As a young seminarian I heard one of my religious superiors make this remark: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans!” Over the years I have made God laugh several times by the decisions I made in my own personal life. I think God has laughed also when we as a Church have attempted to second-guess His inscrutable plans. God certainly laughed when He raised a humble cardinal from Buenos Aires to the Chair of Peter more than a year ago – completely throwing off the expectations of pundits and certain ecclesiastics. The choice of Pope Francis is clear proof that we cannot predict the workings of the Holy Spirit.
I believe God laughed again when Pope Francis announced the choice of Bishop Blase Cupich as the next Archbishop of Chicago. Hardly anyone expected this. He is a virtual unknown. Just like Pope Francis, Bishop Cupich seems more pastor than teacher, more father than enforcer. After the Conclave I heard that the choice of Pope Francis was a total surprise. In the eighteen months he has been the head of the Church, he has had tremendous influence on the life of the Church. People both inside and outside the Church speak of “The Francis Effect.” Incidentally we will be showing a documentary on Pope Francis on November 10, Monday. The recent issue of Fortune Magazine features Pope Francis on the cover with the title, “Holy Reformer.”
As the pastor of a parish I know that the pastor does not do everything or even a lot. His job is to enable everyone to do things. He is mainly the facilitator. He sets the tone. By the things he emphasizes, by the appointments he makes, by the ministries he encourages, he sets the course of the faith community. In the same way, Pope Francis has changed the tone of the Church. He wants everyone – cardinals, bishops, priests, the faithful – to become more compassionate towards the secular society and more committed to the poor. He asks us to focus more on the mission of Jesus rather than engage in debates with those who disagree with us.
We welcome Bishop Cupich who follows closely the example of Pope Francis. If we can keep our hearts and minds open, we will find that God has great plans for Chicago in the coming years. Whether we are on the right or left on the theological spectrum, we need to set aside our pre-judgments. His vision for the Church is completely in sync with the vision articulated by Pope Francis who said:
I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle… The Church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.
As we await the new archbishop who will be installed on November 18 at Holy Name Cathedral, let us express our heartfelt gratitude to Francis Cardinal George who has shepherded us for over seventeen years. Personally I can tell you that Cardinal George has been a very compassionate, personable, pastoral leader. I was still teaching in Rome as a Salesian when I met him at Mundelein Seminary. Over the years I have had many personal talks with him. I have always found him to be a bishop who cares for his people. I am always awed by his intelligence and prayerfulness. Let us accompany him with our prayers. I wish we could have invited him here for a special Mass. I doubt that will be possible because of the setbacks in his health. If you can, please write him personal letters to express your thanks to him.
The first reading for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time offered the Lord’s words spoken through the Prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Let us stand humbly before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. The Lord is in control.
I am really excited that we are living in very hopeful time for the Church. Let us continue to pray that the People of God will submit to God’s designs.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...