Saturday, December 13, 2014

ToT West: Same Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church

by Meaghan D'Souza
St. Patrick's Parish, Mississauga, ON

On Monday November 10th, Sister Helena Burns, fsp (Daughters of St. Paul) eloquently spoke at Theology on Tap West about the Catholic Church’s perspective on homosexuality. Before beginning, she reminded the audience to remember the big picture – God’s unconditional love for us.

Sister Helena began her presentation by addressing the notion of labels such as gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual and queer. She highlighted that these labels merit a difference between individuals who are living a homosexual lifestyle and those who are living a heterosexual lifestyle. The aforementioned labels reduce an individual’s dignity as a child of God because they only acknowledge one’s sexual orientation rather than addressing one’s complete identity. Instead, we should replace the term “homosexuality” with the term “same sex attraction” only in reference to the partnership between two people. As a result, one’s identity does not become completely dependent on their sexual orientation.

Sister Helena Burns, fsp
Sister Helena briefly addressed Pope Francis’ views on same sex attraction by explaining that it is in one’s best interest to “see the person (before the rule).” All individuals are made in the image and likeness of God, and should be treated with respect and equality. In an interview, Pope Francis outlined that “if they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem...they’re our brothers.” This statement has been misinterpreted by the media to mean that Pope Francis accepts homosexuality. However, when reading this quotation within its correct context, Pope Francis explained that if individuals in a same sex partnership accept leading a life of Christ’s teachings, they will strive to be chaste despite one’s feelings or inclinations. Furthermore, Pope Francis described that individuals should not judge others merely based jon their same sex attraction.

Sister Helena concluded that the Catholic Church will never tell individuals to change their sexual orientation. She distinctly highlighted the notion of “treating people like people” by emphasizing that “God loved us while we were sinners” (Romans 5:8). All individuals are sinners and should not base their judgments on the person rather than the objectiveness of an action. Same sex attraction is complex; however, individuals must be accepted with dignity and love. After all, we are all children of God called to love one another.

Sister Helena encouraged individuals searching for more information on this topic and others to go to: or

Friday, October 31, 2014

ToT East: How to be a Discerning Voter

by Alison D'Souza
Precious Blood Parish, Scarborough, ON

Should we consider all politicians to be untrustworthy? Should we be cynical of politics as a whole? At the October 23rd Theology on Tap East at the Bear Pub in Pickering, Bishop William McGrattan (from the Diocese of Peterborough, ON) tackled these and other misconceptions in his address about the importance of voting preceding the October 27th municipal election.

The night started off with a statement that surprised me: Bishop McGrattan noted that we as Christians should “recover a legitimate respect for those involved in politics.” His statement stood in contrast to the often heavy-handed criticism of politicians that I’ve seen in the media, as well as uncharitable personal attacks that have often accompanied voting periods. His statement reminded me about the dignity of the politician who is, first, a human being made in the image and likeness of God; in this way, we’re called to be charitable people even when we don’t agree with a politician’s platform. But, as Bishop McGrattan explained, there’s yet another reason for why respect is needed, and it relates to the dignity of politics itself. 

Bishop William McGrattan
The political profession is a noble one, said Bishop McGrattan and, properly understood, it’s “the enactment of justice.” In other words, politics serves the cause of justice in its concern for individuals, and especially the common good. The political profession thus expresses “a noble form of love.” The bishop urged us, therefore, to set the tone when it comes to promoting a respect for the political profession and those who are in office. Bishop McGrattan’s statements helped deepen my understanding of the political profession as one that is worthy of pursuing and encouraging others to pursue since it’s a way to do God’s will in love of our neighbour. 

That said, how does one choose the right candidate? Because reason alone cannot perfectly inform our decision-making, Bishop McGrattan noted that faith can greatly guide our reason. That’s not to say that the Church imposes Herself on politics, but rather that She assists us in “how we decide on particular issues and [how to choose] the right candidate.” The Church helps us form (and inform) our conscience so that we may make good decisions.  

