SASKATOON — A week of events organized for Catholic Students Week at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon wound up Feb. 8 with a celebration focused on vocations and the gift of consecrated life.
Men and women religious from a number of religious orders and congregations joined students for celebration of the eucharist, followed by a supper, with activities and table conversations focusing on consecrated life.
Mass was concelebrated by Rev. Mark Blom, OMI, vocation director for OMI Lacombe Canada (the Oblates of Mary Immaculate), and Rev. Ron Griffin, CSB, pastor at STM chapel at the Catholic college on the University of Saskatchewan campus founded by the Congregation of St. Basil.
In the homily, Blom began by reflecting on the suffering of Job in the first reading. He cited a moment in the Book of Job, when Job’s wife says to him, in the midst of his anguish, “Curse God, and die,” or in other words, “Your life isn’t worth living.”
“That statement and the decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada this week in favour of physician assisted suicide say the same thing: that if you are a person who is in great affliction, terrible suffering, that you should have the right to end your life,” Blom said, stressing the value of all life, even in the midst of suffering.
“One of the slippery phrases that’s used in this whole dilemma of euthanasia is ‘quality of life.’ ” Blom quoted Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick, in which he wrote: “How great a lie . . . lurks behind certain phrases that so insist on the importance of ‘quality of life’ that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living.”
Pope Francis is calling for a “new wisdom of heart” in this age of easy technology and individualism, Blom continued, observing that many in today’s world would also question whether consecrated life is a “life worth living.”
“We have become a culture that is infected with a virus. And the virus is individualism,” Blom said. “And the idea of consecrated life, of giving your life to God through a particular religious community, through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, doesn’t feel attractive in an individualistic culture.”
At the heart of individualism is the feeling “what about me?” noted Blom. He described a veritable fever of fears, worries and preoccupations that accompany the affliction of individualism: worries about acceptance, about career, about the future. Even in vocation recruitment, it is easy to fall in to the subtle seduction of speaking about religious life as something that will fulfil “you,” he said.
“It is (also) using the virus of ‘This is what is going to be best for you,’ ” he said. Now, as a vocation recruiter, he says things like: “I don’t care about your happiness. I care about God’s happiness more,” Blom said.
“That’s the funny thing about happiness. It’s one of those things that when you are seeking it, you never find it. True happiness shows up when you are seeking something else. And the deepest and the most rewarding happiness that there it comes when you are willing to do what God asks of you in this life.”
Those living consecrated life experience this surrender, and the joy and meaning that follows, he said. “You get to pour out your whole life in a way that helps you discover what your life really is for,” Blom described.
“The religious life is based on the truth that you already have everything that you’re searching for, and the religious life is one way — it’s a very beautiful way — that you can acquire everything that you’ve been given in the spirit of God’s love. So when we are able to allow the love of God to touch us, that fever of ‘what about me?’ starts to subside, and we are able to find ourselves moving into service of others.”
The more we seek God and open ourselves to the love of the Father, the less we think and worry about our own life, he added. “Just practice a little bit more of that surrendering to divine love, the love that is already inside you, and you will find that those fevers in your life are going to reduce, and you will find that it is much easier to discover that path of service that God is calling each and every one of you to, and then you will be on the way to making God’s happiness a reality, in and through your life.”
Blom thanked the ministry team of Michael MacLean and Madeline Murphy Oliver, as well as STM President Dr. Terry Downey for organizing the event, as well as the religious sisters and priests who attended, and the students for taking the chance to “talk with us, tug on our sleeves and say, ‘Is that life worth living?’ ”
Other events on the university campus during Catholic Students Week included a Catholic Christian Outreach “summit” featuring eucharistic adoration with music; a Theology on Tap discussion evening about vocation with Rev. Daniel Yasinski as the guest speaker; viewing of a Ted Talk video followed by discussion; and a multi-faith chaplaincy tour, said MacLean.