Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Reflections from Connell to Oroville"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the June 10, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

During these last weeks of traveling the diocese for celebrations of Confirmation and First Eucharist, I’m on the road a lot. Saturday, May 29, after the celebration at St. Vincent Parish in Connell, I drove up Highway 17 and 97 to Oroville for the sacramental celebration there in the evening. These are some of my reflections while driving.

What a Catholic Does / What a Catholic Doesn’t Do

What a Catholic Does:

• Gives first attention to his/her spiritual journey. This would include the celebration of Eucharist every Sunday and on Holy Days, regular attention to daily prayer and devotions, and looking at all of life through the lens of faith. The spiritual journey always consists of a learning curve. Especially these days we have so much opportunity to learn and grow in faith.

• Sees everything as opportunity for grace, even in painful and difficult times. St. Paul gives great witness to encountering challenges with a spirit of acceptance and opportunity for growing in faith.

• Loves oneself as a temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul tells us that the temple of God is holy and we are that temple. We perhaps don’t think of ourselves as walking around like little churches, but we must remind ourselves that we are sacred space.

• Has the highest regard for neighbor, upholding the dignity of the human person from the moment of conception until natural death. This would also include concern for the poor. We should also assist the Church in living out this mission. We can do far more together than any one of us can do alone. We strive to be people of justice. We also appreciate how connected we are environmentally and the responsibility we have for creation.

• Loves the Church at every level, with all of her great blessings and her imperfections. Husbands and wives must learn to do this if their marriage is healthy. Why would it or should it be any different as we look to our community of faith?

• Advocates for peace and is a builder of peace. During a visit to Coventry, England, Pope John Paul II said that we must build peace in our world like a fine cathedral. The challenge is huge, but we must be about the work. Look at how much violence surrounds us in our lives.

• Participates in society as a patriotic citizen. This includes supporting and enhancing the common good in many different ways.

• Recognizes personal sinfulness and celebrates regularly the sacrament of reconciliation. As so well expressed in the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass, we all admit to the need for forgiveness and mercy of God. We also rejoice in God’s mercy.

• Respects the religion of others. In Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus prays that “all may be one.” Division in Christianity weakens the Christian witness. Our ecumenical and interreligious relationships help us recognize and appreciate that all of us are created in the image and likeness of God.

• Lives a joyful hope and trust in the Holy Spirit. We are in God’s hands, and we trust in the protection of Divine Providence.

What a Catholic Doesn’t Do:

• Strives to control God and/or blames others as the cause of natural disasters. God does not change the laws of nature as a way of divine retribution and punishment.

• Interprets God’s word so literally or rigidly that the real spiritual meaning of the message is lost or misused.

• Demonizes other people or cultures either because of wrong doing or evil. Bullying does only happen only with children. Adults can become quite skilled at it.

• Manipulates one’s Catholic belief to serve a certain political outlook or ideology. We are not Democrats or Republicans who happen to be Catholic. We are Catholics first, who happen to be Republicans or Democrats.

• Allows their spiritual or world vision to be clouded over by negativity and hopelessness.

• Lives a silo mentality in reaction to the rest of the world. Rather, we should embrace the world in love, compassion, and understanding.

• Embraces the sacraments and liturgy as a little private world. We are a Church universal and always are profoundly connected with one another at Mass. That calls for visible participation and solidarity.

• Rejects the cross, in whatever form it might take. We as individuals and as a Church must be familiar with the cross and know the cross’s blessings and grace. Suffering can be powerfully redemptive.

• Rejoices in evil and/or misfortune happening to others. In his famous passage on love (I Cor. 4), St. Paul speaks forthrightly about this.

• Becomes fixated on the brokenness or weakness in oneself or others. Rather, we should trust in the healing and forgiving power of God. All of us are limited and have our faults and failings. The forgiveness by our God is a tremendously creative act. Our mercy, compassion and forgiveness can also be a wonderful creative approach to other people’s lives as well.

Blessings and peace to all. Prayerful best wishes for a good summer.

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