Letter from Fr. Keith (September 5)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

“The good old days!”  We often look back on times gone by with fondness and nostalgia. Truth be recognized and told, every age in the history of the world, every era in our personal lives is a mixture of good and bad, of ups and downs, of things being done right and others, leaving ample room for improvement.

It’s the same when we look at Christian history. In this Sunday’s gospel (Mt. 15:18-20), Jesus spoke to his disciples, “If your brother or sister sins against you...” By the very fact he felt the need to say what he does, Jesus recognizes the need for his followers to have a blueprint for reconciling with each other.

There are hints of dissension in other gospel stories. Remember James and John asking Jesus for special status; then the other disciples getting more than annoyed with them—maybe because they were thinking so competitively; maybe, too, out of concern they might get ahead of them (see Mk. 10:35-41).

If your brother or sister sins against you ... In other words: any word or deed done intentionally to disregard us or to do us harm.

He lists steps designed to respond to the resulting rift. First, attempt to deal with the situation directly. It takes courage. At the same time, it’s essential. If that gets you nowhere, involve others, who have a sincere desire to be of aid. If that doesn’t help you may have to get some formal assistance: a go-between, an arbitrator.

Jesus then concludes with what we may be, at first, a bit surprised to hear from him. It might not work, all your best efforts, and after all to be said and done has been said and done, with great regret, we may need to step away. Some reconciliations will happen only in the life to come.

Where two or three are gathered, for all kinds of reasons, there is potential for discord. How does Jesus tell us to respond?

Do everything we can—everything for which we can be responsible—to be reconciled is his gist. Bend over backwards. Don’t get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong or who must apologize to whom and on and on—all the diversions to which we might resort to ease the hurt and save face. It all hinges on the grace of God and the human desire to mend brokenness and start afresh. If it doesn’t work, leave it to the grace of God, and walk away, with sadness, but in peace.

Two points to bring our reflection on the gospel to a close.  First: the implied advice Jesus would give from all of this. Avoid sinning against another—any thought word or deed intended to do someone harm in any way. Don’t do it. Then, those steps in dealing with the fallout won’t be necessary.

Second: The one with whom we can’t make amends, let such a one be to you, says Jesus, as a Gentile and a tax collector. Careful we don’t misinterpret that as an excuse to bad-mouth and belittle. How did Jesus treat Gentile and tax collector? Well, he died for them.

Jesus knew he wasn’t establishing a flawless community. He saw in them, though, and in us, the potential to apply his example, his teaching to the ebb and flow of our lives. That, he knew, would be for our own true and lasting good, and would ripple out to nurture the seed of salvation in our world.

This week, our thoughts and prayers are especially focused on everyone involved in our educational system as a new school year begins. The threat of COVID-19 is a worry for all.

The diocese, in consultation with the Chief Public Health Office, has just released a protocol for catechetics this coming year in view of the pandemic. We will soon be meeting to make decisions for a bit-later-than-usual start to our 2020-2021 parish program.

Monday is Labour Day. We are reminded of the dignity of human work and of those called upon to perform it. Honest work is one of the important ways we participate in and extend the creative and transforming work of God. Labour Day calls us to gratitude for the countless tasks performed for our benefit by so many. The holiday reminds us, too, of those who struggle in unjust working conditions and of those who are unemployed. We share, also, in the gratitude of those whose work is their joy, and who are grateful for the contribution they are able to make to the common good by the jobs that occupy so much of their time.

I plan to be off Monday through Friday this week. Bishop Richard will preside at the weekday Masses.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

ST. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US!

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Letter from Fr. Keith (August 29)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

God’s Word holds a special place in our hearts and lives. The Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, says the letter to the Hebrews (4:12). From that we learn that when we go to the Bible or hear the Word of God read in church, there is something unique about the experience, setting it apart from our encounter any other kind of word. God’s Word isn’t simply a story about people and events in the distant past—as an historical novel would be. Yes, God’s Word recounts events and people from long ago and far away, but it’s always more. God’s Word tells the story of our own lives and the world in which we live. God’s Word reveals God to us, and it reveals us to ourselves. Let anyone who has ears to hear, listen! says Jesus (Mk. 4:23).

Another interesting observation about the Word comes to us from the Scriptures. So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter (Rev. 10: 9-10). In other words, our first encounter with God and his Word is often enchanting. As time goes on, however, things may seem different. The initial exuberance and enthusiasm may give way to hesitation and reluctance or more.

That is the experience of the prophet, Jeremiah, in this Sunday’s first reading. Though at first reluctant to accept the prophetic call (see Jer. 1:4-10), later he prays: Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (15:16).   They were honey in his mouth.

Today, though, his experience is radically different. The Word has not only become part of him, he’s proclaimed it to people who refused to hear because it upset the applecart of their comfortable lives. Religious and civil leaders wanted rid of him. When we come upon him today (20:7-9), he’s just been beaten at the direction of one of the temple priests, and put on public display to be mocked and to serve as a warning to anyone else who might be thinking about following in his footsteps.

Jeremiah is caught on the horns of a dilemma. He wants out, to be free of the awesome responsibility he carries. At the same time, he’s bursting to speak the Word that fills his heart.

Enter Peter in the gospel (Mt. 16:21-27). Well acquainted with Jeremiah’s anguish, he knows Jesus, if he keeps going as he has been, will be headed down the same road. And not only Jesus, but his followers—himself included. He tries to discourage Jesus from his path, and receives a rebuke that must have set him back on his heels.  Jesus adds these bewildering words to Peter’s scolding, For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

What’s he saying? Lots, of course. We might summarize it this way. For everyone, discipleship and life, in general, can sometimes be overwhelming. While we may want to run and hide, that really won’t be helpful as an ongoing alternative. That’s what Jesus means by our wanting to save our life, but losing it in the long-run: opting to live in a bubble, immunized against reality, diminishing our experience of living. A far more life-giving, life-sharing, choice is to muster our courage, call on the support of others and the grace of God, and take the next step—even if hesitant and faltering. That’s finding our life, according to the Lord.

Today, the word of God speaks to our own moments when life is tough and we feel overwhelmed, wanting to bury our heard in the sand, to run away and hide. Who among us hasn’t had those times? No, encourages Jesus. He inspires us, “Get up, lick your wounds, and keep going.” That’s what he did after he shed tears of fear in Gethsemane’s garden and wondered if the cup could pass him by. Anguish didn’t have the final say. The hope of resurrection, fullness of life, did. So for Jeremiah. So for Peter. So for you and me.

Over the last few weeks, as you know, we celebrated First Communion and Confirmation, delayed from the spring because of COVID-19 restrictions. Please continue to pray for these children/young people and their families.

I’ve several times extended my gratitude and the gratitude of our parish community to the 30 + parishioners who have offered themselves in service to us since our Masses resumed. They’re continuing a true ministry of hospitality: welcoming, guiding people to seats, and being an overall hospitable, helpful presence. Oh, and we can’t forget their cleaning skills after each of the Masses! And, the icing on the cake: I get great company from them! They’d welcome new participants any time. Contact brhod12@hotmail.com; jawhite5414@gmail.com; or call the parish office 902-894-3486. Another option is to let one of the ministers know after Mass some day that you’d like to be involved. Thanks, too, to those who look after the registration lists and register people without access to a computer. I’ll give you the contact numbers again: 902-367-7829, 902-892-9387, 902-621-1988. Share those numbers, please, with anyone you know who’d like to have them. Great, too, if you offered to register someone who requires that service.

Continue, please, to pray for residents of long-term care. Mom is doing well. My sister from New Brunswick was recently home for a visit and spent a lot of time with her. This coming week, it was announced, visiting restrictions will be further eased.

