The Art of Accompaniment

Remarks from Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto at 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Delivered Saturday, October 10, 2015

Instrumentum Laboris Part III: Section 110; The Art of Accompaniment

 We are called to accompany people with a compassion that challenges, and that leads to conversion, and to a heart on fire for Christ. Here are some ways to do that: 1. Pastors, who must daily accompany their people in their struggles, should imitate Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and with clarity and charity preach the call to conversion, which is the foundation for the liberating message of Jesus “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

2. The Gospel message is entrusted to us; but our greater task is to form messengers, for all the faithful are called to the apostolate, especially parents entrusted with the evangelization of their children.

3. Men in particular need to be challenged in order to assume their responsibilities in society, so that the young are not deprived of paternal models to guide them along the sure path that can sustain their hope.

4. Young people should be presented with the fullness of God’s plan for human love, with all of its challenges, and its invitation to heroic sanctity. Pastoral experience shows that they rise to this challenge with a reaction similar to the disciples of Emmaus: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)

Our mission is to make disciples, but secular culture is more effective in unmaking them. This is nowhere more evident than in the secular vision of the family, of sexuality, of gender, of fidelity, and of the human person.

We must certainly start where people are at, in their subjective personal situations, and accompany them. But to do so with evangelical integrity, we must effectively share with them the objective truths of Sacred Scripture and Tradition which challenge the secular assumptions that they draw in with the air they breathe. The goal is to form missionary disciples within the family who will evangelize the world.

“Go, make disciples”. (Matthew 28:19) That is the mandate Jesus gives us at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. In Luke, on the road to Emmaus, he shows us how to do so.

First, he drew near, and accompanied his downcast disciples as they walked in the wrong direction, into the night. He started by asking questions about their present disposition and by listening to them, but he did not stop there. Instead, he challenged them with the Word of God: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” (Luke 24:25) His presentation of the objective vision of Scripture broke through their subjective self-absorption and, along with his loving presence, brought them to conversion. The disciples of Emmaus accepted the Word of God that challenged them, and asked Jesus to remain with them. When the Lord was made known to them in the Breaking of the Bread they changed direction and, with burning hearts, raced through the night to Jerusalem to bear joyful witness to the community gathered there.

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