Montreal Archbishop Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, a Montreal Canadiens fan, approved advertisements that asked his flock to unite and “let us pray” for the iconic hockey team.

Charity for salvation

By 
  • February 14, 2012

The Quebec Church may have lost legions of worshippers in recent years but it hasn’t lost its sense of humour.

That was evident last week when, with tongue in cheek, the archdiocese of Montreal placed newspaper ads asking the faithful to pray for the Montreal Canadiens.

As any Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan will gleefully attest, nothing short of divine intervention will turn around what has become a hellish season in Montreal. So Montreal Archbishop Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, a Habs’ fan, approved advertisements that asked his flock to unite and “let us pray” for the iconic hockey team.

Archdiocese spokesperson Lucie Martineau said the ads remind people that God is present in their everyday lives. Focussing on the Canadiens was, admittedly, a ploy to draw attention to the deeper purpose of promoting the power of prayer in general. “It was a lighthearted wink,” said Martineau.

A wink and a prayer — a novel approach, perhaps, but any call to acknowledge God is worthwhile. That’s especially true as the Church enters the season of Lent. And while a call to prayer may be particularly poignant in secular Quebec, the prayer message is universal. But rather than seek a miracle on ice, a more appropriate prayer would be for the intentions promoted in Pope Benedict’s 2012 Lenten message.

The Pope has focussed on what he calls the heart of Christian life: charity. He asks Christians to demonstrate genuine concern for all mankind and to resist the forces of modern society that breed selfishness and indifference. Concern for others, he said, means being aware of their needs of the disadvantaged and “showing mercy towards those who suffer.”

“Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our own affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor,” wrote Benedict. “Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.”

In a culture that celebrates individualism and materialism, calls for charity too often fall on deaf ears. Even among Christians. Lent is a time to open our ears to the cries of the poor and to calls for social justice, a time to contemplate our shared responsibility for the well-being of all people.

“A society like ours can become blind to physical suffering and to the spiritual and moral demands of life,” said Benedict as he implored: “This must not be the case in the Christian community!”

The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This year, the Pope is emphasizing almsgiving, asking us to regard charity as a means to salvation. That is something worth praying for — and something even Canadiens and Leaf fans can agree to do together.

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