Another group whose intentions we’re invited to remember: those required to self-isolate when they come here for school or for work, especially those far from home. It’s difficult, I’m sure, for some. We’re often buoyed up by the prayers of others—many of whom we’ll never meet. It’s all part of the gift of being among the communion of saints.

This week, we celebrated the memorials of a mother and her son: Saints Monica and Augustine. We invoke their intercession upon all of us.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (August 21)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

The shorter days are telling us that summer is passing on toward fall. At last, the temperatures and the humidity took a dip this week. The start of a new school year is on the horizon. I recall a lot of mixed feelings about this time of year as I look back to what is now decades in the past. In 2020, adapting to COVID-19 is top of mind for parents, teachers, administrators, and no small number of students, no matter the level at which they find themselves in the system.

Relationships are a big part of every human endeavour. We’ve mentioned the start of school. Relationships: among friends and staffs, between teachers and students, between parents and their children’s schools. They’re an essential part of the whole enterprise of education.

The relationship between Jesus and his disciples is at the forefront of this Sunday’s gospel (Mt.16:13-20). The story ties into the theme of teaching and learning. Jesus asks the group of followers, who walked with him that long-ago day, who others say he is. He referred to himself as “the Son of Man.” They were quick to reply. They’d been paying attention to the comments they’d heard.

Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Those responses highlight the significance the crowds had attributed to him. All those mentioned were momentous figures in the culture and the faith-heritage of the people.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. “That’s fine,” he seems to say. “You’ve been attentive to what’s going on around you.” Then he quickly adds, But who do you say that I am? The opinions and assumptions and observations of others are significant, and are a necessary beginning, but what about you? It’s a bit like learning something in school. What others have discovered is always vital. But it’s a first step. Have many of us not had the experience of having to try to integrate what we’ve learned into our own persons if it is to become anything more than me with someone else’s information? It needs to become part of us. That’s true whether it’s Bible study or Canadian history or riding a bike or baking a pan of biscuits.

It’s also true about faith development, about our relationship with Jesus Christ, and with our brothers and sisters in him. Others have told us a lot about Jesus: our parents, our grandfathers, our friends, our catechism teachers, priests and sisters. We’ve read books that were part of courses we’ve taken. That’s the first question Jesus put to his friends that day. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

Vital as is that first level of information, as foundational, he leads us further. But who do you say that I am? Have we thought much about how we’d answer that question? It’s like knowing about some well-known person—say, for example, (you fill in the blank), compared to actually knowing them, first-hand?

It’s to that kind of knowing that Jesus invited Peter and the others. It’s to that kind of knowing Jesus invites us. We respond a number of ways: thinking about him, reflecting upon what we’ve been taught, looking for his presence in our lives and in the world around us, mindfully celebrating the sacraments, reading the scriptures, praying and talking to him about our lives, embracing his life as the model for our own. The list of ways we get to know Jesus is long. Some we share in common. Others are unique to the particular person. Ultimately, we come to know Jesus because the Father, through the power of the Spirit, who teaches us all things (see Jn. 14:26), reveals him to us. Jesus affirms that to Simon Peter, after he recognizes him as the Christ, the Son of the living God: Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven (Mt. 16: 16, 17). Our thinking and praying and searching and reading and sacramental life and gospel living, while they are signs of his already- presence to us, are how we become prepared to meet him, to recognize him when that happens, and to grow in our familiarity with him within and around us.

Not an over-night occurrence—neither for Simon Peter nor for us—but a relationship that develops over the course of a life time—fueled by God’s grace and our openness to receive what is given. Along the way, lots of patience and honesty with ourselves is a daily call.

We continue to pray for the people of Lebanon, in the wake of the recent horrific explosion in Beirut. Donations may be put in a clearly marked envelope with your name and address, and left in the collection basket at Mass this weekend or next. You may also donate through the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, through their website www.devp.org Donations may also be mailed in the form of cheque or money order: Development and Peace, 1425 Rene-Levesque Blvd. West, 3rd Floor. Montreal, QC H3G 1T7. Please indicate Emergency Fund, Lebanon Crisis. For further info, see the diocesan website www.dioceseofcharlottetown.com

This Sunday at the 11 o’clock Mass, the bishop will celebrate Confirmation with our three candidates. Kindly pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them, their families, our parish community, and that the same Spirit may continue to renew the face of the earth.

I trust you, gardeners, are enjoying the fruit of your labours. Twice this week, I enjoyed roasted beets, onions, garlic, and carrots from my little patch. Lettuce and greens are still holding up. Delicious! Thanks be to God!

I’d be happy to be in contact with anyone who might like that. Please let me know.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

ST. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US!

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Letter from Fr. Keith (August 14)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

On Sundays during Ordinary Time—the current season of the Church’s year—the first reading, gospel, and psalm are typically related. The second reading—from one of the New Testament letters, usually one attributed to St. Paul—most of the time is not directly related to the other scripture selections. This week is one of those rare occasions when all four bear resemblance. The theme they share?  The “foreigner.”

The people of Israel—and rightly so—saw themselves as God’s chosen. What they sometimes overlooked was the reason for their call and election. Yes, surely for their own sakes. They were reminded by the Lord, For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you (Deut. 7:6-8a).

God’s purpose, though, went beyond them. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded his people that their mission—in keeping with the divine vision and aspiration—extended beyond themselves. It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel: I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (49:6).

The Canaanite woman whom Jesus encounters in the gospel belonged to the “nations.” In other words, she was a non-Jew, a foreigner. As such, many of the disciples would have assumed her outside the scope of who and what Jesus came to be and to do. One wonders what they thought when they heard the response of Jesus to her plea on behalf of her daughter: I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (Mt. 15: 24). Her persistence pays off. Jesus assures her plea will be heard, after proclaiming in the hearing of all, Woman, great is your faith! (Mt. 15: 28). She is counted among the “all” to whom Paul, in the second reading, announces God will show mercy (Rom. 11: 32), an example of the responsorial psalm’s prayer that [God’s] way may be known upon earth, your saving power among the nations.

No-one is outside God’s concern and care. God shows no partiality, announced Peter, after realizing that God had sent an angel to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, reassuring him his prayer and sacrifice had been accepted (see Acts 10). Peter shouldn’t have been surprised, for Jesus, himself, had affirmed, I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice… (Jn. 10:16).

As with Israel of old, so for us—the New Israel, the Church of Jesus Christ. We are God’s chosen: loved for our own sake and sent out to “announce the gospel of the Lord” to any and to all, ourselves a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Sent out, called to be mindful that those to whom we proclaim—by action as by word—are already beloved of God, among those he created and to whom he desires to show loving kindness. We aren’t superior by our election. We’re servants in imitation of the One who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28).

Religiously, socially, economically: the human family can learn something important from the word of God this Sunday. Though there exist many differences among us, we are united as children of God. God’s love—agree Isaiah, the psalmist, Paul, and Jesus—is offered to all who seek it. Sharing a common origin, we are called and empowered to deepen our mutual respect and love. Christians share a particular mission to be light to the nations, so that teaching may be ever more widely recognized and lived.

Last Saturday, we celebrated First Communion with 10 children and their families. Next Sunday, August 23, Bishop Richard will confirm three young people from our parish at the 11 o’clock Mass. Please keep all of them and our entire parish community in your prayer. For those of you who haven’t yet made the move to return to Mass, be assured that we regularly remember “our absent brothers and sisters.”

