By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nada te turbe

Nada te turbe.
These are the first words of a beautiful and oft-quoted poem of Saint Teresa of Avila. I am now back in Canada after the pilgrimage to Spain for World Youth Days, yet the words remain with me after a visit to Avila, where St. Teresa lived and worked for many years.

“Nada te turbe; nada te espante; todo se pasa; Dios no se muda, la pacienza todo lo alcanza. Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta. Solo Dios basta.”

Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you, all things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who has God, finds he lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
-St. Teresa of Avila

My, how we worry and fret! So much to do, so many concerns. Anxiety reigns and we long for peace. Nada te turbe! Todo se pasa. Solo Dios basta. God alone is enough. When we live in communion with Him and surrender to His loving and providential care, the realities we face continue but worry about them ceases. These thoughts were running through my mind as I spent a prayerful day in the beautiful medieval town of Avila. I went there following World Youth Days in Madrid for a bit of rest.
This gave me the opportunity to visit the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, where Saint Teresa lived for more than thirty years, three of them as prioress. There I celebrated Mass and offered it for our own Carmelite community in Devon, just outside of Edmonton.

I also was able to visit the Monastery of St. Joseph, the first foundation established by Saint Teresa as she began her work of reform. Certainly her life was not free of headaches! She had plenty of them as she initiated an important reform of her community. And yet in the midst of all the ceaseless difficulties, she could still peacefully teach: nada te turbe; nada te espante....Solo Dios basta. Whatever difficulties you are facing, do not fret. Anxieties arise when we face problems alone, relying only on our own abilities. Give it to God. Nothing is too big for Him. Surrender to the Lord and all comes into perspective. Solo Dios basta. When we live in communion with God and know His love and presence, we find that what we once thought was important and caused us grief begins to fade into insignificance, and we discover with joy and peace that all we truly need and desire is given. We lack nothing. Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.

From Avila I went to Barcelona with only one purpose in mind: to see the Church of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) designed by Gaudi. It is truly a building of jaw-dropping magnificence, well worth the trip. Yet in the midst of this extraordinary edifice, what captured my mind and heart above all was a beautiful bronze sculpture on a wall in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.

It is of the Holy Family, and surrounded on its frame by the word “Amen”, written three times. In striking fashion it conveys the Amen given by the child Jesus to his earthly father, St. Joseph, a sign of the perfect Amen given to his heavenly Father, as well as the wondrous Amen that both Joseph and Mary gave to Jesus, and through him, to the saving plan of the Father and their role within it. Their Amen serves as the model for our own. It is the surrender that gives peace, and awakens our hearts and lives to the truth of St Teresa’s words: Solo Dios basta.

Some important things to note for this coming week. First of all, I join with many in mourning the loss of two wonderful priests: Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, the former Archbishop of Toronto, and our own Father John Nowakowski. Fr Nowakowski served in this Archdiocese of Edmonton for more than fifty years, and is remembered as a dedicated priest, faithful to his calling from the Lord. While I was a Bishop in Ontario for five years, I had the opportunity and blessing of working closely with the Cardinal, and quickly came to admire his strength of conviction, his courage to speak, as well as the remarkable humility with which he listened to others. He, too, was faithful to his Lord. Each in his own way gave his Amen to the saving plan of the Lord and to their particular calling within its unfolding. May they rest in peace.

Also our school divisions are celebrating Masses this week to mark the opening of another school year. Let’s not fail to pray often for our schools. They are a great gift and task. May they continue to grow to be environments of faith, where our students learn to give their Amen to the love and calling of Jesus, so that, by living in union with him and in joyful obedience to his call, they will, with St. Teresa, know within their hearts that solo Dios basta.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"An Undertaking of Immense Consequence and Promise"

This is how the Holy Father described World Youth Day in his farewell address just prior to his return flight to Rome. This endeavour of enormous import is, precisely, "that of helping young people to become more deeply rooted in Jesus Christ."

