The Solemnity of the Annunciation celebrates the coming of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the special mission God had chosen for her in being the mother of His only son.

We are continually reminded of the importance of this feast to our salvation in various devotional prayers. Two examples that highlight the importance of this feast are the joyous mysteries of the Rosary and the Angelus.

The feast of the Annunciation began to be celebrated on this day during the fourth and fifth centuries, soon after the date for celebrating Christmas was universalized throughout the Church. This feast celebrates the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity and the salvation of all mankind. This point of our salvation was deeply discussed by many of the Church fathers, to explain it to the faithful and to show the deep love God has for us. Some of the Church fathers who wrote on this were St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine.


He will be great and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High.  Luke 1:32

As we gaze at world history in 2021 AD we come across numerous personalities who have the tag ‘great’ with their name. They are great for various reasons but none of them is “rightly called Son of the Most High” and that makes the greatness of Jesus different. But his greatness became all the more great because being the only Son of God, he opted for being one with the suffering human beings even to the extent of death on a cross and this one death changed completely human outlook on fellow human beings. People began to look at others as brothers and sisters and an unusual sense of freedom and equality set into human consciousness. All the liberation movements started from the cross. Jesus taught that real God loves man to the extent of the cross and real greatness comes only when God mingles his tears with that of men.



Saint Cuthbert​

Born circa 634 Cuthbert is a saint of the early Northumbrian church in the Celtic tradition. He was a monk, bishop and hermit, associated with the monasteries of Melrose and Lindisfarne in what might loosely be termed the Kingdom of Northumbria, in North East England and the South East of Scotland. After his death he became one of the most important medieval saints of Northern England, with a cult centred on his tomb at Durham Cathedral. Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of Northumbria. Cuthbert grew up in or around Lauderdale, near Old Melrose Abbey, a daughter-house of Lindisfarne, today in Scotland. He had decided to become a monk after seeing a vision on the night in 651 that St Aidan, the founder of Lindisfarne, died, but he seems to have seen some military service first. He was quickly made guest-master at the new monastery at Ripon, soon after 655, but had to return with Eata of Hexham to Melrose when Wilfrid was given the monastery instead. About 662 he was made prior at Melrose, and around 665 went as prior to Lindisfarne. In 684 he was made bishop of Lindisfarne, but by late 686 he resigned and returned to his hermitage as he felt he was about to die, although he was probably only in his early 50s. He died on 20 March 687. After Cuthbert’s death, numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession and to intercessory prayer near his remains.


The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” John 7:46

If we’ve ever been part of a conversation grappling with the mystery behind a newcomer’s background, we may find it pretty easy to slide into the back-and-forth of the crowd in this discussion. Who is Jesus, really? A prophet? The Messiah? No, the Messiah can’t come from Galilee, can he? What does Scripture say about him? Where does this Jesus come from, and where does he belong? The most sincere assessment comes from the guards who had just been in his presence. When questioned about why they didn’t apprehend Jesus as ordered, they answered simply, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” Having no preconceived opinions, they spoke only from their experience of the moment. What the guards witnessed told them that this man’s words held healing and welcome and drew them in. It’s the same story for us, today and always.



Saint of the day – st John of God

The Catholic Church celebrates the extraordinary life of St. John of God on March 8. The saint lived through decades of sin and suffering before a profound conversion that led him to embrace poverty, humility and charity.

John was born in Portugal during the year 1495 to middle-class parents. Tragically, at the age of 8, he was kidnapped by a stranger and was later abandoned to homelessness in a remote part of Spain.

He worked as a shepherd until age 22, when the opportunity came along for him to join the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This apparent stroke of fortune, however, would eventually lead John into greater misery.

For the next 18 years, John lived and fought among the emperor’s foot soldiers, first against the French and later the Turks. His morals began to decline, as he completely abandoned the piety of his earliest youth for a greedy and brutal way of life.

John’s conscience was occasionally troubled, particularly by the memories of his early years before he was taken from his parents. And despite falling into a lifestyle of violence and plundering, he had a certain weakness for those who were poor or in extreme distress, and would give alms to them.