Once again, I want to recognize the devoted work of the more than 30 parishioners who take turns greeting everyone who comes to Mass, and diligently cleaning according to COVID-19 protocols afterward. New people are joining them. Anyone who’d like to help is most welcome. Contact jawhite5414@gmail.com, brhood12@hotmail.com, or saintdunstans@gmail.com or mention it to someone who greets you when you arrive.

I hope you are all keeping cool and well-hydrated as you either enjoy or endure the heat of summer. Rain is badly needed, especially by our farming community.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Peace,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (August 7)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

During the Sundays of Ordinary Time, the first reading and the gospel are related to each other. This week, for example, we hear the story of God’s encounter with Elijah from the Old Testament first book of Kings (19: 9, 11-13), and the disciples’ experience of Jesus from Matthew’s account of the Good News (14:22-33).

What do they have in common? Many things. We’ll look briefly at one. In both cases, God is where they don’t expect God to be. The God of Power and Might and Glory takes Elijah by surprise when he reveals himself, not in earthquake or wind or fire, but in a sound of sheer silence. In the gospel, after feeding the multitudes with the loaves and the fishes, Jesus sends the disciples on ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called, in some gospel passages, the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Tiberias), while he goes up the mountain to pray. A fierce storm comes up. Their boat is tossed about on the waves, and across the turmoil and chaos walks Jesus. So unanticipated his arrival, they are convinced he’s a ghost.

In our lives, we know the force of storm and upheaval, the fear of what it is to be battered about, as did the disciples. We’re familiar with the perception of either emptiness or calm Elijah knew atop Mount Horeb (also called, in some biblical stories, Mount Sinai) Where is it we would never expect God to be? Elijah and the disciples would encourage us to look for him precisely there. Just as he was in the supposed emptiness of silence as in the teeth of the booming gale, so is God with us in all the eventualities of our lives.

Whether recognized or unobserved, there he is. God’s presence doesn’t depend on our observation. Isn’t that profoundly comforting! God is with us in storm and in calm, even if we’re unaware. Ours is to pray for one another and for ourselves that we might have the grace to be alert of that saving gift when we most need courage and comfort and hope. Sometimes, we come to that awareness after the fact, when we look back on our lives. That, too, is for our encouragement. It was a core belief among the people of the Old Testament that as God had delivered them in the past—whether or not they knew it was happening at the time—so would he be faithful in the present moment as they moved toward a future, at one and the same time, uncertain and filled with hope. May ours be the grace to find and to share the same reassurance.

Summer is speeding by! We’ll not soon forget 2020. Looking back, we, like our Jewish forebears of Old Testament times, will discover where God’s saving presence has been: hidden—as is said—in plain sight.

In your prayer, please remember our First Communion children and families. As I mentioned last week, we’ll celebrate this important parish event Saturday at the 4 o’clock Mass. We’re now in the process of choosing a date for Confirmation. Kindly include those candidates and their families as you bring people before the Lord.

Registration for our weekday and weekend Masses is available through our parish website: www.stdunstanspei.com If you know someone who’d like to come, but has no access to a computer, maybe you could offer to register for them or provide them with one of these numbers: 902-367-7829, 902-892-9387, or 902-621-1988. These generous folks will happily compete the registration for anyone who’d like it done for them.

This week held a special delight for me. After almost five months, I was able to go into the PE Home, visit with Mom, and help her with her supper. For the past six weeks or so, our visits have been outside, maintaining physical distancing. She seems to have weathered the COVID storm well, thanks to the Home’s dedicated care-givers. Please continue to pray for Long Term Care residents, families, and staff, and for those charged with making decisions about the future direction of the support, respect, and gratitude owed our society’s precious elders.

May grace and peace be yours in abundance,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (July 31)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

“The Dog Days of Summer,” my dear grand aunt, Mame, used to call them! Hot, sticky, the threat of rain, but little to show for it. She had lots of Irish wit, and kept us well entertained. Besides that, she was a keen observer of the weather. This time of year reminds me of her. Come to think of it, lots of weather patterns and climate events do.

Observing what’s going on around us—weather-wise and otherwise. That was Jesus. He wondered aloud on at least one occasion why people were such astute observers and interpreters of cloud formations and wind direction, but tended to overlook the “signs of the times” (see Luke 12:54-56). He was a reader of the human heart. The Samaritan woman whom he encountered at the well in the heat of the day is but one of many examples (see John 4: 1-39).

And he was an interpreter of the obvious. Take, for example, today’s gospel (Matthew 14:13-21). It’s a familiar story. The fact that variations of it are told six times in the four accounts of the gospel shows us it’s important. No other event in the life of Jesus garners such attention by the evangelists.

It begins with Jesus reading what’s going on around him. The crowds had followed him to a quiet place where he had gone to reflect on the death of John the Baptist. He observes their many needs, and reaches out to them. Evening comes. The disciples also observe, but at a different level. They know the throng must be hungry. They ask Jesus to send them away to fend for themselves. Jesus perceives their motives: probably not insensitivity, but fear. They’re overwhelmed with the prospect of feeding such a mass of humanity with resources, amounting, in their estimation, to nothing.

Jesus decides to use the moment for a dual purpose: feed the hungry and instill a sense of personal responsibility and courage in the hearts of the group he will leave behind to carry on his work. To paraphrase him, he directs the disciples, “Identify what you have, bring it to me, and we’ll see where it goes from there.” The paltry five loaves and two fish go beyond what even the wildest and most optimistic imagination could foresee.

The story, of course, is about more than Jesus and his followers meeting up with a hungry crowd one day in a deserted place. It’s about us, our world, the hungers that exist at all levels, and our shared responsibility, in Christ, to respond. It’s about our reaction when we read the signs of our times. There’s no shortage of pity on our part. Our hearts ache. We’re like the disciples on that score. We’re also often like them in their initial impulse. “Send them away to buy food for themselves—whatever kind of food that might be. Or if it seems unlikely they’ll be able to manage that, “Send them off for someone else to take care of it.”

That’s not the way of Jesus, the gospel teaches this Sunday. And if it’s not the way of Jesus, it can’t be ours, either. Rather, the directive is more like this: “Observe the situation. It’s OK if, at first, you’re overwhelmed. Then, ponder the truth of gospel stories like the one we’re considering. Look around for what’s at hand: the resources held by the whole community—be it local or global. Take it, in company with the Lord, and discover it’s not so insignificant as one might first assume. To your collective surprise,” says the Lord, “see it go further than you’d ever expect.”

It’s not pie in the sky. Neither is it a call to hide from the immensity of the challenges involved in working together, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to fashion a world more as God intended—this world—on the way to a world that eternally endures, where all hungers are satisfied, and a perpetual abundance is held in store.

It’s a call, instead, to find our security not in hoarding, but in gathering what we have to share for the common good. It’s recognizing the true security of any of us resides in the well-being of all of us. It’s being committed to the Lord’s teaching that each and all of us have a role to play in feeding the many hungers of the world—including those we find right next door and under our own roof.

A final point to think about: no-one was deprived that day. Not those who gave up their lunch; not the disciples, who, against their better judgement, went around to gather up the meagre bite. All ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. Imitate the pattern established by the Lord, and no-one will be deprived; everyone will have what they need; and there’ll be enough left over to respond to other needs.

Haven’t we glimpsed this truth in our own lives: someone stretches themselves to help us or we allow our reach to exceed our grasp on behalf of someone else, and we’re all advantaged.

Something, friends, for us to think about these Dog Days of Summer, as we not only interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but…know how to interpret the present time (see Luke 12:56).

Our Masses continue. Last Sunday, we expanded our capacity to 100 at the 11 am, as we had previous weeks at the 9. There’s room for more! When you feel ready, we’ll be happy to welcome you. In the meantime, we continue to pray “for our absent brothers and sisters.”

