Ordination to the Priesthood Homily (Prince of Peace Abbey) – Bishop Steven J. Lopes

Here is the homily that my college friend, Bishop Steven J. Lopes, gave at the Ordination to the Priesthood, for my other college friend, Fr. Bede Clark, OSB, on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California.

In his homily, Bishop Lopes mentions The Rule of St. Benedict. If you have never read The Rule, I would encourage you to do so. It’s a spiritual classic and one that we all read in the Saint Ignatius Institute over 20 years ago. I still have my original undergraduate copy.

Venerable Brother,

Three years ago, nearly to the day, you professed your solemn monastic vows in this abbey church. On that occasion, Father Abbot reflected on monastic life through the lens of obedience, the first of the three Benedictine vows. I mention this not only because it was a particularly good homily, but also because it disclosed a fundamental insight, one which also provides the context of our celebration today. That foundational insight is simply this: the true nature of a monk cannot be known from outside. Monastic life is like a stained glass window. To observe it from some safe distance gives us perhaps some sense of its shape, some idea of its content…but the figure remains darkened and somewhat obscured. It is only when enters the church and looks at the window from within that its true brilliance is revealed in all its intricacy and vibrant color. And so too with monastic life. It is only when it is lived in integrity, when the monk plunges himself into the life of obedience, stability, and conversatio morum that its true brilliance is revealed in all its intricacy and vibrant color.

The same can be said of priesthood, which is after all, an interior conformity with Christ effected in and by the Holy Spirit. The priesthood of Christ into which you will be ordained today is one. By the laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Sprit, you will be conformed to Christ the Teacher, the Priest, and the Shepherd. Indeed, Priests are established by Christ himself as co-workers to the Order of Bishops, so that by their ministry the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy Temple. At the same time, priesthood conferred and lived out in the monastery is a particular expression of the one priesthood of Christ, an expression whose glory and beauty is to be discovered in the interior dynamism of monastic life itself. And so we have to return to obedience, stability, and conversatio morum to see the true brilliance of what God is doing here today.

In the Rule, Holy Father Benedict specifies of priests: “Let him who is ordained beware of arrogance and pride, and presume to do nothing that is not commanded him by his Abbot, knowing that he is now all the more subject to the regular discipline. Let him not by occasion of his priesthood forget the obedience and discipline of the Rule, but let him progress ever more and more in the Lord” (RB 62:2).  The emphases here on “all the more subject” to the Rule and “progress ever more and more in the Lord” situate priesthood firmly in the monastic observance. There is not monastic life on the one side and priesthood on the other, but priesthood in the monastery is to be seen as a further unfolding of the consecration you made when you sang your Sucipe before God and this community. Saint Benedict would have you understand your priesthood first as service to your brothers, to be lived in concrete charity in this Abbey. The sacramental grace you are given is for this monastery to thrive, so that by building up the community in which you live out your stability, the monastery might truly be a beacon on the hill drawing men and women to experience something of the Divine Life in Christ. And while from time to time you will be sent forth from this house for Mass and sacramental duties in the surrounding communities, this too is a pastoral service of this monastery to which you contribute.

Newly ordained Fr. Bede with Bishop Steven J. Lopes behind him.

Father Bede, see your priesthood, then, as part of the monastic conversion of life to which you have vowed yourself. For you, priestly virtue consists in continually striving for personal conversion so as to persevere in living the monastic observance. Priestly holiness consists in careful attention given to performing your religious duties in community life. Ultimately, this conversatio morum is the interior conformity to Christ, which is the principle work of the Holy Spirit poured out to us in the Church’s Sacraments.   It is no wonder, then, that the evangelical counsels of poverty and chastity arise like flowers from this root, which is Christ himself.

Another insight about priesthood as it is lived in the monastery can be drawn from the insistence of the Rule about the primacy of the sacred liturgy: Nihil Operi Dei praeponitur – Let nothing be put before the Work of God (RB 43:3) With these words, Saint Benedict established the absolute priority of the Divine Office and the Mass in respect to every other duty of monastic life.  In the face of other legitimate claims on a monks time such as study, apostolate, and the physical works at support the house, Saint Benedict unequivocally underscored the priority of God Himself in our life: “As soon as the signal for the time of the divine office is heard, let everyone, leaving whatever he has in his hands, hasten with all speed, yet with gravity” (RB 43:1).

