Tag Archives: bishops

St. Ignatius of Antioch

17 Oct

I’m especially partial to today’s saint, Ignatius of Antioch. I’m sure part of it is because it’s my 56th birthday, so I’ve always claimed him as one of “my” saints. But even more, St. Ignatius, who is recalled in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1), is a vitally important witness to the faith of the Apostles, which of course is the faith of the Church.

St. Ignatius (c. 50-107 A.D.) was the third Bishop of Antioch (St. Peter himself was the first, by the way). Antioch is the place where Our Lord’s followers were called Christians for the first time (Acts 11:26). St. Ignatius heard the preaching of St. John the Evangelist, and he also knew St. Polycarp, another significant apostolic Father who eventually became the Bishop of Smyrna in what is now Turkey.

What makes St. Ignatius such a significant figure in Church history is that when he was to be martyred in 107 A.D. during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, he was brought to Rome for his execution. During this journey he wrote seven letters to different Churches that are extant and indeed have been precious gems of the apostolic faith for Christians of every generation.

In honor of St. Ignatius, I will now give the following “top ten” list of some of my favorite quotes from this great bishop and martyr: Continue reading

St. Turibius of Mogrovejo

23 Mar

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Turibius (sometimes called Toribio) of Mogrovejo (1538-1606). Most readers probably aren’t familiar with St. Turibius. Not very often do we hear of friends naming their children “Turibius”! Yet, despite his relative obscurity, he’s one of the greatest bishops the Western Hemisphere has ever known.

He was born in Mayorga in the kingdom of Leon (I’m not kidding!) in Spain. He was a devout young layman who eventually made a name for himself as a civil and canon lawyer. When the Archdiocese of Lima needed a bishop, King Philip II recommended him to the Holy Father, who confirmed his selection as Lima’s new archbishop.

Turibius initially did what he could to resist his nomination, but in the end he acquiesced out of obedience to the Church. He was ordained a priest and consecrated as a bishop before being sent to Lima in 1587.

He was filled with great apostolic zeal. He founded many hospitals, schools, and churches–and also the first seminary in the New World! He was a reformer who called various councils and synods, and he used his legal expertise and holy wisdom to issue decrees for his archdiocese that were later adopted by other dioceses.

St. Turibius travelled to every corner of his huge archdiocese to reach out to his entire flock. He became the great protector of the native peoples, who were being exploited by the Spanish immigrants. And to assist in his work with the Indians, over the course of his 20-year archbishopric he mastered several Indian dialects.

There’s one final point I’d like to make about St. Turibius: He’s Exhibit “A” when it comes to the extraordinary impact a proactive, Spirit-filled bishop can have on the faith life of his flock. This impact not only involves “numbers” (large amount of converts) but also fostering an environment where holiness can really flourish. In that regard, I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that two great Dominican saints–St. Martin de Porres and St. Rose of Lima–were very small children when St. Turibius arrived on the scene.

St. Turibius, pray for us!

Lift up Your Hearts!

18 Mar

cyril of jerusalemSandwiched between the more popular feast days of St. Patrick (yesterday) and St. Joseph (tomorrow), we celebrate the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. This 4th-century Church Father and Doctor of the Church could be considered the “patron saint” of RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), as he has left us in his “Catechetical Lectures” instructions for new Christians in the days immediately before and after their initiation into the life of the Church at the Easter Vigil. In these catechetical instructions, we find very strong insistence on the value and efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism as well as a clear affirmation of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

St. Cyril died in 386, just a few years after participating, as Bishop of Jerusalem, at the First Council of Constantinople. This Council is known for completing the Creed commonly known as the Nicene Creed.

