Bonded in FaithFR. RAYMOND DE SOUZA
World Youth Day 2002 has already produced a new cadre of Catholic leaders.
All bishops choose a motto, and Archbishop Brendan O’Brien chose his 20 years ago when he was first made a bishop. “Redimere tempus—redeeming the time,” he told us yesterday. “I chose it to emphasize the need to be alert to the present opportunities that are ours to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
The phrase comes from Ephesians 5: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The characterization of the days as evil is bleak, but the message is hopeful. St. Paul is warning that it is foolish to simply walk unthinkingly in the ways of the world, but that the wise will see how to redeem the time, to find what is good in it, to celebrate what is worthy, to encourage what is holy. In other words, to seize the “present opportunities to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
All of this took me back to the events of five years ago, to the summer of the World Youth Day (WYD) in Toronto and the visit of Pope John Paul II. The grand vigil and Mass at Downsview Park took place exactly five years ago this weekend, and what was it if not a great opportunity seized to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ? My own priestly ordination and, to a certain degree, this column, was born from that experience, and so it was for me a time indeed well redeemed.
Five years on, one should ask what the lasting effect of WYD has been. Does it remain only an event of the past, fondly remembered but otherwise just another moment locked in history, belonging to the relentless march of days too often marked with the evil and wickedness we find in our world? Or do the seeds planted there continue to redeem the time, making it a present reality?
The answer is probably both. For some, it was only another experience to be had, one good time had amid a series of them. But for others, many of them still young, those extraordinary days in Toronto were a key that unlocked the door to an altogether different future, one that gave purpose and meaning to one’s own plan for life, for a great mission that was worthy of one’s time, of one’s life.
Travelling the country, I am no longer surprised when I encounter young adult Christians who speak about their WYD experiences as decisive for their vocations in life. There is already a cadre of young Catholic leaders who were formed by the WYD five years ago, and they will continue to be key evangelists for another generation at least. It was not something that was planned, in terms of a national strategy guided by a task force or committee. Rather it has emerged spontaneously among those who learned at WYD to be circumspect about the world, but hopeful about the possibilities of joyful witness. Five years on, it is clear that WYD was time well spent for the Church in Canada.The alternative to redeeming the time is to become weary, resigned to one damn thing after another, as the old phrase puts it. But history is not only one damn thing after another, it is many things, some of them damnable, others holy. The arrival of a new archbishop is a time of hopeful possibility, that together we will discover the holy amidst all the rest. For those of us marked deeply by the Toronto WYD in 2002, it was just that, a discovery of the holy in our midst. It remains not only a memory, but an impetus to witness to the holy today, to try to be wise and to redeem the time.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Bonded in Faith." National Post, (Canada) July 26, 2007.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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