Friday, December 22, 2006

"A Ray of Hope"

Word's come from Toronto that Archbishop Thomas Collins' installation will take place on 30 January at 10.30am in St Michael's Cathedral.

To think: almost two years exactly after an early Friday morning of pre-Super Bowl revelry in an Irish pub here in Philly, the "T.O." chant will be getting quite the unanticipated resurrection. (Don't expect to hear it from me on Christmas evening, however.)

Writing in yesterday's National Post, the columnist Fr Raymond De Souza -- a priest of Kingston and onetime student in Rome -- offers his take on the appointment:
While Toronto's archbishop has no formal authority outside his diocese's boundaries, the sheer size of Toronto and its status as the nation's media capital make the archbishop the sine qua non of the Church's presence in Canadian public life. While it might pain those of us outside the metropolis to admit it, it is often the case that if doesn't happen in Toronto, it doesn't happen at all. Cardinal Ambrozic recently reorganized his communications office for this reason, appointing a new communications director who understands that in order to communicate the Gospel, you first have to communicate. In so doing, he prepared the ground for his successor, a formidable intellect with a winsome way of preaching the Gospel.

In this, Archbishop Collins is cut from the same cloth as the Archbishop of Quebec City, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, appointed in 2003. Both are modest men, rather soft-spoken, authentic scholars able to propose the Catholic tradition to a skeptical, even hostile, culture. They are both men who, if left to their druthers, would probably choose the library and the classroom, but, given their vocations, are quite content to serve as bishops too. They are not long-faced pastors, wearing their sacrifices on their sleeves. They were both made bishops by John Paul II, but are more in the mode of Benedict XVI, the reserved scholar-pastor.

In Ouellet and Collins, the leading French and English bishops respectively, Canada has moved to the front rank in terms of the quality of its Catholic leadership. Ouellet is already regularly consulted in matters of concern well beyond Canada, and it won't be long before Collins is in demand far and wide....

On my last visit to Edmonton, I stayed with him in his very modest home, the basement of which was given over to a makeshift library. Even the altar was alongside a long shelf of books. I offered the Holy Mass there privately, a circumstance in which there are rarely distractions. Not the case that time, where my eye was constantly drawn to the library -- the Thomas More section was closest. Yes, he has a Thomas More section, to which he will no doubt be frequently referring in his newly prominent role in dealing with political and cultural leaders who, now as then, only wish to go along to get along....

Every new archbishop is welcomed by all parties. Those who loved his predecessor think he will carry on in like manner; those who didn't will hope a revolution is at hand. Thus Archbishop Collins comes to Canada's largest city as a ray of hope. Once the decisions come which displease this or that group, his mission will be to remind the Church and the city that a bishop, despite his manifest talents, cannot bring hope himself, but only point to the One who does.