Homily of Mass of Installation of the Most Rev. Francis Leo
Archbishop of Toronto
St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica
25 March 2023 - Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Brothers and Sisters, Family, Friends and Distinguished Guests,
What a joy it is to be here with all of you and thank you for coming out even with this inclement weather.
I greet Your Eminences Cardinal Thomas Collins, Apostolic Administrator and Shepherd of this particular Church for over 16 years; and Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Primate of Canada and Archbishop of the oldest diocese, Québec.
I welcome and acknowledge the numerous members of the lay faithful, the many archbishops and bishops, including the emeriti, that have come from across Canada, numerous priests, deacons, seminarians, consecrated women and men, and all of you gathered today in this Cathedral Basilica, the mother Church of our Archdiocese, consecrated to God and under the patronage of the Archangel Michael.
I salute in a special way and am most appreciative for the presence and participation of the Papal Representative to Canada, His Excellency Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, our Apostolic Nuncio, who has conveyed the Papal mandate appointing me Archbishop and who has formally installed me as Chief Shepherd. Your Excellency, your presence with us today brings the special closeness of Pope Francis, and reminds us all that we are part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ, called to walk together, in a synodal fashion, along the path of holiness. Please do convey to the Holy Father our filial sentiments and gratitude for the gifts of his ministry and witnessing.
Je suis heureux de souligner la présence de l'archevêque de Montréal, Mgr Christian Lépine et de le remercier pour son appui et sa générosité exceptionnelle tout au long de ce temps. Je salue en particulier aussi l’évêque de St-Jérôme-Mont-Laurier, Mgr Raymond Poisson, Président de la Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada. Avec et à travers vous j’ai la joie de saluer tous les autres frères évêques francophones, venus même de loin pour célébrer. Merci pour votre proximité et votre soutien fraternel.
I would like to acknowledge the Most Rev. Gerard Bergie, Bishop of St. Catharines and President of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Thank you for being here and I look forward to working collaboratively and intently with you and all the Bishops of the Assembly, as well as, in a more concerted fashion, the Bishops of the Metropolitan Province of Toronto.
I am delighted that so many of our Ecumenical and Interreligious faith leaders as well as our civic leaders, dignitaries and members of the diplomatic corps have joined us today in this celebration. I will truly value and respect our friendships, and will work hand in hand for the welfare of our people and in view of the common good, a spiritual and social transformation and the promotion of the dignity of every human person.
My family and friends from Montreal, Ottawa, the United States and as far away as Australia — I thank you for your affectionate presence here today on this very solemn occasion and celebration of faith and fellowship. Grazie ai membri della mia famiglia qui presenti così pure i miei famigliari, gli amici, i fedeli e parrochiani della comunità italiana di Montreal che sono venuti e poi coloro che ci seguono a traverso i mezzi sociali. Un caro saluto e un abbraccio a tutti voi, parenti ed amici.
A word of welcome to those many persons and communities who are participating through social media and especially through the auspices of Salt & Light and our own archdiocesan platforms.
The first and most important of sentiments that must be expressed at this time is that of gratitude: gratitude to our Heavenly Father, to our Redeemer Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit.
Grateful for the love of God which is constantly being poured into our hearts by the same Spirit. Grateful for the salvation Christ brings to us, the mercy he shows to us, the compassion with which he lavishes us, the wisdom he shares with us, the courage he instils, the healing with which he cares for us, the forgiveness he affords us, the grace with which he lifts us up, the holiness he communicates to us, generously and abundantly. How could we ever live without God?
I am grateful for Pope Francis - who for us is Peter - and with whom we are in sincere ecclesial communion, acknowledging him as our Universal Shepherd, showing respect and filial obedience. As Church here and together, we minister to God’s Holy People cum et sub Petro, as the Second Vatican Council teaches.1 We pray for His Holiness as he guides and leads Holy Mother Church and for his fruitful ministry in confirming his brethren in the faith.