The priority of the Work of God informs a liturgical consciousness, which is just another way of describing a monastic consciousness.  You, dear Brother, have been formed in this consciousness since the day you entered this monastery. Now as a priest, your celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments are in deeper service of the Work of God. And given the absolute priority of this Work in the monastic life, it is no understatement to say that the attention and preparation you give to your homily and to liturgical celebration, through which you lead your confrères in the contemplation of the Divine Mystery, is the most important thing you do. Not only important for the monks of this house, but also for the witness it offers to the Church and the world. The priority of God, which is so often neglected and forgotten in the rising tide of secularism, is essential for maintaining the good of human society.  If God is not important anymore, the criteria for establishing that which is important are overturned, which has disastrous consequences for human dignity and flourishing.

Commenting on this insight of the Rule, Pope Benedict XVI sounded a note of alarm regarding the situation of the Church in our own day. He said: “Man’s ‘doing’ almost led to forgetting God’s presence. In this kind of situation, it becomes ever clearer that the Church’s existence lives from the proper celebration of the liturgy and that the church is in danger when the primacy of God no longer appears in the liturgy and, therefore, in life…the true renewal of the liturgy is the fundamental condition for the renewal of the Church” (Benedict XIV, 11 July 2015, Preface to the Russian edition of volume one of his Opera Omnia). Your attention to the primacy of God, the primacy of the celebration of the Church’s liturgy, is of central importance: not just for your own personal sanctification, or even for the sanctification of your bother monks. But, indeed, the rest of us are relying on it so that our Church can be renewed and enlivened.

Monastic life is like a stained glass window. When one enters the edifice of obedience, stability, and monastic conversion of life, what is revealed is a brilliant intricacy of light and color as the glory of Almighty God is directed and refracted in the Church through this privileged form of religious consecration. The image that emerges in that window is the refulgence of Divine Life to which, in God’s mercy, we have been called in Christ. And how is that Divine Life to be described, to be enfleshed in our own life and in our own day? Well, according to the wisdom of the Rule, the Divine Life is reflected in the very monastic life you are ordained to serve:

“Let monks, therefore, practice zeal with most fervent love: that is, let them in honor anticipate one another; let them bear most patiently one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character; let them endeavor to surpass one another in the practice of mutual obedience; let no one seek that which he accounts useful for himself, but rather what is profitable to another; let them practice fraternal charity with a chaste love; let them fear God; let them love their Abbot with a sincere and humble affection; let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may Christ bring us all alike to life everlasting. Amen  (RB: 72).”

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Walsingham

The shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham, also known as England’s Nazareth, began in the middle of the 11th century just before the Normandy Invasion of 1066. In the year 1061, the Lady of the Manor of Walsingham, Richeldis de Faverches, was reciting her daily prayers when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her in a vision. After her initial vision, the Blessed Virgin appeared two more times along with St. Joseph and the Child Jesus. During these visions, Richeldis was told by the Blessed Virgin to build a replica of the Nazareth home where the Annunciation had occurred. The Blessed Virgin said to Richeldis,

“Do all this unto my special place and honor. And all who are in any way distressed or in need, let them seek me here in that little house you have made in Walsingham. To all that seek me there shall be given succor. And there in Walsingham in this little house shall be held in remembrance the great joy of my salutation when the Saint Gabriel told me I should through humility become the Mother of God’s Son.”

Richeldis was given detailed instructions on how the home was to be built, however, one night she heard the voices of heavenly angels singing. As she went to investigate, she saw the Holy Angels departing and realized the home of Nazareth had been built miraculously. Once this occurred, pilgrims began to immediately arrive at the site. Pilgrims arrived from all over England, Ireland, and most of Europe. It became one of the greatest shrines on the continent.

By the year 1130, Franciscans and Augustinians built homes to care for the pilgrims visiting the holy site, both peasants and nobility. In 1226, King Henry III began visiting the shrine and also became a patron. Nearly every king and queen of England visited the shrine during his or her respective reigns. Queen Isabella of France as well as King Robert the Bruce of Scotland also visited the holy site.

All along the roads, chapels were built, the last one being dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria in the fourteenth century, who was the Patroness of the Holy Land. The chapel became known as Slipper Chapel. Pilgrims would remove their shoes out of respect and walk to the chapel in slippers or barefoot as an act of penance.

As the sixteenth century approached, the Protestant Reformation stormed across Europe, as did far-reaching iconoclasm. In 1538, by order of King Henry VIII, who was a frequent visitor to the shrine before he broke from the Catholic Church, he had the shrine at Walsingham burnt to the ground and destroyed. The statue of the Blessed Virgin was taken back to London and also burnt.

