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Father Christopher Collins, SJ, spoke at Archbishop’s Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton May 1.
Father Christopher Collins, SJ, spoke at Archbishop’s Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton May 1.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Overcoming abstraction with the issues of the day entails seeing humanity in situations

Father Chris Collins, SJ,calls for an awakening to see the wounds of vulnerable

In the big issues of our culture — abortion, immigration, racism, even St. Louis’ city-county divide — it’s important to not lose sight of the people at the center of these issues, said Jesuit Father Chris Collins.

The assistant to the president for mission and identity at Saint Louis University was the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Archbishop’s Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton May 1. More than 650 people attended the event.

There is a “great challenge in our culture and our society that is so filled with all kinds of division and hostilities and taking sides,” he said, which is informed and shaped by the media we consume. Whatever the issue is, “we get locked down into whatever side we want to be on. … The issues become abstractions, and people are lost so easily in the midst of those” issues.

What is needed is a recurring restart — not only as human beings but among families, parishes, schools, the Church and society, he said. The Church offers a restart every liturgical year, with moments such as Lent, a time to examine ourselves and see where we have become disordered. We’re given an Easter every year to remember what the big story is, he added. “If it weren’t for the resurrection of Jesus Christ … there would be no Church.”

Consider Jesus’ approach to the people of His time, Father Collins said. “He takes His time, one person at a time, to meet them where they are.” We can learn something from doubting Thomas, who in disbelief asked to see Jesus’ wounds after His resurrection.

Father Collins encouraged others to reflect on why it was Jesus’ wounds that drew Thomas out of himself and see things in a new way. “The guard around his own heart was drawn down and his heart opened up again to be able to give testimony,” he said. “I think we also get all sorts of experiences of this in our daily lives, if we are opened up to encounter them … and let our own hearts be moved in the flesh by those who are vulnerable.”

Among several stories he shared of encountering others, Father Collins spoke about his time as a pastor at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he was called to visit a 15-year-old girl in the emergency room who miscarried her baby. The infant “was so tiny, and so utterly fragile,” he said, adding that it was a privilege “to be able to pray with her and pray for her baby and ask God to receive her baby into His eternal life.”

The girl’s community held a wake and funeral just in the same way as they would have for an elderly person. “Look at the power this one unborn child has to bring people together in faith and in hope and love, and allowing their hearts to be broken by the loss of this little baby.”

Those moments are radical gifts, Father Collins said. He encouraged others to look for similar moments where our lives are interrupted and the grace of God intervenes. “We are interrupted by the face of Christ in the most vulnerable among us,” he said.

Don’t become distracted by the issues, he said, adding that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to harden our hearts and forget the very people who are at the center of these issues.

“We will die within if we let abstraction take over,” he said. “When we have those encounters (with others) we see things differently and then we go give witness.”

Tenth anniversary of Prayer Breakfast

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Archbishop’s Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast, hosted by the St. Louis chapter of Legatus. The annual event started in 2010 to introduce then-newly installed Archbishop Robert J. Carlson to Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Previous speakers have included:

• Bishop Samuel Aquila (2010)

• Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus (2011)

• Bishop James V. Johnston (2012)

• Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (2013)

• Archbishop Paul S. Coakley (2014)

• Bishop Paul D. Sirba (2015)

• Archbishop Joseph Naumann (2016)

• Bishop Edward Rice (2017)

• Archbishop George Lucas (2018)

Legatus is a lay organization of Catholic business and professional leaders and their spouses, all who are dedicated to living and spreading the faith in their professional and personal lives.

From the Archive Module

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