Before I go further, I wish to acknowledge a very special person to all of us, His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins. I want to thank you for the very kind and gracious welcome you extended to me in this Archdiocese at this time of transition and from the moment of our first telephone conversation, 11 February last. But most of all, on behalf of the Archdiocese of Toronto, I want to express our profound recognition of your faithful and fruitful ministry as its Archbishop for all of these past 16 years. The Cardinal has been an outstanding witness to Christ. He is a kind and considerate pastor and a loving servant leader who has effectively shepherded this local Church and has vigorously navigated rough waters; he has given admirable testimony over the many years. In his selfless and committed ministry as a devoted spiritual father, he has put into place so many new initiatives for the growth of the faith and its flourishing. Your Eminence, may this new chapter of your life as Emeritus Archbishop be marked by good health and deep spiritual joy.
On this most holy of liturgical celebrations, we commemorate the Incarnation of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ was conceived in the Immaculate womb and loving heart of the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary and through her wholehearted consent. How can we not stop and give thanks for the gift of Christ the Saviour who came to us through Mary, and who still in our days is born in our hearts, families and communities by the power of the Most High and through the prayers of the Mother of God and of the Church. The creative, life-giving and world-changing fiat of the teenager Myriam of Nazareth, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word,” becomes for us a model of response to the Lord’s many and diverse callings, as she epitomizes those Christian and human virtues of openness and gentleness, courage and compassion, humility and purity, charity and faith – attitudes that ought to always imbue all of our responses to the loving Lord of our lives. She is a gift the Lord offers to us; she must be known, loved, welcomed and served. She makes Jesus real and personal to us through the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Annunciation, as the Church Fathers remind us, can be a daily experience, as with and like Mother Mary, we open our hearts, our relationships, our families and our communities — so that Christ is born anew therein and fills us with the blessedness and joys of the Kingdom. Our greatest claim is that we are servants of the Lord. No one better than The Mother is able to teach us this important lesson.2
I am very grateful for the service given by those who, in addition to Auxiliary Bishops, are a Diocesan Bishop’s first and closest collaborators in pastoral ministry – the Priests. I look to them — to you present here and those who could not make it today — as co-workers and supporters, as sons and brothers, as friends and fellow missionary disciples, co-responsible for the mission of evangelization. I am thankful for the gift of the calling to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and am grateful for the priests of this Archdiocese who selflessly and generously give their lives for the life of their communities.
Ordained a priest over 26 years ago, I often look back and am so grateful for the fine examples of the missionary priests of my home parish. They were the palpable presence of Christ to us; they mediated the grace which brings Jesus to life within us, enabling us to live a supernatural life of holiness, all the while, with both feet on the ground, serving others with compassion and generosity. The world needs priests because the world needs Christ. Priests speak of Jesus, give us Jesus, love like Jesus, show us Jesus and bring, through the ministry of the Word and the sacraments, his Kingdom to life in our lives.
One of the aspects I loved most in my ministry has been teaching, at different levels of the academic structures: high school, seminary and university. I especially enjoyed lecturing on patristics and patrology. A most beautiful and inspiring passage comes to us from St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was the second Bishop of Antioch; was arrested, condemned to death, and transported to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena and martyred in the year 107. In the course of his journey he wrote seven letters to various communities, on a variety of topics including the organization of the Church.
In his letter to the Ephesians, he spoke specifically about the need for unity and its harmony – these are themes very close to my heart. He wrote:
“I am taking the opportunity to urge you to be united in conformity with the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our life, without whom we cannot live, is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, appointed over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Jesus Christ. It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good works that you are members of his Son. It is then an advantage to you to live in perfect unity, so that at all times you may share in God”.3
A beautiful image indeed: strings on the harp playing and singing Jesus in harmony. A wonderful ideal to pursue together, in unison.
