Vancouver, B.C. Thom Quine, Wikimedia Commons

So many are part of the Church but know so little of it

  • May 7, 2014

It was a dark, overcast and drizzly morning in the beautiful city of Vancouver. Tens of thousands of runners passed by the hotel in the mis-named Vancouver Sun Run, the largest annual 10-kilometre road race in the country and the second biggest of its kind in the world. The taxi driver deftly manoeuvred through a number of side streets to avoid the countless runners in an effort to bring his fares to the busy airport in time for flights.

When questioned, he offered some insights into the luscious British Columbia city, which lies near the Fraser River on the Burrard Peninsula. The city that thrives in the shadows of the majestic North Shore Mountains stands out in this great country because of its favourable climate and the diversity of its population, with as many as half of the two million people who reside in the Greater Vancouver Area claiming a first language other than English.

Living near Halifax on the opposite side of the country, I suggested to the driver that the scenic cherry blossoms and other rich foliage that showcase his city on this late April morning might be more than a month away from making their presence felt on the east coast, the right coast as I like to refer to it as.

Some more idle chit-chat and then the driver asked me a question that sort of took me aback.

“But you’re not a coastal city,” he said of Halifax.

Well yeah, we are, with the peninsular downtown and much of the rest of the city facing the North Atlantic, without the protection from the Pacific that Vancouver is afforded by Vancouver Island.

I told the cab driver simply that Halifax was on the Atlantic Ocean. The exchange was innocent and innocuous, no need to be pedantic toward or judgmental of a fellow Canadian who said his travels within the country had taken him as far east as Toronto on different occasions. But the short dialogue did persuade me afterward to mull the question of how we can be part of something so great and know so little about it.

Many Catholics are in the same boat, or in the same cab. We are urged to have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who can bring us to God and eternal life. But many who claim to be Catholics turn their backs on the precepts of the Church. Others are born into the faith but have never experienced the ongoing conversion of heart to make them true Catholics, true followers of Christ. Even though they attend church weekly, they have not committed to turning their lives over to Christ.

Few actually live, breathe and contribute to the faith. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum from tacit belief to deep personal relationships. We have moments and periods of conversion in which we really seem to be getting it and really seem to be getting somewhere. Then, we drift back.

Is that enough?

Now, the stops, starts and waits of a day-long airplane journey from Vancouver to Halifax leave ample time for contemplation. Even travelling at close to 700 kilometres per hour, this massive country of ours takes a good number of hours to traverse. Thank God that we aren’t expected to know minute details of a city, province or territory on the other side of Canada that we’ve never visited before.

But the enormity of this great country is a mere pittance, a single drop of water in the Atlantic or the Pacific compared with the immeasurable and unfathomable expanse of eternity. And we Catholics are told from Day 1, or at least from the day we start to listen, eternity most assuredly awaits us and we have but two choices of how it will be when we get there. There’s only one way to eternal happiness and that is through Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life. The other choice, described in many different fashions, is an eternal existence bereft of the love, happiness and security that we all yearn for during this life and that only Jesus can provide in the next.

In the little time we are afforded to live and breathe on this planet, we’d be well advised to seek every opportunity to get to know and forge an intimate relationship with Jesus, the way we trust to gain an eternity with God in Heaven. We can pray read, listen, sacrifice, do good deeds and, most importantly, experience the true union with Christ in the Eucharist. And it behooves us to share what we know with people with whom we are attached by family, friendship, proximity or working relationship.

Whether talking about Halifax’s coastal geography or the everlasting life that Jesus promises, some people just won’t know about it unless we fill them in.

(Campbell is an editor at the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax, N.S.)

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