Bishop's Column

Reflections from the Eternal City

Last week in Rome, Lincoln seminarian Jim Morin stood before the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, and promised “to hold fast to the mystery of faith with the clear conscience” and to “proclaim this faith in word and deed according to the Gospel and the Church’s Tradition.” 

He promised obedience to me and to my successors, and then Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York placed his hands upon his head and prayed the ancient prayers for the ordination of a transitional deacon (Editor’s Note: story and photos here).

Jim Morin was transformed in that moment; his life and his soul were configured to Christ in a new way, as a deacon of Jesus Christ. God willing, in May he will be ordained a priest along with his three Lincoln classmates.

No matter where it takes place, sacred ordination is a holy and awesome privilege.  But ordination at St. Peter’s in Rome contains a special symbolism—it reminds each one of us of the universality of the Church. It reminds us of our unity, in obedience to the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. The bones of St. Peter are buried beneath the central altar, not far below where Jim Morin and 38 other new deacons from across the United  States laid prostrate during the chanting of the litany of the saints. And the successor of St. Peter, our Holy Father Pope Francis, leads the Church as Christ’s vicar, as he teaches, governs, and celebrates Holy Mass from the center of the Church’s life.

As Jim Morin pledged to hold fast to the mystery of faith, he did so in the place where the Holy Father preserves, defends, and proclaims that sacred deposit of faith.

At the very same time, bishops from around the world were gathering in Rome to prepare for the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. 

The synod is comprised of bishops called to reflect, with the Holy Father, on the vocation and mission of the family in the modern world.

A discussion about ministry to families is sorely needed.  Family life around the world is disintegrating—ruptured by pornography, contraception, technocracy, economic and social instability, and radical individualism. Families need new kinds of pastoral assistance to live the Gospel faithfully. And all cultures—post-modern Western culture especially—need the witness of joyful and cohesive families united in solidarity, affection, and common cause. All of us need to learn to restore the family to its rightful place as the nucleus of social and political institutions.

If the synod can help the Church to strengthen Christian family life and witness, it will do a great deal of good for a great many people. 

Unfortunately, the synod has been the source of considerable anxiety and speculation across the Church. The media has reported that the synod’s fathers will not faithfully defend the teachings of the Church, especially about marriage, family life, and sexuality. To be sure, there will be viewpoints represented at the synod far beyond the confines of orthodoxy. But the synod fathers will mostly be bishops of great faith and integrity, working to speak the truth of the Gospel with love. 

And at the center of the synod, and charged with definitively teaching the faith at the synod’s conclusion is the Holy Father—who is protected by the Holy Spirit as he works to proclaim the Gospel clearly and compellingly.

The Holy Father’s ministry is a guarantee that Christ will always be present to us, and that in the Holy Spirit, the Church will never deviate from the true teachings of the deposit of faith.  Unity with the Holy Father is a sign of our unity with Christ—as Deacon Jim Morin demonstrated on the occasion of his sacred ordination.

Please pray for Deacon Morin as he begins his diaconal ministry.  Pray for the fathers of the Ordinary Synod.  And pray for the Holy Father, the principle of unity in the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and the great guardian and defender of the Gospel’s truth.

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