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Catholic Voice
  October 27, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, ordained 13 men to the Jesuit Diaconate at the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Oct. 18.

Be a companion of Jesus, bishop advises deacons

Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

Three weeks ago today I was sitting in our mother church in Rome, the Church of the Gesù, where St. Ignatius is buried, when Pope Francis came to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus.

Father General was there and hundreds of Jesuits from our Roman houses. What very much impressed me was our Father General's words of welcome and also homage to the Holy Father.

Father General started his speech with these words: "In spite of our many failings, weaknesses and sins, we Jesuits are ready to recommit ourselves to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman pontiff."

Father General then led us, all the Jesuits present, in renewing our vows to Christ in the presence of his vicar on Earth.

It was a very emotional experience. The Jesuit order was founded, the Jesuit order was abolished, the Jesuit order was restored.

And now we live to see a Jesuit priest on the chair of St. Peter. With Jesuit Father Jean Pierre de Caussade, we can now affirm "Total Abandonment to Divine Providence."

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We live in a time of upheaval in the church, which is usual following a great ecumenical council.

When I was teaching diocesan seminarians, I used to say "your job here is to fall in love with Christ and then fasten your seatbelt because you're going to be on roller coaster ride the rest of your life."

Father Bernard Hall, who was our rector at the Collegio Bellarmino in Rome and who has been rector of every Jesuit house in Rome (he is now in a wheelchair) and I visited him and he said: "Michael, I don't know what the future will hold for the Society of Jesus, but one thing is very clear it will be very different from what has been before."

Fall in love with Christ. Fasten your seatbelt. And take comfort from the words you hear in the Mass today.

Christ speaks to us in the Scripture today, loud and clear. He says to you guys, "Love me and trust me." Jesus sent them out two by two. And he said, "don't take a knapsack, wallet, sandals. Eat and drink whatever they give you. Don't worry, trust me I will take care of you, I will provide for you."

Jeremiah says to you "before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were even born, I dedicated you."

Sejin, Julian, Loren, Carlos, Patrick, Randall, Lukas, Juan Pablo, Jacob, Timothy, Martin, Sean, Ike, He chose you. He chose you by giving you parents who presented you for Baptism, and First Communion and Confirmation. He chose you when you were accepted into the novitiate. He chose you when you were admitted to vows. He chose you when you were approved for theology. And he chose you when you got that letter of approval for ordination from your rector and provincial.

And today I, on behalf of the whole church, daring to speak in the name of Christ — Christ and I choose you for ordination, for consecration. Choose you for what?

To be a prophet to the nations, to preach the word of God, to baptize, to join in marriage, to bury the dead, to distribute the body and blood of Christ, to pray the divine office on behalf of our people.

And also, please don't forget the original reason for the diaconate; it was not because the apostles needed help reading the Gospel, though our deacon today did a fine job.

Remember Acts 6, Chapter 1. The original reason for beginning the order of the diaconate was to serve widows and orphans, to feed the poor. Even when you become a priest, you will still have the diaconate. To signify this, I am wearing the diaconal dalmatic under my chasuble today.

St. Ignatius knew this. He sent the early Jesuits priests out, besides being theologians at the Council of Trent, advising the popes and cardinals, he asked them to work in hospitals and soup kitchens at the same time. Have hands-on experience taking care of the poor. One thing I think our people need most today when you ask Catholics, especially in our diocese and around the United States, what do you want most from your ordained ministers? From your deacons and priests?

They say they want men of prayer. That's the first thing they want. That they can see in love and you what they can see in love and Christ. And the other thing they want is good preaching.

You have a recipe on how to do that today. Immerse yourself in the word of God. In daily prayer, reflect on the Scriptures on which you're going to preach on the upcoming Sunday. Do it every day, you can't do it the night before.

And then, obey the Holy Spirit. Obey the Holy Spirit. Obey the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah said, "He places his words in your mouth." I placed my words in your mouth. Jeremiah is afraid. You may be afraid. What will people think? How will I be evaluated for my homily?

As if you're in a diving contest and they're holding up Nos. 1-10. That's not what it is. God says to Jeremiah, don't be afraid of them. Don't be afraid of them.

I would just say one short aside, when I was a deacon, within a few weeks I was assigned to the cathedral in Toronto, St. Michael's. And I was praying over the readings — I was going to give the homily in a cathedral — and I was very scared. What kept coming up in my prayer, God was telling me to preach, I didn't want to preach, I was afraid. It's too strong. People won't like it. Holy Spirit kept saying to me, you got to preach this.

For the benefit of the clergy present, you might ask, "What was the title of your homily?" It was, "Go to Confession or Go to Hell." I'm sorry. OK, it was a little strong. It kept coming back.

I preached the homily. Many people coming out of Mass said, that was awful, that was too strong, is there a phone number we can call to complain?

I just hung my head, I went into the rectory for dinner, it was an evening Mass, and there was no conversation at the table.

Then the doorbell rang and there was a young man at the door. "Can I speak to that person who gave that sermon? " So I went to the door and he says, "You know, I couldn't see, I was way in the back, I came in late to Mass. I didn't even intend to go to Mass. I was walking downtown to go to a bar and something inside me said go in the church."

He said, "I'm Catholic, I went in and I sat in the back of your Mass. And you were talking right to me. And now I need to go to confession. Is there a priest here I can go to confession to?" Trust the Holy Spirit.

What distinguishes our ministry in a particular way as Jesuits. Pope Francis said in his talk three weeks ago, speaking to our whole order, he said, "The Jesuit wants to be a companion of Jesus. One who has the same feelings as Jesus."

Strive to be like Jesus in all of your ministry, strive always to be close to him as your companion. Trust him, love him. He chooses you today on your ordination day. He chooses you every day you wake up. And don't forget in a few minutes, when you come up to the altar and kneel down, it will be the bishop's hands on your head, but Christ's touch."

(This was Bishop Barber's homily at the ordination Mass of Jesuit deacons at the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Oct. 18.)

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