Saturday, July 31, 2010

"This Is How a Bishop Serves"

Sure, you've seen the text... but as yesterday's closing O-ration only packed its full punch in the delivery, here's the Dave-vid:

As the afterparty ran even longer than usual, full wrap to come... for now, though, suffice it to say that of the 30-odd of these shindigs your narrator's been blessed to be part of over the years, none matched the warmth of emotion, the understated beauty, the enthusiasm and, above all, the out-and-out fun that marked yesterday's moment in the sun for the church in Central Jersey... and, of course, for our beloved Father David.

When you've got two of this beat's most entertaining and easygoing characters headlining the day -- and an unusually large contingent of twenty- and thirtysomethings on the guest-list -- perhaps the lightness of spirit was to be expected. Still, with all of six weeks to prep, Bishop Mort Smith and his team worked untold hours to plan out and pull off a day that'll be very happily and fondly remembered on the wider scene for a long, long time to come.

So especially for all of us lucky enough to have been invited in from outside, a million thanks and kudos to the Trenton crew for a great day in the "great diocese" -- and lest anyone up 95 hasn't yet realized it, just as you've already got the best at the helm, with your latest "10," know that the tradition continues... so revel in it.


Friday, July 30, 2010

"To Serve, and Not to Be Served"

Here below, as prepared for delivery, the ordination remarks of Bishop David O'Connell CM, coadjutor of Trenton:
I have been thinking a great deal in recent months about the role and ministry of bishops in the Church. You might think, sitting here in the Cathedral today in the midst of this beautifully moving ceremony, you had good reason for such reflection! And, while there is real truth to that reaction --- at least since the Apostolic Nuncio first met with me on May 24 about coming to Trenton --- I did have some other motivations.

For the past twelve years, I was president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C, a place that is known as the “bishops’ university.” I am grateful that so many of my colleagues and friends from Catholic University are here with us today, both in the pews and around the sanctuary. Throughout those twelve years, I had many occasions to get to know bishops from around the country either as university trustees or as visitors to campus. We spoke about many things: their dioceses, their experiences, their joys and their challenges. I came to admire them as good men, good priests and good leaders. Although they all differed from one another in many ways, they all had one thing in common: they loved their people.

Today, through the grace and mercy of God and the sacrament of ordination, I join their ranks as successors to the Apostles. Like them, I approached this day filled with joy and gratitude but also with a sense of humility and awe. Like them, I am profoundly aware of my flaws and limitations, that I am far from perfect. Like them, I do not know what the future will hold but I am quite sure that the expectations are as many and as different as there are people in and outside of this Cathedral.

When the Apostolic Nuncio spoke with me that morning in late May, he shared much information about the Diocese of Trenton and the process involved in my appointment. But he said something to me that I will never forget: “Father, always remember that there are over 830,000 souls in your Diocese. And you will be responsible for all of them.” What has been very much on my mind since that conversation is simply this: how will I exercise that responsibility?

The other day, someone asked me how long it took to come up with my Episcopal motto, Ministrare non Ministrari --- “to serve and not to be served” --- to which I responded, “about two seconds.” When I was first ordained a Vincentian priest --- and I am so happy to see so many of my confreres here --- the Gospel reading for the ordination Mass contained those words of Jesus Christ in Mark’s Gospel. I was struck with the phrase then as being a perfect description of how to follow the Lord as a priest: “to serve and not to be served and to give my life as a ransom for the many.” This was how I wanted to live out my life as a priest. This is how I want to live out my life as a bishop and how I hope to exercise that responsibility.

According to the Second Vatican Council, “Christ gave the apostles and their successors the mandate and the power to teach all nations and to sanctify and shepherd their people in truth (Christus Dominus, 12).” To teach. To sanctify. To shepherd their people in truth. Christ gave this mandate to the successors to the Apostles. Christ gave this power. And with power like this comes great responsibility. Please pray for me.

“To serve and not to be served.” In my letter to our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI accepting his appointment, I wrote to him of my choice of a motto. In his response to me read here today, he repeated them.