Our_Lady_of_Walsingham

In 1863, nearly three hundred and fifty years after the initial shrine was destroyed, a wealthy Anglican woman by the name of Charlotte Boyd funded the rebuilding of the holy site. The only structure that remained was Slipper Chapel, which was being used as a barn to house animals on the property. During her time to rebuild the shrine of Walsingham, Miss Boyd converted to Catholicism. She eventually bought the chapel and donated it to Downside Abbey. In 1864, Pope Leo XIII gave permission that the shrine was to be built as it was originally. The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom oversaw the construction. They also had a statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child Jesus carved. The statue was placed in Kings Lynn.

On August 20, 1897 the first public pilgrimage here in centuries took place. It began at Kings Lynn and concluded at Walsingham. By the conclusion of the nineteenth century, the little village of Walsingham was once again home of the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady.

In August 1934, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales began leading thousands of pilgrims to Slipper Chapel. At this point, it became the official Roman Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady in England. In 1938, young Catholics on pilgrimage commemorated the four hundredth anniversary of the shrine’s destruction. In 1948, oak crosses numbering 14 in total were erected in the garden. The tradition for pilgrims is to walk the last mile of the pilgrimage barefoot.

In 1954, Marcel Barbeau carved a beautiful stone statue of the Blessed Virgin and it was placed in Slipper Chapel. Archbishop O’Hara, a Papal Representative crowned the statue. During his visit to England in 1982, Pope St. John Paul II blessed the statue in Wembley. Every year, on September 8, which is the Feast of the Birth of Our Lady, the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is carried in a procession for several miles and ends at Slipper Chapel. Our Lady of Walsingham is honored by Roman Catholics on September 24.

Today’s “Mondays with Mary” is dedicated to Bishop Steven J. Lopes and all the Catholics of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Please pray for Bishop Lopes and the lay faithful of the Ordinariate here in the USA and Canada as he begins his duties and travels to visit the priests and faithful under his care.

Please visit the newly designated Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas. I was there last week for the Bishop’s Ordination and Consecration. It’s a beautiful church and I hope to attend Mass there in the near future.

Our Lady of Walsingham…Pray For Us. 

Sources:

Mary Pages – http://www.marypages.com/Walsingham

Catholic Tradition – http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/walsingham.htm

The Episcopal Ordination of my college friend, Steven J. Lopes

On Tuesday night, in Houston, Texas, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, on the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (Candlemas), I attended the Episcopal Ordination of my long time college friend, Steven J. Lopes. I met Bishop Lopes nearly 22 years ago when I transferred into the Saint Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco in the Fall of 1994.

Bishop Steven J. Lopes

Although I have been to Ordinations to the Priesthood, this was my first Episcopal Ordination, and it couldn’t have been any better, especially since it was for someone I personally know. It’s very difficult to explain to you through this limited space the pageantry, pomp, beauty, and sacredness that was the Episcopal Ordination Mass of Bishop Steven J. Lopes. The sheer excitement that began during the day at the hotel and then reaching its peak during the Mass is still penetrating my heart and mind. I think the 24 hours I spent in Houston for this occasion will be with me over the next few weeks as I continue to share it with parishioners at my parish as well as with friends who were unable to attend.

Not to make light of the ordination by any means, but as we were making our way to the cathedral from the hotel, which was a very short bus ride, I said to my three other friends, one a Benedictine brother and one a religious sister, “Between the Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Religious, and so many Lay Faithful, tonight is like Catholic Candy Land.”

There are many things that stood out for me during the course of the three-hour Episcopal Ordination, but if I had to narrow it down to three things, it would be the Liturgy itself, the beautiful sacred music, and the Rite of Ordination of a Bishop. The Mass resembled the structure of the Roman Liturgy, but with some nuances from the Anglican tradition. It was very much a “high mass” which I have come to enjoy as I learn more about the liturgy. The Prayer of Humble Access before Holy Communion and the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion, both said by everyone who received Our Lord in the Eucharist, reminded me of the Eastern liturgies I have been to in the past. Both prayers reflect the beauty of the Church’s sacramental theology.

Bishop Lopes and I at the reception following his Episcopal Ordination.

Bishop Lopes and I at the reception following his Episcopal Ordination.

The second aspect of the Mass was the intense and most profound sacred music. I am in my early 40’s, which means I grew up with mundane liturgical music that often contradicted Catholic theology in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Although I have been exposed to beautiful sacred music since, the music at the ordination was beyond superb and spiritually elevated us right into heaven and brought heaven down to us. The choir was composed of three individual choirs – the choir from Our Lady of Walsingham Parish (now the Cathedral), the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Choir and the Archdiocesan Choir. If you watch the remarks from the Bishop here, you will get a taste of what the choir brought to the liturgy.

