Sr. Danielle Victoria Lussier of the Daughters of St. Paul created the cover art for Fr. Harrison Ayre’s Mysterion. Photo courtesy Fr. Harrison Ayre

B.C. pastor reveals power of Catholic worldview

By 
  • February 16, 2022

From the cover art through the 175 pages that follow, Fr. Harrison Ayre’s new book is a contemplative experience.

The pastor at Nanaimo, B.C.’s St. Peter’s Parish invites the reader into a deeper understanding of the hidden ways in which Christ reveals Himself through creation in Mysterion: The Revelatory Power of the Sacramental Worldview. It provides an outline of the revelatory power of the Catholic world view, with chapters focusing on the sacraments, modernism, the Marian stance, liturgy and holy Mass.

The contemplative begins with the dust jacket designed by Sr. Danielle Victoria Lussier of the Daughters of St. Paul. Peacock feathers — a symbol of resurrection and life — lined with gold peak from behind a thin white veil.   

Should the reader by intention or mistake lift that outer layer, they will be surprised by the colourful and intricately designed image of Christ as divine master, surrounded by symbols, further illuminating the book’s message. The outer layer, like a veil when lifted, is an invitation into receiving the fullness of Christ and His message to humanity.

“It’s the veil that covers the reality just like a sacrament,” said Ayre. “We don’t see directly what we’re receiving but there’s a reality behind it. Sr. Danielle had this idea to make the book a sacramental experience itself so (the reader) is not just experiencing sacramentality in an intellectual way, which is important, but also in the catechistic expression of art and beauty.”

Ayre admits he was tearing up when Lussier first pitched the concept for the cover.

“I want people to buy it almost just so they can enjoy the art experience of the whole thing,” said Ayre. “I don’t care if you read my words — see what Sr. Danielle has done here. A beautiful book and it’s one of those times I say please, judge a book by its cover.

“It tells us, even though we live in this veiled place where we don’t see God in His totality because of the fallen world, He’s still very present. There’s a connecting point between creation and Heaven and God, so we’re not ultimately separated. We just need to look to His creation to find Him.”

The involvement with the Daughters of St. Paul runs deep. The book’s genesis came out of a discussion with friend and former atheist Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble. In a conversation over Ayre’s popular podcast, Clerically Speaking with Fr. Anthony Sciarappa from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Noble suggested they write a book around the idea of sacramentality. Over time Ayre ended up running with that idea.

Sacramentality has been a major theme in Ayre’s life. He was agnostic until a conversion took place while attending the University of Victoria in the early 2000s. He has been deeply inspired by Mother Teresa and spent a year working with her Missionary Sisters of Charity in the United States almost a decade ago when he was in seminary.

Part of that time he served at their hospice outside San Francisco, which deeply impacted his view of sacramentality. He recalls sitting with a dying patient and realizing he hadn’t done holy hour and taking the time to listen to the voice of God for the unique way He sought to reveal Himself. It’s his reflections on these experiences that brought the book to fruition.

“We were short on extra volunteers that night and I hadn’t had my holy hour yet,” recalled Ayre. “We usually stay in a bed or chair at the doorways just to be there as they’re actively dying so they know they’re not alone. I thought if Christ is present, maybe not in the same way obviously in the poor as He is in the Eucharist, but it’s still His presence at work in the poor. This is my holy hour with this man who was passing away,” he said.

“Christ is making Himself present in this man’s poverty in his last hour so that was my meditation. I’m not confusing God and the world so much that they’re the exact same thing but it’s just to say that God is always working through His creation in small, tangible ways.”

Mysterion took roughly six months for Ayre to write, part of which came through the pandemic. For Ayre, the book is as much the fruit of his theological ponderings as it is from his experiences as a pastor.

The pandemic’s onset revealed the importance of the sacramental world view and exposed the misunderstandings about it in the Church. The sacraments are not just to build up self but should also lead to a heart for charity and thinking more about others to bring Christ to the entire world, said Ayre.

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