Now, that’s a feather in your cap!



Ever wonder where the idea for feathered caps came from? I recall my mother saying ‘that’s a feather in your cap’ to express an accomplishment. But, whenever she said it the first thing that came to mind was a pirate or buccaneer. Later I learnt these nefarious characters stole the idea from the landed gentry, who (according to Wikipedia) were in turn imitating a sporting practice among Scottish and Welshmen where the person who killed the first fowl plucked out a feather and stuck it in his cap. [Read more...]

Why you should read the working document for the upcoming Synod

Cardinals converse following press conference for release of working document for extraordinary Synod of Bishops on family

You’re probably thinking I need to read a 75 page document about the upcoming Synod as much as I need a hole in the head. But bear with me, reading the full document is worthwhile.

To give you some context – this “Instrumentum Laboris” or working document on the pastoral challenges of the Family is actually a compilation of comments solicited last year from the national bishops conferences around the world.  As you might expect these reports from “the trenches” are an honest, no holds barred assessment of where we’re at. It’s refreshing to read because we’re admitting where we’ve dropped the ball. And make no mistake, with so many Catholics completely oblivious as to why the Church teaches what she does, this one is a no brainer. That said, there’s a sense of relief that comes from naming the problem and having it out there on the table.

As lay people we’re the ones who are charged with going out and transforming the world, but how are we going to live this effectively if we’re not all on the same page, literally. So by reading the working document, you’ll have a good sense of what the bishops are going to have on their minds going into the synod and it will provide context when they come home and start making changes in the coming months and years.

Now don’t get me wrong, the teaching of the Church is not going to change (come on people, in 2000 + years, as if!) – but what is different about this Synod is that its primarily concerned with a pastoral reality which means the implications are about to get real.  We’ll feel them on the ground.

Also, once you’ve read this document you’ll have a snapshot of the universal Church. There are many very good observations and useful clarifications on all the hot-button issues. It’s fascinating to note, that what’s of concern for us here in North America (and possible solutions we might propose) if applied without careful consideration in another context might have disastrous consequences in Asia or Africa. An excellent reminder that although the teachings of the Church are universal there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to the pastoral reality.

It’s clear Pope Francis wants us to move beyond self-referential communities that are absorbed with simply maintaining the status quo.  One way or another we’re all going to have to move out of our comfort zone, which means getting a sense of the bigger picture. And this document helps us to adopt a mindset which calls us to faithfully embrace these uncomfortable realities, facing them head-on.  And as Pope Francis likes to say, Christ knocks on the door – are we going to let him in?

Ok, still not willing to commit?  At least read the summary.



JP II, We Love You – Parting Words



Pilgrims attend a prayer vigil at the ancient Circus Maximus in Rome April 30, 2011 the eve of the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Today April 27, 2014, Pope Francis will preside over the celebration which will declare both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII saints. (CNS photo/Alessia Pierdomenico, Reuters) 

JP II, We Love You – Pope John Paul II prays



Pope John Paul II prays in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Paul John Paul died later that year on April 2, 2005. (CNS photo/Reuters) 

JP II, We Love You – The Young Bishop from Krakow


Bishop Karol Jozef Wojtyla with priests in undated photoKrakow Auxiliary Bishop Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured with priests in an undated photo. He was ordained a bishop in 1958 at age 38, then Poland’s youngest bishop. He will be canonized April 27 with Blessed John XXIII. (CNS photo) 

JP II, We Love You – He’s a Cool Cath


Polish Bishop Karol Wojtyla pictured at Vatican during Second Vatican Council

Polish Auxiliary Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, wearing sunglasses, is pictured in St. Peter’s Square in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council. The future Pope John Paul II helped draft council documents on religious liberty and the church in the modern world. He will be canonized April 27 with Blessed John XXIII. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

JP II, We Love You – Pope John Paul II visits family


FAMILY GREETS POPE IN UNEXPECTED VISITThe Milewski family greets Pope John Paul II at the door of their modest house in Wigry, Poland, June 8, 1999. The pontiff made an unexpected visit to the home on his day of respite during a 13-day visit to his homeland. (CNS photo by Arturo Mari)

John Paul II, A Saint for Canada

Father Karol Wojtyla reading in canoe in 1955

I once had a teacher who knew exactly how to keep her students focused during the day. She promised us that if we were very good, she would read us a few pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She would only have to give the gentlest reminder that we would not have time for The Hobbit and there would be a swift end to our cavorting and carrying-on. As you can imagine, she had us eating out of her hand.

My love for a great story has continued, and I’ve found that the best stories are always those “based on a true story”. At Salt + Light we have a storytelling ritual, you could say, and Fr. Thomas Rosica is one of the best storytellers I know. Whenever Fr. Rosica returns to the office from a trip, he gathers everyone to celebrate Mass, and following that it’s time for our meeting around the conference table. After we have prayed and he has given us all a little token from his travels -usually a prayer card, a spiritual booklet, or some chocolates- he settles down to tell us about everything that happened.  As I said, Fr. Tom Rosica is a masterful storyteller. By the time the meeting has concluded, we feel as if we have lived through it all – the highs and the lows: the lost luggage, the inevitable poor internet connection fiascos, the exceptional encounters, the developments, and the messages of encouragement.

My favourite stories, however, are the ones where he tells us of his encounters with Pope John Paul II. These stories are an incredible source of insight.  Sure, there’s something to be learned from reading great encyclicals, but to know a person firsthand and to get a sense of who he was and why he did what he did – this can only be imparted through personal experience; anything else simply doesn’t have the same impact. Moreover, Fr. Rosica’s stories are always full of meaning. Significant dates in history have moods and feelings attached to them, and there’s always a deep sense of what these things mean for us and for the world. As a scripture scholar, Fr. Rosica’s biblical imagination imbues his commentary on events with a profound love of scriptural images and also a great sense of humour. 

Not everyone has the opportunity to listen to these stories firsthand, but you will certainly feel as if you are sitting around the Salt + Light conference table when you pick up the new release  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada. It’s a short book that can be read at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Filled with Fr. Rosica’s personal reflections on Pope John Paul II,  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada is a delight that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the soon-to-be saint and what he means for us in Canada.

 To get a taste of what you can expect, you’re invited to watch our latest Catholic FOCUS featuring John Paul II.

 Photo description: Father Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured reading in a kayak in this photo dated from 1955. Three years later, he was on the water with friends when he learned he had been called to Warsaw for the announcement that he was to be made a bishop. He will be canonized on April 27 with Blessed John XXIII. (CNS photo)




JP II, We Love You – Pope John Paul II at Assisi Prayer Meeting



Pope John Paul II is pictured during a 1986 interfaith prayer gathering in the Italian town of Assisi. (CNS file photo/KNA) 

John Paul II, We Love You – Catholic Focus


Pope John Paul II was in many respects a pope of firsts: the first pope to visit the White House, the first pope to visit Cuba, and the most widely traveled Pope in history. He is recognized as helping to end the Communist rule in his native Poland, and eventually all of Europe. He also canonized more saints than all of his predecessors combined! As one of the longest reigning popes in the history of the Church, his influence will be felt for generations. Join host Cheridan Sanders as she speaks with Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB about the life and times of Pope John Paul II in this latest episode of Catholic Focus.