OTTAWA (CCN) - When the Companions of the Cross (CC) met for the General Assembly Jan. 30-Feb. 3 in Cornwall, Ontario, the priests had their first chance to reflect on the impact of last year’s death of their founder, Father Bob Bedard.
“The passing of a founder, of a spiritual father in Christ is a watershed for any community in the history of the Church,” said CC Moderator Father Scott McQuaig, who was re-elected Feb. 3 for a second six-year term as the Order’s leader.
“The Lord really spoke a vision for life and spirituality and mission into the heart of Father Bob and this is what we’re called to live ourselves now,” he said. “The Church often speaks of the charism of the founder. Spiritual communities need to be faithful to that initial grace, that initial mission; we need to live that out.”
The Order’s 38 priests, who are based in Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto and Houston, Texas, never had an opportunity to get together to talk as brothers after Bedard’s Oct. 12 funeral, McQuaig said.
“A big part of what we did is talk about the spiritual patrimony passed on to us by Father Bob and what gifts we are meant to multiply, to pass on and incarnate.”
McQuaig described Bedard as a pioneer of the New Evangelization. Reading Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelization in the modern world in 1975 “changed everything” for Bedard from his preaching to his priorities as a priest, he said. “He grasped the significance of the document.”
The CC priests can look back and see a prophetic dimension to Father Bob’s life and priesthood, as he founded the new order a little more than 25 years ago,” McQuaig said. Bedard saw the found as a “move of God” that was in the current of grace announced by Pope John Paul II when he spoke of the New Evangelization.
But just as the first evangelization, required Pentecost, where the disciples waited in the Upper Room to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope John Paul II also spoke of a new Pentecost to provide the new gifts to lead and empower the New Evangelization, McQuaig said, noting Pope Benedict XVI has also spoken of this. “Father Bob was prophetically aware of that early on.”
Bedard was a pioneer of the New Pentecost through his experience of the Holy Spirit in 1975, and a leader in the Charismatic Renewal up to the last years of his life, McQuaig said.
“The reason he was so effective as a leader of the Renewal was he was able to bring it into the heart of the faith,” McQuaig said. In the 1970s, the Marian Movement and Charismatic Renewal were separate and exhibited mutual distrust, but Father Bob integrated the Marian teachings, as well as the teaching authority of the Magisterium, the role of Peter in unity, the lives of the saints and the importance of the sacraments—especially the centrality of the Eucharist into his teaching.
“He coined a phrase for us: Fully Catholic, with an Evangelical heart and Pentecostal fire,” he said.
While Bedard recognized early on Vatican II’s call for the laity to release their ministry as priests, kinds and prophets by virtue of their baptism, he never confused the distinct role of the ordained priesthood with the lay faithful, he said.
The Order has been archiving all the cassettes and DVDs of Bedard’s preaching and television appearances over the years. McQuaig said listening to Bedard’s homilies of the late 70s and early 80s reminded them of what a powerful and effective preacher he was, and the powerful dynamism of his ministry. “You could almost feel the depth of surrender to the Lord, to the Holy Spirit.”
Evangelization needs Pentecost and the full life of the Holy Spirit living in the Church, he said. Bedard used to say “This is not the Catholic historical society; it’s the Church of the Living God. Coming to church is not coming to the museum, but to encounter the Risen and Living Lord who has plans for our lives,” McQuaig said.
After his experienced of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1975, Bedard “absolutely fell in love with the Lord,” and “became very much attuned to the infinite love of God for people,” he said.
People who met Bedard “felt like they were loved by God the Father,” McQuaig said. “He gave them an experience of the fatherhood of God.” He also had a way of making highly sophisticated teaching accessible to people.
But while Bedard embraced the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, he opposed any whiff of a prosperity gospel or the idea that you could have Jesus without the Cross, McQuaig said. While it is natural to want to stay on Mt. Tabor, in the Transfiguration experience of the joy of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Bedard called that the “honeymoon.”
“The Lord points us to Calvary, to walk the way of the cross,” McQuaig said. “He bids us to come and die with him.”
There is an ascetical aspect, a mortification of the disordered broken part of our nature, the “old man” that is the result of the fall that must die, McQuaig said. “The beauty of Father Bob’s life was that he did not only preach the cross, he lived it.”
He remembered driving Bedard to the hospital in 2009. They feared he had had a stroke. He soon suffered a terrible fall and the dementia he had begun to struggle with had “kicked in at a new level.”
Bedard never came home. He required 24-hour care. But he told McQuaig when in the hospital but before he had the fall, “I’m offering all of my suffering with joy, for our community and also for the work of evangelization.
During the 33 months in the hospital and in the nursing home, suffering from a “litany of various illnesses,” that are overwhelming to list, “he never complained. Not even once,” McQuaig said.
“He once said to a brother, ‘We’ll have to do more than wear the cross. We’ll have to carry it.’”
“He really showed us how to do that as a true spiritual father in Christ.”