I have just had the great opportunity of spending last week in the Eternal City. While I only lived in Rome for a few short years, it has engrained its charm and character deep in my heart and touched my soul.
There is so much about our beloved church that thrives magnificently in Rome, as it could nowhere else in the world; and it is in Rome, of course, that the blood of the martyrs continually beckons us to faithfulness and extraordinary humility in the midst of this bustling and secular world.
I had some diocesan business to tend to while there and took time to visit friends and even speak of the current state of affairs in the archdiocese while we wait for the announcement of our new archbishop. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is generally highly regarded in Rome and that always makes me happy and gives me a sense of pride in our priests and in our people.
I concelebrated at the Mass for 30 men who were ordained deacons in St. Peter’s Basilica from the Pontifical North American College. Twelve members of the class had already been ordained in their home (arch)dioceses. Deacon John Burns was ordained for our archdiocese and many of our priests were also in attendance. John now joins Deacons Matthew Widder and Charles Wrobel as deacons awaiting priestly ordination in the spring. They will be joined in November by the diaconate ordination of Anthony Thomas and Erich Weiss. Please continue to pray for these fine men that they may enter fully into the ministry of service as deacons of the church and continue that ministry of service as priests of Jesus Christ.
Rome is still the world center of the church and one cannot help but get swept up in the multicultural and multinational relationships that are so evident and touch every experience around the Vatican.
In this particular area, I was delighted to see a new book titled: “The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture,” by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago. In the book, he speaks about the nature and significance of relationships in the church.
“We are defined by our relationships, not by individualism,” Cardinal George writes. “Nothing in Catholicism is unrelated. Our local church is part of the universal.”
It is indeed significant and important to note the interrelatedness of culture, politics, economics, etc. and the church. One finds this quite true in the Vatican itself, but it is also true in our own corners of the world as well.
I celebrated with the parish community at St. Edward in Racine last Sunday. It was their 90th anniversary of the foundation of the parish. Parishioners note that there has been much change in the community, but so much of the good remains.
I spent the afternoon with members of St. Peter and Holy Rosary parishes in Kenosha. I participated in an outdoor procession with the Blessed Sacrament that went from St. Peter to Holy Rosary. What an event! It was well attended and well organized. I couldn’t help but think about all the people who passed us by on those busy Kenosha streets. What must they have been thinking? I was so happy to see the great support and enthusiasm of the people but I was also so thoughtful about all those who “passed by” wondering what this event was all about. Then I remembered the great scene last year at the White House when His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, and President Bush sat together on the White House lawn as the United States Marine Corps chorus sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” What a great country in which we live!
Our faith, of course, certainly enters into so many areas of our lives. We are always in a “relationship” of some sort with some element of society and culture being touched by faith, because we are people of faith.
We have been claimed by Jesus Christ and have the responsibility to live his Gospel and share his mission. He has claimed the world by his cross and resurrection. Our share in the mission brings us into direct contact with the world in all its complexities and conundrums. But we must remember, the world cannot change the Gospel; rather, it is the Gospel that changes the world. As we make our way through these times that speak to us of the importance of our power to change and shape our world, it is good to ponder the essential truth of the life of Christ that already has.