Going forward gratefully

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Introduction One of the principal responsibilities of the bishop is to teach the faith.During the Rite of Ordination of a bishop, the Book of the Gospels is placed on the head of the bishop-elect and then held over his head by two deacons during the Prayer of Ordination. Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II explains the meaning of this part of the Rite of Ordination: "The Second Vatican Council, advancing along the path indicated by the Church’s tradition, explains that the mission of teaching proper to bishops consists in reverently safeguarding and courageously proclaiming the faith. "Here we see all the rich meaning of the gesture found in the Roman rite of episcopal ordination, when the open Book of the Gospels is placed on the head of the bishop-elect.This gesture indicates, on the one hand, that the word embraces and watches over the bishop’s ministry and, on the other, that the bishop’s life is to be completely submitted to the word of God in his daily commitment of preaching the Gospel in patience and sound doctrine" (cf. 2 Tim 4) (Pope John Paul II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, "On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World" [Oct. 16, 2003], n. 28a-b). A bishop must never grow weary of teaching the faith.At the same time, he must always be alert to give sound teaching, lest he lead the flock in a wrong direction.The grace of Holy Orders equips him to be a tireless and reliable teacher of the faith. The first and most efficacious means of safeguarding and teaching the faith is the homily during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.A bishop is also to use other forms of the communications media to communicate as fully as possible with the flock entrusted to his care, including those who have not yet had the faith taught to them and those who, for whatever reason, are wandering from sound doctrine and practice. I thank God for our archdiocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review, which provides me the way to visit your home each week to fulfill my responsibility as Chief Teacher of the Faith in the archdiocese, confirming you in the knowledge and practice of our Catholic faith and leading you to deeper knowledge and more fervent practice.Our weekly encounter through the St. Louis Review will keep us in communication between the times when we are able to communicate with one another at the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy or at other archdiocesan celebrations. Thank you In my first visit with you, as your new archbishop, I want, most of all, to say thank you for the faith-filled and warm welcome which you have given to me.Thank you, most of all, for all of the prayers which you have offered for me and my intentions, even before I was appointed. From Dec. 2 of last year, the day of the announcement of my appointment as Archbishop of St.Louis, you have made me feel at home.The Evening Prayer before the Mass of Installation and, above all, the Mass of Installation were most fittingly and beautifully prepared and celebrated.The Archdiocese of St. Louis can be rightfully proud of the full and solemn expression of faith in Christ and love of Christ through the sacred liturgies on this past Jan. 25-26.I thank all who, in any way, contributed to the preparation and celebration of the beginning of my service as your shepherd.I thank all of you who participated, either by your presence at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis or by television and radio.Your prayers and expressions of best wishes fill me with courage in taking up the weighty responsibilities which are now mine.I thank those who have spoken with me personally and those who have written to me to assure me of their prayers. All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to Archbishop-elect Joseph F. Naumann, diocesan administrator from the day of Cardinal Justin Rigali’s installation as Archbishop of Philadelphia to my Jan. 26 installation. Archbishop-elect Naumann is an outstanding churchman.His service as diocesan administrator is an eloquent testimony to his pastoral charity.I personally am deeply grateful for all of the brotherly assistance which he has given and continues to give to me.May God reward him abundantly.Let us pray for Archbishop-elect Naumann as he prepares in these days to take up his new responsibilities as Coadjutor Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas on March 19. My family, the priests and faithful from the Diocese of La Crosse, and other friends who traveled to St. Louis for my installation have asked me to express their deepest esteem and gratitude to Archbishop-elect Naumann, Bishop Robert J. Hermann, the priests and all the faithful of the archdiocese.They were inspired by the strong Catholic faith which they witnessed here and by the many kindnesses shown to them during their time here, a few days for some and a few hours for others. Many joined us for the Mass of Installation through the coverage provided by our St. Louis television stations and also Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), and have written to say how inspired they were. In the name of all the faithful of the Archdiocese, I express deepest gratitude to our local media and EWTN for making the Mass of Installation available to the greatest possible number of the faithful. I would also like to express my gratitude to police, fire and street department personnel of the city of