Posts Tagged ‘Pope Benedict XVI’
As the Year of Faith has now drawn to a close, let’s reflect upon some of the encouragement and instruction we have received from the two popes who shared this grace-filled year.
In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI made a very practical teaching that continues to guide my own ministry as a bishop, particularly in assessing our pastoral ministries. I think it is also helpful for every Catholic to examine and assess the full integration of their faith life. Here is what Pope Benedict had to say:
The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being. (Deus Caritas Est #25)
The Holy Father also indicated that each of these three components are equally important. That was the startling statement for me. As Catholics, we ‘understand’ Sacraments. But there is clearly room for improvement when it comes to spending time with God’s Word and regularly expressing our faith in acts of charity. This is what I would like to reflect upon further here, challenging all of us to greater fidelity in all three areas of our faith.
Even though the regular reception of the Sacraments is understood by Catholics as fundamental to our faith, statistics tell us that only about 25 – 30 % of Catholics attend Mass every weekend. We need to do better! Even fewer Catholics receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) on a regular basis. Jesus makes it clear that “apart from me (Jesus) you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Jesus established the Church and gave us the Sacraments for the express purpose of drawing our human nature into the Divine Life. When we truly understand this, then the Church and the Sacraments will become our first priority and acknowledged as our greatest gift!
This now ended Year of Faith and the New Evangelization are strong invitations to us to take our faith seriously. Pope Francis in his now eight months as our Chief Shepherd is doing everything he can to shake us from a complacent faith. For the New Evangelization to be fruitful, we must have a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. He must become more than a concept or an idea to us. He desires a PERSONAL relationship with each of us. He is the Vine and we are the branches, and only when we remain in Him will we bear much fruit, fruit that will last. (see John 15:1-5)
Let’s get back to the Sacraments!
In an October 4, 2013 address in San Rufino Cathedral in Assisi, Pope Francis had some beautiful insights regarding the Word of God, and it warrants a healthy quote here:
The first thing is to listen to God’s Word. This is what the Church is: as the Bishop said, it is the community that listens with faith and love to the Lord who speaks. The pastoral plan that you are living out together insists precisely on this fundamental dimension. It is the Word of God that inspires faith, which nourishes and revitalizes it. And it is the Word of God that touches hearts, converts them to God and to his logic which is so different from our own. It is the Word of God that continually renews our communities…
I think we can all improve a bit in this respect: by becoming better listeners of the Word of God, in order to be less rich on our own words and richer in his words. I think of the priest who has the task of preaching. How can he preach if he has not first opened his heart, not listened in silence to the Word of God …
I think of fathers and mothers, who are the primary educators [of their children]: how can they educate them if their consciences have not been enlightened by the Word of God. If their way of thinking and acting is not guided by the Word, what sort of example can they possibly give to their children? This is important, because then mothers and fathers complain: “Oh, this child…”. But you, what witness have you given the child? How have you spoken to him? Have you talked with him about the Word of God or about TV news? Fathers and mothers need to be talking about the Word of God!
And I think of catechists and of all those who are involved in education: if their hearts have not been warmed by the Word, how can they warm the hearts of others, of children, of youth, of adults?
It is not enough just to read the Sacred Scriptures, we need to listen to Jesus who speaks in them: it is Jesus himself who speaks in the Scriptures, it is Jesus who speaks in them. We need to be receiving antennas that are tuned into the Word of God, in order to become broadcasting antennas! One receives and transmits. It is the Spirit of God who makes the Scriptures come alive, who makes us understand them deeply and in accord with their authentic and full meaning! … What place does the Word of God have in my life, in my everyday life? Am I tuned into God or into the many buzz words or into myself? This is a question that everyone of us needs to ask him- or herself.
The Holy Father’s words are plain enough, and do not need much further explanation. Let’s just take them to heart and put them into practice.
Blessed Columba Marmion builds on the importance of God’s Word in the life of the believer, joining it to regular reception of the Eucharist when he taught: “Everday, in Holy Communion, Christ gives Himself entirely to us, He takes us and gives us to the Word. If our whole day could flow from our Communion of the morning, little by little, Christ would transform us and raise us to sublime holiness.” (Union With God, p. 38)
I have often wondered why more Catholics do not take the time to read the bible. If more people and families would spend even 15 – 30 minutes a day reading God’s Word and the Catechism, we would have a far better formation in the faith. This strengthened formation would lead to a greater capacity to live the faith, and thereby further God’s Kingdom in this world.
