Fr. Raby inspires

  • November 6, 2009
{mosimage}Truth be told, the decision to publish a book of memorable Register columns by Msgr. Tom Raby was made before Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed this as the Year For Priests. But when The Little World of Fr. Raby, 1980-2007 arrived from the printer it was obvious we could not have selected a better project to celebrate the priesthood.

So, yes, there is excitement at The Catholic Register this month. The gentle words of wit and wisdom from Msgr. Raby, beloved Register columnist for almost 60 years, are back among us.

Just about anyone who has read our paper in the last half century will recall “The Little World of Fr. Raby,” the title atop his popular column that graced more than 2,000 issues of the paper. Failing health forced Msgr. Raby, then 88, to retire his column in 2007. But through the efforts of Managing Editor Mickey Conlon, Raby’s prose has been revived in a book that borrows the title of his popular column.

Eighty-one columns have been assembled in an anthology of anecdotes, reflections, humour, kindness, faith and prayer. Together, they are testament to the life of a pious man who has dedicated his life to God and His people.

In proclaiming a Year For Priests, Benedict said he was thinking of the debt owed to the priests, who, he said, “quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life.” In praising what he called their tireless service, universal charity and courageous fidelity, the Pope was describing men like Msgr. Raby.

Raby once said Catholic journalism was an antidote to the negativism of the mainstream media. So he used his column like a serum of truth and hope to inoculate the faithful. His book revives that theme. It is a timely, common-sense reminder not to be distracted by the drama constantly surrounding the church but instead to remain focussed on the core message of hope, love, forgiveness and faith.

For laypeople, it is an important book. Raby uses his folksy charm to guide us through the day-to-day life of a parish priest in a way that gently but plainly reminds us of the many ways we are humbly and graciously served by these faithful men who are so often taken for granted. There was almost always a Christian moral to Raby’s stories.

But perhaps the real value of The Little World of Fr. Raby is the unintended but obvious fatherly advice it offers today’s priests. Whether dealing with celebration or tragedy, belief or doubt, good or evil, Raby responds with patience, compassion and faith.

Through 60 years of priesthood he has seen the world, and parish life, dramatically change. But regardless of the drama, his dedication and faith never wavered. There’s inspiration in that.

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