Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Men He Intended

~from Archbihop Chaput's address to the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy:
The early Christians staked their lives on the belief that God is our Father. They believed the Church is our mother, as Paul told the Galatians. They believed their bishops and priests were spiritual fathers and that through the sacraments they were made children of God, or "partakers of the divine nature," as Peter said.

The first Christians believed these things because their spiritual fathers -- their bishops and priests --preached and taught them these things. They taught what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had heard from his Father and passed on to the apostles. They taught what the Catholic Church is still called to teach until the end of the age.

That's your mission, brothers. To preach the Word of life with power. To incarnate that Word through the sacraments. To make that Word come alive and change the hearts of those who hear it. You're called as Christ's priests to be fathers to a new race of women and men. Second Corinthians tells us that, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." It reminds us that Christ "entrust[ed] to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal throughus" (5:17-21).

It's time for us to reclaim our identity as spiritual fathers of the children of God. We need to know ourselves as God intends us to be known-as his fathers on earth. We're called to be icons of his divine fatherhood.

Do you have the confidence to say to your people what St. Paul said: "I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel"? Do you exhort your people as he did-"like a father [exhorts] his children"?

The first Christians made heroic sacrifices and gave extraordinary witness because they knew that, before the foundation of the world, God had a plan to make them his children. To make them holy. To make them saints. They knew God created each person for a reason. That he had a plan for each of their lives.

They knew all these things because their fathers told them so. Are you preaching these things to your people? Are you telling them what Paul told the first Christians: "Be imitators of God, as beloved children"?

Men and women call you "Father." But it needs to be much more than an honorary title. It reflects a spiritual reality. Catherine de Hueck Doherty was one of the most interesting Catholic laywomen of the last century. She was a Russian aristocrat who suffered under the Bolshevik revolution, and nearly starved to death at the hands of the communists. She wrote very moving, firsthand accounts of the Leninist regime's slaughter of all the priests of Petrograd. And she wrote just as movingly about her own reverence for the Catholic priesthood. She said:
"We call you 'Father' because you begot us in the mystery of a tremendous love affair between you and
God. Because you participate in the one priesthood of Christ. You are wedded to the Church, his bride. . . We call you 'Father' and we are your 'family.' We need you desperately. . . to serve us, to feed us with the Eucharist, to heal us with anointing, to reconcile us to God and one another in penance, to witness our unions of love in marriage, to preach God's Word. . . . Teach us how to love. Teach us how to pray. Inflame our hearts with the desire to wash the feet of our poor brethren, to feed them love, and to preach the gospel with our lives."

Those words are addressed to you and me. They remind us why God called us to the priesthood. We're here to serve the children of God. To open their hearts to the mystery of God. To keep them from error and harm.
Read the whole thing.

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