Archbishop Dolan on John Paul II's Example

Author: ZENIT


Archbishop Dolan on John Paul II's Example

Part 1

Milwaukee Prelate on What a Bishop Should Be

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, 6 DEC. 2004 (ZENIT)

Every bishop has a threefold calling to teach, govern and sanctify, but few fulfill that office as well as John Paul II.

So says Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who shared with ZENIT how the Pope's example and recent writings on the role of a bishop have influenced the American prelate's own service to the Church.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.

Q: How have the Holy Father's "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way," and his recent exhortation "Pastores Gregis" influenced your perspective on the role of the bishop?

Archbishop Dolan: They have influenced my perspective on the role of the bishop quite profoundly and in a number of ways.

First of all, both his beautiful book "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way" (Warner Books) and the postsynodal exhortation "Pastores Gregis" emphasize the tremendous need for sanctity and prayer in a bishop. In reading the Holy Father's reflections on his own episcopal ministry, one is amazed at all that he did.

But what is so clear is that before we bishops can do things, we have to be someone. We have to be united with Jesus the Good Shepherd. We have to be on the road to holiness. We have to be men of prayer. We have to be aware of our configuration to Jesus.

The only way we can be what we are called to be as bishops is through prayer and the sacraments.

The Holy Father is a man of intense prayer. "Pastores Gregis" emphasizes repeatedly the necessity for regular, deep, consistent prayer in the life of the bishop. The people need to see their bishop at prayer. Lord knows the Holy Father calls us to do many things; that's called ministry. But everything we do is only fruitful, is only effective, is only filled with meaning if it flows from who we are.

Men as bishops are configured at the core of our being to Jesus the Good Shepherd. And the only way to do that is through prayer, the Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, meditation on his Word, spiritual reading, retreats and days of recollection.

I always offer 8 a.m. Mass each Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Not too long ago, after that Mass, someone said to me, "Archbishop, I want to let you know something that you do that has influenced me and has had a good effect on me."

Well, I was expecting her to speak about me visiting someone in the hospital or being in the soup kitchen, or one of my sermons, or a project. To my complete surprise, she told me that what has most affected her is that she sees me praying my Divine Office in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the cathedral a half-hour before my Sunday morning Mass.

Now I didn't even think that this would have an impact on someone. But, it did.

For her to see me as a bishop taking my prayer seriously — for her to know that I recognize that I am no good unless I am completely reliant upon the grace and mercy of the Lord — that spoke volumes to her. That was evangelization. So that is the first thing the Pope has taught me in his recent work: I must be holy.

Secondly, I have learned from the Pope's writings the power of presence. The Pope knows that it is very important for people to see their bishop, to be with him. Priests know this is true in their pastoral ministry. Pastoral leaders know this, and bishops know this.

We are sort of Cal Ripkens — the great ballplayer on the Baltimore Orioles who simply showed up every game and broke a record because of his consistency. He was just there. Most of life is just showing up. And for a bishop, we need to show up. We need to be with our people. They need to see us, and the closer the better.

They need to see us at wakes, at hospitals, in the schools, at Mass, celebrating the sacraments and teaching.

Well, the Holy Father did this heroically as archbishop of Krakow. He does that heroically as Bishop of Rome and he is teaching us the power of presence.

I think the third message that I learned as a bishop both in "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way" and in "Pastores Gregis" was the necessity of being a real agent of evangelization for the culture.

You see, the Holy Father knew that he needed to be at the university. He needed to meet with intellectuals. He needed to be there with the poets, the scientists, the teachers. All those who have a role in forming minds, hearts and souls in society and in culture, they had to be evangelized. That taught me something as a bishop because I don't know how well I do that. I sometimes think I might leave that to others.

But we bishops must engage culture so that everybody that has a normative role in culture, whether that be the media, artists, scientists, teachers, politicians, business leaders, civic leaders, researchers — they all need the leaven of the Gospel. And the bishop has a profound duty to be with them, to bring that evangelizing message, that saving message of Jesus Christ and his Church, to the culture.

Q: How has John Paul II exemplified the multifaceted role of bishop both of Krakow and of Rome?

Archbishop Dolan: He's a good teacher. He taught in universities and he knows that a teacher influences more sometimes by what he does than by what he says. So, he has set a good example.

When I returned to Rome as rector of the North American College in 1994, I went out for a walk early one Sunday morning. All of a sudden I saw the police on the street corners, stopping the little traffic that there was.

I saw a motorcade coming, and I asked the policeman who it was. He said, "Oh, that's the Pope. He goes out to a parish in Rome every Sunday morning — at least those Sundays when he doesn't have a public Mass at St. Peter's — and he celebrates Mass with the parishioners."

He knows the power of presence. He did that in Krakow — his parish visitations, his being with the people. He exemplifies that.

The multifaceted role of a bishop, it is clear from "Pastores Gregis," would be a big part of the "munus": the obligation, the duty, the office of a bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify. The Pope has taught us that we need to teach with clarity, conviction and always with compassion, the timeless truths of Jesus and his Church.

Secondly, he has taught us the importance of governing. We must make sure that the dioceses are well governed, that there is sound stewardship in place, that we have trusted collaborators who can assist us in the charism of administration because the people look to us for prudent and stable leadership.

The third duty that the Pope has stressed is sanctification. People need to see us celebrating the sacraments — all of them.