Practically speaking, how could the Church inform our decision-making when choosing candidates? Bishop McGrattan left us with eleven principles from the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops document entitled Taking Stock - An Examination of Conscience.
These principles include, for example, a consideration for the dignity of human life, the common good, and the stewardship of the environment. He reminded us, however, that there is a hierarchy of values among the principles in that some issues hold a greater weight of value than others, for instance, issues that deal with human life.  Of course, a candidate may not fill all eleven of these criteria, but we are “encouraged to support the one who can fill these principles as much as possible.” Thus, we were called not to withdraw from voting whether because of a single issue or because we’re cynical about politics, but to use our faith to guide us in choosing, according to our conscience, the best possible candidate to serve the community.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Night of Worship: Audrey Assad, Bellarive, and Joe Zambon in Toronto

by Stephanie Ferraro

Music is one of the most beautiful and magical things in the world. Not only can it stir feelings deep within and draw upon one's emotions, music also has the ultimate power to bring people together. On the evening of Tuesday, September 16, 2014 I had the incredible opportunity to embrace all that music has to offer and more. The experience on a whole was inviting and healing, and the presence of God was certainly felt by all.

JOE ZAMBON (photo by Jason DeHetre)
Joe Zambon started the evening off with a soulful performance and his warm smile. His thoughtful lyrics and passion for performing showed through during his set. I noticed, instantly, how amazing Joe’s guitar playing was. The soothing sound of his vocals, paired with his own intriguing lyrics echoed in the theatre of St. Michael’s College School and made for an incredible folk-style performance. Before launching into his song titled, I Just Want Peace, he explained to be as if he had just “cut open his chest and pulled out his heart”. It’s a beautifully written song that he wrote while reflecting on one of his favourite passages about Jesus and the Samaritan woman; a story that spoke to him in many ways. He explained how the well in the passage represents the place we go to, to draw life from over and over again. He went on to say that for the woman, the well represents relationships and Jesus proposed to her a relationship that is much more satisfying in body and spirit. “From the inside first and flowing to the outside,” Joe mused. “I think Jesus was proposing to this woman, ‘I can give you peace, something that will satisfy you.’” Beautiful song. Profound message. Outstanding performance.

Bellarive stole my heart with their uplifting performance. Uplifting, to me, is one of the best ways to describe it. Audrey, who introduced the band, asked the audience to remain standing for the set and Bellarive certainly got the crowd moving. More passionate performers!! Yay! One of the most satisfying things for me, especially as a performer myself, is to see someone LOVE what they do, and Bellarive showed just that. Not only their love for performing, but also their love for God. For those who haven't heard of them, you must take a listen to their music! It’s the kind of music you want to rock out to in the car, but does not lack amazing lyrics with profound messages.

BELLARIVE (photo by Jason DeHetre)
I loved the little bits of spoken words that were added into the set by singers, Sean and Melissa. “Each and everyone of us, even if you don't realize it, we’re here for the same purpose. We this unbelievable opportunity to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. The grace of God invites us here tonight,” Sean explained. He invited the crowd to join in singing their songs, and asked them to think about the words they were singing because they are prayers. Their rendition of In Christ Alone was personally my favourite, as well as their final song Calling On Fire, a song based on God’s chosen identity throughout the scripture being fire.

Both Bellarive and Joe Zambon gave incredible performances and surely gained plenty of new fans after this wonderful evening, including myself!

As I mentioned before, I am a performer and some of my favourite songs to sing, not only at my local parish, but outside of the church as well, are by Audrey Assad. I’ve been listening to her for about 5 years and many songs such as Restless and Winter Snow have become staples in my repertoire. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to watch her perform live only a few feet away from me.

Audrey Assad began her set with her song Death, Be Not Proud. I have so much respect for artists who can sound identical on stage to how they do on their tracks. Her vocals were nothing less than perfection. The clarity in her voice is soothing and makes you never want to stop listening! She continued her set with a cover of John Mark McMillian’s song Death In His Grave. One of the things I love about Audrey’s live performances, is she's always at her piano. Playing and singing at the same time is a gift, people! (In my eyes it is, anyway!) She sang Good To Me next; one of my personal favourites off her new album. She taught it to the crowd which resulted in the entire theatre singing in unison: what a beautiful thing to experience. She explained that the song, like many of the songs on Fortunate Fall (her album), were inspired by Psalm 23. “I love singing from the psalms”, she said. Lead Me On comes up next, another favourite of mine, (I have a lot of favourites) especially because of the gorgeous piano solo featured in the song. Audrey then leads into her own version of Better Is One Day creating a medley of the two songs. Audrey went on to sing a new song called Lamb Of God and then another song from her album called, Humble. Audrey then went on to sing her own rendition of More Of You and I Will Exalt You in another medley. I am a huge fan of the song More Of You by Colton Dixon and it’s message. The message being that if all we need is God in our lives and in our hearts and if we allow Him to, He will show us the way and make us who we are meant to be.

