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Me Before You


That’s the title of a new film that just opened last weekend to mixed reviews. It stars Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in a romance with a bit of a twist. Clarke plays Louisa “Lou” Clark, who takes a job as the caregiver to Will Traynor (Claflin), a former daredevil who is now a quadriplegic who has decided to end his life. The mixed reviews are not because it’s a bad film, badly written, performed or directed. It’s because of the underlying “right-to-die” message.

I have not watched the film but am eager to watch it. I will not spoil the ending, but I think the title says it all. “Me before you” is exactly the opposite of what any loving relationship, especially marriage is all about. Marriage is all about “you before me”! And it’s not surprising that this is probably the message underlying a lot of these end-of-life issues.

We’ve spoken before about autonomy; “I can do whatever I want with my own body.” Well, you can’t really. I suppose I could cut off my arm if I wanted to. I would have a hard time finding a doctor to assist me in doing that. I would probably be sent to the mental hospital if I did. And no matter what I do to my own body, it affects all those who love me. In the case of medically assisted dying, it affects not just your loved ones, but your doctor and the whole medical system and the legal system too. No act is really ever a completely autonomous act because we are not completely autonomous. We are relational.

Mark Pickup said it very well during our conversation for Catholic Focus a few weeks ago. People who want to end their life because the pain is unbearable or because their life is not what it used to be or they have no quality of life, or because they don’t want to be a burden to others need to stop putting ‘me’ before ‘you.’ In the film Will tells Lou that he has decided that he will live 6 more months and then he will seek assisted dying. He already decided that before he met her. Lou responds, “but that was before me.” Once we find meaning, love and relationship; once we know we’re not alone, usually we want to live.

That’s the message of tonight’s last interview in the Catholic Focus mini-series on end-of-life issues. I spoke with Chuck and Jeri Marple who are the parents of Mary, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy. Some would say that Mary’s life has no quality and it’s not worth living. Others would disagree.

I hope you can watch Catholic Focus: End of life Issues – Quality of Life, tonight at 7:05pm ET (repeats at 9:05pm MT).

I encourage you to go watch Me Before You. Watch it and talk about it. It’s a great opportunity to speak out about these issues. It’s very serendipitous that the film came out exactly at the time when Canada has de-criminalized medically assisted dying. The Canadian Senate is right now reviewing Bill C-14, which will likely be sent back to the House of Commons for some amending. I don’t think MAD should be legal, but I do think that a law with as many safeguards as possible is better than no law. We’ve had no abortion law in Canada now since 1988. Let’s not do the same with Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

More importantly, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about these issues. We need to be informed. We need to know the law and we need to know what the Church teaches.

That is why we at S+L have been putting together many programs and providing many resources to help you stay on top of these issues. I’ve tried to compile many of the ones that I’ve worked on in this blog post. Just scroll a little bit and you’ll see how much there is to read and watch.

Perhaps most important of all, I encourage you to be Catholic. This was Archbishop Smith’s advice at the end of the Every Life Matters series. According to the Census, 44% of Canadians report that they are Catholic. If 44% of Canadians were truly Catholic, living their Catholic Faith with knowledge and passion, we would not have these issues in Canada.

Be Catholic. Defend and protect life from conception to natural death.

Learn more:

Turning the Tide:(a documentary on dignity, compassion and euthanasia)

Catholic Focus interviews:
End Of Life Issues: The Law
End Of Life Issues: Human Life Matters (with Mark Pickup)
End of Life Issues: What Does the Church Say? (with Archbishop Richard Smith)
End of Life Issues Ending the Pain
End of Life Issues: Quality of Life

Perspectives: The Weekly Edition:
End of Life: Jeremy Tyrell

Every Life Matters Series

From our Blog:
Deacon-structing End of Life: Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Deacon-structing End of Life Issues:
The Law
Palliative Care
Life, Liberty and Security

From Fr. Rosica
There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted – A reflection on Euthanasia

Photo Credit: Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in the 2016 MGM film Me Before You. Image courtesy of mebeforeyoumovie.com/

Catholic Focus – End-of-Life Issues: Ending the Pain


Lisa Daniels lives with extreme, debilitating, chronic pain. She suffers greatly. Her suffering is irremediable. There is no cure. Many people who support the idea of medically assisted dying do so on the basis that some people, like Lisa, live with unbearable, intolerable pain. Can all pain be managed? How are we to respond to the question of pain? Recently, while in Edmonton, I had a chance to speak with Lisa and her doctor, Robert Hauptman.

Watch our conversation below:

Learn more about Lisa’s story and the #CommitLife Campaign by watching this video.