The Holy Father mentions in "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way" how every year he would make sure that he celebrated all seven sacraments publicly. Well, we bishops usually are great at celebrating the Eucharist, at celebrating confirmation and in celebrating the sacrament of holy orders.

But we need to celebrate all seven. Our people need to see us baptizing, anointing the sick, witnessing marriages, hearing confessions. Celebrating all seven sacraments is part of our "munus" of sanctification. So, that triple "munus" — that multifaceted role of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify — I see in the example of Pope John Paul II both in Krakow and in Rome. ZE04120623

Part 2

On an Examination of Conscience for Bishops

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, 7 DEC. 2004 (ZENIT)

Archbishop Timothy Dolan has found that John Paul II's recent writings on the role of bishops can serve as an examination of conscience for those entrusted with shepherding Christ's flock.

Archbishop Dolan shared with ZENIT how the Pope's book, "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way" (Warner Books) and postsynodal exhortation "Pastores Gregis" have helped him evaluate how he is leading his own flock and challenged him to imitate John Paul II's example as a bishop.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.

Q: What most surprised you about the Holy Father's personal stories in the book?

Archbishop Dolan: Two things were remarkable to me.

First, the profound impact of Poland on him came home so vividly — not that I needed convincing. It has been said that Poland is a country where Catholicism is in the stones. The culture, society, history, art and literature are all steeped in the richness of Catholicism.

This is in every cell of Karol Jozef Wojtyla's body. He exudes that beautifully rich, devout, incarnational brand of Polish Catholicism that has captivated the world through him. So the first thing that stood out was how profoundly this man is a son of Poland and how deeply he loves his country and its culture.

The second thing that jumped out at me after reading the book was how comfortable he is with the laity — how many lay friends that he has, especially families and young people. He speaks very often about his priest friends, but what comes out particularly are the friends who have nurtured his life who are among the laity.

He loved his camping trips with young people, his conversations with students, the company of married couples and their families. He is very much at home with them all.

Again by his example, he embodies and promotes the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that a major duty of a priest — and, therefore, of a bishop — is to serve lay people, to know them and love them, so that they are able to carry out their role of evangelization in the world.

Q: What thoughts of the Pope's on modern matters seemed most significant to you?

Archbishop Dolan: Again, I would say his thoughts on the role of the laity. But also, his feelings on the horror of war, his worry about the decline of the practice of the faith in Europe; his powerful meditations on the Holy Land; his views on the necessity of collegiality and collaboration in the Church; his thoughts on Africa and Latin America.

Those are areas of profound insights that he had on challenging issues in the modern world that really attracted my attention.

Q: What can you take from John Paul II's experience as bishop to inform your own service to the Church?

Archbishop Dolan: A number of things. First of all, that I have to be a man on fire with love for Jesus Christ. I have to be a man at peace with myself and with my mission and vocation as a bishop; a man who has some very practical pastoral goals in mind that never leave my attention; a man who is not afraid, who firmly believes that Jesus is in charge of my life and that his grace is sufficient.

I need not be afraid about "casting out to the deep" and calling my people to sanctity, to heroic virtue and to perfection. The Holy Father tells us that this is what he did in Krakow; that it is what he has done as bishop of Rome and bishop of the Church universal. I, too, need to learn about that.

Secondly, his experience as a bishop teaches me that I must be very close to my priests. John Paul II loves his priests. He loved his priests when he was archbishop of Krakow, he loves his priests now as successor of St. Peter.

I need to do a better job of reaching out to my priests, of listening to them, of being with them, of praying with them, of encouraging them, and yes, of challenging them and correcting them when that is necessary.

A very beautiful model of a bishop that I think John Paul II exemplifies is that a bishop should be to his priests what a pastor is to his people.

We should be a priest for priests — we should be a pastor of priests. That is the second lesson that I took from both the Holy Father's book, from his exhortation "Pastores Gregis" and from his model.

Thirdly, I learned again the importance of the Eucharist, an insight appropriate during this Year of the Eucharist.

The most important part of the Pope's day is his celebration of the Eucharist. Everything flows from that, and he returns to be with our Lord really and truly present in the Eucharist throughout the day. The Eucharist is the heart of the day, not just part of the day, as an old saying goes.

For me to be with my priests and people with the Eucharist, and for me personally to be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, that says it all.

And, finally, I think that these documents — both his masterful personal reflections and the postsynodal exhortation — serve as a real examination of conscience for me.

I have to admit that when I see all that he has accomplished and all the duties that "Pastores Gregis" puts upon the shoulders of bishops, I feel a certain amount of frustration, trepidation and, yes, anxiety. When I read it, I think, "My Lord, who am I to live up to all of this?"

But we never give up trying. We keep this as a noble goal. We keep it before us always and we examine ourselves to see if we are indeed a good shepherd for God's people.

We are never going to be able to do it all. We are never going to be able to follow the example of Jesus completely. We are never even going to be able to follow the example of the Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II, completely. But we must never give up trying.

We are constantly refining and renewing our approach to being a successor of the apostles. The Pope gives us so much; that's good, because he is calling forth what is best in us. There is no wavering, no dilution here. He is holding up the ideal and he is calling us to it.

This examination of conscience is something that we all need. As our Holy Father often says, "Love for Jesus and his Church must be the passion of your lives." ZE04120723

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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