Thursday, October 27, 2011

"The throne of grace"

Found this during my travels in the 'net ...
"When we come to pray to the heavenly father, we are not shouting across a great gulf. We are not trying to catch the attention of someone who has little or no concern for us... We are coming to 'the throne of grace' ... and we may and must come boldly and confidently. This isn't arrogance. Indeed, if we understand who Jesus is, what he's done and what he's still doing on our behalf, the real arrogance would be to refuse to accept his offer of standing before the father on our behalf, to imagine that we had to bypass him and try to do it all ourselves. What is on offer, for those who come to God through Jesus, is 'mercy and grace': mercy to set us free from the sin and folly in which we would otherwise sink completely; grace, to strengthen us and set us on our feet for our own lives of service and witness."

From Tom Wright, Hebrews for Everyone (London: SPCK, 2003), p. 45

Monday, October 24, 2011

On Celibacy - 1

I was interviewed recently on a local radio station here in Indianapolis.  During the course of the interview I had a few minutes to talk about the discipline (or practice) of celibacy in a priest’s life. Over the past week or so many people have expressed their delight to hear someone speak about celibacy in such a positive way. Frankly, I hadn't thought about my interview comments in that way. I just more or less spoke from my understanding and lived experience of celibacy as man, a seminarian, and ordained minister for over 35 years. (I say for over 35 years even though I've only been ordained for 26 years (counting diaconate) because celibacy is obviously not something you start with the reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Men in the seminary are expected to be celibate. Men who make an application for admission to the seminary are expected to have lived a celibate life for a time before they enter the seminary. When I was on the admissions board at St. John Seminary, we would never have accepted someone who had been part of a non-celibate relationship say within a year or two. We would encourage him to give himself a bit more time before applying. The same was true for me in terms of being celibate before I entered the seminary. So, my life as a celibate really predated my entrance into the seminary.)

Since entering the seminary, I have striven to live faithfully a celibate lifestyle. No need for details or personal witnessing at this moment since that is not the point of this blog post or the ones to follow. What I hope to offer is less about my personal witness to celibacy and more about my understanding of celibacy. I know the two are deeply connected and one obviously serves the other. My life hopefully reflects my promise and my understanding hopefully informs my life. But what I do hope to do is to open up a positive understanding of celibacy, the gift of sexuality, and marital life from my intellectual and lived experience as a celibate servant of the Church.

The starting point for me originates in an understanding of who I am. Before anything else is said or written in this discussion, first and foremost I am a created, loved, child of God. I was created by God to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world and so come to know Him perfectly in the next. In knowing God through His free and generous disclosure of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, I have come to know God's love. I know His love through my parents, I know his love through my family, I know his love through my friends and colleagues, and I know his love through the Church. I know that God loves me whole and entire not because of anything I have done but because it is simply of God's very nature to love. 

Since God loves me whole and entire as I am, He knows me as I am completely. God's love is not identified with any particular aspect of my life but with 'the all' of who I am. The fact that I am a man is only one part of my life. The particular talents and gifts are only one part of my life. God does not see me as tall or smart or athletic but as myself, whole and entire. At the same time, God does not see me in terms of any brokenness caused by my sinful choices. While there are times when I sin, sin is not who I am. I am not, Bishop Coyne, the sinner or the liar or the gossip or whatever. God sees more than that dimension or part of me 

The same is true for the gift of sexuality that God has given me. In God's eyes, I am not gay or straight or if I was female, lesbian or straight, or in some cases transgender or bisexual or any of the categories that we employ as humans. In God's eye, I am first his child who is a man, who has gifts that He has given me (including the gift of sexuality) to be used in the way He intended and willed in the creation of man and woman. So - and this is a very important point in my understanding of celibacy - I do not identify myself according to my sexuality nor do I live or understand myself in sexual terms. Instead, once again, I understand myself as a created and beloved child of God for whom sexuality is part of me but does not define me.

Sadly, we live in a culture driven by the sexual definition and understanding of the human person as the primary one. The starting point for most people is the sexual label: "I'm gay, I'm straight, I'm lesbian, I'm bi, I'm transgender, etc." The starting point for most cultural interaction is sexual - just watch TV or open a magazine or a newspaper or listen to the radio for any length of time. The choice of celibacy and indeed of Christian chastity is to say "no" to this. It is to place the human person in right relationship to God and in right relationship to others. So my choice of celibacy, as well as the Christian life of chastity is not a negative renouncement of sexuality but a positive understanding and experience of the gift offered lovingly by the Creator.

(More to follow)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Time of Transition: from Archbishop to Apostolic Administrator

I haven't had a chance to post on this blog some words concerning the retirement of Archbishop Daniel Buechlein as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  As some of you are aware, I do post almost every day to my FaceBook and Twitter accounts and I did have the opportunity to do so there.  Still, a few, more substantial words may be in line here.

When I was first asked to come to Indianapolis in December of last year, it was to assist Archbishop Daniel in his final years of episcopal service as chief shepherd of the archdiocese.  I was basically going to be spending a lot of time on the road, most especially visiting the parishes and schools outside of the city.  But God had a different plan.  I was ordained a bishop on March 2 and on March 19, Archbishop Daniel suffered a stroke.  At the time, his doctors were optimistic that he would recover and be able to return to public ministry.  He had done so before in his recoveries from cancer, a stomach tumor, and shoulder replacement surgery.  Unfortunately, while the archbishop was able to recover from the immediate effects of the stroke, the accumulation of all the treatments, operations and procedures that he had undergone over the pat few years finally caught up with him.  After months of physical therapy, Archbishop Daniel realized that he could no longer fulfill the office of archbishop and asked the Holy Father to grant him early retirement.  Pope Benedict XVI granted his request on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, accepting his resignation as archbishop and naming me Apostolic Administrator.

At the press conference on the day of his retirement, Archbishop Daniel spoke movingly of his time as archbishop and his decision to ask for early retirement.  Many in attendance that day expressed great fondness for him and gratitude for all that he had done for the people of Indiana.  I was able to offer my own thoughts and words on his retirement as well.  In keeping with his early call to become a Benedictine monk, the archbishop will be returning to St. Meinrad Archabbey to take up his monastic vows of poverty and stability once again.  We all, I'm sure, wish him a happy and holy, well earned retirement.  "Ad multos annos."

As for me, things are pretty much they way they have been since March 19, just with a title.  As Apostolic Administrator I am to see to the good order of the archdiocese until the next archbishop is named.  As such, I am trying to prepare the way for the next man while not starting - in as much as it is possible - anything that he will inherit as a new endeavor.  As I said at the press conference, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is in phenomenal shape.  Yes, we do have some issues that need to be attended to - shifts in demographics that are requiring the movement of parish resources and/or the consolidation of parishes and schools, an aging presbyterate, the need for more Spanish-speaking clergy and church ministers and greater attention to multi-cultural ministries, and the fact that we have not really been attentive to the call to the "new evangelization" to name a few - but our financial, pastoral, and spiritual foundation is very solid.  This is all due to the great leadership of Archbishop Daniel and the full, active, and participatory faith of the Catholic people here in central and southern Indiana.  I tell you, if I was the next archbishop coming to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, I would be mighty pleased with all of this.

The people, religious, and clergy of the archdiocese are all praying for our new archbishop, whoever he may be.  We pray, as always for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI and for all of his works and efforts on behalf of the universal Church.  May God bless us all with his love and mercy.
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