After being delayed because of COVID-19, we plan to celebrate First Communion next Saturday at 4 with nine children and their families. Please pray for them.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (July 24)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

I indicated last week’s would be my final letter for now. I afterwards heard that some who have not yet made the decision to return to Mass would like me to continue as a way to keep them in touch with the parish. I’m happy to do that.

Our Masses—weekday and weekend—are continuing. This week, we are planning for a maximum of 100 Sunday morning at 9 and 11. You are aware of the registration procedure from earlier letters. 30+ parishioners are currently involved in organizing our Masses: helping people without computer access to register, taking names at the door, guiding people to their seats, cleaning following the Masses. All of this is so very much appreciated. We’ll always welcome others to further swell the ranks!

This Sunday’s first reading reacquaints us with King Solomon. In some ways, Solomon is even better-known that his father, King David. He succeeded David as King of the united Israel and Judah, about 950 years before the time of Jesus. We remember him for his wisdom.

Today, we hear the story of how his wisdom came to be (1Kings 3:5-12). God appears to him in a dream, and offers, Ask what I should give you. Solomon replies, Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this, your great people? The conversation continues with the Lord’s response. Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed, I give you a wise and discerning mind…

What is wisdom? Wisdom is a gift of God—the first in the list of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is our share in God’s understanding, God’s way of seeing ourselves, others, the world we live in. We’re all familiar with the passage from chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes: For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, a time to die…God has made everything suitable to its time. Wisdom is the ability to discern what needs to be done and the appropriate time and place to do it. It’s the gift of grace that allows our decisions and plans to be in sync with God’s Big Picture.

In our day, we have access to oodles of information. Wisdom is the gift needed to sift through it, separating grain from chaff, wheat from weeds; and beyond that, to take what is relevant and to do with it what is for the glory of God, for our own true and lasting good, for the salvation of the world. Wisdom is the gift to make the moment to moment decisions, which, eventually woven together on the loom at which we sit with God, and God with us, form the fabric of a lifetime.

What if we were in Solomon’s place? For what would we ask in response to God’s offer?

Wisdom is key because it helps us sort through, and to adjust and adapt to whatever life may hold out. Here is the situation. These are the options. What will we choose?

Wisdom gives us the ability to manage and direct how we will respond and react to the ups and downs and level patches of our lives. Though some things in life are beyond our control, we are not, says Wisdom, at the mercy of whimsy and fate.

For the gift of Wisdom, we pray: for ourselves, for our world. Let us also pray for its close companion, courage. Together, they give us the capacity both to decide a course of action, and then to follow through on its implementation.

COVID-19 has given us two recent scares on PEI: at Whisperwood and the QEH. We are ever so grateful that both were contained. It’s for us to live wisely and courageously during this time of pandemic—following Public Health directives, at the same time we responsibly embrace life, in the care of one another as the children of God.

I’ll close with excerpts from “Solomon’s Prayer” in Wisdom 9. May we make it our own.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy,

you who have made all things by your word

And in your wisdom have established humankind

to rule the creatures produced by you,

And to govern the world in holiness and righteousness,

and to render judgment in integrity of heart…

Give me Wisdom, the consort at your throne,

and do not reject me from among your children;

Now with you is Wisdom, who knows your works

and was present when you made the world;

Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes

and what is conformable with your commands.

Send her forth from your holy heavens

and from your glorious throne dispatch her

That she may be with me and work with me,

that I may know what is pleasing to you.

For she knows and understands all things,

and will guide me prudently in my affairs

and safeguard me by her glory… Amen.

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Letter from Fr. Keith (July 17)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

Almost every day this week saw me inspecting the tiny plot of ground that is my garden. I dug up a little more soil over the past while, and planted some perennials I’d received from a number of people. They won’t show much in the way of flowers this year. I’m hoping, though, they’ll survive the winter and next summer display their full prosperity.

Last year, I grew some tomatoes. No matter how many tomatoes are picked, it seems a few always fall to the ground, evade scrutiny, decay, leave their seeds behind, and grow back the next year. It reminds me of Jesus teaching that the grain must fall to the ground and die if it is to become more than a single grain (see Jn. 12:24).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching evidence of that: some stray tomato plants from the seed of last year’s crop springing up here and there among the lettuce and beets. This week, when both they and their competitors had reached sufficient maturity, I took out the tomatoes and transplanted them. If I’d tried it too soon, I’d have destroyed them and the little beet and lettuce plants among which they’d sprung up.

I was reminded of this Sunday’s gospel. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field… When the plants came up and bore grain…weeds appeared as well. The slaves inquired if they should pluck out those weeds, but the farmer wisely curbed their enthusiasm. No, he replied, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.

Weeds and wheat, stray tomatoes and lettuce: it’s, of course, about more than that. Jesus is talking about the intermingling of what is life-giving and what is death-dealing; what we’d like to save and nurture and what we’d sooner be clear of, what’s where it should be and what isn’t. That combination exists around us and is rooted within us—all of us. To jump in too quickly, says the farmer and the Lord, could be the result of misplaced zeal, maybe even doing more harm than good. It’s essential not to confuse weed and wheat, tomato and beet, but discerning the time to cull one from the other is also vital.

As the slaves needed prudence and wisdom greater than their own, so do we. The labourers required direction from the farmer; we, from the Spirit of the living God—many times confirmed by those who care for us. It’s not that the weeds’ uprooting didn’t need to happen, but much more was required than knee-jerk reaction.

The hoped-for result in the field was the outcome of a joint enterprise between grower and field-hand. The hoped-for result in our world and in our hearts will be the fruit of God’s direction met with our compliant response. A keen eye, a willing spirit, patience, readiness to take direction, and a commitment to do the work—as with the slaves—is our part. God, like the farmer, decides the time and inspires our action. Something upon which we might reflect in the week ahead as we observe wheat and weed around us and within.

A reminder of our Masses, weekday and weekend. Because of the need for contact tracing in the event of a COVID incident, and our present restricted numbers, registration is required. Names and contact info are kept here on file for 30 days; then, destroyed. To register, visit the parish website for the link: www.stdunstanspei.com. Would you kindly pass along to parishioners you may know, who don’t have computer-access, that a number of parishioners are available to register for them? They may phone 902-892-9387, 902-621-1988. After August 1, another number will also be available: 902-367-7829. A very willing group of parishioners has been involved in the various tasks now needed for every Mass: checking the names of attendees, greeting and guiding people to their seats, and cleaning afterward. What we are now able to do wouldn’t be possible without them. If you’d like to take a turn helping out, please see one of the hospitality group after Mass or email brhood12@hotmail.com , jawhite5414@gmail.com or saintdunstans@gmail.com

We’ve now increased our capacity at the Sunday 9am Mass to 100. We hope to do the same soon at the 11. In Masses where there is the capacity for 100, it is essential that the two groups of 50 remain completely separate. To help with this, it is important that you note whether your group is North (Sydney St. side) or South (Dorchester St. side). Though everyone enters through one of the doors on Great George St., North or South determines the side of the church for seating. Details are available on the registration website.

This week brought a COVID-19 scare from the QEH. At this writing, there is no word of it leading to any further infection transmission. It reminds us of the need to be vigilant—not frightened, but vigilant. Following the simple precautions recommended by the Chief Public Health Office is our way of helping keep others and ourselves virus-free. To repeat the language of Catholic moral theology, it’s our contribution to the common good. Every individual is responsible for the well-being of the group, and the group shares responsibility for the welfare of every individual.

