted, so his father had him educated and prepared for the legal profession.  He eventually earned doctorates in both civil and canon law.

At the age of 18, Alphonsus joined the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy; with others who were part of this brotherhood, he helped to care for the sick at the hospital for incurables while enjoying a successful legal career.  He did however recognize that the legal profession was too full of difficulties and dangers at at the age of 27, he made a firm resolution to leave the legal profession.

In 1723, he wanted to offer himself as a novice to the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri where he could prepare for priesthood, but his father was opposed to this plan.  Eventually, after a few months had passed, he and his father reached a compromise: Alphonsus could prepare for priesthood but lived at home.  He was ordained a priest on 21 December 1726.  His first years of priesthood were spent among the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples.  He founded the Evening Chapels, centres of prayer and piety, preaching, community, social activities and education which were managed by the young people themselves.

On 9 November 1732, he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer with the charism of preaching popular missions in the city and throughout the countryside, teaching and preaching in slums and other poor places.  In this way he helped the poor to discover the Lord's words and to devour them so that they became the joy and happiness of their hearts (Jer 15:16).

Alphonsus went on to become a renowned Bishop, serving as the pastoral leader of the Church of Sant'Agata dei Goti from 1762 until his retirement in 1775.  He lived for two more years in the Redemptorist community in Pagani (Italy) where he died in 1787.

Beatified on 15 September 1816, and canonized on 26 May 1839, he continues to intercede for all of us, and to instruct us still.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Ignatius of Loyola

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
31 July 2018, 7:19 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  The most accurate records state that he was born on or about 23 October 1491in the municipality of Azpeitia at the castle of Loyola in today's Gipuzkoa, Basque Country in Spain. He was baptized Íñigo, after Saint Enecus (Innicus) (Basque: Eneko; Spanish: Íñigo) Abbot of Oña, a Basque medieval, affectionate name meaning My little one. It is not clear when he began using the Latin name Ignatius instead of his baptismal name Íñigo.

As a young man Íñigo had a great love for military exercises as well as a tremendous desire for fame. He framed his life around the stories of El Cid, the knights of Camelot, and the Song of Roland. He joined the army at seventeen, and according to one biographer, he strutted about with his cape slinging open to reveal his tight-fitting hose and boots; a sword and dagger at his waist.

In 1509, at the age of 18, Íñigo took up arms for Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera. His diplomacy and leadership qualities earned him the title servant of the court, which made him very useful to the Duke. Under the Duke's leadership, Íñigo participated in many battles without injury, but at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 he was gravely injured when a French-Navarrese expedition force stormed the fortress of Pamplona on May 20, 1521. A cannonball hit him in the legs, wounding his right leg and fracturing the left in multiple places. Íñigo was returned to his father's castle in Loyola, where he underwent several surgical operations to repair his legs, having the bones set and then rebroken. In the end these operations left one leg shorter than the other.

While recovering from surgery, Íñigo underwent a spiritual conversion which led to his experiencing a call to religious life. Hospitals in those days were run by religious orders, and the reading material available to bedridden patient tended to be selected from scripture or devotional literature. This is how Íñigo came to read a series of religious texts on the life of Jesus and on the lives of the saints.

The religious work which most particularly struck him was the De Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony. This book would influence his whole life, inspiring him to devote himself to God and follow the example of Francis of Assisi and other great monks. It also inspired his method of meditation, since Ludolph proposes that the reader place himself mentally at the scene of the Gospel story, visualizing the crib at the Nativity, etc. This type of meditation, known as Simple Contemplation, was the basis for the method that St. Ignatius would promote in his Spiritual Exercises.

After he had recovered sufficiently to walk again, Íñigo resolved to begin a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to kiss the earth where our Lord had walked, and to do stricter penances. He thought that his plan was confirmed by a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus he experienced one night, which resulted in much consolation to him. In March 1522, he visited the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. There, he carefully examined his past sins, confessed, gave his fine clothes to the poor he met, wore a garment of sack-cloth, then hung his sword and dagger at the Virgin's altar during an overnight vigil at the shrine.

From Montserrat he walked on to the nearby town of Manresa (Catalonia), where he lived for about a year, begging for his keep, and then eventually doing chores at a local hospital in exchange for food and lodging. For several months he spent much of his time praying in a cave nearby where he practiced rigorous asceticism, praying for seven hours a day, and formulating the fundamentals of his Spiritual Exercises.

In 1539, with Saint Peter Faber and Saint Francis Xavier, Ignatius formed the Society of Jesus, which was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III. Ignatius was chosen as the first Superior General of the order and invested with the title of Father General by the Jesuits.

Ignatius sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. Juan de Vega, the ambassador of Charles V at Rome, met Ignatius there. Esteeming Ignatius and the Jesuits, when Vega was appointed Viceroy of Sicily, he brought Jesuits with him. A Jesuit college was opened at Messina, which proved a success, and its rules and methods were afterwards copied in other colleges.

