Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's not really about music!

This week at THE CHANT CAFE' Jeffrey A. Tucker posted two contrasting pieces. One was a news item he picked up from "Catholic Culture" and I quote:

"The music director of the Chicago Symphony has thrown his support behind the drive by Pope Benedict XVI to revive the tradition of sacred music.
''The Pope is right when he says it is necessary to bring our great musical heritage back into churches,'' said Ricardo Muti. The Italian conductor said that the revival in church music “cannot happen outside the great traditional path of the past, of Gregorian chants and sacred polyphonic choral music.”Muti said that he has no objection to the composition of new sacred music, but resents the use of pop tunes. “When I go to church and I hear four strums of a guitar or choruses of senseless, insipid words, I think it's an insult,” he said. Offering mediocre music, when the Church boasts a priceless treasury of compositions, shows “a lack of respect for people’s intelligence,” he said."

While on the one hand nobody is going to take on the maestro, I can't help but think of my Dad's summary description of all classical music (we are back in the 1950's before music appreciation classes in school and before "Saturday Evening with the Boston Pops"). Dad called it "long hair music". Ricardo wouldn't carry much weight with the "teaming masses" I am afraid.

The other post from Jeffrey was a 40:35 minute video and a link to the Life Teen homepage with a transcript of the same video:

"Fr. Robert Schreiner, priest for the Diocese of Crookston, shares the role of music within the Liturgy."

Father Robert makes the case for anything short of a kazoo in liturgical music if it gets the kids to Mass on a Sunday night. He has impressive credentials and can sing Latin too.

Muti has my vote, however, because he understands the sublimity which should characterize Divine Worship, music or no music. Father Robert loses out as far as I am concerned because he misses the point on the role of liturgy in the life of the Church. He like many today aspire to the ecclesiological position in terms of the role of Sunday church-going in the life of a christian also held by my dear departed Methodist grandmother. Church-going is the priority and no matter whom you can afford or find as preacher at the little white country church two miles east and a half mile south of the farm, that is where you are meant to be. For a while it was Methodist and then, without skipping a beat, it was Congregationalist.

Granted, besides kazoos, grandma would have excluded everything, even Father's choices, outside of the beloved old hymnal, but that is not the point. The point is that the Sunday evening Life Teen experience like most of what happens on Saturday evening or Sunday morning in our parishes misses the point of how we are Catholic. If I can only hold them for an hour a week, plus liturgy committee preparation time and rehearsals, I've lost. Catholicism is a way of life, a culture. My hour of power has to be entertaining if that is all there is, if there is no life of prayer appropriate to the person's age and station in life. A little aside which I think reinforces my argument would be that guitars and drums don't serve much to get people to confession regularly. When do you graduate from Sunday evening just for them and into what?

I can remember riding in the car with my driver here in Trinidad and stopping at a light and being blasted by the popular music from the car in the next lane. The music was loud and straight out of Bollywood. I asked my driver what he thought of such music and his response was: "It's their music". Muti would be nonplussed by such an observation and rightly so; it says nothing of the value, aesthetic or otherwise, of the piece.

Can bouncy also be sacred? That's not really the point unless we're talking about that little white country church two miles east and a half mile south of the farm. Father Schreiner is missing the point if he thinks the issue is musicological. Young people balk at going to church not for aesthetic reasons, not because the social pressure of the farming community has fallen away, but because what they are exposed to anytime in most parishes whether it be Saturday or Sunday is an imposition perpetrated by Father and his liturgy committee. We need to restore the culture and make of the Mass a sacred and safe place to encounter the same loving Lord to Whom I address my mealtime prayers, my morning offering and bedtime prayers. I manage those without a beat and probably if I am any kind of a thinking youth would also like to manage my Sundays that way with the Lord I know from my prayers.

Last summer I met a young man who recounted his vocational story to me and how through an encounter with perpetual adoration as part of a parish retreat he also discovered the Lord of his life. It's not really about music!

Church, yes, Church

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
I Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

Depending where you live in the Catholic world you will either celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on this coming Thursday or as is our case here in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain on next Sunday. The Easter candle is burning lower and the Easter Season is getting away from us. We’ll be back to green as our Sunday color even before we know it!

