||October 6, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 17 • Oakland, CA|
Let's row together in the service of God
Last week I was in Rome for a meeting of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. The US Bishops asked me to be their representative (it usually falls to a junior bishop, and I'm pretty junior).
One of the titles for the pope is "Vicar of Christ on Earth." With Pope Francis, this is expressed more in love than in power. You really feel loved when you are in his presence. I believe this is the key to his influence in the world today.
Later the same day I was able to be with the Holy Father again. This time it was at the mother church of the Jesuits, the Gesù. St. Ignatius Loyola is buried there. The occasion was the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. Acting under political threats, in 1773 the Jesuit order was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV (a Franciscan pope — but hey, all is forgiven). It was restored by Pope Pius VII in 1814.
The church was filled Saturday evening with 500 Jesuits from all our houses in Rome. It was an experience of humility and not of triumph. The Jesuit Father General addressed the Pope and said that in spite of our many sins, weaknesses and failings, the Society of Jesus wanted to recommit itself to the service of the Church under the Roman pontiff — as St. Ignatius intended. We Jesuits then renewed our vows to God in the presence of the Holy Father. It was a very emotional experience. I was glad I did not wear my bishop robes and sit in the front row. I wore my black suit and sat with my Jesuit brothers — many of whom I studied with in Rome and had not seen in years.
Having taken the particular "Fourth Vow of Obedience to the Pope" some 10 years ago, it was so moving to repeat it again directly to the Holy Father, with 500 men in black. Francis, the first Jesuit pope, then gave us an extraordinary homily. This is my favorite part:
Let us remember our history: The Society "was given the grace not only to believe in the Lord, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29). We do well to remember this. The ship of the Society has been tossed around by the waves and there is nothing surprising in this. Even the boat of Peter can be tossed about today. The night and the powers of darkness are always near. It is tiring to row. The Jesuits must be "brave and expert rowers" (Pius VII, "Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum," "The care of all churches"): Row then! Row, be strong, even with the headwind! We row in the service of the Church. We row together! But while we row — we all row, even the pope rows in the boat of Peter — we must pray a lot, "Lord, save us! Lord save your people." The Lord, even if we are men of little faith, will save us. Let us hope in the Lord! Let us hope always in the Lord!
Amen. Let us all, my brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Oakland, row together in the service of God and the Church.
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