Finally, how important it is to also practice charity. Practical expressions of love are perhaps the most integrating agent of our reception of Jesus in the Sacraments and our being formed by Jesus through His Word. Thus, charity is the mother of all the virtues. This is why Pope Francis is so regularly reminding us to go to the margins of society and love those who have been rejected.
A society that becomes hardened can no longer see God. That is why we are sent by Jesus to the poor. Those who have the greatest demands upon our faith, compassion and generosity have the greatest ability to reveal the face of Jesus to us. No doubt, this is why our greatest pastoral resource is the creativity of love.
Holiness is for everyone, not for a select few. This was the teaching of Pope Francis during a recent Angelus Address. The Second Vatican Council makes it clear that holiness is the common vocation of every Christian. The path to such holiness is intimately connected with our regular reception of the Sacraments, our formation in God’s Word and loving God in our neighbor.
My dear friends, let us continue to build upon the enthusiasm Pope Francis is breathing into the Church. Let us live faith with joy and enthusiasm. Let us be faithful followers of Christ, and lead many more to come to know Him and find the fullness of life in Christ.
I was taken by this photo of the final minutes of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy. Pope Benedict XVI along with the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, leave public view after the Pope’s brief appearance on the balcony of Castle Gandolfo.
Thank you, Pope-emeritus, for you fidelity and loving term as our Shepherd in Chief.
Now, five days into the General Congregation meetings of the College of Cardinals, all 115 of the Cardinal Electors are in Rome. Preparations are well underway to ready the Sistine Chapel for the Conclave. The Cardinals are now fulfilling perhaps their most important role, prayerfully preparing to elect the next successor to St. Peter.
UPDATE: The date for the Conclave is now set for Tuesday, March 12. The Cardinals will gather for a concelebrated Mass (For the Election of the Roman Pontiff) midmorning. Later that afternoon, they will process into the Sistine Chapel to the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, and the Conclave will begin for the election of a new Pope.
Presently, there are 153 Cardinals gathered for the General Congregation Meetings. During this past week, during these Congregation Meetings, the Cardinals are hearing reports on the state of the Church, and provided opportunities to speak and ask clarifying questions. They are discerning together what qualities they are looking for in the next Pope. These are also significant days for them to foster a true sense of unity among themselves as they get to know one another. Once the Dean of the Cardinals, Cardinal Sodano, feels that their deliberations have matured to the point they are ready to enter into Conclave, a date will be set for the all important election process to begin.
Now it is time for all of us to do our part; pray. Let us fervently pray as the Universal Church anticipates this historic Conclave. Along with Cardinal Dolan, I encourage a novena to St. Joseph. The Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary is March 19, which means a novena should begin nine days leading up to his feast, March 11. See Cardinal Dolan’s blog post here.
Prayers to our Blessed Mother, Mother of the Church, seeking her intercession on behalf of the Cardinal Electors are a great assistance. Mary accompanied our Lord throughout His life and ministry, his death and resurrection. Mary was present in the Upper Room with the Apostles when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Mary is present with us now, to hold us close to her Son. Let us prayerfully seek her intercession on behalf of her Son’s Church at this critical time.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, prayers to the Holy Spirit are most beneficial to lead and guide our Cardinals that they will choose the Successor to St. Peter whom God’s will envisions. The Church is both human and divine. Just as the Sacraments build upon our human nature, so, too, the Holy Spirit works through the very human process of a Conclave to select a Pope to lead and guide the Catholic Church.
Just as Christ’s divinity was hidden in his humanity, so, today, the divinity of Christ is hidden within the humanity of His Church. This means that just as Christ’s divinity was always present with his humanity, so, too, his divinity is always present within His Church.
Let us now keep vigil with and for our Cardinal-Electors, that they may experience the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit to select our next Holy Father, the one who is the desire of our Heavenly Father.
This week is National Vocations Awareness Week. I have offered Masses this week asking that all people come to a deep realization of God’s love for them and how that love is experienced most profoundly in our relationship with Jesus Christ. For me, this is the starting point of coming to know what one’s mission in life entails. We believe that God is the author of all creation. Indeed, this is why Jesus preached with authority (Mark 1:22), because he is the author of all life. One line that remains with me from Pope Benedict XVI’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives is this: Jesus is the “Logos, the creative logic behind all things” (p.64)
It thus makes sense that to know why we were created, we must first come to know the One who created us, and that He created us out of love and for love. Each person’s individual vocation is rooted in this relationship with Jesus Christ. Discovering our mission comes from listening to the voice of Jesus. Indeed, the word vocation comes from the Latin, vocare, meaning, to call.
