WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
David Wells and Archbishop Smith spoke on the Beauty of Discipleship at Nothing More Beautiful.
David Wells recalled the day as a young teacher when he learned that his job was to teach with God more than about God.
Wells taught in a school in a rough area of Liverpool, England, where the students were thought to be unteachable. But he was making progress and one day was eager to hand back an assignment to his students that showed there was hope for them.
He had, however, forgotten the assignments in the staffroom, rushed down to get them and then rushed back. He opened the door to the classroom a crack and saw mayhem. Students were chasing each other, some were smoking cigarettes and others were holding one student out the window by his ankles.
Wells stopped. "I stood in that corridor and I said, 'Lord I think you want me to be a teacher, but I don't know.'" Then he kicked the door hard. "'Now, look!' I said, the white showing on my teeth and around my eyes, a very aggressive posture, and pointed at them. 'I trusted you!' I said . . . and then realized that this wasn't my classroom.
"I froze. There was a teacher up at the board. I did a John Cleese. I went, 'Sorry, wrong room!'"
That was a moment of grace, one that led Wells to re-examine his approach. In it, he heard God telling him, "Let me into your teaching, and I'll open up their hearts. Don't do it by yourself, David, you'll make a fool of yourself. Rather, let me speak through you."
Wells, director of religious education for the Diocese of Plymouth, England, gave the witness presentation at the Oct. 27 session of Nothing More Beautiful at St. Joseph's Basilica.
The five sessions this year, the fourth of five years of Nothing More Beautiful, focus on the general theme, Transformed by Grace: The Beauty of Discipleship. Each evening is centred on the celebration of Vespers with a talk by a catechist and a witness.
The Oct. 27 evening focused on the topic, The Call to Holiness, with Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith as the catechist.
In his presentation, Smith contrasted Christian discipleship with the disciples who followed ancient Greek philosophers. The disciples of the philosophers had sought out a teacher who would give them knowledge and skill.
WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
Karen Koester leads the congregation in their response to a Psalm during Vespers at Nothing More Beautiful Oct. 27.
For Christian disciples, on the contrary, the initiative comes from Jesus who calls them into a personal relationship with him, the archbishop said. That relationship involves not only the intellect, but the whole person.
"It arises from a personal encounter that changes everything," he said. Through that encounter, one awakens to the fact that Jesus is Lord, Son of the Father. Such a realization "gives birth to a deep inner attachment to him, the surrender of one's entire life."
Christ's disciples are committed to the person of Jesus, they surrender to his transformative love and they follow the way of the cross, Smith said.
"Taking up the cross means a continual death to self, an incessant letting-go of the falsehoods, illusions and other attachments that keep us from living authentic Christian lives."
The call to discipleship that is begun with Baptism means always walking as a child of the light and avoiding the influences of the world, "which in so many ways is at enmity with God," he said.
Carla Smiley, archdiocesan coordinator of Nothing More Beautiful, said she hopes that over the course of this year participants in the program will "discover the beauty of Christian discipleship."
Participants, she said, need to prepare to take part in a program to welcome home inactive Catholics by using the five-year "gift" of Nothing More Beautiful.
"We need to be excellent stewards of that gift," Smiley said. They should seek to know their faith better and deepen their life in Christ through prayer and the sacraments so they can share it more effectively.
"After Nothing More Beautiful, there will be a test," she said. That test will come when they are asked to invite others back to their Catholic faith.
The next session of Nothing More Beautiful will take place Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. on the topic, The Splendour of God's Word.
Bishop Murray Chatlain of Mackenzie-Fort Smith will be the catechist and Sister Eileen Schuller, a religious studies professor at McMaster University, will give the witness talk.
(The full text of Archbishop Smith's talk is on Pages 19 to 22. The text of David Wells' talk will be printed in next week's WCR.)
(The Oct. 27 Nothing More Beautiful can also be viewed online at www.caedm.ca/webcast.)