This Sunday is an Acts of the Apostles meditation meant to cast light on our acts as Church today. It is a reflection caught up, if you will, in the great mysteries of this Easter Season: of the Lord’s Resurrection, of His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father, of His Sending the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, on Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Let it be a challenge or incentive to you and me to live as immediately, as intensely as Philip, Peter and John what it means to be loved by Christ, loved by God the Father and thereby empowered to announce Jesus first to family, to friends and associates, but ultimately to all the world. When we lit the candle at the Easter Vigil we sang three times “Christ, our Light! Thanks be to God!” Those words have implications for the way we live our faith day in and day out.

The Opening Prayer for Mass today went:
“Ever-living God, help us to celebrate our joy in the resurrection of the Lord and to express in our lives the love we celebrate.”
The passage from Acts today attributes the conversions to the faith in a Samaritan town to the signs and wonders worked by Philip. The people responded to his acts of power in Jesus’ Name. Hearing of their accepting Baptism the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John down to confirm them by laying hands on them and thereby pouring forth upon them the Holy Spirit.

This kind of thing should always be happening in the Church. It doesn’t happen often enough today and I am sure it doesn’t simply because we have lost heart. We don’t really get it. Today’s 2nd Reading from St. Peter just kind of washes over us or if we were seriously to think that it was being addressed to us we’d probably deny it and make as if that could not be, even physically turning around and looking for that other person behind us to whom the words must have really been addressed:
“Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have.”
When was the last time someone asked you the reason for your hope? Is it really our world that is all that indifferent? Are we that culturally out of sink that people treat us as antiquated or eccentric, not bothering even to disagree with us because we present no challenge to them anyway?

The readings of these Easter days from the Gospel of John repeat again and again the words which open today’s Gospel:
“If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

The way folks pick and choose about obeying the Commandments, about living their faith fully and seriously might be interpreted as an indication that our love has grown cold, that we really don’t love the Lord as we ought.

Today, with the Lord’s Ascension and Pentecost imminent, the words of John quoting Jesus continue:
“I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.”
At the book store this week a kind of nice, but funny older man, standing on the edge of my conversation with one of the managers kept interrupting with pieces of his own view of what being a good Trini Catholic is all about. I know you are familiar with it. It’s a light-hearted sort of thing: you make fun of absolutes and everybody tries to be good together, because we shouldn’t be divided… It’s mediocrity; it’s my stubborn willfulness not wanting to bend to anybody’s rule. This is not the alternative to being sour; embracing truth and witnessing to it in our world is not something we do with either a fat lip or a pout. Nobody wants to be or wants you to be pugnacious, but isn’t there such a thing as a false peace or an essential and unacceptable compromise of the faith? Is the reason for my hope really no different than anybody else’s? I can only invite you to think about this.

This Sunday’s readings point us elsewhere and offer food for the reflection which should fill our Sunday rest. Take the time to go back to the 2nd Reading in the course of your Sunday, if you will! See if it doesn’t invite you to embrace conflict, contrast, persecution, suffering for doing right, for the sake of the truth, just as your Lord and Savior did!

We learned at home as children that we couldn’t always be everyone’s friend, that sometimes we had to stand up for principle. If we didn’t we were lost and could never have true friends, we were told. I fear that as adults we have forgotten that lesson; we’ve also missed out thereby on enjoying the only community of life and love which ultimately counts:

“If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

Remember that Opening Prayer for Mass today:
“Ever-living God, help us to celebrate our joy in the resurrection of the Lord and to express in our lives the love we celebrate.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Even Greater Works

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Acts 6:1-7
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

Somebody I read recently in the paper, writing social commentary, stated as if it were something self-evident that believing folk today are more apt to expect miracles to happen in answer to their prayers. It could be, but it is begging the question to say that is what Jesus meant in today’s Gospel by the words:
            I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.”
If you claim this passage as the proof text which can make you a wonder-worker if your faith is strong enough, I would say that is what is commonly called “prosperity gospel” (faith healing, power of positive thinking, self-determination through prayer of petition); it isn’t Catholic faith, the faith which comes to us from the Apostles.

If the works Jesus is referring to are not first and foremost His miracles, then what works is He talking about? What are those same works of His which we believing in Him can expect to do? If He is not thinking of the works of turning water to wine, multiplying loaves and fishes, strengthening withered limbs, opening the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, raising the dead, then what?

