WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
At a May 1 Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica Archbishop Richard Smith blesses the icon of St. Joseph the Worker written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Nothing More Beautiful ended where it began - with the story from Genesis that tells of the dignity of man and woman created in God's image and likeness.
It was, said Archbishop Richard Smith, a fitting way to bracket the five-year series dedicated to the New Evangelization with "the marvellous truth of the beauty of each individual human being in the eyes of Almighty God."
That truth is affirmed by the Paschal Mystery of Christ's death and resurrection in which Christ gave his life for each person and thus for everyone, the archbishop said in his May 1 homily at a Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica.
While the Eucharist on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker marked the end of Nothing More Beautiful, it also was noteworthy on several other accounts.
May 1 was also the 50th anniversary of the dedication of St. Joseph's Cathedral, now a basilica; it was a Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Edmonton Archdiocese; it marked the sixth anniversary of Smith's installation as Edmonton's archbishop. All of that was celebrated in the context of the universal Year of Faith.
As well, the archbishop blessed the new icon of St. Joseph, written by Vancouver iconographer André Prevost, that will soon begin its journey through every parish in the archdiocese.
"What brings these distinctive strands together and unites them in a tapestry of hope and joy is the person of Jesus Christ," said the archbishop.
"He is the centre, the fulcrum, of the life of the Church and its every activity."
In his reflection on the Gospel reading from Matthew 13 in which the people of Jesus' hometown took offence at Jesus teaching them, Smith said there are two ways of knowing Jesus.
One is a knowledge that comes from "a presumed familiarity," a superficial knowledge in which people only think they know Jesus and easily dismiss him.
The other way of knowing Jesus is as a disciple - "wondrous before the infinite depths of his divine personhood." This "true knowledge of Jesus is open to the adventure, humbly aware that only Jesus can bring the salvation for which every heart longs."
How do we respond to Jesus?
WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
Prior to the Mass, the 40 members of the confirmation class at St. Michael's Parish in Leduc laid gifts symbolic of the life of work before the St. Joseph icon.
Evangelization, said the archbishop, "in the final analysis is a matter of sharing the love of Christ with the individual persons we meet in the course of our everyday lives, something possible for each of us."
The Nothing More Beautiful sessions began in December 2008 with most sessions including a catechetical teaching by a bishop and a witness testimony by a layperson or a religious. The teachings and witness were centred around the celebration of Cathedral Vespers, a formal liturgical celebration of the Evening Prayer of the Church.
Videos of the events were shown on Salt and Light television and are available on the archdiocese's website, www.caedm.ca. The texts of the talks as well as reports on each event were published in the WCR. Discussion groups gave people an opportunity to reflect together on the teachings.
The Nothing More Beautiful title for the series was drawn from Pope Benedict XVI's homily at his 2005 inaugural Mass.
At that time, the new pope said, "There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him."
In an interview May 2, Smith said he is "really excited" about the energy that developed around Nothing More Beautiful.
He paid tribute to the catechists and witnesses who, when requested to participate, instantaneously agreed to do so.
It took great courage, especially for the witnesses who shared their life stories not only in front of hundreds of people at the basilica, but also on the Internet and Salt and Light TV, he said. "I remain humbled by that witness; it was beautiful."
The countless people who volunteered in many ways throughout the program are "a clear sign of the energy in this archdiocese when it is tapped for the Gospel," the archbishop said.
While blessing the icon of St. Joseph the Worker, Smith said icons of the saints are created to motivate people "to seek the city that is to come" and to be mindful of the saints.
Saints, he said, are "those friends and co-heirs of Christ, who are also our own brothers and sisters, and our special benefactors."