Here is a short sampling from one of St. Cyril’s catechetical lectures, in which he unpacks part of the Preface (prayers) that are said immediately before the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. As you will readily see, this message is just as applicable to us as it was to Christians in St. Cyril’s time:

“The Priest cries aloud, Lift up your hearts. For truly ought we in that most awful hour to have our heart on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things. In effect therefore the Priest bids all in that hour to dismiss all cares of this life, or household anxieties, and to have their heart in heaven with the merciful God. Then you answer, We lift them up unto the Lord: assenting to it, by your avowal. But let no one come here, who could say with his mouth, We lift up our hearts unto the Lord, but in his thoughts have his mind concerned with the cares of this life. At all times, rather, God should be in our memory but if this is impossible by reason of human infirmity, in that hour above all this should be our earnest endeavor.”

Chair-man of the Board!

22 Feb

Pope seatedToday the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. When I first returned to the Church way back when, I thought this feast sounded really strange. I was okay with celebrating events from the life of Christ, and even with celebrating feasts in honor of special saints. But a chair?

Then I read that ever since the fourth century, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter has been celebrated in Rome as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon that apostle. Hmmm. There must be more to the story . . .

One thing I learned early on is that the word for “chair” in Latin is cathedra. And so when the Pope teaches authoritatively in the area of faith and morals, he is said to speak “ex cathedra,” or “from the chair,” indicating the binding nature of the teaching on the Christian faithful.

And because cathedra literally refers to the established seat of the bishop, the “mother church” of a diocese that contains this seat is known as a “cathedral.” The chair or seat of a bishop symbolizes his authority as a successor of the apostles, and in a special way it symbolizes his “magisterium” or teaching office, in that he called to guard and proclaim the deposit of faith for the benefit of the local Church.

As Pope Benedict teaches, “When the bishop takes possession of the local Church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd’s crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.”

The first “seat” of the Church was the Upper Room where, in all probability, there was a special place reserved for Simon Peter as they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:13-15).

From there the “seat” of Peter moved to Antioch, the city where “for the first time the disciples were called Christians” (Acts 11:26), as Peter became that community’s first bishop.

From there, providence led Peter to Rome, where his service to the Gospel was crowned with martyrdom.

In this way, Rome came to be known as the “See” of the successor of Peter and the home of the Pope’s “cathedra,” which represents the mission entrusted to him by Christ to shepherd His entire flock. Incidentally, the Pope’s cathedral church as Bishop of Rome is not St. Peter’s, but St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, identified as the “Mother and Head” of all the churches in the world.

Rome’s significance as the See of Peter is attested by the most ancient Fathers of the Church. For example, St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (c. 200 A.D.), described the Church of Rome as “greatest and most ancient, known by all; . . . founded and constituted at Rome by the two glorious Apostles Peter and Paul . . . With this Church, because of her outstanding superiority, the universal Church must be in agreement, that is, the faithful everywhere” (Against Heresies).

In celebrating the “Chair” of Peter we recognize its spiritual significance: It is a special sign of the love of Christ who, as one form of the penitential rite at Mass provides, came to “gather the nations into the peace [and unity] of God’s kingdom.”

During this time of papal transition, let us make our own the words of St. Jerome: “I follow no leader save Christ so I consult the chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built!”

Electoral College

13 Feb

cardinalsThe papacy will be vacant at 8 p.m. on February 28, as Pope Benedict’s resignation goes into effect. The conclave in Rome to elect the next Pope must begin within 20 days of his date of resignation.

Over the coming days we will examine difference issues pertaining to this historic election. Today, let’s look at those who, with the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, will elect the next Pope: the college of cardinals.

At the outset, we should note that not all cardinals will participate in the election. Only those cardinals who have not reached their 80th birthday on the day the Pope leaves office may vote for his successor. There are currently 209 cardinals, but only 117 will be eligible to vote in the upcoming conclave. Most of these cardinal-electors–67 of the 117–have been appointed by Pope Benedict himself. According to rules re-established by Pope Benedict in 2007, the conclave must achieve a two-thirds majority to elect the next successor of St. Peter.

At the last conclave, in April 2005, 115 cardinals voted. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the Supreme Pontiff on the fourth ballot and selected the name Benedict XVI.

In the upcoming conclave, 10% of the cardinal electors (11 of the 117) are from the United States. Here is a list of the American electors, their age, and their current position:

  • Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, 64, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican (former Bishop of La Crosse and Archbishop of St. Louis
  • Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, 63, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston (former Bishop of Sioux City, IA)
  • Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, 63, Archbishop of New York (former Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis and Archbishop of Milwaukee)
  • Cardinal Francis E. George, 76, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, Archbishop of Chicago (for Bishop of Yakima, WA and Archbishop of Portland, OR)
  • Cardinal James M. Harvey, 63, Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome (originally a priest from Milwaukee, for many years served in the papal household)
  • Cardinal William J. Levada, 76, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (former Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Archbishop of Portland and later San Francisco)
  • Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, 76, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles (former Auxiliary Bishop of Fresno and Bishop of Stockton)
  • Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, 73, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (former Archbishop of Military Archdiocese and Baltimore)
  • Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, 68, Archbishop of Boston (former Bishop of Fall River and Palm Beach)
  • Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, 77, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia (former Archbishop of St. Louis and Vatican official)
  • Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, 72, Archbishop of Washington (former Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle and Bishop of Pittsburgh)

Living Vicariously

17 Jan

ServantsoftheGospelThe next document in our series on the documents of the Second Vatican Council is the 1965 Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus).

I really appreciate Vatican II’s specifically on the individual bishop. Some Catholics rightly put great emphasis on the Pope’s authority, but then downplay the role of the local bishop. Others affirm the authority of the bishop, but only inasmuch as he is part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). In the first view, the bishop is merely the minion of the Pope. In the second view, the bishop is most essentially our representative with the national body. Neither view gives sufficient respect to the authority of the bishop himself.

Against both of these caricatures, Vatican II stresses the role of the individual bishop. While affirming the specific role of the Pope as pastor of the universal Church, Christus Dominus provides that bishops “having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them” (no. 2, footnotes omitted).

We’re all accustomed to referring to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. After all, it was Peter who received the keys (cf. Mt. 16:18-19), and as Catholics we recognize the Pope’s role as Christ’s chosen representative to rule and guide the universal Church until the end of time.

But one teaching that sometimes gets overlooked is that the bishops are not simply vicars of the Pope, but vicars of Christ Himself in the particular Church (i.e., diocese) assigned to them. They legitimately exercise their role only in communion with the Pope, but nonetheless they personally exercise their office in the name of Christ as a successor of the apostles. The bishop is neither a mere representative of the Pope nor does he legitimately exercise authority apart from the Pope (see Catechism, nos. 880-96, especially 894-95).

Some may be surprised to know that a number of Popes have even referred to Christian parents as vicars of Christ in the home. For example, Pope Pius XI, in his 1929 encylical Divini Illius Magistri, wrote: “Parents . . . should be careful to make right use of the authority given them by God, whose vicars in a true sense they are.” Of course this truth connects well with Vatican II’s emphasis on the family as the “domestic Church” or “Church in miniature.” Continue reading

Apostle of the Alleghenies

5 Jan

St. John NeumannToday is the feast of St. John Neumann, not to be confused with the recently beatified John Henry Newman. This 19th-century immigrant priest became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies, and he later became the Bishop of Philadelphia. While most saints lived long ago in far-away places, St. John Neumann is very much part of our own cultural history. This was brought home to me when I lived in Ohio. I belonged to the St. John Neumann Knights of Columbus Council, and in our St. John Neumann adoration chapel, we actually had baptismal and marriage records signed by none other than this holy cleric!

St. John Neumann eventually became a U.S. citizen, and he was the first U.S. bishop to become a saint. Let’s take this opportunity to pray, through the intercession of St. John Neumann, for our own bishops and priests.