Saturday, August 28, 2010

St. Augustine, Bishop & Teacher of the Church - Cardinal Ouellet Takes Up His Post in Rome

Today in the liturgy, the Church rightly celebrates the memorial of one its greatest theological minds and spiritual writers, Saint Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430).

The Confessions or The City of God alone would be a monument to any author, but there are hundreds of other writings of this striking personality that have shaped the Church as he defended the truth ["Veritas in the painting] against the manifold errors of his day (Donatists, Pelagians, etc).

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Renew in your Church, we pray, O Lord, the spirit with which you endowed your Bishop Saint Augustine that, filled with the same spirit, we may thirst for you, the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek you, the author of heavenly love. Through Christ our Lord.

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My favourite excerpt from the Confessions is the text for the Office of Readings for today's memorial:

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

[Saint Ambrose baptizing Saint Augustine by Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1464-65), apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano, Italy]

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Flood the Path with Light,
God of our life,
there are days when the burdens we carry
chafe our shoulders and weigh us down;
when the road seems dreary and endless,
the skies grey and threatening;
when our lives have no music in them,
and our hearts are lonely,
and our souls have lost their courage.

Flood the Path with Light,
turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise;
tune our hearts to brave music;
give us the sense of comradeship
with heroes and saints of every age;
and so quicken our spirits
that we may be able to encourage
the souls of all who journey
with us on the road of life,
to your honour and glory.
[attributed to St. Augustine]

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Unless there has been a change in plans, today sees Cardinal Marc Ouellet begin his new ministry in Rome. His Eminence is pictured left with Deborah Gyapong at a final interview in Quebec prior to his departure for Rome.

August is usually a quiet time in Rome but the memorial of the great Bishop of Hippo and Doctor [i.e. Teacher] of the Church seems a particularly apt occasion for His Eminence to begin his new duties. He will be searching out candidates for episcopal office to recommend to the Holy Father according to certain criteria.

In his interview with Deborah Gyapong, Cardinal Ouellet, described the kind of ecclesial leaders he senses the Church of Christ requires in this particular moment of salvation history: bold “men of faith” who have “the guts to help people live it out.”

A bishop has to lead the community, so he needs a deep supernatural vision as well as the capacity to assess the political, cultural, and sociological context.... Above all, a bishop must be “audacious in proposing the Word and in believing in the Power of the Word and the power of the Spirit.”

“We have to dare to speak to the deep heart, where the Spirit of the Lord is touching people beyond what we can calculate,” said Ouellet. “We need spiritual discernment and not just political calculation of the risk of the possibility of the message being received.”....

The need for unity and solidarity goes far beyond any political statements, he said, but involves a personal commitment that rises beyond a dogmatic faith to an “existential faith that means spiritual discernment of the presence of God and of God’s will.”

We are in a world where the Christian heritage being strongly contested, so we have to recognize that and propose it better, though not through an attempt to restore the past, he said.

“We have to tell people about the Crucified and Risen Lord, who is shaping the Church today, with people faithful to His Word, to His Divine Presence and to the community he wants to see living of His Spirit.”

A bishop must always take a personal approach, he said. Bishops not only must state dogmatic positions, they must believe in them deeply, “then you have the power of conviction.”

“If you state it only formally and in the end you do not really want to see it applied because you don’t believe that it is possible that people accept it, you are in trouble for the transmission of the message,” he said.

Bishops must also be close to people, he said. Being spiritual does not mean keeping a distance.

“The Lord has given us his own heart to be a presence of His heart in the midst of the people,” the cardinal said. “So we have to be aware of that and cultivate what we call holiness, unity with Him, daily unity, in a way that is very human and very spiritual.”

He advocated an ascetical attitude in prayer to maintain purity of heart. “The love of the people is fulfilling the life of the priest.”...

Ouellet called for openness to new movements in the Church, and expressed hopes those already in Quebec, such as Famille Marie-Jeunesse, Catholic Christian Outreach, and the Eucharistic movement around the Youth Summit/Montee Jeunesse will “multiply.”

“I believe deeply there will be a new evangelization,” he said.

The Cardinal also called for a new intellectual dynamism, especially a reform of education to “recapture the spirit of Christianity and “create a new Christian culture.”

“We need intellectuals for that, theologians, philosophers, Christians who really believe in the Gospel and share the doctrine of the Church on moral questions,” he said.

“We have suffered from this mentality of dissent” that is “still dominating the intelligentsia.”

“There is no real discipleship there, real discipleship,” he said. “The discipleship that is emerging is from those who believe and who really love the Church.”

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Mgr Lacroix Quebec Administrator

Meantime, yesterday the bishops of Canada were informed that Auxiliary Bishop Mgr Gerald Cyprien Lacroix has been chosen diocesan administrator for the Archdiocese of Quebec until the nomination of a successor to Cardinal Ouellet.

Best wishes to, and prayers for, Bishop Lacroix as he assumes these new responsibilities.

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