AUDREY ASSAD (photo by Jason DeHetre)
Audrey continued with a stunning rendition of I See You. Even writing about the concert makes me want to relive it all over again!  She sang Love is Moving and Do You Speak and her band left the stage quietly. I took a moment during Audrey’s set to look at the people around me. It was so touching to see the emotion people felt while listening to her sing her praises and share these moments with her. The very last song she sings is Lord, I Need You, a crowd-pleaser indeed, because I was certain there wasn't one person in the audience that didn't know every single word. Audrey exited the stage and left the last chorus to the audience. There was a genuine sense of unity among the crowd as they sang in harmony (musically and figuratively). Tears were shed by many, and the room was overwhelmed with sweet praise and God’s presence in every one of us. This Night Of Worship was surely one filled with beauty.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Relationships and Sexuality - How Does God Fit In?

On June 25, 2014 at Jack Astor’s Bar & Grille in Scarborough, Dr. Josephine Lombardi spoke eloquently to about 90 young adults about sexuality and relationships and how God fits into the equation. She said that to be in good relationships with others, we need to strive to become our best selves which includes having a relationship with God who loves us and created us. 

Dr. Lombardi shared with us many different ways in our lives that lead to authentic freedom which is truly knowing God. This is what Christ wants for us all. God wants us to be perfect in our wholeness as we are all created in His image and likeness. He wants us to be the best version of ourselves.
Dr. Josephine Lombardi
Assistant Professor
Pastoral & Systematic Theology
St. Augustine's Seminary

It was explained by Dr. Lombardi that we are all called to holiness with Jesus, and leading a life that will transform us to a glorified body when it's time to meet the Lord. Making mistakes is part of the growing pains, but through the blessings and grace of reconciliation, we can repent and go back to Christ.

Whether our vocation is to be called to marriage, the priesthood, the single life, or a religious life, we can all walk in the path of His ultimate plan. 

 - Cati Carnovale

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Boss Made Me Do It: Ethics in the Workplace

On May 12, 2014, Paskwa Mutunga, Innovation Manager at World Vision Canada, spoke to young adults from parishes of the Western region at Theology on Tap West about ethics in the workplace.

She began her talk by quoting Winston Churchill, “Never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.” These strong words from Churchill come with a real challenge, especially in the workplace, and Mutunga acknowledged this reality by offering a verse from scripture as a guideline for how to go about staying true to moral and religious beliefs: “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). She advised that we keep these as the compass of our moral decisions. She went on to identify three things that lead us to compromise our beliefs in all circumstances: 1) uncertainty, 2) the price we would have to pay, and 3) fear.

First, uncertainty: just as the serpent entered the Garden and took advantage of Eve’s uncertainty, when we are unsure of what our faith teaches on particular issues, we leave ourselves susceptible to compromising our beliefs. We must be “rooted and built up in Jesus, firm in the faith” (Colossians 2:7) to have the courage to stand up for it and cast doubt away. As Mutunga explained, it isn’t enough to have faith, we must also act based on our beliefs.

Paskwa Mutunga
Next, the price: One of the greatest challenges of following our faith is recognizing that there may be a hard consequence. “Living like a true Catholic in today’s culture will cost you everything. If you want to live for heaven, you must be willing to die to many earthly things” (Mark Hart). Drawing from scripture again, Mutunga reminded us of Joseph who, after being sold by his brothers, was jailed when he refused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39). She emphasized the importance of maintaining hope in the Lord whose heavenly rewards are worth the earthly consequences.

Finally, fear: It is one thing to recognize the potential consequences of acting based on our beliefs, but it is quite another to actually face them. It is in these situations that Mutunga encouraged us to remember Jesus’ gift of love for “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Reflecting on the suffering He endured out of love for us, can give us the courage to stand up for Him.

It is love that inspires the faith and hope which give us the strength to stand up for our beliefs. Mutunga ended her talk by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and reiterating that if we are to never give in as Churchill directs us, love must be the central foundation of our decisions and actions.

