Author Archives: Kate

The Epiphany: the Greatness of Jesus Revealed in his Smallness

A Christmas gathering in Santiago, Chile.

A Christmas gathering in Santiago, Chile.

“We travel all the way from the East, are you sure this is the place where the King of the Jews is born?”

“I am not 100% sure. We were told to follow the star. And the star stops here.”

“A messy manger? To pay homage to a child born in a messy manger?”

“Well, since we are here, might as well go in to have a look.”

“What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, King to own Him. The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and Angels sing. Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.” (What Child is This lyrics)

Today, on this great solemnity of Epiphany, the Church celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the world, represented by the encounter with the three wise men (magi) who traveled from the East, guided by the star, to see the newborn babe in the manger in Bethlehem. They are Gentiles, people from outside the Israelite nation. According to Cambridge Dictionary, Epiphany means: a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you; a powerful religious experience. So what’s The Solemnity of Epiphany so important to us, what do we suddenly understand and what’s the powerful experience? First it doesn’t make common sense for the King of Jews to be born in a messy manger. A 4+ stars inn, at least. He must be a child more than of the rich and nobles. “In sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. … This child is destined … to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:30-35). I recall Pope Benedict XVI also said “God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. . . . God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him” The Child is revealed for all of us, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come!” The opening words of the first reading (Isaiah 60:1) give us a command to follow. The star, the light the Child Jesus is for us all who search for peace, for salvation, and the meeting of Jews and Gentiles, believers and non-believers. God calls us together soaked in his love, and he calls us to become one family where peace and reconciliation reign. The light gives us faith, hope and love. How do we welcome our neighbours and friends who do not share our faith? Like the Magi, who make an extraordinary trip to pay homage to the newborn Christ, we are also invited to pay homage and are to be the heralds of the Good News, to proclaim that Jesus is born and there is freedom in Him who lived and loved, died and rose for us. Let us be overwhelmed with joy, and dare to invite others in.

Tomorrow, Monday, is the Solemnity of Baptism of the Lord. After that, the Christmas season will end and the Ordinary Time begins when the Baby Jesus will be 30 by then to start His mission. “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). The Baby Jesus is for all the poor, literally, physically and spiritually. He is a Child of the poor. I started my permanent deacon mission at double His age (60) to serve the needy and the poor. Soup kitchen, services at missions, hospital and old age home visits, etc. The sleeves of our dalmatics are so designed to be wide enough for ease in carrying supplies and food to the helpless and hungry. But now, ten years later, I, like a new born baby, cannot walk and talk. iPad is the only device for me to communicate. Google helps me to search and research for my weekly assignment, the reflection. I have been pondering everyday puzzling on who I serve now, and what’s next.

When I meditate on the nativity after mass on New Year’s day, I suddenly become conscious of: the greatness of Jesus revealed in his smallness, coming into the world as a helpless child born in the poorest conditions. Christ came in this weak state to help us to be at peace with our own helplessness and weakness. He wants to lift us up in all of the glory with which we have been created. His love and mercy are ALWAYS available to us! Christ being a Child of the Poor gives me comfort and hope.

“Helpless and hungry, lowly afraid, wrapped in the chill of mid-winter. Comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world. Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor. Who is the stranger, here in our midst, looking for shelter among us? Who is this outcast? Who do we see amidst the poor, the children of God? … Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace; bring those with nothing to offer. Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart: “Fear not, here is our God!”. Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ,revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.” (Scott Soper, “Child of the Poor” Lyrics)

By Deacon Raymond Chan, Chalice speaker and Champion

A child in Cochabamba, Bolivia is delighted by her new gift. Photo by Janelle  Witzaney

Gifts of Love and Thanks

Advent is an exciting time at Chalice because we see an outpouring of love in many different forms. This deluge of the heart is no accident, it is prompted by the anticipation of the Lord’s arrival. It is from our natural inclination of wanting to be close to Christ that we desire to share the gift of love with others. The beauty of expressing love is in our creation. The Lord has made each and every one of us an individual who shows our love in very different ways.

