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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Love that Impels to Mission

Last evening the Archdiocese of Edmonton celebrated its centennial gala dinner at the Shaw Conference Centre. It was a great occasion, in which we gave thanks to God for the countless blessings bestowed upon us over the past 100 years. Before all else I want to thank the members of the Jubilee and Gala committees for having worked very hard to bring this about. Thank you very much.

The funds raised from our gala will be dedicated to serve our brothers and sisters both at home and beyond our diocesan borders. This diocese was born from that spirit of charity that impels to mission: moved by the love of Christ men and women religious came on mission to the West to establish parishes, schools, and hospitals, in which they cared for the poor and needy. That same charity continues to inhabit us and impel us to care for others. This is why we have chosen to honour our centenary by raising needed funds to help two important endeavours.

The St. Vincent de Paul society cares for the poor here in our area. I have long been impressed with their ministry and am very pleased that we will be able to give them needed support. They are a necessary presence in our city and beyond and make tangible to many the love of Christ that gives hope.

Following the call of Blessed John Paul II for the dioceses of the Western hemisphere to consider how they might support one another, I am pleased to announce that the Archdiocese of Edmonton is entering a partnership of mutual enrichment and support with our sister diocese to the north, that of Mackenzie - Fort Smith. Its Bishop, Most Reverend Murray Chatlain, traveled to be with us for the gala. We are delighted to be of some assistance in responding to the various challenges he and his people face and I know that we shall in turn be enriched by the gifts of the North.

In his message to the Archdiocese marking our centenary, the Holy Father expressed his confidence that our centennial will be for the Archdiocesan family "an occasion for a renewed consciousness of their Christian dignity and mission." Let us, indeed, make this our prayer. Through our reflection upon the wondrous mystery of having been fashioned together as that family we call the Church, may we grow in an awareness of the identity and call that is ours as disciples of Jesus Christ, so that all may come to know and embrace the saving love of God.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"A Precious Gift"

Photo by Osservatore Romano
I am in Rome for the annual visit to the Holy See of the Presidency of the CCCB. Archbishop Durocher of Gatineau, our Vice-President, and I are making the rounds of the various departments that serve the Holy Father in his ministry as universal shepherd. On Saturday we met with Pope Benedict. In addition to sharing with him something of what is happening in the Church in Canada, we presented him with a gift in commemoration of the recent canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. As an expression of the gratitude of the Catholic faithful in Canada, we gave the Holy Father a framed reproduction of the opening page of a seventeenth-century biography of Kateri written by a Jesuit who knew and worked with her. This biography was the primary source document in the cause for Kateri's canonization. The Pope received it graciously as "a precious gift".

Yesterday Canadians remembered and gave thanks for another "precious gift", that of the countless men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country. Remembrance Day recalls to our minds their example, which teaches there are things in life worth dying for, worth the entire gift of ourselves. Our country is forever grateful to the many who died that we might enjoy the freedom that is ours.

What is worth dying for? Well, according to Jesus, we are, the world is. He gave of his life that we might live. The incarnation and death of the Son of God made flesh reveals the infinite depths of God's love for us and for the whole world. The gift Jesus made of his entire life is the most "precious gift" of all, because, as we were taught in yesterday's second reading from Hebrews, the self-offering of Jesus brought to the world the offer of eternal salvation. His gift of self is the offer of a love that lasts forever. So when Jesus calls us to follow him, he is inviting us to love him totally, to make of our lives a complete gift to him.

The invitation to loving and total discipleship is behind the Gospel passage of Sunday. Jesus praises the poor widow's gift of two copper coins because she thus gives everything she has, in contrast to the vast sums contributed by the rich who give only from their surplus. By his response to the gift of the widow Jesus is posing a critical question. To those who pay attention to the amount they give, Jesus asks "What are you holding back?" In response to his invitation to love and life, Jesus asks that we hold nothing back and give our all to him. He receives this as a most "precious gift" indeed.

There is nothing to fear here. When the widow of Zarephath gave her last bit of food to the prophet Elijah (first reading), she was left, literally, with nothing for her and her son to live on. God responded to this total gift by providing all that she needed. When we give our all, with complete trust in God's love and providence, he will not fail to provide what we truly need. Jesus Christ is the Father's "precious gift" to the world. May the Holy Spirit make us more and more a "precious gift", in Christ, to our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learning from the Saints

It has been an eventful few days, full of God's blessings.

On Thursday evening we opened our fifth and final year of Nothing More Beautiful. In this year, focused upon the lay apostolate, we wanted to begin with the family as that place where the foundational apprenticeship for the apostolate should take place. We gathered on the Solemnity of All Saints, so what an extraordinary blessing it was to have as our witness the son of a saint! Pierluigi Molla traveled with his wife Lisi from Milan to be with us. He is the eldest son of Saint Gianna Molla, the last person to be canonized by Blessed John Paul II. He shared with us how his mother demonstrated by her entire life the inseparable link between holiness and apostolate. Deeply rooted in prayer, she sought to live her life coherently, that is to say, fully consistent with her Catholic faith. This coherence led to action in the service of others. This shaped all that she did as a wife, mother, doctor and lover of life. From Pierluigi's presentation it was clear to everyone present that Saint Gianna, together with her husband, had as their first priority the handing on of the faith to their children by giving personal witness in their actions to the truth and beauty of the faith they taught. Particularly striking to me is how natural this all was for Saint Gianna. The handing on of the faith in the home flowed naturally from her love of the Lord and His Church. This is an important lesson for all parents. They do not need to be expert catechists or theologians! What is necessary is that they grow in personal holiness by allowing the Lord to love them and by loving him in return. From this love all else will flow and the home will become that place of apprenticeship for the apostolate.

What is remembered most about Saint Gianna, of course, is her extraordinary witness to the dignity of every human life. Her last pregnancy was a difficult one, and she made it abundantly clear to her husband that, should there come a need to choose between saving her or her baby, they were not to hesitate: save the baby. She insisted on offering her life for the sake of that of her child, and that is, in fact, what she did. To hear this recounted by her eldest son was deeply moving for all of us.

On Sunday I was at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal for a special national celebration of thanksgiving for the canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. I was one of many Bishops who joined Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint Jean Longueuil for the celebration. The Oratory was filled to overflowing, yet one more sign of the great admiration that countless people have for our newest Canadian saint. In her own way, she, like Saint Gianna, teaches that we grow in holiness through coherence of life and action.

By the intercession of these two holy women, may we, too, offer authentic witness to the love of Christ.