Playing And Praying


1st Sunday Of Advent 2022

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: November 27, 2022

Recently I was at a meeting at a school in which they were discussing issues about recess and how the young children were having difficulty with play.  After two years of Covid they struggled with recess play time.  They were coming up with a strategy to support them in playing.  Imagine that we have to teach children how to play!

Well, we live in a society that only considers things to be important that are useful, doing something that is productive in some way.  Pure play just for the sake of playing can seem a waste of time.

I think there is a connection between playing and praying.  Prayer can also seem to be useless, a waste of time in our society.  It does not achieve anything or produce anything, at least not in a visible way.  Both praying and playing are missing at times in our society.

We are too busy, have too many useful things to do, so we do not have time to play or to pray.

How many do not have time just to play with their children and how many of us say we do not have time to pray?

Jesus says to his disciples, “Keep Awake.”  I do wonder if most of us would even notice if Jesus came to us today?  We are so busy being productive, doing useful things, being busy.  Doing many things, full schedules, rushing to get the list done from our to do list.  But, are we spiritually asleep?

We do not pray to produce something, we do not pray to make something happen, we do not pray with any expectation of achieving something.  We simply pray to hopefully be awake to the presence of God coming to us in our daily life.  Our prayer does not make Jesus come, our prayer might allow us to be awake to notice Jesus coming in our daily life.

“I am bored.”  How many will say that today?  “I am bored.”  Is it that life is boring?  Is it that this universe is boring?  Every moment, every encounter, every person, everything has the potential to be the presence of Jesus coming to us, has the potential to be a moment of grace.  It is not that it is boring, it is that our hearts and souls are not awake to notice the grace.

In the great silence of God, we need to keep awake.  Prayer can help us to be awake to God in utter silence, in the most difficult moments of life.  The silence of God is not the absence of God.  Quiet moments of prayer throughout the day can keep us awake to recognize the grace of God.

Before everything we do, very simply say, “Come Lord Jesus.”  When we are cooking dinner for our family or friends, when we are going to visit an elderly parent struggling with dementia, when we are going on-line, when we are visiting a friend, when we are going for a walk, when we are commuting to work, when we are coming to the church for Mass, when we are going to do our Christmas shopping, just stop before going and pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”

That little moment of reflection before anything we do will maybe keep us awake to see the grace in that person or moment.  It does not need to be long time in prayer.  Simple and short before each new thing we do.  Praying in our heart, “Come Lord Jesus”

During this Advent, take time to pray and to play.  Both of them are useless and unproductive.  But both may be able to keep us awake and ready to notice the grace in each person, in each place and in each moment.

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Go Up A Mountain With Jesus


Second Sunday of Lent

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: March 13, 2022

Where do you like to pray?  Do you have a favourite place to pray?

Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain.  Away from the distractions and noise of daily life.  A time and place of solitude and silence.  This allowed them to see in a new way.  They saw and understood Jesus in a deeper way, in a new way.

It seems such a wonderful thing for those apostles who were taken up the mountain with Jesus.  We would love to be taken up a mountain to be alone with Jesus.  Yet, each day there is an opportunity for us to go with Jesus up the mountain.  A place of quiet, a place of solitude, a place of prayer.  For some, perhaps in our bedroom, for some, perhaps in our sitting room, for some, perhaps in a local church, for some, perhaps out for a walk.  Go with Jesus up the mountain now and then in order to see more clearly.

But, I wonder how many of us would actually go with Jesus.  Many of us would be too busy, too distracted, too many things to worry about.

In our new church building, my hope is to provide a place of prayer for us all.  The church itself is designed to allow all of us the baptized to gather and worship as the living body of Christ.  That all of us will fully participate in the Liturgy.

Within the church we will also have two shrines.  One dedicated to the Holy Family and one dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena.  These will be places for our more private time of prayer.  Especially the prayer of Intercession where many will take time to pray for family, for friends, for the needs of the world, as well as for their own times of personal discernment.

We will also have an Adoration Chapel, the Corpus Christi Adoration Chapel, which will be a place of private prayer time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally, we will have in the main walkway of the parking lot a Grotto.  The Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto with a statue of Our Lady.  I am sure that many will drive in and park near there for quiet moments of reflection.

Hopefully, all of these places in our new church will allow Jesus to take us up a mountain to see more clearly with times of solitude, silence and prayer.

