Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the July 31, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Summer is a complex season for all of us. For those in the rural communities, summer is a time for watching the crops and harvesting. For urban folk, this is usually the time for vacation, perhaps a visit or two to the lake.
For the Church, summer is a time of ordinations as well as ordination anniversaries. We celebrate the jubilees of the Sisters of various communities,.
For the Catholic bishops of the Northwest, a gathering for a few days after the Fourth of July has become a tradition. Each year we gather in a different location. Last year was Anchorage, Alaska. Other spots have included Coeur díAlene and Lewiston in Idaho; Bend, in Eastern Oregon; Whitefish, Mont.; and Nelson, British Columbia. This year we converged at the Palisades Retreat Center in Federal Way.
After early Sunday morning Mass at the Cathedral, I drove to Yakima to pick up Bishop Thomas Connolly, the retired bishop of Baker. Bishop Carlos Sevilla of Yakima couldnít join us. I thought it would be nice to drive over Chinook Pass to see Mirror Lake at the top and have a great view of Mt. Rainier before driving on to Federal Way and the Palisades. When we got to the top, we were greeted with a solid bank of fog and Mirror Lake was still frozen over. Large banks of snow were still along the highway. So much for careful planning! The drive, though, was certainly pleasant.
The main reason for meeting in the Archdiocese of Seattle this year was to help celebrate Archbishop Alex Brunettís golden anniversary of ordination to priesthood. Recently he celebrated his 10th anniversary of ordination as bishop. His 50 years as a priest is certainly significant as well. On behalf of all of us in the diocese, I extend to him hearty congratulations and prayerful thanks for his ministry. We wish him well as he begins his second 50 years of ministry. Like myself, he is also facing age 75 within a few months. We have lots to share about discerning and accepting our future as it comes.
For the bishops of the Northwest, this time of coming together has been very important for fraternity and enjoyment. I have a few treasured pictures of these gatherings over the years. One is a white water raft trip down the Deschutes River in North Central Oregon, with 10 of us holding on for dear life with a lady guide expertly steering us through the rapids. (In case you are wondering, yes, we did make comments about that!) It was a great trip. Last year, we celebrated Mass on the train from Anchorage to Seward, traveling through some spectacularly beautiful country. Somehow Eucharist and the beauty of Godís creation seemed to meld together to provide a powerful spirit of gratitude. We have so much for which to be grateful.
On June 29 this year, Pope Benedict XVI announced a special jubilee ďYear of St. PaulĒ to commemorate the bi-millennium of the birth of this remarkable apostle. The Holy Fatherís clear intent is to promote the study of the letters of Paul and to further ecumenical discussion. In addition, the theme of the World Synod of Bishops in Rome this October is ďThe Word of God.Ē Clearly there has been significant interest of late about the importance of Sacred Scripture and the need for all of us to internalize that word and be faithful to it.
St. Paulís letters provide a rich treasure of spirituality and insight. Of the 27 documents in the New Testament, 13 come from Paul. No one in the early Church has written more about a personal testimony of the faith journey than Paul. His writings have provided a wonderful foundation for theological reflection in the Church. As you are well aware, usually the second reading at Sunday Mass is taken from Paul.
In his book The Apostles, Pope Benedict XVI has a chapter on Paul. As the pope mentions, we not only have Paulís 13 letters, but the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke gives a vivid account of Paulís conversion and missionary journeys.
There are several important factors to consider about Paulís life.
First, Paul clearly puts Jesus at the center of his life. Our identity is primarily marked by the meeting and friendship with Jesus in and through the Word.
Second, Paulís vision of Godís people characterizes his ministry. That vision is universal. Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. The salvation of Jesus has come to all of humanity and Paul breaks through some of barriers of day in courageous proclamation. His dialogue with Peter about this matter is well known. God is the God of every person.
The Holy Father continues with a reflection on the courage of Paul, so strongly witnessed in the difficult and even desperate situations in which the apostle found himself. ďThe love of Christ impels us ÖĒ became a powerful mark of Paulís missionary outreach, all the way to his martyrdom in Rome.
During this coming year, I encourage all of us to increase our study and appreciation of Paul in our lives. The opportunity for our evangelization, and the opportunity for the evangelization of our world, may not be much different than in Paulís day. Let us be on our way.
Blessings and peace to all!
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