After three days together, three members of my support group departed Cheyenne this morning to make their way back to their respective dioceses. I believe we all parted feeling renewed in our episcopal fraternity, strengthened by our friendship, prayer, and genuine support.
The time we shared in these past few days gave insight to the reality that God creates each of us for communion; for sharing life with Him and with others. Bishops, being human, also have need for meaningful relationships, and nothing like a brother bishop to know what our day to day life is like.
At the heart of our life as bishops is our love for Christ and our love for Christ’s Church; the People of God. We are first men of faith, and then we are called to be teachers of the faith, defenders of the faith, promoters of the faith. Faith is something received and celebrated in ‘communion.’ Faith in God and in Jesus Christ is a gift, and it is proclaimed in the midst of the Church. It is not a personal possession, something that we define for ourselves. It is a gift, something received and then handed on and nourished in others, and in that process, faith grows, both individually, and communally.
Faith needs the support of faithful people. It is not a surprise that in studying the history of the Church, saints often knew one another in this life, and often were friends. We all do well in making sure that we have good friends, people of faith, that sustain us, and allow us to journey with them.
Once my brothers departed this morning, I quickly packed and headed out as well, this time for a seven hour drive to Clark, Wyoming, the home of our Carmelite monks. Often on this blog, readers try to correct me for calling these Carmelites monks. But, monks they are, living a cloistered life in a monastery. However, in these days, there cloistered way of life is not quite so cloistered, as they are spending their days on the mountain, building their new monastery, thus the reason for my visit, to see how the construction is proceeding. I hope to have some pictures to share with you soon.
My image of the Church as I put an ‘Amen’ to another day is this. The Church is like a holy mountain, from which flows streams of life-giving grace. The mountain seems appropriate, as every human person journeys through life trying to answer the interior longing of the soul to ascend to God. Albino Luciani (who later became Pope John Paul I) told this story in a retreat to priests in 1965:
Paradise is a bit above our heads and we struggle to get there. Well, we’re in the situation of a little kid, of a little girlie who’s seen the cherries, but can’t manage to get hold of them; so her daddy has to come, hoists her and says: up, little on, up! Then, yes, he lifts her and she can pluck and eat the cherries. That’s how we are; Paradise allures us, but it’s too high up for our poor efforts. Woe to us if the Lord doesn’t come with his grace!
The life-giving stream of grace that flows from the Church is exactly what Bishop Luciani is speaking of, it is the presence and power of Christ that flows from the Church that ‘lifts us up’ so that we can grow in holiness, and the fullness of life. Blessed are those who are open to receive this stream of grace. At the same time, how impoverished we become when that stream of grace is blocked by sin.
May these days be days of grace for us all, opening our hearts, souls, and lives more and more to the person of Christ, and the life that only He brings!