It opened, of course, with the beatification in Rome of Blessed Pope John Paul II. United with Catholics throughout the world, we rejoiced! Many recalled his visit to our city when he came to Canada in 1984. I remembered meeting him a number of times, and thought of how those who encountered him would often remark afterwards that they had just shaken hands with a saint. His beatification is a beautiful reminder to all of us of our universal call to holiness. God makes saints; we do not make ourselves holy. Our call is to open our hearts to the working of grace in our lives and to surrender to the transformative power of divine love.
We felt that grace in abundance in a number of events that occurred through the week. In the immediate wake of the beatification I gathered with Bishops, priests and lay faithful in our new Saint Joseph Seminary for the dedication of its chapel and the blessing of the entire building. The liturgy of dedication is rich in symbol, and in its beautiful celebration we truly knew that the Lord was walking with us. He had accompanied us throughout the transition from the old facilities to the new and we were gratefully aware that his love would carry us into the future where untold blessings await us.
On Wednesday Edmonton Catholic Schools held its annual Celebration of the Arts at the Jubilee auditorium. God is the author of beauty. Therefore, the talents of artists reflect the divine splendour. It was a delight to see the children ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 showcasing their talents and doing so to the praise and glory of God. Through the love of teachers and staff for the children I could feel the grace of the Lord “walking with” the children and delighting in them.
Friday evening was the annual Friars’ Ball. For the forty-second consecutive year, the people of the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Ukrainian Eparchy gathered for an evening of dinner and fun. Its purpose every year is to raise funds for seminarian formation. The enthusiasm that infused everyone that evening was a wonderful sign of the love of our people for the priesthood and of their desire to support with their gifts those in formation. Our generosity reflects our appreciation of just how generous God is with us. Our Lord, who will not be outdone in generosity, walks with us to provide the gifts we need for the accomplishment of the mission he entrusts to us.
From Thursday through Saturday inclusive, the Archdiocese of Edmonton was blessed with the presence of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the pontifical household. He traveled to Edmonton for Nothing More Beautiful on Thursday evening, where he was joined by our witnesses, Cam and Nadine MacDonnell, and for the Anthony Jordan lectures, hosted Saturday at the Basilica by Newman Theological College. In between the two events he led a morning retreat Friday for the clergy of the Archdiocese and then visited that evening our Italian parish of Santa Maria Goretti. Father Cantalamessa explained to me that, in all he says and does, he wants to convey the message that Jesus, our Risen Lord, is truly present with us as our life, joy and hope. This is precisely what the many who heard and witnessed Father Cantalamessa felt; our Lord “came up beside us” and walked with us and we knew he is alive.
In the Emmaus narrative, the hearts of the two disciples on the road were downcast until they realized that Jesus had risen and was with them. There is much that can cause sadness in our own lives, too. In fact, during the very same week that we were experiencing such grace, we were reminded of the reality of evil in the world. The death of a terrorist leader reminded us of the horrors of terrorism and of the many who have been killed by this evil. The guilty plea of a Canadian Bishop to possession of child pornography recalled to our minds the great pain inflicted by sexual exploitation, and the deep sadness we feel when a member of the clergy is involved. Of course, we each struggle with what Blessed John Paul referred to as the mysterium iniquitatis, the mystery of evil, and are painfully aware of its damaging effects in our own lives and the harm we can do to others when we surrender to it. Without an awareness of the presence of the risen Lord in our lives, we remain downcast and vulnerable to despair. But the truth is that Jesus is alive, that he remains with us, and that he will never abandon us. As St. Paul tells us, wherever sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
We have experienced that superabundance of grace this past week, clarifying our vision, dispelling our doubts and filling our hearts with joy. The sure presence of the superabundant grace from Jesus, the risen Lord, is the abiding reason for our hope.