St. Louis for their assistance in making the events related to my installation not only safe but also accessible for the many who attended. The weather since my arrival in St. Louis has presented a bit of a test for us.The Irish say that rain or snow on a day of celebration is a sign of God’s blessing.Coming from Wisconsin, where such weather is all too familiar, I thought that perhaps this was another way to make me feel at home.Certainly, God has blessed us all abundantly as we begin together a new chapter in the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of St.Louis.We thank Him that no one suffered any injury because of the inclement weather, and we ask for His continued blessing. Going forward The days since my installation have been especially given to prayer and visiting with priests, permanent deacons and consecrated persons of the archdiocese, and to a first pastoral visit to each of the 10 deaneries of the archdiocese.In every visit, I have received a wholehearted welcome and the assurance of prayers.For my part, I have seen how richly blessed the archdiocese is.The time of prayer and sacred worship during each visit has been the greatest source of comfort and encouragement for me and, I hope, for all who have shared in these events. As I have mentioned many times, the coming of a new shepherd for the flock is a time of special grace which we certainly want to receive with a generous heart.Welcoming a new archbishop, we are led to reflect upon God’s greatest gift to us, after life itself, the gift of the Catholic faith and of life in the Church. The fullness of all that God wishes to reveal to us is found in the Catholic Church.With time, we can begin to take for granted the many blessings of our faith and even grow dull in our knowledge of the faith and tepid in its practice.The culture in which we live, indifferent and even hostile to Christ as it is, makes it all the easier for us to lack attention and care in knowing and practicing our Catholic faith.Now, there is special and strong grace in the Archdiocese of St. Louis for all of us to take up with new energy and enthusiasm the study and teaching of the faith, the life of prayer and the sacraments, and the obedient and generous response to pastoral direction.Reflection upon my responsibilities as teacher, priest and shepherd leads us to embrace anew our responsibility to be one with our shepherd in teaching, celebrating and living the faith. Our vocation is our path The grace of the present time in the archdiocese is above all for responding to God’s call in our lives and for helping others, especially our children and young people to hear God’s call and to respond with an undivided heart.From the moment of our conception, God has a special plan for each of us, our vocation, our way to give glory to Him and to build up His holy Church in unity and love.Once we have come to life in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, God helps us by His grace to grow in the likeness of Christ.With the help of parents, catechists and teachers, and other family members and members of the Church, we become more Christlike and receive a first intimation of our vocation. The Sacrament of Confirmation, conferred as we enter the important years between childhood and adulthood, strengthens and increases the life of the Holy Spirit within us, so that we will be strong witnesses to Christ in the world.The grace given in the Sacrament of Confirmation helps and guides young people, above all, in knowing their vocation, God’s plan for them and in having the courage to respond generously. For their part, it is important to cooperate with the grace by praying each day to know their vocation in life and by looking for the signs by which God reveals His will to us. God usually communicates His will to us in the ordinary circumstances of our daily living, which, in a certain sense, are always extraordinary because Christ is accompanying us. Through our prayer, God leads us to consider a certain vocation. We are attracted to the vocation.Also, God places other faithful Catholics in our lives, who see signs of our vocation and encourage us.Parents and parish priests are especially important in helping us to know our vocation and respond to it. From the evening of Feb. 13 through the afternoon of Feb. 15, I will be leading a retreat for young men who are completing or have completed high school and are hearing God’s call to the ordained priesthood.Please pray for me, that I may be a worthy instrument of God’s grace in helping these young men to know better God’s will for them.Please pray that the retreatants will be disposed to hear God’s call and to respond generously. Conclusion May this time of strong grace for us confirm each of us in our vocation, whether it is to the married life, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.May it also lead us to encourage one another in responding wholeheartedly to God’s call in our lives.May we be especially attentive to those who are experiencing doubts about their vocation or are struggling to remain faithful in their vocation. Thanking God for His many blessings and going forward in carrying out His work in the archdiocese, we, with the Mother of God, place our hearts in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, trusting in Christ for all that we need and pledging to Him all our love and devotion.We count upon the intercession of Sts. Louis of France, Vincent de Paul and Rose Philippine Duchesne, our patrons.

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