He was narrowly saved on two occasions from what seemed like certain death – once after instinctively uttering a prayer to the Virgin Mary after falling wounded in enemy territory; and again, when he was falsely suspected of theft and nearly executed but for another soldier’s intervention.

Events such as these weighed heavily upon him, and when his regiment was disbanded he decided to amend his life – beginning with a pilgrimage to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela Cathedral along the “Way of St. James.” There, he confessed his sins and committed himself to living a life of repentance.

Soon after this, he returned to Portugal and discovered what had become of his parents. His mother had died, brokenhearted, after the loss of her son, after which his father had become a Franciscan monk.

At age 42, John returned to Spain and picked up nearly where he had left off 20 years before, working again as a shepherd. This time, however, he was committed to living out the faith in God that he had regained.

He traveled briefly to North Africa, seeking to help Christians there who had been enslaved by Muslims. Eventually, however, he returned to Spain and settled for a time in the occupation of selling religious books and other goods, always encouraging his customers to live their faith sincerely. St. John of God’s later reputation as the patron saint of booksellers derives from this period of his life.

Later, however, he felt compelled to give himself entirely to the service of the poor, sick, and vulnerable. He opened his house to them – allowing it to become a combined hospital, homeless shelter, and halfway-house, run entirely by John himself. When he was not bandaging wounded occupants or breaking up fights between them, he would go out begging on their behalf.

The Bishop of Granada approved his work, and gave him the name “John of God.” A group of volunteers came to accompany him in his work, many of whom had first come to him while in dire need themselves.

Others, who resented his work, assaulted John’s reputation by focusing on his past sins – but John, unfazed in his humility, would acknowledge the truth of what was said, as a testament to God’s grace in his life. He once offered to pay a woman to tell the entire city what she had been saying about him in private.

John served the sick and poor for 15 years before meeting his death through an act of charity. He jumped into a freezing river and managed to save a drowning man, but came home shivering and weakened from the ordeal. He lay down in one of his own hospital beds, where his condition further declined.

The Bishop of Granada came to administer the last rites. As the bishop prepared him for death, John expressed a number of anxieties.

“There are three things that make me uneasy,” he said. “The first is that I have received so many graces from God, and have not recognized them, and have repaid them with so little of my own.”

“The second is that after I am dead, I fear lest the poor women I have rescued, and the poor sinners I have reclaimed, may be treated badly.”

“The third is that those who have trusted me with money, and whom I have not fully repaid, may suffer loss on my account.”

The bishop, however, assured him that he had nothing to fear. John then asked to be alone, and summoned his last strength to rise from bed and kneel before a crucifix.

He died in prayer, with his face pressed against the figure of Christ, on the night of March 7, 1550. St. John of God was canonized in 1690, and has become the patron of hospitals and the dying.

Reflection of the day

There were many widows in Israel… yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. Luke 4:25-27

A prophet, or a spokesperson for God, is sometimes tasked to relate a hard truth. In his first act of public ministry, Jesus tells the people something they don’t want to hear: God may favor a member of another tribe over them—that where humans draw a line between “us” and “them,” God sees no barrier—maybe he even favors the outcast. It’s a lesson throughout throughout Jesus’ ministry: spending time with women, tax collectors, Roman soldiers and those deemed unclean for one reason or another. Jesus condemns the status quo. The crowd cannot dispute what Jesus says—they become enraged and want to eliminate the truth-teller. Again and again in Scripture and human history, telling people hard truths is not appreciated.


Saint of the Day – Saint Perpetua

Saints Perpetua and Felicity were martyrs who died for the faith around the year 203.

St. Perpetua was a young, well-educated, noblewoman and mother living in the city of Carthage in North Africa. Her mother was a Christian and her father was a pagan. In terms of her faith, Perpetua followed the example of her mother. Despite the pleas of her father to deny her faith, Perpetua did the very opposite, and fearlessly proclaimed it. At the age of 22, she was imprisoned for her faith. While in prison she continued to care for her infant child and put up with the tortures designed to make her renounce her faith. Perpetua remained steadfast until the end. St. Perpetua was sacrificed at the games as a public spectacle for not renouncing her faith.

