Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Archbishop Miller’s Homily

Archbishop J. Michael Miller has kindly allowed me to post the text of his homily at the Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi at which we celebrated my 25th anniversary of ordination.

Dear Monsignor Greg, dear brothers in the priesthood, Deacon Pablo, seminarians, Sisters and dear family, friends and parishioners of Christ the Redeemer Parish:


This evening we gather to celebrate one of the most beautiful feasts of the liturgical year, when "the Church relives the mystery of Holy Thursday in the light of the Resurrection." The solemnity of Corpus Christi or the Body and Blood of Christ reaffirms our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery that constitutes the heart of the Church, the source of her life, the summit of her worship. Through the Eucharist we do indeed, by our sharing in the one Bread, become one body, one spirit in Christ (cf. I Cor 10:17).

Today is also an especially blessed occasion for us because we are giving thanks to the Lord for the gift of priesthood to the Church as lived by Monsignor Gregory Smith for the past twenty-five years. Twenty-five years ago, through the hands and prayer of Archbishop Carney, the Lord laid claim to young Greg Smith so that he would be his ambassador, his minister chosen to perpetuate his presence among his people. Through no doing of his own, but as sheer grace, he "possesses the ministry through God's mercy" (cf. 2 Cor 4:1). At his Ordination Father Greg was transformed by the power of the sacrament to share uniquely in the priesthood of Christ, the one, eternal High Priest, to become a "dispenser of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1).

Monsignor Greg was ordained for you, for us, for the Church: to perform a specific service for the Lord and for the People of God. The essence of this service has probably never been better expressed than by the Letter to the Hebrews, which tells us:

Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. For this reason, he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honour upon himself, but is called by God (Heb 5:1,3-4).

In the Rite of Ordination, the bishop gave to young Greg the following charge, indicating clearly that henceforth he was to be "above all a man of the Eucharist": "The sacrifice of Christ will be offered sacramentally in an unbloody way through your hands. Understand the meaning of what you do; put into practice what you celebrate. When you recall [celebrate] the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, strive to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ."

Today, then, we are celebrating the graciousness of God in giving us two great sacraments which are profound interconnected. The Eucharist is the principal reason for the sacrament of the priesthood, which "came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together with it." Indeed, as Blessed John Paul II observed: "there can be no Eucharist without the priesthood, just as there can be no priesthood without the Eucharist."

The offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass draws us into the most profound mystery of God, the mystery of his redeeming love. "The Eucharist proclaims the mystery of the God who dies, who experiences human suffering and death out of love." In the Mass we are confronted with a God who reaches out to us with wounded human hands and gives us his own flesh, the Bread "for the life of the world" (Jn 6:51), so that we might abide in God and live forever (cf. Jn 6:56, 58).

Father Benedict Groeschel, a priest much admired by Monsignor Greg, once replied to the question "What does the Eucharist mean to you?" with the simple response, "It means everything." So, does it mean everything for our silver jubilarian.

Eucharist and Transformation

At the Last Supper, on the eve of his passion, Jesus thanked and praised God and, with the power of his love, transformed the meaning of his upcoming death from defeat to victory. The fact that the Sacrament of the altar is called the "Eucharist," which comes from the Greek word meaning "thanksgiving" expresses this transformation. The change in the very substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself to the Father, a gift of a love stronger than death. Because of this eternal love of Christ we can share in his eternal life. From the heart of Christ, from his "Eucharistic Prayer" on the eve of his Passion, flows the dynamism that transforms reality in all its cosmic, human and historical dimensions.

The commonly used expression "to receive Communion" is both beautiful and eloquent. It refers to the act of eating the transformed bread of the Eucharist. In fact, when we do so, we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus; we become engaged in the dynamism of his life given up for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted in the Holy Eucharist. We have heard as much, in this evening's second reading, from the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the Blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the Body of Christ?"(1 Cor 10:16-17).

St. Augustine helps us to understand what happens when we receive Holy Communion. In his Confessions, he refers to a vision he had, in which Jesus said to him: "You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me." What is the Saint getting at? He means that while the bodily food is assimilated by the body and contributes to its nourishment and maintenance, the Eucharist is a different kind of bread, the "living bread that came [comes] down from heaven" (Jn 6:51). We do not assimilate it; rather, it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ and members of his Body, one with him, abiding in him. This is decisive: it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion, transforms us into him. Our very self, in this encounter, is opened up; it is freed from its elusive and slavish self-centeredness and placed in the Heart of Jesus, who in turn is himself immersed in the communion of the Triune God.