In his book Life is Worth Living, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says, “Nothing ever happens in this world that does not happen first inside human hearts.”  Naturally we look to prayer when we want to make something happen inside the human heart. Through prayer we are making a connection with the Lord which, in turn, connects us to all of His children. Prayers open hearts and can create tangible expressions of love.

When Chalice supporter’s hearts are moved to give, our hearts are also stirred. Deacon Danny MacDonald, our School and Parish Administrator says even a task as simple as opening the mail during Advent is deeply inspiring because we see the generosity of people.  Deacon Danny also said the love and generosity does not stop at our individual supporters. One parish wanted to encourage others to give donations for mosquito netting from our Chalice Gift Catalogue. In order to show their solidarity with our work, the parish covered their nativity scene in mosquito netting!

When the Three Wise Men visited Jesus after his birth, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. There is a major significance attached to these gifts because the Wise Men were not only acknowledging the importance of the birth of Jesus, but they were also giving gifts of love and thanks for the Son of God’s arrival. Living in Canada has afforded us the opportunity to be able to give gifts that express our gratitude for all of God’s blessings. When we share our blessings with others, we give gifts from the heart, letting the recipient know they are one of God’s children and they are loved. Chances are the recipient of that gift will experience a movement inside their heart that will allow them to pass the love on in a meaningful way.

The month of December, admittedly, is a very busy time of year, but it is also a time where our hearts are open and we are ready to celebrate Christmas. So go fourth and spread your gifts from the heart with others. Whether in the form of a kind greeting, lending an ear to listen or buying a gift – spread joy this Christmas and create tangible expressions of love.

By Heidi Hlubina – Parish Coordinator

Cover photo by Janelle Witzaney – Solidarity Tour Volunteer

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Advent: Savour the Wait, Savour the Chocolate!

I am not a patient person. It just doesn’t come to me naturally. I’m a true millennial, raised in a world of instant gratification, and I don’t like having to wait. As a child, I always had an Advent calendar, and being forced to eat only one little chocolate square per day was torture!

And yet there is wisdom in waiting. Advent chocolate was a special treat specifically because it involved patience and baby steps – if I’d eaten all 24 pieces at once, it would just have been a big chocolate bar, here and then gone. Instead, it left an impact on me because it was slow and deliberate. Advent calendars were a special treat because of the waiting involved.

Even now, as an adult, Advent leaves me impatient. It’s hard not to be excited for Christmas – time with family and friends, good food and good wine, presents galore. Without thinking, I sometimes find myself wishing for Advent to speed by. But like the little pieces of chocolate behind each window in my Advent calendar, each day and week of Advent brings a little piece of joy that should be celebrated.

I’ve come to value Advent as a time of spiritual renewal. The holidays are a hectic time of year, with shopping to do, lots on my plate at work, loved ones traveling. It’s easy to get caught up in the details – my budget for this gift, my coffee date with that person. Advent is an opportunity to slow down and focus on the One worth waiting for, the One whose birth is the reason this is a time of celebration.

As a kid, once I ate one of my chocolates, there was nothing to do for the next 24 hours except wait passively. But Advent is a different kind of waiting, an active waiting. We wait for Jesus by spending more time in prayer, by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation, by giving generously to those in need. Waiting for Jesus is never sitting around, twiddling our thumbs – it’s spending more time with Him and living out His calling for us.

The miracle of Christmas – God the Father sending His only Son, divinity taking on flesh, all out of unconditional, overwhelming love for us – is one that needs preparation. Amid the busyness of December, set aside time to prepare your heart for the arrival of Jesus. If, like me, patience is not your strength, then filling your Advent with active waiting will help much more than chocolate rations!

By  Jenna LeBlanc, Sponsor Representative & International Department Administrator

 

 

Ms Geetha and her new sewing machine.

