Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Introducing Father de Souza

I had the pleasure tonight of introducing Father Raymond de Souza at a reception in Vancouver to promote his new venture. Here are my brief remarks.

After I accepted the welcome invitation to present Father de Souza to you, the organizers of this evening's reception e-mailed to ask if I would like some biographical information on him. I said only if you want me to talk for more than half an hour! I have at least that much material in my head.

In fact, my only challenge in introducing Father Raymond de Souza tonight is trying to avoid a full length speech: because I am not only a friend, but a fan. 

Having just had the pleasure of hearing him kick off CCO's Rise Up with a very stirring speech, we gather with Father de Souza, principally to recognize the latest of his many contributions to intellectual life in Canada: he has, as you know, taken on the job of Editor-in-Chief of Convivium

This new journal, launched by Cardus, Canada's leading Christian think tank, bears the important subtitle "Faith in our Common Life."

The challenges of inviting Canadians to a thoughtful dialogue on faith would be enough to keep someone busy full-time, but needless to say Convivium shares Father Raymond with one or two of his other activities.

These are principally his work as chaplain of Newman House at Queen's University in Kingston and as pastor at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish on nearby Wolfe Island.

And of course his official biography is very quick to point out his favourite job—chaplain of the Queen's football team! He's held that position for the past seven years, including—please take note—the season when Queen's won the national championship.

Then there is his other journalistic pursuit, as a weekly columnist for the National Post. He began in that role as a seminarian, which led me to conclude he was a late vocation who had worked for decades on a newspaper before turning to the priesthood. To my dismay, I discovered his talent was natural, and that he was some years younger than I.

As a columnist for the Post, Father de Souza has given voice to views that are terribly under-represented in the press and other media, arguing with clarity and conviction on burning issues without becoming a scold or a one-issue writer. In fact, the scope of his columns is one of the things that makes him such a joy to read.

George Weigel, the author of acclaimed biographies of Pope John Paul, described Father de Souza as "Canada's finest Catholic commentator." This is high praise coming from a very serious American intellectual. On the other hand, when Weigel was told about a gathering of Canadian conservatives, he expressed a great deal of surprise that there were enough of them to gather!

Tonight's reception shows there are enough fans of Father de Souza in Vancouver to make a happy gathering, and I am extremely happy to one of them.

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