Mass, Adoration, Archbishop Collins leading meditation and lectio divina, confession with Toronto’s newest priests, free breakfast AND free lunch?!?! ... no wonder Brennan Hall at St Michael’s College was packed to the brim with students and young professionals for the Office of Catholic Youth’s 2008 Advent Retreat.
The zombie-like bodies of young adults from in and around Toronto slowly made their way into Brennan Hall early this past Saturday in search of a boost. Lucky for them, the OCY was more than well equipped with caffeine for this bunch of not so early risers. It wasn’t long however before the retreatants realized that the jolt they were looking for was not found at the bottom of a coffee cup. Less than halfway into the Archbishop’s first meditation, all eyes were wide open. Being one in the crowd, I was reminded once again of how fortunate we Torontonians are to be continuously ‘graced’ with the pastoral dedication and attention of one of the busiest servants of the Church. It’s a treat above all others to know that our Archbishop is actively looking out for our spiritual well being. His ability to both command an audience’s attention with the simple message of the Gospel and find new ways of incorporating his signature ‘Lord of the Rings’ references, is unlike any other.
His message for the Advent season was to remind us that we as Christians are an advent people. The season mirrors our earthly existence in that we are living in wait for the second coming of our Lord. Our wait is bitter-sweet because life is made up of joy and sorrow, it is a place where heaven and hell coexist. With this said, it is our responsibility to ensure that our lives mirror the heavens and that amidst the failures of human existence, we are called to be a people of hope. How do we do that? We love. Love always.
His Grace then reminded us of the single question that will greet us at heaven’s gate: How much did you love?
He also encouraged us to volunteer, to outreach and to always be of service to those around us, especially strangers. A powerful example he gave of selfless love is that of his long ago predecessor, the first bishop of Toronto, Michael Power. Bishop Power’s courage and love for the debilitated Irish immigrants during the typhus scare of the mid 1800s, led him to pay the supreme price when he himself contracted the disease in 1847. While the city hid in fear of the contagion, Bishop Power tended to the plague-stricken immigrants by daily entering the fever sheds set up on the wharves where Porter Airlines now resides.
His Grace concluded by encouraging us young people to network with one another both on campus and in the professional field. He challenged us to not be afraid to stand up for the faith: “If you just find the courage to raise up the cross and speak up, you may be surprised of how many will follow, of how many others think as you do and are ready to stand by you as a witness to hope.”
And that was only the beginning of the morning... I could go on forever, but I won’t in the hopes of encouraging you to come out for the next OCY young adults retreat, especially when you find that coffee…just isn’t enough.
-Photos courtesy of Helene Carluen