January 1st, 2018-New Year’s Day-Father Shawn Hughes

January 1st, 2018

Father Shawn Hughes


Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week.  Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it.  ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time.  If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.  

God bless you.

Father Shawn

We have much to celebrate today.   Primarily we celebrate this solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title Mother of God.   It is also the Octave Day of Christmas.  The eight days following the big feasts, Easter and Christmas are celebrated in a similar way to the feast itself.  Thirdly, we celebrate the circumcision of Jesus on the 8th day, and thus His submission to the Law.  Fourthly, it is the day Jesus was named.  The name Jesus literally means He who saves.   This is also the 51st World Day of Peace. Starting with Pope Paul VI, all the popes since have issued a special message of Peace on New Year’s Day.  And finally we celebrate this as New Year’s, the first day of the upcoming year.  Six major themes…a lot to cram into one celebration.

New Year: like a blank slate, start anew.

It’s the time we all make resolutions: Diet, exercise more, yadah, yadah, yadah

We can’t make a resolution unless you look back at the year that has ended and evaluate how it has gone:  I would encourage everyone to take an inventory in three areas i) your faith life ii) your relationships in your family and iii) your life at work or at school or if you are retired…other.   Ask three simple questions in each category:  What was good?  And in your prayer give thanks for that.  What was not so good and can be done better?  In your prayer ask for help in that.  The final question is what needs to be removed that is harming you or what needs to be added that would build you up.  Like we heard so much in Advent:  The mountains brought low…that which needs to be removed from our life and the valleys filled in…that which needs to be added to our life.

A review of last year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

This weekend’s newspapers are full of individual and collective New Year’s resolutions. Most of those, however, are not resolutions at all but only wishes. The difference?  A wish identifies a goal I want to reach, where I want to be:  wishes often remain in the realm of thought.  A resolution is very practical:  it specifies the steps I will take to reach the goal. It says this is the road I will take, AND this is what I will do to get there.

The wishful person says “I want to pass my exams this year” and the resolved person says “I will devote an extra hour to my studies everyday in order to pass my exams.” The wishful person says “I will have more peace and love in my family this year” and the resolved person says “I will spend more time with my family at meals instead of rushing off to the TV or some work or leisure activity…so that we get to know and understand each other better.”

The wishful spiritual person says “I will live a life of union with God this year” and the resolved person says “I will get up 15 minutes earlier and devote those first few minutes of each day to God in prayer.” Or I will sit down by myself, or better yet with my spouse or with my family, at such and such a time, every day and pray part or all of the Rosary or read some Scripture or read some spiritual reading…

The shepherds in today’s Gospel heard the angel’s message and resolved to go into Bethlehem to discover what it meant.  They acted.

Our Lady in the Gospel is said to have pondered all these things in her heart.  The Latin root of the word ponder literally means to weigh something.  She weighed these things in her heart and carried them.  She did the necessary review and weighing of what was happening and then made resolutions and acted on them….acted on them right to the foot of the Cross.

In one of his Christmas messages Pope emeritus Benedict XVI urged the world’s Catholics to be beacons of peace.  We can’t be beacons of peace unless we have that inner peace.


I think Peace is one thing we all can agree we desire.

The route to inner peace is threefold:

  • recognizing in ourselves both our strengths and our faults,
  • recognizing that there are some situations or circumstances we can’t do anything about,
  • taking control and resolving to actively work on the ones we can do something about.


Inner peace comes from examining our past, coming to peace with it, in letting go of what we can’t change and making resolutions for the future to change the things we can.


Something practical…

I’m a great one for lists.  I encourage each of you to take some time this weekend and sit down and prayerfully consider the past year…Make three columns:  one for your faith life, one for your family life, and one for your work or school life or if you are retired make a column that says other.  1) Faith life 2) Family life 3) Work/School/Other.    Write down what was good, write down what wasn’t, write down what you want to retain, write down what you can’t change, write down what you want to get rid of, write down what you would like to improve on…and then make a list of resolutions beside them of how you will go about improving those areas that need improving and you know you can do something about.


Keep this list around and consult it from time to time over the year to see how you are making out and perhaps tweaking the list here and there as the year goes by.    I encourage you to make this very practical spiritual plan for taking our wishes and making

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.