A bishop serves his people by teaching truth. The truth that comes through the Gospel, the truth that comes through the Church and all its teachings, the truth that lives among us a community of faith, for “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18: 20).” This is how a bishop serves, not by being served through compromise or taking the easy way out, not by being served saying only what people want to hear or what makes them comfortable, striving to be popular. As Pope John Paul II wrote, the truth that we teach “has its origin in God himself … (but) people can even run from the truth because they are afraid of its demands (Fides et ratio, 7; 28).” Christians cannot run from the truth for this reason. Nor can the bishop. This is how he serves.

A bishop also serves by sanctifying his people and by leading them to holiness. And there is only one way to holiness: Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with him, convinced in faith as we must be that he alone is “the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 6).” All three make us holy. Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord. He triumphed over death and every suffering and evil. The bishop is called, it is said, to be a servant of the empty tomb not of the status quo. He leads his people to holiness by bearing witness to what the empty tomb means: joy, hope, the promise of new life, remembering Jesus’ own words: “In the world you will have troubles but take courage: I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” This is how the bishop serves.

Finally, a bishop serves by leading, by guiding, by shepherding his people. This is, perhaps, the most difficult not only for those he governs as bishop but for the bishop himself, marked as he is by human weakness. But lead he must, by word and example. God gives the grace. And follow we must. God gives the grace. The answers that we may seek from him, the answers that we may want from him may sometimes not be what we seek or want. Sometimes the answer is no. “The gate is narrow and the road is long that leads to life (Matthew 7: 14).” This is how the bishop serves and this is where that service leads: to life.

To serve and not to be served. To teach. To sanctify. To shepherd. This is what a bishop does for God’s people and with God’s people: brother bishops, fellow priests, deacons, faithful religious women and men and all the baptized, one community of faith. With a grateful heart I thank you for being here today, too many to call by name. Please know that I care deeply for you all. With humble, faithful hearts, let us go forward, together, “to serve and not to be served.”
SVILUPPO: Mass and address videos posted.


Live from Trenton Cathedral... no procession yet, but the bishop-elect's spent the last 20 minutes making his way around the aisles to say his hellos. And indeed, even the traditional NeoCat Singers outside weren't left out.

Livestream link here... worship aid here... and away we go.

SVILUPPO: Among other O'Connellites in attendance: the Vatican's deputy Worship Czar, Archbishop Gus DiNoia OP (the de facto papal legate to these rites); from DC, freshly-arrived CUA president John Garvey along with his "first lady," a score of Catholic's top staff, and Jim Towey, the runner-up to succeed the now-bishop; NCR's Michael Sean Winters, a healthy-sized press section, and the CEO of the Catholic Health Association, Sister Carol Keehan, all friends of the incoming Trenton prelate.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inveni David: O'Connell Eve in Trenton

Sure, every episcopal ordination has something of a lead-in... as they go, though, you'd be hard pressed to top this:

Each new bishop might come to the high-hat with exceptional qualities and high accolades to his name... only now, though, "CNN analyst" has a place among 'em. And accordingly, five cardinals and some 50 bishops are set to converge on Trenton for tomorrow's ordination of Bishop-elect David O'Connell CM as coadjutor of Central Jersey's 850,000-member local church.

Placed in succession to the beloved Bishop Mort Smith -- like his heir apparent, a figure widely regarded as "an event" -- early word tips the handover for early 2011; the Mort reached the retirement age of 75 last month, two years after he requested an apprentice to facilitate a smooth transition.

Given the incoming prelate's transformative 12-year stint as president of the Catholic University of America in Washington (whose arms set the template for his own), the nationally-televised, globally-streamed liturgy will be the most high-profile elevation the church's American leadership has seen in almost a decade; the last time a US priest entered the episcopacy with a similar degree of prominence came in 2001, when one Timothy Michael Dolan was ordained an auxiliary bishop of St Louis in a raucous liturgy that saw the congregation swell the balconies and jam the narthex of Redbird Nation's 2,700-seat "New Cathedral."

Of course, you'll recall where he is now... and alongside the chief occupant of 452 Madison and over 300 priests, the thousand-strong, Mom-led invite list is rounded out by Gov. Chris Christie, hosts of Knights, parishioners, profs and, all told, as much of the wide-ranging O'Connell orbit as the downtown cathedral could cram in.