Human Life Matters on Catholic Focus

Mark Pickup

I first heard of Mark Pickup, 10 years ago when we were working on Turning the Tide. At the time, it was not possible to interview Mark for the documentary. He would have been a great addition to the film.

Mark was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 30. He is one of Canada’s most out-spoken disability-rights advocates against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

But Mark was not always this way. In his personal blog, Human Life Matters he writes about how angry he was when he lost his health:

“Fear overcame me about what lay in store for me. I knew multiple sclerosis is a serious disease that often has a catastrophic impact of the lives of people it strikes. I knew people with MS: often their lives were torn apart as their marriages crumbled, careers shattered, and they were abandoned to a living hell.

“Multiple sclerosis devastated my life. It stripped away my health, layer by layer, like pealing an onion, and eventually left me triplegic and in an electric wheelchair.

“Looking back over more than twenty years of increasingly profound and crippling disability I must say that I have become one of those people I wrote about who lives with a sick and twisted body. Yes, there were times when my heart broke – along with the hearts of those loved me. There were times throughout the years when it was me (not someone else) who was on the verge of despair. Protracted suffering seemed to isolate me in sorrow – just as my wife’s sorrow seemed to isolate her. At other times we lived two solitudes rooted in the same overwhelming and inexpressible sorrow.”

He is a perfect candidate for Canada’s new Medically Assisted Dying Bill.

That is why when we were in Edmonton recently for the Every Life Matters series with Archbishop Richard Smith and I knew that Mark was one of the speakers, I asked if we could meet to speak further. He agreed and we spoke about his disease, about suffering, quality of life, disabilities, conscience rights and much more.

My conversation with Mark Pickup will air on Catholic Focus tomorrow, Wednesday, May 18 after Perspectives Daily, at 7:05pm ET (5:05pm MT). It repeats at 11:05pm (8:05pm MT).

I hope you can join us for this special Catholic Focus on end of life issues.

This mini series on end-of-life issues began last week with a conversation with lawyer Kate Faught, who explains how our legal landscape is changing, and will continue for the next three Wednesdays:

May 25: What Does The Church Say? with Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton.

June 1: Ending the Pain, with Lisa Daniels who suffers debilitating, chronic pain, and her doctor, Robert Hauptman.

June 8: Quality of Life, with Jeri and Chuck Marple, parents of Mary who has cerebral palsy.

The Joy of Love on Catholic Focus

On April 8, 2016, Pope Francis released the long-awaited post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), on the family. A few days later, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton joined me to explore various themes from the document, as well as to share his experiences in journeying with families through the many challenges they face. We spoke about the impact of social media, how the economic downturn has affected families in Alberta, family violence, and how the Archbishop sees end-of-life issues affecting the family. I hope you can join us for this insightful conversation about the state of the family in Canada.

Catholic Focus: The Joy of Love will air today,Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 7:05pm ET / 5:05pm MT with a repeat broadcast at 11:05pm ET / 9:05pm MT. Watch the full episode below!

Archbishop Smith also wrote a statement on Amoris Laetitia:

Amoris Laetitia (On Love In the Family) is not only a beautiful and welcome reflection on marriage and the family; it is also a particular call to pastors, parishes, and Catholic institutions to work in concrete ways to support families and help them grow. In this way Amoris Laetitia underscores the importance of the ministry to families that unfolds daily throughout the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

With this exhortation, the Holy Father has demonstrated a deep understanding of the challenges faced by all families. As a bishop who was privileged to participate in the 2015 Synod on the Family, I can say that my first glimpse into the exhortation confirms my observation that he listened very carefully to the concerns raised by bishops and other Synod participants from all over the world.

Ministry to families is one of the key pastoral concerns that we have identified here in the Edmonton Archdiocese, and so this teaching by Pope Francis will be invaluable to us. We know that many of our social ills stem from unhealthy, often violent, family situations. Here in Alberta, we have one of the highest rates of family violence in Canada. The importance of ministry to the family simply cannot be overstated.

As a Christian community, we are called to share the Gospel message of the beauty and dignity of marriage, the inexpressibly wondrous gift of children, and the home as the place of love, nurture, safety, and identity. Pope Francis illustrates this call in great detail in his exhortation.

This papal document does not change Church teaching or discipline regarding marriage. It does underline the need for pastors to listen attentively and deal sensitively with single people, couples, and families who experience difficult situations.

At more than 260 pages, Amoris Laetitia is lengthy, and I plan to follow the Holy Father’s advice to give it the proper time and attention before giving any more detailed response.

