Cardinal Thomas Collins preaches at the concluding liturgy for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Toronto. Michael Swan

Christians united in ‘midst of the storm’

  • January 27, 2020

“Simple trust in the provident hand of God,” will be the key to Christian unity, Cardinal Thomas Collins told more than 300 people who gathered for the final liturgy of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Toronto Jan. 26.

Stressing both the “ecumenism of blood” and the “ecumenism of hands,” Collins said the unity of Christians must be entrusted to the will of God.

The closing prayers for the 111th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at Toronto’s Yorkminster Park Baptist Church were keyed by the story of St. Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta. From the long passage from the Acts of the Apostles, organizers in Malta chose the phrase, “They showed us unusual kindness,” to highlight the basic truth of how Christians are supposed to greet strangers and one another.

“This text signals the beginning of Christianity in Malta,” said Fr. Mario Micallef as he brought greetings from Toronto’s Maltese Catholic parish of St. Paul the Apostle. “This biblical land lies at the crossroads of civilizations, cultures and religions. Our prayers and reflections today, and during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, are centred on the hospitality shown by the islanders toward those who had just been shipwrecked.”

It was the storm that captured Collins imagination as a preacher. Christians today have to face up to the dangers of stormy political and cultural tides that are not necessarily running in their favour, he said. 

“We need not be surprised as Christians to find ourselves in the midst of the storm, because this is where we are meant to be,” Collins told an assembly of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. “This is where we are, so let’s stop whining and get on with it.”

On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Collins said today’s  ecumenical movement can find some of its roots in the Nazi dungeons where Protestants and Catholics who opposed Hitler met one another and suffered together.

“They realized they both were being persecuted for their faith,” he said.

Toronto’s Catholic archbishop also praised the practicality of “the ecumenism of hands” — Christians working together on behalf of others. He singled out the city’s 33-year-old Out of the Cold program, which has drawn faith communities together to serve the homeless with hot meals and a safe, dry place to sleep on winter nights.

“That’s where the rubber hits the road, where we show where Christ is in the world,” said Collins.

While Christians need to continue to pray and work for the unity of the body of Christ, successful ecumenism lies in the will of God, according to the cardinal.

“It is in the hand of God, who will unite us in his own good time,” he said. “It is not something we can fix.”

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