And millions of young people are searching for exactly that. It is very difficult to put into words what I have experienced in my encounter with the young gathered in Spain over these past few days. I spoke in my last blog post of the deep questions that, in part, define their search. Well, on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning I was with them as they gave visible expression to their awareness that the ultimate answer to those questions is a person: Jesus Christ. I am speaking of the breathtaking assembly of over a million young people with the Holy Father at Cuatro Vientes in Madrid. The gathering at the vigil was officially estimated at 1.4 million! Those present at the Mass the following morning would have exceeded that number. (The photo above, by Sergio Perez of Reuters, courtesy of CNS, shows just a few of them!)

For me, the most impressive moments were those of silence. Hard to describe to those not present. We are familiar with the images and sounds of so many young people at WYD giving joyful, loud, and exuberant expression of their happiness in the Lord. And that was certainly present in abundance at the vigil and Mass, let me tell you! Even the rain and thunder that interrupted the vigil for a brief time could not dampen (apologies for the pun) the enthusiasm. In fact the more it poured the greater were the cheers and laughter. I am very encouraged by their zeal and resilience, but what has moved me most is their silent reverence before the Lord.

Pope Benedict introduced Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to the celebration of the WYD vigil . When the sacred Host was brought forward and placed in the monstrance, all fell perfectly silent. All 1.4 million. And again at the final Mass, following the Pope's homily when those gathered we're invited to meditate upon the Word of God and the teaching of the Holy Father, silence. Perfect silence. The same was true for the post-communion period of thanksgiving. Millions united in one act of openness, listening, adoration, praise and thanksgiving, the profundity of which was expressed in the depth of the silence. Incredible.

It was at these moments that I knew for myself the accuracy of the Pope's words. The consequence and promise of this and all WYD experiences is immeasurable in its scope. When this many young people open their hearts and lives to be more deeply rooted in Jesus Christ, great good will come. And there are millions more of them! Think of the many other WYD events that have occurred over the past 26 years, each of which has drawn young people together in numbers that no other event has done or can do. WYD is very clearly a powerful work of the Holy Spirit that will bear wondrous and plentiful fruit for generations to come.

Now our pilgrims are heading home. To say that they are exhausted would be an understatement. They have endured full days in blistering heat, often sleeping in the most basic of accommodations. Yet their energy and enthusiasm remained, even if it did take a while in the early mornings to get kick-started after only a few hours of sleep. Their perseverance taught me a great deal about their commitment to the Lord and his Church, and I am extremely proud of them.

Next WYD will be Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2013. Can't wait!

La Juventud del Papa

As we formally welcomed Pope Benedict to World Youth Days last night, the cry that kept leaping up from the countless thousands of young people gathered with him at Plaza de Cibeles was: Esta es la juventud del Papa! We are the Pope's youth! There was incredible joy and excitement as the young people saw the Pope, many of them for the first time in their lives. They knew that he was not only their spiritual leader, the head of the Church, but also, in a real way, their father, and the love and joy they felt as they saw him was clear, loud, and contagious. For example, at the end of the ceremony, once they had finished their extraordinarily beautiful music, the huge choir erupted with: Estos son los musicos del Papa! (We are the Pope's musicians). Even one of my brother Bishops got in on the act and started to hollar: Estos son los obispos del Papa (We are the Pope's Bishops!). In other words we all felt deeply our oneness as members of the Catholic family, united around our "papa," the Holy Father, and this was the source of great joy.

The excitement had started earlier in the day. I was at the parish of the Incarnation to give a catechetical teaching, and there the officials arranged for a live broadcast of the Pope's arrival at the airport to be shown on a wall of the Church. When the young people saw the Pope step out of the plane, they went nuts! Cheers and clapping like you haven't heard! They knew that he had come to visit them, to spend time with them, to manifest in this way his love for them and closeness to them, and they received his presence with great and joyful gratitude.

At his opening address at the airport, where he had been greeted by Spain's King and Queen, Pope Benedict gave a beautiful address in which he summed up the reason why our young people are drawn to World Youth Days. I quote a portion of it here:

"Why has this multitude of young people come to Madrid? While they themselves should give the reply, it may be supposed that they wish to hear the word of God, as the motto for this World Youth Day proposed to them, in such a way that, rooted and built upon Christ, they may manifest the strength of their faith.

"Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives. The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected. Here on this Day, they have a special opportunity to gather together their aspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, motivate each other along a journey of faith and life, in which some think they are alone or ignored in their daily existence.

"But they are not alone. Many people of the same age have the same aspirations and, entrusting themselves completely to Christ, know that they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive commitments which fulfil their entire lives. That is why it gives me great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them."

We Bishops share that joy. In our catechesis sessions we are privileged to have posed to us the questions with which our youth from all over the world are grappling as they strive to live authentic Christian lives. Over the past three days the questions that have come to me included:

"How do I, as a college student surrounded by friends and peers who do not believe, find necessary support on a daily basis to live faithfully as a Christian?" or

"In my attempt to discern God's call, how do I distinguish the voice of the Lord from what are simply my own desires?"

There were also many questions that demonstrated their deep desire to know Jesus more deeply, such as:

"Why the Cross? Could not God have saved us some other way?"

"How do I open my life so that I may see myself as Jesus sees me and thus know how I am called to change and grow?"

The enthusiasm that is so present among the young people is not superficial, transient emotion. It is real joy, rooted in Christ and in the lived experience of being a part of the family that is the Church, united with and under our Holy Father. Please continue to pray for us as we step into the final days of this magnificent encounter.

(Pictured above are some of our group at the train station.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

We are "Canazuelanias." A Message from WYD.

As I write this particular blog post I'm traveling with about three hundred of our pilgrims by train from Malaga to Madrid for World Youth Days. We have just spent some incredible days in the south of Spain for that immediate preparatory period called Days in the Diocese. We are overwhelmed with the wonderfully warm and joyous welcome we have received from the local people here. During this time our pilgrims were dispersed throughout the region of Andalusia, in the city of Malaga as well as in the towns of Antequerra, Marbella, Velez-Malaga, Torre del Mar and Nerja. I stayed at the local seminary in Malaga, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the Bishops living in the Diocese, and from there I went out each day to visit the pilgrims in their various locales.

I am finding it particularly moving to visit with the pilgrims who are experiencing WYD for the first time. To meet so many young people from other countries (about 30 countries had pilgrims in Malaga with us) is for them very encouraging, because they have confirmed in a very tangible way that they are not alone in their love for the Lord, for the Church and in their desire to live a Christian life. Wait till they get to Madrid! There will be hundreds of thousands of their peers joyously celebrating their faith.

And wait till Madrid meets us! I'm sure the city won't know what hit it. Typically, pilgrims run and dance through the streets, waving their national flags, and making very visible their joy in the Lord. This is my fourth WYD, and I can tell you that the youth's enthusiasm is contagious. I have seen first hand that many who are critical of the faith or of the Church are moved and changed by the witness of our young people. It is clear that the Christian life, joyously and visibly lived, has the power to change lives.

The bonds the pilgrims form with one another are lasting. Speaking with me about their experiences, some of the pilgrims taught me a new word they created to express the bond that they now feel with the Spaniards and the Venezuelans with whom they have spent the last few days. Together they are Canazuelanias, which is their attempt to unite Canada, Spain and Venezuela. They don't know how to spell it, and neither do I, but I think you get the idea.

Our pilgrims (I am so proud of them!!) are really serious about growing in the faith. Some told me of spending time with others reflecting upon their hopes for WYD. They spoke of faith, hope, renewal of the world, and then agreed that the grace they seek from this experience is renewal in the faith with the hope of a united world. Beautiful. After coming up with this theme they visited some churches whose art reflected the same hope and they knew within their hearts that this was a confirmation of the Holy Spirit with them and guiding them. They are completely convinced that their presence in Spain in WYD is the result of the Lord working in their lives to bring them closer to him and to one another. I share that conviction.