This will be my last letter for now. It has been my joy communicating with you this way over these past four months. Please monitor our parish website for updates as required. May we keep one another and our wider society in prayer in this unfamiliar time, that we may meet its challenges and find its blessings.

If I can be of help in any way, please don’t hesitate to be in contact: 902-894-3486 or frkeithstdunstans@gmail.com

My prayer is with you and yours. Kindly, pray for me.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

ST. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US

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Letter from Fr. Keith (July 7)

Dear Parishioners of St. Dunstan’s,

I want to begin this week by thanking the group of parishioners who worked so hard preparing to welcome our brothers and sisters, attending last week’s four Masses. Because of their commitment and efforts, things went along smoothly, in spite of the various adaptations needed to comply with Chief Public Health Office regulations. We gratefully acknowledge the work of our provincial CPHO in developing guidelines to support our health and well-being as we come together to worship.

The dedication of the organizing group and public health expertise were met and supported by the cooperative spirit of those parishioners who came together after almost four months without public Sunday Mass. It’s an adjustment for all of us. None of us would choose things to be as they are. Still, the best way for us to respond is to face the reality of our present situation with courage and hope. Patience and good humour also never go astray.

This week, we will welcome 100 to our Sunday 9 am Mass. Public Health directives indicate we are able to have 100 people at Mass in a church the size of the Basilica, if they are divided into 2 distinct groups of 50. These groups must stay completely separate before, during, and after Mass. This is to make contact tracing easier should an issue with COVID-19 arise. Please begin to arrive at least 20 minutes before Mass time. We have divided the church according to North (Sydney St. side) and South (Dorchester St. side). If you registered before mid-afternoon Thursday, you are in the North group. After that, you will have noted the division upon registering. Please take note of and remember if you are North or South. Upon arrival, everyone is asked to use the main stairway on Great George St.: the side closest to Dorchester if you are in the South group; and Sydney, if you are in the North. Please go directly to the correct side of the steps.

No need to be anxious, simply aware. The area will be clearly marked. You will be greeted outside by an usher, and guided in to sit on the appropriate side of the church. We remind you of the need to keep separate from the other group after Mass, as well.

This week, all other Masses will have a capacity of 50. We will gradually increase that number. To do that, we need your continuing support to help check names at the door, greet and guide people to their seats, and with cleaning immediately following the Mass. If you’d be willing to help out, see one of the hospitality group at the Mass you attend or email jawhite5414@gmail.com ; brhood12@hotmail.com ; or saintdunstans@gmail.com

It’s important for all of us—including me!—not to be overly distracted by the necessary changes we now experience when we come to church. Not only is every place of worship around the world adapting to the same reality; every society is. We’re all in it together in a way that seldom happens. Let’s pray our shared struggle with COVID-19 will help build human solidarity and an ever-deepening commitment to the common good on the part of all lands and nations.

In spite of the—we could call them superficial—changes we need to make when we come to church, we celebrate the same Eucharist we always have. The risen Christ graces us with his transforming nearness in one another, in the Word we hear, and most uniquely and profoundly in his Real Eucharistic Presence. He continues to offer our praise to the Father, and to make us like himself through the power of their Spirit. As before, we are sent forth to proclaim the gospel by the holy—if imperfect—living out of our lives.

A reminder that registration is required for all the Masses—weekend and weekday. Please follow the link on the parish website: www.stdunstanspei.com. May I ask you to be attentive to parishioners you know who may not have internet access, and offer to register for them? Alternatively, those unable to register online may telephone 902-892-9387, 902-621-1988, or 902-894-3486. Several parishioners have offered to provide this service as needed. Our thanks to them.

In this Sunday’s first reading the prophet, Isaiah, speaks thus the Word of the Lord: …so shall my word that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Lots of things in life—in Isaiah’s time and in ours—might lead us to interpret God’s Word through Isaiah not to be so. Isaiah encourages us. Even if personal difficulties or such global challenges as a pandemic stifle and baffle and frighten us, hold on. God’s promise will come to fullness. God’s saving desire for us will not be outdone by happenstance or turmoil. Fr. Louis, the Trappist monk known to the world as Thomas Merton, put it this way:

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you

does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, will I trust you always

though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Let us continue, this week, to hold one another and our world in prayer, especially mindful of our brothers and sisters where COVID-19 ravages.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

ST. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US!

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Letter from Fr. Keith (July 1)

Dear Parishioners of St. Dunstan’s,

This weekend, we will joyfully welcome each other back to the celebration of the Eucharist after being away from Sunday Mass for nearly four months, I, for one, when we left that Sunday evening, March 15, thought we’d likely be back in a few weeks—quite probably in time for Easter—and that we’d come back in the door to resume, quite the same as we’d left off. We all now know that wasn’t going to happen.

We will celebrate four Masses this weekend: Saturday at 4 pm, Sunday at 9 am, 11 am, and 5 pm. All weekend Masses will be in the main church. For this weekend we will be limited to 50 people at each, including the priest and those in the various ministries. We hope to increase the number to 100 at each Mass, beginning next weekend. Please note that because of cleaning and disinfecting requirements, the church will not be open other than for Mass on Saturdays and Sundays for the time being.

Preregistration is necessary. Follow this link:    https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/saint-dunstans-basilica-30565390440.      If you have no computer access, please call 902-621-1988 or 902-367-7829. Registration for the Masses closes the day before at 4 pm.

So you’ll have an idea what to expect, be aware that there will be limited seating, and that physical distancing of six feet for people not in the same household is required. You will be greeted by a parishioner who will take your name.  An usher will guide you to your seat. Further instructions will be given before Mass begins.

You will notice some differences. The priest will come directly from the sacristy to begin the Mass. There will not be singing, as we have been accustomed to it. Hymn books have been removed from the pews. There will be no offertory procession or collection of money. There will be a container available as you enter the church where you can deposit your envelope or loose donation. Our time with COVID-19 has been difficult for lots of reasons. Financial hardship has visited many homes. Many parishes have also experienced significant to dramatic economic loss. I say this so you will be aware of the need. We won’t belabour the point! Thanks to those who have contributed so generously over these many weeks.

Before you come to Mass, if you haven’t already done so, please read the directives in the most recent diocesan protocol. Find it here: http://dioceseofcharlottetown.com/worshipsafe-directives-for-church-services/.

A few further details:

Sunday Mass will be briefer than has been the norm.

For the present, washrooms are closed unless needed. Especially with children, maybe they could use the facilities before they leave home.

If you are currently required to be in self-isolation, please do not attend until such time as that period has expired.

If you are unwell, please stay home.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, chills, shortness of breath, stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, unusual fatigue, recent loss of sense of taste and/or smell, please monitor your condition and call 811 for consultation, and please stay home. If you have been in the presence of someone with COVID-19 symptoms in the recent past, please do not attend.

Please avoid unnecessarily touching any surfaces in the church.

Wash your hands well before you come to Mass, and use the hand sanitizer that is available as you enter.

If you are among the vulnerable population because of age or illness of some kind, and are uncomfortable coming, please feel at ease staying home and praying for us. We will remember you.

A reminder: Bishop Grecco has advised that the obligation for attending Sunday Mass is suspended in the diocese until further notice.

Those attending are reminded that we aren’t able, at this time, simply to walk in. Time is needed for registration and other particulars. For that reason, please plan to arrive at church earlier than may be your custom. Please begin to arrive at least 20 minutes prior to start time—or even a few minutes before that, if you can. You will need to be guided to your seat. As you wait for that, please remember to observe physical distancing.

It is possible there will not be room for everyone. Remember there are also weekday Masses 9 am, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday downstairs in Glastonbury Hall. Please be generous in sharing the opportunity to attend the Eucharist.

