Three Years Our Shepherd

crozier wuerl

Three years ago today, Donald Wuerl took the crozier in hand to guide the Archdiocese of Washington.

Here are a few words about bishops from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles. Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, “to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), which is the Church.

In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls…

The bishops…, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them.

Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them…

illuminated-bibleBishops…have been taken from among men and appointed their representative before God in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Bishops enjoy the fullness of the sacrament of orders…Therefore bishops are the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, as well as being the governors, promoters, and guardians of the entire liturgical life in the church committed to them —Christus Dominus

May the good Lord prosper the endeavors of our father and shepherd, Archbishop Wuerl.

…Want to learn more about the Bible? Are you within striking distance of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, U.S.A.? Come to Scripture Study this evening at St. Mary of the Assumption School, starting at 7:30 p.m.!

All Roads Lead to…

s-maria-maggGreetings to you from the neighborhood of Santa Maria Maggiore. After an afternoon stop in Orvieto, we have arrived in Rome.

We had a beautiful morning in Assisi to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Sts. Francis and Clare. Yours truly took advantage of the nearby friary full of Franciscan priests, and I went to Confession.

I don’t think any of us really wanted to leave Assisi, but we got on the bus anyway, because we are on a mission from God to get to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to see the Pope.

Orvieto funicular
Orvieto funicular
We reached Orvieto at mid-day. The roads up to the ancient hilltop city are closed to outside traffic. So we traveled by funicular up to see the magnificent medieval Duomo. We explored the town and lunched. Then we had Holy Mass in the crypt of the cathedral, surrounded by the tombs of four bishops.

Our hotel here in Rome is two blocks from the Papal Basilica of the Blessed Virgin, where we will have Mass on Friday. Tomorrow morning we will go to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Benedict.

Then we will go to the Holy Office. Not because I have been called in for questioning. An old friend of mine works there, and he wants to show us the place.

After lunch, we will visit the catacombs. Then we will go to the tomb of St. Paul, at his Basilica “Outside the Walls”—ie., south of the walls of the ancient city. We will celebrate the Holy Mass there.

The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter's Square
The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter's Square
I wish I had more snapshots to show you. Our photographers have been working hard to provide nice pictures for these posts.

Unfortunately, computers do not work the way they are supposed to work. They bait and switch. It is unlikely that we will be able to have any more snapshots. It IS likely that I will throw my laptop out of the third floor window of this hotel.

These posts will not be enjoyable without snapshots. This blog is becoming lame. I am sorry.

Count on our prayers for you, though, at the tombs of the Holy Apostles.

FILES-VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCETomorrow, when we receive the Pope’s blessing, he will be blessing all those we represent, too–the entire parish of St. Mary of the Assumption and the whole loyal readership of P & BD.

Thrilled, Tired, and Here

Deacon William Walker and your servant in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi
Deacon William Walker and your servant in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi

It has been something of a slog through airports, bus parking lots, and hilly Umbrian streets…but we pilgrims have made it to the town of St. Francis.

Upon arrival in Assisi, we went straight to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. This massive sixteenth-century church houses the Portiuncula, the small chapel where St. Francis and his first followers prayed. This is also the site where St. Clare became the Bride of Christ, as our guide Elizabeth pointed out. And it is the place where the Troubadour of Christ breathed his last.

For followers and friends of St. Francis, this is the holiest of sites. It was not just sleep deprivation that made us emotional as we celebrated Holy Mass in the chapel of St. Clare. The Lord has drawn us here to meet Him, to renew ourselves in contemplation of the mystery of holiness.

Tomorrow we will visit both St. Francis and St. Clare. The Basilica where we were earlier today is in the lower town of Assisi, at the bottom of the hill. It was open country and woods at the time of St. Francis and St. Clare.

The churches of the saints of Assisi are in the thousand-year-old town at the top of the hill. We came up the hill by bus after Mass, just in time for supper.

dinnerfontOur accommodations are right between the churches of St. Francis and St. Clare, in the middle of the old town. The hotel dining room afforded us a splendid dinner this evening, complete with bottles of delicious Umbrian wine. We are now well-fed and hope to be well-rested soon.