Even if it's "in-waiting," tomorrow sees the arrival of the Garden State's first diocesan bishop appointed by Benedict XVI. More to the point, though, the 2pm rite seals a marriage made in hierarchical heaven, joining an energetic, culture-friendly, media-savvy figure to a growing, well-run jewel amid a challenge-ridden Northeast... and above all, making a strategic placement right at the midpoint of the Amtrak/I-95 corridor that links the region's (and, still to a great degree, the nation's) ecclesial centers of learning, leadership and public presence.

If all that wasn't enough, the timing -- but a fortnight before the 20th anniversary of Ex corde ecclesiae -- plays squarely into the appointee's strong-suit: the Catholic academy and the identity thereof.

In a nutshell, it was never a question that O'Connell's legacy at Catholic would see its 14th president quickly brought onto the bench for which he worked. Still, if Rome was looking to throw water on the Vincentian's A-list circulation in the wider mix (and, from a higher pulpit, his ability to amplify it even further), suffice it to say, he would've landed seemingly anywhere but here.

As a result, these days in Trenton set the stage for a national-grade storyline as the journey of the largest faith on these shores goes -- at least, the shape and voice of its leadership. Of course, the specifics of where the tale will wend remain to be seen. As starts go, though, few (if any) have been more stratospheric than this.

Good thing the hiatus went as long as it did... your narrator's gonna need another one after it all wraps up.

Above all, though, greetings from Mort Country... and, indeed, it's party time.


The Appointed Time

So, folks, time to rev up again... Most Rev. up, actually.

Still, you get the idea.

Off to Trenton in a few to prep for tomorrow’s “O”-rdination -- which, as one of the locals put it, is already proving to be “bigger than when Mother Teresa” came to Jersey's capital. In the meanwhile, though, just wanted to send up a word of thanks for your patience and indulgence these last weeks -- in the finest, richest sense of the word, it’s been a kairos moment behind the scenes... yet, wonderful as these are, they tend to not mix so well with news-cycles, e.mails, more PR feats of greatness across the Tiber, etc.

Then again, some things are more important.

Suffice it to say, it’s good to be back, and a month taking inventory has changed things for the better. So, well, let’s do it.

More from the other side of the river in a bit... for now, though, Msgr Beeker, have at it:

Hope the lazy days are treating you great, gang. Soak ‘em up for all they’re worth.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Scenes From a Breather

Fresh from Castel Gandolfo, here's your shot of the week...

...meanwhile, with B16 said to be spending his downtime engrossed in writing the final volume of his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, it appears that the Pope-white ballcap's made a return during the pontiff's outdoor treks:

As even Papa Ratzi's dressing down -- and the Swiss heading off -- these days, again, gang, Happy Summer... hope you're enjoying it.

PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool(1,2); Getty(3)


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mothership on Media

The slowdown might be keeping on a bit longer... but especially given what you're reading, there is one particular item of note: early July saw the release of a watershed document -- the first-ever "Guidelines for Social Media" as prepared by the US Conference for Catholic Bishops.

Appropriately enough, while the Mothership's in-house news arm just got around to covering the "synthesis for best practices," word of the new text was relayed ten days back by the blogging ConcordPastor.

That said, both for consumers of social media -- and especially its fellow producers among us -- the protocols are well worth a full read by one and all... and whatever thoughts you might have on 'em would be especially welcome in the inbox.

So as before, Happy Listening... and now, Happy Reading, too.


Quote of the Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We are already in the heart of the summer, at least in the northern hemisphere. This is the time in which the schools are closed and in which most vacations are concentrated. Even the pastoral activities of the parishes are reduced, and I myself have suspended audiences for a period. It is therefore a favorable moment to give first place to what is effectively the most important thing in life, that is to say, listening to the Word of God. This Sunday's Gospel always reminds us of this with the celebrated episode of Jesus' visit to the house of Martha and Mary narrated by St. Luke (10:38-42).

