Second in a series of three. [read part one]
As I begin this second column outlining some of my prayerful reflections about the future of the Cathedral Church, I would remind you of our starting dictum: "in what is necessary unity, where there is freedom diversity, and in all things charity."
Once again, let me beg you to seek from the Lord the grace to practice forbearance as we go forward in our deliberations, always giving to myself, to your priests, and to one another the benefit of the doubt, placing the best possible interpretation on what we say and do while certainly avoiding placing the worst possible interpretation.
Teaching ministry, office carried out
Today I wish to speak about the Cathedral as the seat of the Bishop as teacher. When I speak seriously about the office of Bishop, I seek never to do so in a way that is self-serving. Christ himself founded His Church upon the Apostles whose successors are the bishops, one of whom I happen to be, unworthy though I am, and I do know better than anyone how unworthy I am. Nonetheless, I have to accept the authority and responsibility that comes with the office of Bishop.
The Cathedral is the only church in the diocese which contains the chair, the cathedra, from which the Bishop exercises his teaching ministry. As our beloved parishioners at St. Raphael's, I hope, know very well, I take seriously my presence as teacher in the Cathedral Church and from September to May when I am in the diocese, I am in the Cathedral Church on Sunday morning, preaching, teaching, and praying with that Cathedral community whom I so love. The Cathedral is a sacred temple in which everyone in the diocese should feel welcome.
One of the reasons why I celebrate Mass there late on Sunday mornings is to allow those who might be able to attend by driving a certain distance to do so and, in fact, this has turned out to be the case. It is also the case that those Catholic legislators or government officials who are in town over the weekend can have access to the Cathedral Church, as well as students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, faculty, and administrative staff. Visitors to downtown Madison are also to be directed for Catholic worship, specifically to the Cathedral Church.
Living the liturgical life of the Church
As the Bishop lives the liturgical life of the Church from Sunday to Sunday with his parish family at the Cathedral, the authentic teaching of Christ goes forth through his word, unworthy though he is. We live the mystery of Christ's life, death, and resurrection from Sunday to Sunday even as we march forward on the journey to holiness and Heaven. The place where this teaching ministry and office of the Bishop is carried out in a unique way is the Cathedral Church.
This is why I am very willing to celebrate Confirmation in the parish communities during the week, or on Saturday evening, or Sunday evening, but not on Sunday morning. I feel a need to live the whole liturgical life of the Church through Advent and Christmas season, through Lent and Easter, and the Sundays after Pentecost, I need to live the liturgical life of the Church with the parish family through all of those seasons and not simply celebrate Pentecost every weekend by celebrating Confirmation.
Accommodating myself to the celebration of Confirmation in parishes is very important to me and I believe that our people see how much I enjoy celebrating with the young people - in a sense there is nothing I would rather do.
But for my own spiritual good I need, as a priest, to live the full liturgical life of the Church with the Cathedral community so that the teaching of the Church is proclaimed through homiletic reflection on the various readings of the liturgical year as they occur.
The City of God interfaces with the City of Man in a very special way when the Bishop is regularly present in his Cathedral, carrying out his leadership in the ministry of the Word.
Philosophical discussion of truth
Again, it would be hard to imagine that this teaching office of the Bishop would be carried out apart from downtown Madison. Downtown Madison is like the Areopagus, the special place in Athens, Greece, where St. Paul addressed the gathered crowds seeking to bring them to the truth of Christ, guided by philosophical principles that were familiar to them.
Philosophical discussion about truth is occurring in downtown Madison in a way that is relatively unique in the whole United States. The truth of Christ needs to be made powerfully present as that discussion goes on.
Again, if someone has a persuasive reason why this might not be the case, or if I am missing something, this is very definitely the time to speak because I am quite open to being persuaded otherwise, as I said in the previous column. So please do take advantage of one of the channels or vehicles which are available to you to offer your own point of view.
Thank you very much for reading this. God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Collection to aid churches in Central, Eastern Europe
Dear Friends in Christ:
I am very grateful for your efforts to promote and support the pastoral work of the Catholic Church in the 27 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. After generations of religious persecution, Catholics there are being miraculously filled with the spirit of hope.
The theme for the 2006 Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe - HOPE - tells a story of strength, vitality, and growth, a story of the determination of our Catholic family in the East. Proceeds from the Collection go directly to support seminaries, social service programs, youth ministry, pastoral centers, church restoration, and the spreading of the Gospel message through the mass media.
For years now, Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe have counted on the solidarity of their brothers and sisters in the United States. A sign of this spirit of hope and vitality was recently given by the Church in Lithuania, which recently took up a collection to aid the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita!
As we begin our Lenten journey, a time for penance, fasting, and almsgiving, I encourage priests to be generous with their words of encouragement from the pulpit, knowing that their parishioners' generosity will have a profound impact on so many people. Thank you so much for all that you do and know that I will pray for you.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070 Fax: 608-821-3071 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org