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Be not afraid: The Gospel goes on in us
Sep. 14, 2011 - Three weeks ago, I prayed with more than a million and a half fellow Catholics in a field outside Madrid, led by Pope Benedict XVI, the successor to St. Peter. We pilgrims had walked to the field from downtown Madrid, had eaten and drank very little along the way, and the day was swelteringly hot. Yet, there was energy and anticipation in the air, there was a tension of something about to happen.
And then, it happened.
As the sun was beginning to set on that late August evening, lightning flashed, thunder clapped, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were suddenly drenched as rain came down in torrents. The heat broke as the rain fell and we pilgrims stood in awe of the power of God’s creation.
Those who were watching him were also awed by the serene look on the face of Pope Benedict. He waited patiently with a confident smile. His white zucchetto (skull cap) blew away in the wind and his shoulder cape blew up over his head and covered his face. He, too, was drenched, but as the rain began to subside, he returned us to prayer. Like Jesus in the rocking boat in the Sea of Galilee, the Holy Father calmed the crowd, and drew us deeper into the mystery of God the Father. He scrapped his speech and asked us to join him in silence as we all knelt before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to spend time in eucharistic adoration.
His words that night were apropos. “Dear friends,” he told us, “may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.”
Those words might have been spoken directly to the Archdiocese of Denver. For 14 years, we have been graced with the fine leadership of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. For many of us, he has been a friend, a pastor, a mentor and a spiritual father. He has challenged us to rise above our own mediocrity and strive for holiness in our lives. Through his pastoral leadership and vision, he has inspired and encouraged so many creative initiatives here in the Church of northern Colorado that the Archdiocese of Denver is often referred to as one of the centers of the new evangelization.
We have two of the finest seminaries in the country in St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary. Archbishop Chaput has ordained 71 new priests in his 14 years as archbishop of Denver, nearly half of the active archdiocesan priests. Our newly constructed dormitory for the Spirituality Year is full to capacity. In the Archdiocese of Denver alone we have received 20 new seminarians for this new academic year.
Last Saturday we broke ground on a new parish site in Longmont and I will be privileged to consecrate a new parish church at the end of the month in Windsor. Catholic life in the Archdiocese of Denver is flourishing in so many ways and the future looks good. This is due in no small part to the pastoral leadership and apostolic zeal of Archbishop Chaput. And for this we are eternally grateful to him and we send him off to Philadelphia with our love, affection and steadfast prayers.
As we resume our Christian life together in the absence of Archbishop Chaput, we might be uneasy about the world, the future, or our own weaknesses. We might believe that in the midst of change, we can not continue the good works of the parishes and communities of the archdiocese. We might be anxious about the future of our Church, or wonder what kind of leader we will have.
The newly Blessed John Henry Newman, reflected once that: “the power of Christianity is in its present.” This is true for us here and now.
Our task is not to wait idly for the appointment of a new archbishop of Denver. Jesus Christ has chosen us to continue the many good things which have already begun in the Archdiocese of Denver. Christ’s call to holiness is an invitation for each of us to build on the legacy of Archbishop Chaput. God has called us to use our creativity, and fidelity, and enthusiasm, for the fullness of his Kingdom.
I have been appointed by the Holy See to be the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Denver during this interim period as we await a new archbishop. I have big shoes to fill. Please pray for me.
Some things will change as we move forward together in faith. But Jesus Christ will remain the same. Let us abide in him. Let us pray for one another. Let us look to him as the storm calms, so that we might not be afraid, but instead allow his name to resound throughout the world. Praise be to Jesus Christ, now and forever!
Bishop James D. Conley is apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese.
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