- Alycia J. Rodrigues

Friday, May 30, 2014

Devoutly Religious and Critically Scientific…Can You be Both?

“If God exists…then prove it.” For any young Catholic growing in the faith, this was a common statement that would often come up in debates among atheists or other Catholics seeking the truth. For some, it seemed that the explanation for life’s questions could be narrowed down to a scientific formula or understood through extensive analytical research. Is it possible to be both devoutly religious and critically scientific?
Fr. John McCarthy SJ addressed this thought-provoking question with young adults on Wednesday, April 30th at Theology on Tap East held at Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill in Scarborough. Fr. McCarthy opened the discussion by stating that separation of faith and science is not only a widespread belief but is often viewed as conflicting rather than complimentary. He shared that various advocates of atheism strongly consider science as the only means necessary to comprehend the existence of human life and the natural world while they argue that religion serves only to “divide.” If society were to take a step back in time, knowledge based on facts, observation and experimentation has opened the door to innovative breakthroughs in areas such as medicine or the environment. But is it the only key to discovery? “Science is a way to know the world,” stated Fr. McCarthy “but it has its limitations.” “Science and religion speak two different languages. Science speaks of how the world works. Religion explains the meaning of life.” He elaborated that the former offers a way of ‘knowing’ through the senses and yet individuals can also ‘know’ through the emotional response to the people, places and things many encounter every day. People can learn about nature, for example, by studying, measuring and observing its physical attributes. At the same time, poetry or an exquisite painting can also help one to understand the beauty of nature that speaks on an emotional level.
Fr. McCarthy explained that this unique way of gaining knowledge can also be applied to human relationships. Just as Adam and Eve ‘knew’ one another through marital intimacy, a husband and wife can strengthen their emotional bond through expressions of love for one another that cannot be achieved by using methodology or inputting data in a machine. Father emphasized that this point was vital in recognizing the presence of God in our lives. “The way we understand human love is the way we understand God.” God is pure love and it is only by opening one’s heart to His love that a soul can grasp the mystery of His existence. Yes, science is valuable in opening a road of exploration that has unearthed answers to some of the questions humanity has raised over time however the revelation of creation ultimately leads to the Creator. It is a culmination of faith, reason and the heart coming together that provides the basis for our belief in God. As St. Anselm once said, “For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe - that unless I believe I shall not understand.”

By Larissa Zantua

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sexuality and God's Covenant of Love

On March 10, 2014, young adults from across the western region, gathered at West 50 Pourhouse and Grille in Mississauga for Theology on Tap West. Professor Moira McQueen PhD, from the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, gave a talk entitled, “Sexuality and God’s Covenant of Love.” Using the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes n.49-52 on Marriage and Family, H.H. Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and Bl. John Paul II’s “Catechesis on Marriage,” McQueen focused her presentation around three themes: Original Solitude, Original Innocence, and Original Unity, as found in Bl. John Paul II’s lectures on the “Theology of the Body.”

The first theme, Original Solitude, requires us to have a deep understanding of our individual identity. We must know ourselves before we are able to know and relate to others, and McQueen offers us three reflection questions on identity: 1.Who am I? I am a being who comes to self-knowledge through the processes of maturation and discernment. 2.What is my vocation? My vocation is to be in relationship with others and to relate to them in a variety of ways. 3.Why am I here? I am here because God created me and wills my good.

The second theme, Original Innocence, requires us to reconsider how we think about others.
In the Genesis stories, man and woman knew each other at some depth and were unashamed of this knowledge. In our relationships we must recognize other people as absolute gift. This means that instead of viewing other people as objects to be used and discarded by us, we must regard others as subjects with inherent dynamism who require us to consider and reflect upon them.

The third theme, Original Unity, requires us to reflect on the quality of our relationships with others. In order to have healthy relationships, we must be open to others and totally giving of ourselves in the process. Just as creation is a gift and existence is a gift, so we are gifts to each other. True fulfillment only comes when we give our whole selves to another and hold nothing back because, when we hold back, we diminish the gift that we are and can be for others. This requires reciprocity of relationship where men and women give themselves equally to each other for the sake of transforming themselves and each other.
Professor McQueen’s talk on sexuality and loving relationships encourages us all to take the opportunities in our own lives to use our bodies and relationships to praise and glorify God for the sake of our spiritual development, both alone and apart, and to cultivate real relationships of significant depth with others. When we choose to live this way, having relationships of mutual self-gift, we come to a greater understanding of what our bodies are all about and how we can be better participants in God’s ongoing covenant of love.