The Eucharist unites us intimately to Christ and, at the same time, it opens us to others, making us members one of another: divisions are overcome as we are one with him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and with whom I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters wherever they may be, in whatever corner of the world. As Pope Benedict wrote in his first encyclical, "union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own."

Those who recognize and accept Jesus in the Eucharist recognize and accept their brothers and sisters who suffer, who are hungry and thirsty, who are strangers, naked, sick, imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:31-46). They are attentive to every person, committing themselves, in a concrete way, to those who are in need. From the gift of Christ's love in the Eucharist comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a just and fraternal society, a culture of life and a civilization of love.

The Eucharist is an urgent call to holiness in the midst of everyday life. That call contains within it a call to action. It bids us who adore and receive the Lord to make a similar gift of self to our brothers and sisters. Together with Jesus, we are called "to be bread broken for the life of the world" – to nourish others as we have been nourished.

A Sign of Contradiction

The Lord does not leave us alone on our journey through this world. He is with us, just as he said: "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:56).

At this announcement, however, the people, instead of rejoicing, started to murmur in protest: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (Jn 6:52) – a question repeated endlessly in the course of history. This seemed to them a hard saying, and many of his disciples withdrew from Jesus' company when they heard it. "Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a 'sign of contradiction' . . . because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis."

Commenting on the wonder of this amazing gift, and why it caused such consternation among those who heard it, the Holy Father has said that perhaps the reason is our fear of a God who is so close to us. Listen to his words:

One might say that basically people do not want to have God so close, to be so easily within reach or to share so deeply in the events of their daily life. Rather, people want him to be great and, in brief, we also often want him to be a little distant from us.

But God wants to be close to us. He wants his presence with us to continue through time and space; and so he gave us the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood to perpetuate his presence.


As we continue this Mass, let us pray that we will allow ourselves to be taken into the Mystery of the Eucharist, the treasure of the Church where Christ "abides" with us (cf. Jn 6:56), and let us renew our gratitude for the gift of the priesthood through which the Lord continues to embrace the world which he loved so much that he sent his Son to redeem it (cf. Jn 3:16).


J. Michael Miller, CSB

Archbishop of Vancouver

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Twenty Five Years of Priesthood

On Saturday night we had the formal celebration of my twenty-fifth anniversary of priestly ordination, which occurs this Tuesday, June 28. Archbishop Miller presided at Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi, followed by a dinner in the parish centre attended by many parishioners and dear friends.

The following is what I wrote in the program for Mass.


Just about everyone knows that I choke up when I count my blessings, so it should come as no surprise that I can't express personally my gratitude to the people who have shaped my life, guided me to the priesthood, sustained me in my labours, and brought me so much joy. These written words will have to do, but they come directly from my heart.

A verse of Scripture keeps running through my head : How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me? And how can I repay so many of you for the years of love, prayer, support, and friendship—not to mention forbearance?

The simple answer is that I can neither repay, nor fully acknowledge, the many people who have made my twenty-five years of priesthood so happy and so blessed.

I don't dare to name most of them for fear of missing even one among the dozens I hold in my grateful heart tonight. (When our new deacon and new priest were ordained recently, I was touched that both mentioned me by name at the back of their ordination booklets. But Deacon Pablo and Father Bryan are much younger than I, and it won't be long before their debts of gratitude increase to the point where they won't be able to fit everyone in at the back of a program, either!)

Some names, of course, must be mentioned. After God, my parents were the source of my vocation and the force that sustained it. Some years ago I wrote my vocation story for a Catholic paper, and Mom mentioned (without complaint) that she and my father seemed to play a fairly small role! I promptly wrote a second article—my failure to highlight my parents was simply a failure to state the obvious. Their sturdy faith, reflected in our regular attendance at Sunday Mass, involvement in parish activities and devotions, was the foundation of all that I am as a Christian and a priest.

On this feast of Corpus Christi, I also cherish the memory of my mother taking me to Benediction as a youngster; I've often thought that my love of the Eucharist first began to grow during those evenings.