Martha and Mary are two sisters; they also have a brother, Lazarus, who, however, does not appear in this case. Jesus passes through their village and -- the text says -- Martha welcomes him (cf. 10:38). This detail gives one to understand that, of the two sisters, Martha is the oldest, the one who rules the house. In fact, after Jesus is accommodated, Mary sits at his feet and listens to him, while Martha is completely absorbed with much serving, which is certainly due to the exceptional guest. We seem to see the scene: One sister is very busy and the other is enraptured by the presence of the Master and his words. After a while Martha, evidently resentful, no longer resists and protests, also feeling that she has the right to criticize Jesus: "Lord, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me to do all the serving? Tell her, therefore, to help me." Indeed, Martha would like to teach the Master! But Jesus, with great calm, answers: "Martha, Martha" -- and this name repeated expresses affection -- "you are anxious and worried about many things, but there is only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her" (Luke 10:41-42). Christ's word is quite clear: no scorn for the active life, nor much less for the generous hospitality; but a plain reminder of the fact that the one thing that is truly necessary is something else: listening to the Word of the Lord; and the Lord is there in that moment, present in the person of Jesus! Everything else will pass and will be taken away from us, but the Word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily activity.

Dear Friends, as I said, this Gospel passage is very important at vacation time, because it recalls the fact that the human person must work, must involve himself in domestic and professional concerns, to be sure, but he has need of God before all else, who is the interior light of love and truth. Without love, even the most important activities lose value and do not bring joy. Without a profound meaning, everything we do is reduced to sterile and disordered activism. And who gives us love and truth if not Jesus Christ? So let us learn, brothers and sisters, to help each other, to work together, but first of all to choose together the better part, which is and will always be our greater good.
Castel Gandolfo, 18 July 2010

To everyone who's asked, just know that everything's fine... and, seriously, thanks for your kindness.

Apologies for being relatively allergic to the machine of late, but the breathing room -- and, even for the torrid humidity 'round these parts, the July sun -- has been a tremendous, and tremendously needed, gift.

As some of you might be asking "What's doing back there?" suffice it to say -- well, as a reader kindly put it -- "you've been under terrific pressure lately, and maybe it's inhuman."

To be sure, your narrator normally wouldn't cop to the strain, but candidly, it's there, gang -- over these days, the demands and stress that come with producing this work (to say nothing of keeping atop the notes... and, above all, keeping the shop afloat) have begun to catch up with me, and high on the listening-list is seeking a way to make things more manageable, less exhausting and, in more ways than one, better-budgeted for the road ahead. Unfortunately, being less omniscient than know-nothing, that's something that can only be figured out with a healthy dose of time and space. (That said, as no less than the Grey Lady recently noted the toll the news-cycle can take in this crazed age, we can only reasonably conclude that The Times has gone anti-Whispers.)

For the even more curious, last week this scribe spent days doing one of those things that can't even be thought of the rest of the year -- a good, thorough room-clean.

Seven 40-gallon, 3-mil trash bags later, the place is gratefully looking better than it has in memory... what's more, though, some finds along the way have added much to what's already been a pretty potent spiritual experience. So, again, thanks for your indulgence -- getting around to that was a real treat.

Above all, folks, it can't go unnoted that this Tuesday has seen quite the milestone for that number at the bottom of the page, another without precedent for a work of this sort. That just goes to underscore the degree to which, day in and day out, these pages are far more yours than they're mine; each in our own way, whatever's happened here these last almost six years has been, in the truest and best sense, the work of The Church, and no words can say sufficient thanks to all of you who've been a part of it... especially because God knows how none of this could ever have happened, nor been this good and fun, alone.

Still, as there are no better days than these to hear the most important whispers of all, I need to use 'em for everything they're worth. As you know, late next week'll see a certain high-profile ordination in Jersey... and as the expected delegations from DC, New York and even Hollywood will be joined by one from a certain basement in Pharaohville, you can expect things to be well-revved by then.

God love you lot forever and, even more than usual, your prayers, please, as you're always and everywhere in mine.

Hope your summer's being everything you and yours have wished and waited for. More soon, but in the meanwhile, Happy Listening... and may we all be ever more richly blessed with finding the "better part."


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Testing, testing....

OK, looks like everything’s still working.


* * *
Apologies for the long silence, gang -- as it's turned out, mentally unpacking three months of relentless rapid-fire (both on the page and behind it) has taken a bit more time than expected... and for the first time in a good while, it’s been a gift to return, however fleetingly, to a life that doesn’t require waking up before Roman Noon (read: 6am), six (sometimes seven) days a week.

(Being anything but a "morning person" by nature, that’s been the toughest part of this work... well, after the whole keeping afloat bit... to say nothing of keeping up a semi-decent batting average.)

