Sunday, September 30, 2018



Alberta, Canada


Bishop McGrattan is the eighth and current Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary. Bishop McGrattan was previously the Bishop of the Diocese of Peterborough (Ontario) and before that Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto where I first met him when I led the first of four Toronto priest convocations.

September 28-30, 2018

Faithful Companions of Jesus

Deacon John and Melody Walsh were my contact deacon couple for planning. 


Father Julian and two of the deacon couples having Sunday brunch after the closing. 

Calgary Deacons Sunday Mass
September 30, 2018
Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us.
Mark 9:38-43
What we have here is a message about pettiness and jealousy in ministry that has been around since the beginning. 

Jealousy and competitiveness have been the dark side of clerical culture for a very long time and is alive and well today. When the apostles, James and John, were caught making a move to grab the best seats in Jesus’ new kingdom, they had to face the jealous indignation of the other ten apostles as well as a stern reprimand from Jesus. Today we have the story about John trying to put a stop to someone who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus because he was not “a member of the inner circle.” Then there is the story about Joshua doing pretty much the same when he complained to Moses that Medad and Eldad were prophesying even though they had not been “in the tent” with the others when the spirit came to rest on the other prophets.   Snubbed by some Samaritans while on their way to Jerusalem, James and John asked Jesus if it would be OK to call down fire from heaven and burn them up! 
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests dedicates quite a bit of space to the subject of clerical envy and competition. Whether you like his work or not, the late Father Andrew Greeley made a similar point in one of his books. He talks about the leveling that goes on in presbyterates, whereby priests are reluctant to applaud the work of other priests for fear that it will take away something from themselves. Deacons probably have a similar problem.
He says that, in the clerical culture, “to be a member of good standing, a priest must try not to be too good at anything or to express unusual views or criticize accepted practices or even to read too much. Some ideas are all right, but too many ideas are dangerous.” “When a layman mentions that Father X is a good preacher, the leveler priest’s response might likely be, ‘Yes, he preaches well, but he doesn’t get along with kids.’” Or, “He’s really good, but all he does during the week is prepare his sermon.” Or, “everyone says that, and it’s probably true, but he’s not an easy man to live with.”  One famous Protestant minister once said, “The meanest, most contemptible form of praise is to first speak well of a man and then end it with a “but.”   
When I was teaching in the seminary, in my August transition class with the deacons, I always end with a class on the spiritual practice of blessing people. Blessing people is not about waving crosses over them. It’s about looking for goodness in them to affirm. For some reason, this does not seem to come naturally to ordained ministers. It is a spiritual discipline that must be intentionally cultivated.
A couple of years ago, I came across my notes for former student, Jorge Gomez, of the class of 2011. As you may know Fr. Jorge (from Mexico) and his diocesan brother, Stanley (from Kenya), were killed in a car wreck a few weeks after his ordination. Here are the last words I said to Deacon Jorge to bless him on his way out of the seminary. “You have not forgotten that you do not have a vocation to the seminary, but to serve the People of God. You have a deep love and respect for your country, your family, your people and your community. You are very dedicated to “the people.” You seem to know instinctively that, as priests, we are “called from the people, to live among the people, to serve the people.” I also told them which saint they reminded me of. For him I selected St. Luke, whose heroes are always the underdog, the foreigner, the disaffected and the left out.  I am very happy I took the time to bless him with these words while he was still alive! Jorge would have loved Pope Francis’ homily a couple of years ago. “A priest who is not in service of his community does no good. He is wrong!”  
Brothers and sisters, our sin may not be so much about “what we have done,” the mean and nasty things we say about each other, but “what we have failed to do,” our withholding of clear and unconditional compliments
St. Cyprian, in the Office of Readings for the feast of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian, put it this way. His words could be applied to deacons, religious Sisters/Brothers and lay ministers as well.  “Why should a priest not take pride in the praise given to a fellow priest as though it were given to him?  What brotherhood fails to rejoice in the happenings of its brothers wherever they are?”
Again, one famous American Protestant preacher described our sin best when he said, “The meanest, most contemptible form of praise is to first speak well of a man and then end it with a “but!”
Jesus was right in his response to John in today’s gospel. "Do not prevent him.

"There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”


The Bow River flows through Calgary. Below some of the flowering Fall trees. 

Calgary is famous for its rodeo, the "Calgary Stampede." The Retreat  Centre is just down the street. 

Coming in to downtown Calgary.

As always, the stipend I will get for these retreats will be going to my mission organizations,

R J MISSION PROJECTS and CATHOLIC SECOND WIND GUILD, to help the Church in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

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