Saturday, October 3, 2009

International Priests Retreat in Ars, France - 4

Cardinal Schonborn's talk on Friday was about "Preaching and Mission." His focus was found in chapter 3 of Mark's Gospel: the choice of the Twelve. I liked his point that the Greek says "He made of them twelve" recalling the act of God at Creation. Jesus makes the church a whole new people, a whole new Israel. He calls the church so that we may be permanently with Him. And that is our vocation as Catholic Christians, to always be with Jesus in our lives, inseparably joined to Him in his love. This is why we, the church, participate in Jesus' mission. As the Father sent the Son, so Jesus sends the Twelve to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and to forcefully drive out demons, to drive out evil from the world.

As an illustration of one particular aspect of this mission: that of evangelization of youth, he invited one of the Community of the Beatitudes who spole of their ministry with young people on the beaches of France where young people gather and party near the night clubs. The story of their minsitry was facinating. They begin by putting on a performance about the Gospel in the street then move to the beach around one or two in the morning. There they are present in their religious habit. Amazingly the young people are drawn to them, they come to them talk about their lives which are often very disrupted and filled with abuse. There are obviously many challenges but also wonderful success stories of lives turned around.

Here is the Sister who gave us the talk and shared her experiences in bringing the Good News of Jesus' love to these young people.

After Mass at which Cardinal Christian Tumi of Douala, Cameroun presided, we managed to get a picture with all the priests from Canada. When they all started to come together there was surprisingly a very good number of us there. It was so encouraging to see these priests from many parts of Canad who came to deepen their spirituality and commitment as priests.

I was graciously helped out in this by Fr. Hermann Geisler who works in the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith in the Vatican as Bureau Chief.

And we got one more picture of the four of us from Regina following the Mass as well.
After lunch I walked down the road in the opposite direction to see what was around us. Ars is very much like Saskatchewan in that one you get a few steps out of town you are in the middle of agriculture.

Around here, corn seems to be a major crop. In France it never gets to the table, I understand, and is only grown for animal feed. The French don't know what they're missing here!

There is a story in the life of the St. John Vianney that on his journey to Ars to take up his position as pastor, he got lost in the fog and came to a cross roads where there was a young boy in the field working. Fr. Vianney asked the young fellow where Ars was and the boy told him that he was just on the outskirts. The curé thanked him and said: "You have shown me the way to Ars, now I am going to show you the way to heaven." The monument here marks that spot.

And indeed a few yards down the road is the entrance to the small town of Ars.

In the evening, Bishop Joseph Grech of Australia and Bishop Alberto Taveira of Brazil led us all in a moving evening of prayer, songs of praise and worship and renewal of spirit in the Spirit. Another excellent day for us all.
More to come.