Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Catholicism and Quebec

Over the past few days a lot of attention throughout the St. Blog's realm has been turned to Quebec in light of an article published in the Globe and Mail on the sale of supposed "communion wafers" in Quebec. First of all, as Fr. Tom points out at Waiting in Joyful Hope, what is being sold are not communion wafers and do not constitute valid matter for communion wafers (they couldn't be consecrated). Fr. Tom does a very thorough job responding to a post on the issue, from January 5th, 2006, by Fr. John Neuhaus from First Things. I'm not going to weigh into the dicussion on the issue that has been circulating among the big time bloggers such as Fr. Neuhaus, Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, and Jimmy Akin. While attention has turned to Quebec because of the sale of these "communion wafers" it seems as if the real issue is the history and state of Catholicism in Quebec in general. All I can offer is my own humble reflections as a young Catholic Canadian.

I could speak to you about my experiences growing up in a Francophone School (albeit in Western Canada) where 95% of the teachers and students were either born in Quebec or their parents were. Although I'm not from Quebec I certainly have been exposed to French Canadian culture. I spent my school years immersed in the culture and I have studied French Canadian History and Civilization in my undergraduate studies. I could join on the bandwagon of those lamenting the state of the Church in Quebec. But I won't.

In looking to Quebec, I cannot ignore the trials the Church, and the society as a whole, is facing right now. But are they really any worse off than the rest of us? We belong to a universal Church. Can we point to a geographical area and say "look how horrible things are there" without acknowledging that we share in the responsibility of participating in the New Evangelization as well as encouraging and supporting the Church wherever it is struggling?

As a Catholic Canadian, I feel I owe a great deal to Quebec. Living in a historically British dominated area of Canada, I wonder what the state of the Catholic Church in Western Canada would be if the Quebecers had not originally held so fast to their religion in the early history of our country. On a more trivial matter, I certainly wouldn't have been able to go to school in French outside of Quebec if it hadn't been for French classes taught to young French Canadians in the basements of parish churches across Canada when learning French in school was illegal for francophone minorities. The impact of French speaking Canada on the Church in Canada as a whole can be seen even in the names of schools and parishes in the Archdiocese I live in, far away from Quebec. St. Jean Brebeuf Secondary, Notre Dame Secondary, and Saint Sacrement Parish point to our French Canadian heritage of Faith.

Rather than lamenting the state of the Church in Quebec right now and the story told by its history in the second half of the twentieth century, I choose to remember its rich spiritual heritage and look forward to the new springtime. This summer I discovered Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation (1599-1672) , a mystic and an ursuline missionary to Quebec with a dedication to the catechesis and the Blessed Sacrament. She is but one of many saints from Quebec including Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys, Sainte Marguerite d'Youville, Blessed Andre Bessette, Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis, Blessed Francois de Laval, Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine, Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau, Blessed Frederic Janssoone, Blessed Dina Belanger, Blessed Marie Rose Dorocher, and the Canadian Martyrs, including St. Jean de Brebeuf, St. Noel Chabanel, St. Anthony Daniel, St. Charles Garnier, St. Issac Jogues, St. Gabriel Lalemant, St. Rene Goupil, St. Jean de Lalande, and many more.

If you, like the Catholics of Quebec (if I dare speak for them), long to see a renewal of the Church in la belle province I urge you to take the energy you could spend on expressing your frustrations and concerns with regards to Catholicism in Quebec and thank God for the people of Quebec, pray for them, and pray for the Church. Take the time to learn about the lives of the many French Canadian saints and model your own life after their great examples. Turn to them in prayer seeking their intercession in Quebec.

Rather than pointing our finger from a distance we can participate in the New Evangelization of Quebec in a very active and real way, no matter how far away we are from that part of the world. That is the beauty of belonging to a universal Church. We can, and should, pray for the priests, bishops, consecrated religious, all who teach with them, and all the faithful in Quebec, as well as the many who have fallen away from the practice of the Faith.

Update: For those of you who have been following the issue that prompted this post, you might be interested in knowing that Fr. John Neuhaus, from First Things, has provided an update response which includes an excerpt from Fr. Dowd's post on Waiting in Joyful Hope.