My parents' beliefs and commitment are reflected in the fact that my four siblings all practice the faith; they and their spouses have been to me both a strong support and a fine example of family life; the love of my nieces and nephews has meant I never felt deprived by not having children of my own.

Much to my surprise, I am not especially grieved that my Dad is not here to share this anniversary with us—because I believe he is sharing it. The Eucharist we celebrate tonight bridges the gap between this world and the next, and I very much feel his presence. Thank you, Dad, for everything.

Of course my parents were themselves the product of wonderful families, and tonight I can't but think of the love and faith of my grandmothers, great-aunts, great-uncles, aunts and uncles. It's a special joy to have my father's sister Denise with us tonight, the last of that large group of beloved relatives.

Blessed as I am by my family, I hardly deserve the further blessing of a small army of friends who have enriched my life not only in Vancouver but in Rome and Washington. I don't have words to describe the love and loyalty of my devoted friends, many of whom go back more than the 25 years we're celebrating tonight.

Though I am dodging the risk of naming names, it's impossible not to mention Sister Josephine Carney, who throughout my priestly life has been a constant "voice" telling me of the Lord's love, and Maria Micallef, who when I arrived in West Vancouver decided I needed more of a mother's love (and cooking) than I could get long-distance from Ontario—and who now shares her loving kindness with my mother as well.

And I'm sure I offend no-one by singling out Lawrence Pillon and Father Stanley Galvon, the two stalwart friends who have kept me on an even keel since seminary days (or who, at least, did their best!) and my fellow jubilarian Father Don Larson, whose friendship and wise counsel has been a gift since the day we entered the Beda College together.

To the rest of you—and you know who you are—I can only say that I can't imagine life without you. Your affection, example, faith, guidance, generosity, and support is a major reason why my years of priesthood have been fruitful years of peace and joy.

Of course there would be no anniversary to celebrate tonight had I not been encouraged in my diocesan vocation by Father (now Bishop) David Monroe, who preached at my first Mass and will graciously preach again at the anniversary liturgy on June 28. There would certainly be no anniversary had I not been called to the priesthood by the late Archbishop James F. Carney, and prepared well for ministry by the priests and sisters who staffed the Pontifical Beda College. Women religious—the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood at the Beda, the Grey Sisters of Pembroke, the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Patrick's, the Cenacle Sisters, the Sisters of St. Ann, and more recently the Dominican Nuns at Queen of Peace monastery—have been a constant inspiration and source of friendship in my priestly life.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate played a key role in the early development of my vocation, and the close friendship and constant encouragement of the late Father Brendan Megannety was a precious gift from God for which I will be grateful forever. I owe a great debt also to the Jesuits, having received both high school and doctoral diplomas from their schools—about 35 years apart!

The Benedictines at Westminster Abbey and Mount Angel Abbey have offered me spiritual guidance and example along with treasured friendships and peaceful oases for prayer and rest. The friendship and spiritual wisdom of priests of Opus Dei has also been a big help in recent years.

The dedicated people with whom I worked at 150 Robson, and the parishioners at St. Patrick's, St. John the Apostle, St. Ignatius and Star of the Sea parishes, supported and encouraged me for nearly twenty years; many of them are my close and valued friends.

This long litany of thanksgiving should help to explain why I have been so happy during the past quarter-century. Yet I have never been happier than I am now. For this, I want to thank the parishioners of Christ the Redeemer. What can I say to express my appreciation to you? Sharing your joys and your sorrows has been the greatest of the many privileges of my priestly life.

Since arriving here as pastor, I have often felt like the middle-aged man who became a father for the first time: elated, even if a bit exhausted. I thank you, dear parishioners, for your astonishing generosity, acceptance, confidence and love. If I am a good pastor, it is in no small measure because you have taught me how. And a special word of thanks to those who worked so hard organizing the liturgies and dinner for my anniversary. You are certainly exhausted, but I hope you are elated as well.

Finally, a word about Archbishop Miller. I've been blessed to serve under four bishops, all of whom I admired and loved. The first three were fathers to me. Archbishop Miller, though no less a father, has been a brother as well. His fraternal kindness and understanding have greatly eased my recent sorrow. For that and much else I am deeply grateful to him.

