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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

Catholic Focus heads to Ireland

When you think of religious pilgrimage, the Holy Land comes to mind, or perhaps the Vatican. But there’s another pilgrimage destination where ancient ruins emerge from a dramatic landscape – testaments to an over 1500-year-old Christian tradition. This destination is Ireland, whose heritage was celebrated at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. Catholic Focus takes a trip to the holy sites of Ireland, while back in Canada, host Kris Dmytrenko speaks with guests Dr. Ann Dooley and Fr. John Reddy, CSB.

Martyrs of Compiègne on an all-new Catholic Focus

No one should go out of their way to look for martyrdom, but Christ did say that following him does mean embracing the Cross. However, little did a group of 18th century French Carmelite nuns realize that their commitment to follow Christ would also be considered a crime.

Deacon Pedro visits the Canadian Opera Company and then speaks with Fr. Jay Comerford, O.Carm and Sr. Agnes Roger, Carmel DCJ, to learn about Carmelite spirituality and about the martyrdom of the Carmelites of Compiègne in an all-new Catholic Focus.

Photo credit: Dialogues des Carmélites (Canadian Opera Company, 2013)
(front, l – r) Hélène Guilmette as Sister Constance and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Blanche de la Force in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites, 2013.

Rediscovering the Bible on the new-look Catholic Focus

It’s the most popular book in history, and yet it’s possibly the most misunderstood: the Bible. On this week’s Catholic Focus — featuring the new look for our flagship current affairs series — host Kris Dmytrenko speaks with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who are bringing the Word of God to a new generation through “The Bible” television miniseries. We also visit Sr. Marie Paul Curley at Pauline Books & Media, who offers helpful tips for those who want to start reading the Bible.

Jesus versus the zombies

 Photo by ©2012 A+E Networks, LLC / Photo Credit: Joe Alblas Copyright 2011
The headlines proclaimed an epic showdown: Jesus versus the zombies. This wasn’t an imaginative retelling of a familiar story (an increasingly popular subgenre of historical fiction). Rather, this was a battle for cable TV ratings, pitting “The Bible” miniseries on the History channel against AMC’s zombie hit “The Walking Dead”. When their season finales aired head-to-head on Easter Sunday, “The Bible” edged its macabre competitor 12.32 million to 12.29 million.

By now, Hollywood surely gets that there is an enthusiastic audience for programming with a Christian message. Still, adapting the whole Bible for TV — as opposed to one particular book of Scripture — was an ambitious, big-budget endeavour. So the executive producers, reality TV mastermind Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey of “Touched by An Angel” fame, embarked on a major publicity tour to preview the project to the media and church communities. Salt + Light’s Kris Dmytrenko interviewed the duo when they came to Toronto.

Though the finale has aired, Burnett and Downey insist it’s only the beginning for “The Bible”. A Spanish version and a theatrical cut are planned and DVD sales are underway.

You can watch our interview with the makers of “The Bible” series on tonight’s new episode of Catholic Focus. The program, which debuts the new look for S+L’s long-running current affairs show, airs at 7:00 and 11:00 pm ET/8:00 pm PT, repeating at the same times this Saturday.

Photo credit: A+E Networks, LLC/Joe Alblas