We appeal to the authority of the Church and the combination of readings set together for our reflection and edification this Sunday. Note how we are reminded in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that these believing men, the apostles, ordained the first seven deacons to assure that the poor Greek speaking widows were as well cared for as the Hebrew speaking ones were in the daily distribution of food. The matter was obviously important enough to merit mention in this book dedicated to recounting the beginnings of the spread of our faith. There is a whole Christian tradition which would say that everyone knows (and the deacons prove it) that the works Jesus is talking about are His and the Church’s works of charity. Christianity is fundamentally a moral message and belief inspires to virtuous living they say. Guess again!

A little earlier in this same Gospel of John (in Chapter 6) we read:
 “’What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’”
Clenching our fists, squinting our eyes and shouting “Sweet Jesus, heal!” like good old Oral Roberts is probably easier than what is asked of us and so is the good old protestant tradition of using Christianity to make good citizens. But in point of fact, the true teaching is another; it is not an easy one. It is more than clear that here we are caught up in the frustration of the apostles in today’s Gospel, reflected by both Thomas and Philip, as they miss the point of what Jesus means by even greater works:
            “Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’”
These words of Jesus are a worth Sunday’s meditation; they need to be pondered. St. Peter says:
            “That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down. They stumble over it because they do not believe in the word; it was the fate in store for them.”
During the Easter season in the official texts of the Church’s liturgy we sing over and over of Jesus, the Risen One, the stone rejected by the builders which has become the cornerstone or keystone. Our victory is in His victory over sin and death. The work He does is His Father’s and our work is believing, believing in Jesus; if we don’t embrace Him in faith He becomes the stumbling block.

While much could be said, I will say only one thing. Good folk in the world everywhere (Canada, Cancun, Calcutta, Canberra, everywhere), good people everywhere are all good more or less in the same way: they are good family people, they are honest, they work hard to earn a living and they respect the rights of others. None of those works, not even folding our hands or bowing our heads in prayer, distinguish us from each other. The work is believing, believing in Jesus.

I wish you a profitable Sunday to grapple with that thought.
I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Supportive Vocations Promotion Environment

Theme: "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church"

Let the closing paragraph of the Holy Father’s message for today stand for all and serve as an introduction to my reflection on vocations promotion and the difficulties we face: 

"The ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church. With trust and perseverance let us invoke the aid of the Virgin Mary, that by the example of her own acceptance of God's saving plan and her powerful intercession, every community will be more and more open to saying "yes" to the Lord who is constantly calling new laborers to his harvest."

One of the topics I addressed briefly a week ago at the annual plenary assembly of the Bishops of the Antilles was vocations promotion and discernment. I did so while keeping in mind some words borrowed from the Holy Father’s homily of 5 February 2011, for the ordination of 5 bishops. 

"Precisely in this hour... the Lord makes us understand that we cannot send workers to the harvest on our own, that it is not a question of management, of our own organizational capacity. Only God can send workers into his field. But he wants to send us to this work through the doors of our prayers. Thus this moment of thanksgiving for the realization of a sending on mission is, in a special way, also the moment of prayer: Lord, send laborers into your harvest! Open hearts to the one you have sent! Do not allow our supplication to be in vain!"

In a word, before we go on, be assured that nobody is more convinced than I am that prayer takes precedence over any vocations promotion program based on human ingenuity.

That said, let me say that so much of our faith in the Lord, in His power to save and to see to it that on their earthly pilgrimage His people are fed with the Eucharist, so much reassurance does not necessarily calm the fears or relieve the anguish over the lack of vocations facing many bishops who shepherd the flock in Christ’s stead. This faith in Christ the Good Shepherd may not even appear that comforting in the minds of many thoughtful and faithful lay people who are deprived of Sunday Mass for lack of a priest or who see their priests aging and no one coming up in the ranks to replace them. For our region in particular, the major seminary which recently closed (even if officially so only for three years for building repairs and the renewal of the seminarian population) stares back at us, perhaps even reproves us with an indiscriminate and less than salutary demand to correct what we are doing wrong and open the doors once again. The theme of the Holy Father’s message for today, “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church”, is not only a pertinent one but ends up being a confrontational challenge. With all that is going on in the world around us, one can feel almost if not truly helpless.

The Readings for Holy Mass on Good Shepherd Sunday (Year A) come to the rescue with a couple thoughts we need to hold onto in the face of hard times.