Thankful to have been ordained a priest during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, I will close with words from the psalm proclaimed at Mass during his visit to Vancouver in 1984: My soul give thanks to the Lord, all my being bless his holy name. My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Four Years Ago

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Four years ago, on June 20, 2007, I defended my doctoral dissertation at the Gregorian University. The wild biretta--the academic headgear for the degree--is being placed on my head by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Education--and now, happily, Archbishop of Vancouver. It was a great night and it's hard to imagine four years have passed so swiftly.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Mystery of Suffering

Two tragedies have made me think long and hard about the problem of human suffering this month. I experienced one first-hand; I only read about the other.

Let me tell you first about the tragedy I read about. The current issue of the New Yorker magazine has a story by the father of a nine-month old girl who had a very rare kind of brain tumour. The writer, an acclaimed novelist, describes the child's illness and death—and the effect on her family—in words that broke my heart.

But pain wasn't the only emotion in the article. There was, it seemed to me, a repressed anger towards God. Here's what the author said: "[W]e stayed away from anyone who we feared might offer us the solace of that supreme platitude: God. The hospital chaplain was prohibited from coming anywhere near us."

After little Isabel died, her father takes his non-belief to a sharp conclusion. He wrote "One of the most despicable fallacies is that suffering is ennobling—that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel's suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world. .."

"And Isabel most certainly did not earn ascension to a better place, as there was no better place for her than at home with her family."

Our local tragedy is already familiar to many of you: the sudden death of Patty Delesalle less than a year after the loss of her daughter Murphy. After Patty's death, a number of parishioners asked me to help them to deal with their confused feelings. One person put it bluntly, telling me she is angry with God because He has been so cruel to this family.

At the funeral Mass, I said straight-out that I did not have a neatly packaged answer to the questions posed by these awful events. I tried my best to honour the confusion and hurt of the congregation, recognizing that a funeral may not be the best time to wrestle with issues so complex that even great minds have problems dealing with them.

But I knew I would need to tackle some of them sooner rather than later—partly for my own sake, but partly for yours. As Father Benedict Groeschel writes in his book called Tears of God and subtitled Persevering in the Face of Great Sorrow or Catastrophe, "We all have sorrow, but we don't all have the horrible in our lives. But it does come. It comes to people we know, and maybe some day it will come to us, and we will have to be prepared."

And I need to say more than I could say at Patty's funeral, where many of those attending were not of our faith or perhaps of any faith. I need to present to you at least the outline of the Christian answer to the question "How can a good God let bad things happen?" In other words, if God really loved us, would He not shield us from the worst of tragedies, or even from all tragedies?

What I say today would bring no comfort to the poor father of that poor child, because I begin with an assumption he cannot accept—namely that God is real and not a platitude, and that there is a better place than here. But even without belief in God, I cannot agree with what he says about the uselessness of suffering. One of the conclusions of Father Benedict's book "is that we grow when we experience catastrophe by becoming more sympathetic and concerned about other people." I don't think it was a coincidence that one of the most heartfelt expressions of sympathy I received after my father's death was from a member of the Delesalle family.

Before turning to the specifically Christian response to the question of God's supposed "cruelty," let me say that there's nothing wrong with asking the question. St. Paul says we see God "in a mirror, dimly" and "only in part" [1 Cor 13:12] and the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test." Tragedies "can shake our faith and become a temptation against it." [CCC 164]

But the difference between us and the New Yorker writer is that we're still looking for answers. So let's see what the Word of God and the wisdom of the ages can offer.

The only place to start, today at least, is with the words of Jesus we just heard in this morning's Gospel: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Father Benedict says that once we've lived through the immediate period of grief and disorientation after a catastrophe—once we've had some time to pick up the pieces—there's only one thing to do. At this point, he writes, "people of faith must embrace their belief in God. There's no way around this."

You can look for an answer to the problem of pain without looking for God. Philosophers were doing that long before Christ. But you can't call God on the carpet without letting him explain a few things in his own way. Both the New and Old Testaments describe God's love and concern; the Catechism says that "the witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history."

But… and here's a big "but"—this does not mean that God is the author of our misfortunes, willing evil so that he can rush in and help out. He does not treat anyone "cruelly" or take away children from their parents.

When we speak of divine providence, we mean our belief that God can bring a good from the consequences of an evil. We don't mean that evils aren't evil; they are. But God permits them and uses them for his sovereign purposes—which are not, and I can't stress this enough—always clear to us.

