Friars’ writing contest brings out students’ best

  • March 4, 2020

For Evelia Raphael, the subject matter of the annual Friars’ Student Writing Contest in The Catholic Register hit real close to home.

Students were asked to write a 500-word essay on Acts 28:2 (“They showed us unusual kindness”), which refers to the Maltese people welcoming St. Paul as a stranger in their midst. It’s a topic Raphael said she’s very passionate about.

“It’s very close to home because my parents were immigrants to Canada,” said the 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Mississauga’s Loyola Catholic Secondary School. “Without the support they were shown when coming to this country, I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities that I’ve had.”

Raphael took top honours from among many entries received from Ontario secondary school students. She receives an Asus VivoBook laptop. In second place was Hadassah Koens of Brantford who takes classes through the Virtual Learning Centre, while Michael Balvers of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Lindsay took third place. Koens received a Samsung A50 cellphone. Balvers earned a Marley No Bound speaker.

The annual contest, co-sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Graymoor and The Catholic Register, is run in conjunction with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Raphael said its subject matter is timely in today’s world.

“I feel like I want to spread that message (of welcoming the stranger) for other people. It’s really relevant today because the world is so divided when it comes to immigration and welcoming refugees,” she said.

Below are the winning entries.

The road to hospitality

By Evelia Raphael, Loyola Catholic Secondary School

Christ’s love is made clear through the legacy He left behind even after He ascended into Heaven, as He continuously reveals Himself through the works of others in order to give us a taste of His bountiful compassion.

This phenomenon is evident through the actions of the Maltese people who welcomed St. Paul onto their island after a tempestuous storm. Sadly, such benevolence has become scarce in our society due to the profuse amount of religious sectarianism, even amongst Christians. In order to fulfill the teachings of Christ, we must strive to not only bridge the divide and unify diverse denominations of Christianity, but also extend that same hospitality towards all religions and cultures in order to become shepherds of God.

Over the course of history, Christianity has been plagued by endless conflicts due to denominational differences, creating a rift within the faith. However, this is not the path that Christ has called us on. He left us with one duty — to love our neighbour as He has loved us.

The task of uniting Christians may seem daunting, but it can be achieved by emphasizing our similarities rather than our differences. If we took the time to listen to each other through productive dialogue or collaborative endeavours, we would find that we all worship the same God — a God of love and mercy. Not only is such collaboration an excellent motivator for social change, but the combined power of all Christians will prove to be far more effective than tackling these issues individually.

Just as the people of Malta aided St. Paul after the storm, so, too, can we help others weather any storm that may come their way, regardless of our differences. The true character of a Christian is not found in the familiarity of helping someone similar to you, but in the bravery of helping those completely unlike you. Regardless of colour or creed, we were all created in God’s image; therefore we cannot accept Christ into our lives while denying the cries of our brothers and sisters.

Jesus was a missionary of unity as He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and provided solidarity to the poor. We can follow His footsteps by implementing programs such as Knights of Columbus or the ShareLife foundation, which provide relief to victims of persecution, poverty and more. Furthermore, the Archdiocese of Toronto is an excellent organization which commemorates World Day of Migrants & Refugees. Through sponsorships from such organizations, many refugees have discovered a sanctuary in Canada, reinforcing their sense of human dignity.

Overall, the power of people coming together through Christ is a force to be reckoned with, as it can empower even the most devastated of souls. Therefore, let us collaborate not only with Christians, but with all peoples of the Earth.

In this way, we may be able to observe the transcendence of hospitality emerging through Christ’s light, so that our global community will become a collective mosaic enriched with the profound diversity of mankind.

Fable sends a message

By Hadassah Koens, Virtual Learning Centre

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Paul and those with him were shipwrecked on the coast of Malta. After swimming ashore, they were greeted by the people there with unusual kindness, according to Acts 28:2.

Although this demonstration of love happened thousands of years ago, we should follow the example of the people from Malta who showed such unusual kindness to shipwrecked strangers.

