(Toronto, Canada) – “Here is your mother.” These four simple words were spoken by Our Lord to the Beloved Disciple on Good Friday. Although they were spoken to one individual, they were really meant for all people. At a critical point in his Passion, Jesus was giving all disciples a very powerful advocate – his mother. The early Church recognized this and embraced Mary the Mother of God as a powerful intercessor and model.
Over the centuries, Mary has fulfilled this role under many titles. We Redemptorists have been privileged to honor her under the name of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Since 1866, when Pope Pius IX placed the icon in our care, we have worked diligently to “make her known.” St. Patrick’s Parish began Devotions to Perpetual Help soon after the Redemptorists arrived in Toronto in 1881. We continue this tradition today, culminating each year in a holy Triduum in honor of our Blessed Mother.
For three evenings St. Patrick’s church was packed to the rafters with devotees from around the greater Toronto area – even spilling over into Neumann Hall, where a video feed was set up for the overflow. This year we had two guest preachers – Provincial Superior Fr. Mark Miller CSsR and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Kasun CSB. Bishop Kasun is an old friend of the Redemptorists and was pastor of St. Alphonsus’ Parish in Edmonton after we left a number of years ago.
Each of the three evenings had a different theme. Monday night celebrated family, our own families and our membership in the family of God. Family and Children’s Ministry coordinator Karen Keays gave a wonderful witness talk about her own growing family and Mary as a model for her as a Christian mother. In his homily, Fr. Mark shared his own experiences of family, of belonging, of the care we show to the “little ones” in our families. The evening culminated with a special blessing for families of all stripes – traditional, blended, extended, circles of friends, and so on.
The second evening focused on the healing mission of the Church. Fr. Mark shared some personal stories of healing and how miracles do happen, often in unexpected ways. At the end of the Mass, the Redemptorist priests celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick with all present who were seeking God’s healing in their lives. Very powerful, indeed!
The third evening, the feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, began with a witness talk by Margarette Almonte, who spoke eloquently about the role that Mary has played in her life. Then Bishop Kasun presided and preached on Mary as a model of Christian discipleship. The Bishop highlighted three important ways that Mary calls us: to interior growth (holiness), to outward growth (service to others), and to an attitude of gratitude. He also complimented the crowd for their devotion and fervor and encouraged them to persevere in the practice of their faith.
As in previous years, the formal liturgical celebration was followed by a more informal celebration of community, an international food fair featuring dishes from around the world. Here was a chance to sample tasty morsels and to visit with old friends and new. A good ending to three extraordinary days!
By Fr. Ed Eherer, C.Ss.R.
Published by The Edmonton-Toronto Province, july 2018