Tuesday, August 20, 2002

O Lord, your are our hope; your truth supports us; your covenant fidelity to us is forever.

This is the prayer of the past two day's lessons.

On Sunday I went to Mass (not at my own parish, the streets are too torn up to unload safely there this summer) and arrived over an hour early, which is a standard hazard of using paratransit. I decided that I wouldn't enter the church proper right away, but find a quiet (except for the overhead speakers) corner of the atrium and pray the hours while I waited for the Eucharist before the one I was attending to conclude. And I heard the homily over those overhead speakers.

That homily was a call to arms. In the previous week the factional "reform" organizations had made their demands of the new bishop, that he announce that he's for them and against the other guys ---- as though a bishop could be the bishop for only some of the sheep! And issuing such challenges when he hasn't even been properly installed yet (that's not for another week)! But the Lord's house is a house of prayer for all people, the sacrifice is acceptable from all who believe ---- our first reading on Sunday says so. And, the pastor said, when next week comes and we sit Timothy Dolan in that big chair over there (he probably pointed, but I was only hearing this on the speaker), he will be the archbishop for _all_ the Catholics in the southeast part of Wisconsin, not just the bishop for the CUF or the bishop for the CTA but for both of those groups and all the rest of us as well. And prayers were called for, prayers for the archbishop-elect and for us in the time of trial. For the unity of the Church, and strength and courage in the Church's bishops, especially Timothy, who will soon be ours.

Which I did. Which I have been doing. When that Mass was over and I went in, I spent some time looking at the tenth oval spot in the clerestory, now a odd shade of gray but soon to bear the face of Timothy, tenth archbishop of Milwaukee, and praying espacially for his strength and courage, for we have seen here with pain what happens when fear enters a bishop's life, and we must not forget what we have learned or allow it to happen again.

In fact, at the very time I was parked in the Cathedral atrium, our archbishop-elect was about a mile away, celebrating the annual Mass for Peace and Justice at the Marcus Amphitheater for Irish Fest. He was invited many months ago, long before the appointment. And, according to what the Journal Sentinel said yesterday, there were people there from both factional groups to greet him (and put him on the spot). He handled the situation with great grace and good humor, and even stood an impromptu reception line for the 14,000+ worshippers after Mass. His shaking-and-kissing hand must have been worn out at the end.

How did we in Milwaukee come to such a gift? Some bishops are administrators, some are schmoozing fund-raisers, some few are totally incompetent idiots or power-thirsty politicians. Some are prayerful men of shepherd's heart, who love their people. And for as long as I've lived in this city, we have had only the last of these, not the former, and it appears from all evidence that we have been blessed with yet another prayerful, loving shepherd who will care for us and love us and defend us.

Even the Office of Readings readings have been confirmations, Monday's from St. Gregory the Great about how to endure the trials, and today's teachings from St. Bernard on steadfast love.

The Lord's covenant fidelity _is_ forever. Teach us to be ever more faithful.

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