“Give A Man a Fish…”

Power for a sewing machine: 220 volts. Power for a chainsaw: 58 volts. Power for an oven: 240 volts. Power for a man or woman to earn a consistent, competitive daily wage: stronger than the sun!

Unemployment among parents is a consistent issue across all of Chalice’s sites. Finding daily wage work (such as agricultural labour) is challenging and often seasonal, and permanent positions a pipe dream to many. Naturally, many people become entrepreneurs, making use of their skills and available resources to start a small business – be it a handicraft, or a service, or an agricultural endeavour.

But as we all know from shows like Dragon’s Den, any new business needs capital up-front. To sell the tomatoes, you need to buy all the materials to grow them. To sell woven saris, you need to buy the loom and the silk. To sell flowers from a cart, you need the cart!

That’s why it’s so exciting to meet community members in the Chalice sites who have taken the plunge with a small business with an item either given from the Gift Catalogue or with a loan from their Chalice Circle Group. The impact of such every-day items is almost immediate, and that impact is significant!

For instance, I met Mr Munyamuthu in the village of Edaiyar, a part of Chalice’s STAR site in India. In that region, most people rely on daily agricultural labour jobs, such as picking and weeding, to earn income. However, that work is inconsistent at best, and often disappears when the local crops are out of season, or the harvest is poor due to lack of rain. Mr Muniyamuthu’s family were among the people who relied on this source of income, but also had one other asset –  a sound system they could rent to major events, especially weddings. Through the Chalice Gift Catalogue, he was able to purchase a Samiyana, a brightly-coloured tent canopy, also to be used at weddings and large events. He has had it since June of 2017, and has already made several bookings. He is able to take more than 1,000 rupees ($20) with a single day’s rental. He joked with me that he always wears a white shirt and dhoti (the traditional long, skirt-like garment) so that he looks likes the brides who want to rent his tent!

Mr Muniyamuthu, his family, and their new Samiyana tent

Mr Muniyamuthu, his family, and their new Samiyana tent

I met Ms. Geetha, who lives in the village of Thatanur, also a part of STAR in her tailoring workshop. She and her son were abandoned by her husband, and she was left destitute. She was forced to move in with her parents. In June 2017, she received a sewing machine from the Chalice Gift Catalogue. She now runs her tailoring operation out of the back of her father’s restaurant. With the new machine, she is able to do double and triple the work than she was able before.

Ms Geetha and her new sewing machine.

Ms Geetha and her new sewing machine.

When I was in Nanyuki, Kenya, the local Chalice staff were eager for me to meet Mr. Josphat. Before Josphat’s child was enrolled in the sponsorship program, their family’s life was very difficult. He was a “hawker” – selling small items such as socks and vests (undershirts) in the street.  He and his family lived in a slum.  He always wanted to start a business, but could never get the capital up-front to do so. When Josphat first received the Family Funding money from Chalice, he bought one piece of charcoal, and sold it. Then a bag of charcoal. He expanded to selling a small amount of tomatoes. Now he has trucks full of tomatoes and onions to sell at his market stall. He has been able to move into a house near the market, with land for more farm production. His children had never slept inside a cemented house before – and they loved it! The whole family is also grateful that the sponsorship program has allowed all of the children to receive a good education. Josphat dreams of being able to buy an acre of farmland and begin cattle-rearing, securing the long-term financial stability of his family.

Josphat at the produce stall he owns and runs with his wife.

Josphat at the produce stall he owns and runs with his wife.

Everyone here at Chalice loves to see these dynamic parents investing in their families and the futures of their children. The fruits of their hard work, not to mention their bravery in the face of risk, shows in the ambition and success of their children. It’s like that saying – “Give a man to fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” It’s almost like Chalice adds “Give a man a fishing rod, feed him, and his family, for generations.”

