Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mass of the Chrism

His Grace, Archbishop Thomas Collins consecrates Sacred Chrism at the annual Mass of the Chrism at St. Michael's Cathedral. Among other things, the Sacred Chrism is used to anoint priests and bishops at their ordination.

Ordination is not employment; it is consecration. We are consecrated, anointed with the Oil of Chrism. The priesthood is not what we do, it is who we are
 - His Grace, Archbishop Thomas Collins (Chrism Mass Homily)

Is the diocesan priesthood your vocation?

Monday, March 29, 2010


A bas-relief in the narthex of St. Michael's Cathedral

This small painted bas-relief probably represents the reception of Holy Eucharist.  The Christian soul (the dove) is nourished by the Precious Blood (the grapes prefigure the wine which is consecrated at Holy Mass). 

Such depictions were not unknown to the early Christians, as this one from the Catacombs of Priscilla attests:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

A blessed palm after Palm Sunday mass at St. Michael's Cathedral

So let us spread before His feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves…let us present the Conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of His victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches…
                        - St. Andrew of Crete

Saturday, March 27, 2010

40 Days for Life

A 40 day peaceful vigil of prayer and fasting outside abortion clinics for an end to abortion.

Just to be clear: Catholics are pro-life. The Church has affirmed this continuously from the first century. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.

Do you want to live in a world where more than 90% of babies with Down's Syndrome are eliminated? Or is it just possible that the Church is offering a better way to understand who these babies are and who they might become?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Episcopal Bling

Episcopal ring on the hand of His Excellency, Bishop William McGrattan at St. Michael's Cathedral

Early Bishops, such as St. Augustine, sealed their letters with wax into which a signet ring was pressed. The Episcopal ring, in part, recalls this practice. It is associated with His Excellency’s Episcopal dignity, with the sealing of secrets, and most beautifully, with the mystical betrothal of the Bishop to the Holy Church.  This is, so to speak, His Excellency’s wedding ring, marked with the Chi-Rho.

It is a traditional reverential gesture (and thus a thumb in the devil’s eye) to kneel on your left knee and kiss the Episcopal ring as a sign of respect for his office upon greeting or leaving a Bishop.  Who could resist such a gloriously Catholic and delightfully counter-cultural practice?  

Not I.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don't Keep Him Waiting

Mass times posted outside St. Michael's Cathedral

He loves, He hopes, He waits. If He came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for Him, and not finding Him, might have to wait. Our Lord prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years rather than keep him waiting one instant.
                          - St. Peter Julian Eymard

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Light from Above

Lights suspended from ceiling in the nave of St. Michael's Cathedral.
The lights of the central aisles may be distinguished from those of the outside aisles by their alternating white and yellow panels. 

The more a man hath unity and simplicity in himself, the more things and the deeper things he understandeth; and that without labour, because he receiveth the light of understanding from above.    
                    – The Imitation of Christ

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Tower of Refuge

260 ft. tower and steeple of St. Michael's Cathedral which dates from Confederation

The Church has ever proved indestructible. Her persecutors have failed to destroy her; in fact, it was during times of persecution that the Church grew more and more; while the persecutors themselves...are the very ones who came to nothing…Again, errors have assailed her; but in fact, the greater the number of errors that have arisen, the more has the truth been made manifest…Nor has the Church failed before the assaults of demons: for she is like a tower of refuge to all who fight against the Devil.
                              - St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, March 22, 2010

Catholic Ukraine Arise!

Ukrainian / Canadian youth attend mass at St. Michael's Cathedral in traditional attire

Ukrainian Catholics have suffered much. Over the years there have been arrests, labour camps, and torture. Priests have been martyred by the thousands, churches razed by the hundreds. Still, Ukrainian Catholics resisted the atheism and brutality of the Soviet regime and laid down their lives rather than deny the faith. It's a painful legacy but one of which Ukrainian Canadians can be proud. 

Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, pray for Catholic Ukraine, pray for Ukrainian Canadians, pray for us!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Legion of Mary: Acies Ceremony

Banner of St. Michael's Cathedral's Legion of Mary


The Legion of Mary is the largest apostolic organization of lay people in the Catholic Church.  We voluntarily pursue good works, especially the spiritual works of mercy, in union with Mary.  Join us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

That Adorable Sign

Detail of decorative post top on the restored metal fence at St. Michael's Cathedral
In fact, we see in everything that adorable sign which is, at once, the cause and emblem of our victory. We have it in our houses, we hang it and paint it on our walls, we engrave it on our doors, and we should ever carry it in our hearts; for the cross is a sacred monument...
                          - St. John Chrysostom

Friday, March 19, 2010

For St. Joseph

A Sister of St. Joseph outside St. Michael's Cathedral
This year Sister is celebrating her golden jubilee in la vie consacrée. That is a lifetime of poverty, chastity, and obedience in service of God and neighbour.  Thank you, Sister.

The Sisters of St. Joseph founded Toronto’s Food Bank. These days they care for the poor and disabled, visit the lonely, provide transitional housing to vulnerable woman, and do a good many other worthy and unglamorous  things for people.

Is this your vocation?  Go here.  You won't get an awesome habit but you WILL get a pretty good shot at personal holiness, community life, and quiet service.  Oh...and if you're really, really lucky, you'll get 50 years espoused to The Most High.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Alpha and Omega

Panel of painted ceiling, nave
The Alpha (A) and the Omega (Ω): the first and last letters of the Ancient Greek alphabet respectively.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  Rev. 1:8

In the manner of the ancient Christians, we too adorn the vaulted ceiling with the Alpha and Omega. See below a late 4th century depiction of Christ between these symbols from the vault of the cubiculum leonis in the catacombs of Commodilla (Rome).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Éirinn Go Brách

 Irish pride after the St. Patrick's Day mass at St. Michael's Cathedral

Remember Catholic Ireland in your prayers today by praying: 
The Breastplate of St. Patrick.

Also, young men, FYI: This is how gentlemen dress for mass.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baptismal Font

This baptismal font was donated by the Carroll Family, Toronto September 27, 1988: In loving memory of Mai and Jack Carroll, Portlaoise, Ireland. What a beautiful tribute. It gladdens the heart to think of the many souls that have been indelibly marked as God’s in the waters of baptism right here.  

The usual minister of baptism is, of course, a priest. But did you know that in an emergency ANYONE (pagan, Christian, Jew, etc.) can baptize? Yes, in case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate's head while saying: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1284)

Memorize the formula and be ready to use it for the good of a soul, if need be.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Via Crucis II

Station II: Jésus chargé de sa croix

Bishop Armand François Marie de Charbonnel (b.1802 France) had these handsomely carved Stations of the Cross imported from France and installed in the Cathedral. The inscriptions are thus in His Excellency's mother tongue. The stations are a beautiful testimony to de Charbonnel’s generosity and to his good taste.

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

For more on the Via Crucis see here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Andrew

nave, epistle side

St. Andrew, recognizing the Messiah, introduced his brother Peter to Jesus. These two fishermen were eventually numbered among the 12 Apostles. Andrew was with Our Lord in his public ministry and at the Last Supper.  He beheld the Risen Lord, the Ascension, and Pentecost.

Sentenced to death by crucifixion and feeling himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Our Lord, he is held by tradition to have been crucified on a decussate cross such as the one he holds here.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

nave, flooring under pews

It looks like it’s vinyl asbestos tile.  Probably safe but utterly hideous.  If Yours Truly had some money I would pay for a more fitting floor to be installed together with a Latin dedication like this very charming one from Rome.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Presentation of the Lord

Nave, Gospel Side
On the left: Joseph (who holds a small cage with two birds for sacrifice) and  Mary bring Jesus to the Temple (Luke 2:22-40). On the right is Anna, a pious widow who dedicated her life to constant prayer and fasting.  In the background two priests of the Temple look on.  
Centrally placed is Baby Jesus and St. Simeon who had received a promise from the Holy Ghost that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. Here that promise is fulfilled. A very aged Simeon takes Our Little Saviour in his arms and prays the nunc dimittis:  Lord, now let Your servant go in peace, according to Your promise because my eyes have seen Your salvation…
The scene is popularly called the “Presentation”. Can it be a coincidence that the dedication across the bottom of the windows reads (emphasis mine): PRESENTED by Eugene O’Keefe.  For more on Eugene O’Keefe see here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Statue of St. Thérèse of Liseux in the nave

