Mark Pickup

October 17, 2011

People in the Edmonton Archdiocese are so fortunate to have Archbishop Richard Smith. He is truly committed to people knowing Christ in a personal way and living holy lives that reflect our blessed Catholic faith.

Archbishop Smith's vision for the flock entrusted to his care is captured in his pastoral letter entitled Pastoral Priorities of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. I recommend that everyone read it and contribute to the goals the archbishop has established.

The introduction to his letter identifies the foundation from which everything must come. The archbishop quotes Pope Benedict's words at the beginning of his pontificate in 2005: "There is nothing more beautiful than to know Jesus Christ; there is nothing more beautiful than to tell others of our friendship with him."

And so based upon this fundamental truth, the archbishop began the Nothing More Beautiful series of presentations. As an outgrowth of that series came the priorities set out in the archbishop's pastoral letter calling us to genuine witness of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which draws believers to ever greater holiness.

One thing builds on another: The three priorities Archbishop Smith has identified are evangelization, faith formation and vocations promotion.

In this column I want to address the second priority first: faith formation. Why? At a personal level it is important for me to have a solid foundation in my faith before taking an authentic witness to others.

That's reflective of the archbishop's wisdom by beginning with the Nothing More Beautiful series.


Meeting the living Christ Jesus is life transforming. As Archbishop Smith eloquently stated in his pastoral letter, "From the beginning of Nothing More Beautiful we have said that its ultimate goal has been to promote and foster for all of us this encounter with our Lord."

The history of Christianity bears witness to this reality in the lives of countless millions of people whose lives were changed by encountering "the Incarnate Son of God."

Reprobates became saintly and went on to become living witnesses to the transformative power of Christ. Broken and shattered lives have been healed, families reconciled and even entire societies changed because of revival of its people authentically encountering Jesus Christ.

The indescribable joy of discovering the light Christ driving back their internal darkness shook their world to its core. The light of the world became the light of their world and allowed spiritual vision where only blindness and darkness had existed previously.

Their focus on ever deeper communion with Christ drew them toward greater holiness. Their lives became holy because Christ is holy and they followed Christ completely. That is what you and I are called to do. To deny this is to deny history and the reality of the risen Christ Jesus.

Like those who went before me in their pilgrimage of faith, I must also immerse myself in Scripture and traditions of the Catholic Church and embrace its teachings. It is a beautiful thing to live a sacramental life which is intended to draw us closer to Christ and assist in our Christian formation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which the divine life is dispensed to us" (1131). The Eucharist is the central sacrament; in it we receive Christ himself.


Believe it or not, my disability has been a blessing. It stripped me of my foolish illusions of self-sufficiency and crushed much of my monumental pride that plagued me previously and kept my faith superficial and ineffectual.

As I experienced the terrors of losing physical function that eventually put me in an electric wheelchair, utter despair threatened to engulf me.

I found myself with two options: I could place my life completely in God's care or I could curse him. I chose the former.

In doing so I discovered that even though my body is being destroyed an internal veil is continually being pulled back to reveal an ever clearer view of Christ and a liberty that can only be found in him.

Strangely yet wonderfully, God opened new avenues for me to witness from my wheelchair and chronic illness about the Christian hope within me. This witness carries a certain authenticity when I speak to other broken people about the glorious hope I have in Christ that transcends my circumstances. I may be broken but I am not defeated. Christ lives in me.