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On Loyalty: Fr. Thomas Rosica’s Address to the 2011 Ontario Heritage Dinner

March 10, 2011
This is the text of Fr. Thomas Rosica's address to the Ontario Government Heritage Dinner held on Wednesday evening, March 9, 2011 at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto.  Over 2000 people were in attendance at this special event hosted by the Ontario Liberal Party.  Fr. Rosica makes reference to Ash Wednesday, the Lenten Season and the 40 Days for Life that began on Wednesday.
On Loyalty
Fr. Thomas Rosica’s Address to the 2011 Ontario Heritage Dinner
Metro Toronto Convention Centre
March 9, 2011
Premier McGuinty,
Distinguished Members of the Ontario Government,
Michael Lee-Chin,
Dear Friends,
Thank you for the privilege of addressing you this evening.  I would like to offer you a very brief reflection on some words that are at the heart of our province – the motto of Ontario:
"Loyal she began and Loyal she remains"
The loyalty spoken of in this motto is that of the United Empire Loyalists who helped settle early Ontario, after fleeing the American War of Independence.  But what is the meaning of loyalty for us today?  The word 'loyalty' has a few distinct meanings.  It refers to: the quality of being loyal; the act of binding one’s self (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action; and feelings of allegiance.
Loyalty means being absolutely true to all at all times in all and any circumstances, even in the darkest or most dangerous hours of life.  Unless we find some sort of loyalty, we cannot find unity and peace in our active living.  True loyalty is a positive, wholehearted devotion to those things beyond our own selfish private selves. It is much bigger than we are and no one can be really successful or happy if they live only for themselves.  The quality of loyalty is one of our best characteristics or features.
How loyal are we as citizens of this great Province?  Loyal to God, to nation, to virtues, to our love of human life from its earliest moments to its final moments?
Here is a simple test: Make a list of the simple things in which nearly everyone believes - family, community, church, country and even your employer.  Ask yourself if since making this list you have so lived that these five things are stronger, better, finer, because of you. If you can answer "yes" truthfully, you know that you understand the full meaning of loyalty - and, incidentally, the secret of true happiness.
Dear Friends, today is also Ash Wednesday for Christians and for Catholics. It is a day not normally known for large feasts such as this one.  I said to myself this evening: “If this is fasting and abstinence, I can’t wait to see what Easter is like!”
This day, along with Good Friday, are days of fast and abstinence. For Christians, fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.  Today also marks the beginning of the 40 Days for Life in 243 cities around the world.  It is a privileged time for us to pray that every human life would be prized and cherished as a gift from God.
La prière, le jeûne et l’aumône sont les piliers du temps de carême pour les chrétiens. Le carême est un temps de jeûne de certaines choses mais aussi un temps de fête pour d’autres. Jeûne du mécontentement, de la colère, de l’amertume, de la préoccupation de soi, du découragement, de la paresse, de la suspicion et de la culpabilité. Fête de la gratitude, de la patience, du pardon, de la compassion pour les autres, de l’espérance, de l’engagement, de la vérité et de la miséricorde de Dieu. Le carême est un temps de jeûne et de fête !
Lent is a time to fast from certain things and but also a time to feast on others.  It is a season in which we should:
Fast from judging others;  Feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences;  Feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute;  Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude. Fast from anger;  Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from negatives; Feast on positives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on nonresistance.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-absorption; Feast on compassion for others,
Fast from suspicion; Feast on truth.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from discontent, anger, bitterness, self-concern, discouragement, laziness, suspicion, guilt; Feast on gratitude, patience, forgiveness, compassion for others, hope, commitment, truth, the mercy of God.
Lent is just such a time of fasting and feasting!
Let us bow our heads and pray for God’s blessing:
From many homes and of many ages
we stand at this common table, Lord,
and we give you thanks.
For you have been the story our ancestors told
to their children and their children's children
until that story came to us.
Praise to you, Lord, God of all creation,
for you feed the whole world with your goodness, with grace,
with loving kindness and tender mercy.
You give food to all creatures,
and your loving kindness endures forever.
Because of your great goodness,
food has never failed us;
O may it not fail us for ever and ever
for the sake of your great name.
You nourish and sustain all creatures and do good to all.
Praise to you, O Lord, for you give food to all.
May God bless the food we are about to eat,
those who prepared it, those who go hungry and homeless this evening.  May God give us an ever deeper sense of loyalty in our daily lives,
so that we be worthy of the great gifts
we have received freely and generously from God.
May God bless the people of this vast Province on Ontario
with prosperity and loyalty.
May God make his face shine on us, be kind to us and give us peace.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
Image: The Coming of the Loyalists by Henry Sandham (1842-1910). Painted between 1880-1910. A romanticised view of United Empire Loyalists arriving in New Brunswick, around 1783.