Finally, we are in need of parishioners to assist in a number of needs in an ongoing way. We need people to help sanitize the seats and other contact areas after each Mass. We require people to be involved in guiding people to their seats, in helping check names as people come into the church, and, when we welcome up to 100, to assist organizing people before they come into the church. If you’d be willing to help out, please drop your name and contact info into the collection box at the door, or contact the parish office 902-894-3486, saintdunstans@gmail.com Heartfelt thanks to those who have already made themselves available.

I’m re-reading all of this and hoping you don’t find it overwhelming. That’s the furthest thing from its intent. It’s just to help us get prepared to do what we need to do to safeguard one another and the larger society. I don’t think I’ve ever been so aware of the great Catholic teaching of “the common good” as I’ve been since mid-March. That tradition reminds us that every one of us shares in responsibility for the well-being of the community, and the community shares responsibility for the well-being of every one of us. Think of the world if everyone in it took that call to mutual care seriously. Now is our time and this is our place to do precisely that.

Let us continue to pray for one another, and to be kind and patient.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (June 26)

Dear St. Dunstan’s Parishioners,

Today, we enter Stage IV of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Beginning this Monday, June 29, Masses will be celebrated for a maximum of 50 people, with weekend Masses beginning next weekend, July 4 and 5. Registration will continue to be necessary. This requirement from Public Health is for the purposes of contact tracing, in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19. Records are kept here for one month, then destroyed.

Weekday Masses, for the present, will be celebrated downstairs in Glastonbury Hall at 9 am Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This is to facilitate the necessary cleaning, and to allow the upstairs to be open for private prayer through the week. To register, follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/saint-dunstans-basilica-30565390440. Those without computer access may telephone 902- 621-1988, 902-367-7829, or 902-894-3486. If no immediate answer, leave a message including your name and phone number. The deadline for registration is the day prior to the Mass at 4 pm. We are phasing out our email registration address. Please no longer use it.

There remains some discussion with the Chief Public Health Office regarding numbers for weekend Masses in large churches like ours. We should have particulars and registration information by Wednesday of this coming week. Check the parish website. Registration access, beginning mid-week, will be the same as for weekday Masses, above.

We are inviting the support of parishioners to assist with the numerous requirements we will have to meet as we resume our public worship. Help is needed with cleaning seats and other high-touch surfaces after each of the Masses. People are invited to help with checking names as parishioners come into church. Guiding people to seats will also be needed. If you would like to help, please email saintdunstans@gmail.com or call the parish office 902-894-3486. Thank you for your consideration. Thanks, too, to the group of parishioners who has been meeting to get things organized. Many hands will make light work!

These past days, our first reading at Mass has been taken from the Second Book of Kings. These scripture passages have recounted the story of a tragic era in the history of the Jewish people: the Exile. It began in 587 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, besieged and eventually destroyed the city, and took many of its citizens away, leaving only a few behind.

The reaction of the people is captured in today’s responsorial psalm, 137: “By the rivers of Babylon.” Look it up in your Bible. Their grief was great. They poured out all their anguish and anger and fear and desire for revenge before the Lord, using words that might surprise us. Holding nothing back, they solemnly predicted the comeuppance due their enemies. Their particular anguish was the heartache for their city, Jerusalem. They couldn’t stop thinking about it. At the same time, every thought of its splendour, especially its now-ruined temple, and what they had relished in the past, filled them with such sadness they could hardly bear it.

The Lord received all their anguished cries and their honest expression. Through prophets, like Ezekiel and, from a distance, Jeremiah, he assured them all was not lost and that if they couldn’t come to the Jerusalem temple, God would come to them. Eventually, his advice was something like this: “You are in a difficult state of affairs. Not one of you would have chosen this set of circumstances. Still, it is reality. The best thing you can do is live your lives with faith, sincerity and hope, and carry on.”  (See Jer. 29: 5-7.)

These days, COVID-19 preoccupies a lot of our thoughts. Even if we try to forget it, something reminds us it’s still there. I was reminded of the virus and how it has impacted our lives, the life of the world, when this ancient story was repeated for us at Mass yesterday and today. Maybe we’ve sometimes felt exiled over these nearly four months. Surely, many have poured out the fear and anguish of their hearts, not always able to come up with flowery and polite words. As God long ago received the composer and first singers of Psalm 137, so does he receive his people and our cries today. And he answers much the same, now as then. “You are in a difficult state of affairs. Not one of you would have chosen this set of circumstances. Still, it is reality. The best thing you can do is what I encouraged to my people of so long ago: live your lives with faith, sincerity and hope, and carry on.”

Eventually, the strife ended. Exiles returned. One of the things that came about in their struggle was a deeper appreciation of their faith-heritage. All the stories of their ancestors—Abraham and Sarah and Isaac, Jacob and his family, Moses and Miriam, King David, the poetic music of the Psalms—these had been passed on across the eons by word of mouth. They organized it all and began writing things down. These writings became the foundation of their holy book, our Old Testament. Something wonderful was born of struggle and sadness. May it be so for us in 2020.

Our final livestream Mass will be this Sunday at 10:30 from SDU Place. Thanks to all who have been involved in this outreach over the past weeks. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

As we make preparations for the resumption of our public Sunday worship, the bishop’s most recent protocol was recently published. Please read WORSHIPSAFE: Directives for Church Services.  

I enjoyed my little garden’s first produce this week: a taste of Mesclun Mix lettuce. The watering can gets lots of use. This Saturday, my Mom turns 88.

I look forward to greeting more of you in person over the coming days. For those of you who are vulnerable because of age or illness of some kind, a reminder: the bishop has suspended the obligation of Sunday Mass until further notice.

Pray for our country this Canada Day. Pray for each other, as we learn to live in new ways.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (June 19)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

Last week, we talked about the Old-Testament-Elijah. We recalled his prophetic mission in the land of Israel some eight centuries before the time of Jesus. We further remembered his later prominence among the Jewish people, who came to identify him as the one who would announce the Messiah when he finally arrived. That carried over into New Testament times, when some believed John the Baptist—even Jesus—to be Elijah returning to announce the Messiah had come. 

At the Masses this past week, the Elijah sequence came to an end when Elijah, walking along with his protégé, Elisha, by his side, is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Before the two part, Elijah asks what he might do for the younger man. Elisha answers, Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit. After Elijah leaves his side, Elisha takes Elijah’s cloak and moves along. (See 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14.)

The Book of Sirach (48:1-14) takes up the story. Before listing Elijah’s great marvels, Sirach proclaims, How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? We’d expect the answer to be a resounding, “No-one!!” Not so. After giving Elijah his due, Sirach shifts the focus to his successor. When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind, Elisha was filled with his spirit. He performed twice as many signs and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.

As wondrous as was Elijah, Elisha, it seems, was all the more.

We often see that in the Bible. The last becomes the first. In John’s gospel, Andrew introduces his brother, Peter, to Jesus, and right away takes a back seat (see Jn. 2:35-42). The same happens with Barnabas, as recounted by the Acts of the Apostles, after he introduces Paul to the Apostles and the Christian community at Jerusalem (see Acts 9:23-30). Though the disciple is not above the teacher (Mt. 10:24), Jesus, speaking of his own mighty deeds, says of those believers who will follow him after he has returned to the Father—our generation included—they will do greater works than these (see Jn. 14:12). Those “greater works” are done, of course, in Christ by the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father. I often think of those words from Jesus when I hear of the many astonishing feats done for the betterment of humanity through the marvels of science or medicine or technology. Many of them, the miracles of today. I know I’ll call those words to heart and mind again when announcements are made of breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

It’s all to say that the work of salvation, while brought to fulfillment in Christ Jesus, has yet to be fully realized. Like Elijah and Andrew and Barnabas and those countless others, we all have our role to play, and when we have offered that to God, in Christ, and to the world, it’s a wonderful grace to step aside in peace, and let another perform twice as many signs and marvels—celebrating them and cheering them on all the way. “Don’t get too caught up,” Jesus and Elijah and those others might well say to us, “in evaluating and judging your own contribution. That leads to comparisons and competition and, often, to strife. Do the best you can, as other-focused as you are able to be, and let it go. Pray God to bring it to completion in his own way and time, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (see Philippians 1:6).

At the end of this coming week, we enter Stage IV of our moving out of coronavirus restrictions. This will have implications for our worship together. Please check back mid-to-late-week for an update from the diocese. The link will be posted in a letter on this website.

You are invited to put your name in for weekday Mass by, as in the previous weeks, emailing massatstdunstans@gmail.com or by telephoning 902-894-3486. If necessary, leave a message. You will be contacted to confirm a day.

We plan to livestream the Mass from SDU Place Sunday at 10:30. Follow the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

The pandemic remains close to mind for all of us. So, too, our call to live hopefully and responsibly. Let us continue to keep the situation in our prayer. In the meantime, summer’s heat has arrived early. Enjoy it—and some shade, as necessary! The evening breezes have been glorious.

Know that my prayer accompanies you every day. At each weekday Mass, our intercessions include a petition for “our absent brothers and sisters.” Please pray for me.

Happy Father’s Day to the Dads! May you know and live the blessing of your vocation.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

ST. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US!

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Letter from Fr. Keith (June 12)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

During the Masses this week, our first reading—with the exception of Thursday’s memorial of St. Barnabas—has been taken from the Old Testament “First Book of Kings.” From First Kings, we have been hearing about Elijah. Elijah lived some 800 years before the time of Jesus, and is considered among the first of the prophets. (You can find the entire Elijah story in 1 Kings 17-19, 21 and 2 Kings 1- 2:12.)  Elijah figures prominently, as well, in the New Testament. A tradition had grown up among the Jews that Elijah would return to herald the arrival of the Messiah. Recall John the Baptist being mistaken for him. Remember the disciples telling Jesus that some people thought he was Elijah. Atop Mount Tabor, Elijah, with Moses, appears at the Transfiguration talking to the radiant Jesus as Peter, James, and John look on in amazed wonder.

Speaking truth to power, Elijah often found himself in more than a peck of trouble. This week we’ve come upon him on the run, and about ready to throw in the towel as God’s mouthpiece. Friday’s episode is particularly familiar (1 Kings 9: 11-16). Attempting to put some distance between himself and God, he makes his way to Mount Horeb, the same mountain where Moses had received the Ten Commandments—though it’s called Mount Sinai in that story.

God doesn’t give up on him. On the mountain top, the word of the Lord comes to him, as he settles for the night in a cave. Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by, he’s told by the heavenly messenger. Obedient, the prophet begins to make his way toward the entrance. Suddenly, a mighty wind, so strong it split the rocks in pieces. On the heels of the wind, the awesome power of an earthquake, followed immediately by a fire. In neither wind nor earthquake nor fire was the Lord. One would expect the Lord of power and might and splendour and majesty to be revealed in these potent forces of his creation. But no, says the story.

All of this followed by a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him. We are to understand it to be the voice of God. In response, Elijah recites his tale of woe: the infidelity of the people, their desecration of God’s altar and the slaying of his prophets. Elijah is the last man standing! God’s answer? I’m paraphrasing here, “Be on your way, Elijah. I have more for you to do, and if you don’t finish it, no worry. Anoint Elisha to take your place.”

The Lord, the mighty, the valiant, says Psalm 24 about God. The voice of the Lord full of power; the voice of the Lord full of splendour... The voice of the Lord flashes flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness, recites Psalm 29. How could Elijah not have expected God to be revealed to him in wind, earthquake and fire? But no! Rather, in the apparent emptiness of sheer silence.

Elijah invites us to consider many things, of course. One of them might be “Where do we least expect God to be found—in our present lives, our personal history, in the life of the world? Whatever our answer to that question might be, look for God there. Expect to find God where we least expect. Be prepared, out of that unanticipated encounter to have God chart out direction for our lives, our participation in the mission of Christ. And not to worry, if we don’t get it all done, someone will come along to fill in behind us, as Elisha eventually did for Elijah.

Where do we least expect God to be found? Maybe in the midst of COVID-19, as we navigate our way through its various stages? God not sending its unique misery, but showing us the way through—as individuals, communities, a global family—giving us opportunities to learn and to grow and to respond. 

Our weekday masses continue this week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9 am, downstairs in Glastonbury Hall. The limit, for now, is 15—including me. Please refer to last week’s letter with its link to the diocesan protocol for important details. If you’d like to attend, send an email to massatstdunstans@gmail.com or telephone 902-894-3486, and leave a message. You will be contacted in response to your request.

On Thursday, provincial officials announced Phase Four will begin June 26. Indoor gathering size will increase to 50. There will be details next week as to how that will impact our celebrations of the Eucharist.

We plan to livestream Mass for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ this Sunday at 10:30 am from SDU Place. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

I hope if you have loved ones in long-term-care that you’ve been able to have a visit. My sister and I saw our mother again this week, and found her more engaged this time. Public Health, in one of its recent updates, spoke of visits being arranged for inside if everything continues to go along well. The rain this week heightened the many shades of green (40, the Irish say!), and watered the newly sprung gardens. In the red soil and the green growth, one can find the origins of the Island tartan.

Let us pray this week in gratitude for our many blessings, and in intercession for the needs we recognize in our community and our world. Let us pray, too, for the grace to live responsibly and hopefully in our present reality—our feet on the ground, our hearts raised to glory.

I will pray for you. Please pray for me.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

ELIJAH, INSPIRE US!

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Letter from Fr. Keith (June 5)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

In the history of our cathedral parish, this week stands in stellar significance. After almost 11 weeks, we returned to the public celebration of the Eucharist. Granted, gatherings capped at 15, but gathered nonetheless! We reminded ourselves of the Lord’s promise, Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there among them (Mt. 18:20). Whenever a portion of the Church meets for Eucharist, in mystical reality, the whole Body of Christ assembles. As we prayed, we were mindful of the union of the physically present to “out absent brothers and sisters.”

As a reminder, I want to repeat the following from last week’s letter:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week, we will celebrate the Eucharist at 9 am, downstairs in Glastonbury Hall. We must limit the number, including myself, to 15. Those wanting to attend, please use this email address to let us know: massatstdunstans@gmail.com For those without email access, please call 902-894-3486. Leave a message, if necessary. Please include your name and the names of those in your household who plan to be there, with your phone number. You will be notified as to the Mass you will be scheduled to attend. These are unusual times. For that reason, and in order to accommodate as many people as possible over the four days, no one should anticipate coming daily.

Use the Dorchester St. entrance. Doors will open at 8:50. Kindly observe physical distancing of 2 meters / 6 feet between yourself and others while waiting outdoors. At this time, no lingering in the building after Mass please, and once outside, we are asked to maintain the needed separation.

Public Health directives state that anyone who feels unwell or has travelled outside Prince Edward Island over the last two weeks should not attend. Further, according to guidelines posted on the PEI Government website, “take extra precautions if you are at increased risk, especially those who are aged 65 years and older, have a compromised immune system, and/or have underlying medical conditions.” Would you be so good as to make those who may not see this letter aware of the Masses and the procedure and precautions to follow?

