In the Footsteps of St. Paul
Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto gave the keynote address at the annual “Cardinal’s Dinner” to support Catholic charities in the Archdiocese.
His address builds upon the declaration of Pope Benedict of a “Pauline Year;” but it also shows a contemporary sensibility (perhaps the Archbishop has been reading fellow-Canadian Charles Taylor).
He says in part:
In our lives as individual disciples, and as communities of faith, we should like Paul be contemplatives in action. Through our lives and our example we proclaim the Lord whom we have first encountered in prayer. All our bold apostolic initiatives – so necessary if we are to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul and engage our world as effectively as he engaged his – will be mere busyness if we do not like Paul root our creative action in the experience of Christ. Fruitful action flows out of adoration, and in adoration we realize that all life-giving action is a response to the grace of God. We do not save the world. We are only servants, and we must be attentive to our Master, in whom alone we find our strength.
Some practical implications for us as an archdiocese:
The celebration of the Sunday Eucharist should be the spiritual focal point of our life. This means practically that in each parish we need to be attentive to the way in which we dispose ourselves for the encounter with Christ in Word and Sacrament each Sunday. The music, the homily, the service at the altar and in the congregation, the welcoming of friend and stranger, the preparation for a fruitful hearing of the Scriptures, the prayerfully attentive celebration of the rites, and all such elements of our Sunday celebration dispose us to the encounter with the Lord at the Sunday Eucharist, which then impels us, as Paul was impelled, to a life of practical service – to the washing of the feet which was at the heart of the Last Supper. Thanks be to God if after each Mass, fortified by the encounter with God through Word and Sacrament, we go in peace to love and serve the Lord and our neighbour throughout the coming week. Not only the Eucharist, but each of the sacraments which Our Lord has given to us allows us to encounter our Divine Master in this earthly world.
Individually, and as communities of faith, we must recognize that it is not merely a set of doctrines that we proclaim, but the person of Jesus. So the experience of Eucharistic adoration, the occasions for studying the living faith of the Church, the practice of Lectio Divina in which we listen to the voice of God through prayerful reading of the Bible – all these things will enable us to be more effective servants of God in engaging the problems and opportunities of our society.
If we follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul, our apostolic action will arise out of a deep personal encounter with the Master.
He suggests further implications:
We need to become involved wholeheartedly in the world of popular culture and the media. People spend more time at the computer and TV than in Church. We should also not be shy in engaging in the public conversation regarding social issues, and Christians need to be encouraged to engage in public service as politicians.
We need to give a reason for the hope we have to the people we meet day by day. That means we have to know our faith, and also be ready to explain it and, if necessary, defend it.
Paul did preach to the choir, but not only to the choir. We too need to seek creative ways to shine the light of the Gospel into every corner of our society. We can do this most effectively by the witness of a life well lived in our families and in the wider community, and amid the activities of the secular world of work and entertainment. Vatican II spoke of the universal call to holiness, and whatever our role in society or the Church we can make our baptismal commitment real by living day by day with Christian integrity as we go about our tasks in the world. All that we do, we do well, for we do all for the Lord.
The full address is here (with thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for the link).