Abp. Charles J. Chaput: We bishops can be true bishops…or “just empty husks”

September 11, 2011

Last Thursday, Archbishop Charles Chaput was installed as the thirteenth ordinary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His predecessors include St. John Neumann (1852-60), and, in more recent times, Cardinals John Krol (1961-88), Anthony Bevilacqua (1988-2003), and Justin Rigali (2003-11).  Cardinal O’Malley was in attendance.  Ignatius Insight Scoop shared these excerpts from his homily:

Along with a ring, two other symbols really define a bishop’s ministry.   The first is the pectoral cross that rests next to the bishop’s heart.   And Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciples, we need to do  three things (Mt 16:21-27): We need deny ourselves, we need to take up  our cross, and we need to follow him.  It’s vitally important for the  bishop to really believe this, and to live it, and to preach it, even  when calling people to accept it is very difficult, because it’s  difficult to be faithful to the Gospel.

The second symbol is the crosier, which is a symbol of the shepherd.   The Good Shepherd was the first image of Christian art created by the  earliest disciples in the catacombs in Rome.  One of first  representations of Jesus we have is the Good Shepherd who carries a lamb  on his shoulders.  All of us, especially the people of Philadelphia,  should keep that image in our hearts in the months ahead because the  Good Shepherd really will bring the Church in Philadelphia through this difficult moment in our history to security and joy and a better future.

This  installation today takes place in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints  Peter and Paul.  The word cathedral comes from the Greek word cathedra,  which means “the chair.”  The cathedral is the church that houses the  bishop’s chair, which has always been seen as another key symbol of the  bishop’s role – in this case, his teaching authority.  St. Augustine of  Hippo, speaking in the 4th century captured the role of the bishop in  these words. He said:

“Jerusalem had watchmen who stood guard . .  . And this is what bishops do.  Now, bishops are assigned this higher  place” — the bishop’s chair in the basilica – “so that they themselves  may oversee and, as it were, keep watch over the people.  For they are  called episkopos in Greek,  which means ‘overseer,’ because the bishop oversees; because he looks  down from [his chair] . . . And on account of this high place, a  perilous accounting will have to be rendered [by the bishop] – unless we  stand here with a heart such that we place ourselves beneath your feet  in humility.” …

My dear brother bishops, it’s crucial for those of us who are bishops not simply to look like bishops but to truly be  bishops.  Otherwise, we’re just empty husks — the kind of men St  Augustine referred to when he said, “You say, ‘He must be a bishop for  he sits upon the cathedra.’  True – and a scarecrow might be called a watchman in the vineyard.” …

This Church in Philadelphia faces very serious challenges these days.   There’s no quick fix to problems that are so difficult, and none of us  here today, except the Lord Himself, is a miracle worker.  But it’s  important to remember and to believe the Church is not defined by her failures. And you and I are not defined by our critics or by those who dislike  us.  What we do in the coming months and years to respond to these  challenges – that will define  who we really are.  And in engaging that work, we need to be Catholics  first, and always.  Jesus Christ is the center of our lives, and the  Church is our mother and teacher.  Everything we do should flow from  that.

The entire homily, including video, is here at Whispers in the Loggia.  According to Catholic Philly, the Cardinals present for the Mass were:

Cardinal Justin Rigali; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; Cardinal James Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary and Archbishop Emeritus of Denver; Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore; Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles; Cardinal John Foley, Grand Master Emeritus, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.

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