‘Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by on the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.’ – Pope Francis, TED Talk, April 2017
With the recent news of the resignation of Charles Drennan as Bishop of Palmerston North the Catholic community has suffered a very sad and serious wound. As we face, and probably struggle with, this news there is a danger that we could easily split into factions as the early Church did when some claimed that they were for Paul and others for Cephas.
Times such as these are never easy for anyone. I ask you to remember the young woman concerned in this matter, as it cannot have been easy to take the step to come forward in such a situation and ask for an investigation involving a bishop.
I would like to assure everyone a robust process has been followed, which has taken some time to do. I can assure WelCom readers that all the requirements of the Pope’s document, the Motu Proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi, promulgated in May this year, have been followed. The results of the investigation were sent to Rome and reached Pope Francis.
The question for us all now is how we move ahead as a community of disciples. How do we continue to be Missionary Disciples who have peace and hope and walk on in unity and with kindness in our hearts?
Some time ago Pope Francis gave a TED talk in which he said: ‘To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the human tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by on the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.’
While this is a difficult and very sad time, it is also a time when we need each other. It is a time, again as Pope Francis has said, when, ‘the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognise the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us”.’ Our question now is, ‘What do we do and how do we help one another to move ahead in peace, unity and with kindness in our hearts?’. We don’t judge others. We pray. We look for ways to support one another.
I am aware in this column I am quoting Pope Francis extensively. That is because I have discovered just about every time he speaks or gives a message there is great wisdom and words worth pondering and praying with. Last year on his journey to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis gave a homily in which he said: ‘The soul of a community is measured by how it manages to come together to face times of difficulty and adversity, in order to keep hope alive. By doing so, they give the greatest witness to the Gospel. The Lord tells us: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).’ Our challenge is to be people of love, generosity and compassion.
Pope Francis continued and reminded us that, ‘God carries out this divine work with the same tender love that a mother has when she dries the tears of her children. What a beautiful question the Lord can ask each one of us at the end of the day: how many tears did you dry today?’ This may be the time when we are called to dry the tears of others, and that is a beautiful thought.
As you will have heard I have been asked by the Holy Father to be the Administrator of the Diocese of Palmerston North until such time as a new bishop is appointed. I will do all I possibly can to help people to move ahead in both Palmerton North and Wellington dioceses. I will need your help and your prayers; I ask you to pray for me as I work with clergy and laity in both dioceses. It is unfortunate that this all happened at the time the New Zealand Bishops were already scheduled to visit Rome of our ad limina Apostolorum. Regrettably, nothing could be done about this timing as we had been given the dates of this visit just on a year ago.
As I write this column, I know there will be a real sadness as we pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I am sure there will also be deep hope as we visit with Pope Francis and meet with many of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
Now is the time to remember that ‘the purpose of being with Jesus, is to go forth from Jesus, in his power and with his grace.” – Ecclesia in Oceania 3
Now is a time for moving ahead in hope, with peace in our hearts and kindness towards one another. Now is a time to help one another to respond to the call to be Missionary Disciples, to share the Good News of the Gospel with one another and with society around us. Now is the time to recall and to help each other to live each day as ‘intentional disciples’, and to consciously live our faith every day, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and then to begin all over again. Now is also the time to remember it is not just what we do in church that matters, it is living the gospel where we are. Now is the time to remember that ‘the purpose of being with Jesus, is to go forth from Jesus, in his power and with his grace’ (Ecclesia in Oceania 3).