Prayer is so important, but it is not an escape from the world.  It is not a moment to avoid responsibility.  Peter’s reaction was to want to build tents and stay up the mountain, it was such a nice experience.  But, staying in that experience of prayer was not the goal.  They had to go back down and continue on their journey, continue on their mission.  They had to still face suffering, fear, evil in the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Our prayer is not to be escapism.  It is not to avoid responsibility.  The escaped slave Frederick Douglass once said, “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”  Our praying for something is not meant to avoid doing anything about it ourselves.  Prayer is not a magical thing to get what we want, it is not an escape from my personal responsibility.  When we pray for something we should always see more clearly what I am called to do in that situation.

An example is when we have a sick family member or friend.  We may pray for their healing.  But that prayer should also help us to see our own call to assist and support that person.  Our prayer may give us the strength and peace to face the pain of seeing someone we love suffering.  Our prayer may help us to see how we are to walk with this person even as they face death.

I recently read something from St. John Chrysostom about the importance of prayer.  But, he emphasized that he did not mean just saying words or prayer of outward observance.  It is prayer from the heart that is not confined to fixed times or periods.  Continuous throughout the day and night.  Our spirit and mind reaching out, longing for God.

Not just when in formal prayer but also when we are carrying out our daily duties.  While at work, while caring for a family member who is sick or needy.  Throughout the day to reach out to God as a child longing to be tenderly embraced.  Turn to God with our heart before all that we do.  In this way we will become a dwelling place for God.

So, let Jesus take you up a mountain by finding places and times of silence and solitude.  Go to your favourite place of prayer.  Not as an escape from the world nor to avoid our own responsibility.  In all that we do in our ordinary daily lives, have prayer of the heart, continually turning to God.  Then, in each person we meet, in each thing we do during the day, we will see with the light of God, we will have the spirit of God within us that allows God to touch others through us.

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get in te zone

Get In The Zone

get in te zone

4th Sunday of Lent

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: March 14, 2021

“Help me Lord to get into the zone!”

Now I am sure that most of us have heard of this concept of being “in the zone”.

In sports it is the athlete who is in the zone and everything seems to click.

Golfers talk about when they are putting on the green that the hole seems the size of a bucket and they can see the path along the grass so easily.

Basketball players say that during a free throw they only see the basket and it is huge and the rhythm of the throw is so easy it goes in every time.

And for hockey players, I remember one goalie who was in the zone in the playoffs described the hockey puck was as large as a volleyball and he could see it coming “from miles away”.

This concept of being “in the zone” is one I think we are all familiar with and is in some ways I would argue what Christ is talking about to Nicodemus, and to us, in the gospel today.

Jesus says to Nicodemus one of the most famous lines of the gospel “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

Now traditionally, we interpret the words “eternal life” as our next life in heaven.  We think Jesus is telling us that if we believe than we get to go to heaven as our reward.

But is this really what Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us?

As is the case many times in the scriptures, the translation of the Greek words here are not as good in English.

The Greek word used is “aionios” which means everlasting, it means never ending, but the word is in the present tense also, not just after our death.

It means the unending presence of God, now and in the future, as we live with God side by side each day as our companion.

This really changes the impact in our lives as it means that we can experience, be in His presence, or we can be “in the zone” with God each and every day right here and right now!

Being in the spiritual zone with God is not only possible, but it is promised.

And I think we all know this don’t we?

There are times in our lives if we look back that we feel God’s presence and closeness in a special way, and we know in our hearts that He is there.

This may be on a retreat weekend when we have shut out the outside world and can feel a special nearness in those moments, but it is also in the hustle and bustle of live isn’t it?

Sometimes we may be feeling a bit lonely or down, and suddenly a friend or relative calls or drops by and says, “for some reason I was thinking of you”?  And God’s presence is felt!

We could wake up one morning and say, I really feel the need to bake for this person, or to make a lasagna for that friend.  And when we drop it off it creates so much joy…and God’s presence is felt.

Josie Lombardi who teaches some of our seminarians in Toronto had this to say this week about coincidences and God’s presence: “Doing God’s will means doing the right thing at the right time and in the right way.”

I would say that she is right and when we do this, we are in the spiritual zone!

When you have love in your heart and are taking care of an elderly mother of father, you are in the zone.

When you have compassion and sit with a child to help with homework after online classes that can be hard to interpret, you are in the zone.