 

— By Kate Mosher, Creative Specialist and Photographer at Chalice

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Talk About Street Art!

On my first day in Kumbakonam, the town where Chalice’s Tamil Site is based, my colleagues and I took an evening stroll through a residential neighborhood. I kept seeing chalk designs on the ground in front of the house’s doorway. Some simple, some more elaborate.

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My colleague explained to me that this practice is called rangoli, or sometimes kolam. Residents, often women and girls, will draw fresh ones in the mornings and evenings in front of their homes. At times, such as on special occasions or during festivals, the designs will have specific means or honour specific deities. Sometimes they are just decorative and an opportunity to get creative.

One woman came out and offered to let us watch as she drew a fresh one for her home. Expecting a simple design like the ones I had seen before, I pulled out my camera, expecting to film the entire process in about a minute. But with a guest and a gathering audience, our artist drew an intricate design that took at least a quarter of an hour!

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Throughout my travels in India, I was greeted with many beautiful and sophisticated rongoli designs.

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Too bad in Canada, we tend to spend more time shoveling our front stoops than drawing in chalk!

— By Kate Mosher, Creative Specialist & Photographer at Chalice

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Stews You Can Use – Functional Food in Nairobi

Since 2015, Chalice has been partnering with Inverness County Cares, a Nova Scotian community group, to support the daily operations of St Charles Lwanga Secondary School, near Nairobi, Kenya.

St Charles Lwanga secondary school, just outside Nairobi, Kenya.

St Charles Lwanga secondary school, just outside Nairobi, Kenya.

I was visiting the school, and my colleagues went into a meeting while I walked around the school to take pictures – I am the photographer, after all. I had made my rounds and returned to the headmaster’s office to wait for my colleagues to come for lunch. It became clear that lunch was going to be a while yet. So I went back out and hung out with students while they took their lunch break. Still no sign of my colleagues. But I realized the cooking staff were getting under way with preparing our meal. Thinking of those popular ‘recipe videos’ like on Mashable and Buzzfeed, I pulled out my camera and tried to capture the process of making…whatever it was exactly that they were making.

Chopping onions. Chopping tomatoes. Boiling water… aha! They’re making a stew! So, I got completely underfoot for the next hour or so while they prepared stew, rice, greens and other delectable items for my colleagues and me.

When I got home, I made my very own “recipe video” – but good luck trying it at home, because there aren’t exactly precise timings and measured ingredients.

Our meal that day represented many Kenyan staples. It included:

  • Beef stew – beef, tomato, onion, garlic, oil
  • Rice – classic and white!
  • Ugali – a staple for Kenyan cuisine – it consists of cooking either cornmeal, millet or sorghum flour in boiling water or milk until solidifies into a thick, doughy ball.
  • Stewed or braised mixed (collard) greens
  • Topped off with a beautiful, sweet, creamy local banana for dessert.

I had noticed that the students were also eating ugali that day, and theirs was paired with githeri, another ubiquitous staple meal, which really means any kind of combination of boiled beans and corn. It’s understandable why it’s popular – it’s highly versatile with flavouring, and it’s filling and nutritious when served with a starch — like today’s ugali, or perhaps a chapathi (a soft flatbread similar to tortilla or naan).

Serving plates of lunch at St Charles Lwanga

Serving plates of lunch at St Charles Lwanga

And with full bellies, we continued onto a highly productive day. My colleagues completed their meetings, and the students conducted a school-wide debate. Powered on nutritious food, there’s no stopping these young people!

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To learn more about St Charles Lwanga school, check out http://www.chalice.ca/ways-to-give/community-projects/4120-st-charles-lwanga-school-and-children-s-centre-kenya or here to learn about Inverness County Cares http://invernesscountycares.com/.

To learn more about the Chalice Children Nutrition Fund and how you can help, check out http://www.chalice.ca/get-involved/chalice-children

— By Kate Mosher, Creative Specialist and Photographer at Chalice