The gospels are filled with accounts of people who drew near to Jesus and wanted to follow him. But there are also other accounts of Jesus reaching out to people. We see this, for example, when by the lake of Galilee, he interrupted those fishermen during their daily toil or when he approached Levi at the tax stand. Jesus met fishermen near the place they fished. Jesus found a tax collector at the place where he collected taxes.
We arrived in Toronto on a Monday for our first stop in Canada, and during the time we were there, we were blessed with the opportunity of witnessing this God that reaches out to people in their common everyday contexts. One of the visible faces of this action of God is Father Santo Arrigo, who on the second day invited us to attend a meeting called “Bible and Beer”. Two words that rarely go together in the same sentence…. But in our practical daily lives they might as well be linked! On a Tuesday, after dinner, we went down to a small basement room at our St. Patrick’s Church in Toronto, to participate in this young adult gathering. We were setting the chairs, just a few, because we were not sure how many people would show up. The truth is that little by little we saw more and more young people coming down the stairs to join us. And before we knew it there weren’t enough chairs! Some young people greeted each other more effusively, others more shyly… Only at the end we became aware that many of them had been there for the first time.
The purpose of the meeting was self-explanatory in its name: “Bible and Beer.” At the designated time, the meeting started. Its internal logic a very simple one: biblical texts in our hands and sharing on the Readings of the following Sunday. By the end of the reading of the three passages of the Scripture, the links between them presented themselves quite clearly, especially after Santo shared his reflections and helped make that bridge. We carried on more or less like this for about an hour: a group of young adults – some married, some single, some with jobs already, other still studying (one of whom joined us via video call, because the desire to be present was stronger than the geographical distance) – talking about the Scripture and about the Good News of Jesus. A biblical meeting. In an instant it happened. And in an instant the second part of the meeting began. It was dead easy: we just had to cross the street and get into the bar, which, by coincidence and perhaps some work of the Spirit, is called “Sin & Redemption”. It was the beer part. The scenario was different, but the quiet and focused conversation proceeded. Because the group had to scatter around different tables it was easier for each one of us to introduce ourselves and get to know our different stories, distances and motives.
Biblical history intersecting with personal histories. Scripture gaining flesh through sharing. With a little help of the beer, of course!
The Ignite team is in charge of organizing these meetings in the city of Toronto. This team, which includes several young adults and also Santo, meets regularly to prepare, think over and guide each event. The programme is appealing. In addition to these monthly Bible & Beer meetings, lots of different initiatives are proposed for the whole year. For instance, they often prepare Pub Nights with different themes related to the challenges of being a Christian these days: “Meaningful Relationships: Catholic Dating in a Secular World” or “Evangelization in the Workplace: Possible?”. There is always a speaker and an open conversation. Always at Sin & Redemption. A neutral place where everyone feels welcome.
There is a great desire to be a church that goes forth, but we don’t always know how to do it. There is a strong desire to make youth ministry a priority in our missionary decisions, but we do not always know how to do it. In Toronto it seems to us that there is a happy meeting of two wills that give their best to make it real. Two wills that IGNITE the spirits.
If we were not pilgrims, we would be tempted to participate in the entire programme! Starting with Table for Two, a candlelit dinner for young couples, where the four-course meal is prepared with great care by our confrere (chef) Santo Arrigo!
We’ll see you around,
Zé ku Teresa