Sunday 20 May 2012

One Day in Toronto

By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

Occasionally you have a day in which it seems the Lord is being extra abundant in his grace. This was one such day. Not necessarily a typical day in the life of a Jesuit scholastic, but nonetheless, one that I and several of my confreres enjoyed, and since it gives glory to God, allow me to share a bit about it.

The day began with the ordination of one of our colleagues, and it was one of the most beautiful S.J. ordinations I’ve attended. The choir came from a parish in the city where the ordinandus had been working as a deacon. They sang sacred music, including some polyphonic hymns that gave the Mass that holy feel in which it seemed heaven and earth were meeting – as indeed they were. When we sang the Veni Creator, requesting the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him in our midst, the faith of the people was particularly eloquent. Since the man of the hour was of Irish provenance, the choir added the simultaneously plaintive and uplifting sound of violin and uilleann pipes – rarely heard in our country – giving a sense of the depth and drama of human vocation in God’s great plan. An ordination, like a wedding, is a privileged foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

In the afternoon a group of us went to help the Sisters of Life with a “mothers' day” event for the women and infants they work with in Toronto, a celebration of life and love. Being with these sisters never fails to be a great consolation. Having a contagious mixture of joy, wisdom, and selfless devotion, they are wonderful missionaries of God’s mercy and love, and live a radical life of service to some of the most vulnerable in our society: the pregnant mother and her child. 

With their volunteers the sisters had spent days preparing for this – wrapping gifts, decorating banquet tables – all to honour the women they work with, and Christ who they see within them. It was an honour for us to mop the floors and stack tables this day! One of the ladies helping was the young musician Kathleen Dunn, who lent her lovely voice to the occasion (and then her muscle to the cleanup!). A different kind of “sacred music”, Kathleen sings to God’s glory in a way that also comes directly from the heart.

St. Ignatius wrote in the Spiritual Exercises that when one enjoys consolation, “let him consider how he will conduct himself during the time of ensuing desolation, and store up a supply of strength as defense against that day.” (no. 323). This is not to be a wet blanket, but to be a person of prudence. Everything can be put to good use. The great fruits of today can be a store of hope for the future, if we wish them to be. In the meantime, one might thank the Lord for the blessings he gives so liberally.

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