Yesterday this local Church of the Archdiocese of Seattle celebrated a unique and grace-filled moment as we ordained a new auxiliary bishop for service to the Archdiocese. Bishop Frank Schuster was warmly greeted and received a tremendous outpouring of prayer during the ordination celebration at St. James Cathedral on the Feast of the Apostles Philip and James.
You can watch the entire celebration in the video below. I hope to post more pictures later this week. The homily can be found in the video at the 1:04:00 mark, or you may read it below.
Episcopal Ordination Homily of Most Reverend Frank Schuster
+May 3, 2022, +Feast of Sts. Philip and James
Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
Most Reverend Peter Sartain, Archbishop Emeritus of Seattle
Bishop-Elect Schuster’s Family – Parents Jack and Gini (Virginia)
People of the Archdiocese – Guests
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Apostles, Philip and James – what a great day to ordain a new bishop! Christ founded the Church through the ministry and preaching of the first apostles, and every church today traces its origins back to these apostles. This is what our creed means when we say we are one, holy, catholic and apostolic church!
Today’s Feast of the Apostles Philip and James, and today’s episcopal ordination give us pause to think of those who were first called by Jesus to be his disciples – to be witnesses of his preaching and miracles – and especially witnesses to his passion, death and resurrection. They were the ones to first receive the great commission to go into the world to preach the Gospel and to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is still the primary ministry of bishops today, and indeed, of all the baptized.
From Acts of Apostles and early Epistles, we hear of these common characteristics of what it is to be an apostle, and for us as their successors – but the two most important aspects of their lives can be easily missed and overlooked. To know Jesus Christ, and to be known by Jesus Christ.
Jesus refers to the importance of knowing him in the Gospel today:
“Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
For a bishop, this intimate knowledge of Jesus is essential if our ministry is to bear any good fruit. The depth of our relationship with Jesus Christ is to mirror the relationship Jesus has with the Father. Namely, as those who saw Jesus also saw the Father, those who see us as bishops should readily see Jesus Christ in us. This is only possible if we have first fallen in love with Christ, and daily nurture and share this relationship of love.
Sunday’s Gospel from St. John (Chapter 21) recalled the time the Risen Jesus appeared to Peter and some of the other apostles. Then, we heard that great dialogue when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” After Peter responds ‘Yes’ each time, Jesus instructs him that his love is to be concrete: “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Follow me.”
The three-fold ministry of the bishop can be heard in these instructions: We feed God’s people in our principal responsibility of preaching the Gospel, and this is not possible if we do not know Jesus. Secondly, we are called to properly care for the good governance of the Church which is an act of love to properly ‘tend to the needs of God’s people.’ Finally, we are called to sanctify others which is to share the life of Christ with them and to invite them to join us as we follow and serve Christ day-by-day.
To know Christ is to be joined to him in every aspect of his life, including his passion, death, and resurrection. St. Paul said it best when he said:
“I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, … to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)
Loving Christ, following Christ and serving Christ concretely in others, this is the life and ministry of a bishop. This is the life and the process by which we grow in deeper and greater knowledge of Christ.
The final point seems a bit obscure, being known by Christ, but this too is essential for a full and healthy life in Christ. We might think, and to some degree, rightly so, that of course Christ knows us. But what I am speaking of here is the conscious process by which we invite the Lord into the mystery of our own life. Being known by Christ is being completely vulnerable with Christ, about our weakness, fears, sinfulness, loneliness. In allowing ourselves to be known by Christ, the Lord helps us to know ourselves and thus grow in maturity and grace.
It would be somewhat similar to the conversation of Jesus with Philip in the Gospel today, or his conversation with Peter in Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus does not shy away from speaking to his disciples about their shortcomings, nor will he be bashful about speaking to us bishops today about ours if we humbly allow him the opportunity.
Jesus taught Philip that to see him was to see the Father, and that to believe in Jesus allows him to do great things. He taught him that “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” When we allow ourselves to be known by Jesus, he helps us know and accept ourselves, and teaches us to trust him and to be confident in our dependence upon him for everything.
Similarly, as the Risen Jesus spoke with Peter in Sunday’s Gospel, by asking him three times “Do you love me?” Jesus was helping Peter forgive himself for denying Jesus three times during his passion. Jesus did not rub Peter’s face in this painful abandonment, but rather invited him to renew his love and accept Jesus’ mercy and call to follow and serve him in a manner Peter would have otherwise felt utterly incapable of.
Fr. Frank – perhaps this is the last time you will be addressed by that title – you have already heard the Pope’s mandate that you be ordained a bishop – a successor to the apostles. In just a few moments, the bishops present will lay hands on you, conferring upon you the Holy Spirit which we received from Christ. Your head will be anointed with Chrism oil, consecrating you for this ministry. The Book of the Gospels will be held over you, symbolizing the primary mission to preach the Good News. As the Acts of the Apostles reminds us today, it is by this Gospel that we are being saved, if we hold fast to the word of God and not believe in vain.
You will receive a ring to symbolize your fidelity to and love for the people of God. A miter will be placed on your head to symbolize the holiness of life to which you are called. And finally, you will receive the shepherd’s staff, the crozier as a sign that it is Christ who leads you, as you lead the people of God closer and closer to Christ and to eternal life.
Bishop Elect Frank, you have been given a grace and a privilege to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. May you continually grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, professing this faith and expressing this love to the people of God.
God bless you!
Saints Philip and James, Pray for us.
Holy Mary, Queen of Apostles, Mother of the Church, Pray for us.