I would like to express gratitude to the permanent Deacons, their wives and the entire diaconal community. Thank you for your service and dedication to the life of the Church and for witnessing to Christ the servant in your work with the needy and the vulnerable. Through your pastoral and liturgical ministries, social and charitable works, you share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. There is a delightful thought again of St. Ignatius of Antioch in one of his Letters: “Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.”4
Consecrated life, as we know, is a tremendous gift to the Church and to the wider society. I am very pleased to know of the many and committed women and men of consecrated life who, through their prophetic witnessing, contribute enormously to building up the Body of Christ in this Archdiocese and have for many, many years. Through the living out of the religious vows, they witness to us the beauty of belonging entirely to the Lord, of living for him and serving him through the manifold apostolates they have established and in which their charisms continue to inspire new generations.
Speaking of new generations, allow me to speak to and about the Young people. Again, a ministry I thoroughly loved during my years in parish ministry. The youth are a gift to us, to our families, our communities of faith and to the wider society. Youth bring strength, idealism and hope for the future. They are to be loved and accompanied, listened to and cherished, welcomed and witnessed to. We need to give them our attention, our time, our means and our wisdom.
The Holy Father wrote in his exhortation Christus Vivit: “Keep following your hopes and dreams. But be careful about one temptation that can hold us back. It is anxiety. Anxiety can work against us by making us give up whenever we do not see instant results. Our best dreams are only attained through hope, patience and commitment, and not in haste. At the same time, we should not be hesitant, afraid to take chances or make mistakes” (142).
I remember long ago when I was 18 years old and had just applied to enter the seminary. I was an altar server for many years at my home parish, Our Lady of Consolata. Our parish was staffed by many dedicated pastors of souls, dynamic missionaries. I remember especially the energy, creativity and generosity of the pastor, Father Ermenegildo Crespi, IMC. Another loving priest was Father Luigi Testa, IMC, God rest his soul too. One day as we were ready to begin Holy Mass, he stopped me at the sacristy door and said to me: “I heard that you asked to enter the seminary and become a priest. This is very good. I am proud of you. There is nothing more beautiful than to give your youth to the Lord”. These words have remained deep inside of me and have never left my heart. In Italian, I can still hear him say: “Non c’è niente più bello che dare la tua gioventù al Signore.”
So, I appeal to the young people here this morning and throughout the Archdiocese: Do not be afraid of the world. Do not be afraid to give of your life in service for others. Do not be afraid to dream big dreams and to want to transform the world. Do not be afraid to commit to Jesus and to his Gospel. Do not be afraid to love the Church, to be an integral part of her witnessing and to live a life of heroic virtue. Do not be afraid to give your youth to the Lord. Stay close to the parish Church and to the movements and associations of and in the Church. Get involved in the local realities of school, neighbourhood and other social needs, Share your talents. Discover your giftedness. Ask the Lord to reveal to you his will for your life, your authentic vocation. Reach out to others, let Jesus into your heart and allow Mother Mary to take you by the hand.5
Whenever a new Bishop arrives in the diocese that he is to lead and serve, there are no doubt many questions… Who is he? Where does he comes from? What’s his story? What makes him tick? You can find some answers to these questions in the program. My biography is all there – or as I like to put it - one of the best obituaries I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading! In my Message to the People of God in Toronto at the time of my appointment, I shared a little about myself and my leadership. I spoke about being the son of Italian immigrants from the “old country” where respect, sacrifice, hard work, family, faith and taking care of one another were and remain vital.
Now we know that Bishop Michael Power, buried here below in the crypt, was the first Bishop of Toronto and that he came from the Archdiocese of Montreal where he had been serving as the Vicar General. Sounds and feels very familiar. Sometimes I stop and ask myself how he must have felt. Toronto was quite different back then, with 25,000 Catholics, mainly Irish immigrants. The spiritual and social challenges were many back then, as they are now. I pray, as I ask you all to pray for me too, that I will serve with the same courage and wisdom, his committed pastoral zeal, and his love for the people, to serve until death with fidelity, with heart and generosity.