In 1548 Ignatius was briefly brought before the Roman Inquisition for examination of his book of Spiritual Exercises. But he was released and the book was finally given papal permission to be printed. It was published in a format such that the exercises were designed to be carried out over a period of 28–30 days.

Ignatius died in Rome on 31 July 1556, as a result of the Roman Fever, a severe case of malaria that recurred in Rome, Italy, at different points in history. An autopsy revealed that he also had several kidney and bladder stones, a probable cause of the abdominal pains he suffered from later in life. At this time he was placed in a wooden shrine, his body was then covered with his priestly garments. On 1 August the shrine was then buried in the small Maria della Strada Church. In 1568 that church was pulled down and replaced with the Church of the Gesù. Saint Ignatius was put into a new coffin and reinterred in the new church.

Ignatius was beatified by Pope Paul V on 27 July 1609, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on 12 March 1622.  May this holy man who is well known in the Church for the art of discernment help us to listen closely for the guidance that the Lord offers to us, and to have the courage to act according to His will.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Choices

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
30 July 2018, 6:49 am
Good morning everyone,

Last week, the Bishops of Canada issued a pastoral letter to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical (a circular letter of sorts issued by the Pope in which he outlines some aspect of Catholic doctrine) concerning the transmission of human life.  At the time of its publication, there were many people who did not agree with its teachings, yet the document clearly outlines the Church's stance on the sacredness of human life, and this wisdom has been repeated and further clarified by other popes who have come afterwards too.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks today of another time in history when people did not heed the wisdom of God, preferring to abide by their own prideful thoughts.  Our God has always wanted to share his heart with us, and for us to share our hearts with him (cf Jer 13:11) but our ancestors in faith did not always listen to the voice of God.  Even today, the choice not to listen - to God or to others who love us and want the best for us - often leads to a breakdown in relationships: something that can cause great pain and grief.

Have our words or actions been the cause of such weakening of relationships?  If so, it's not too late to change our ways, but we must at least have the desire to make things better.  Let us pray for the wisdom we need in order to make good choices, decisions that are not focused on our own wants and desires, but rather on the good of others.  Our own happiness will follow as a consequence.

Have a great day.

There is always more

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
29 July 2018, 8:24 am
We hear about two miracles in today’s scripture passages.  First, the second book of Kings relates the story of food that is presented to Elisha: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain (2 Kings 4:42) ... and in the gospel account, when Jesus asked the disciples to feed the crowds, Andrew pointed out a boy ... who had five barley loaves and two fish (Jn 6:9).  In both cases, the humble gifts that were presented by human hands were miraculously multiplied in order to feed vast crowds of people.

This miracle is repeated every week, right here at the Eucharistic table, and it is also repeated every day in the lives of God’s people.  Whenever we offer ourselves, whenever we use our talents to share what we have with those in need, God takes our humble gifts and multiplies their effect in the lives of those who receive them.

Sometimes the gifts we share can be tangible, and at other times, they are not, but every gift – including the example we set by the lives we lead – can become a source of nourishment for the faith life of others.

This past week, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) regarding the transmission of human life, the Bishops of Canada published a Pastoral Letter entitled The Joy of Married Love.  This Letter presents the teaching of Pope Paul’s encyclical in an accessible and uplifting style which is aimed at inspiring and providing encouragement to married couples.  The Bishops also acknowledge the teachings of Pope John Paul II and the newest insights, perspectives and reflections on the gift of marriage from Pope Francis.

We may not always be aware of the gifts that God has offered to us, or perhaps we choose not to recognize them.  Yet, regardless of whether or not we perceive the blessings we receive as gifts freely given to nourish us as we continue our journey through life, God will always continue to make them available to us, until one day we come to realize the true value of all that we have received.

In the meanwhile, Saint Paul urges us today to lead lives worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph 4:1).  As we begin to discover and to appreciate the value of human love as it is lived out in our midst, as we come to value more and more the precious gift of the special food that God offers to us in the Eucharist, we will become more and more humbled by the great privilege that we have been afforded.  From the author of these gifts, we will continue to learn gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love and making every effort to maintain unity in the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph 4:2-3).

And as we continue to use these gifts to strengthen the lives of those who are in need, we will come to realize that the meagre offerings we have contributed are multiplied by God’s grace, and the result is a great abundance of blessings.

His Word Today: Reform

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
28 July 2018, 7:29 am
Good morning everyone,

At first, some of us might think that our relationships with God are well in order.  After all, we are kind to others, we try to help whenever we can ... but then along comes Jeremiah and his warnings.  In today's first reading, he stands at the gate of the house of the Lord and calls out to all those who pass by: ... Reform your ways and your deeds (Jer 7:2-3).

Even those of us who are priests and deacons can fall out of love.  If we do, we can continue to do the things we do but we will always be missing something; God will continue to work through us but we ourselves will at times feel empty.  We all need to fall in love over and over again with the One who has called us, and this begins with a simple prayer for help.  It can be as simple as Lord, help me to fall in love again!

