You’ll find that in the course of Sacred history, it is not uncommon for a story’s significance – a very important story – to become truly appreciated only after decades and even centuries have passed. Because the Church’s history has been largely tied to what was going on in Europe, Catholics have generally looked to the drama going on there to read the signs of the times. But here in Canada, we have had our own drama going on for 46 years concerning one faithful priest’s courageous witness to the most important issue of the last 50 years — the transmission of human life. I am speaking, of course, of our great champion, Msgr. Vincent Foy – Canada’s great priest and prophet of our times. Msgr. Foy, as many of you know, has been at the forefront of a battle of epic and global proportions which has not yet been fully appreciated or understood. We, in the Pro-Life Movement, have generally been focused on battling for the protection of unborn life in the greater society, although in the last 20 years, we’ve clued in that the real battle is within the Catholic Church itself. I have long come to the realization that unless we get our own house in order, our witness to the world will be compromised at best, and a waste of time at worst. That’s a hard truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. No house divided against itself can stand:
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. (Matt 12:25-29)
Notice what Jesus says? How can we as a Church preach Humanae Vitae – the most important message of our time – unless we tie up the “strong man” within our midst? And who is this Strong Man? It is none other than the dissent within the Church which contradicts the solemn Magisterium on the transmission of human life. I am speaking, of course, of the Winnipeg Statement. This past Saturday, I had the great privilege of waking up a 3AM, picking up two fellow travellers and heading towards Scarborough for Msgr. Foy’s 75 anniversary celebration of his ordination to the holy priesthood. St. Lawrence Catholic Church is rather quite beautiful and reverent. Checking out their regular mass times on Sunday, they have three or so masses on Sunday morning in English, one in Italian, and one in Latin at 1PM. By the time the Mass started, the Church, which is rather large, was about 75-80% full, which was a great testimony to a wonderful and holy priest whose influence still reaches very far and wide. Holy Mass was in the Extraordinary form with Cardinal Collins presiding. It was the first time that I experienced a Latin Mass with a bishop or cardinal present, and it was very elaborate, profound, and beautiful. It lasted close to 2 hours. It is really not difficult to see how the liturgy really is a reflection of so many things in the Catholic Church. I am convinced if the liturgy was more like this, we would have less problems in the Church. Suffice it to say, there would be fewer people dashing for the parking lots with a 2 hour mass. Stay awhile, friend, and pay attention. Mass is serious business. Cardinal Collins’s homily was also very impressive.
The profundity of the liturgy causes a certain sobriety in its participants – both those on the altar and those in the pews – and this small observation was certainly reflected in the Cardinal’s homily. ++Collins spoke of the fortitude and perseverance we need to have as Catholics in our current culture and to fight the temptation to leave and reject her solemn teachings. He praised Msgr. Foy’s fidelity and persistence in preaching the truth of Humanae Vitae. ++Collins noted that it was our duty to challenge and evangelize our culture, to get out and spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus and the Gospel of Life. The homily was very poignant and relevant to this Pentecost weekend. And, yet, despite this wonderful homily, what Msgr. Foy is most noted for, his grand mission of his priestly service to the People of God, went unmentioned and unrecognized. That grand mission, of course, was his constant calls for the retraction of the Winnipeg Statement. No one was really expecting such an acknowledgement by Cardinal Collins, of course, since it would have set in motion a flurry of activity from the Faithful to reboot the discussion on the Winnipeg Statement’s retraction. Humanae Vitae has been in cold storage in Narnia for the past 46 years under the Witch’s deadly gaze. The great spiritual condom over Canada is still here and until it is removed, we will never get any real traction in this fight in the culture of death.
As for Msgr. Foy, he sat to the right of the altar in his wheel chair, smiling and joyful all the time in his monsignor’s grand attire. He spoke just before the recessional on his early life as a priest. He mentioned his dramatic petition to God to save his mother from pneumonia by promising to serve the Church as a priest should God save his mother’s life. Within two days, his mother made a recovery and God came to collect on the vow. It was a vow that every Canadian Catholic should be rejoicing in. He spoke of his early life as a priest and the many times he was initially sent to this place or that, only for his trip to be cancelled – a lot of packing and unpacking of bags, as he joked. After Mass, invited guests were welcomed to a wonderful reception with delicious food! I had a chance to meet many great people whom I had been wanting to meet for a long time. Lots of people travelled from all parts to come to this event. It really was a great testimony to the impact that one faithful priest can have on so many people. Lots of happy warriors in one place got a reprieve for one afternoon for some laughs and smiles.
At the beginning of the Reception, I had a chance to sneak in and have my picture taken with Msgr. Foy and introduce myself. It was the first time we actually met and it was a very emotional moment for me because he represents the priestly service to the Church that is so needed today. I had the great privilege of kissing his hand. It’s a very good thing to kiss the hands of faithful and holy priests, and it represents a tradition that really needs to be recovered to show our obedience and fidelity to them and an appreciation of their paternal sacrifices. I simply cannot get over the biblical imagery of who Msgr. Foy truly is. It is the imagery of Simeon at the Temple in Jerusalem:
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
I pray to God that He bestow on his Faithful Servant, Vincent Foy, the favour of letting him see in this life God’s truth prevail in the Church in Canada before He dismisses His servant in peace.
To that end, Socon or Bust is calling on all readers who have not yet done so to sign the petition to Retract the Winnipeg Statement and spread this petition far and wide. We need to kick-start the momentum again. Based on the conversations I have had with some of the people who accompanied me to the event yesterday and at the event itself, I think we are going to start to move ahead with concrete plans to accomplish our goal. Please pray for our efforts.
2018 will be the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (July 25) and the Winnipeg Statement (September 27).
Msgr. Foy is turning 99 later on this year and at his age, they say that he’s packing his bags for his trip into eternity, but God-willing there will be one more stoppage in those plans until the Winnipeg Statement is retracted…one more bag to unpack.
We have work to do.
Forget this Saint’s name…can you guess it? Dog with bread in his mouth must give it away for some of you.
The recessional at the conclusion of Mass. Beautiful Processional Metropolitan Cross. Majestic….like the Catholic Church Herself.
Cardinal Collins processing out after Mass.
Cardinal Collins presenting Msgr. Foy with a commemorative stole for his Anniversary in appreciation of his service.
Msgr. Foy cutting his cake. I am sure he would have preferred the cake to be replaced with the Winnipeg Statement. Now that would have been a grand celebration!
Yours truly with Msgr. Foy. A picture that I will greatly value as the years go by.