Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Bishop As Teacher

A few weeks ago we had a pleasant surprise.  I knew about it in advance but only a handful of our people knew.  The “secrecy” was at the request of the Bishop.  He was our surprise visitor and he did not want to be a distraction from the normal Sunday routine.  It was Divine Mercy Sunday and that commanded our attention.  It is, however, impossible to look the other way when the Bishop comes to visit.

So, what is it about, this “apostolic man” that commands so much attention?  Some would claim that it is an ordinary charism, a sort of administrative excellence that has called him to a position of higher authority.  But it has to be more than that.  Charisms are not ordinary.  By nature they are among the spiritual gifts and unusual. 

While the Bishop is called to a life of administering the temporal affairs of a diocese there are spiritual duties that benefit the whole Church.  First, the Bishop is a teacher.  We might imagine that this involves a chalk board and a lecture hall.  In fact it is not merely the employment of modern teaching tools that makes a Bishop a teacher (even though the Bishop has an excellent blog.)  The goal includes more than this.  It is also directed at protecting the faith.  He is to guard the purity of Catholic doctrine.  Since every Bishop has this task it is the voice of the Holy Father, the Pope that keeps the common voice clear.  As well, the Bishop has the awesome task of teaching this faith to every member of the Diocese.  Obviously, this is something that is delegated, but not completely.
In exercising their duty of teaching-which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops-they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness. (Christus Dominus, Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops, 2,12)
The Bishop is to guard the morals of those placed in his charge.  This means that he is to see that the people live a disciplined, orderly life and that they celebrate the sacraments properly.  We look to the Bishop, his cathedral church, to see how we are to live.  As well, the Bishop is to live in his diocese and to visit the parishes regularly.

The peace of the Diocese is greatly dependent on the teaching skill of the Bishop.  How wonderful it is to see the fruit of his work.
"Wheresoever, the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."  Ignatius of Antioch, From the Letter to the Church at Smyrna.

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