I read recently in a book by Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples her astute observation to the comment often heard today: “There are not enough vocations in the Church today.” Sherry without diminishing the beauty and necessity of Holy Orders (bishops, priests and deacons) and consecrated life (men and women religious) says there are plenty of vocations. The problem is that we are not recognizing most of them! Her point, not missed by this bishop, is that the laity have a vital role to play in the Church. The laity have a vital role to play in building God’s Kingdom. They, too, have a God-given mission to accomplish.
The primary vocation shared by all is to live lives that are holy, rooted in the Gospel. Individually, this vocation takes shape as those called to marriage, or holy orders, or religious life, and some as single celibates. At the heart of the Christian vocation is the invitation to model our life on the life of Christ. To be created in the image and likeness of God is to be created for communion. The life of Christ was a total self gift to the Father in obedience to His will. The life of Christ was a total self gift to all of humanity to fulfill the Father’s work of redemption.
Here in lies the heart of all vocations; self gift. Each of us is called to live our life not for self, but for God, His Church, and for others. It is in this self gift that we achieve true self-realization. As we live this call from Christ to live our lives for him, we come to deeper realization of the gifts He has given us to aid us in furthering His Kingdom. This is what the active faith-life for each of us means; following Christ, actively participating in the sacramental life of the Church, and actively participating in the ministries of the Church that ultimately lead others to Christ.
Please join me in praying that more and more people discover their vocation in life. Join me in praying that more and more people discover the particular way God is inviting them to actively follow Christ and to build up His Kingdom. Join me in asking that each of us discover the joy of knowing, loving, and serving our God!
This morning we broke ground for a new Habitat for Humanity home in Sheridan. A few major events were the driving force behind this particular idea.
This year, the Diocese of Cheyenne is celebrating its 125 Anniversary. We also in this past year promulgated a new Diocesan Strategic Plan. We wanted to do something significant as a means of celebrating our faith, and the thought of building a habitat home seemed both appropriate and exciting.
When Fr. Jim Heiser, pastor of Holy Name in Sheridan shared with me that the parish was assessing the various pieces of real estate it owned, and deciding the best use of these properties, I asked him if the parish would be willing to donate one of the lots for a habitat home. The idea was embraced, and we were off and running.
Every year, the diocese sets aside a percentage of our annual appeal, Living and Giving in Christ as a means of tithing to support local, national or international relief or assistance efforts. This year, the Stewardship Committee committed $40,000 towards this Habitat home. With the additional support of Habitat for Humanity and the Holy Name Catholic Church, the project is funded sufficiently to move forward.
In time, all the Catholic communities of Wyoming will be invited to support this project, either through fund raising, or by sending materials and volunteers to assist in building the home. I know several groups have already expressed interest in coming to Sheridan to work on the home. If you or a group from your parish are interested in working on the home, please contact Deacon John Bigelow at Holy Name. I know this bishop fully intends to spend a day or two with a hammer working at the site!
Pope Benedict XVI in his first Encyclical, God is Love taught that the three-fold nature of the Church is the Ministry of the Word, Ministry of Sacrament, and the Ministry of Charity. This habitat project is a concrete way for the Catholics of Wyoming to live this basic ministry of Charity, and thus grow in faith. I invite all our parishes and parishioners to please support this project. Please God, given the success of this project, we may be able to build at least one more home in the coming years.
I wish to thanks Deacon John Bigelow for his willingness to coordinate this project on behalf of the Church. Thanks to Fr. Jim and the people of Holy Name Catholic Church who have already shown such generous support. Of course, we thank Habitat for Humanity for their 37 years of generous service to those in need. In particular, thanks to Matt Davis, Executive Director for Habitat in the Eastern Bighorns, Brian Spring, Site Supervisor for this home, and Sandy Baird, the architect of the home.
May God bring to completion this good work begun today!
As promised, here is a photo of an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, May 5. This was taken immediately after the Region XIII Bishops received the Holy Father’s Fourth Discourse to the American Bishops. His topic this time was on the Catholic Identity of our Catholic Schools.
With this photo, reporting from the 2012 ad limina apostolorum comes to an official close. As mentioned earlier, the visit was very grace-filled. It is always a unique grace to be in the presence of the Successor of St. Peter. Our universal Church is quite blessed to have such a prayerful, wise, and holy man leading our Church at this time. I continue to find much instruction in his present day preaching as well as in the many writings of his ecclesial career.
