Calendars

Calendars

By Marilena Berardinelli

I recently visited a JK/SK classroom in the context of our parish’s mission of evangelization in the spirit of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. To begin our “wondering” together about the seasons of the church, I asked the children what I thought was a simple question: “What is a calendar?”

Firstly, who knew that these paper organizers strung on walls and littered on desks are relics of things past. Since none of the 4, 5 or 6 year olds were familiar with Google Calendar or iCal only a handful of the 140 JK/SK students could share that: calendars told us the days of the weeks, the days we go to soccer or to ballet class, when vacations start or how many “sleeps” until their birthday. One student figuring I was the “religion lady” (as he endearingly refers to me) chimed in about his special Christmas calendar that gave him chocolate one year or toys another year. So, after much debate on whether all calendars provide “surprises” the children finally (phew!) concluded that calendars mark time.

Last Sunday the church began to mark time, not with bright lights, tinsel or chocolate(!), but with a simple wreath and the lighting of the first of four candles that mark our journey together toward the celebration of Christmas; when we remember that Jesus was born and that one day He will come again. With the JK/SK students, as well as the children who attend the Atrium, the Advent wreath is a visual reminder on what we are called to focus our attention during this time of preparation. This Advent symbol that marks time for us, helps us fix our gaze on the journey we have embarked on rather than the destination before us- on the present rather than on the celebrations, the culinary feasts, and the gift exchanges ahead.

Today’s Gospel readings reminds us that this four-week journey is meant to be a time to “Prepare a way for the Lord.” With this in mind, let us mark our calendars (paper or otherwise). If we haven’t already done so, let us commit to preparing the way, to repenting and acknowledging our failings, to committing to bearing good fruits. Let us mark this time with concrete actions that prepare our very souls for the celebration ahead.

May these remaining weeks of Advent be a time marked by interior preparations to receive and celebrate the gift of the Word made flesh.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 11.1-10
Psalm 72
Romans 15.4-9
Matthew 3.1-12

From the Mouths of Babes

From the Mouths of Babes

By Marilena Berardinelli

One of the great gifts of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the lives of its catechists is the reminder that the great teacher is not the catechist, but God and that the catechist listens to God alongside the child. As such, the catechist and child learn about and experience God together. The children in our atriums have revealed to my fellow catechists and I much about the love of God, Jesus and most certainly the Holy Spirit. Today I share with you three moments from our time with the children, in the hopes that the children’s openness to and perceiving of the Holy Spirit may inspire in you the same awe and wonder it did in them and us.

1—After presenting the Annunciation to the children preparing for First Communion, the catechist invited the children to ponder Jesus’ divine nature, by wondering together how it was that this unmarried young girl had come to be pregnant. An eight- year old autistic child shouted, “epiclesis”. At first instinct the catechist was tempted to correct the child, but with pause realized that the child was not mistaken. Epiclesis is the gesture in the Mass that communicates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, transforming them into the body and blood of Jesus. This young child (who we often, mistakenly, thought wasn’t even listening) was able to reconcile the coming of the Holy Spirit to Mary some 2000 years ago as the same Spirit he had experienced at Mass in the breaking of the bread.

2—A four-year old child was working with a material recounting the story of Jesus’ birth. When the catechist looked over, the child had placed in the manger not the baby Jesus, but had gone to the Annunciation material on the nearby shelf and taken the flame (symbol the Holy Spirit) and placed it in the manger. A passing observer may have pointed to the baby Jesus that lay to the wayside, but the catechist saw in the child’s meditation what even she had often failed to recognize.

3—The parish’s ministry with JK/SK students concludes with the CGS presentation of Pentecost. Following this presentation, the catechist asked the children who they recognized in the action of the wind and fire. A child raised his hand and confidently replied, “God”. The classroom teacher (interrupting) corrected him with a quick “no”. When the catechist pointed out that the child’s response was indeed true, that God was present among the apostles that day and in that moment we call God “Holy Spirit”, the teacher stood in silent amazement and the child smiled a great (and holy) smile!

Happy Pentecost to all the children in our parish and to all our parishioners who desire “to change and be like children so that they too will enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 18.2)

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Acts 2.1-11
  • Psalm 104
  • 1 Corinthians 12.3b-7, 12-13
  • John 20.19-23

