fr. coelho's HOMILY at the Ordination of Bishop Joseph Rose, OSB



Spiritual Leadership in the World Today


Mirror 249: MY DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD: Faithful Parishioners,

Monks, Oblates, Priests, Bishops and Bishop-Elect Joseph Rose,


Twenty-five years ago when Raul Nicolau Gonsalves, the Archbishop of Goa and Patriarch of the East Indies, ordained me a Priest among the Salesians of Don Bosco, I had no idea that I would be called upon to preach to Bishops about their role of spiritual leadership in our contemporary society and Church in America. As I went through my experiences of priestly ministry and recalled the many authors and books that I've read over these years it became clear to me that in the course of this homily I should focus on MY PRIESTLY MOTTO: “With you a disciple of Christ, for you His Priest today.”


I want the Bishop-Elect and everyone present to know that the original quote from the beginning of the sermon of St. Augustine on the Shepherds (Sermon 46, 1-2) reads, "I clearly exhibit two distinct features: one, that I am a Christian; two, that I am appointed overseer of others. The fact that I am a Christian is for my benefit; that I am appointed an overseer is for yours. My own good is to be considered in my being a Christian; in my being an overseer, only yours."


Though selected from among the People of God to exercise a functional, ministerial and leadership role, every Bishop and Priest never ceases to be a disciple of Christ. This dual responsibility is at the heart of the Priesthood. Archbishop Quinn of San Francisco described it as "The heart of the Priesthood is the Priesthood of the heart" (Homily to Clergy on Maundy Thursday, 1991). I realize now more than ever before that it is the 'PRIESTHOOD OF THE HEART' or 'The Ministry of Compassion' which sums up the responsibilities of any candidate called to participate in the fullness of the Priesthood as a Bishop in the world today.


Mirror 250: The Contemporary religious scenario and Laughter


The Contemporary religious scenario exposes us to the reality of how a "Christian Country" has become the world's most religiously diverse nation. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs work side-by-side with Protestants and Catholics. The new religious diversity is now a Main Street phenomenon. In A New Religious America Diana L. Eck (2001), a leading religious scholar, writes: "How Americans of all faiths and beliefs can engage with one another to shape a positive pluralism is one of the essential questions -perhaps the most important facing American society. While race has been a dominant American social issue in the past century, religious diversity in our civil and neighborly lives is emerging, mostly unseen, as the great challenge of the twenty first century." The answer to such a challenge is not an easy one. Some admit that Christianity is facing a deep crisis.


Gerhard Staguhn (1992) in God’s Laughter: Physics, Religion and the Cosmos with thought-provoking honesty offers the following penetrating conclusion to his book. "The deep crisis of Christianity may be connected to the fact that it does not admit humor and has never accepted the erotic aspect of love. The crisis of modern science may be connected to its failure to introduce humor as a universal constant in nature. Research is done too obsessively and with too little humor, governed as it is by the false belief that human existence per se can be reduced to a formula. I have a dark feeling, though, that a humorous quantum of action is hidden in nature that refuses to be mathematically defined. It guarantees that behind every secret that man regards as the ultimate one, another "ultimate" secret will appear, each time accompanied by an engaging, not at all scornful, laughter. But it will only be audible for those who are endowed with truly "spiritual" ears. A Jewish proverb says: 'man thinks, and God laughs.'"


Mirror 251: Many seekers are looking for the “spiritual”

Little wonder, then, that so Many seekers are looking for the “spiritual” in order to penetrate the inner secret of life and death, intimacy and isolation, freedom and responsibility, meaninglessness and purpose (Yalom, 1980). A plethora of spiritualities accompanied by a cornucopia of spiritual practices is available to the American populace. Elizabeth Lesser (1999) in her book The New American Spirituality provides directions through the four landscapes of the spiritual journey: "The mind: developing awareness, learning meditation, easing stress and anxiety - The heart: finding what one really loves, dealing with grief and loss, becoming fully alive - The body: returning the body to the spiritual fold, healing, coping with aging and fear of death - The soul: naming God for ourselves, exploring other realms of consciousness, trusting the mysterious nature of the universe, developing compassion and forgiveness."


How is the Christian Church facing the issue of religious diversity and spiritual leadership at the beginning of this century? What is the role of a Christian Bishop vis à vis these challenges? The answer has to focus on how a Bishop accepts THE CHALLENGE OF CHRIST in today's Gospel (St. John 21/15-17) passage, "Lovest thou me more than these? ... Feed my Sheep." This is how Bishop Augustine of Hippo (Sermon 46, 29-30, 1-2) interprets Christ's answer to Peter: "There were many apostles, but to one he said, 'Feed my sheep.' Away with the notion that good shepherds are lacking at present; let us not entertain the idea; may the Lord's mercy never fail to produce and appoint them. ... Surely, if there are good sheep, there are good shepherds too, for good shepherds are made from good sheep. But all good shepherds are in the one, are all one reality. Let them feed the sheep - it is Christ who feeds them. ... For if I speak my own opinions, I shall be a shepherd feeding myself not my sheep; but if what I say is his, it is he who feeds you, no matter who is speaking."


Mirror 252: The search for the authentic Jesus

The Bishop-Elect belongs to the Order of St. Benedict. I would like to share two readings from the BENEDICTINE SPIRITUAL TRADITION and an INSIGHT ABOUT SOLITUDE.


1. "The whole of the spiritual life turns on these two things: we are troubled when we contemplate ourselves and our sorrow brings salvation; when we contemplate God we are restored, so that we receive contemplation of ourselves we gain fear and humility; but from contemplation of God hope and love" (The Sermons of St. Bernard).


2. "This is the kind of zeal which monks should exercise with fervent love; ... Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he lead us all alike to everlasting life. (The Rule of St. Benedict)."


3. "Thomas Merton, the renowned Cistercian monk and a lover of solitude, expanded on this search for the authentic self in many of his treatises. In "The Inner Experience: Christian Contemplation" he once poignantly wrote: I must return to paradise. I must recover myself, salvage my dignity, reflect my lost wits, return to my true identity. The early desert monks, with that deep realism and profound common sense that was uniquely theirs, also taught their disciples to cultivate the love of solitude. Again and again they repeated, "Stay in your cell and do not leave it. Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything." For them, the humble solitude of the monastic cell was the furnace of Babylon, where the transformation from the old self into the new self in God's likeness took place. The task of the disciple was to heed his master's advice and persevere, in spite of the trials and often boredom of the cell, alone with him who is Alone. Gradually the disciple learned to discover the wisdom of this teaching. Solitude then became for him not only the place that led to the discovery of his true identity, but it even more so became the place where he could find and work out his daily salvation." (Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette in A Monastic Year. 1996).


It is from this deep solitude that a contemporary Episcopalian Bishop, a controversial one, describes his SEARCH FOR THE AUTHENTIC JESUS (Spong, 1993). "The worship of this Christ does not turn me into a pious or religious person, and I trust it will not so turn you. I cannot worship the Christ who fulfilled every human aspiration without also embracing the world gladly, as he did; or without walking into the future beyond every conventional frontier, as he walked. I cannot stand in awe of freedom and wholeness in this Christ and not seek to break every tie that binds me or any other human being into anything less than full humanity. My worship demands that I be willing to contend against prejudice, bigotry, fear, or whatever else warps or denies another's personhood. Worship of this Christ is thus for me a call to life, to love, to compassion, to sensitivity, and to the quest for justice. It is a call to the risks of involvement and confrontation with every other human being. To worship this Christ is to celebrate the present life and to hope for fulfillment that must lie ahead."


Mirror 253: Remember works of love are works of peace.”


This homily would not be complete if I did not, even briefly, dwell on the reading from The Epistle (I Timothy 3/1-7) of the day. I agree with Paul's encouragement to Timothy, even as I encourage Bishop-Elect Rose, that "IF A MAN DESIRES THE OFFICE OF A BISHOP, he desireth a good work." I would like to conclude with an insightful story from Fr. Anthony de Mello's The Heart of the Enlightened (1989): "A friend once told the manager of an orchestra that he would love to have a position in the orchestra. Said the manager, "I had no idea you could play an instrument." "I can't," was the reply. "But I see you have a man there who does nothing but wave a stick around while the others play. I think I can handle his job."


I am not sure how many conductors would be required to orchestrate the spiritual life of the six billion human beings on this planet. In my estimate, one out of every five who is a baptized follower of Christ could do a fantastic job both as a disciple and as a leader in our contemporary society. MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA stands out as one of those extraordinary personalities who captured the spirit of Christ and the fascination of our world as a Minister of Compassion with the 'Priesthood of the Heart.' May her tribe increase! We may do well to pay heed to her words (Collopy 1996): "Keep the joy of loving the poor and share this joy with all you meet. Remember works of love are works of peace. God bless you."


Augustine of Hippo. Sermons in The Divine Office Vol. III. (1974). London: Collins. pp 538,580-581

Benedict of Subiaco. The Benedictine Rule in The Divine Office Vol. III. (1974). London: Collins. p 107*

Bernard of Clairvaux. Sermons in The Divine Office Vol. III. (1974). London: Collins. p 523

Book of Common Prayer. (1928). New York: Oxford University Press.

Collopy, M., (1996). Works of love are works of peace: Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

D'Avila-Latourrette, V., (1996). A Monastic Year. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company

Eck, Diana (2001). A new religious America. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco

Lesser, Elizabeth. (1999). The New American Spirituality: A Seeker's Guide. New York: Random House.

Mello, A. de, (1989). The heart of the enlightened: A book of story meditations. New York: Doubleday.

Spong, J. S., (1993). This Hebrew Lord: A Bishop's Search for The Authentic Jesus. SF: Harper San Francisco.

Staguhn, G., (1992). God's Laughter: Man and His Cosmos. Translated by Steve Lake and Caroline Mahl. New York: Kodansha America Inc.

Yalom, I. D., (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books, Inc.




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