By Bishop Bryan Bayda
You may have heard it said, “You can take the boy out of the prairie, but you can’t take the prairie out of the boy!” Well, Ithink this is true about me and also true of many. Stop and think about the personal experiences you had growing up. There are places and people that just stay with you your whole life.
This is true for our spiritual encounters of faith and that special prayer book or rosary that has unbelievably been there for so long. My go-to memory is an icon given to me by a priest when I was just an altarboy. I kept it through high school, the seminary and it is with me in my residence today. These spiritual anchor keeps alive the special moment of encounter with Christ, or the Mother of God, in our lives and they are that much more real if we have a tangible reminder of that mystery.
My Ukrainian heritage and Eastern spirituality are important for me in these ways and as part of a larger Catholic community. I see the faithful of the Eastern Churches playing a role in the Body of Christ that gives it character. To use a geographic example, what would Canada be without the prairies or without the North? Thus, what would the Body of Christ be without a small but significant Eastern spiritual way to celebrate the rich heritage of the Catholic family?
In an Eparchy like mine, the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, I am humbled by the vocation we feel to not merely meld into other expressions of faith at the risk of diminishing the flavour of the spiritual banquet. Our missonary discipleship is a salt that gives flavour to all food—it is marked by harmonizing with other Catholic churches, other ecumenical brothers and sisters largely influenced by Western Catholicism, and indeed other faiths in the world. In this way, every instrument that makes up the symphony of the Body of Christ can be heard and appreciated by all, like the oboe of an orchestra.
Through God’s grace (tangibly the financial and moral support that we receive from others) we are comforted in our journey as missionary disciples. We gladly share our unique eastern hymns, icons and prayer services with many others. The fact that we sing our entire celebration of the Eucharist, the Divine Liturgy, from start to finish, including our Propers, Scripture Readings of the Epistle and the Gospel, remind us that the mystery Jesus gave us is so special we sing all of it. I couldn’t imagine merely reciting “Happy Birthday” for someone or our national anthem. In our spiritual approach, we honour the person or our country by singing our sentiments and thoughts making them all the more memorable.
I look at the faithful in my Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Sasktoon and, as their shepherd, ask God for help in breathing life into the sheep who are bearers of a tradition of worship and celebration that adds so much to the Body of Christ. No one person can complete the joyful task of sharing the rich faith entrusted to us that should be shared with everyone. The cultural conduit for this garden composed of icons, hymns, pysanky (decocrated eggs), prayers before the shroud on Good Friday, Resurrection Matins and Divine Liturgy Easter Sunday and the melodies that I hum forever convince me I belong to the Body of Christ. It is personal. It is communal.
So when I gaze at the beauty, the very spirituality and theology woven into the architectural style of our churches—when I contemplate the elements I know will give life and continue to build the Kingdom of God on earth, I think to myself, “How similiar is this to the sight of an elevator for a boy who has grown up on the prairies?” I am unexplainably grateful to God for the gifts he gives us so we can give to the Body of Christ the same way our prairies give character to Canada.
Most Reverend Bryan Bayda, CSsR
Eparch of Saskatoon