Prior to attending, please read the diocesan protocol prepared in consultation with the provincial Office of Public Health by following this link: http://dioceseofcharlottetown.com/bishops-letter-protocol-for-funerals-rites-for-15-people/

This week, we celebrate Trinity Sunday. “Trinity” expresses the fundamental Christian belief that God, who is One, lives as Three equal, eternal and distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Trinity is a mystery, the central mystery of Christian faith. Mystery surpasses our ability to comprehend, to understand in the manner we come to figure out a mathematics problem or to absorb something we have read.

Our inability to understand the Trinity doesn’t mean we aren’t called to reflect upon and ponder the mystery. Quite the opposite, in fact. The mystery of faith has profound—and practical—implications for our personal lives, for the life of the Church, for the life of the world. The mystery of faith—in its many aspects—is unrivalled in its relevance to the life we share. 

Let’s take a moment to ponder one implication of Trinity: God who is One in Three, Three in One; God who is Perfect Unity in complete diversity. Remember what the Book of Genesis tells us about ourselves. So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them… (Gen. 1: 27).

Created in the image of the Trinity, St. Paul goes on to remind us, For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another (Rom. 12: 4-5).

This has profound implications for our healing and our restoration. In the mystery of our creation and our redemption, we are united within ourselves and with each other. Our personal brokenness, the fractured relationships that exist between individuals and among nations have a radical potential, coupled with a deep—even if sometimes hidden—desire to be mended and healed. Alienation, no matter how profoundly we may experience it, does not reside at our depths. There, we are one.  The Unity of the Three distinct Persons of the One God lives in and among us. The tensions that sometimes divide us within our own hearts and put us at odds with others, the rivalries that pit nations, one against another: as individuals, as families, as communities, as countries—the Trinity reminds us—we have the capacity, at all those levels, to live as one. That’s how The Father, in the beginning, made us to be. That’s how he, in the Son, re-created us to be. That’s how the Spirit, today, empowers us to be.

The Trinity is the essence of cooperation and harmony. In the Trinity, we live and move and have our being (see Acts 17:28). The Trinity is the source of humanity’s in-dwelling ability to heal racial divisions, to build bridges, to work together to find solutions to all kinds of pressing concerns and to share and implement those solutions when they are found. Our separate uniqueness need not be our undoing. It, rather, is meant to enrich who we are together—fully alive, to the glory of God, who made us sharers in the Divine Life. In our faith-inspired response to that gift, we put flesh on the oft-recited words, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Thursday, my sister and I were able to visit our Mom at the Prince Edward Home, and to make an appointment for another, this Tuesday. We look forward to the day when those visits won’t involve physical distancing! Please continue to pray for all associated with Long-Term Care.

We plan to live-stream the Mass from SDU Place this Sunday at 10:30. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

I hope you will find joy this week in the beauty of nature unfolding all around us. Let us pray for one another, and for all whose well-being is supported by the love that motivates that prayer. May all we think, say and do, friends, be in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

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Letter from Fr. Keith (May 29)

May 29, 2020

Dear Parishioners of St. Dunstan’s,

This Sunday, the Easter season comes to a close as we celebrate Pentecost. The most familiar image most of us have of this feast is described for us in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Wind filling the house where the fledgling community gathered, while divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

We’re told there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem that day when the Spirit was poured out upon the disciples and the face of the earth. The fact that the multitude spoke many different languages and had been influenced by diverse cultures proved no obstacle to the work of the Spirit. We hear that even though those who spoke under the Spirit’s direction were all Galileans, everyone heard what they said in their own native tongue.

The mystery of Pentecost, as with all the mysteries of Christ we remember and celebrate in the liturgy, participate in the timelessness of God. Because of that, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is not left behind in the mists of history. This is the day when the Spirit comes afresh. This is the time and this is the place when the same Spirit as at Jerusalem that long-ago-day animates the multi-fold gifts that Paul speaks of in our second reading. Gifts given to individuals, not as our private possessions, but rather held in trust for the good of all.

Today is the time, here is the place when the Spirit empowers us to live wisely, compassionately, and hopefully in the midst of the corona-virus-pandemic, making choices and decisions enhancing the lives and well-being of those close to us, and of those brothers and sisters far beyond our horizon. It is the Spirit who bestows upon us the truth of the humble recognition that we need others as they need us, if life is to be as God intends.

This Monday, June 1, in our province, marks the beginning of Phase III in the easing of COVID-19’s restrictions. As many of you have heard, this has implications for our communal worship. Beginning Monday, a maximum of 15 are allowed for indoor gatherings. This past week, Bishop Grecco, with the consultation and the guidance of public health officials, issued a protocol for Catholic churches in the diocese. For the full text, see http://dioceseofcharlottetown.com/bishops-letter-protocol-for-funerals-rites-for-15-people/. Please note: this protocol applies to weekday Masses. Permission has not yet been granted to resume Sunday Eucharist.

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week, we will celebrate the Eucharist at 9 am, downstairs in Glastonbury Hall. We must limit the congregation size, including myself, to 15. Those wanting to attend are asked to register through this email address: massatstdunstans@gmail.com. For those without email access, please call 902-894-3486. Leave a message, if necessary. Please include your name and the names of those in your household who plan to attend, and your phone number. You will be notified as to the Mass you will be scheduled to attend. These are unusual times. For that reason, and in order to accommodate as many people as possible over the four days, no one should anticipate being there daily.

Please enter by the Dorchester St. entrance. The doors will open at 8:50. Kindly observe physical distancing of 2 meters / six feet between yourself and others while waiting outdoors. For the Mass, chairs will be arranged so as to maintain the necessary separation.  At this time, no lingering in the building after Mass please, and once outside, we are asked to maintain the needed separation.

Public Health directives state that anyone who feels unwell or has travelled outside Prince Edward Island over the last two weeks should not attend. Further, according to guidelines posted on the PEI Government website, “take extra precautions if you are at increased risk, especially those who are aged 65 years and older, have a compromised immune system, and/or have underlying medical conditions.” Anyone who is apprehensive should not come. Would you be so good as to make those who may not see this letter aware of the Masses and the procedure and precautions to follow?

While, admittedly, these guidelines are unfamiliar and seem rigid, they are, for the present, necessary for our individual and communal well-being. Let us bear with one another for the good of all. Your kind cooperation and understanding are appreciated, and will help us all as we move forward. This is likely—including for me—not the manner in which, back in mid-March, we anticipated our return. Nonetheless, it is the reality to which we need respond. We can take heart in the fact that we have moved forward to this point, by the grace of God, the direction of our officials, and our own good will in responding to what has been asked of us over the past weeks.

Some personal great news this week: my sister, on the Island, and I will be able, beginning Monday, to visit our soon-to be-88-year-old mother, who resides at the Prince Edward Home. We have kept in touch by phone calls and window visits, but it will be wonderful to be in her physical presence. Let us remember all long-term care residents and staff in our prayer.

Once again this Sunday, we hope to live stream the Mass from SDU Place. Some have told me of their difficulty accessing it. We hope the problem has been fixed. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

Let us pray for each other and for the world as we continue our trek through our present circumstances. In their own way, the steps to our “new normal” may well be as unfamiliar and challenging as was the lock-down. It is good for us to call on our faith, and the love of one another. Each day we encounter the unfamiliar—as did those long-ago Pentecost folks from those difficult-to-pronounce places—let us remember that challenging day is the day when the Holy Spirit is given. The life of God, the power of the risen Jesus, is as present and effective now as then.

My prayer is with you. Please pray for me.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

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