Scripture tells us that man does not live from bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God. I've always intellectually understood that, but two weeks ago I was most blessed to be part of the Festival of Faith in London, ON, and I can now say that I know, deep down inside, what it's like to be fed by the word of God.
The Festival of Faith was a response to last year's Synod of Bishops on the Word of God
. Three of the Canadian Bishops who participated, London's Bishop Ron Fabbro, Ottawa's Archbishop Terry Prendergast and St. Paul, Alberta's Bishop Luc Bouchard, met with Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, who was English language media liaison for the Synod, and proposed to bring a bit of the Synod back to Canada. The result was a two-day lecture/workshop series, sponsored by the St. Peter's Institute for Catholic Formation
and Salt + Light, which brought together families, lay leaders, priests, teachers, seminarians, students and university faculty, from across the Diocese of London, with 13 speakers, 20 different lectures or workshops on the theme, Celebrate the Living Word
, in six different locations across the city of London.
The event began on Thursday night with Bishop Bouchard offering us reflections on the 12th Ordinary Synod 2008, The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church
. So much great work was done during the Synod, presenting not just challenges that are faced around the world, but also hopes, which Bishop Bouchard shared with his listeners.
Friday morning found us at the Education Centre in the south end of town, with Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Vatican Astronomer
, who spoke to Grade 12 students about Creation: The Scriptures and Science
. Brother Guy showed us how God invites us to be scientists and that the favourite scripture passage, John 3:16 reminds us that if "God so loved the world…" then the world, the physical world, must be good because, as Genesis 1 tells us, God saw that what He created was good.
After lunch we crossed the lawn to Regina Mundi High School, where Fr. Rosica spoke to the students about how to satisfy the hunger within our hearts with scripture. If I can note one thing he said, it is that sometimes we can know Scripture so well, that we do not know Jesus. To use an example: do we know Psalm 23 so well that we don't know the Shepherd it speaks about? Do we allow the Word of God to live in our heart and possess us? Profound words which gave me much to reflect on. This same talk was repeated, in a different adaptation to priests, deacons and lay ministers, at St. Peter's Seminary later that afternoon, after which we split into two groups. I went with all the priests, deacons and bishops with Archbishop Prendergast, who gave us wonderful ideas for preaching the Gospel of Luke. I couldn't believe that I was in a class room with some 50 ordained men, learning about Scripture. It was a bit surreal.
That evening we gathered at St. Peter's Basilica, London's Cathedral, for a talk by Bishop Fabbro, on the Bible and morality: Becoming a Good Person - God's Word on the Matter
. Bishop Fabbro wondered how desperate we are to inherit eternal life. How badly do we want it? He reminded us that the transformation, which began at baptism, is not complete and that in order to grow and mature in a spiritual life, we must allow the Spirit to grow. This is why we need the Sacraments, for it is in the life of the Sacraments where we encounter Christ himself.
The Bishop was followed by the Scripture and Hymn Festival
, which featured two choirs, the St. Peter's Cathedral Singers and Contemporary Choir, and the Holy Family Parish Traditional Choir. Their songs where interspersed with scripture readings, reflections and prayers, a most appropriate climactic ending to a full day of being fed. We began with the exhortation to open our hearts that we may become instruments of God's love and we were left with the suggestion to take what we'd received and to live it out - to share it.
I went back to my room feeling satisfied as I would after a great meal.
But it wasn't over, for we began Saturday morning for Family Day
, open to anyone and all-ages, at Brescia College
for a 9:30am lecture by Sr. Eileen Schuller, OSU on the greatest find ever made in Palestine: The Dead Sea Scrolls. Her focus was on how they help us read the Bible. Sr. Eileen is an Ursuline sister from Chatham, ON and a professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University. She is one of the few expert scholars on the Scrolls. I particularly enjoyed this lecture as I had recently been to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.
Last, but not least, Fr. Murray Watson, biblical scholar supreme and teacher of Scripture at St. Peter’s Seminary, helped us demystify the Book of Revelation: Following the Beast or the Lamb
. Also a fascinating subject. This was a fitting end to our “retreat” in the Word as in the end, God wins and the message of hope that the Book of Revelation brings, to “hold firm,” is one that we should never forget.
We returned home well satisfied, having grown in the Faith, in the Word that lights our path, and much closer to the Shepherd who leads us all to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quiet waters. Indeed our souls were restored.
All the talks we taped will be airing on Salt + Light soon. Keep checking our listings for details.