We can pray this prayer for ourselves, or we can pray this prayer for someone we love ... and we can count on the fact that if we ask, the Lord will answer.  He will show us his face, in the poor, the needy, the sick ... all those who need our help, all those who need to know that he is near.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Shepherds

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
27 July 2018, 7:00 am
Good morning everyone,

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us today that the Lord has promised to care for his people (that's us) ... to appoint shepherds for us after his own heart (Jer 3:15).  The image of a shepherd appears repeatedly in the gospel in order to remind us that our God cares for us in the same way as a shepherd cares for his (or her) sheep.

Shepherds, and others who dedicate their lives to caring for animals, truly get to know the ones they care for - they are aware of their behaviours and moods, the ones who cause trouble, the ones who are loyal, the ones who go out of their way to care for others ...  This is the same kind of relationship that God seeks to cultivate with us, and the same kind of relationship that he hopes we will develop with him.  Out of a deep sense of love and caring for us, he promises always to provide shepherds for us and to teach them how to think and act like he does.

Those of us who have already encountered the tender heart of God can willingly testify to the gentle way in which he calls us to spend time in his presence; the infinite patience he always has with us: waiting for us to turn to him; the quiet whispers he sends our way at times to remind us that he is always present to us, constantly calling to us.

The challenge for us today is that there are so many other voices calling out for attention: some of which are shouting, others which are presenting all kinds of temptations.  In the midst of such noise, it seems increasingly difficult for us to listen for the whispers ... and eventually we run the risk of the shepherd's voice being drowned out completely, the result being that we end up wandering aimlessly.

Today, let us make some space in our lives so that we can listen for the whispers of the shepherd who is calling out to us, searching for us, seeking us out.  Let us ask him to come in search of us, and when he finds us, let us ask him to pick us up out of our wildernesses, to envelop us in his loving arms and to bring us home.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saints Joachim and Anne

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
26 July 2018, 7:19 am
The Education of Mary, Diego Velázquez
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The story of these holy people is not found in the Bible but rather in the apocryphal gospel of James: one of the other ancient documents that recounts details about the life of Jesus.

According to tradition, Saint Anne was born in Bethlehem, and married Joachim of Nazareth, both descendants of David. According to James' account, Joachim is described as a rich and pious man, who regularly gave to the poor and to the synagogue at Sepphoris. Tradition has it that the parents of the Blessed Virgin, who, apparently, first lived in Galilee, came later on to settle in Jerusalem. However, the high priest rejected Joachim and his sacrifice, as their childlessness was interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure. Joachim consequently withdrew to the desert where he fasted and did penance for forty days. Angels then appeared to both Joachim and Anne to promise them a child. Joachim later returned to Jerusalem and embraced Anne at the city gate. There was ancient belief that a child born of an elderly mother who had given up hope of having offspring was destined for great things. Parallels occur in the Old Testament in the case of Hannah, mother of Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-23).

In some Eastern Churches, Saint Joachim's liturgical Memorial is celebrated on a different day, but since 1969, the Roman Catholic Church has celebrated this day as the Memorial of both parents of the Blessed Virgin.

May the prayer of these holy people - the grandparents of Jesus - help us to always come to Jesus, the source of living waters (Jer 2:13), even when we find it most difficult to believe that there is good news to be heard, and to trust that He is at work in and around us, doing wonderful things.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint James the Apostle

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
25 July 2018, 8:22 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast day of Saint James, the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve Apostles.  James was among the first four of the apostles to be called by Jesus (cf Mt 4:18-22).

The son of Zebedee and Salome, James - the focus of today's feast day - is referred to as the Greater to distinguish him from the Apostle James the Less. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the elder of the two.

His parents seem to have been people of means. Zebedee, his father, was a fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, who probably lived in or near Bethsaida, present Galilee, Israel, perhaps in Capernaum, and had some boatmen or hired men. Salome, his mother, was one of the pious women who afterwards followed Christ and ministered unto him of their substance, and his brother John was personally known to the high-priest, and must have had the wherewithal to provide for the Mother of Jesus.

Local tradition teaches that after Jesus' death and resurrection, James the Apostle preached the Word - a treasure beyond price that is carried in the fragile earthen vessels of our bodies (cf 2 Cor 4:7) - along the Iberian peninsula (in present-day Spain) and eventually made his way to Jerusalem.  It is believed that on 2 January AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching in that region. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conservfieryed and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain.

According to tradition, Saint James was the first of the apostles to be martyred (at the hands of Herod Agrippa, in Jerusalem, circa AD 44).  His mortal remains are believed to be buried inside the Cathedral of Santiago (derived from the Latin original Sanctus Iacobus) at Compostella in Galacia (Spain) where they are venerated to this day.

Let us ask Saint James to pray with us today, so that we will be zealous for our faith and eager to share the good news of the gospel with those we encounter.

Have a great day.

→ Previous posts from Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing