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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Letter from Fr. Keith (May 22)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

Today, we begin Phase II of progressing out of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. The Diocese is in on-going discussion with the provincial Public Health Office in relation to the re-opening of our churches. Indications at this time, from places further along in the process, are that our going-back will be accompanied by guidelines limiting numbers and prescribing distancing measures and other safe-guards. We will be kept informed.

We celebrate the Ascension of the Lord this week, as the Easter season moves toward its close at Pentecost. Over the past Sundays, we have been hearing from the gospel accounts of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples after he had risen, and their reaction to his new and unfamiliar presence. We’ve also been listening to the Acts of the Apostles, relating episodes in the life of the early Christian community, describing for us the issues they faced, and how they responded. As always, when we relate to the word of God, we have been presented with the privilege and the challenge of finding, in those inspired New Testament words, the story of our own lives, as well as the direction toward which Christ Jesus calls us to live them.

We’ve been reminded of the chaos and confusion in which those early followers of Jesus found themselves after he had been crucified. Their stories show us the gradual way they came to believe in and respond to the mystery of the resurrection. Gradually deepening belief and response to the mystery of the resurrection: is that not the story of our lives—individually and as a people?

From Matthew’s gospel this Sunday, we hear the final words of Jesus to his followers before he ascends to the Father. Go therefore…And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age. How often in moments of challenge and uncertainty did those words come back to Peter and James and John? How many times did Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene and Thomas listen for the echo of that promise? What about the desert fathers and mothers in Egypt as they sought the Lord in prayer and solitude? How many times were saints, like Martha and Benedict and Dunstan and Teresa of Avila and Thomas Aquinas and Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola and Marguerite Bourgeoys and Teresa of Calcutta heartened by that pledge?

Society’s efforts to come out of the experience of the past two months may pose as great a challenge as have physical distancing and self-isolation. Following public health directives, individually and together, we’ll find the balance between caution and courage. In it all, as Dr. Morrison said today, we’ll do best if we are patient and kind.

Go therefore…And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age. Recollect the power and the mystery of God’s words. From the mouth of Jesus, they were first spoken to his friends as they charted their course over an unfamiliar terrain. God’s word is alive and active says the letter to the Hebrews. Words spoken in history resound in every age, including our own.

The same reassurance Jesus gave those gathered with him on the Galilean mountain long ago are repeated to us, as we go forth in his name and with his message into our own twenty-first-century future. Through the power of the Spirit, in the company of one another, the same Jesus is with us, and through us, with our global community: comforting, challenging, directing, guiding. In his name, may we go forth—even if with some trembling—to respond to his saving presence and call. His promise is sure. Across our unfamiliar post-COVID terrain, we do not journey alone.

Once again this Sunday at 10:30, we plan to live stream the Mass from SDU Place. This is the link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1259201370949158  .Thanks to the liturgical ministers who are involved, and to Joe Chevarie for his technical prowess and his commitment to the cause. Our appreciation, as well, to the Knights of Columbus for supplying us with equipment to enhance the internet signal.

These past few days, especially, have given us beautiful spring weather. From morning to evening, one can observe the leaves opening. I went for my first bike ride of the season on Wednesday. The lettuce, planted last week, is up. I hope you’ve been able to get out in the air, and that you gardeners and out-doors-enthusiasts are revelling in the opportunity the season bestows.

I’ll close with these words from St. Augustine. “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him…For just as he remained with us after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us is not yet fulfilled in our bodies…Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace…” In other words, friends, we are one with him and in him, and he is one with us, seated at the Father’s right hand. We in him; he in us. Imagine if we lived day to day conscious of that! May that unity be our courage, our consolation, and our hope. May we be generous in sharing these gifts all around.

Let us continue to pray for each other and for our world in these days of grace—trying days, in many respects, but nonetheless, days of grace.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

ALL HOLY MEN AND WOMEN, PRAY FOR US.

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Letter from Fr. Keith (May 15)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

While we celebrate the Easter season, the setting for this Sunday’s Gospel is the Upper Room on the night before Jesus died. After washing the feet of his disciples, as a foreshadowing of the supreme act of service on the following day’s Calvary, he says this, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…You know him because he abides in you and will be with you…

That Holy Spirit will be with the disciples, Jesus implies, as they witness the horrific events of the cross that Friday afternoon, will sustain them as they begin to grasp the reality of the Resurrection, and will be their guide as they carry the Good News out of Jerusalem, and beyond to the outermost regions of the world as they knew it.

In the mystery of, as the letter to the Hebrews describes, the living and active word of God, the promise of the Spirit to the disciples included more than the little band gathered around Jesus on the night before he died. It included all who have followed him over the millennia since. The promise includes us.

John’s Gospel closely associates Jesus’ death and resurrection with the pouring forth of the Spirit. John tells us that on the cross, Jesus “gave up his spirit.” Blood and water flowed from his pierced side. Spirit, blood, water: all signs of life, the Life of the Eternal God, coming forth from Jesus as he was “lifted up…to draw all people to [him]self.”

The season of Easter comes to its conclusion each year with the celebration of Pentecost, a word the signifies the Fiftieth day after Easter. Pentecost recalls the day when the disciples gathered, hearing the mighty wind and seeing tongues of flame, as the Spirit came afresh. That Spirit was present at creation, Genesis tells us: a wind hovering over the chaos, the breath of God, creating harmony and purpose. The same Spirit is ours in Baptism. Easter-Pentecost calls us to receive that Spirit anew. The Spirit is God’s gift when we celebrate the sacraments, the power of the Divine Life, transforming “what earth has given and human hands have made” into the saving presence of Jesus Christ. The Spirit lives in and among us, helping us recognize and respond to the awesome Mystery of God with wisdom and courage and strength and reverence, faith and hope and love.

The Advocate Jesus promised is with us this May of 2020, giving us what we need to live the reality of COVID-19—even if sometimes we falter in our response. The Spirit ignites in us the hope and love and courage to put aside our momentary preferences in the service of the needs of others, the common good. The Spirit gives us the patience to persevere. The Spirit breathes upon us the wisdom to discern God’s presence and care, helping humanity to bear the present burden, and to discover in the midst of our inconvenience—and in many cases—very real struggle and difficulty, the presence of God: soothing us, consoling us, challenging us, as we move through and eventually beyond this experience, discerning how it may teach us to build and live in a world more as God created it to be. Again looking back to Genesis, the same Spirit hovers over our present pandemic chaos fashioning order and purpose and healing and hope, revealing to us and through us the power of the Cross and Resurrection. That great Mystery, as with the Mystery of the Spirit, could never be confined to one time and one place. New life in Christ is for us to receive and to live and to share every day in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves—including this one.

This week in our province, spring is beginning to peak out from behind winter’s curtain. The onions I recently planted in my little—and I mean little—garden are peeking through. The garlic, in the ground since last fall, is already about eight inches high. I planted lettuce a couple of evenings ago, and will continue to exercise my farmer’s streak, maybe even later today.

We continue to see a gradual lifting of restrictions, some ahead of schedule. We have reason both for hope and for renewed commitment to live responsibly, respecting the lives of our brothers and sisters, who depend on our good will and informed judgment to support their wellbeing.

Let us continue to pray for the many people and situations that call for our intercession. For farmers and fishers as their season begins. For the sick and their families. For those who have died. Remember those whose work is in our service—in stores and shops, in hospitals and long-term care homes and laboratories, in legislatures and on the roads. Especially this week, pray for all who feel stressed and pressured by our current circumstances, and for those who are victimized in any way.

We plan to livestream our Mass from SDU Place this Sunday morning at 10:30. We had some technical problems last week, and hope they have been resolved. We’re learning as we go, and like the Spirit’s action in our lives, it’s not always smooth and predictable. Follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1105224579859526/

If I can be of help, please let me know. 902-894-3486  or frkeithstdunstans@gmail.com

My prayer is with you every day. As I pray the Mass, I continue to let my imagination wander around the church, recalling you to heart and mind. I appreciate your prayer for me. Get out when you can for some air and exercise!

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

ST. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US.

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Virtual Baby Bottle Drive

The PEI Right to LIFE Association is hosting a Virtual Baby Bottle Drive from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. Please support us in advancing pro-life values, and helping Island women and babies in need. See our website: www.PEIRight2life.ca  to donate. Build a team if you like with your friends or parish and inspire some friendly competition! We also have real baby bottles if donating online is not an option. If you would like one, please call or email Pat: 902-894-5473 or office@peiright2life.ca

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Letter from Fr. Keith (May 8)

May 8, 2020

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

We are about to enter our third month of responding to COVID-19. This week, we have heard that all 27 cases of the illness in our province are considered to have recovered. We’ve also been advised that some restrictions are being relaxed ahead of schedule. That renews our hope as we continue to act responsibly. Islanders are to be commended, we’re told, for taking the situation seriously and accepting in good faith the limitations imposed on us for the sake of the common good. Let’s resolve to maintain our efforts in anticipation of the day when the virus’ impact will be a memory.

As the Easter season continues to unfold, we hear this Sunday in our Second Reading from the first letter of St. Peter. Scripture scholars tell us that this New Testament epistle may have originated as an Easter-time homily from the first century after the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you’d like, find this reading in your missal or in your Bible: 1 Peter 2:4-9.

From that inspired work we hear these words: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner.” Some translations use the term “cornerstone.” This quotation is taken from Psalm 118 and Isaiah 8. It’s a good example of the early Christians taking a passage from the Old Testament to teach something about Jesus.

Jesus both forms the foundation and holds together the structure of what 1 Peter calls “the spiritual house,” the People of God, the Church, all of us together in Christ. In spite of that reality, Jesus was not only cast aside; he was put to death. He is the stone, stumbled over and rejected, who became the cornerstone.

Does that still go on: in our own lives, in the life of the world? Moving out from the example of Jesus, what or who do we—individually, locally, globally—dismiss out of hand, that, all the while, has the potential to serve an essential purpose, to be a foundation for something good and necessary and life-giving? Maybe it’s a feature of our personality or something from our history, or in the bigger picture, some world event or some group?

COVID-19 might give us something to think about in relation to those biblical words. Of course, no-one wants it. It’s horrid, spewing havoc. The day it’s banished from our midst will be a day of celebration and joy! At the same time, does it give us—as individuals, as families, as faith communities, as a global family—an opportunity to learn some important lessons? Have we discovered anything about ourselves from the isolation and physical distancing of the past two months? What might the pandemic teach nations about the importance of their cooperating for the betterment of the world? What does it say about who is essential to the proper functioning of society? How does it instruct as to the value of our senior population, and the dignity of where and how people live when they are no longer able to care for themselves? How can we use the current difficult, disrupting experience as the cornerstone of building a deeper way of seeing the world, and living responsibly and compassionately and joyfully in it?

God did not send this coronavirus. Such trauma is not what God is about. At the same time, God is in the midst of it with us. It’s our present reality, the present reality, a news report yesterday related, of every country on the planet. God works today, friends, not in how we’d like things to be or pretend them to be. God works in the way things are. The Spirit of the risen Jesus acts in the here and now—in our personal lives, in the life of the world. That’s why it’s always in our best interest and for the collective good to seize the moment to search for grace, and the direction in which that ever-living, ever-loving presence of God points us. The very reality we would never have chosen has the potential to become the cornerstone of a future in which we would all like to live. It’s for us—at all levels of society—to be open to the inspiration empowering us together—through, with, and in Christ—to bring it about. In the mystery of God’s loving providence, all things, the letter to the Romans teaches us, have the potential for good.

Please continue to pray for Nova Scotia: this week, again, hit with tragedy. Pray for our front-line workers in hospitals and long-term care homes, in stores and repair shops, on the highways. Pray for medical researchers. Pray for our political leaders. Pray for those who find it difficult to live according to public health directives. Pray for homes and families. Pray for those affected and afflicted by the virus, and for those who have died. Pray for engaged couples, postponing their marriages because of the infection. Pray for each other that we may use our here and now reality to its very best, graced advantage. And, yes, on this second Sunday of May, pray for mothers—living and gone before us—expectant mothers, and for those many women who nurture children—tiny and grown—not their own.

Once again, we plan to live stream Mass this Sunday at 10:30 from SDU Place. Here’s the link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/174833937124690/. Some technological changes were made last week to improve the sound quality. Thanks to all involved in this outreach.

My prayer is with you and yours every day. Be in touch if I can be of help.

