Review: For Love of the Church – A Festschrift on the Interests and Accomplishments of His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins

While a majority of our blog readers are American, I believe my ordinary, Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archdiocese of Toronto deserves a spotlight on this blog. Probably, one of the perks during my time as a part-time sacristan at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica (2019-2021) was being able to frequently hear homilies from my Archbishop. It was a captivating 15-minutes every time Cardinal Collins went to the ambo to give the homily at the Masses which he celebrated. When churches were closed in March 2020 until June 2020 due to COVID-19, Cardinal Collins was preaching at his Daily Masses everyday from the Cathedral ambo, though to an empty Cathedral nave, but these homilies would reach thousands via livestream. His zeal for preaching and teaching the Word of God in the homily, and in a special way via his Lectio Divina series, has served as a point of spiritual and intellectual inspiration for many, including myself.

This year, 2022, marks Cardinal Collins’ 75th birthday – the age which bishops submit their resignation to the Holy Father (Code of Canon Law 401 §1). This year also marks 15 years of Cardinal Collins as Archbishop of Toronto (2007). To celebrate this great milestone year, Novalis has published a festschrift on the “interests, and accomplishements of His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins,” titled For Love of the Church. Now “what is a festschrift?” you might be asking. This title from Novalis was the first I have heard of the term, and I am certain many of our readers are asking the same. It may seem like a festschrift is just a fancy word for an anthology of essays and articles. However, it seems that it is more than a mere anthology:

a collection of essays or learned papers contributed by a number of people to honour an eminent scholar, esp a colleague

Collins English Dictionary

The scholar here is Cardinal Collins. “Cardinal Collins, a scholar?” Yes – and his biography on the Archdiocese of Toronto website proves this with his education degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (English), St. Jerome’s College, Waterloo, Ontario
  • 1973 Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.), St. Peter’s Seminary, London, Ontario
  • M.A. (English), University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
  • Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L), Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome
  • Doctorate in Theology (S.T.D.), Gregorian University, Rome
    • Dissertation: Apocalypse 22:6-21 as the Focal Point of Moral Teaching and Exhortation in the Apocalypse, Director: Rev. Ugo Vanni, SJ.

This festschrift is consisted of 20 essays divided into 5 sections:

  1. Scripture and Literature
  2. Spirituality
  3. The Church in Modern Times
  4. Seminary Formation
  5. Accomplishments

I will go through each of the sections, and how relevant they are to the ministry of Thomas Cardinal Collins in my capacity and observations, and also from my own experiences of hearing Cardinal Collins’ homilies and talks at various events. I see this festschrift as an expansion of the topics Cardinal Collins references in his homilies and talks. It is better to understand the texts of this volume, I think, if one has been exposed to a variety of Cardinal Collins’ homilies, talks and pastoral letters. It might be said that without prior knowledge about the interests and accomplishments of the Cardinal, this festschrift may be more like an academic textbook, journal or anthology. I must admit that reading this volume as an undergraduate student in the humanities is helpful with some background in academic reading. Someone in other non-humanities disciplines or those who might have little interest in Christian Theology, may find some of the readings difficult to get through due to the academic tone in some of them. For such readings, I advise spending the time to read slowly, and carefully. It might be helpful to make notes in the margins.

1. Scripture and Literature

Cardinal Collins is a scholar of Scripture. He has a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and also a Doctorate in Theology (S.T.D.) from the Gregorian University in Rome with a focus on the book of Revelation, as evident in his doctoral dissertation, Apocalypse 22:6-21 as the Focal Point of Moral Teaching and Exhortation in the Apocalypse. His love of the Scriptures is also made evident in his Lectio Divina series he has done in both Edmonton and Toronto. He always promotes the reading of Scripture – holding a red-cover New Testament, “My bible is red, because the bible is meant to be read,” and encouraged the people of the Archdiocese, “Read a chapter of the Gospels everyday.”

If the Cardinal is not quoting Scripture, or a saint, then as someone with an MA in English, he quotes from literature… I can recall more than one homily which had a reference from the works of Dante Alighieri. The Cardinal is a “devoted fan of Dante.” Many homilies would begin and/or conclude with some form of poetry and rhetoric. There is some special zeal that comes out the Cardinal everytime he reads poetry…

The first five articles of the festschrift ties in the biblical themes from the book of Revelation, transformation, knowing the Lord, unity with Christ and the Church, and Dante. These are all themes one will likely have heard the Cardinal make some connection or reference to in his homily.

2. Spirituality

There are several saints whom Cardinal Collins have a great devotion to, and mention them frequently in his talks and homily. The next three articles of this festschrift speaks to some of these figures: St. Augustine, Sts. John Fisher and St. John Henry Newman. All three essays speak to a mere dimention of one of these saints, whether it be the saint’s own thoughts, writings or a deep conversation – like the essay, Spiritual Notes for a Secular Age: In Conversation with John Henry Newman and Charles Taylor by Dr. Donald Graham – which provides grounds for further thought on what secular age really means, and the three keys to live as a Christian in this age.

These three articles tie in the past challenges of the saints, while giving us guidance on how to live holiness in the world that we live in today. Cardinal Collins’ homilies have always strived to give some ‘food for thought’ for the listeners, because that is our ultimate vocation – to be saints – and not to hold on to the passing things of this world.