When you take the vaccine, despite being skeptical because you know that it will make our society and neighbours safer, you are in the zone.

However, if you are like me, then sometimes we aren’t in the zone.  Sometimes we are tired, we are disconnected, we are self-reliant, and we can’t feel God’s presence in our lives.

Sometimes we are like the Israelites in the first reading who don’t even realize how far they have strayed until they are in Babylon singing the psalm today of how far they feel from God.

It is very natural to feel this way, and the important thing is to recognize it as soon as possible so we can return to the Father.

We know from the 2nd reading of what was written to the Ephesians and to us that God is rich in mercy…and we are brought close to him by His grace and His love as a gift of God.  It is not something we earn but a love we accept.

And so how do we get back into the zone when we have fallen away?  When we have lost our way after one week, or one month, or one year or even many years?

We follow Christ’s example when he also needed strength.  How many times do we hear in the New Testament “Jesus went off to pray” or “after he was praying”?

Prayer is the tool that God has given us to open our hearts, turn to Him once again in humility and ask to be brought back into His arms.

Like the prodigal son story, the Father is already running to us with open arms as soon as we turn our heads and move toward Him.

I have learned as you probably already know, that when I am self-reliant it is easier to move off the path, but with a strong prayer life, and knowing that God is breaking down the barriers for us, is making every hill low and every valley straight, we can be confident to hear His message and mission for us.

So, this week, I ask you to do this…in one of your prayers to God, in the silence of your heart say these eight words “Help me Lord to get into the zone!”


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Second Sunday Of Lent

Fr. Mark Gatto

Date Preached: March 8, 2020

How often when you pray are you asking for something? Have you ever been upset with God when your
prayers were not answered?

George Bernard Shaw once said, “most people do not pray, they only beg.” We do not pray to get God to do what we want, we do not pray so that everything will work out as I have planned. That is not faith, but some sort of entitlement. The fact is that life happens while we are making our plans. The stock market falls, we lose our job, a project we were working on fails, a relationship is lost, we become sick, a loved one dies. Our world is facing that now with the coronavirus outbreak. All of our plans can be so quickly and easily pushed aside by the events and circumstances of life.

Then we can begin to have problems with God. Why did God do this to me? Why doesn’t God fix this?How is it that God ignores my prayer? How often I have seen someone who after some difficult loss or struggle in life stop praying, stop going to Church.

We need to move beyond an immature notion of prayer as a way to make life turn out the way I want it to be. The true purpose of prayer is to fall into God. To fall into the hands of God with trust and faith. For none of us knows for sure our future, none of us can guarantee what will happen in our lives. True prayer leads us into God so that our heart learns to trust. When our prayers are not answered it is up to us to discover how to live the new, unexpected reality that our life brings us.

Abram in our first reading is called by God, to leave behind his family, his homeland, everything that was familiar to him. He was sent to a new land where he knew no one. God offers a promise, that Abraham would become a great nation and his name would be blessed. But, there was no obvious visible sign that this promise would come about. In fact, late in his life he has no child at all. Today, we recognize that Abraham is seen as the father of faith by the Jewish, Muslim and Christian people all through the world.

In the Gospel story of the Transfiguration, Jesus brings Peter, James, John up a mountain and they experience the Transfiguration. This experience of the glory of God in Jesus would not take away the suffering and death that Jesus would face. It would not take away the failure, the betrayals, the fears that the apostles would face at the crucifixion of Jesus. But, that Transfiguration experience would have been a source of hope, a path to trust for them as they faced thisunexpected and terrible situation.

Our prayer is like being brought up a mountain by Jesus to experience the glory of God. But, prayer does not make everything turn out the way I plan, the way I want. Prayer allows us to continue to trust, continue in faith even when we face the unexpected turns of life. When we face suffering, loss, disappointments. Like Abraham, like the apostles, we embrace these new realities with trust.

Find time and place for prayer in your life. Time and place for silence to dwell in the presence of God. Time and place to come to church to celebrate the Sacraments. These moments are like following Jesus up the mountain. Our experience in those times of prayer will not make everything work out the way you want in life. But, it will help you to face with trust the unexpected, the unplanned events that hit us.

Prayer is not about certainty, prayer is not about planning my life as I want, prayer is not about controlling all that happens in my life. True prayer is about trust, about falling into the heart of God, about accepting all that life brings, including the surprises.

