Friday, 30 December 2016

Happy New Year!

It is hard to believe that another year is almost over. Though people have been exchanging new year's wishes for centuries, it has become increasingly more common for people to do so on social media than in actual writing. This week, we are featuring new year's wishes to four archbishops and a cardinal in printed or handwritten formats, all from long before Facebook and Twitter were even thought to be possible. This selection even includes some items from before the word computer meant "calculating machine" as opposed to simply "one who calculates."

Bishop Farrell, the Bishop of Hamilton, wishes Archbishop Lynch "health, happiness and every grace for the new year":

Letter from the Bishop of Hamilton to Abp. Lynch,
December 31, 1872

L AD02.36
Archbishop Lynch fonds

An unknown bishop sent this tiny card (measuring just 2 x 3-¾ in or 5 x 9-½ cm) of new year's greetings to Archbishop McEvay:

ME AA02.01
Archbishop McEvay fonds

R. A. O'Connor, Bishop of Peterborough, offers Archbishop O'Connor "hearty good wishes for a blessed and happy New Year":

Letter from the Bishop of Peterborough to Abp. O'Connor,
December 29, 1900

O AB02.15
Archbishop O'Connor fonds

First and last pages of a letter to Archbishop McNeil from his niece, Sister St. Marie Beatrice, C.N.D., in which she mentions her new year's greetings to him for the year 1932:

Letter from Sr. St. Marie Beatrice, C.N.D., to Abp. McNeil,
January 8, 1932

MN AA03.216
Archbishop McNeil fonds

New year's greeting card from Bishop Charles L. Nelligan of Pembroke, Ontario, with a photograph of the Canadian Overseas Chaplains:

Greeting card from Bp. Charles L. Nelligan,
January 20, 1941
Card. McGuigan's signature is on the left.

Cardinal McGuigan fonds

The staff at ARCAT would like to take this (social media) opportunity to wish you a very happy new year and all the best for a healthy and joyous 2017!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Silent Night, Holy Night

Nativity scene at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Toronto


PH 102/063/02P
ARCAT Photo Collection

Tonight we recall the most beautiful story ever told - a story that is over 1900 years old, and yet that is as fresh and appealing as it was when it was first written by St. Matthew and St. Luke. It is a love story and it is a true story, because it is the story of God's love for man. To bring the story alive to us, a crib is put up in all our churches, made by human hands, in which we find the three persons who were the principal characters: Jesus, lying in a stable manger, Mary, His mother, looking upon her new-born Babe with ineffable love, and Joseph, standing nearby watching over the two precious treasures that God has entrusted to his care. The figures we see are little statuettes, lifeless, but reminds us of the real, living persons who played their parts in the first act of the divine drama, the outcome of which was to be our salvation.

Imagine for a moment that, as you look upon the scene in our miniature replica of the cave at Bethlehem, the three little figures suddenly come to life. What would they say to you, and what would you say to them?

Perhaps you would want an answer to a mystery which you may have wondered about. You would have expected that all Israel, or at least the people of Jerusalem and of Bethlehem would be thronging the cave to hail the Messiah Who had just been born. After all, this Child's birth had been foretold for centuries by the inspired writers of the Old Testament. The whole history of Israel had been one of promise, of warning, of appeal by God. Isaiah had written in prophecy: "A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulders; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God the mighty one, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace." One would have expected after all these prophecies, all this buildup, that the people would have come running to the cave to do Him homage. We would have expected that the whole world would know about His birth, that He would be acclaimed by all nations as the Saviour of the world. That would have been a fitting climax to those centuries of preparation. But this! A weak child born in obscurity, born in a stable, with no one to look after Him except His virgin mother and His foster-father. That was the most disappointing anti-climax to any event that ever occurred in the world.

Yet the kingdom that this divine Infant came to establish on earth was not one of worldly pomp and power, but a kingdom of love and of peace, in which poverty and humility would shine out in all their beauty and loveliness. The world at that time did not understand that, and, as St. John reminds us, when He came unto His own, His own did not receive Him. Does he mean any more to us now than He did to the world of His own time?

The centuries-old custom of exchanging gifts at Christmas is a beautiful one. The first one to give a Christmas gift was God the Father, who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to all men on the first Christmas. As soon as Jesus was born He began to give His gifts of love, self-sacrifice and suffering, first to Mary and Joseph, then to the shepherds who, in their turn, gave what poor gifts they had to offer.

Tonight the divine Infant wants to give each of us gifts that will bring us happiness and contentment, the gift of peace, the gift of love, the gift of a better understanding of His gift of His life that we might have life, of His gift of the sacraments, especially of the sacrament which brings us God's forgiveness and peace of conscience, and of the sacrament of the Eucharist in which He takes up His dwelling within us, uniting us in the most intimate way to Him. He pleads with us, on this His birthday, opening His tiny arms in a most appealing way, that we welcome Him into our hearts. If we can do that, then we will have a happy and holy Christmas, and as He Himself would wish, a Christmas merry in God.

Bishop Francis V. Allen, Christmas 1971
AL SR13.20

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Archdiocese of Toronto: Celebrating 175 Years of Faithful Service

On Saturday, December 17, 2016, the Archdiocese of Toronto will reach 175 years of existence. This incredible milestone will be celebrated throughout the coming year. Read this media release for more information, and check the Archdiocese of Toronto website often for upcoming events.

