If priests are cool then bishops must be cooler. Right? Again, this is not a scholarly dissertation on these men who are directly descended from the twelve Apostles. There are plenty of places to find that kind of material. This is about why bishops are cool and we’re lucky to have them. However, I am going to throw one big word at you: subsidiarity. It means that the Church has determined that the best place to make decisions is as close to the people as possible. The really big stuff, the stuff that affects all Catholics all over the world, is decided in Rome. The things that affect the local diocese are decided by our bishops.
Remember, we have a Code of Canon Law that directs everything that goes on in the Church, but there’s still plenty of wiggle room for the local ordinary (the bishop) to put his personal touch on his diocese. More important, part of the bishop’s responsibility is to deal with the secular world on our behalf. The current kerfuffle about the government’s birth control mandate is a good example. The Pope could jump into the middle of this issue, and at some point he may. But for now, the United States bishops are at the forefront, both as a group and individually. The vast majority of our bishops have written pastoral letters to their flock urging us to oppose this violation of our Constitution.
For most young Catholics, it’s quite a thrill at confirmation time when they get to meet the bishop, either at their own parish or at the Cathedral. While the bishop is a local cleric, most of us associate him with the universal Church. He’s our direct line to the Vatican. While we most often see our bishop performing on the big stage with all the pomp and pageantry that the office deserves, most of them are very down-go-earth guys who would rather sit down with you one-on-one and have a cup of coffee. Unfortunately for us, they’re so busy that they don’t get to do that very often.
I don’t think I can finish a post on bishops without mentioning the president of the United States bishops, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
This Health and Human Services fiasco has brought His Eminence into the national spotlight and we should all be glad it has. I could be wrong, but I’ve always pictured Jesus as man very much like Cardinal Dolan. I believe Jesus had a sense of humor (otherwise I wouldn’t be a deacon), I believe He was friendly and outgoing, and I believe that when it was necessary, He was tough as a bulldog. (Remember the moneychangers?) Isn’t that how we’d like all our bishops (and priests and deacons) to be?
Face it, most of us are lost sheep and we need a shepherd. Our parish priests fill that role most of the time, but they do it on behalf of the bishop. When you go to mass this weekend and the priest prays for our Benedict our Pope, and for our bishop and for all the bishops, say a quiet prayer of thanks for your local shepherd. As I said yesterday concerning priests, our bishops have been under attack in recent years. Did some of them mess up? Clearly they did. Did they do it out of malice, or a desire to break the law? No, I don’t think so.
Remember on the very night that Jesus created the presbytery one of His bishops sold him out for a few pieces and another, the one who would become the first Pope, denied that he knew Him, not once but three times. Bishops are human, just like you and me. They’re subject to the same faults and failings as we all are. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My archbishop, Robert Carlson, and your bishop, whoever he may be, is way cool!
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