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Bother God!


29th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: October 20, 2019

Do you bother God?  Well, you should bother God.  Go ahead and bother God.  Jesus himself is encouraging us to bother God.  Pray with perseverance.  Keep going back to God in prayer.  It is faith to keep praying even when it seems we are getting no answer, when God seems silent.

We see an example of persevering prayer in our first reading.  In this story of the people of Israel in a great battle, we see Moses at the top of the hill with the staff of God.  As long as he is holding it up, they were winning.  But, when his arms got tired and he lowered the staff, then they were being defeated.  So, to keep his arms lifted with the staff they sat Moses on a stone and two others held up his arms.

His raised arms were a symbol of prayer, of trusting in God.  This is why the Church matters, we also need others to assist us, to hold up our arms when we are tired, losing faith.

What do you think is the number one request I receive as a priest?  The number one thing that people ask me, is to pray for them or to pray for a loved one.  As a Pastor, everyday I pray for people of our parish.  Some who have asked me, others who come to mind to me because I know they have some special need at this time.

I also know that one of the great strengths for me, is that there are many parishioners, many people who pray for me each day.  The prayer of others for me is like Moses having the two others hold up his arms.  There is a grace and strength that comes through the prayer of others for us.

This is called the Prayer of Intercession.  To pray for someone else, to intercede for them.  This prayer of intercession is so powerful and so helpful.  It is a reminder that we are not alone in this life, that we are united in this journey, walking together in faith.  Pray for others, become intercessors.  Some people create an actual list, with a list of people they plan to pray for each day.

As I said, as a Pastor, one of the duties I have in my vocation is to pray for the people of my parish.  For those who are parents, one of the duties of your vocation is to pray for your children.  Never underestimate the power of a parent’s prayer, even when you seem to have no answer.

Persevere in that prayer, bother God.  For those of you who are grandparents, your prayer for your grandchildren is so important, it might the only connection they have to the Lord.

You who are teachers, as a Catholic, teaching is a vocation and part of that should be the prayer of intercession for your students.  For those of you who are business leaders, employers, you too should pray for your employees.  All of us should pray regularly for our parish.

The prayer of intercession is very powerful, it is a sign of faith in God and a sign of our unity to others.  When we pray for someone else, it changes us, it changes how we see them.

Intercede for others, like Moses holding up the staff of God to assist the people of Israel. Be intercessors, make the prayer of intercession part of your life.  Yes, bother God, bother God with your prayers.

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Are You Lost? – Fr. Mark


First Sunday of Lent – Year B

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: Feb 18 2018

Have you ever been lost? What do you do when you are lost?

Story of a priest who was driving somewhere with his sister. At a certain point it became clear that he was lost, but he did not say anything. His sister realized it too but waited for a while. Then she turned to him and said, “let me know when you are tired of being lost.”

The first step when we are lost is to realize it and to admit it.  Now, once we realize we are lost, if all we do is keep going in the wrong direction but driving faster, it will not help at all. The only thing we can do is to stop and turn around.

Sin can be like being lost, going in the wrong direction. Moving away from our true destination. The problem is that often we do not realize that we are lost, or we do not want to admit it. So, instead of stopping, turning around and searching for the right path, we just keep going on in the wrong way. Living lost.

Lent is that time when we are called to stop, to reflect on where we are going. Jesus calls us to repent. To turn around. So, the first step is for us to realize how we are lost, then turn around and find the right direction. The key question to help is know if we are lost or moving in the right direction, is “What really matters?”

There are 3 traditional practices of Lent — Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving. The 3 traditional practices of Lent each help us in recognizing how we may be lost, each help us to stop and turn around in the right direction, each help us to be guided by “What really matters”

  • Prayer: Forces us to stop, to slow down, to listen. Often we go through life and it passes as a blur. So, we become blind to the fact that we are lost. We do not even realize it. Sometimes only when something tragic happens or something major hits us that we wake up to see that we have been going in the wrong direction in our life. Prayer can be that little stop that allows us to see that more clearly.
  • Fasting: This choosing to live simply, choosing to use less, choosing to let go of some things. It helps us to remember what really matters. When we are too full with anything, we can lose sight of what really matters, what we really need to have life and what we do not need.
  • Almsgiving: When we give of our resources in mercy for the sake of others, then we are forced to reflect on who matters? It is not things, not money, but people that matter.