Our archdiocesan seminary is dedicated to that most incomparable of Bishops, St. Augustine. In one of his biblical commentaries, concerning the sacred ministry he wrote: may it be the task and duty of love to shepherd the flock of the Lord (Sit amoris officium pascere dominicum gregem).6 Words that penetrate our hearts and give us new impetus to want to live our life for Jesus and for others. A bishop’s crozier is a constant reminder of the task and duty of being good, loving shepherds.
I ask of your indulgence as I strive in the coming weeks and months, and hopefully years, to understand more deeply the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of our beloved local Church. I am certain that together we will be pleasing to the Lord God we surrender to his will, and empowered by his Spirit, build his Kingdom with humility and vigour. I have been comforted by the thoughtful words and wishes I have been receiving from so many of you since the time of my appointment. I am grateful for these and for the ongoing support, wisdom and kindness you share with me. I also am profoundly convinced that the Lord will provide, for us and for me, as I take up this new ministry of service and strive to keep a Kingdom mindset at all times: “Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”7
Just last week, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, in the Divine Office, we read an extract from a lovely sermon by Saint Bernadine of Siena. Speaking about the special and unique calling which St. Joseph had received as faithful foster-father and guardian of the Redeemer, the saintly Tuscan Franciscan priest wrote: “There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.” I find courage and hope, peace and insight in these words of wisdom from our great tradition and the communion of saints. I count on the gifts from the Spirit of the Lord in order to be a faithful, wise, loving and strong faith leader.
With respect to my vision for the Archdiocese… I will take the necessary time to come to know the priests, deacons, religious, and faithful of our local Church, and the other key players in the life of the larger community, civil and otherwise. I will listen to you. From you, I would like to learn about our community of faith – about its history, its rich diversity, the changing trends, the new challenges before us and together we shall discern the signs of the times. I appreciate even more the many wonderful ministries which already exist and are thriving, and wish to welcome together the grace-filled opportunities which lie before us. It is only then that, together, we can set forth a vision of where we would like to go as Church, rooted in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, working out of the Deposit of Faith, and in an openness to the newness and surprises which the Holy Spirit will show us and provide for us as missionary disciples spreading the message of Christ. As we reach out to all peoples and communities at the peripheries and at the centre as well, we seek to become a friend, a neighbour, a brother and a sister. As we sang in the entrance hymn, O God beyond all telling: “For we can only wonder at every gift you send, at blessings without number and mercies without end.”
There are, however, some aspects of our witnessing that are known and which will never change. For example, our care for the poor and marginalized; our outreach to the neglected and the forgotten; our welcoming of refugees, displaced persons and immigrants; our defence of human life and its dignity at all of its stages; protecting and promoting the sacredness of holy matrimony and the family; the gift of Catholic education to be encouraged; our institutions of healthcare and social services to be fostered and recognized for their outstanding works of mercy; our common and collaborative endeavours with persons of different faith traditions, in building a more fraternal and just society, all the while addressing the systemic and structural deficiencies at hand; our efforts of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous persons who have suffered so much; our protection of minors and vulnerable adults and preventing any and all forms of abuse; our care for our common home and our active engagement in the social networks of our city – all of this is part and parcel of our common calling. How vital it is to come together and work in tandem so that even in our beloved country men and women of faith are able to worship and be respected through policies and laws that seriously and conscientiously honour the makeup of our society that is made up of many people of faith and cultural traditions.
Furthermore, how attentive we must remain in avoiding harmful and divisive ideologies that erode the moral and spiritual fabric of our lives. We know and we weep for the violence that is taking place in different parts of the world, in Ukraine especially, and in other countries and continents; we hear and we are heartbroken at the knowledge of how the basic human rights and freedoms, in primis, religious freedom, are being trampled upon. In no way we can remain silent before such injustices and the different forms of persecution we see. We must stand strong. We must love the world - for God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to save it8 - but we must not kneel before it, as Jacques Maritain prophetically wrote decades ago.9
I never tire of repeating those words of Pope Benedict XVI, of happy memory, which carry us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.10 The question then becomes how do we build a culture of life and one of encounter, a civilization of love and one of dialogue? How and where do we encounter the Risen Christ today? Together we shall unpack these and other pastoral challenges.