In the meantime, I encourage all Catholics to join me in studying and reflecting on his words. Pope Francis has given us some important and timely teaching on issues that affect us all.

Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton 8 April 2016

The most interesting man in the world


Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla meet at the Vatican. Paul VI, who served in Poland during his early priesthood, held the future Pope John Paul II in high regard. (CNS file photo)

No doubt you’ve seen those cheesy beer ads about ‘the most interesting man in the world’. For the record, Pope John Paul II was the real deal.  He spoke between 8 and 11 languages fluently, and was so charismatic that he is credited with the fall of communism in his native Poland. Besides being an athlete, a poet and one of the leading thinkers in the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council, he was also tremendously brave. For example, when the Nazi’s closed down the seminary in Krakow, he began studying in secret at a seminary run by the archbishop of Krakow.

He was an extraordinary man, and 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. And as one of the longest reigning popes in the history of the Church, his influence will be felt for generations. So today as we celebrate John Paul II Day across Canada, we give thanks for Saint Pope John Paul’s Christian witness as a fearless champion of human dignity and freedom (and give a nod to the most interesting man in the world).

Below some images celebrating his dynamic legacy.


Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev meets with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in this Dec. 1, 1989, file photo. Hours after the meeting, the Vatican told the United States in a confidential assessment that Gorbachev could be trusted as a genuine reformer. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)


Mother Teresa of Calcutta accompanies Pope John Paul II as he greets people at the Home For the Dying in Calcutta, India, in 1986. (CNS photo/Arturo Mari)


Pope John Paul II meeting his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in a Rome prison Dec. 27, 1983.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


Pope John Paul II kisses a rain-soaked tarmac as he arrives in Jakarta, Indonesia, on a pastoral trip in 1989. (CNS file photo)


Pope John Paul II addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York Oct. 2, 1979. (CNS file photo)


Pope John Paul II attends an interreligious ecounter in Assisi, Italy, in 1986. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)


Pope John Paul II meets with Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, center right, in 1983 at the Vatican.  (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photos)

2002 photo of Blessed John Paul II during World Youth Day in Toronto

Pope John Paul II celebrated his final international World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. The Polish-born pontiff, then age 82, described himself as “old,” but looked and sounded better than he had in months, demonstrating once again his special chemistry with young people. (CNS file photo)

Want to learn more? Watch this episode of Catholic Focus with Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB as he shares his insights about the life and times of Saint Pope John Paul II. All images courtesy of our friends at Catholic News Service.

Okay one last pic –


Pope John Paul II holds a koala during his 1986 visit to Australia. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano) 


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Divine reno? 5 tips from a pro on becoming a missional parish

Have you ever sat in mass and prayed really hard – “please God, please. Let this be over soon!” Somewhere between the grumpy greeter, the off-key cantor, the lackluster homily and your own unenthusiastic recitation of the Creed, you realize that there’s something terribly wrong with this picture. I don’t want to be here!

Is there anything worse than a room full of people who are doing something only because they feel obligated to be there?

In Fr. Mallon’s latest book, Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish he offers a blueprint (with lots of proven practical ideas) on what it takes to turn the situation around.

Remembering Our Identity and Purpose

Fr. Mallon suggests that at the heart of every crisis, is an identity crisis.  Knowing who we are and why we exist is critical. Pope Francis reminds us that the Church exists for the sake of the Mission. And the mission is to follow Christ’s command “to go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28: 16-20)

But far too many of us have been crippled by a culture of maintenance, too content with serving ourselves. Fr. Mallon explores this at length but what it all boils down to is this:  are you making disciples?

I want things messy and stirred up in the church.  I want the church to take to the streets! Pope Francis

Clear Out the Junk

I know, this charge is a tough one – but it’s what we have to do.  Fr. Mallon reminds us when rebuilding a house there is always a certain amount of demolition that needs to happen.  Structures that no longer give life or serve the mission obviously need to be removed.

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.  Pope Francis

Lay down a Strong Foundation

Laying down a strong foundation has to do with transforming the culture inside the parish. The foundation of any human organization is its culture. Even though the Church is both human and divine, Fr. Mallon reminds us that that if the human foundation is not healthy then no matter how intense or sincere the spiritual commitment – the foundation will be fragile.

The way then of determining what the community actually values is not to assess what is says but what it does.

Look at how the parish spends its time and money.  If a parish says that evangelization is a priority, is that reflected in the budget? If a parish says it values adult formation, is there a budget and a person who oversees this initiative?