Beautiful story in our first reading of Noah’s Ark. We see the Covenant of God with humanity and creation symbolized in the rainbow. A covenant is simply the promise to remain. Here we have the Covenant of God, the promise to remain with us. The rainbow is the symbol of God’s goodness. Reminder that God does not desire to destroy, to punish. God desires to save, to lead us in the right direction to the fullness of life.

Lent is a special time for us to stop and reflect on our lives, is there some way in which I am lost in my life? Prayer, fasting, almsgiving all can help us to see how we may be lost and to remember once again what really matters. Turn back to the living God of the Covenant, God’s promise to remain. See the rainbow of the Goodness of God. Then we will not lose sight of what really matters.

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Building Commitee Prayer

Dear God, we gather in gratitude for the generations who have come before us, on whose shoulders we stand and whose work we continue. With humility, we look to You to pro-vide the wisdom, guidance and resources we need to accomplish our task. We ask for a fresh empowering of Your Holy Spirit to give us discernment, creativity and clarity.

We thank You for each person’s willingness to serve. Help us work as a team, carefully listening to one another, appreciating our differences and the variety of gifts we bring. Help us be open-minded and have as our ultimate goal the knowing of Your will.

Bless our efforts. Help us work efficiently and help us to be faithful to the mission of our parish. We look to the future with an eager hope and are filled with joy that You are doing a new thing. As we move forward, deepen our faith. Increase our love for You and for one another. Thank you for hearing our prayers. Amen.

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Never Pray In A Room Without Windows – Fr. Mark


32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: Nov 12, 2017

There is a saying:  “Never pray in a room without windows.”  Prayer is not to be an escape from the world nor an escape from responsibility.  We do not pray and then go sit and wait for God to do something.  Prayer should bring us to see the world as God sees it and then to do something.

In the second reading, St. Paul is speaking about the Resurrection, tells the Thessalonians “we do not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  For in the Resurrection we have eternal life ahead of us, we have hope beyond this time.

The Responsorial Psalm expresses that deep longing, “My soul thirsts for you O Lord my God.”  We hunger and thirst for God, for eternal love, we long to be with God.  But, longing for heaven does not mean we sit out this life.  As we look with hope to eternal life, it does not mean that this life does not matter.  Our longing for God and for eternal life begins with a longing to be with God now, in this life.  To see and care for creation, to see and care for our fellow human beings as God sees and cares for them.

In the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, we see the wise ones who took extra oil and so were prepared and ready when the bridegroom came in the middle of the night.  The foolish ones did not take extra oil and so were not prepared and unable enter with the bridegroom.  They were left out.  We need wisdom so that our prayer is not just an excuse to do nothing.  Our prayer should lead us to reflect and look at what action is needed.  Then we will be ready to enter with God wherever and whenever the Lord comes to be present and work in our world.

Some examples:

Gun violence:  Another Mass shooting in the States, this time in Texas.  Many prayers offered for the victims and those suffering.  That is a good thing.  But, God must be tired of being called upon by people who have no intention of looking at the situation and taking responsibility to do something about it.  Our prayer should lead us to action, to care, to find ways to work against this gun violence.

Mental Illness:  A reality so prevalent in our society.  One of the major causes of death among young people is suicide. Prayer for those who are suffering from mental illness and for their families and friends struggling, often in frustration to help them, is a good thing.  But, our prayer should also cause us to reflect on this reality within our society.  To want to understand mental illness more deeply, to be sensitive to so many struggling with various forms of mental illness, sometimes hidden.  Our prayer should also cause to ask important questions about what ways our society could respond in a better way, to provide greater resources for dealing with this reality.

Remembrance Day:  A time for us to remember those who have died in previous wars, to honour their sacrifice.  Prayer on this day is also a good thing.  But, attending a Memorial, offering some form of prayer, is not enough.  It must lead us to see that war is a failure of humanity.  Our prayer should lead us to being instruments of peace within the world, within our family.

So, pray, but “never pray in a room without windows.”  Do not pray and then sit back and wait for God to do something.Pray to see with God’s eyes, to see where and what I might be called to do.As we hunger and thirst for the living God, for Eternal life, hunger and thirst to join in what God longs for in our world today.Then we will be like the wise bridesmaids who were prepared to enter when the bridegroom came.

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