Let’s bring this to a close, giving the last word to the first letter of Peter: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you might proclaim the mighty works of him who called you out of darkness into his own wonderful light.” May we support one another, my friends, to live that reality from one day to the next, for the glory of God, for our own true and lasting good, for the salvation of the world.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

St. DUNSTAN, PRAY FOR US!

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Letter from Fr. Keith (May 1)


Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

Today, as I write this, is Day 1 of Phase 1 in the process of easing COVID-19 restrictions in our province. There is cause for rejoicing, though we continue to be cautioned that the virus has not yet been defeated. It remains essential that we continue to follow public health guidelines, avoiding the temptation to exceed what we are permitted to do in relation to activities and interpersonal contact. We are encouraged that our adherence to present regulations will be for our collective benefit in the longer term. As we move through the phases, how they impact us as a faith community will become more clear. For now, the situation continues as it has been since mid-March.

This Fourth Sunday of Easter has traditionally been known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Jesus is the “Good Shepherd,” tending the flock to which all of us belong. That’s how we interpret the psalm we will pray at this Sunday’s Mass. Jesus leads us. He guides us. He restores us. He feeds us. He soothes us. In other words, he cares for us our “whole life long.” And we know, that by the power of his Cross and Resurrection, our “whole life long” stretches into eternity.

There is no better-known or more-beloved psalm than Psalm 23. Its words of comfort convince us, in the midst of life’s ups and downs, that “goodness and mercy shall follow [us] all the days of [our] life.” Further, ultimately, no matter how we might feel in the throws of chaos and uncertainly—personal and societal—goodness and mercy retain the upper hand, and have the final triumph.

God’s word in Psalm 23 comforts us. God’s word in Psalm 23 does something else for us. It challenges us. Expect to find comfort and challenge in every encounter with the word of God. Both hold out the gift of salvation. To find the challenge in Psalm 23, it helps to go back to the very first chapter of the very first book in the Bible: Genesis. There we learn that human beings are made in the “image and likeness” of God. In other words, at our depths we profoundly resemble God. So if God, in Christ, shepherds us, we are called and empowered to shepherd one another.

One of the ways we do that in this spring of 2020 is by following the guidelines that are laid out for us by public health. We don’t have to travel far afield or accomplish head-line-grabbing feats in order to shepherd each other in the name of Jesus. Simply be faithful and generous and responsible in living every day, as he was when he walked the hills of Galilee. In him, that’s what saves the day. That’s how the salvation he brings is experienced and shared. No frills. Faithful living in the big things and the small. Spouses being faithful, parents nurturing their children, members of families caring for each other, neighbours looking out for neighbours, people of good will responding to the needs of those on the other side of the globe: That’s what it is to be shepherds, in imitation of and in gratitude to the “Good Shepherd.” It takes sacrifice. That, too, is a gesture of imitation and gratitude. We learn from Jesus that loving sacrifice is the door that opens unto new life—for those making the sacrifice and for those receiving it.

A concrete way to shepherd in our present situation: is there anyone you know who may need a phone call or a connection of some kind? Please reach out to them. If I can be of support, or you’d like me to make an outreach, contact me: frkeithstdunstans@gmail.com or 902-894-3486. The Knights have also offered their services. Contact Don Chevarie 902-566-4337. Other parishioners have offered to be in phone contact with anyone who would appreciate that. As I mentioned previously, those folks can be reached through me.

We plan to live stream the Mass from SDU Place this Sunday at 10:30. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/234039087940915/

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” says the Psalm. In the risen One, may we be goodness and mercy to one another, goodness and mercy for the sake of the world.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

PS Below is a copy of the message of sympathy I sent earlier this week on our behalf to the mayor of Colchester County, Nova Scotia.

Dear Mayor Blair, I'm sending along this note to express our deepest sympathies to you and to the people of Colchester County in the aftermath of the horrific events of April 18 and 19. Colchester County is a part of Nova Scotia with which so many PE Islanders are familiar as we make our way across the bridge to Halifax, so the pain all of you feel is the anguish of our neighbours and friends. We share your grief, and, every day, hold you, your colleagues, and the people of your community in our thoughts and prayers.

Most Sincerely,

Fr. Keith Kennific and the People of St. Dunstan's Cathedral Basilica Parish, Charlottetown

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