St. Felicity was a pregnant slave girl who was imprisoned with St. Perpetua. Little is known about the life of St. Felicity because, unlike Perpetua, she did not keep a diary of her life. After imprisonment and torture, Felicity was also condemned to die at the games. Only a few days before her execution, Felicity gave birth to a daughter, who was secretly taken away to be cared for by some of the Faithful.

The feast of these Saints is March 7.


Don’t judge a book by its cover

It was a beautiful summer day as we relaxed and chatted with friends while the children laughed and played in the creek. They proudly told us about their older son who had gone to Mexico to pursue his career in dentistry because it was much more affordable in their home country. Their son had told them about the new friends he was making. One of the girls he met astonished him by her behavior and attitude which didn’t quite match up with his conservative values, so he decided to step away from her. They were so proud of their son because he was able to perceive that it was not a good idea to pursue friendship or relationship with this girl. I could understand his caution, but I had a different perspective because I was once, ‘that girl’…

Growing Up

I was born in a small town in Quebec which was a great place to raise a family. Unfortunately, my parents divorced when I was only 2 years old, so I grew up with my mom and her partner, and only visited my dad once a fortnight. I always felt a lack of love and was not really introduced to Jesus. Although my parents were Catholics, and my mom made sure I received all my sacraments, she didn’t bring me to Sunday Mass, nor pray in the home, even the Rosary or Grace before meals. My faith was pretty basic. My father was Italian, but grew up in Canada. His mother was a devout Catholic and would never forget to pray every day. It’s a shame I didn’t follow in her footsteps…Yet God had other plans for me, I guess.

As I was growing up, I felt rejected by other kids because of my skin color. My mom is from Costa Rica so I wasn’t the typical French Canadian. However, I managed to make plenty of friends, although they weren’t all a good influence. As puberty hit, I developed into an attractive young lady who appeared much older than I was. I took advantage of this to become popular and had no problem getting boyfriends. My mom never really gave me the sexual education I needed and the environment I was living in was not a conservative one. As time went by, I suffered deception after deception. I felt empty. My “joy” was always temporary and soon enough, I ended up in someone else’s arms.

Search for Love

When I finished high school, I decided to take a year off and go to Costa Rica to live with my aunt before I started college. Since I already had a part-time job to buy my own fashionable clothes, make up, perfume etc, I saved money to fund the trip and learn Spanish in an academy. I arrived during the holiday season, so lots of festivities were taking place. Since my relationships with men were always ending badly, I had decided (at 18) that I was through with men. I resolved to spend time with family instead, but God, had other plans for me…

Five days after my arrival, my cousin took me to a restaurant-bar where he was meeting some friends. As soon as we sat down, a very handsome guy smiled at me. I blushed and smiled back. He asked if he could join us, and I accepted with pleasure. We both felt an immediate bond and arranged to meet again the next day, and the next, and the next and so on. Despite our cultural differences, we had so much in common and we were able to connect in a way we could not imagine. He told me, “What matters most to me is what’s in your head and what’s in your heart.” Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before.

William and I became inseparable. He even invited me to go to Mass with him before we went somewhere. Although I didn’t really pay attention, it still pleased me because I was with him. Then he invited me to go on a pilgrimage with his family to the basilica of Cartago that involved 4 hours of walking. Again, I didn’t really go because of my faith.

A Heart Poured Out

I was amazed to see thousands and thousands of people coming to the church, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for a favor, or giving thanks for the favors they had received. It was incredible. Every one of them would enter the church, kneel down and walk on their knees all the way down the aisle until they reached the altar. When our turn came, I was feeling perfectly fine, but as soon as I knelt down, I felt like I was out of air. A big knot formed in my throat and I exploded in tears. I wept like a baby all the way to the altar. William looked at me, wondering what was happening, but didn’t say anything. Once we were outside again, his mom, Sandra asked me what had happened. “I don’t know,” I gasped. She said that Jesus had come to visit my heart. I knew she was right. It was like meeting someone you loved deeply after a long separation. Something supernatural, beyond my control, was taking over me.