The third and final aspect of the Mass that I enjoyed was the Rite of Ordination of a Bishop. This rite began with the Principal Consecrator, His Eminence Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and concluded with Bishop Steven J. Lopes taking the reigns from him and finishing the liturgy. The Rite of Ordination of a Bishop had numerous parts. They are:

  1. Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost)
  2. Presentation of the Bishop-Elect
  3. Reading of the Apostolic Letter (official document from Pope Francis)
  4. Assent of the People (all responded with – Thanks be to God)
  5. Homily
  6. Examination of the Candidate (asked numerous questions regarding his episcopal ordination)
  7. Invitation to Prayer (all pray for Bishop-elect)
  8. Litany of Supplication (Litany of the Saints)
  9. Laying On of Hands
  10. Prayer of Consecration (Book of the Gospels held above the head of Bishop-elect) and Prayer of Ordination recited (Calling down of the Holy Spirit)
  11. Anointing of the Bishop’s Head (with Oil)
  12. Presentation of the Book of the Gospels (Teaching is a duty of the Bishop; other two duties – Sanctify and Govern).
  13. Investiture with Ring, Mitre, and Pastoral Staff
  14. Seating of the Bishop and Kiss of Peace (from this moment Bishop Lopes became the primary presider of the Liturgy).

There is so much I could say about each part, however, this blog post would end up being 2500 plus words in length and far too long for a reasonable post. If you ever get the chance to attend an Episcopal Ordination, my suggestion is – take it! It’s by far one of the most amazing liturgies I have experienced. With liturgies such as this one, it makes me very glad and blessed to be a Catholic.

Embracing and wishing Bishop Lopes congratulations.

Embracing and wishing Bishop Lopes congratulations.

As I did in my blog post back in November, I implore that you pray for Bishop Steven J. Lopes. Please pray three Hail Mary’s through the intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham as he begins his new ministry as Shepherd of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

To learn more about the Ordinariate, please visit their website. I would also encourage you to Like their Facebook page. I did.

Our Lady of Walsingham…Pray for Us.

This blog post is dedicated to the Bishop himself, Steven J. Lopes. Thank you for your friendship, guidance, and overall support these many years. Unfortunately, I never made it to Rome while you were there. I pray that you will be a good Shepherd to your flock.

My Friend, Bishop-Elect Steven J. Lopes

Yesterday, I received news via Facebook that my long time friend, a college friend I have known for 21 years, when I was in the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, Steven J. Lopes, was going to be the first ever Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. To say that this news was exciting would be an understatement. Instantly, some of us used social media to spread the great news that one of our own, those who were in the original St. Ignatius Institute (1976-2001), had been elevated to Bishop. We were also text messaging each other to share the news. It’s my hope, once I talk to my boss, that I will attend his Mass of Ordination on February 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.

I first met Bishop-Elect Lopes when we were undergraduates together from 1994-1997 (I transferred in Fall 1994). He lived down the hall from me on the 4th floor of Gillson Hall (a footnote: his roommate my first year is now a Benedictine brother). Since we would both graduate in 1997, we were in many of the same classes together in the St. Ignatius Institute. Even now, I can think of the many great times we shared in so many fantastic classes taught by Professors who truly loved their craft and their Catholic faith. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t give thanks for that Great Books Liberal Arts education.

Headshot - Bishop Steven Lopes

From the moment I met him, I can remember that he always desired to be a Catholic priest. He was a superb student and loved learning. Although my love for the Catholic faith blossomed while in college, and my academic conversion began, there was something different that separated him from me. For many of us that knew him in college, we had a feeling that he was destined to do great things for the Catholic Church. I look forward to speaking to him soon and hopefully seeing him in February. If I attend the Mass of Ordination, I will write more then.

For those of you that are not aware, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is essentially the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church. Taken directly from their website it says,

“The Ordinariate exists for those who are and who will be coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. Through the reverence and beauty of our worship, study of sacred Scripture and charity for those in need, we desire to share the joy of being Roman Catholic! With respect and gratitude for the Anglican heritage that nourished us, we seek to build bridges with all our brothers and sisters who are drawn to the Church, so that we might build up the one Body of Christ.”

I would encourage you to read more about the Ordinariate. You might have a parish in your area that you could attend. Since they are part of the Catholic Church, just as the Eastern Rites (Maronite, Byzantine, Melkite, and others) are in the Church, a Latin Catholic (Roman) can attend these liturgies and receive Holy Communion on any given day when Mass is offered. There is a parish part of this rite about 90 minutes from where I live. It’s my hope to attend Sunday Mass there soon.

Also, read more about Bishop-Elect Lopes, although I know his background quite well, reading it is impressive. Here is the link for the Press Conference.

Do me a favor: Please pray three Hail Mary’s through the intercession of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary; for Bishop-Elect Steven J. Lopes has he begins his new ministry as Shepherd.