3. The Church in Modern Times

The first two themes drew from themes that I would say, come from the homilies, talks and speeches of His Eminence. The third section, The Church in Modern Times shifts gears to speak about the themes that you might find in a talks outside of homilies, in a setting like the Cardinal’s Dinner, or maybe a talk at the March For Life in Ottawa. The five essays contained in this section speak to a variety of topics that surround the Church in Canada, and in Toronto specifically: The uniqueness of Eastern Catholicism (specifically liturgy), comparison of the Diocese of Toronto during the time of Michael Power and today, the Church experience from an African perspective, Catholic-Jewish Relationsinn Canada from the 1990s-2020, and finally, a “hot” topic in Canada, “care of the elderly at the end of life.”

This whole section is like a time-capsule: It gives one a context to the state of the Catholic Church in Toronto during the tenure of the Cardinal Collins. Every predecessor of Cardinal Collins faced unique issues to their respective time period, and only time will tell what type of concerns Cardinal Collins’ successors will face and need to address. It is so important to be able to understand the circumstances of a certain time so to avoid drawing our own uneducated assumptions on a specific leader. I think these five essays touch on these various topics and concerns that were at the heart of the Cardinal, and gives a unique picture of the Church in Canada during his time as both Archbishop of Edmonton and Archbishop fo Toronto.

4. Seminary Formation

It may seem a little biased that the Seminary gets a whole section in this festschrift, especially considering that most of the contributors are professors at St. Augustine’s Seminary. However, the seminary is truly close to the heart of Cardinal Collins, because as Fr. Edwin Gonsalves points out in his Afterword, “…[Cardinal Collins is] fully aware that these [seminarians] are the future of the Church – men who are our future priests and bishops.” It is also of no surprise that this section is present given that he spent a good number of years from 1978 to 1997 serving in various positions at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, as a professor, Dean of Theology, Vice-Rector and as Rector up until his episcopal ordination. Many of the seminarians who I have been blessed to know throughout the years have testified to the Cardinal’s love for the Seminarian, and his frequent visits there. Besides the seminary, Cardinal Collins has been a promoter of priestly vocations in his diocese, hosting a breakfast, gathering young men all across the Archdiocese a couple hours prior the Archdiocesan Priestly Ordinations at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. He also makes time to speak at the Come and See event at St. Augustine’s Seminary and speaks at the annual Ordinandi Luncheon – a youth event to promote vocations to high-school students in Catholic Schools, which precedes the Ordinandi Dinner which takes place in the evening.

Though comprised of three essays, this section does not speak about how to train men to the priesthood. While two of the articles speak to more technical aspects of formation: homiletics and spiritual direction, the first essay of the three covers a topic that is fairly interesting, In Persona Mariae: Another Mary for Another Christ – Women as Marian Successors in Seminary Formation by Dr. Josephine Lombardi. Women can be seemed to be left out of the picture of designing a seminary formation program. However, Dr. Lomabardi, herself a professor of St. Augustine’s Seminary, recognizes women’s potential role co-minister/housemoterh, as leader, teacher, counsellor/advisor, lay preacher, comforter/intercessor, and ultimately, models of goodness. These are not just mere roles women can take on in the process of forming men in the seminary, but these are roles that exemplify Mary’s role in salvation because she herself had all of these roles. Inclusion of women in serminary formation is therefore, crucial and should be more widespread. Through that, a ‘Marian continuation’ takes place as women becomes “Mary’s successors, reavealing her presence and unique genius, advising and informing decision making at every level of seminary governance.” (Lombardi 338) Dr. Lombardi’s article gave some fairly interesting and thought provoking insights, at least for me, especially in a time when women are being appointed in dicasteries and positions in the Church where they will have more say and voice.

5. Accomplishments

There are twenty essays in today, but only the last five are dedicated to Cardinal Collins. These articles in a sense tie in all of the interests indicated in sections 1-4, and gives them context of where it fits within Cardinal Collins’ ministry. These chapters gave me much insight into the episcopal ministry of Thomas Cardinal Collins. I have deeply admired Cardinal Collins for many years, not just because he is my ordinary, but because of his care, concern and zeal in his ministry. The first of the five essays speak to the “Alberta Years,” which really gave me a lot more context to Cardinal Collins’ ministry in Toronto – it was really like a game of connecting the dots: You need to read the essays of his interests, his spirituality to understand his accomplishments and the why of what he does as Archbishop. It is in understanding who Cardinal Collins is, getting where he is coming from when he speaks, to understand why he speaks in a certain tone, certain voice, certain style and certain “drama” at events like the Cardinal’s Dinner.


Once again, I am biased to give a review of this book, because Cardinal Collins is my ordinary… but in all honesty, this festschrift only helped me to appreciate my ordinary, Archbishop Thomas Cardinal Collins a lot more for the person he is. Thanks be to God! I have always been a “fan” of Cardinal Collins, and truthfully wish he receives more publicity for his accomplishements on the news. But this festschrift convinces one that he doesn’t need this sort of glamourous attention on the news. Cardinal Collins does what he does, not only out of responsibility as Archbishop of Toronto, but he is urged on to act “For Love of the Church.”

Thank you, Cardinal Collins for all you do for the Church. And thank you Novalis for publishing this festschrift – hopefully others in the Archdiocese of Toronto will come to appreciate their shepherd more, and pray for him.

To purchase and read more details on For Love of the Church, click here.

Click here to read an article on this festschrift from the Archdiocese of Toronto Blog.

Click here to read an article on this festschrift from St. Augustine’s Seminary.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of For Love of the Church: A Festschrift on the Interests and Accomplishments of His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Novalis for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

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