Anne Walsh

Anne Walsh

June 13, 2011
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON — Being Catholic means to see everything in the world as sacramental, said the director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of St. John's, Nfld.

"There is one distinctive thing about being Catholic. We see the world through special glasses," Anne Walsh told pastoral assistants from across the Edmonton Archdiocese.

"Those are sacramental glasses through which we see life and people and things differently."

Walsh said a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward or invisible reality instituted by Christ to give grace. A sacrament is a sign of the sacred. That sacredness can be witnessed in people, words, actions, and things.

"The truth of our inspiring Catholic teaching about sacraments is if we can't see the sacred in the world, in one another, in the beauty of a sunset, in the joy of a newborn baby, we will never see it in bread, wine or a white garment."

Walsh was the keynote speaker at Pastoral Assistants Day, June 1 at Providence Renewal Centre. She spoke on evangelizing through sacramental preparation, and working with children and youth.

It was a full day of retreat, reflection and formation for pastoral assistants, parish secretaries, administrators and other parish employees.

Among the outward signs that show God at work is the recent outpouring of generosity for the people devastated by the wildfire in Slave Lake, she said. From food and shelter to formal gowns for graduating high school students, the Holy Spirit delivered what people needed most. These were perceptible signs of God's invisible reality.

ABANDONED BY GOD?

Walsh told a story about her brother Dave. He dated a woman for 12 years. Finally they got married. But after eight months, his bride told him that she didn't love him and had never loved him. The newlyweds soon divorced.

Dave took on a ghastly lifestyle that included binge drinking, long spans of isolation and breaking off ties with his family. He also claimed that he stopped believing in God.

"He told me that God had abandoned him, God had let him down, and God did not fulfill his part of the promise. He didn't stop believing in God — he believed that God had wronged him," said Walsh.

Dave also claimed that he had stopped praying. Instead, whenever his mental state was at its worst, he went to their father's grave and talked to him, sometimes for three hours. He did not realize that this was the same as praying.

Even five years later, the breakup of his marriage still agonized him. Then, Dave met a father whose two sons were killed in a lobster boat rollover. The boat was overloaded with lobster, the boat rolled and both young men were killed.

GOD OF ENCOURAGEMENT

The father told Dave how angry he was at God for abandoning him and allowing this tragedy to occur.

"Dave, of all people, found himself saying to this man, 'Listen, that wasn't God. That's an accident. God is in all of the people helping you through this. God is in all of the people trying to encourage you,'" said Walsh.

Dave realized that his own reassuring words were what others were telling him all along.

He got reacquainted with a woman he had first met in Grade 8. Her name was Kim, and she had an 11-year-old son but had never married. They fell in love.

Dave got an annulment and has now been happily married to Kim for five years. They have a four-year-old child.

"I think of what a grace of God Kim has been for my brother," said Walsh. "That fills me with gratitude and wonder and awe. Those moments when we get glimpses of God are what we would call sacramental moments."

Being Catholic, said Walsh, means having sacramental sight, experiencing the wonder and awe in everyday occurrences.