I am a product of the New Evangelization. Although I grew up in a very loving Catholic home, I wasn’t aware of God the Fathers love for me personally, or the manifestation of that love in the gift of Jesus; His life, death and resurrection. That realization hit me in a powerful moment at a retreat with CCO while at university. Needless to say, living out of this new realization profoundly changed the way I lived my life and faith. It was also during this time as a student that I began to feel a tug towards the organization that I had seen God work so powerfully through.
However, seeing God as an ominous figure for the first 19 years of my life had left considerable “scar tissue” in my relationship with Him. I was still unable to trust God with my future for fear that He would do something awful with it. I brought this issue to CCO’s Annual Christmas Conference called RiseUp, happening in Montreal. Taking place right after the canonization of St Andre, the conference was appropriately themed around his life. Upon a trip to St Joseph’s Oratory, I found myself overwhelmed with the beauty of the church, the life of Andre, and in particular, the hundreds upon hundreds of canes and crutches hanging the walls of the basement chapel (all from people healed by God, through Andre). In that moment, I couldn’t see a God that wanted bad things for His people, but rather a God who loved his people deeply and desired good for them. In that moment, I said yes to His will for my life, and yes to this “tug” towards staff I was feeling. However, that yes was conditional. If I was to join CCO, I needed a confirmation from Him.
Flooded with a new joy, I returned to the hotel for the conferences evening session. Afterwards, a girl whom I had never met before tapped me on the shoulder saying she heard me talk at the staff discernment workshop the day before, and that it sounded like something that was “really on my heart”. We parted, but feeling unsettled I went back to her and introduced myself. Laughing at the somewhat awkwardness of the situation she said “Sorry, I didn’t mean to creep you out, but sometimes in life, you need a confirmation, and I just wanted to give you one”. My jaw just about dropped. Roughly 6 hours after asking God for a confirmation, He gave me a rather obvious one.
But it was during the weeks that followed where this call was solidified. In prayer and spiritual conversation, I learned that Lord didn’t create us to be completely independent in faith, but rather as part of an interwoven community, working with God to witness and minister to one another. How often in the Bible does Jesus reveal His glory to one person, who then goes off to share what happened with others, when Jesus could have just as easily done it himself (the women buy the well is a great example)? And today, why is it that we have priests who absolve us, spiritually gifted people like Andre who physically heal us, and others who pray for us?
Reflecting on my own conversion, God didn’t knock me off my horse on the way to Psychology 2101, but it was His presence in the little actions of CCO missionaries (like an invitation to play hockey, taking time to talk and listen to me) that got me to that retreat, and back into His arms.
Can’t the almighty Lord achieve these things himself? Of course He can, but He chooses to bring His little servants into His mission to accomplish His glory, fostering in us a love and selflessness in the process. The fact that my little activity as a missionary can be multiplied by the Lord, to the extent that a life can be changed and a Soul restored, well, there’s nothing on earth that’s more exciting or humbling than that.
St Andre, Pray for us.