On Saturday, he delivered a concise address to the bishops of Region XIII regarding Catholic Education, and of the particular role of Catholic Identity in our Colleges and Universities. I strongly support our Catholic schools, and wish to encourage our parents to make the worthy investment in providing a Catholic education for your children.
One point that came up in our conversation with the Congregation for Education was that we seem to have lost the ‘tradition’ in America that Catholic education is a ‘ministry’ provided by the Church for any and all who wish such values-driven faith formation for their children. I remember when I was pastor of a parish in Southern Indiana reviewing our budgets every year. For some reason, the ‘line item’ for the School showed up as a ‘parish subsidy’ to the school.
I argued with our finance council that Catholic education was a ministry of the parish, just as any other ministry. The parish does not ‘subsidize’ any ministry; it provides and funds ministry. It took a while for them and the parish to understand that argument, but in time, we all agreed that the parish provides a Catholic School as a part of the overall mission and ministry of the parish. This is one clear way that we can make sure that Catholic education is available to all who seek such an education, and not just to the wealthy who can afford it.
Granted, much work needs to be done to find the funding for what is becoming more and more expensive. But, Catholic schools are one of our best opportunities to make sure that our next generation not only learns the basic tenants of our faith, but in the right atmosphere, learn to assimilate the faith into the very fibre of their being and person. After all, that is the goal for all of us!
And so ends my first ad limina apostolorum. Much to my surprise and delight, these many meetings were not so much another experience of administration, but they truly focused on the pastoral dimension of our Apostolic Ministry as Bishops.
Almost every one of the Dicastery meetings gave us a reflection and challenge on how our ministry is to be a proclamation of Jesus Christ to those we serve and all we encounter. We have been inspired and strengthened to help our people and our culture encounter Christ and assimilate the faith into every aspect of human life. There is much now for me to take to prayer as I continue to preach the Gospel which Christ, through His Church has entrusted to me.
The greatest means by which Christ incorporates us into His own risen, new, and eternal life, is through the Sacraments of the Church. What a grace we have to be able to celebrate the Eucharist every day, every week. Our Catholic, Christian life is a participation in the Paschal Mystery, the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord. The Eucharist is a participation in the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst, and a great strength for us to live always in intimate communion with Christ.
After Mass at St. Peter’s we had an informative meeting with Cardinal Koch at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Once this, and our final Dicastery meeting was complete, we returned to the College for one more wardrobe change to prepare for a second audience with the Holy Father. The 4th Discourse to the American Bishops delivered this morning was on the topic of Catholic Education.
Last, but not least, a crowd pleas-er. As you know, the Swiss Guard, the oldest, continuously existing ‘military’ are omnipresent throughout the Vatican. Their Michael Angelo uniform is very distinctive, as is their service to the Holy Father.
As I now prepare to enjoy my final hours in Rome, please know of my gratitude for all of your prayers. These have been grace-filled days, and I’m sure that the Holy Spirit will continue to inflame the faith of our local Church in the State of Wyoming, as well as the Universal Church.
If you have enjoyed these past few blog entries, you may wish to follow the mother of all episcopal blogs in the days ahead. My friend, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida landed a few hours ago and will be making his ad limina with Region XIV. His reflections will no doubt be informative and entertaining.
Once I have received the official photos of the audiences with the Holy Father, I will post them. Sunday, I will be ‘off the air’ as I will be ‘in the air’ most of the day. Peace and blessings to all of you!
Well, gang, it is late, and has been a long day! We started early and went late, and to top it all off, we dealt with cross-city meetings in Friday Roman traffic. However, it was another grace-filled day. So, rather than give much commentary, I will simply post a few pictures, and try to follow up with some information later. Tomorrow is our last day of meetings.
We met with the Holy Father today, and are blessed to have another audience with him in the morning. Region XIII bishops will receive the Holy Father’s 4th Discourse, topic yet unknown. Stay tuned!
Our day concluded with Mass at St. John Lateran. This basilica serves as the Cathedral of Rome, and of course, the Holy Father is also the Bishop of Rome. It is interesting that while in Rome, the Eucharistic prayer calls for the mention of “Benedict XVI, our Pope and Bishop.”
Yesterday was the first day in Rome. After arriving at the North American College, I spent some time in the Blessed Sacrament chapel where many hours were spent as a seminarian, prayerfully discerning and listening to the voice of the Lord as He lead me to His altar of Priesthood. There is a beautiful image of the Good Shepherd on the door of the tabernacle in this chapel, and it is aptly named, the “Good Shepherd Chapel.” It was nice to be praying in the chapel again on Good Shepherd Sunday.