“I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe; he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.” (John 10:9)
While the terminology “horizontal and vertical” hardly renders the idea, it must be said that the horizontal or relational character of our Church experience today stifles our prayer because it places us often enough really outside the sheepfold. We can truly be out of touch with the supernatural, with the Divine. When the Holy Father invites us to enter through “the door of prayer” I think he is speaking about something vertical or supernatural, or if the spatial analogy disturbs, then, let us say, truly God-centered, truly focused on Jesus. “I am the gate.” Jesus says. He is the focus and too much of what we say and do looks to our neighbor or to our personal interests rather than to the Shepherd Who never leaves His flock untended. You could say that faith is lacking to the extent that we are not unlike Israel in the desert, impatient for Moses’ failure to return immediately from Mount Sinai and abandoning ourselves to crafting idols as a substitute for the Living God in Whom we should be placing our trust.

Invariably, when people are driving me around in the car (certainly in Jamaica and often on other islands) and we have to slow down or stop for sheep or goats on the road, people point out to me how much smarter goats are than sheep. I have heard this ten times if not two. My hosts always claim that goats seem to be able “to think on their feet” as the human expression goes. They are street savvy and manage road traffic, whereas sheep just plain follow or freeze. Needless to say, this predilection for goats here in the islands does not seem to be scriptural. You might say that part of the message of the final judgment scene from Matthew’s Gospel rests in understanding why the sheep are the ones invited into the Kingdom and the goats banished. Dependence upon God is not our immediate inclination; like goats we tend toward either self-reliance or despair.

The smarter of our two dogs, the one that receives all of the accolades, is the one that won’t stay put in the yard but is forever climbing out of the fence and chasing around the neighborhood all night with yelping and barking packs of strays, shredding ours and the neighbors’ trash bags in a search for morsels more tasty than the dog chow or chicken and rice the sisters so lovingly provide. Is the hound really smarter for being so “proactive”?

What is the kind of prayer that serves as an antidote to our restless distraction? While there are no sure-fire recipes or magic formulas, are we knocking on the right door, the real door of prayer? Do we seek to pass through the sheep gate Who is Christ or are we pretending to jump in and out like some nimble goat or my smarty dog? You might say then that our panic in the field of vocations promotion stems from our bold reliance on our personal skills and resilience. Some (let’s charge them with “progressive” posturing!) would say that if we can’t make it work according to the traditional norm then we’d better improvise. That doesn’t sound very scriptural either. Could it be that we’ve strayed too far? Could it be that we need the Shepherd to pick us up and carry us back to the fold?

The choice of the 2nd Reading for this Sunday is an important one for my reflection:

“The merit, in the sight of God, is in bearing punishment patiently when you are punished after doing your duty. This, in fact, is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and left an example for you to follow the way he took. He had not done anything wrong, and there had been no perjury in his mouth. He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults; when he was tortured he made no threats but he put is trust in the righteous judge. He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed. You had gone astray like sheep but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:20/25)
Almost ingenuously I’d like to say that our salvation and vocations will bloom or burgeon as a result of our docility, as a result of our “heads down” following the Shepherd. If we could get people back into the sheepfold through the gate, we would stand a chance of them hearing the Shepherd’s voice and following Him out to verdant pastures.

I would hope that no one gives in to despair on this 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. I would also hope that nobody succumbs to the temptation to being rather street savvy in a goat-like fashion, jumping in and out of the fold at will. I would hope and pray that if we are not in the fold that we (especially our young people) would allow ourselves to be scooped up and carried back by the Shepherd. May we not abandon the faith of our fathers but rather entrust ourselves to Jesus, meek and humble of heart!

“You had gone astray like sheep but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“Continuity” over and against “Rupture and Abuse”

The address of Pope Benedict XVI, from 6 May 2011, to members of the St. Anselm Liturgical Institute, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation got my attention as it did that of many others. It started me on a reflection which ranges a bit farther afield but which I gladly share and hope that it elicits a constructive thought or two from those who read it.

The quotation from that talk which drew the most attention would have to be these words of the Holy Father, where referring to events following upon the conciliar reform he says:

“Unfortunately, perhaps, also for us pastors and experts, the liturgy was taken more as an object to be reformed than as a subject capable of renewing Christian life, in that ‘a very close and organic bond exists between the renewal of the Liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church.’ The Church takes from the liturgy the strength for life."

The Holy Father added most significantly:

“The liturgy, summit to which the action of the Church tends and at the same time source from which her virtue springs, … thus becomes the great educator in the primacy of faith and of grace.” 