We don't always see what God is accomplishing in us and for us at times of great sorrow or suffering. One of the reasons for that, of course, is that he may be accomplishing our salvation, something we won't understand until we meet him face to face. Other times we can actually see his footprints, and recognize the good that came from something we could not accept or understand when it happened.

In either case—whether we can see God at work or not—we must cling to—maybe even memorize—these words of St. Paul to the Romans: "We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him" [Rom 8:28] This is not an "answer"—it's a promise.

There's a line in the Catechism so important that it's printed in italics. It's not an answer either, but it tells us where to look for one. Here's the sentence: There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil [CCC 309].

Today we celebrate the central mystery of the Christian faith, the belief in the Holy Trinity. This doctrine stands before us as the perfect example that there are truths—essential ones—that we can trust without fully understanding, that we can accept without fully grasping.

So too with suffering. We want a simple answer to a complex question, but what God offers us instead is a mystery—a journey into our hearts, and into his heart. We want to understand him, but he wants us to love him first.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stewardship II: Treasure

What would you say if I told you that winning the Stanley Cup is all about money—that the players, coaches, and owners are only thinking about the bonuses that come with victory?

What would you say if I suggested all those fans on Granville Street are just celebrating the benefits to our local economy that comes with the playoffs?

You'd say, of course, that I was crazy. And you'd be right. The financial side of carrying home the cup is not the first thing on anyone's minds.

But what if I said that the Stanley Cup had nothing to do with money? Would that be right?

Of course not. Saying money plays no part in the playoffs would be silly. Many millions of dollars are involved, and among many other things, our national sport is a business that employs countless people.

The Church is not a business. Our parish is not a business. No-one would suggest we're all about money. And yet sometimes we forget that finances are important to our life of faith, even though the Scriptures point this out again and again.

Today, as I promised last week, I want to focus on the third "T" of the stewardship trio "time, talent, and treasure." What role does financial stewardship play in our lives and the life of our parish?

The only place to begin is with a word of gratitude. The proof of the generosity of many of our parishioners is all around you—beautiful improvements to our sanctuary, meeting space, and entryway were all paid for by your contributions to Project Advance.

Even at this early stage in the campaign, two of our regular major donors chose—without being asked—to double the large gift they give each year.

I have never had to ask anyone for money. Out of the blue I get asked "what can I do?"—a question to which I always have an answer. One very generous parishioner has a heart for young people, and has been a quiet patron of our youth programs; for instance, she paid the cost of introducing LifeTeen in our parish.

In four years I have sometimes lost sleep over parish worries, but never about money. The first reason for this is that we've always had enough both to pay our bills and to help those in need. The second is that the wise and prudent advice of our six-member finance council, and the expert work of our accountant, make sure that I can be a responsible steward of parish finances.

Again, on behalf of the whole community, and on my own behalf, I thank you for your faithful generosity—in many cases, for your generosity over many, many years.

I wish, though, that I could ask some of our more generous contributors to stand up and speak to those who may not yet understand the blessings stewardship brings. They'd be a bit reluctant, of course, since it could sound like bragging. But I've talked to them privately, and I know they feel great satisfaction in sharing what they have with this community; they feel deeply connected to the parish, and they feel a part of all that we accomplish, especially our work to spread the Good News through faith formation and youth programs.

Given these benefits—and the moral obligation to help provide for the needs of the Church, which is one of the five precepts of the Church [CCC 2043] why wouldn't every active member of our community want to hear the call to stewardship?

In particular, what keeps us from taking seriously our call to be stewards of the treasure—the financial means—that God has entrusted to us?

I really don't think it's stinginess, and it's certainly not poverty, because we're asked to support the parish only in accordance with our means. We know from the parable of the poor widow who contributed her little coin that God is pleased with whatever we give so long as it is proportionate and sacrificial.

I suspect there are two reasons why some active Catholics aren't committed to serious stewardship through the Sunday collection and Project Advance.

My Dad, who was always very generous with the Church, told me one reason. He said that people confuse giving to a need with needing to give.

He understood that even if there was no need, people need to give. It's part of human nature and part of Christian life. We may not know it, but God created us to give not to receive, and those in a parish who are receivers rather than givers short-change themselves.