From that moment on, I felt like a new person and my life was starting afresh. William took me to Confession for the first time since my Confirmation at 11 years old. My list was so long…I think the priest wanted to retire after hearing my confession. We have a lot of work to do he said!

William and I married 4 years later and God has blessed us with 3 beautiful boys. In 2016 we consecrated our family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My faith has continued to grow. I started serving the Church in various ministries: most recently as a catechist. God has truly spun my life in a different direction. He continues to polish my soul, crafting me into His masterpiece. Even the challenging times are part of His plan. When I embrace my cross and follow Him, He leads me towards His kingdom. Jesus chose me to serve as He did. When I offer up little annoyances and humiliations in sacrifice to Him, He changes them into something more beautiful than I could ever imagine, as He has changed me. As I reflected on what my friends had said, I thought of the old me, how lost I was, and how completely God transformed my life through the catalyst of meeting William. I advised them to encourage their son not to reject a friendship too hastily, but to let God’s light shine into their soul. Maybe God has a plan.

Claudia D’Ascanio serves the Church remarkably through her active involvement in various ministries over the years. She lives with her husband and three sons in Calgary, Canada.


Saintly Musings: A Saint With a Sense of Humour

The river had swelled so high that water covered everything and all sense of where the road or footpath might be was purely a guess. With water everywhere, it seemed foolish to advance, especially in a carriage, for if anyone strayed ever so little off the road, they would perish without a doubt. 

As her companions panicked, Sister Teresa encouraged them, “As we are engaged in God’s work, how could we die in a better cause?” She then led the way on foot to the convent through the fierce storm. Suddenly she slipped down an embankment and fell squarely into the mud. 

Instead of complaining or cursing, the irrepressible nun, looked to the sky and quipped, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many!” The sixteenth-century Saint and Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila, didn’t take herself or this world too seriously and brushed off the little hardships of life with a sense of humor. 

Her ability to humbly recognize her own faults and need for grace was also tinged with her refreshing humor. In her autobiography, Teresa writes, “Having virtuous and God-fearing parents would have been enough for me to be good if I were not so wicked.” Saint Teresa was also mindful of false piety and once said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!”

A healthy and good sense of humor will keep our head straight and enable us to see the world’s true beauty. Did God say that we need to be “sour-faced” to be holy? So, if you want to become a saint, lighten up, share the joy of the Lord and laugh with your friends like Jesus did.

Shalom Tidings


Experience the Joy of Sharing

I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbor with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said, “Mother Teresa, there is a family who has not eaten for so long. Do something.” So, I took some rice and went there immediately. When I saw the children, their eyes were shining with hunger. I don’t know if you have ever seen hunger, but I have seen it very often. The mother of the family took the rice I gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go; what did you do?” She gave me a very simple answer: “They [a neighbor family] are hungry also.” What struck me most was that they were a Muslim family. And she knew. I did not bring any more rice that evening, because I wanted them – Hindus and Muslims – to enjoy the joy of sharing. Those children were radiating joy – sharing their joy and peace with their mother because she had the love to give until it hurts. You see this is where love begins – at home in the family.” [Excerpt from “A Call to Mercy” by Mother Teresa]

This happened at a time when religious violence was prevalent in India, and thousands of people died in the riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The unselfishly generous gift this poor woman unhesitatingly gave to her hungry neighbors, who happened to be a Muslim family, deeply touched Mother Teresa. She often looked to the poor; for their love was simple and their hearts were full of joy. Mother Teresa invites us to learn from the poor and receive their joy by sharing our blessings generously. “Not all of us are called to do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa.


