WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Theology professor Fr. Peter Galadza says life's distractions are just replacements for the real God.
Many people today live disjointed, distracted lives that are an escape from the real world of the here and now, says an Ottawa Ukrainian Catholic priest.
"Most of the things that we look for to bring us joy are surrogates. They are replacements for the real God," said Father Peter Galadza, a professor from the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies.
The solution, he said, is "centeredness in the name of Jesus."
"When we pray to be rescued from corruption, we are praying that we might be saved by our Lord's unconditional love and put back together again, and overcome that fragmentation," explained Galadza.
The theologian was a plenary speaker at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute Study Days July 5-7, put on by the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy.
Galadza began his session by showing a TV advertisement for Facebook Home.
Called "Dinner," the commercial depicts a family Christmas meal dominated by a mind-numbing relative who rambles on about her shopping experiences. Her tedious monologue is ignored by a young woman who focuses instead on her Facebook Home-enabled phone.
She imagines ballerinas dancing across the kitchen table. She envisions a snowball fight in the dining room. Instead of paying attention to the real world, she escapes into the fantasy world of her smartphone.
The underlying message is that the young woman regards the world she lives in with a profound sense of resentment and contempt. She can escape her boring relative that distracts her from the reveries of her phone.
However, Galadza said it may be that the mind-numbing relative is a source of salvation. "Maybe this person deeply needs me, and this person needs communion with someone else. I can cut her off with my smartphone or I can enter into communion with her."
Galadza said that people face similar distractions within the Church. Rather than being at Mass simply to fulfill their obligations, they want to experience something meaningful. If there is nothing meaningful for them, they turn away, and seek something more exciting elsewhere.
Galadza's talk was on the Liturgical Legacy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
As with Miss Smarty-Phone from the TV commercial, many Christians are not living in the here and now, he said. She uses her God-given imagination, but not in a constructive way.
Likewise, he asked how Church liturgy enables us to really let our God-given imagination run free.
"Liturgy is real life as God intended it to be, lived simply in a more concentrated, solemn and focused form," said Galadza.
"What we're experiencing at church is not an escape from reality, but an escape into reality, an escape into the heavenly realm, which is the only thing that makes life livable after all."
Jean-Paul Sartre's famous adage, "Hell is other people" pertains to the state of the Church today, said Galadza. Even with profound homilies, beautiful cathedrals, and melodious choirs, some people do not attend church because they cannot live and thrive in the presence of others.
"Many people just don't worship because they don't want to be with people they don't like," said Galadza.
Doctors, teachers and engineers never stop learning, and priests should be no different, he said. To improve liturgies, he said priests ought to learn how to write better homilies, and how to give their whole selves when singing and celebrating.
The average Roman-rite Mass has about 2,500 words, whereas the average Byzantine Mass is about 10,000 words. The Byzantines have to say four times as many words in the same amount of time.
Those words must be delivered with conviction. An important component of effective liturgy is sincerity.
"Once people, especially younger people, sense that we do not inhabit the words, then the liturgical experience starts to unravel," he said.
Bishop David Motiuk said the purpose of the study days is to bring leading Ukrainian Catholic theologians together with those interested in learning more about their faith - "to come together in prayer, liturgy and hear various speakers."
Workshops, children's sessions, matins and vespers were all part of the schedule of events, held at St. Josaphat Cathedral Parish Hall. Workshops included providing spiritual care for young families, finding God at the movies, and stewardship and a ministry of welcome.
Most participants this year were from Alberta, but some came from other Western centres and even from the United States. Following the weekend, two-week university courses on Eastern Christian Spirituality and the Byzantine Sacraments were offered.
Another speaker at the study days, Father Andriy Chirovsky, the founding director of the Sheptytsky Institute, took his listeners on what he called "a stroll through our Ukrainian Catholic history."
Chirovsky highlighted some key historical figures and saints of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Among the key figures were Nestor the Chronicler, Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kyivan Caves, St. Cyril of Turov, St. Josaphat and the new martyrs of Ukraine.
"They would not renounce their Church, and they stood firm in their faith. Why? Because they knew Jesus Christ," Chirovsky said.
"If you have trouble in your life, if you have problems, just think of what getting to know Jesus can do for you in the dangers that you face."
St. Volodymyr the Great turned away from the paganism prevalent in his time, and was the first to start catechizing and baptizing the people of Kyiv.
"The Baptism of the Kyivans is a turning point for all of Eastern European history because Kyiv becomes the place to which the Christian light shines bright," said Chirovsky.
"It was a time of change, a time of repentance. This really bears fruit in the next generation when St. Volodymyr's sons become exponents of that Christian Gospel that puts demands on one's life," he said.
Those two sons, Boris and Hlib, died in a subsequent battle at the hands of their own brother, Sviatopolk the Damned. They were true followers of Christ.
"They become the first saints of our Church, not great rulers or great politicians, not great diplomats or great military geniuses. They were great in their understanding of what the Christian message is really all about, that you put your trust in Jesus Christ no matter how high the cost," said Chirovsky.
The Edmonton Eparchy has about 30,000 Ukrainian Catholic faithful across Alberta with 89 parishes and missions, and is served by 25 secular priests, 10 religious priests, 10 retired priests, four deacons and 26 women religious.