Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Bishop McManus calls for prayer and fasting to instill spiritual stamina and fortitude
In an editorial published in this week's Catholic Free Press and entitled 'Proclaim the Gospel of Life," Bishop Robert J. McManus, Bishop of the Worcester [Massachusetts] Diocese, reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, writes, "As we reflect on this unspeakable tragedy, we recall that Jesus told us that certain evils are only overcome by prayer and fasting. Currently we are assailed by many increasing threats in our culture, most especially in the ongoing assaults on life, marriage and religious liberty. In light of these unprecedented attacks on these most fundamental pillars of society, the U.S. Bishops recently launched a special initiative that will continue throughout the Year of Faith. This Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty is something that all of us can participate in both personally and communally....I wish to personally invite everyone to take this opportunity to increase our spiritual stamina and fortitude by joining with our fellow Catholics across the country through participation in the monthly holy hours that will be offered in our parishes, saying the rosary regularly, fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, and other devotions and events that will take place in the diocese..."
It's real nice that Bishop McManus is finally beginning to wake up to the realities of our times by recognizing that only through prayer and fasting will certain evils be driven out since there is an element of the demonic behind them. But before Catholics can convert the culture, they must first convert themselves. About a month back I wrote Bishop McManus about his promotion of Servite Sister Joyce Rupp, a confused religious who promotes New Age spirituality and dissent from the authoritative teachings of the Magisterium. Specifically, I asked His Excellency if he felt that it was truly appropriate for the Chancery to be offering her books for sale given her peculiar beliefs [such as the "godess" Sophia] and her angry, hate-filled attacks on the Church's hierarchy [see my previous posts on Joyce Rupp]. His response? There was none. So much for increasing spiritual stamina and fortitude. Or perhaps His Excellency believes that it is only the laity who are in need of metanoia?
If the Bishop has no time for a Christian believer who accepts, promotes and defends the Magisterial teaching of the Church and cares little for the right of the faithful to receive Catholic teaching in its purity and integrity [Veritatis Splendor, No. 113], then it is a safe bet that his own prayer life is suffering. It was Pope John Paul II who wrote that, "A bishop should try to ensure that as many as possible of those who, together with him, make up the local Church can come to know him personally. He for his part will seek to be close to them, to know about their lives - what gives joy to their hearts and what saddens them. Such mutual acquaintance cannot be built through occasional meetings: it comes from a genuine interest in what is happening in their lives regardless of age, social status, or nationality, whether they are close at hand or far away....It is very important for a bishop to have a rapport with his people and to know how to relate to them well...Interest in others begins with the bishop's prayer life: his conversations with Christ, who entrusts 'His own' to him. Prayer prepares him for encounter with others." (Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way).
If a bishop cannot even maintain a rapport with faithful Catholics in his own diocese, then it is difficult to take him seriously when he writes, "Let us unite our hearts and minds through special acts of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice....to uphold the inherent dignity of all human life from conception to natural death."
Where was the bishop's recognition of my "inherent dignity" when I wrote him a letter detailing how one of his priests was encouraging a couple in their senior years to live together while assuring them that any sexual acts outside of marriage were not sinful at their age and mentioned my interest in pursuing a priestly vocation within the diocese? Readers of this Blog know that this letter of mine also received no response. And I had requested the Bishop's blessing each time I wrote him! Dignity?
Long before Bishop McManus' call for prayer and fasting, I issued a similar call. In fact, over the years, I have issued this call. See here and here for example. But along with prayer and fasting, we Catholics - all of us - must first take the plank out of our own eyes if we are to see clearly enough to take the speck out of the eyes of our fellow citizens throughout the broader culture. And this goes for our priests and deacons and religious as well. More so, for they should be shining examples of the faith life. Needless to say, this sort of behavior will never convert our broken, sin-sick culture.
As Father Vincent Miceli, S.J., reminded us some years back, "Rampant immorality is [an] obstacle opposing the work of evangelization. Since conduct follows from convictions, once Catholics cancel their creed from their lives, their conduct inevitably becomes depraved....The decay on all sides of Christian morals makes it not only difficult to bring in those outside the Church, but even to stay in themselves and hold their fellow Catholics within the Church." (Essay entitled The Evangelization of the United States).
It is a spiritual maxim that we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not possess. The Bishop of Worcester, and the priests who serve with him, should reflect very carefully on this truth.