It is April and we celebrate the Easter season once again. Inevitably, our focus on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ provokes existential questions about our relationship to God and the place of faith in our lives.
This year, religious belief is under deeper scrutiny than usual. Unfortunately, in 2015, religious faith is increasingly linked to evil:
- terrorism, such as the deadly attacks on the editorial staff of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris;
- war in the Mideast, where Christians, Muslims and others are murdered and driven from their homes by those who rationalize their crimes by appeals to God;
- bigotry, in our own countries, where those who question changing laws on such matters as euthanasia and assisted suicide or gay marriage because of their beliefs are accused of hatred masked by piety.
Granted, throughout history religion has been used as an excuse for all manner of heinous behaviour by one group against others, or even against the planet itself. But does that mean religion is not and cannot be a force for good in the world?
Thoughtful believers understand the necessity of grappling with that question. They also — because they are believers — know that true religious faith is only a motivator for good. The fruits are all around us: so much of the world’s artistic and architectural masterpieces, so many of the world’s hospitals, schools, orphanages, refuge centres for the dispossessed are the work of those moved by faith.
In a world dominated by conflict, we forget about the quiet testimony of such endeavours. Canada is filled with its own testimonies to the power of faith to do good in the world. Novalis continually publishes books about the role religiously motivated folks have played in our country’s history.
This spring is no different. On April 23, we will celebrate the launch of two volumes of the Jesuit History Series. Vol 1, Teachers of a Nation, and Vol. 2, Builders of a Nation, represent a survey of the role of Jesuits in the development of English Canada from 1842 to the present.
These books are the work of a team of mostly Jesuit authors, guided by the editorial leadership of historian Jacques Monet, s.j. In Teachers, Joseph Gavin chronicles the rise of Jesuit-run English-language schools across the country and the foundational role they have played in raising many of this country’s most influential leaders. In Builders, a team including Peter Baltutis, John D. O’Brien, Michael L. Knox, J. Windston Rye and Michael J. Stogre explore relations with First Nations, social justice, modern communications, parish life and the lasting witness to the Jesuit martyrs.
The work of these Jesuits throughout Canadian history is a story that needs telling. It isn’t all wonderful — the relationship with First Nations in particular had its dark chapters — but it is a vivid reminder that true faith is an essential ingredient for true humanity.