Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Canada spoke to the Knights of Columbus on the Feast day of St. Dominic. 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 evangelization: prayer, personal example, and a resolve to communicate the Gospel effectively to the people of our age.