Speaking of churches, there are so many here! And all beautiful. The small village of Antequerra, with a population of 50,000 has 32 churches. Particularly striking for us is how each city or town has Our Lady as patron under one of her titles. Malaga, for example, has a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Victory (Nuestra SeƱora dell Vittoria). It was very fitting, therefore, for us to leave for Madrid on the 15th of August, when the Church throughout the world celebrates the Assumption of our Lady. Signs of her maternal protection surrounded us during Days in the Diocese. This morning we celebrated Mass together prior to boarding the train, and asked for her intercession that our time in Madrid will bring us all to a new encounter with Jesus. I ask for your prayers as well, as I promise you mine.

The technically savvy young people have set up a Facebook site where they will be uploading their pictures. If you want to get a taste of what's been happening, feel free to check us out at If there are no pictures there yet, stay tuned. I'm sure there will be as soon as our folks have Internet access!

Hasta pronto!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Something to Eat

“You give them something to eat.”

As recorded in the Gospel of Sunday (cf. Matthew 14:13-21), these words were spoken by Jesus to his disciples when they saw the vast hungry crowds gathered around the Lord. The disciples wanted to send them away, but Jesus told them that they were to give the people something to satisfy their hunger.

This command of the Lord touches the essence of what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus is entirely “for others.” He “emptied himself” (cf. Philippians 2:5-7) in obedience to the command of the Father and entered world history to save us by offering his life on the Cross. Anyone who lives in union with Christ as his follower, therefore, must be a person “for others”, one who seeks out the hungry and offers them “something to eat.”

Our television screens have been filled with images of countless numbers of people hungry for food, especially in the Horn of Africa. The Lord’s command to the disciples sounds forth today: “You give them something to eat.” We might protest that we have very little and would not make much of a difference. The disciples raised the same concern: “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” Jesus multiplied these meagre gifts such that there was more than enough for everyone. This means that when we give to others what little we have and do so by offering it to and through Jesus Christ, it will be more than enough.

If you have not already done so I encourage you to give to help those who are starving. Your gift can be given through the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace at Thank you.

There are many “hungers” beyond the need for food that cry out to be satisfied, such as for justice and peace. This was the message I shared Sunday morning with nearly 500 young people who gathered in Edmonton this past weekend from all over Western Canada. Members of Youth for Christ, which is part of the Couples for Christ family, they came together over three days to reflect upon their life of faith. To be “for Christ” means inescapably to be “for others” and the way we are “for others” is to bring Christ to them. Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God made flesh for our sake, only He can fully satisfy our longing for love, for communion, for meaning and for peace. “You give them something to eat” thus becomes a call to witness before others to the joy and peace we have found through a life lived in union with Christ in the communion of His Church.

In the afternoon I gathered with a group of people deeply dedicated to the cause of life to bless the new location of the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre (EPCC). For twenty-seven years the good people of this organization have been “giving something to eat” to over fifteen thousand women who have sought their help and counsel. What “food” have they given? Well, for one thing they have fed people with communal support. Many women with unexpected pregnancies can feel alone and uncertain, and the EPCC exists to surround them with love and companionship so that they know they will have whatever support they need as they bring their child to birth. EPCC also feeds those who enter its doors with proper perspective, and this in at least two ways. First, in a society when life is not always accorded its proper dignity and protection, EPCC affirms the worth and beauty of every human life, from the very beginning to natural end. Second, they help people who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies to know that, in God’s design, the child within the womb is always part of God’s plan. As Pope Benedict said in his very first homily, every man, woman and child is the result of a thought of God. Therefore, in God’s heart each human being is never “unplanned” but always willed, loved and necessary. In these ways, EPCC nourishes its visitors with hope, which enables them to step into the future with courage and peace. You may wish to visit their website at I am very grateful to the women and men who give of themselves tirelessly in the service of life, and am particularly pleased to have EPCC present in the city of Edmonton.

“You give them something to eat.” Let’s be attentive to the many forms of hunger we encounter this week, and offer our resources, however great or small, through Christ, confident that, by His grace, what we have will be more than enough.