This evening I congratulate our Jubilarians who celebrate 50 years and 25 years of priestly life in service to the Lord and His people. As we celebrate your jubilee years of Ordination, we recall the Scripture from Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me.” You began your priesthood by being anointed by the Holy Spirit with the oil of Chrism; you were sanctified by Christ in your priesthood to minister to the people. At the Chrism Mass we renew our priestly promises and bless the oils. In the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:6) we hear this prayer, “Christ who has made us… priests for His God and Father; to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”
Your role as priests is to give glory and power to God forever and ever. With the Oil of the Sick you bring glory and power of God’s consolation and peace. With the Oil of Catechumens, you bring God’s power of faith and hope. With the Oil of Chrism, you consecrate God’s people with His glory and power. Every Mass you celebrate, every confession you hear, every funeral you celebrate, every moment of listening to the troubles of your people you bring His glory and power.
In 2018, we celebrated our Golden Jubilee with the Year of the Eucharist, source and summit of our faith. The Eucharist is important to the life and faith of our people. On the day of your Ordination your hands were anointed with sacred chrism to bring God’s glory and power to the people. You were given the glory and power to consecrate bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. My brothers, you too have been consecrated to bring Christ to others. You have much to celebrate “even the angels have not been given such power” to consecrate.
In September, we gathered at our annual convocation to celebrate our 50th Anniversary with the gift of priesthood. We came to reflect, share and discuss our priestly ministry. Little did we know that a storm of controversary about the Church and its leadership would take place during this time. The three days of our convocation was like Jesus’ words to his disciples, “come away with me for a while and rest.” You priests gathered together to pray and give thanks for the gift of your priesthood. It was a graced filled moment offering support to one another and assuring one another of the gift of your priesthood. We ended those faith-filled days with the Ordination of Fr. Edwin Cardona who is a real gift and blessing to our priesthood and our diocese.
Cardinal DiNardo, the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), spoke to Pope Francis several times during the Autumn months of 2018 about the sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis’ response, “Loss of credibility calls for a specific approach… The loss of credibility also raises painful questions about the way we relate to one another… This involves our ability, or inability, as a community to forge bonds and create spaces that are healthy, mature and respectful of the integrity and privacy of each person… This requires not only a new approach to management, but also a change in our mind-set, our way of praying, our handling power and money, our exercise of authority and our way of relating to one another and to the world around us.”
If you recall Pope Francis wanted the bishops to go on retreat. Cardinal DiNardo told us that every time he met the Holy Father, he asked when the bishops were going on retreat. At the Youth Synod in Rome in October, the Pope again asked about the retreat and was there a retreat master. Cardinal DiNardo simply responded there was no date set or retreat master. The next day Pope Francis met Cardinal DiNardo as he entered the hall and handed him a note. Written on the note was the phone number of Father Raniero Cantalamessa with these words, “This priest is waiting for your call, so call him now.”
Father Cantalamessa has been the preacher to the papal household since 1979. So, on January 2-9 the bishops’ retreat would be held in Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. I felt obligated to go, but I had many misgivings and concerns – the weather, the accommodations, having to put up with one another (the bishops) for over a week, etc. I googled Father Cantalamessa’s name, an 85-year-old OFM Cap. (Capuchin friar) born in Italy, Doctorate in Theology and Classical Literature. I confess I went reluctantly, but with an open mind.
Father Cantalamessa began with these words, “Peace to this house.” He then reminded us with these words from Isaiah and Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.” He paused for a few moments then had us stand and sing “Veni Creator Spiritus” – Come Holy Spirit. In this prayer he reminded us that we don’t speak of the Holy Spirit, but we speak to the Holy Spirit. He went on to say that we often fail to pray to the Holy Spirit; or to listen to the Holy Spirit. He asked that we pierce the “cloud of the unknown.” He asked that we pray with and to the Holy Spirit so that our hearts may be open to hear the Holy Spirit.
One critical area he pointed out; the need to rethink the relationship between prayer and action. He said, “we must pray first and then do what emerges from our prayers. The apostles and saints prayed to know what to do; in Jesus’s life praying and action were not two separate things.” Praying to and with the Holy Spirit must become the focal point of our daily life of prayer. As priests of Jesus Christ we are to bring God’s glory and power into the lives of the people. We can only bring this glory and power through a life of prayer. Pope St. John Paul II reminds us, “Beware of spending too much time doing the work of the Lord without spending enough time with the Lord of the work.”
My brothers, when we neglect prayer, we have nothing with which to meet the needs of our people. “If we truly believe that God guides the Church with His Spirit and answers when we call, we ought to take our prayer life much more seriously.” There should be no rush to get down to business….unless we have the answers. Answers which can only come through our life of prayer. We need to restore the power of prayer in our daily lives. We need to place our trust in God, not in ourselves. “A short prayer, a simple moment of reflection and we are connected with the world of God, with the Risen Christ, with the world that truly counts for us.” Yet we must never “neglect the vital need we have for a designated, fixed time for daily prayer” otherwise we deceive ourselves and deny ourselves the opportunity to grow and to be fulfilled spiritually.
Father Cantalamessa told this story, which illustrates our need to make time for prayer. One day an old professor of the School of Public Management in France, was invited to lecture on the topic of “Efficient Time Management” in front of a group of fifteen executive managers representing the largest, most successful companies in America.
Standing in front of this group of elite managers he said, “We are going to conduct an experiment.” From under the table, the professor pulled out a big glass jar and gently placed it in front of him. Next, he pulled out from under the table a bag of stones, each the size of a tennis ball, and placed the stones one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar. Then the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” The managers replied, “Yes.”
The professor paused for a moment and replied, “Really?” Once again, he reached under the table and pulled out a bag full of pebbles. Carefully, the professor poured the pebbles in, and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones until they settled at the bottom. Again, the professor lifted his gaze to his audience and asked, “Is the jar full?”
At this point, the managers began to understand his intentions. One replied, “apparently not!” “Correct,” replied the old professor, now pulling out a bag of sand from under the table. Cautiously, the professor poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles.
Yet again, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” Without hesitation, the entire group of managers replied in unison, “NO!” “Correct,” replied the professor. And the professor reached for the pitcher of water that was on the table and poured water into the jar until it was absolutely full. The professor now lifted his gaze once again and asked, “What great truth can we deduce from this experiment?””
With his thoughts on the lecture topic, one manager quickly replied, “We learn that, as full as our schedules may appear, if we only increase our effort, it is always possible to add more meetings and tasks.”
“No,” replied the professor. “The great truth that we can conclude from this experiment is, if we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later. What are the large stones — the priorities — in your life? The important thing is to give priority in your schedule to these large stones.” If we give smaller things in life (the pebbles and sand), our lives will be filled up with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things in our lives that are most important to us. Once you identify the large stones in your life, be sure to put them first.
For a bishop or a priest, to put the large stones first in the glass can mean, very concretely, to begin the day with time for prayer and dialogue with God so that the activities and various commitments of the day do not end up taking up all our time. We are called to lead God’s people — they too must know that everything comes from God. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”
St. James Cathedral, Orlando