St. Augustine and the bishop
St. Augustine said, “The bishop is not the name of an honor, but of a work.” The Second Vatican Council was, among other things, a council for the reform and renewal of the Episcopal Office. The council saw the office as a service, a spiritual work, and in fact, quotes St. Augustine.
Augustine is right. It is a work, but also a joyful and blessed work, especially if one takes to heart St. Augustine’s words, “Assist me by your prayerful support, so that my joy will be in serving you, rather than in being over you.”
With our priests
For many years now, we have a study week each October. We go to Camp Potawatomi for three days. The first presenter was Professor John Clabeaux, of the Josephinum Seminary, where our theologians study. He gave two excellent presentations on St. Paul. I missed these two talks because of the pressure of activities, but the priests were very enthused and grateful.
Then came Father Brian Bransfield, a priest of the Diocese of Philadelphia. His focus was on the teaching of the church on marriage, with special emphasis on some of the moral problems. He discussed “Veritatis Splendor” (“The Splendor of Truth”). Many say this will be Pope John Paul II’s most important teaching. An encyclical letter on moral theology or ethics. At the Second Vatican Council, the church was asked to develop a new moral theology. Pope John Paul II, who taught philosophy for many years, was truly an ethicist. This document has unquestionably changed the way moral theology is taught and perceived. I had the good fortune of being in Rome at the “ad limina” visit when the encyclical came out. I asked him at lunch what it was about. He said simply, “It is a response to relativism.” Father Bransfield took us through this and other church documents, presented the teaching of the church on marriage and on the pressing ethical issues of the day, such as homosexuality and artificial contraception. I recalled in one of his discussions the words Pope John Paul II gave to us at his second pastoral visit. We met in one of the old California missions, and in his response to a presentation of an archbishop, he told us that we should, “so teach the difficult moral issues, such as the church’s teaching on being open to life in such a way that people will be drawn to it.” I asked him at the “ad limina” visit, “How do we do this?” He became very philosophical and quiet. We were at lunch with him. He said, “It is necessary to understand the soul of the woman. All these things that were supposed to liberate her: abortion, premarital sex, contraception — have they liberated her or have they enslaved her?”
Father Bransfield presented, in a beautiful way, the liberating Catholic teaching on great moral issues. With a touch of humor and a wide scope, he enriched us all with his learning and his pastoral insight, fully in support of church teaching.
Our high schools
Off then, to South Bend, where the next two days I had brief visits to our high schools. I have now had a short visit to each of our four high schools, meeting with the principals, the director of campus ministry, and the head of the religion department. The one purpose is for a deeper integration of priests into each campus. We are unable to have a full-time priest at our high schools, but we will be able to place the priests in the classroom, in addition to administrating sacraments and preaching. We have lined it up in a way that we think will be possible for the priests given their other responsibilities, and also effective.
Consecration of a chapel
I think second only to ordination, the consecration of an altar or a church is a most beautiful ritual in the church. So it was a joy to be at Our Lady of Mercy Chapel in a brand new building at Notre Dame. It is the second such chapel I have been able to consecrate in recent weeks. The ritual includes the Litany of Saints and the anointing of the altar. A real sense of the importance of the centrality of the altar is conveyed. In Catholic teaching, we find the following expression: “altare Christus est” — the altar is Christ. We consecrate the altar so that people will be consecrated and offer themselves to God. The living stones, as the ritual said. I was pleased to meet Tom and Mary Cabot, two exceptional people who made this beautiful chapel possible by their generosity. The altar in a Catholic church or chapel is both the table of the Lord’s Supper and the sacrificial stone on which is presented, for our participation, the dying and rising of Christ.
Back to LaGrange
Down Route 20 the next day to St. Joseph, LaGrange. The second time in two weeks. I told them one more, and I expected to be on the payroll. Moving thoughts of the beautiful visit of my dear sister, Sister Anne D’Arcy, two weeks previously. This was for the 75th anniversary of St. Joseph Parish in a small Indiana town. As part of their anniversary, I blessed an exhibition on miracles linked to the holy Eucharist throughout the world over the centuries. It was a special joy to be with Father Mark Weaver, OFM, Conv., a wonderful Franciscan friar. He is a blessing because of his exemplary priestly life and also because he is fluent in Spanish and English and has brought many Hispanic Catholics closer to Christ and to the church and made them a full part of parish life.
Off then, through the dark and rainy night, down Routes 9, 6 and 3 to Fort Wayne and home. And a chance to stay up late and prepare, what I hope, was a worthy talk for the Red Mass.
On Sunday, we had the Annual Red Mass for the judges and lawyers and political leaders at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Our speaker afterwards was Chris Godfrey, who played in three Rose Bowls with the University of Michigan, and also the Super Bowl with the New York Giants. He spoke about the importance of a spiritual life for professional people, especially attorneys, and drew examples from prayer concerning his own decisions about life. He is the founder of Athletes for Life, which provides an inspiring curriculum for young people.
The teachers’ council
I have pledged to attend two meetings annually of our Council of Teachers. This is a representative group, half chosen and half appointed by me after being nominated by a school office. I am always deeply impressed by the teachers in this group. I had a chance to answer their questions and understand their concerns, and they come to know, also, the concerns of the diocese and the bishop. A special pleasure at this meeting was that it was the first meeting of the Council of Teachers attended by our new Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Mark Myers.
Doing things twice
So you see there is plenty of diversity. Also, in this diocese, you do most things twice. On this coming Sunday, we will have our Red Mass for lawyers and judges and political leaders at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Having two major cities brings money to the fuel companies — fatigue sometimes to the bishop — and yet offers a beautiful and diverse ministry. I think celebrating Mass for the people, especially in one of our two cathedrals, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, but also in the small rural parishes of the diocese, brings me more joy now than ever. I don’t fully understand that, but I think it is part of God’s grace.
How about the Irish?
I have not seen any games yet, just bits and pieces because every Saturday afternoon I have had a Mass, usually a Mass for the installation of a new pastor. But after the events at LaGrange, I watched the end of a game with the Washington Huskies, including overtime, cheering along with the pastor. Another narrow escape, but so exciting, so much like the famed Notre Dame victories over the years. The quarterback is terrific and the team is coming together, and there will be more lovely autumn Saturdays. I personally plan to go to both the USC game and the game against BC. We have to beat BC. It has been too many years.
I will be in North Manchester Saturday for a retreat with all the eighth graders preparing for confirmation — about 900 of them. I look forward to it; and I look forward to seeing you next week.
Go Red Sox!
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