That said, thanks to everyone who’s written in to ask if everything’s OK; at long last, it’s actually great -- temper and all, Boss is keeping on relatively strong and, on the whole, things are way better than they were as your narrator was dragging himself to the finish line a couple weeks back. Still, given the intensity of the decompress -- and, admittedly, everything that still has to be caught up with -- starting up again is gonna take a bit more time, pacing and prayer on this end, even amid the traditional summer slow-down mode (which, to be honest, still has yet to see a Shore jaunt).

As ever, friends, grazie mille for your kindness, indulgence, support and patience -- put simply, these are the rare, blessed days when I can get on top of all the many (non-beat) things that tend to be left hanging the other ten months of the year. Sure, that might be an occupational hazard... but even so, this scribe could never have wished for a better place to be, nor a better crowd to share the ride with.

Above all, church, hope you’re enjoying your summer, and as some things never change, please forgive everything that’s fallen through the cracks. Back at it in due course -- in time for the Circuit’s unusually-heavy August tour, Midsummer Classic and all.

God love you lot, thanks for everything and hope everything’s restful, peaceful and downright beautiful on your end. As always, stay tuned... but for once, just a bit longer than usual.


Friday, July 02, 2010

For UK Trip, BBC Plans Papal "Trial"

As if the ramp-up to September's papal pilgrimage to Britain wasn't wild enough already, word's emerged of the state broadcaster's contribution to the clamor:
[T]he BBC is planning a 90-minute drama which will take as its premise what would happen if the Pope were to go on trial for covering up sex abuse perpetrated by priests.

A BBC spokesman denied any knowledge of the project, but Paul Gilbert, who works in the corporation's drama department, admitted that he had for the past two weeks been involved with the "development" of a project with the working title of The Pope on Trial. He said it was "too early" to talk about casting or on what channel it was envisaged the drama would be broadcast.
The planned program isn't the first piece of PopeTrip media coverage to spark outrage in the UK: the independent Channel 4 has commissioned a documentary on the pontiff from the country's most prominent gay-rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, to run in advance of Benedict's arrival.

While Tatchell's pledged that his film "will not be anti-Catholic," in a recent interview with the Church Times the activist termed B16 "the ideological inheritor of Nazi homophobia" and spoke of his desire to "stop the papal mass and float condoms over the cathedral" -- adding, for good measure, that he "would like to try to arrest" the visitor.

By contrast, it all makes the Grey Lady's latest look rather sedate.

PHOTO: Getty


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Here We Go... Again

Whatever one might think of the clashes of recent months, another lengthy piece on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's response to clergy sex-abuse cases over then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's 23 years at its helm will lead tomorrow's editions of The New York Times.

The Grey Lady's headline: "Amid Church Abuse Scandal, an Office That Failed to Act."

And, well, have at it.


The Kingmaker Speaks

Making an auspicious entrance into the Curia's "Big Three," Cardinal Marc Ouellet said yesterday that he received his appointment as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops "with gratitude but also with a sense of fear in front of this huge responsibility."

From there, the departing primate of Canada took a host of questions on matters ranging from whether he'd ever expect to become Pope (no), if he was "prepared to play" in the rough-and-tumble world of the Curia (he demurred), to the fallout of his recent comments which deemed abortion a "moral crime."

"I hope after some time we can ponder and reflect better on what I’ve been doing and the reason why I did what I did," he replied to the latter, "and historians will have to do their work in future."

For all of it, on-demand video of yesterday's bilingual presser is up, and the National Catholic Register's Edward Pentin has produced a transcript of Ouellet's replies in English.

Lastly, though, while much of the global press sought to play up a storyline casting the new prefect as a "hard-line" choice, it can't go without noting that the return of the longtime B16 confidant to the Roman scene should be good news for the post's presence in the public square.

While Ouellet's predecessor at the helm of the "bishops' shop" was a Curial lifer who's run the dicastery with the according discreet hand, one assessment of the cardinal's legacy in Quebec concluded that, "at minimum," he "has succeeded in restoring the Catholic church’s place" in the province's public discourse.

"He doesn’t seem to mind if you speak ill of him or well of him," the line went, "just as long as you speak of him."

And along those lines, don't be surprised to hear more from him over the years to come.

That said, it's very possible that the last acts of the Reign of Re still remain to emerge on these shores....

As ever, more as it shakes out.

PHOTO: Reuters File