God's Word has the power to transform us, say speakers

Bishop Murray Chatlain and Sr. Eileen Schuller gave the presentations at the Dec. 9 session of Nothing More Beautiful


Bishop Murray Chatlain and Sr. Eileen Schuller gave the presentations at the Dec. 9 session of Nothing More Beautiful

December 19, 2011

It took only four words from the New Testament Letter of James to confirm Murray Chatlain in his vocation to the priesthood.

Chatlain, now the bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, was a seminarian in second year theology struggling to know whether he truly had a call to be a priest.

He appreciated his studies in theology, "but I was hoping to have a wife and family," he recalled during a talk at a Nothing More Beautiful session Dec. 9 at St. Joseph's Basilica in Edmonton. "I was arguing that if I became a priest I would become lonely and bitter and so I would not be able to help anyone."

One day Chatlain was praying while reading the Letter of James and encountered the words, "You will lack nothing" (1.4). "It had the power to convict me and stay with that only God's word possesses.

"For me, it was a promise from God that anytime I freely choose to respond to his call, I will lack nothing I truly need."

After telling this story, Chatlain asked those attending the session at St. Joseph's Basilica to take a moment of silence to recall a Scripture passage that has been of similar importance to them.

Chatlain, who was a priest of the Saskatoon Diocese before becoming a bishop, was the catechist at the Dec. 9 session while Sister Eileen Schuller, an Edmonton native and Scripture scholar now teaching at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., presented the witness talk.

Chatlain spoke on the Splendour of God's Word. In his talk, he said many Christians have been touched by passages from Scripture. "They are beautiful in that the passage has the power to shift us from a place of anxiety and self-absorption to a place of peace and trust."

Arnulfo Jam-Camat is seen incensing the congregation during Vespers


Arnulfo Jam-Camat is seen incensing the congregation during Vespers

Such passages can be recalled years later and still touch us with "the grace of our encounter with God," he said.

Schuller recalled three texts that had touched her, two from the Bible and one from British novelist Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.


One Scripture passage was the story from Mark 14 in which a woman anointed Jesus' feet with a costly ointment. When some complained the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus defended the woman. "She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying," Jesus said (14.8).

"The text," said Schuller, "does not say, 'She has done everything, she has done all that needs to be done, she has done what others are doing,' only 'She has done what she could.'

"I hope that these words might be said at my funeral," the sister said.

In his concluding comments for the evening, Archbishop Richard Smith said it was clear that the two speakers have allowed themselves to be transformed by God's word.

God's word is a living word, he said, "not simply to be read, but to be encountered, something that engages us, speaks to us, changes us and draws us to that communion of love that God wants to have with each of his children."

"It is clear from your witness that you have allowed God's word to engage and transform you."

(The text of Bishop Chatlain's talk. Sister Schuller's talk will be published in next week's WCR.)