Signs of consolation

  • June 14, 2007
We are often urged to read the “signs of the times” to discern what God is calling us to do in our lives and in our church. How we read those signs will determine not only our outlook on the future, but also influence our sense of energy and purpose.
The Ignatian method of prayer calls for us to consider both the signs of “consolation” and “desolation.” Too often, we focus on the latter; the news media in particular are predisposed to dwell on the bad news to the detriment of all those signs of hope in the world.

In fact, in recent weeks it has been all too easy to wallow in the bad news involving religion. We hear of Pope Benedict XVI under attack, of violence done in the name of religion, of priest shortages and discord within our religious house. Adding insult to injury, a spate of new books have been aggressively painting religion as the source of all evil in the world. British writer Richard Dawkins, in his best-seller, The God Delusion, argues that parents who teach their children religion are guilty of child abuse. His crusade is joined by others such as Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) and Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation). All display a dogmatic zeal that is easily the atheist equivalent of the most zealous Bible-punching fundamentalists.

Yet the very passion of the attacks smacks of a desperation born in a dawning realization that the religious world is not so dark after all. These writers see that religion is being taken seriously by far more than the fringes and that it continues to make a major impact on public life in the world, for both good and ill. It is not for nothing that the pronouncements of Pope Benedict continue to receive such critical scrutiny. That fact is, they matter.

In Canada, a new spate of episcopal appointments brings to office a set of capable, energetic and talented men to office in several dioceses in Canada. Archbishop Thomas Collins is capably filling the large shoes left by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic in Toronto, Archbishop Richard Smith in Edmonton has made a first good impression and, now, three other archdioceses — Ottawa, Vancouver and Kingston — are receiving younger shepherds who have considerable pastoral and administrative experience and are proven disciples of our Lord. Vancouver, with Archbishop Michael Miller, C.S.B., Ottawa with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., and Kingston with Archbishop Brendan O’Brien are filling key leadership positions in the Canadian church. We pray their replacements in their former dioceses will be of an equally high calibre.

At the grassroots Catholics are taking seriously their own call to be “leaven in the dough” in the world. Whether it be the growth of new youth movements or the growing popularity of Catholic media efforts involving youth, such as Salt+Light TV and The Catholic Register Youth Speak News program, Catholics are refusing to let the world’s secular opinion makers set their agendas.

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