Farewell to a holy friend
By J.D. Flynn
Encountering Jesus Christ is a profound experience of freedom. To know Christ is to be transformed, to be liberated from the fear of sin and death, and to live in the communion of the Holy Trinity.
To encounter Jesus Christ is everything.
We usually encounter Christ in some mediated way. We find him in the Scriptures, made alive in the narrative of the Gospels. We find him present in family life, in Christian unity—in places where we gather in his name. We find him most especially in the sacraments—confession, marriage and, most tangibly, in the holy Eucharist.
When we find him and know we are in the presence of God, our hearts burn within us. And as the travelers on the road to Emmaus discovered, we can encounter Christ through holy conversation and holy friendship.
To share a friendship with Bishop James Conley is to encounter the presence of the Living God, burning within his own heart.
I’ve been blessed to know Bishop Conley for the last several years. I’m blessed to call him a friend. And I’ve been blessed to know Jesus Christ more deeply through our friendship.
A few months ago, Bishop Conley traveled on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela—an ancient pilgrimage route through France and Spain. He said that pilgrimage was an experience of understanding our pursuit of holiness and the pilgrimage of the Christian life. He also noted how many journey the Camino without faith—and how much he hopes the Camino will win their souls for Jesus Christ.
The pilgrimage of life, Bishop Conley has said, can become for each of us a pilgrimage of faith.
In fact, winning souls is at the heart of his ministry. The bishop’s ministry among priests, young adults, the movements and apostolates of the Denver Archdiocese, the Hispanic community and many others is geared toward helping each of us grow in holiness of life.
We say farewell to a man many of us have called a friend. But we say farewell knowing that he is called by God to the ministry of a shepherd—to give his life for the salvation of others.
In truth, all of us share that call. As we say goodbye to Bishop Conley in Denver, the appointment of a bishop is an opportunity to remember that God calls each one of us to give our lives for the salvation of others. This is the vocation of pastors, of fathers and mothers, of students and laborers and children.
All of us are called to make Christ present through our own presence. Each of us can transform lives through our own. The key is our prayer, our humility, our generosity, and our openness to the will of God. Our hearts burn within us when we encounter Jesus Christ. In our zeal for souls, let us set all hearts ablaze.
J.D. Flynn is chancellor of the Denver Archdiocese.