If we want to be guided by the Holy Spirit, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles vis-à-vis the early Church, we must at all costs remain humble and meek, learning from Our Lord and Our Lady. It is only in emptying ourselves, the Gospel kenosis, that we will be led and animated by Jesus’ Spirit and make a lasting contribution to the Church and to the world. Arrogance and pride, self- sufficiency, spiritual worldliness and self-reference are vices and attitudes that are destructive and divisive, and always a temptation — we must reject them vehemently and remain in an attitude of self-effacing humility.
We are called and empowered to bring people together, and together to God and God to them; to lift people up, to provide and foster opportunities of grace so that all may receive and shine with the bright light of Christ. But not just shine, we are to enlighten our surroundings and the lives of those around us as well. There is a beautiful phrase of the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas, in his magnum opus, the Summa Theologica. He writes: “since it is better to enlighten than to merely shine, so it is better to share with others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.”11 We who have received the gift of faith and carry within us the light of Christ, must not keep it hidden under a bushel,12 we must not merely shine but rather seek to enlighten the lives of others. With humility we do this, or rather, we allow the Spirit in us to illumine persons and communities through us.
One of my favorite contemporary authors is the Capuchin friar and now Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., Preacher of the Papal Household. In his book Navigating the New Evangelization, he unpacks what he sees as the four waves of evangelization in the Church from her beginnings, as well as what he sees as the major challenges we face as Church in today’s world. In it, he distinguishes not only the pastoral care – ad intra – but also the creative outreach – ad extra, referring to the two biblical images Christ used of fishermen and shepherds.
“Jesus wanted the apostles to be shepherds of the flock and fishers of men. For members of the clergy, it is often easier to be pastors and not fishermen, that is, to nourish with the Word and sacraments those who already come to Church, rather than to go out in search of those who are far away and live in the most diverse environments. The parable of the lost sheep is reversed today: ninety-nine sheep have strayed and only one remains in the sheepfold (see Mt 18:12). The danger is that we spend all our time nourishing the remaining one and have no time (due in part to the lack of clergy) to go out and search for the lost ones. To this end, the contribution of the laity seems providential.”13
These are words we need to keep unpacking in our pastoral planning and in view of new initiatives for the sake of the Kingdom. More to come on this in the near future.
It is clear that we all must work together, laity and clergy, consecrated men and women, people with different callings and charisms, gifts and talents, all contributing to the One Body of Christ, bringing together for synergistic conversations, sharing and service all that we are and all that we have. One truth and imagery that has always struck me is that we are all, in the end, wounded healers. We are called indeed to radiate the light of Christ and to witness and teach, to serve and to lead — but also to heal. Lest we forget, we too need healing. The Holy Father’s image of a field hospital hits home here. We are healers in the name of Christ who must acknowledge our woundedness and from that place of vulnerability, with the grace of God, we reach out in to others and mediate the healing of Jesus through our ministries. Our goal is to accompany and lead people, through their spiritual deserts, into the land of hope and grace.
The challenges before us are many. During his recent pilgrimage of penance to Canada, in the beautiful Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Quebec in Québec City, during evening prayer, Pope Francis highlighted three pointed challenges for evangelizing today: first, to make Jesus known; second to witness; and third, fraternity.