The first way Christians and Catholics of every denomination can collaborate to be examples of Christ’s love and kindness is through organization and collaboration.

An old Aesop fable tells of an old man with three sons who constantly fought with each other. On the father’s deathbed, he called his sons together.

He showed them a bundle of sticks and told them to break the bundle of sticks, but they could not.

The father cut the cord that bound the sticks together and told them to break each stick separately, which the sons did so easily.

“My sons,” said the father, “do you not see how certain it is that if you agree with each other and help each other, it will be impossible for your enemies to injure you? But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be no stronger than a single stick in that bundle.”

The same principle applies to Christians and Catholics in this matter of hospitality. If one church attempts to show hospitality and kindness to its neighbourhood and city, it will accomplish far less than if all the churches of the city united together to spread Christ’s love and kindness.

If churches of all denominations banded together, pooled their resources and united under a common goal, then they would be able to cover much more ground than if they worked separately.

If churches work together, Christ’s love can be shown in more effective and strategic ways, rather than separate churches working alone and the overall ministry focus be unevenly distributed. Churches of all denominations need to be intentional about where their focus is put and how to show Christ’s love in the most effective way.

The second way Christians and Catholics of every denomination can collaborate to be examples of Christ’s love and kindness is showing personal love. There are many social programs set in place that are meant to help those in need, but more than often the system is warped and broken and only provides material needs and comforts, but their methods are not personal.

Christians and Catholics can collaborate together to show that Christ’s love is a passionate and personal love. After all, if those in need feel as though the Church’s love for them is there from a sense of duty, rather than a genuine care for their wellbeing, they will not see the love of Christ for what it is.

Christ’s love needs to be demonstrated in two ways: collaboration and personal love.

With these two keys, churches will be able to collaborate to share the great love and kindness of Christ.

Hospitality comes from the heart

By Michael Balvers, St. Thomas Aauinas CSS

Human kindness is the solution to the hopelessness incurred in any person’s life. The Catholic virtue of kindness will bring happiness to both the giver and receiver, because everybody is happy to give and receive love. Kindness is a virtue that perfects the world and can be viewed through human hospitality.

In Acts, St. Paul is aboard a ship where a shipwreck has occurred, and “once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28: 1-2). In Malta, Paul witnesses the power of kindness and what can be the result when a community comes together and cares for something of meaning.

The divine truth is that every act of kindness an individual shares is a portrayal of God’s love, and every act of this type has a greater meaning to the receiver than the giver could ever know. The kindness St. Paul received in Malta by the local population resulted in a miracle that healed the father of the chief official.

Every act of kindness may not result in a miracle, but it does have the potential to be the basis for a great, positive change. Human hospitality does not necessarily mean allowing those in need into your home, but allowing them into your heart. When you show kindness, Christ’s love is released and you let the receiver know that you care.

As Catholics we should all strive to accept people and show them hospitality no matter their race, culture or belief. It is only by showing hospitality that genuine good is achieved.

Accepting people for who they are and showing true human hospitality is how every Catholic will be able to show their love to others, as well as positively collaborate to create world peace.

At Malta, the islanders helped St. Paul and in reward they developed because of the kindness and hospitality they gave. The islanders performed an act of selfless love, and it is that love that brings a community together to support those most in need of love.

Love has always been more powerful than hate and if every community can set aside their differences and live up to the Catholic value of love, a change can occur that will drastically improve lives.

Let those around you into your heart, because sometimes they don’t always have that option open to them when they need it the most. Human hospitality has the power to cause so much good and it is one of the keys to living a morally just, Catholic lifestyle.

Life is all about living the best way possible, which is achieved through showing the same kindness and hospitality that St. Paul received in Malta. A simple act of kindness once a day can go a long way to positively change lives for the better.

Share God’s love with the world’s family; your brothers and sisters. That is the solution to the hopelessness that so many people feel on a daily basis.

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