St. Thérèse de Lisieux, The Little Flower, is pictured here with her characteristic roses.  A French Carmelite nun, a saint, and a Doctor of the Church, she advanced a simple but beautiful spirituality called the “Little Way”:

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.
                 - St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The base of this statue used to contain a first class relic of the saint until...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Memento Mori

Nave, back wall
It has ever been the practice of the Catholic Church to recommend to her spiritual children the meditation on man's four last things: 
Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. 
Keeping these sobering aspects of human destiny ever before our eyes, we will be that much less likely to fall into mortal sin and be lost eternally. 
          - Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Papal Insignia

Ceiling Panel in Nave

This panel of the Cathedral's beautifully painted ceiling depicts the Papal Tiara and the crossed keys (Matthew 16:18-19) which appear together on the Holy See Coat of Arms and on the flag of Vatican City.  These are symbols of the papacy and are thus a call to Christian unity under the legitimate authority of the Successor of St. Peter.

Pray for Pope Benedict XVI.  They don't call him "The Pope of Christian Unity" for nothing. It can be done.

Noah's Pudding

Local Muslims were at the Cathedral today after mass to offer a cup of Noah's Pudding, a tasty symbol of our common Abrahamic heritage and of the duty to share with others.  As Catholics, we can justly admire many of our Muslim neighbours for their diligence in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Since there are certainly parts of the world where Muslim - Christian relations are bad, very dangerously bad, it is so pleasant to be reminded of what is possible.  Let us give thanks for religious freedom and pray for progress in true ecumenism.

              Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for Us.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Via Crucis I


Station I: Jesus is Condemned to Death

I suppose you know that in almost every Catholic church around the world you will find 14 numbered and blessed stations such as this one.  They depict particular scenes from the passion of Christ and at St. Michael's Cathedral they are hung high on the walls around the nave.  In a public liturgy or as a private devotion we kneel at each station in its turn and prayerfully contemplate its significance and our own sinfulness. 

Never prayed the Via Crucis?  St. Aphonsus Liguori can walk you through it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fort Knox Poor Box


You cannot begin to imagine the good which is done with the loose change and crumpled bills in this locked, nay, double-locked poor box.

Extend mercy towards others so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?
                          -St. Vincent de Paul                                    

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The House of God and Door of Heaven

Main Doors (central)

The pointed arch over the door, so typical of Gothic architecture, draws the eye upwards emphasizing the loftiness and grandeur of the structure and, by extension, of God into whose very house we are privileged to enter.

Non est hic aliud nisi domus Dei et porta caeli.
                   - Gen.28.17

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Suitable to Greatness and Majesty

The world thinks that our cathedrals should be less ostentatious, that such an expense is wasted.  What piffle.  We shall go on breaking the alabaster jar forever.  (Mark 14:3-9.)

"The Cathedral Church belongs properly to no particular parish, but that it is the Mother Church of the whole Diocese, such a temple should be built in a manner and style suitable to the Greatness and Majesty of Our Holy Religion."
       -  Bishop Michael Power, builder of St. Michael’s Cathedral

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Remember Your Prelates

In the Narthex

No man is deader than a dead priest. 

His celibacy means that when he dies he leaves behind no wife or children.  No grandchildren will remember him.  In his retirement he loses touch with the parishioners he once served (who now have a new priest to think of) and if he was a prelate his authority may have separated him a little even from his fellow priests.

Remember Your Prelates Who Have Spoken the Word of God Unto You.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Night View from Starbucks

Roman Catholics do still observe a Eucharistic fast you know.  We must abstain from any food or drink no matter how deliciously dark-roasted for at least one hour before reception of Holy Eucharist. See 919.

This is much reduced from the fasts required of previous generations of Catholics and there are some who think it should be lengthened beyond only one hour again.

In any case, it is so nice to get a Starbucks Chai Latte...AFTER... mass.