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

by Marilena Berardinelli

Following the events of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the first Christian communities sought to keep the memory of Jesus alive. Initially, they did so through oral narratives, then by committing the stories in writing in the forms of letters and gospels. These writings would eventually form the canon of the New Testament and as sacred scripture would inform and shape how subsequent generations of Christians would answer the question posed by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). In addition, to these oral and written accounts, Christians began to express their understandings of Jesus’s nature and mission in art. Similar to today’s popular acceptance of the cross as a symbol of the Christian faith, one of the earliest and most common motifs for Jesus was the portrait of Christ the Good Shepherd; the icon of a shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders standing amid his flock. This image of the Good Shepherd, as a metaphor for Jesus, has nourished the spirituality and apostolate of the church throughout the ages. In the mid twentieth century, Hebrew scholar Sofia Cavaletti and her Montessori trained collaborator Gianna Gobbi founded the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), a unique catechetical approach that has as its primary goal to nurture the religious potential of the child. Centred on the person of Jesus, Caveletti’s research showed that the aspect of Christ that most speaks to young child is Jesus the Good Shepherd, who calls his sheep by name to a personal relationship with him and who lays down his life for his sheep, nurturing and protecting them. In 2016, St. Basil’s began the journey to bring CGS to the youngest of our parishioners. At the heart of our Atrium, the children work with a simple wooden sheepfold, ten sheep and the Good Shepherd lovingly carrying the last of his sheep on his shoulders. This material, like the early icon of the Good Shepherd, is a starting point for the child’s journey into entering the mystery of the merciful and bountiful love of God. Today’s liturgical celebration of the Good Shepherd invites us to share the awe and wonder of the young child who meets Jesus the Good Shepherd for the first time and who then meets Him most fully in the Eucharist. In the busyness of our lives, in the noisiness of our world, may we listen to and discern the voice of the Good Shepherd calling each of us by name and may we respond to His invitation to faithfully and joyfully follow Him always.

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord

By Marilena Berardinelli

Today the church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus and concludes the Christmas Season. Contrary to mainstream culture, who has long since placed their Christmas trees at the curb and are now eying the Valentine’s Day treats and gifts already displayed on store shelves, the Christian community has for the last twenty days celebrated the mystery of Christ’s coming in the world. For the last three weeks we have lived in the hope and joy of the Incarnation.

The placement of the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus at the end of Christmas Season emphasizes the biblical narrative begun on Christmas Eve. The Word became flesh as a fragile baby not a powerful king; born in the smallest of Israel’s cities not the grandeur of Jerusalem and grew-up not with kingly wealth, but in the poverty of the insignificant village of Nazareth. For thirty years Jesus lived in obscurity and his introduction to public ministry was made not with fanfare, but among the sinners seeking John’s baptism of repentance.

The gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism reaffirm that this Jesus, who shares fully in our human condition, is also fully God: “You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, when we are baptized the beginning of this same divine life is sown in us. The Baptism of the Lord bookends the feast of the first incarnation and propels us to ponder Jesus’ second incarnation, when that Word assumes the mystical body – us. Christ in us, is the vehicle by which God continues to transform the world.

At St. Basil’s we celebrate about 40 baptisms a year within our Sunday liturgies. It is easy to become a bystander in these celebrations. Perhaps however, we can see in each of these baptisms an opportunity to examine how we are nurturing the divine life within us. How are we cooperating with God’s desire to break into the world each day, again and again? How are we, the mystical body of Christ, exercising our gifts, talents and charisms to engage and realize God’s mission in the world?

Christ has no body here on earth but yours;
No hands, but yours.
No feet, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks with compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which
Christ goes about doing good in the world.
Yours are the hands with which
Christ blesses the people of the world.

(Saint Teresa of Avila)

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 50.1-5,9-11
Psalm 104
Titus 2.11-14; 3.4-7
Luke 3.15-16, 21-22

Stay Awake, be Ready

Stay Awake, be Ready

By Marilena Berardinelli This weekend Toronto hosts the Santa Clause parade. To mark the occasion, a Catholic institution in the city invited my family to a party inaugurating the start of the “Christmas Season”. This early holiday invite, besides upsetting my liturgical sensitivities (the Christmas Season follows, not precedes, December 25), caused me to wonder how the world will fare if even Christians have lost sight of the two-fold goal of the weeks previous to Christmas (Advent): a time to remember the birth of Jesus and to prepare for his second coming among us. Today’s gospel sets our priorities straight. Using the apocalyptic language of falling stars and darkened suns, Jesus prepares his disciples for the signs indicating when God’s reign will be fully established on earth. Jesus’ words are not simply a call to “stay awake” to the signs, but a challenge to us to “be ready” to greet them. In our context, Jesus’ words are not an invitation to discern Christmas lists, holiday menus, or vacation itineraries, but instead to discern how the choices we make, especially in the coming weeks, “ready” us for God’s kingdom. I don’t think that early Christmas celebrations are bad. However, I do believe that the God who works with us, in us, and through us in the building of the kingdom is inviting us today not to be bystanders to the status quo, but to discern our individual involvement in the transformation of our world. What choices will I make? What organizations will I support? What charities will I give to? How will I advocate the building of a kingdom that acknowledges and respects the sacredness of all, that supports the common good and acknowledges solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable, that makes ecological choices that places creation first and that works for peace both in my home and in my world? How will I respond to Jesus’ invitation to participate in God’s new world order?

Sunday’s Readings:

1 Kings 17.10-16

Psalm 146

Hebrews 9.24-28

Mark 12.38-44

Within the Christian tradition, discernment is the art of prayerful decision making. St. Ignatius of Loyola defined discernment as the ability to see clearly God’s deepest desire for us and for the world. Our parish hosts several prayer groups that support the journey of discernment needed in the building of the Kingdom, including: Christian Meditation Group, Contemplative Women of St. Anne and the Basilian Lay Associates. For more information on participating in these groups, please see our website or take an information card that is available in the church narthex.