This is the truly important point. I'm preaching about stewardship partly so that the parish has enough of your time, talent and treasure to really fulfill its mission. But what matters most to me—and to you—is that you fulfill your mission, as a Christian. Stewardship, as the American bishops have written, is a "disciple's response" to God's call. And nothing matters more to each of us than becoming disciples.

Still, the second reason people don't support the parish meaningfully is that they don't see the need. One of our faithful parishioners has been counting the collection for a dozen years. He told me yesterday that the number of five dollar bills has hardly changed in all that time. Many people, I'm sure, just got in a habit and saw no need to change.

Like most priests, I don't like to talk about money, so people may assume we're rolling in it. Well, as you'll see from the 2010 financial report that will be handed out in a couple of weeks, the truth is somewhat different. Our operating income—from regular collections and the like—was just $41,000 more than our operating expenditures. That, in the opinion of the parish finance council, is a bit too close for comfort. For one thing, we have a second priest now, and the cost of an additional salary, benefits, and board is about… $41,000.

In other words, the parish could slip into an operating deficit this year without strong support from you.

But that's just part of the story. As you know, we're celebrating the Ascension today, when Jesus gives what might be called His final orders. They're brief and to the point: make disciples and teach them. To do this, we need many more stewards of time and talent who will share the faith not only among fellow parishioners but with those who come to inquire. But, secondarily, we need resources—and with more financial support, we would do more, plain and simple.

What can we do to grow in stewardship? You'll see many ways of sharing time and talent next week, when we celebrate Stewardship Sunday with a huge display of parish ministries and activities after all the Masses, complete with refreshments.

Sharing your treasure, which is our concern this week, can mean three simple things. The first is to ask for envelopes if you don't have them, or to use them if you do. We're kidding ourselves if we think we can take stewardship seriously without Sunday envelopes—for one thing, they ensure we get a tax receipt, for another they give us an accurate picture of our support.

One parishioner, a well-paid professional, was very upset to discover he'd contributed a total of $85 to the parish last year—in his own mind he'd been generous, but the facts told another story. And of course when I talk about using envelopes, I include our convenient dedicated giving program which allows you to contribute directly from your bank account or bank card.

Step two is to reflect prayerfully on the amount of your weekly or monthly offering. Has your income increased since you began to contribute that five dollar bill? Is your gift a sacrifice? There's really no rule of thumb, but it's often suggested that the equivalent of one hour's pay is a good starting point. And we don't have too many parishioners working for five dollars an hour. If you signed up for dedicated giving, might this week be a good time to review the amount and to see if your family finances could handle something more?

Step three is to move beyond the regular expenses of the parish and to think about the future. Certainly we all have a big responsibility to pay our fair share of running Christ the Redeemer. But as you know, we are a community that supports two schools, and we can't do this only through the Sunday collection. Project Advance is what allows us to meet our big commitments; and this year we're looking down the road to a rebuilt high school.

Apart from the duty of regular parish support, we are called as stewards to make a sacrificial gift for future needs. At the Ascension, Jesus gave us the missionary mandate to teach, and in part this means schools.

I worry that some folks think that Project Advance is only for the affluent who can make major gifts. In fact, it's intended as a normal part of parish life, and your participation is a sign of full engagement as a parish steward.

But thinking about the future can also involve what's called planned giving or estate planning. When the financial statements come out, they'll show a bottom line that reflects a major gift from the estate of an unmarried parishioner who lived in nursing home. One person left a legacy that will one day build a science classroom or complete a library, or which might replace our roof if times get tough.

Early in the fall, the parish pastoral council has proposed a seminar on planned giving that will explain more to those interested in this form of stewardship, which can provide significant tax benefits to donors.

Looking back, we have so many people to thank, so many who will get their proper credit only in heaven. But there's a good reason why our annual fundraising campaign is called Project Advance: with the challenges we face in education, and with the opportunities we have for evangelization, we look ahead.

Let me end by proving the point I made at the beginning of my sermon, where I said the Stanley Cup wasn't about money but did involve money, and that the same's true for the Church.

Yesterday's paper reports that there's a bet on between Archbishop Miller and Cardinal O'Malley of Boston. If the Canucks win, the Cardinal gives a hundred dollars to Project Advance—and if the Bruins win, the Archbishop owes the same to Catholic Charities of Boston. It'd probably be wrong to pray we win the Stanley Cup—but surely there's nothing wrong in praying our bishop wins a bet?