Nothing less than Catholic

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | July 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

One of my goals this summer has been to work on my Spanish. Given our growing Latino population in the archdiocese, I know that I need to do a better job of communicating in Spanish. Unable to find the time to go away for a few weeks, I’ve been looking online for tutoring programs in the Twin Cities. After doing some online research, I called one of the best-known language schools, and I was somewhat surprised to learn that there was a shortage of available teachers for the dates I needed. I asked, “With all the Spanish speakers in our area, are you telling me that you can’t find a tutor?”

The response caught my attention: “There are plenty of Spanish speakers in our area, and even plenty of very successful Spanish teachers, but to teach at our school, a teacher has to be trained in our educational philosophy, learn our method and be convicted that our system works. That’s what makes it possible for our high standards to be uniform whether you’re studying in Moscow, Bangkok or Lima.” My friends in business and marketing might speak of that in terms of “truth in advertising,” “quality control” and “brand protection.”

While it would be a gross over-simplification to speak of our Catholicity as a brand, it’s clearly part of my responsibilities to make sure that what we designate as “Catholic” is truly Catholic — whether that be a parish, a school, a university, a hospital or a social service agency. Before I could begin my service as archbishop, I was expected to make a profession of faith and take an oath of fidelity, requiring me to “make every effort to ensure that the deposit of faith handed down from the apostles is preserved pure and entire, and that the truths to be held and put into practice will be passed on and clearly explained to all, as they are proposed by the Church’s magisterium.”

That’s how Christ’s Church makes sure that what is taught and professed in Minnesota in 2017 is the same core faith proclaimed in Rome throughout the last 20 centuries, the same tenets and principles that Peter and the apostles learned from Christ himself when he walked the streets of Jerusalem.

The Church requires, moreover, that each pastor make a profession of faith and take a similar oath. I’ve had the privilege recently of installing a number of our pastors and have been moved each time as I heard them promise before their congregants that they would “hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety … faithfully hand it on and explain it … and … avoid any teachings contrary to it.”

I always remind the new pastor that the faithful of their parish deserve nothing less than the faith presented in its entirety, in all its richness. It’s the pastor who becomes the guarantor that the parish that he leads is authentically Catholic, that what’s taught in his religious education programs or Catholic school is consistent with the teachings of the Church, that the witness given by the community in its charitable outreach and promotion of justice reflects who we are as Christ’s Church. He is to judge success not only by looking at the end result, but also on the basis of the fidelity and commitment to our distinctively Catholic philosophy and method.

It’s not enough that he and his staff are generically kind, compassionate and professionally competent; they need, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, to have integrated our philosophy and method and share our conviction that our Catholic “system” works. That doesn’t mean that we can only employ and collaborate with other Catholics, but it does mean that if we’re holding ourselves out as Catholic, we have to be Catholic.

On the first day of his pontificate, Pope Francis reminded us that the Church has to be more than a compassionate NGO — it has to be Christ-centered and faithful to its mission. A successful “Catholic hospital” is not merely a blue-ribbon hospital that happens to have been founded by a community of Catholic sisters, but rather one that imbues and models what the Church teaches about the dignity of the human person, about the redemptive value of human suffering, about the sanctity of life and the relevance of the Church’s moral teaching.

Similarly, a great “Catholic school” is not merely a parish school whose students excel academically, but a place where students are able to breathe in Catholicism, where the pastor, principal, teachers and staff collaborate with parents in presenting a credible witness to Christ’s presence in the world, where students have a genuine encounter with Christ, where they come to see and know that God’s plan for the world, as taught by the Church, is a plan that brings blessings and long-term happiness.

Blessed Paul VI noted that we live in an age that “listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if [it] does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” I think that is particularly true of our school-aged children, who so quickly emulate those around them.

They need witnesses to the faith in our religious education programs and schools who can teach by example that what the Church professes is life-giving, even when difficult.

The Official Catholic Directory, often called the Kenedy Directory, lists all of the institutions — parishes, schools, religious communities, hospitals, social service agencies — in the 12 counties of our archdiocese that are designated as “Catholic.” The breadth of the institutions is stunning and represents the legacy of a vibrant Church, a legacy that is now entrusted to us. Let’s pray for the success of their mission, let’s pray for those who have stepped up to serve in these institutions, and let’s pray for those who have been given the responsibility of leading these institutions and assuring their connection to the vine that is Christ and his Church. May the Holy Spirit who guides the Church help us to discern in the present age how we can together give a more consistent witness to the joy of the Gospel in a way that will strengthen our faith and lead others to Christ.

Nada menos que Católico

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Category: Only Jesus