The Diocese of Toronto was erected and its first bishop Michael Power was named by two briefs issued by Pope Gregory XVI on December 17, 1841.

Brief of Pope Gregory XVI to the Most Rev. Michael Power appointing him the bishop of the new See of Upper Canada.

P RC23.01
Bishop Power Fonds

Brief of Pope Gregory XVI erecting a new See in Upper Canada and allowing Michael Power to choose the episcopal city.

 P RC23.02
Bishop Power Fonds

In honour of this significant anniversary, we thought a compare-and-contrast exercise might be in order.

Popes Then and Now:
1841: Pope Gregory XVI

Painting by Paul Delaroche, 1843
via Wikimedia Commons  

Pope Francis Celebrates Concluding Mass in Philly, September 27, 2015

Photo by Jeffrey Bruno is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

(Arch)Diocesan Boundaries Then and Now:


Bishop Power described the original boundaries of the diocese in his first Pastoral Letter dated May 8, 1842. The full letter is posted on the Our Faith Alive blog.

"The Diocess [sic.] of Toronto comprehends all that part of the former Province of Upper Canada or diocess [sic.] of Kingston to the west of the district of Newcastle, following, from Lake Ontario, the line which separates the Newcastle district from the Home district to lake Muskogo and then drawing a line in a north westerly direction thro' the Muskogo and Moon rivers and lakes to the mouth of the more westerly branch of the Two rivers" which empties itself into the Grand or Ottawa River."

Bishop Power Fonds, P AA06.01

Upper Canada, 1838. The line between the Diocese of Kingston and the Diocese of Toronto followed the line between the Home District and Newcastle District.

From the Economic Atlas of Ontario, 1969
As posted by the Archives of Ontario


The Archdiocese of Toronto stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario north to Georgian Bay covering a total of around 13,000 square kilometres. The current boundaries include the City of Toronto, the regional municipalities of Peel, York and Durham, as well as Simcoe County, and a portion of Dufferin County.

From the Archdiocese of Toronto Website.

Stats Then and Now:


Catholic Population



Number of Parishes



Number of Priests



A lot has changed in 175 years. The boundaries of the Archdiocese have gotten considerably smaller, while the Catholic population has increased exponentially. Mass was originally said in one language (Latin), and now more than 30 languages are used at 1,000 Masses per week. From Muddy York to the GTA, from the Home District to the Golden Horseshoe and beyond, we've come a long way.

Happy Anniversary, Archdiocese of Toronto! We can only imagine what changes, challenges and triumphs you will witness over the next 175 years.

For further information and insights, please see the historical timeline of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advent 2016 Day of Confessions

During the week of December 11-17, Cardinal Collins invites you to the Advent 2016 Day of Confessions at your local parish. This day is an opportunity to become spiritually ready for Christmas.

We got to wondering, what did Dr. Butler have to say about confession? James Butler was Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland from 1774-1791. In 1775, he first published a Catechism which was adopted by other Irish bishops and priests. Butler's Catechism saw printings of many editions, and was widely used over the next century. The pocket-sized book used a question-and-answer format to provide simple information about Catholicism to children.

Here in the archives, we have Archbishop Lynch's copy of the 42nd edition.

"A Catechism for the Instruction of Children. By the Most Rev. Dr. Butler"

Butler's Catechism, Forty-Second Edition
ARCAT Rare Book Collection
RB 10

Dr. Butler tells us that Penance is "a sacrament by which the sins we fall into after baptism are forgiven us."

Butler's Catechism, Forty-Second Edition
ARCAT Rare Book Collection
RB 10

On the next page, we learn that contrition is "a hearty sorrow and detestation of sin above all things, because it displeases a God so good in himself, with a firm resolution of sinning no more, and doing all we can to satisfy for our sins, and to amend our lives."

Butler's Catechism, Forty-Second Edition
ARCAT Rare Book Collection
RB 10

The modern answers to these questions can be found on the Archdiocese of Toronto's confession website. Check it out for lots of great resources to help you prepare for your visit to the confessional, including dates and times to visit your local parish.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Getting into the Christmas Spirit(s)

The Toronto Christmas Market is underway for another year in the Distillery Historic District, the area formerly known as the Gooderham & Worts Distillery. In the latter half of the 19th century, Gooderham & Worts was the largest distillery in Canada. Ontario’s period of prohibition from 1916 to 1927 hurt production, and the company was sold in 1923. The new owner, Harry C. Hatch, merged the company with Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. four years later.

The letter below is from ARCAT’s collection. The “government stores” it refers to are the soon-to-be-opened Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores (now commonly known as LCBOs), which were authorized by the highly criticized Liquor Control Act (1927). The original purpose of the LCBO was, essentially, to monitor the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages in Ontario as well as to track drinking in the province. People needed a licence, similar to a driver’s licence, to purchase and consume liquor. The LCBO kept track of what each person bought, down to the bottle.

Letter from Larry McGuiness to Fr. Manley,
December 13, 1926

MN AH15.109
Archbishop McNeil fonds

The Christmas Market continues until Thursday, December 22.