To state that "The liturgy (is) the great educator in the primacy of faith and of grace" puts us at odds with all who would tinker with something as big as life, namely liturgy. 

There is a direct correlation between the willfulness of a lot of folk’s approach to life and the way they see liturgy. If once again liturgy were, as it should be, out of bounds and linked to tradition as it had been practically for most of the Church’s history, there would probably be more awareness of who we are in God’s world. Maybe there would be fewer abortions, fewer in vitro fertilizations and less plastic surgery, with no talk of euthanasia or assisted suicide. To the extent that improvisation rules the day in liturgy it is not hard to see why we pretend in life as well to have to answer to no one when it comes to life issues; we become practical atheists or agnostics simply for the casual or inattentive way we behave in church (Please excuse all of the logical leaps in this brief paragraph!).

Were liturgy “…a subject capable of renewing Christian life…” restored to its pedestal and could it regain its historical moorings then life would be better as well. Respect for life, awe before the human person could more easily be recovered or established, because the arbitrary in life as posture would simply give way to our absolute accountability to the One Who sits upon the Throne.

With each passing day I become more aware that the fundamental difficulty or misunderstanding marking people’s very different attitudes toward Divine Worship has no small amount to do with what we understand by those words from Sacrosanctum Concilium “summit” and “source”. If you’ll permit me to play with the word a bit, understanding the role of Liturgy in renewing the whole life of the Church depends on our understanding what a “summit” is. It is a high point and the substantive of those two words is not high but point. The source and summit cannot be the dwelling place or experiential platform of our lives but rather the anchor for our lives or that momentary but unforgettable climax in the day to day or week to week. God does not will us to be “church mice”, if you will, but calls us out of the world to refresh and renew us and then to send us back again.

In a sense it’s as simple as the distinction between traditional or classic Catholic worship described as chanting and Reformation worship reduced to hymn singing. Chanting antiphons in particular is shorter and integrally bound to the ordinary of the Mass by reason of the texts involved which work as modifiers or specifiers and not carriers of the action. Genuine Catholic hymns are few and mostly were used to embellish popular devotion and processions. Our tradition is that of the chanted verse and the great silence. The high point or summit and source is just that and not a continuum. Progress in electronics is evident where recharging batteries or energy cells takes less time and you go farther on a charge. St. Peter was just simply reeling when in his confusion he volunteered to set up tents on the mount of Transfiguration; Jesus quickly got the three of them back down to the plain and to work casting out demons.

The noble simplicity desired by the Fathers of the Council needs to be recaptured for liturgy and instilled in the lives of God’s People. “The Church takes from the liturgy the strength for life."

I too am looking forward to the publication of this coming Friday’s official refresher to Summorum Pontificum. The joyous and unhindered celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is the welcome and needed challenge to caprice and improvisation (there is something of the two-edged sword in that statement). May we all be aided and encouraged in our quest to be nourished by God in and through the great mysteries the Only Begotten Son has entrusted to His Church! No longer church mice nor theater troupes, but heirs of the Kingdom!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

That I May See Life!

Mass of Thanksgiving
5 May 2011, 10th Anniversary
of the Installation of His Grace
The Most Reverend Edward Gilbert
as Archbishop of Port of Spain
Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter
Acts 5:27-33
John 3:31-36

