Cardinal Collins on St Dominic and evangelization

Cardinal Collins on St Dominic and evangelization
Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Canada spoke to the Knights of Columbus on the Feast day of . His talk brings together some points taken up in our last few blogs on preaching and prayer, and he makes the case so clearly. Find the complete talk here. The following excerpts, with emphases added, are very illuminating.

Our mission, like that of each generation of Christians,
is to make Christ known in the age in which we live, and we should
celebrate the fact that the mysteries of faith are being proclaimed by
word and witness to the ends of the earth. But we should not be
surprised at the storms that occur when the divine wisdom of the Gospel
confronts the human wisdom of this age. We can learn from the readings today, and from the example of St
Dominic, whose feast we celebrate, we can learn how to engage
effectively in the struggle to evangelize the world of this age, which
so often is not attentive to the wisdom of the cross. . .

We proclaim the supernatural wisdom of the Gospel, which is in
harmony with true human wisdom, whether it be in affirming the sanctity
of life, or of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman,
faithful in love and open to the gift of life, or of other fundamental
realities that are clearly evident by the light of faith and reason. But
we do so in a social environment that is shaped by the false wisdom of
this age that is increasingly hostile to Christian faith
, and even blind
to what human reason itself reveals. . . .

The false wisdom of the age is communicated with extraordinary
effectiveness, through touching personal stories that convey a message
of moral relativism, and through the skilful promotion of an
individualism that corrodes the bonds of love, and ultimately leads to a
discordant society of lonely people, without purpose and without peace.
While the rulers of this age persuasively tell stories, we tend to
issue documents, full of truth, but unread. Too often the unholy
rhetoric of de-evangelization is more creative, more persuasive, more
effective than the holy rhetoric of re-evangelization.

But in the human heart there is a yearning for truth, especially
since a diet of illusion eventually robs us of inner peace, and causes
misery in society. It is spiritual and intellectual junk food, delicious
but incapable of sustaining life. Long ago St Augustine spoke of the
deep human reality that is as true today as it was in his age: “You have
made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they
rest in you.” Our mission is to offer to our age the life giving Gospel
alternative to the superficially attractive wisdom of this age
, and we
need to do so persuasively, to get through to people, including
Catholics, who are bewitched by the wisdom of this age.

On today’s feast, we look to the example of St Dominic, who in the
early 13th century was sent by God to the rescue the Church at a time
when it faced a challenge superficially different but fundamentally
similar to the one we face today. . . .  St Dominic saw the problem clearly, and was guided by the Holy
Spirit to see the solution, one which addressed not the symptoms of the
problem, but its cause.

His approach of prayer, of personal and communal example, and of the
effective preaching of Christ, can guide us today
. First, prayer. We
need to attend to the fundamentals.  As we busily design strategies to
advance the new evangelization, we need to build upon the bedrock of
prayer, and not just give it lip service
. Prayer is not just pious icing
on the cake; in many ways, it is the cake. As St Benedict says in the
Prologue of his Rule: “whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him
with most earnest prayer to perfect it.” . . .

The second point that St Dominic emphasized was personal and communal
example. .  .  . St Dominic insisted that
the preachers live with manifest austerity and Christian integrity,
obeying the invitation of the Lord in today’s Gospel to leave all behind
to follow him. . . .

St Dominic and his companions gave a witness of
joyful, loving orthodoxy, and so must we, if we are to proclaim the Good
News effectively both to this secular society, so cynical about
religion, and to those who once were practicing Catholics but have left
us. An old priest at the seminary at which I studied used to say: the
faith that is sad, or mad, and not glad is bad. The power of the rulers
of this world will only be conquered by the example of joyful, practical
love. . . .

As we celebrate this Feast of St Dominic, he guides us as we confront
the challenges of these days by laying before us three keys to
: prayer, personal example, and a resolve to communicate
the Gospel effectively to the people of our age.


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