Fr. Adam Laski writes about his studies in Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Peace in Christ!
Back in the spring of 2018, while I was prepping for the Easter season and busy slide of activity into summer between the Cathedral, St. Anthony, St. Anthony – Lake Nebagamon, St. William, and Holy Assumption, my attention was fixed. In the middle of this busy season, I remember getting a call from Fr. Jim Tobolski asking if he could talk to me in his office in Superior. I was driving back from Lake Nebagamon at the time, and my mind started to do the math in my head, I had been at the Cathedral cluster of parishes for three years and I supposed maybe a change was coming. But, I wondered, “Where would I go?”
As I prayed about the possibility that I might be changing assignments, I remembered that for Christians, anxiety is right out, “Do not be anxious and concerned about anything” (Philippians 4:6-7). I was praying the rosary at the time, and I reflected on Mary at the wedding feast at Cana, as she makes her concern known to the Lord in a humble admission, “They have no wine.” She doesn’t freak out, or complain, or get bitter. She simply admits this situation is beyond her control, expectations, and ability. If you will, she entrusts the unknown and frightful future to the Lord. I had to do a bit of the same.
As I turned over my fears and concerns to Jesus with Mary, I was consoled. I started to get excited about the “yes” I could give, wherever I was being asked to go. And when I was asked to do something totally outside my expectation, I had to stifle a laugh. Bishop Powers was asking me to go to study Canon Law in Ottawa, Ontario, in Canada. I had been saying just a few days prior, “Of course, if anyone gets sent to study Canon Law, it will be Fr. David Neuschwander; he is super smart, has a degree in classical languages and is organized. He is the obvious choice.” Fr. David came to Superior and I went to Ottawa. God has a sense of humor.
Since I have been studying in Ottawa, I’ve had to figure out how to explain Canon Law. I think it is helpful to think of it, as it describes itself, it is a body of law, which is binding for all the baptized of the Roman Catholic (Latin) church. These laws of the church are founded a principle of unity. Christ prayed that “all might be one” on the night before he died (John 17:21). If law is lived out in its fullness, it helps us to take a step toward unity and charity in the Church.
Canon Law covers seven topics in general:
1. General Norms of law;
2. The People of God and laws relating to them;
3. The Teaching role of the Church;
4. The Sanctifying role of the church and its sacraments;
5. Temporal goods (e.g. money, property, and church “things”);
6. Sanctions in the Church (for delicts and penalties); and
7. Processes (types of trials, with emphasis on marriage nullity cases).
One thing I have learned from studying Canon Law is that the church is truly universal. A universal law, which is binding for Roman Catholics where ever they may be, allows the church to be united in its discipline across international and cultural boundaries. It gives the church a frame and structure that isn’t oppressive and authoritarian, but the voice of a loving mother insisting with the same insistence that we find in Christ, that “all might be one.”
Fr. Adam Laski