Cardinal Thomas Collins incenses the Paschal Candle during an April 14 Evening Prayer service at St. Joseph's Basilica.


Cardinal Thomas Collins incenses the Paschal Candle during an April 14 Evening Prayer service at St. Joseph's Basilica.

April 23, 2012

With many others, Louise Coates stood in a long line April 13 to shake the hand of Canada's newest cardinal.

Hearing Cardinal Thomas Collins' homily during Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica, seeing his warm smile and his red biretta were highlights of the evening for her.

She has always admired Collins' modest manner and sense of humour.

"There is something very special about seeing an old friend after a long absence," said Coates. "I'm glad he's come back to visit us."

The Friday evening Mass was the highlight of Collins' whirlwind two-day trip to Edmonton, a trip arranged so local Catholics could congratulate the man who served as their archbishop from June 1999 until December 2006.

Collins also led a session of lectio divina on April 14, met with the media and held several private meetings.

Following the Mass, most in the congregation stayed for a reception, to welcome Collins and congratulate him on becoming a cardinal. Among them was Maureen Dupuis who said, "It's the best thing going on tonight."

"He is the first cardinal that I've met in person," said Dupuis.


"When I came back to the Church, I saw him on Good Friday, and he was down at the Stations of the Cross walk," she said.

"I saw how he walked his talk, and that made a big impression on me. I saw his holiness, and it's really amazing that now he's a cardinal."

Upon learning that he had been named a cardinal, her initial reaction was that he might well become the next pope.

Margaret Walsh, from Good Shepherd Parish, said she met Collins often during his stint in Edmonton because he visited her church regularly.

"He is so personable. He is going to be the next pope," Walsh said.

When she heard that he had been named a cardinal, she was grateful because he is a spiritual man and is deserving of the title.

"It is a great gift for him to be here, to have the humility and to take the time out from his busy schedule. It's marvellous that he's here," said Walsh.

In his homily during the Mass, Collins said many people believe the Church's purpose is to teach them how to behave.

Its real purpose, he said, is to help us know the person of Jesus Christ. People encounter him through the Eucharist, reading the Bible and in everyday living.

"We are in these marvellous days after Easter when we reflect deeply upon the resurrection of our Lord, which is at the very heart of our faith," he told those at the cathedral.

Expounding on the Gospel from John 21, Collins said the risen saviour told his disciples something amazing, "Now come and have some breakfast."

While not the most sublime or profound line that Jesus ever spoke, his words give a picture of intimate fellowship. In the Jewish world, as today, close communion and fellowship often takes place around food.

Our faith tells us that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity did not cling to his equality with God, but came into this world as a man, and even suffered his death on the cross, Collins said. He was so human, so vulnerable. He cared for his disciples so much that he invited them to share breakfast with him.

"We can sometimes be too sublime in our faith, and we forget that the Lord of majesty and glory cares for us one by one in the practicalities of our daily life," he said. "This is where we meet the Lord. It's in this ordinary simplicity of life that we meet our Lord and God."

People often seek Jesus in foreign places, grandiose places.

But Collins said Jesus can be found anywhere, and one must be ready to recognize him at any moment. Our kitchens, offices and workbenches are altars. Those mundane places are where one must be ready to see the hand of God at work.

"He is still in the world with us in the ordinary, daily and little things of life. We will serve him and know him and become what he wants us to be in what we do around the breakfast table. What we see in the routine and forgettable things of life – that's where we find Jesus," said Collins.