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Bishop Speaks
April 10, 2008 Edition

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Under the Gospel Book (en Español)
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Bishops' Schedules:
Bishop Robert C. Morlino

Saturday, April 12, 2008
9:00 a.m. -- Teach Moral Theology class, Diocesan Lay Institute, Bishop O'Connor Center, Madison

Sunday, April 13, 2008
11:00 a.m. -- Preside and Preach at Stational Mass, St. Patrick Church, Madison

Monday, April 14,
to Friday, April 18, 2008

Papal Visit to Washington, D.C.

Bishop William H. Bullock

Sunday, April 13, 2008
12:00 noon -- Preside and Preach at Sacrament of Confirmation, St. Dennis Church, Madison

Monday, April 14, 2008
12:00 noon -- Preside and Preach at Celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, Madison

Tuesday, April 15
to Friday, April 18, 2008

Papal Visit to Washington, D.C.

God in space and time

illustration of Gospel Book being held open over bishop's head

Under the
Gospel Book

+ Bishop Robert
C. Morlino

(printable version)
(en Español)

Dear Friends,

I pray that this column finds you well and enjoying the Easter season, which we continue to celebrate. This week's column will be the first in a three-part series, in which I hope to begin my renewed effort at explaining the need that Catholics have for a cathedral, as promised in last week's column. It is my goal, in the next few weeks, to lay out, in a catechetical style, the reason a Cathedral is so very important to our faith in Jesus Christ and to our faith as Catholics. In part three I will also address why we should be concerned with supporting campus ministry at the UW-Madison and the UW-Platteville. Much of what I write in the coming weeks repeats my catechetical talk given to my staff, which can be found on our diocesan Web site.

More articles on
St. Raphael Cathedral

A people of sacred time and sacred space

As Catholic-Christians we are a religion of sacred time and sacred space. There are religions - especially of the "New Age" variety - that are not religions of sacred time and sacred space. In a simplified way, those religions are all in your head and in your feelings; religion means "how you feel about Jesus" or "what you think about God," period. Whatever it is, it's between you and God, or you and Jesus, or you and whoever - just the two of you.

So, in the view of the followers of these religions, the expression of your religion while taking a walk along a beautiful, quiet beach or taking a walk in majestic mountain scenery - just you, and your thoughts, and your feelings - is just as good as any other means of expression, because all you need is you and your own thoughts and feelings about religion. You don't need another thing. You don't need another person. You don't need a different place. And you don't need a different time. Religion is you and your own religious sentiments, and possibly whoever you think God to be. And in this way there can be perfect worship under any circumstances, as long as you are in the mood.

Obviously, this is a very individualistic spirituality; there is no communal dimension to this, necessarily. Though sometimes your religious mood or your religious sentiment might say to you, "I'm going to invite a few others to walk along the beach with me, and we'll talk about our religious sentiments." But that is not necessary: if you're in the mood to be alone, then you're alone; if you want a few people, you get a few people; and if, on a particular day you hear that there is something lively going on in some particular church building, you might stop in there. It's all about you and your own religious sentiments regarding whoever or whatever you believe God to be. That is a very common form of "religion" today, all over the world.

As a side note, this is why we often hear "keep religion out of politics," because religion, in this view, is a private thing! When people say that, it's the above mentioned, individualistic "religion" of which people are thinking. And, indeed, you do have to keep that kind of religion out of politics, because that kind of religion has nothing to do with community, and politics has everything to do with community! That kind of individualistic religion is different for everybody, so there is nothing you should do about those individual convictions in the political realm, because politics has to reflect some kind of reason that goes across the board, for everybody. If we're going to ask our politicians to make a law, it has to be a law that everybody could reasonably be asked to keep. And if religion is so individualistic and so privatized, then there is no way that the law could ever reflect a religious conviction, because you would need a different law for every individual - and that's the definition of chaos.

Some don't go to Mass on Sunday

So, there is a sense of religion in the United States, in the West, and all over the world, that does not involve sacred time and sacred space. And there are many of those who would call themselves "Christian" who have adjusted their faith practice to exclude sacred time and sacred space. The perfect example of the result of this is that two-thirds of those who call themselves "Catholics" don't go to Mass on Sunday. They have come up with a formula for their practice of Catholicism that does not reflect sacred time and sacred space, for whatever reason.

So, two-thirds of those in the United States who call themselves Catholics are practicing a Catholicism that doesn't strongly embrace sacred time and sacred space. Therefore, it should surprise no one when a Catholic says, "why would we ever need a cathedral?" Two-thirds of Catholics in the United States don't go to Mass every Sunday; they have obviously adjusted their faith to exclude sacred time and sacred space as essential. If their sense of the faith excludes sacred time and sacred space, why would they ever need a cathedral? In fact, in their line of thinking, we really don't need any church building.

I don't mean to condemn people like that. Some people who are like that are very religious - in their own minds. But one cannot be like that and claim to be Catholic. That is why we need more catechesis about a cathedral - meaning, in the first place, we need catechesis about the importance and need for sacred time and sacred space. And that all goes back to Jesus Christ, the perfect copy of the Father.

Jesus Christ lived on earth in time and space

If someone claims to believe that Jesus Christ is the perfect copy of God the Father, that He Himself is God, that He is the Messiah, risen from the dead, that claim has implications. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit chose, from all eternity, to send Jesus Christ, the Son, into the world - that is to say, into time and into space.

Jesus lived on the earth during a particular timeframe. If one wanted to meet Jesus in His time as a human on earth, one had to be alive somewhere between 5 and 35 A.D. If one came before that timeframe, Jesus Christ was not available. And if one was not in Palestine during that time, Jesus Christ was not available. Jesus Christ was not available in 30 AD, in China - he was only available in Palestine. And before he was born into time and space he was not available anywhere in the flesh.

Now, why did the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit choose to reveal themselves through a given time period, which became sacred by the presence of Christ, and through a geographical area, which became sacred through the presence of our Lord - why did they choose to do it that way? I don't have a clue. If I knew the answer to that, I could write a book. And if the answer was right, we could pay for the Cathedral with the proceeds of that book deal! We wouldn't even need a capital campaign!

But I don't know why the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit chose, from all eternity, to reveal themselves in a way that was time-limited and space-limited. I don't know why they did that, but they did. So, the idea that there is sacred space and sacred time is as basic to our faith as anything. If one doesn't believe that there is sacred time and sacred space, then one doesn't really believe in Jesus Christ. They may have some incorrect understanding of Jesus Christ that allows them to say that they believe in Him without believing in sacred time and sacred space, but that doesn't mean their understanding is right. They have an idea about Jesus Christ that allows them to do that, but that idea of Jesus Christ is incorrect, because it's an historical fact that Jesus Christ came into time and into space.

He manifested Himself as space- and time-limited. Why? Who knows? But, if we want to follow Jesus Christ, then we're looking to a situation which includes sacred time and sacred space as essential. And that's why, when Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, which He did, there came a point when he no longer appeared or walked around in time, in Palestine. Jesus went back to the right hand of the Father in Heaven as the Great High Priest. He sent the Holy Spirit to be the soul of His body, the Church. So that, once the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, just as people needed to go to Palestine, during a certain period of time if they wanted to meet Jesus Christ, in the same way, once Jesus ascended, if people want to meet Jesus Christ, they do that through meeting His Holy Spirit, who is embodied in the Church.

Thank you for reading this and look for part two (of three) next week.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Bishop Robert C. Morlino's Coat of Arms image

On behalf of Bishop Robert C. Morlino, I am pleased to announce that Fr. William Vernon has been incardinated into the Diocese of Madison effective February 1, 2008. Father Vernon is currently serving the parishes of St. Pius X, Cambridge, linked with St. Joseph, Edgerton.

Rev. Msgr. Donald J. Heiar, Jr.
Vicar General of Madison

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