Abigail L. Lofte
April 10, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Does a Loving God Not End Suffering?

On Wednesday February 26th I was intrigued by Father Chris’ discussion tackling the challenging question “How does a just and loving God allow suffering?” I was touched by so many examples that Father Chris gave explaining that suffering is a part of life. It is not only our own suffering but the suffering of those around us. We are a part of a greater human experience and while we feel that suffering is our own and feeling the need of isolation, it’s actually the opposite. I know sometimes we want to be left alone but as Father Chris mentioned, it’s best to be done in communion with others. On one hand I agree that it’s important to look for community with our friends and family but more importantly in the Eucharist with Christ Himself. 

As I approach the Lenten season, a time of reflection and most of all repentance I found a few things helpful that Father Chris suggested overcoming suffering. First, pray and ask that God decides how they are answered. He suggests that at times we tend to rush to judgment, in that we think sometimes that God hasn’t figured it out yet or doesn’t understand us. When I actually think about it, I know that isn’t the case. However, I also know that growth is hard and change is even more difficult. I think we know who we are and what we want to become but God is the one who tells us how much more we can be.
Second, some suffering in our lives is a result of personal sin and can be a great teacher. I appreciate how Father Chris connects this element to reconciliation in that we need to learn from it before getting rid of it. Rather than going through the ritual cleansing too quickly, I agree for the need to step back and examine why sin is committed and understand how to move forward without that particular temptation. It doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again but it’s about letting go of our ego, seeking out spiritual guidance and figuring out who God wants us to be.
Father Chris concludes with one last example that we sometimes need to go a little easier on ourselves. I know we can be our worst enemy and we sometimes need to justify our feelings. It’s not about why we feel pain and suffering in our lives it’s about allowing ourselves to mourn, to weep, to feel alone, or to feel hurt. To end off, Father Chris compares our hands as the instrument that we use to achieve our personal self worth to the throne to accept the body of Christ. In our response, Amen; we tell Him that we believe. During the waiting period of 40 days and 6 Sundays, I would suggest our focus be to ask and pray that we may become what we receive and let Him heal our suffering in our hearts. 
Cati Carnovale 
St. Isaac Joques Parish 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Christianity and World Religions: Complimentary or Contradictory?

On January 13, 2014, close to 100 young adults from the Western Region gathered at West 50 Pourhouse and Grille in Mississauga for Theology on Tap West.  Fr. Damian McPherson explored the question “Christianity and World Religions: Complimentary or Contradictory?”

To begin, Fr. Damian outlined that the Church does not reject anything that is holy in other religions; it respects the “ray of Truth” that is found within them for “there are seeds of God’s Word sown in other nations.” As such, in following our faith, we must respect those who are following theirs in good moral conscience. Many Christians, self included, get caught up worrying about the salvation of the people we love, so we eagerly seek to help them find Jesus. As we know, all salvation comes from Christ alone and, since all things are possible through Him, even those who believe otherwise are saved through Him (including Pilate, who condemned Him to death!). It is only one who recognizes Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world and explicitly chooses to ignore Him that puts their salvation at risk.

But how does this fit into the call we’ve received from Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)? One would think that doing this while respecting the beliefs of others is impossible – but, again, all things through Christ! Fr. Damian made it clear that “making disciples” does not require us to force our faith on others; conversion is not our mission. We are called to evangelize by witnessing the Gospel and then allowing the Holy Spirit to work on the hearts of those that are open to receiving Him. Conversion, then, is the work of the Lord.

Fr. Damian left it to us that night to determine whether our faith and world religions are complimentary or contradictory. He explained to us that interfaith dialogue can enrich our understanding of others and of ourselves.

While I can’t claim to have effectively worked out whether our faith compliments or contradicts world religions, what I do know is this: As a Catholic I am called to reflect on why I follow Christ when I could believe anything else.  This is what I must share with others.  I am called to bring Jesus to everyone I meet by allowing Him to affect them though me. …May we all give God permission.

- Alycia J. Rodrigues