Five years ago, on April 21, 2002, Bishop Thomas Grady’s entered into Eternal Life. He was the second Bishop of this local Church. He served the people of Central Florida well – not only during his 15 years as ordinary of this diocese from December 1974 to May 1990; but also in his retirement, marked by physical infirmity and illness, he continued to serve us through the offering of his suffering and pain.
Before becoming a bishop, serving first an auxiliary Bishop in Chicago, he ran the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C. Mary played an important role in his life – as she should in each of ours. Mary is the first disciple. As a Christian, Thomas Grady, like each one of us, was first called to echo Mary’s unqualified “yes” to God long before he was called to the episcopacy.
The Church is hierarchical – and those exercising an apostolic office through Holy Orders have an indispensable role in teaching, governing and sanctifying the People of God. St. Paul in writing to Titus defines in these words a rule of conduct for all who share in the “hierarchical structures” of the Church: “Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.” (Titus 2: 7-8).
But, apostleship presumes discipleship: that is to say, before we can be credible apostles, we need to be committed disciples. During the three years in which Jesus walked with his apostles forming them for their future ministry he asked them to make a radical break with the values which this fallen world holds dear: self-exaltation, carnal indulgence, earthy wealth. And as each of us face these fundamental temptations isn’t Mary the model for all of us?
And so the Church is deeply and fundamentally called to be Marian. Her fiat, her “yes”, must be common denominator of all the faithful and it must precede any other role in the Church. What the Second Vatican Council called the Universal Vocation of all the faithful to holiness is simply our vocation to be like Mary, to say “yes” to God, to walk in the way of discipleship. Mary’s fiat defined her self-sacrificial cooperation with God’s plan of salvation. .
Just two weeks ago, we fixed our gaze on the crucified Lord. In Good Friday’s reading from the Passion, we find John, “the beloved disciple” and Jesus’ mother, Mary. The evangelist relates that Jesus entrusted one to the other: “Woman, behold, your son! ….Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19: 26-27) During his life as a priest and a bishop, Bishop Grady took those words of the dying Jesus to heart. Like John the evangelist, he too accepted Mary into his home.
St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo reminded his faithful: “…with you, I am Christian; for you, I am a bishop”. These words also describe Bishop Thomas Grady – a successor of the apostles, to be sure; but always a fellow disciple with God’s people. Through Mary’s intercession and protection, he was both a committed disciple and a credible apostle. Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord….