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Archbishop Burke of St Louis: the responsibilities of a bishop
The following are extracts from the homily of Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, Missouri, at the consecration of a new bishop earlier this year. Archbishop Burke was recently appointed to a top Vatican post, the Apostolic Signatura.
Our hearts and minds travel mystically along an unbroken line of succession from Christ's consecration of the Apostles at the Last Supper to the consecration of our new bishop during the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Lord's Supper.
Recalling the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders at work in the Apostles and in the first missionaries to our region, and witnessing the conferral of the grace in the ordination of our new bishop, let us pray for the new evangelisation of his diocese, that the faithful, under the care and with the guidance of their shepherd, may teach, celebrate, and live our Catholic faith with new enthusiasm and new energy, with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples and of the first Catholics who established the Church in what is now the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
As we thank God for the gift of a new bishop, let us not fail to pray for Pope Benedict XVI, successor of Saint Peter, 'the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful' (Lumen Gentium). The occasion of the ordination of a new bishop is a time for us to reflect upon the great gift of the unity and catholicity of the Church, coming to life from and living from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus.
To Bishop Johnston: May the cathedra or bishop's seat, which gives the name to the chief and mother church of every diocese, symbolise for you and all of the faithful your fundamental responsibility to teach the faith and to safeguard the integrity of the faith and of its practice.
As chief teacher of the faith, guide and direct all who are catechists, so that the greatest treasure which is ours may be handed on faithfully, in all its richness, to succeeding generations. Recall the wise counsel of Saint Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1-5), and the admonition of Saint Gregory the Great, inspired by his reading of the prophet Isaiah and the Parable of the Good Shepherd:
'The ruler should be discreet in keeping silence and profitable in speech, lest he utter what should be kept secret, or keep secret what should be uttered. For just as incautious speech leads men into error, so, too, unseasonable silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed.
'Often, indeed, incautious rulers, being afraid of losing human favour, fear to speak freely of what is right, and, in the words of the truth, do not exercise the zeal of shepherds caring for the flock, but serve the role of mercenaries; for when the wolf appears, they flee and hide themselves in silence. Wherefore, the Lord reproves them through the prophet, saying: 'They are all dumb dogs, not able to bark'.'
By your tireless care to be a loyal and selfless teacher of the faith, you will draw all to Him whose glorious pierced heart never ceases to pour out upon souls the truth and love of God the Father.
It is only through the vocation and mission of priests, your co- workers, that you will be able to exercise pastoral charity for the numerous flock, living in so large a territory, all of whom have been entrusted to your care. Never forget that your first duty, after praying for the flock, is to provide for them good, faithful, and generous priests.
Be diligent in your care of priests, for whom you are both brother and father in Christ. Accompany the seminarians of the diocese, so that they may persevere in responding to God's call with all their heart. Work to provide ever more effective helps for young men whom our Lord is calling to the priesthood, so that they may hear His call and courageously embrace it.
Be attentive to guide God's people in the way of justice which leads to lasting peace. Foster always the respect for all human life from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death, especially the life of our unborn brothers and sisters, and of our brothers and sisters who are burdened by special needs, serious illness, or advanced age.
Safeguard the integrity of the marital union and of human procreation. Your apostolic teaching and guidance will inspire and strengthen all of the faithful in the transformation of the culture of violence and death into a civilisation of life and divine love.
Lead the flock in solidarity with those who suffer injustices in our society, especially the migrant and refugee, and be, for them, the sign of God's unfailing mercy and love. Help those in your pastoral care to grow in understanding our solemn responsibility to be good stewards of God's manifold gifts. May the crozier represent your firm and loving care of all the flock, without boundary.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 21 No 8 (September 2008), p. 20
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