Agnes Bedard loves to sing. She sang at home as a child; she sang in the choir at church; she sang in high school; she sang her oral reports as provincial president of the CWL. And at Nothing More Beautiful Dec. 9, she twice burst into song with the congregation happily joining in.
“I love to sing. I sing when I’m in trouble,” Bedard said in her presentation. “I excelled at Gregorian chant.”
“I believe and know every time I sing I am thanking God for his gift to me and when I sing well, it gives glory to him.”
Bedard from Calgary, former national president of the Catholic Women’s League, gave the catechist presentation at Nothing More Beautiful while Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ont., gave the main presentation of The Church We Believe in is Holy.
She spoke of growing up in the Catholic faith with a life revolving around the Church and full of Corpus Christi processions, heavenly interventions and, of course, singing.
When she had completed high school, she believed, “I had successfully completed my religious education in the right religion. All I have to do is keep keeping the big rules and I will be fine.
“I don’t remember any mention of the need for a personal relationship with God. Being a Catholic was safe and unchallengeable, because we were ‘right,’ and that was that.
“I went to church, sang in the choir, said the rosary and felt superior. That was being Catholic.”
But Bedard did develop that personal relationship with God. It came in time of trouble when no one would help until she begged God’s help in prayer and help came immediately. It was a personal relationship nurtured by her involvement in the CWL whose members were her “companions on the journey.”
It was deepened by encountering a man with cerebral palsy on a street in Vancouver, telling him God loved him, putting her hand on his shoulder and seeing his body stop jerking. “I looked in his eyes and there I saw the face of Jesus.”
Bishop Douglas Crosby
Like Bedard, Bishop Crosby filled his presentation with stories, stories of the holiness found in daily life. “Whenever I hear the word ‘holy,’ I am tempted to think about people with heads bowed , eyes closed, hands piously folded — perhaps sad looks on their faces.”
Crosby, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, went on to tell of an outspoken young priest visiting a parish where such “holiness” was evident.
The people did not greet each other before Mass, had long, sad faces, responded unenthusiastically to the prayers and participated begrudgingly in the Sign of Peace.
“After the final blessing and before the dismissal, he said to them, ‘If you believe that Jesus has risen from the dead and has saved us and given us the promise of eternal life with him, inform your face.’ He was never invited back.”
Perhaps the priest was rude, Crosby said. But he made an important point: “Inner holiness is usually reflected in our outer attitude toward life.”
He told of getting a flat tire while travelling with two priests late on a Friday afternoon near Rocky Harbour, Nfld., in his former diocese. He pulled the car into the small garage where the owner was preparing to go home.
But the man stayed, re-opened his garage and replaced the tire while happily chatting “about this and that. . . . We didn’t talk about ‘holy’ things; we talked about life.
the good of others
“Here was a man who was engaged in life and who was a holy man. Following the command of the Lord, he gave himself for the good of others.”
Holiness, Crosby said, comes from the Holy Spirit who “transforms our sometimes dark, sinful and broken lives and frees us from focusing on ‘me,’ so that I can see others and share with them the gifts and talents he showers upon me, for the common good.”
(The text of Bishop Crosby’s talk is on Pages 18 and 19. Agnes Bedard’s talk will be published in next week’s WCR.)
(The next session of Nothing More Beautiful will be held Feb. 17 when Cardinal Oscar Rodiguez Maradiaga of Honduras and Leslie-Anne Knight, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, will speak on The Church We Believe in is Catholic.)