Long-distance blessing precedes St. Paul icon’s arrival in Toronto

By 
  • July 10, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - As happened so often in his lifetime, St. Paul was under arrest when he wanted to be on another missionary journey — this time to Toronto.

An icon of the Apostle to the Gentiles was seized by Israeli customs officials on its way to Toronto for the June 28 opening Mass of the Year of St. Paul. The archdiocese of Toronto commissioned the icon, which will tour Toronto parishes for a year of prayer, study and devotion to Christianity’s first great writer and missionary.

Israeli officials detained the icon believing it to be part of the historic patrimony of Jerusalem. They feared an ancient treasure from the birthplace of Christianity was being illegally exported.

When Benedictine nun and iconographer Sr. Marie Paul discovered her painting had been taken into custody she found herself having to prove that it wasn’t an ancient treasure.

Without the icon present, Archbishop Thomas Collins and the packed St. Paul’s Basilica sent out a blessing on the icon over the oceans.

Toronto’s new icon of St. Paul finally arrived in Toronto July 2. It was sent away for framing, and begins its missionary journey through the archdiocese of Toronto at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Alliston.

Collins told a congregation made up of representatives from most of Toronto’s 224 parishes that the Year of St. Paul should bring Catholics to embrace Paul’s “joyful boldness.”

“Sometimes the servants of the Lord have a grim and worried look about them, and that’s not the spirit of St. Paul,” said the archbishop.

The key to a less grim and worried Christianity is seeing the world the way St. Paul did.

“We need to see the world around us with the eyes of faith,” Collins said.

Faith makes a clear distinction between irrational optimism and serious hope, he said.

A deeper knowledge of the faith through prayer and study of St. Paul’s letters will put a more open and human face on Catholics and their church.

“The faith that is sad or mad and not glad is bad,” Collins warned.

That same evening, in Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict XVI opened the year of St. Paul, saying the apostle’s courageous witness to the faith should serve as a model for contemporary Christians.

“Paul is not a figure of the past that we remember with veneration,” the Pope said. “He is also our teacher, an apostle and a herald of Jesus Christ for us too.”

(With files from Catholic News Service.)

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