We thank the gracious Providence of God for getting us here safely. And we thank Him, and all the wonderful geeks of the world, for making it possible to share this with you. The Geeks are alright!

More to come tomorrow, if God allows.

These Particular People


Here is tomorrow’s homily, if you are interested…

          “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Matthew 18:20

          Right now, it is impossible for us to perceive fully the splendor of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Even the holy angels cannot see it all.  Only God beholds the Church in Her full beauty.

It is good for us, therefore, to meditate on the Church.  Meditation requires ideas, so we have to think about the invisible mysteries of the Church.  In doing this, though, we must never lose sight of one essential fact:  Even though She is clothed with sublime mystery, the Church is and always will be something simple:  She is a group of particular people whom God has brought together by his deeds in history.

God showing Abraham the stars
God showing Abraham the stars



          It all began when God called Abraham.  In spite of the fact that there was no earthly way in which God’s promises could be fulfilled, Abraham believed God anyway and obeyed Him without question.

          What Abraham did is a matter of historical fact, not theory.  A brilliant philosopher named Soren Kirkegaard began his best book by extolling the courage of Abraham’s faith.  Kirkegaard revered Abraham as the first “existentialist,” the first man willing to reach out into the dark and trust.

     Certainly, Abraham did reach out into the dark and trust.  There is a difference, however, between admiring Abraham the courageous existentialist, on the one hand, and holding the faith of Abraham, on the other.

     What makes Abraham our father is not that he was courageous enough to believe, even though what he was promised seemed crazy.  Abraham is our father because He believed exactly what God promised, and because God fulfilled the promises.  In other words, Abraham is not an abstract ideal.  He is the real man with whom the history of our salvation began.

     God promised Abraham many descendants and a beautiful land to live in.  The difficulty God faced in fulfilling the promises is not what made Abraham believe.  God might have promised:  “Abraham, tomorrow you will definitely have to go to the bathroom.”  If that is what God had promised him, Abraham would have believed that, no more or less than he believed the promises about descendants and land.

     So we can and should meditate on the Church, but we need to remember that we are not dealing with theories or ideas; we are not dealing with philosophy.  We do not believe in abstract ideas.  What we believe is that particular events have occurred which have brought God’s people together, including us.



     We do not believe in the Papacy as an abstract concept; we believe that Benedict XVI is the Pope.  We believe not just that Christ instituted the sacred priesthood, but also that He has, by the ministry of His Apostolic Church, made Fr. William Foley the pastor here, and me the unworthy parochial vicar.  Christ erected this parish of St. Mary of the Assumption by the workings of Providence, and everyone baptized in water and the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who lives in Upper Marlboro is a member of our parish, no matter what ideas they have or do not have in their heads.

Now, please don’t get me wrong about ideas.  The Church of Christ loves ideas.  We love expressing them, discussing them, refining them by careful debate.  Our faith binds us to seek the truth constantly, no matter what it takes.  But when everything is said and done, our ideas are not what will get us home to the Promised Land in heaven.  What will get us to heaven is believing the Scriptures and preserving communion with the Pope.

Ideas are wonderful; they can lead us to God.  But they can also be a trap.  You or I could latch onto an idea and then insist that everyone else must agree.  If you don’t agree, then maybe you’re not really Catholic.  Before long, I could work myself up into the paranoid fear that I am surrounded in this parish by heretics and apostates because not everyone agrees with me.

Now, it is highly unlikely that you or I would actually find ourselves surrounded in this church by apostates or crypto-pagans.  It is possible, of course—the Lord never promised to preserve the church of Upper Marlboro from error.  I am ready and willing to listen to anyone who wants to make an argument that he or she is in fact surrounded by grievous error.

But the Lord has given us a very helpful limit in this regard.  If you or I ever think that we are completely alone in holding fast to the truth of the faith, we are certainly wrong.  The only person on earth who could conceivably be right in thinking such a thing is the Pope.  For all the rest of us, there is always at least one person in the Church besides me—the Pope.  It is never just me.

G.K. Chesterton said that the Catholic Church is:  “Here comes everybody.”  Let us hope and pray that this is true.  May God raise up children to Abraham from every little corner of the world–all the wonderful particular people he has made.