January 12, 2011| The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 37 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
Every month the Long Island chapter of Legatus meets for Mass, dinner and an inspirational speaker. This group of Catholics who are leaders in the fields of business, finance and commerce spend this evening with their spouses to reinforce their Catholic faith centered on what is the greatest gift the Lord has given us, the Eucharist.
This past meeting I had the privilege of offering the Mass with their chaplain, Msgr. James Vlaun. During my homily I shared with them our diocese’s program for Confirmation preparation that has been operative for the past three years. This is a catechetical program which is adapted to the needs of each parish but which provides a diocesan-wide framework to develop each youngster in three areas: understanding the faith, celebrating and living the faith through Mass and the sacraments and witnessing to the faith by a life of moral virtue and charity.
As a bishop it is my duty and responsibility to help build up that life of faith in the Diocese of Rockville Centre which the Holy Father has entrusted to my pastoral care. It struck me that those three areas that make up the components of the Confirmation program for the young women and men of our diocese describe much of what the Church expects me to make my own as I live the life of this Church with you and seek by work and prayer, by study and inter-communication to serve all of you. For me to do that, however, demands not only that I be faithful. It also demands that the People of God recognize that, when they say “we are the Church,” that “WE” cannot be Church without all of us, laity, consecrated women and men, deacons and priests, all made one with and under the spiritual and pastoral care of the bishop. In my pastoral letter to all of you, Belong More Deeply (which can be found on our website, www.drvc.org), the important event which prompted me to write is the implementation of the Third Typical edition of the Roman Missal which will begin on the First Sunday of Advent later this year. With that Missal, we will have an extraordinary opportunity to deepen our experience and appreciation of the mystery of God’s love that we celebrate whenever we gather at Mass. The celebration of Sunday Mass is the hallmark and identity of who we are. To celebrate Mass worthily demands that we examine our consciences, prepare our hearts and minds and enter into Sunday Mass with the priest and all the members of our parish community with openness to the Spirit and a deep desire to let Christ transform our lives. How many of our young people have discovered the importance of Mass through our new Confirmation program! How many adults are there, parents of these same youngsters who do not attend Mass regularly and so are depriving themselves of this most precious gift! That is a loss for them and a loss for the rest of us who would be even more rich and blessed by their presence and active participation. May I make an invitation once again to one and all to belong more deeply by seeking to understand and participate more often in Sunday Mass, including having greater recourse to the Sacrament of Penance to make sure that we are well prepared and free of serious sin before we approach the altar for Holy Communion.
Understanding our faith is more than memorizing answers from a catechism. There is nothing wrong with having the answers right! In fact a great problem we face today is that there is widespread ignorance among Catholics about what the Church believes and teaches. This is complicated by the various voices within the Church that seek to re-define Catholic teaching or want to bend what we believe to fit their own preferences. We are blessed that the Church has an ongoing teaching authority. The authority of teaching is the Pope, and with him all bishops. The bishop is the interpreter of the faith and with him all priests and deacons in union and connection with him.
However, in questions of differences or doubts, the bishop is the ultimate authoritative voice to whom all Catholics are called to turn and listen in order to safeguard their faith. A recent news story about a theologian who re-interprets the “uniqueness of Jesus” is a case in point. The news story spoke of the parallel magisteria, that of the bishops, that of the theologians and that of the consent of the faithful. This, however, is incorrect. There are no “parallel magisteria” with equal weight in the teaching authority of the Church. Yes, the Church needs her theologians. Yes, the consensus fidelium is a real element in the life of the Church. But neither replaces the one magisterium of pope and bishops and neither can trump the bishop when he teaches what the Church teaches in faith and morals. In such circumstances his is not just “another opinion.” It is the voice of the teacher of the faithful whose responsibility it is to make sure that the people, like those preparing for Confirmation, are led to a true understanding of the faith.
That extends as well to the moral life. We who love God Who first loved us show we love God by keeping His commandments. The Church witnesses to the world God’s love not in the abstract but in the concrete living out the life of charity by acts that are good and moral and truthful and correct in themselves. If the Church publishes certain directives such as the Ethical and Religious Directive on Catholic Health Care, those involved in health care share a responsibility to uphold that teaching. Differences of opinion need to be discussed and resolved. Experts have their indispensable roles to play. But the only official interpreters of Church teaching are those who are charged with the responsibility for the authenticity of that teaching and for the faithful adherence of one and all to that teaching. Otherwise the witness of the Church becomes blurred and the young people who are being formed to live their faith through acts of justice, truth and charity will not know whether or not they truly are witnessing the Lord Who has called us to faithful service of our brothers and sisters in imitation of Him.
The members of Legatus expressed their happiness that their children and grandchildren would be receiving the kind of faith formation that encompasses understanding the faith, living and celebrating the faith as members of the Church and witnessing that faith through lives of moral truth and charitable activity. What an awesome challenge is that of being bishop called to serve all of you and seeking to be a faithful witness to the Message of Christ and a faithful servant of His Church in teaching and proclaiming what the Church believes and lives out daily. Pray for our young people. Pray for their families. And please pray for your bishop and all his brother priests who share with him this awesome task of teaching and confirming all the faithful in the life of God’s truth, goodness and love.