We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a church becomes like this, it grows sick. Pope Francis

Sacraments as our greatest pastoral opportunity

People who have little or no connection to the Church regularly come knocking when it comes time to receive the sacraments.  Administering the sacraments then, is our greatest pastoral challenge and… our greatest opportunity! Mallon reminds us that The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that liturgy and sacraments “must be preceded by evangelization, faith and conversion” (CCC, no. 1072). In other words, a weekend program is not going to cut it.  If we want to make disciples it begins with reevaluating the way that we “do” Church. Ask yourself: are our parish programs and various initiatives bringing about genuine encounters with Christ or are we just “getting the job done”?

We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. Pope Francis

Dream Big. Acquiring Vision

Being spiritual is not enough to bring about parish renewal. According to Mallon, leadership is key. He makes many good points, but one thing that definitely jumps out is the importance of vision. He notes that the primary job of a leader is to communicate a vision or “a picture of the future that produces passion in us…If a leader cannot do this, he will not lead anyone or anything.”

The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. Pope Francis

Filled with practical insights, anyone who has worked in parish ministry will find the material discussed in this book good ‘food for thought’.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Catholic Focus episode featuring Fr. James Mallon

CNS photo

Pope John Paul II – a legacy of holiness

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. 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 Saint Pope John Paul II in this episode of Catholic Focus.


Lino Rulli on Catholic Focus

Pope John Paul II once said that “The Gospel lives always in conversation with culture, for the Eternal Word never ceases to be present to the Church and to humanity. If the Church holds back from culture, the Gospel itself falls silent.” (Address to the participants in the plenary meeting of the pontifical council for social communications, March 1, 2002.) Also, Pope Francis, during his homily at the Closing Mass of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, said that the best tool to evangelize a young person is another young person. Can we assume then, that the best circumstances in which to evangelize a young person is when what we do engages culture and when it is done by another young person? Or rather, if you are engaging culture and your venture is done by young people, does that mean that what you do is something that will attract other young people?

Lino Rulli is the host of the Catholic Guy, a radio talk show on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio (channel 129). Before hosting this radio show, Lino was the producer and star of the Emmy award-winning TV program, Generation Cross, a show that was done by young people and that very effectively engaged culture. It was a very successful show, but was it a successful evangelization tool?

In order to answer these questions and to explore this subject further, Deacon Pedro sits with the Catholic Guy himself, Lino Rulli in an all-new Catholic Focus, today, Wednesday, October 2nd at 7 and 11pm ET; 8pm PT (rebroadcasts on Saturday, Oct 5). Learn all about how Generation Cross came to be, what is the thinking behind the Catholic Guy radio program and about Lino Rulli’s new book, Saint, now available from Servant Books.





Safe haven for refugees

The Meera’s look like any other family at the ethnically diverse parish of St. Anthony of Padua in Brampton, Ontario. They warmly greet fellow parishioners as they arrive for Mass, as if they have been here a lifetime. But just a few weeks prior, they were stuck in one of the most dangerous countries on earth.

The family of six — Habeeb, his wife Landa, and their four children — were originally from Iraq. The family was forced to flee to neighbouring Syria, but war would soon follow them there, as well. Ultimately, they were sponsored by St. Anthony of Padua parish to come to Canada as refugees.

Their story is featured on a new episode of Catholic Focus, which airs tonight at 7 and 11 pm ET, repeating on Saturday at these same times. The program is also streaming on demand above.

Is there Faith in the City?

Issues of an ecumenical and interfaith nature hold a special place in my heart. In John’s gospel account, I hold Jesus’ words to be true when he speaks with his disciples and says, “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” More than that, the Church calls us to everything we can to foster and work towards fruitful ecumenism and Christian unity.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to take part in an informative ecumenical and interfaith symposium in Toronto.

Faith in the City is an initiative of religious leaders, clergy and lay-people from several faith traditions including the Catholic Church. Along with concerned members of Toronto City Council, Faith in the City set out to rally and encourage religious communities to work in areas of common social concern that will improve the lives of their neighbours.

Following the event, I sat down in studio with Joe Mihevc of Toronto and Shaikh Habeeb Alli of the Canadian Council of Imams. Together, we reflected on the successes of the 2013 symposium at Toronto’s City Hall and look ahead to the future.

Join us tonight on our network, immediately following Perspectives Daily for this episode.

Wednesday, June 19
7:05pm & 11:05pm ET
4:05pm & 8:05pm PT

If you can’t watch Salt + Light later this evening, you can watch it on demand here.

Many thanks to the City of Toronto and Faith in the City for their cooperation and participation.

Credit: City of Toronto