The following is the text of Fr. Thomas Rosica's address to over a thousand people gathered at Toronto's Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music for our second annual Christmas Concert.
Your Eminence Cardinal Collins
Brother Priests and Sisters,
Dear Friends all,
What a wonderful sight to witness this evening in the Koerner Concert Hall! What a fitting way to celebrate the conclusion of our tenth anniversary year of Salt and Light! Welcome to each and everyone of you! I welcome members of our Salt and Light Board of Directors, our donors and benefactors who have been with us from the very beginning. I especially greet the large delegations of parishioners and their pastors from several parishes of this Archdiocese and Hamilton who have truly embraced the mission of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and support us regularly.
The Advent and Christmas seasons are a time of hopes and dreams for the Church and indeed for the world. When we speak of hopes and dreams, the question of their fulfillment cannot be verified by objective or scientific means, but rather from an experience which involves all of the human faculties of those who share the dreams. Although written words may try to express initial dreams, the dreams are often realized or fulfilled in very different, partial or surprising ways. The great 19th century Victorian poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it very well when she wrote: “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”
This past August 28, we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of a great man’s dream – the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. When he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and looked out upon a quarter of a million people who marched on Washington, he didn't say, "I have a complaint." Instead, he proclaimed to the massive crowd: "I have a dream."
There was much for Dr. King to complain about for black Americans at that critical moment in American history. But Dr. King taught us that day our complaints or critiques will never be the foundation of movements that change the world – but dreams always will. To spend our time constantly saying what is wrong will never be enough to change the world. Nor will it change the Church. One has to lift up a vision of what is right, what is good, what is beautiful, what is holy and what it true. That is what brings about change and conversion. We know that change came from the kind of social movements that descended on Washington on August 28, 1963.
Another kind of change came upon all of us this past February 11, 2013, when a brilliant Pope named Benedict XVI, the “Mozart of theologians,” bearing the burden of years and diminished energy, had the boldness and courage to realize that he could no longer lead the Church he loved and served for his entire ministry. He humbly stepped back so that someone else make continue the work of shepherding, guiding and feeding the flock of the Lord.
Several weeks later, more change came upon the Church and the world on the evening of March 13 in the Sistine Chapel when Cardinal Collins and his brother Cardinals elected a wonderful, holy pastor from the ends of the earth to continue the ministry entrusted to Peter in the earliest moments of the Church’s life.
In 2002, just as the memories of World Youth Day were passing into the annals of history, an elderly Italian man, Gaetano Gagliano had a dream… of a Catholic Television Network that would bring the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ to our nation. He and his family summoned me and invited me to tell Canada about the dream… the dream of Jesus on a Galilean hillside, his dream of a kingdom that would embrace people and love them to life. His dream of a Church that would mirror the kingdom of heaven in our history. “Tell the world stories of hope and goodness, of inspiration and holiness,” the Gaglianos said to me. Tell us about the new Saints and Blesseds, real role models for our day.
And when their insistence and cajoling didn’t convince me to take up this challenge, Blessed John Paul II did some heavy-duty arm-twisting over a memorable lunch in Rome on November 15, 2002. With the permission and encouragement of my Basilian superiors, I said yes, not knowing then what was in store for me, nor for this network. I can still hear Gaetano Gagliano saying to me: “Padre Tom, tell Canada about Jesus. Tell them about the Church. Bring them the Pope. Tell them about my dream for Catholic media.”
So I in my turn used those methods that they used with me in inviting this amazing group of young adults, and some of us younger for a while, to become Salt and Light for Canada and for the world. They are the stars and witnesses of Salt and Light. And they are here tonight. I ask them to stand and invite you to acknowledge them for their dedication, creativity and hard work.
Our tenth year anniversary celebrations over the past year have coincided with some great moments in Church history: a Synod on the New Evangelization in which we played an important role, the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II, the Year of Faith, the resignation of a Pope, the Sede Vacante, a Conclave, the election of Pope Francis, and so many more extraordinary events. Salt and Light has been there to tell the world about Jesus, about his dream, about the Church he founded and her diverse community of believers.
When Pope Francis published his Apostolic Exhortation last week, “Evangelii Gaudium”, “On the Proclamation of the Gospel,” I realized once again that our mission at Salt and Light is exactly that: to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the story of the Church with conviction, clarity, hope and above all, joy, which is the necessary element for Evangelization that is so often missing in the Church’s use of the media. “Evangelii Gaudium” is Pope Francis’ own ringing response to prophets of doom of our age. Our only desire is that Salt and Light television be a witness to hope, an instrument of solid catechesis, and a bearer of Gospel joy.
For all of these reasons, we conclude our anniversary year with Mary’s great hymn “Magnificat!” As Pope Francis himself wrote in the final words of Evangelii Gaudium: “There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves. …This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization.” (#288)
May she watch over us tonight as Masterworks echoes her hymn of praise and ours to God who has done great things for us, through us, within us, sometimes despite us, and hopefully more often because of us!
Magnificat! Magnificat anima Dominum! Thank you!
(S+L Photo/ Richard Valenti)