Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day!

For Father's Day, I thought I would give you an excerpt of an address - "The Eucharist, the Bishop and Spiritual Fatherhood" by His Excellency, Samuel Aquila, Bishop of the Diocese of Fargo. Aquila is supposed to be a wonderful bishop, and it certainly shines through in these words. The entire address is wonderful, and I strongly suggest you read it alllll - you can see it here in PDF format or here in HTML.

I probably stumbled on this on some blog a while back. I would give a hat tip, but I don't remember which blog it was!

These couple paragraphs speak so eloquently of the spiritual fatherhood of priests and bishops. I actually got a little weepy, myself, at the end. Aw, you all know what a softie I am :)

Here ya go!

During my 30-day retreat, one of the great graces I received was a prayer which came about through a conversation with Saint Joseph. During the prayer, he encouraged me to see everything through the eyes of the Father. I received that encouragement in my heart and responded with a “yes”, not knowing the fruit it would bear. A consistent prayer for me throughout the retreat as I entered into prayer, or read scriptures, and one that even continues today is “Father help me to see all through your eyes and with your heart.” Throughout the retreat as I surrendered seeing with my eyes, which tended to be blind and self-seeking, to seeing with the eyes of the Father, I experienced the love of the Father in ways I never thought possible (See Office of Readings Wednesday 3rdweek of Lent). I experienced the omnipotent and eternal love of the Father which I came to understand as only a pinhead of the vastness of his love for me. Through that interior experience, I now know that it is in seeing with the eyes of the Father that I can best be a father for those I serve as bishop—and this came to light for me at the end of the retreat.

All through the course of the retreat I did not preach nor was I the main celebrant at any of the Masses. For me as a bishop this was a great sacrifice and one that gave me a deep appreciation for the role of the bishop. We usually celebrated Mass with over 100 seminarians and the other priests and deacons who were participating in the 30-day retreat. After we finished the retreat I was the main celebrant and preached the homily. During the homily I referred to the seminarians and priests there as “my dearest sons” urging them to deeper desire for union with the heart of the Trinity, with the God who is love (1 Jn 4, 16). Aware of the spiritual fatherhood of bishops, I have used those words in homilies for ordinations and the Chrism Masses with my priests. They are said with love, but I never have realized the possible impact of them.

After the Mass some of the seminarians came up to me and thanked me for referring to them as sons. Through those simple words they sensed the love of the Father. A priest, who was on the 30-day retreat with me, was quietly weeping and asked to speak to me. He came from a diocese that has been rocked by the sexual abuse scandal. He told me how over the last few years he had grown to not trust bishops, to resent them, and he was angry with bishops especially for the way they treated priests. When he had seen me on the first day of the retreat and found out that I was a bishop, he immediately transferred his deep feelings of anger, betrayal and resentment onto me. He prayed during the retreat, wondering why these feelings were so strongly planted in his heart. Then it struck him, he felt so deeply because in his heart he understood that I represented the spiritual father that had abandoned and betrayed him. He then went on to say that he experienced healing by watching me during the retreat and then hearing me call the seminarians and priests during the homily “my dear sons.” He wept with compunction and joy for he experienced the love of a bishop as father. I was overwhelmed, for the Father had responded to my prayer, “to see all through the eyes of the Father,” in ways unknown to me and healed the wounded heart of a priest. I could only lift up my heart in deep wondrous gratitude to the Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph 3, 14).”

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