Letter to the Clergy and Faithful on The Year of St. Paul
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The year 2008 marks the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul. To honour and celebrate the life, mission, and letters of this great Apostle, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared June 2008-June 2009 to be the Year of Saint Paul. Throughout this year, the Church is called to share with the Apostle Paul in the call to conversion; to live and pray in Christ; to study and live the inspired Word of God; to rekindle a love for the Eucharist and the Church; and to respond to the universal call to holiness and mission.
The Opening of the Pauline Year in the Archdiocese of Edmonton
A solemn liturgy to mark the beginning of the Pauline Year will be held at St. Joseph’s Basilica on Sunday, June 29th, at 5 p.m. On this day, as the Church throughout the world celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, we in this Archdiocese shall gather in our Cathedral church or in our parishes to celebrate the Eucharist and entrust this year of jubilee to God, whose love has been forcefully proclaimed by the Apostle Paul.
Practical Means of Participation in the Year of Saint Paul
Many activities are already planned or underway in this Archdiocese. For example, I have recently announced the beginning this fall of our plan for the new evangelization. Indeed, St. Paul’s eloquent testimony to the beauty of life in Christ will greatly enhance our new evangelization process, which aims to help all of us discover that there is “nothing more beautiful” than our life of faith. As well, the Archdiocese is continuing to discern and implement various pastoral goals for this local Church. How, then, to honour this privileged moment in the history of the Church in such a way that it is not perceived as a burdensome “addition” to events already occurring? The way to do so is to infuse what is already in place or planned with the teachings of St. Paul. For individuals, I strongly encourage the nourishment of your daily life of faith through a new reading of the letters of St. Paul. Paul himself was intimately acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures of Israel, and through the study of his letters, we perceive the immense significance of God’s Son, the Christ, entering into human history and offering his life for ours in the fullness of time (Gal 2:20; 4:4). I suggest spending time with Paul and his letters in the presence of our Lord through a monthly Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. This time would afford us with an opportunity to grow in appreciation, knowledge and love of Scripture, which itself witnesses to Christ (Rom 1:2). Reflections on these pastoral letters can be undertaken on a personal basis, as well as through joining parish Bible studies wherever available.
As regards our parishes and institutions, I ask that current programs and initiatives incorporate Paul’s teachings. This can be as simple as beginning a meeting with a reflection from one of Paul’s letters. Likewise, programs addressed to such needs as sacramental preparation, family life and marriage matters, or issues of social justice may probe Paul’s letters more deeply.
Our priests have already been assisted to lead the faithful at Mass to a deeper understanding of passages from the letters of St. Paul. The person and the theology of the Apostle were the focus of their recent study days at Jasper, led by a Scripture scholar who specializes in this area, Dr. Margaret MacDonald of Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
Scripture Fest 2008, Scripture Fest Follow-up and the Year of St. Paul
I am also pleased to announce that this year’s Scripture Fest, along with the monthly Scripture Fest follow-up sessions, are dedicated to exploring the letters of St. Paul. Since Dr. MacDonald’s presentations to the priests were so well received, we have invited her to return to lead Scripture Fest this fall. As a yearly two-day event, Scripture Fest allows us the opportunity to reflect on the timeless riches of the Bible and hear recent scholarly insights. The monthly follow-up sessions this year will allow for a closer and sustained tour of Paul’s missionary journeys and letters.
Prayer for the Pauline Year
Finally, I suggest that we pray often, throughout this year of jubilee, the following prayer adapted from the one composed by St. Paul himself while in prison (Eph 3:14-21). It is a powerful expression of the hope that is ours through faith in Christ.
I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant us in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; that we, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul
Edmonton, June 29, 2008