That’s a phrase I have heard over and over the past several weeks in discussions with some of our more liberal ‘Catholics.’ That phrase is presented sometimes as an almost unalloyed good, in and of itself. Usually, people who have this phrase in their lexicon have vastly different ideas of what ‘truth’ is. More on that later in a doozy of a post I’m ruminating on.
Today, the St. Louis Beacon published a ten page Memo form the Lay father of Three Chancellor of the Diocese of Bellesville IL to his Bishop, then USCCB president Wilton Gregory. It’s a doozy too, all about ‘Speaking truth to power.’ The Beacon is calling it ‘The memo that changed the Catholic Church. That’s probably a bit of hyperbole, but one can understand once you’ve read it. I won’t quote much of it here as I want you to read the whole thing. It is important to note that even in this dark hour of the church (2002) there were sane voices in the Chanceries advising the Bishops.
You should know by now that our children are more important to Sharon and me than anything in the world. Let me repeat that in bold Italics: Our children are more important to Sharon and me than anything in the world. With all due respect, though you probably come as close to understanding the significance of that statement as any bishop in the Church, you don’t. You can’t. No priest, no religious, no lay person who is not a parent can truly appreciate the incredible weight of that single sentence any more than I could before Erin was born. Three children later, I’m not sure I fully grasp it yet, and I know I can’t adequately articulate it for you in a simple memorandum. Similarly, I could never hope to fully comprehend how your pastoral ministry is the most important thing in the world to you. I can witness your vocation and try to appreciate the extraordinary commitment you have made to the Church, but I am not and will likely never be a priest. I may work in your chancery, but I am, above all else, Sharon’s husband and Erin, Jonathan and James’ dad.
The memo screams out for penance on the part of Bishops. I found this article on a Deacon’s blog, The Deacon’s Bench where he posited another great idea from the Deacons:
So here is my question for you. What if our bishops chose to do public penance? What if they lay prostrate or knelt in front of their cathedrals as penitents before each Mass on the weekend closest to the feast of St.Peter and Paul or on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or some other appropriate day or days? Or, even better, on the first Friday of every month for the next year starting with the feast of the Sacred Heart or Sts.Peter and Paul? And what if we, as their deacons, as an order in the Church, in all humility, not only called on our bishops to do public penance, but offered to join them in it?
As deacons we invite God’s holy people to pray for mercy in the Penitential Rite. As deacons we call God’s priestly people to pray for the needs of the Church and world at every Mass. As deacons on Good Friday, it is our part to invite our bishop and priests and all the faithful to kneel in prayer.
Just as I think it is our part to call our bishops to do public penance, I think it is also our part to join them in penance as well. Clearly, our place is with our bishops: we stand at the side of our bishop during every celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments, ready to assist them. We lie next to them every Good Friday as we prostrate our selves before the mystery of the Lord’s death on the cross. And I think that if we, as deacons, are willing to stand (or kneel or prostrate ourselves) at the side of our bishops, they might say yes to doing public penance
What do you think?