Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 9, 2009
Teacher's witness strikes a chord at Nothing More Beautiful
Young people moved by her witness as an 'ordinary Catholic'
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Teacher Lydia Cristini struck a chord with at least some of the many young people in the congregation at the first session of the second year of Nothing More Beautiful Oct. 29.
"I aspire to be able to speak like that someday," said accounting student Sophie Chlebek.
"It's good to know we're not the only ones struggling," she said in a brief interview following the session at St. Joseph Basilica.
Chlebek spoke of her own sense of isolation in living out her faith in a secular environment and said she drew encouragement from Cristini.
Archbishop Richard Smith was the featured speaker at the Evening Vespers service. He spoke on Jesus Christ: Word of God Made Flesh.
Nothing More Beautiful is a five-year process of evangelization in the Edmonton Archdiocese. Each year focuses on a specific theme and has five evening sessions at the basilica, each centred around a Vespers service with a keynote speaker and a lay witness.
REAL AND ALIVE
In her talk, Cristini told her story - that of "an ordinary Catholic" who grew from a childhood faith she received from her parents to one who through her parish youth ministry came to see Jesus as "someone who is real and alive right now."
She experienced the sudden death of her mother when she was nine, living with her grandparents for three years until her father's remarriage, the spiritual highs of serving at Our Lady of Victory Camp and with a National Evangelization Team, the accidental death of a boyfriend she had met through NET, and the transition from a high school student who "hated religion class" to becoming a religion teacher herself.
All of those experiences helped to destroy her earlier conceptions of God so that a new, fuller understanding of God might be born, Cristini said.
"Although it is sometimes painful and hurts my pride a little to find out that my present conception of God is incorrect and needs to be wider, more colourful and more nuanced, it is also very hopeful," she said.
"There will always be new things to learn, there will always be the possibility of diving deeper, there will always be old images to shatter, there will always be new discoveries of God's infinite and unconditional love for me."
At the end of the Oct. 29 service, Smith delivered his final words to Cristini. "Any students who find themselves in your classroom are truly, truly blessed," he told the religion teacher at St. Joseph's High School.
Other young people were as impressed with Cristini's words as was Chlebek.
"It's nice to hear there are good Catholic teachers out there," said education student Rosa Murphy. "It's very encouraging."
Mayra Jarillo, a social work student, said it helped her to hear Cristini say that prayer is not about changing God's will, but about changing oneself.
"You feel more connected because she is like us," Jarillo said.
GOD IS ONE WITH US
In his talk, Archbishop Smith explored the question, "Why has God become one with us in Christ?" The "short answer," he said can be found in the Creed - God became one with humanity "for us and for our salvation."
The first part of this answer is that God came to us through the Incarnation "to reveal himself to us, to make himself known to us and (to) invite a response of answering love," he said.
Jesus enjoyed an intimacy with the Father infinitely greater than that available to any human. As well, the archbishop said, Jesus became intimate with us through the Incarnation.
"He knows us from the inside out. He has lived our human life fully."
Because he is intimate with both the Father and with humanity, Jesus can "enlighten our lives and lead us home to the Father."
The second part of the answer is that God became human "for our salvation," the archbishop said.
"In Jesus, God and humanity say 'yes' to one another," thus cancelling out the "no" spoken by Adam and Eve, he said.
Because of this, Jesus "is the one and only mediator between God and the human race," Smith said. "When we live in union with him, we become by adoption what he is by nature and we taste salvation."
(The text of Archbishop Smith's talk is published on Pages 12-14. Lydia Cristini's talk will be published next week.)1>
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