Already on Easter Monday I heard a rumor going around that this Mass would probably be the last big function for His Grace before his retirement… Who said that? As awkward as that sounds, the news kind of reassured me because I took it as a sign of confidence in the informative process to seek candidates for his successor. To all of you who possess such confidence: God bless you and keep praying! Really, I think the reason the Vicar General called to invite the Nuncio to preach at this 10th anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving was so as not to put the Archbishop on the spot over what to say on a landmark anniversary (10 years) or concerning how he himself judges these past years he has served as your bishop. Whether that is what we should be doing beyond simply being thankful for a moment together on this 5th of May and whether I am qualified for the task, I cannot say, but don’t forget: as an interested party I’ve been present here in the country for more than six of these years!
The last verse of the Gospel from St. John which we just heard proclaimed goes as follows:
“The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him. Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.”
According to the Gospel, Faith or Belief is that which makes the difference between whether you and I will “see life” or not, to use St. John’s words. What does that mean in the life and ministry of a bishop? How does a bishop make sure that he will “see life”, that is, the only important life, eternal life? You may have always hoped it so and, believe it or not, in point of fact it is indeed so: faith is the heart of the matter, faith and not simply good intentions will be our judgment when some day, sooner perhaps for some, we stand before the Throne of God.
What does it mean to believe in the Son of God? What is Christian faith really? We know that faith or belief works out differently depending on your walk in life. A married woman or a married man gives evidence of being a believer within the context of that vocation to marriage and family life, by the grace of their special sacrament, Holy Matrimony. A religious sister or brother must live out the charism, the founding intuition of the institute of the consecrated life in which he or she has taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Children even at a very tender age are capable of believing in the Son of God and, as a result, have special duties within their state in life as well. How does a bishop make sure that he will “see life”? How does he give evidence of Faith or Belief? How does he live out his calling? St. Augustine trembled a lot about the responsibility which was his as a bishop and hence his famous saying “with you I am a Christian and for you I am a bishop”. It is that “for you” part which can rightly get us bishops into a cold sweat.
When we read in the Acts of the Apostles about Peter and his companions standing before the Sanhedrin, we might have the impression that there was something foreign about the relationship between the apostles and the Sanhedrin, as if the chief priests, the elders and the scribes hadn’t always been a trusted almost intimate part of the lives of Jesus and His closest followers. If we thought more about that closeness or familiarity between them perhaps we would be even more shocked by the betrayal, the opposition, and all the calculating which went on for their part. Jesus, Peter and his companions were judged and condemned by people who dealt with them day in and day out. The “with” and “for” which St. Augustine talks about is very real: a successor of the apostles cannot ever really be foreign to the Church entrusted to his care; the estrangement comes from those who sit in judgment, whether they be elders or scribes.
What then is this faith in the Son of God and where does it lead us? What might we say is the principal defect of the faith life of people today, and I mean anywhere in the world not just here in the islands? What is it that bishops as watchdogs and as shepherds must take to heart, must face, must stand up against such that we can make our own the words of the priestly prayer of Jesus from Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel:
“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent....” (Jn. 17:3)
Bishops are ministers of word and sacrament; they are called by Christ to teach, to govern and to sanctify, but their work is first and foremost teaching.
“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent....” (Jn. 17:3)
We as bishops (and this is what made St. Augustine tremble), we have the particular responsibility as successors of the Apostles to make known to the world entrusted to our care Jesus, the only true God.
You know, I don’t think there is anything more important for any of us in our lives (no matter what our calling) than bringing others to know Jesus. Before the Throne of God, mothers and fathers, you are not going to be judged for failing to keep your children in the latest clothing styles or cell phones, no, you’ll simply be asked why you failed to bring them to know and love Jesus. You’ll have to explain why your partner in marriage, the love of your life, did not come to know the loving and compassionate Christ better through you. Members of teaching and preaching orders of men and women will no doubt be asked whether they fought hard enough to keep a hand in the schools, even with decreasing numbers and advancing age, whether they did all in their power to inspire youth. And bishops… well, St. Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to Timothy about how that was supposed to go:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. …always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:1-2;5)
Your Grace, I’m the last one who is going to pretend to take the Lord’s Throne and judge you before the final trumpet sounds. Even so, I wish to invite all who can hear me to join me in thanking God for ten years of good shepherding. Many have seen the Hand of God at work in the synodal process which has busied the archdiocese for most of these ten years; many, many have been nourished by your teaching and call-in programs each Thursday on TV; although I missed you at a lot of social events planned by civil authorities, I am thankful that you privileged confirmation celebrations and parish visitations, contact with the people especially in liturgy.
“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent....” (Jn. 17:3)
We as bishops (and this is what made St. Augustine tremble), we have the particular responsibility as successors of the Apostles to make known to the world entrusted to our care Jesus, the only true God.
          Maybe the reason for the rumor about this being the last big celebration before your birthday takes into account the fact that there are no ordinations to the diaconate or priesthood foreseen in 2011. I cannot say that fact should be laid at anyone’s door. Port of Spain has always benefitted from the wealth and generosity of priestly vocations from elsewhere. As the region’s largest English speaking diocese, however, and the mother church for the south and east as well, it is time to expect more, to hope for more. Three men are supposed to be entering the seminary next semester. May they be followed by at least three more each year for forever and a day. Let the mother church of the Antilles begin to care for itself and return the debt of generosity it owes, you owe, by sending workers elsewhere into the harvest as well!
“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent....” (Jn. 17:3)