“The first challenge is to make Jesus known. In the spiritual deserts of our time, created by secularism and indifference, we need to return to the initial proclamation. I repeat: it is necessary to return to the initial proclamation. We cannot presume to communicate the joy of faith by presenting secondary aspects to those who have not yet embraced the Lord in their lives, or by simply repeating certain practices or replicating older forms of pastoral work. We must find new ways to proclaim the heart of the Gospel to those who have not yet encountered Christ. This calls for a pastoral creativity capable of reaching people where they are living – not waiting for them to come – finding opportunities for listening, dialogue and encounter. In order to proclaim the Gospel, however, we must also be credible. Here is the second challenge: witness. The Gospel is preached effectively when life itself speaks and reveals the freedom that sets others free, the compassion that asks for nothing in return, the mercy that silently speaks of Christ…. Let us not allow any ideology to alienate or mislead the customs and ways of life of our peoples, as a means of subduing them or controlling them. The advances of humanity should be assimilated into their cultural identities with the keys of culture…. In order to defeat this culture of exclusion, we must begin with ourselves: bishops and priests, who should not feel themselves superior to our brothers and sisters in the People of God; consecrated men and women should live out fraternity and freedom through obedience in the community; seminarians should be ready to be docile and accessible servants; pastoral workers should not understand service as power. This is where we must start. You are key figures and builders of a different Church: humble, meek, merciful, which accompanies processes, labours decisively and serenely in the service of inculturation, and shows respect for each individual and for every cultural and religious difference. Let us offer this witness! Finally, the third challenge: fraternity. Again, the Church will be a credible witness to the Gospel the more its members embody communion, creating opportunities and situations that enable all those who approach the faith to encounter a welcoming community, one capable of listening, entering into dialogue and promoting quality relationships.” 14
I hope we will be able, as a Church community, to engage with and unpack together these insights as we build our future with the Lord’s inspiration and help.
There are two prayers which I have incorporated into my daily devotions since my ordination to the episcopacy. The first is the beautiful hymn to the Holy Spirit, the Veni Creator Spiritus because I believe in the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the Church. For a fruitful ministry, I require the gifts of Jesus’ Spirit to be rekindled daily in me so that the fire of devotion, of zeal for souls and for God’s Kingdom is kept burning amidst the many daily tasks, since Bishops are committed to shepherding Christ’s flock by teaching, sanctifying and governing. In fact, the Second Vatican Council, teaches that: “The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches.” Furthermore, it continues: “Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant.”15 It is understood that a Bishop can do this only through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit; hence, my daily prayer to Him.
The second prayer, or rather reflection is the nine promises a Bishop makes during the rite of consecration by which sacrament of Holy Orders he becomes a Successor to the Apostles of Christ. They are a daily reminder of who I am and what or rather to whom I have committed my life and how I am to live it. One of the promises in part reads: “Do you resolve to guide the holy People of God in the way of salvation as a devoted father...?”. This hits home for me since the nuptial, marital symbolism of the relationship of a Bishop and his Diocese is very meaningful and powerful. In fact, one of the symbols which is given to the newly ordained Bishop is a ring. It is my wedding band. It signifies a covenantal bond, a true marriage; it speaks to fidelity, selflessness, self- sacrifice, unconditional love, fruitfulness, and life-long commitment. It is a daily reminder to me that I am wedded to the Church, my bride, to this Archdiocese in particular, and I am to give my life for her as a loyal and committed husband, as a devoted father, as the promise goes. It is a rich symbolism rooted in Scripture and is based on the nuptial relationship of Christ and his Bride, the Church.
Picking up from one American prelate’s astute observation, of course, my appointment to Toronto is an “arranged marriage”, and Pope Francis, is the “wise matchmaker”. Now, with arranged marriages, the expectation, of course is that, in due time, the spouses get to know each other and then come to love one another. Given, however, that I am 51 years old and that Bishops normally retire at the age of 75, we’ve got about a quarter of a century to get to know one another and to fall in love. As in all successful marriages, commitment and patience, forgiveness and sacrifice will be required. It is a covenant of love and fidelity marked by and founded upon the grace of Christ.
