A weekend to remember
The extraordinary ministry to which the Lord, through the church, calls a bishop, and to which this bishop feels ever more and more unworthy, plays out every day, but especially on weekends.
I went south on a lovely Saturday afternoon to the quiet town of North Manchester, with Chris Lapp acting as pilot, to Manchester College for part of a day with just under 1,000 young people. All were eighth graders in our parishes who will receive confirmation in the spring.
Led by Cindy Black and Megan Oberhausen, with Cindy claiming that Megan did the work, this was a day of retreat. Eight priests had been there earlier, coming from far distances for the sacrament of penance, and there had been talks and singing, and also silent adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. All our youth days now feature a small, well-prepared chapel and a chance for silence. We find that young people are not afraid of silence.
Thirty minutes of “Ask the Bishop” followed. Questions about purgatory, and the last things, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and “when did you know you were going to be a priest?” and “how do they decide who should be bishop?”
Then I celebrated Mass. Just to show you how a well oiled-machine is not always perfect, I had prepared a homily for the Gospel of the day, which is that extraordinary story of the rich young man in Mark’s Gospel, also found in the 19th chapter of St. Matthew. The Mass prepared was that of the Holy Spirit, quite fitting for preparation for 1,000 young people preparing for confirmation. There is no point in my being ordained 52 years, if you can’t make an adjustment.
Chapter two — The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The South Bend Red Mass is especially important. Many of the law school faculty were there, along with two federal judges, whom I often see at noontime Mass in downtown South Bend. Judge Dan Manion and Judge Ken Ripple, and a chance to greet Nel Jessup Newton — recently appointed dean of the Notre Dame Law School and her predecessor, Patricia O’Hara. Especially joyful to see so many law school students, such as Mike and Ashley (I did not get the last names). Mike, a Princeton graduate, who had majored in classic languages; and his wife, Ashley, who went to Harvard and majored in religious studies and recently became a Catholic. Ashley said because she was drawn to the steadfastness of the Catholic faith on the issue of life, the fact that the church never wavered and continued to hold fast to the sacredness of life, especially life in the womb. So many beautiful young people are drawn to Notre Dame, and I met some of them after Mass, along with local legislators and judges.
Friend — St. Thomas More
“Thomas More, who was the chief magistrate of his country, whose heart was whiter than snow, a genius such as England had never had before, nor will ever have again.”
He was a martyr for the truth, but the question that came before him comes in every age, not now with a beheading, but still the same question, “Shall one live or die for truth?”
I gave the example of my home town. A Catholic social agency for years allowed a small number of adoptions to same-sex couples. When this was brought to the full attention of the bishops, they did what they had to do; namely, declaring that this should never have been and must never happen again.
Immediately, most of the board of Catholic Charities, eight or more, all Catholics, resigned. Their question was, “How can the church oppose adoption by these good people?” As in the time of Thomas More, the question was the culture over the truth. The trendy currents of the time: over the law written in our hearts, and in the Scriptures, and taught by the church. The church’s position on this issue relates to the protection of the child, who needs a man and a woman, a father and a mother, who brought forth life out of love. It is also linked to the truth about marriage as found in Scripture — and in our hearts, The Law of Nature.
Thomas More knew where the truth lay and said “yes” to it. But these Catholics in my home town either did not see the truth, or seeing it did not have the courage to follow it.
The question Thomas More put in the play he wrote, while imprisoned in the Tower of London, applies in its own way, more quietly, but just as sharply to this time, “Are we ready to die with Christ for the truth?”
After meeting so many young Catholics and judges, I was off to St. Matthew’s rectory for a delightful soup and sandwich with Father Mike Heintz; and diocesan master of ceremonies, Jim Fitzpatrick, and Deacon Jake Runyon. We are all so delighted that Jake and Fernando Jimenez are now only two weeks away from ordination, and I look forward with great joy to imposing hands on them at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 31, a day of gratitude and rejoicing in our diocese.
The Mass for those celebrating 25 or 50 years of marriage, followed by a reception and pictures with jubilee couples was held at St. Matthew’s; and grants from the Annual Bishop’s Appeal were given to those who feed the hungry and care for the homeless.
A special Monday
At the foot of the great hill, where I live in Mishawaka, is the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans. These are the black-robed Franciscans, known all over the world. St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life at Auschwitz to save another man, was one of them. They take care of three parishes along the north of our diocese: St. Anthony’s, Angola; St. Joseph’s, LaGrange; and the chapel at St. Paul, Clear Lake. In Angola, a new church is being built under the direction of Father Fred Pasche, OFM, Conv. This novitiate is a blessing. It sits on the corner of the property of Marian High School. I had not been there for a long time, and I was struck at how the friars have transformed it. It is a real Franciscan monastery, with a beautiful garden outside for prayer. What a joy to say Mass there. You have a sense you are in a holy, religious house. The friars are at the bottom of the hill, and the Franciscan Sisters up top. I told them, “your two communities have sanctified this corner of the diocese.”
Mass was celebrated simply and with such reverence. I met the following Friars: Paul, John, Brian, Nick, Jeffrey and Rory, all candidates for the priesthood, along with Brother Pascal Kolodziej, and the Novice Master and Superior Father Robert Melnick, OFM, Conv. After the beautiful Mass, a wonderful lunch of tortellini. It was a joy to hear the vocation story of each one and to meet such a fine group of Franciscan Friars.
A special treat
When I walked into the dining room, I met Friar Rory and knew immediately he was from Ireland. “What county?,” said I. “Wexford,” he says. “Can you sing ‘Boolavogue?’” “I can,” he said. “We will sing it before I go, and I will sing it with you,” was my reply.
After this extraordinary dinner, so gracious and so filled with grace, and stories of vocation, in his beautiful Irish tenor, young Rory — who has two brothers in the priesthood — sang this old Irish rebel song, and I did my best to sing with him. There are three boys and one girl in his family. All three boys are priests or studying to be priests. His sister, he said, is engaged to be married. I knew I was in a house of faith and it was a grace to leave there and drive up the hills of the sisters, before returning to Fort Wayne. A weekend like this makes one think it would be fine to be a bishop here forever. Not possible, of course. But a joyful time, nonetheless.
Alas, on a lovely Sunday in Backbay, it all ended in a rush for the Red Sox
I did not see it, because the weekend was so busy. Maybe it is better. And maybe it is better, because I think the Yankees would be too much. Better to lose to Los Angeles, than the Yankees, whom I will now root against.
See you all next week.
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