I then joined our two seminarians, Dan Poelma and Bob Rodgers, and the entire NAC community for Sunday Brunch. Following lunch we were able to arrive in St. Peter’s Square to join thousands of other pilgrims for the Noon Angelus with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. St. Peter’s Square was packed. I suspect a good many pilgrims have returned this week to mark the first anniversary of the Beatification of Blessed John Paul II.
Following a little ‘jet lag nap’, I celebrated Mass with some of the other bishops who were just arriving. We then made a nice viist to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where St. Catherine of Siena is buried, as 29 April marks her feast day. St. Catherine is one of my favorites, and she once again provided a few spiritual gifts to mark the occasion.
Before leaving the College, I breifly met and visited with Archbishop Peter Sartain, who is the delegate for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to work with the Leadership Conference of Religious Women. During my visit to the tomb of St. Catherine, I sought her intercession for the LCWR Leadership and Archbishop Sartain. She has always proven to be a great intercessor, and I’m confident the dialouge between Archbishop Sartain and the LCWR leadership will be fruitful. I also prayed for all our many, good sisters and all their good work.
Today, a new day begins. As each day here in Rome for this ad limina visit, I remember all the people, institutions and ministries of the Diocese of Cheyenne in my prayers. Today, I especially include all my classmates. It will be a true grace to celebrate Mass this evening in the Immaculate Conception Chapel here at the Pontifical North American College.
May all of you have a blessed day!
Here is the homily for the Easter Vigil. Blessed Easter greetings to one and all!
Because the Resurrection of Jesus is a reality and a mystery yet to be fully understood, it is difficult to describe. And yet, because of the difference it makes for us, in terms of our faith, we must do our best to express our understanding, and define it as best we can. Indeed, if Jesus Christ is not raised from the dead, our faith makes absolutely no sense.
St. Paul says as much in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 17, 19-20)
So, what is this Resurrection of Jesus? And what is this New Life that He now enjoys, and promises to those of us who believe in Him? Perhaps one of the simplest explanations is given by Pope Benedict XVI in the Second Volume of his book, Jesus of Nazareth:
“Jesus has not returned to a normal human life in this world…He has entered upon a different life, a new life – he has entered the vast breadth of God himself, and it is from there that he reveals himself to his followers.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, II, pp. 244-245) Does this not make sense? Jesus told His disciples He was returning to the Father. (John 13:3) What else could that mean except that He was to take up His life again, (John 10:18) a life which is in the ‘vast breadth of God himself?’
At the same time, Jesus’ Resurrection is not isolated from our human journey and experience. Jesus’ ‘return to the Father’ was and is for all of us. Jesus’ Incarnation, life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven were for our salvation, expressly to grant us access to Life in God. Meaning, the New Life of Jesus “opens for us a new dimension of human existence.” (Benedict XVI, ibid, p. 244), and this new dimension of human existence is our Life in God through the Risen Christ.
Even though the fullness of this New Life will only be lived when we ‘passover’ to the Father (in eternal life), we none-the-less have access to this new dimension of human existence here and now! This is what our Faith in Christ and our sacramental life in the Church is all about. Jesus does not belong to the past. He is our Contemporary! Jesus is for us today! This Newness of Life is a present experience. Jesus is LIFE, and thus He is present to us today.
This is what St. Paul tells us this Holy Night in his letter to the Romans: “We were indeed buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Romans 6: 4)
We experience this ‘newness of life’ through Baptism and the Sacraments of the Church. We experience this ‘newness of life’ in the hope that is ours in the face of trials, disappointments, illness, even death. This ‘newness of life’ is the ‘infusion’ of the Divine Life into the daily life of the believer. This ‘newness of life’ is what underlines and highlights all that is good, beautiful and true.
This ‘newness of life’ takes over when the answers of this life fall short. This ‘newness of life’ supports us when the events of this life let us down. This ‘newness of life’ is what invites and allows us to trust in God when He seems to request, even demand, more than we seem capable of giving. This ‘newness of life’ is what allows us to transcend this life when we are willing to live the Gospel commandment to die so that we may truly live.
Jesus Christ, as our psalmist tells us tonight, is ‘the stone which the builders rejected, who has become the cornerstone’. (Ps 118) Because Christ has conquered death and lives no more to die, and because we who believe in Him share in that victory, we, with the psalmist are able to pray ourselves: “The right hand of the Lord has struck with power; the right hand of the Lord is exalted. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Ps 118)