My Vocation Story | Totus Tuus Maria

How do you put years of discernment on a single piece of paper or within a single write-up? As I was praying about it, the reality of its simplicity struck me: God called and I said, “No,” until Mary softened my heart. Well, actually it was more like, God called and I said, “No.” God called again and I said, firmly, “NO!” God asked yet again and I said, “No! Marriage, Lord, marriage.” God drew me to Himself, got His mom involved and asked me once more and I said, “Well … maybe.” God, in His infinite patience, asked a final time and I answered with a resounding, “Yes!”

The first time I heard God call me was in the fifth grade. Our English class was learning how to write business letters. For our assignment we were supposed to write a formal letter to any company in which we could see ourselves working “when we grew up.” I thought for a while on it and realized that the only thing that sounded interesting and exciting to me was being a religious sister. So I wrote to a missionary sister who graciously responded to me. As part of the assignment, we were to share any responses we received with the entire class. I remember feeling embarrassed as I read her response out loud. That was enough to snuff out the desire to be a sister.

Throughout grade school the idea of being a sister was always in the back of my mind. I still heard God’s gentle voice calling me. But at that age, I did not want to confront it and so I dealt with it by saying flat out, “No.” Then, as a freshman in high school, my mom, sister and I took a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Now Jesus was pulling out the big guns and getting His Mom to help Him in His “little scheme.” He knew I had a soft spot for her and He played that card well. While in Medjugorje I felt, through Mary, the tug of the Lord growing stronger, asking me to devote my life to Him. My response was, “Sounds great, Lord, but I can devote my life to You without wearing a habit.” But Momma Mary softened my heart and helped me to be open to the idea of a marriage to Her Son. I went on through my high school years with this idea very much in the forefront of my mind.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I told God that I was not going to commit until I tasted the dating life even though I knew in my heart of hearts that it would not bring me the fulfillment or satisfaction I desired and that it would not make me truly happy. Humoring me, God sent a very holy young man into my life. Through a youth group program I met my first real boyfriend, Anthony. He was everything I wanted in a husband (God covered His bases, making sure I would have no doubts): he was a gentleman, generous, self-sacrificing, not passive, considerate, mature, respectful to me, always upholding my dignity, funny, desired to be a saint, and challenged me to be holier. As a cherry on top, he was cute as well. While we dated I felt a separation between my heart and my body. It did not feel right. Something was off. It was like my mind and my heart hit a fork in the road and went in opposite ways: my heart was going toward religious life and my mind toward marriage. In my stubbornness I was attempting to lasso my heart and pull it over to the side my mind was on. I took it to prayer and (rather stupidly, since I knew the answer) asked God what was going on. He made it very clear to me (He is so patient with us) that in order to feel whole and in order to be at peace I was to give my entire life to Him, to be a bride of Christ. With that imagery, to be Jesus’ bride, I said, without a doubt and with such joy, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Now I will not say that I did not have any doubts later or any struggles along the road. Heavens…no! How could there not be when society sees you as a strange person because you are not following the norm and getting married? I still struggled with the desire to date. I found it hard to be wooed by Someone who is not tangible in the form you want Him to be or present to you physically in body. I struggled with telling people and admitting out loud that I wanted to dedicate my life to Jesus by being a Sister. But God remained faithful to me and He kept renewing His proposal to me in various ways. He knew my heart and wooed me in ways no earthly man could. I had so much love and support from family and friends which encouraged me, kept me focused and strengthened me in times of temptation, By the grace of God I had the perseverance and commitment to remain faithful to my call throughout grade school and high school. Now, twelve years after that initial call in the fifth grade, I have joined this religious community where Jesus is continuing to woo me and pursue my heart in ways I never thought possible. In turn, I am growing so much more in love with Him!

Sister Elizabeth Beussink T.O.R. is the vocations coordinator of the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. She has completed her Bachelor of Arts in Catechetics and Theology from Franciscan University of Stubenville.


Saint of the day – Jan 02, 2023

St Basil the Great

St. Basil, one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church and Bishop of Caesarea, was likely born in 329 and died on January 1, 379.