Our lives are interwoven by Divine Providence; the Lord guides the events that make up our salvation story, personally and in community.
I trust and firmly believe that the Lord will not let us down and he will generously pour out his love into our hearts, so that we may love one another and all people with the life-giving, unconditional, fruitful and creative love of Christ. Know of my commitment to You; for now, Toronto is my new Home and You are my Family.
Now, we must address the proverbial elephant in the room: The Leafs and the Habs? Well, in keeping with the symbolism of a marriage covenant, I am told that the ability to compromise is essential for a lasting, marital relationship. However, I must admit, we’re probably going to need some marriage counselling for this one!
As we make this journey together, be assured of my prayers and closeness. As we proclaim together the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are active in our pastoral care as well as our creative outreach, the Lord will continue to be our strength, and we will know holiness of life and greatness of soul. It is a holiness that can only come from reclining – like his beloved disciple – upon Christ’s Eucharistic and Sacred Heart. Eucharistic adoration will allow Christ to gradually transform our hearts so that they may be ready to receive the wisdom and strength so as to spend our lives in service to God through service to others. It is the way of Christ.
Brothers and Sisters, let us be one in beseeching the maternal intercession of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. May her example of charity, openness, trust and faithfulness be our strength, our light, and our guide. And invoking the intercession the powerful patron saint of our Archdiocese, St. Michael the Archangel, may we be united in faith and in ministry, truly strive to become one heart and one soul, and resisting all divisions, celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice together as a community of believers as a family. In doing so, always and everywhere, echoing Mary’s fiat with her steadfast fidelity and humility, we call down upon us the powerful and abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I conclude with these beautiful, poetic and challenging sentiments16 of Pope St. Paul VI. They resonate with me, and I hope with you as well.
“We will love those who are near and those who are far from us, we will love our country and that of others, we will love our friends, we will love our enemies. We will love all social classes but especially those most in need of help, of assistance and of advancement. We will love the young and the old, the poor and the sick. We will love those who mock us, those who scorn us, who oppose us, who persecute us. We will love those who deserve, and we will love those who do not deserve to be loved. We will love our adversaries: We will want no one to be our enemy. We will love our times, our civilizations, our technologies, our arts, our sports, our world. We will love striving to understand, to have compassion, to esteem, to serve and to suffer. We will love with the heart of Christ.”
Amen and God bless you.
1 Lumen Gentium, §§20-27, especially 23 and 27; Christus Dominus, §§4, 6.
2 Vatican II encourages all persons who work for the spread of the Kingdom of God to adopt Mary as a model and specifically to embrace her maternal love as the catalyst for our evangelizing efforts: “Hence the Church, in her apostolic work also, justly looks to her, who, conceived of the Holy Spirit, brought forth Christ, who was born of the Virgin that through the Church He may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful also. The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men.” (Lumen Gentium 65).
3 Divine Office, Office of Readings, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
4 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall, 3,1: Sources Chrétiennes, 10, 96.
5 There is another inspiring quote of Pope Francis, in Christus Vivit, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation to young people and to the entire people of God, 143: “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. … Give yourselves over to the best of life!”
6 St. Augustine, In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 123,5.
7 Matthew 6:33.
8 Jn 3:16.
9 The Peasant of the Garonne, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1966, p. 53f.
10 Encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, 1.
11 Summa Theologica, II, IIae, q. 188, a. 6 : sicut majus est illuminare quam lucere solum, ita majus est contemplata aliis tradere quam solum contemplari.
12 Cf. Matthew 5: 15-16.
13 Navigating the New Evangelization, Pauline Books & Media, Boston, 2014, p. 49-50.
14 Pope Francis, Homily, Vespers with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers in the Cathedral Basilica Notre-Dame-de-Québec, Québec City, 28 July 2022.
15 Lumen Gentium, 23.
16 Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan, address during the Second World Congress of the Lay Apostolate held in Rome in 1957.