He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century, especially Arianism, which denied the divine nature of Jesus Christ. He was a strong supporter of the Nicene Creed. With his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he is part of the trio known as “The Three Cappadocians,” of which he was the most important in practical genius and theological writings.

Basil resisted the pressure from Emperor Valens, an Arian himself, who wanted to keep him in silence and admit the heretics to communion.  No wonder, when the great St. Athanasius died, the responsibility of being the defender of the faith against Aryanism fell upon Basil.

Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”


A Crab and a Crucifix

As a young boy growing up in Northern Spain, Francis Xavier dreamed of doing great things. At age 19 and full of ambition, he went to study in Paris where he met Ignatius of Loyola. A Scripture text Ignatius was fond of quoting had a deep impact on Francis: “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Francis took that Scripture to heart and came to understand the emptiness of earthly greatness while becoming powerfully drawn to the love of heavenly things. The humility of the Cross appeared to him more desirable than all the glories of this world. Eventually, he took vows as one of the first seven members of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, founded by Ignatius of Loyola. When one of the two Jesuits chosen to travel to Asia as a missionary became ill, Father Francis joyfully offered to substitute.

Francis pursued his missionary work with great zeal. During one of his voyages, a terrible tempest so terrified the sailors that they gave themselves up for lost. But Francis immediately drew a crucifix from his breast and leaned over the side of the vessel to touch the waves with it. But the crucifix slipped from his hand into the raging sea. Immediately, the storm ceased, but Francis was much distressed that he had lost the only crucifix he had.

The next day after landing on the coast of Malacca, Father Francis was walking along the shore when he saw a crab come out of the sea holding the crucifix between its claws. The crab walked straight to Father Francis and stopped at his feet. Francis kissed the cross and clasped it to his breast. He then bent down to bless the crab and, to his amazement, noticed a cross on the back of the crab’s shell. This miracle story was depicted on a banner that hung from St. Peter’s Basilica during Francis Xavier’s canonization ceremony. Even today, every Malacca crab bears the marking of the cross on its shell, a sign, perhaps, of God’s paternal love for Saint Francis Xavier, the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles.



Say ‘Yes’ to God

During the 14th century Siena’s magistrates had sentenced two hardened criminals to a brutal public death. They were driven about town in a cart while executioners tore at their bodies with red-hot pincers. The condemned men showed no trace of remorse for their crimes and spat curses and blasphemies at the people who lined the streets. They had refused to speak with the priests who had offered to prepare them for death. Catherine of Siena happened to be visiting a friend who lived on one of the roads the cart had to travel. While she stood at the window observing the terrible scene, Catherine was moved by compassion. In her mind’s eye, she saw a mob of demons waiting to punish the condemned men even more sadistically in hell.

Catherine of Siena happened to be visiting a friend who lived on one of the roads the cart had to travel. While she stood at the window observing the terrible scene, Catherine was moved by compassion. In her mind’s eye, she saw a mob of demons waiting to punish the condemned men even more sadistically in hell.

Immediately, she began to pray for the two unfortunates. “My most merciful Lord,” she said with her characteristic frankness, “why do you show such contempt for your own creatures? Why are you letting them suffer such torture now? And even more vicious torture by these hellish spirits?” Catherine never beat around the bush, even in conversations with God.

To the amazement of all, both criminals suddenly stopped shouting curses and cried out for a priest. They wept and confessed their sins to him. The crucified Christ, they claimed, had appeared to them urging repentance and offering forgiveness. They told the crowd that they expected to be with Christ in Heaven, and then they submitted peacefully to their execution. This miraculous turn of events mystified the whole town, but Catherine’s close friends knew that she had intervened in some way. For many days after the dramatic conversions, Saint Catherine of Siena was heard to say, “Thank you, Lord, for saving them from a second prison.”

God’s merciful loves waits for us to turn back to Him. No matter how grave our sins, He longs to embrace us and draw us into His everlasting peace. Would you say ‘yes’ to His call today by making a good confession with a truly repentant heart? Surely, the Kingdom of God belongs to you.


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