His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma speaks to his people of Divine Intimacy, the holiness of the clergy, Eucharistic adoration, the maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his plans for a Cenacle of Eucharistic Adoration for priests. Emphases in boldface are my own. The full article can be found in the June 8, 2008 edition of Eastern Oklahoma Catholic.
Assessments arent audits
As a living organism, the Diocese must be assessed not at the level of measurable material things, but at the level of spiritual health, that is, the level of our ever growing intimacy with Jesus Christ. Since the spiritual life is based on love, not to advance in this dynamic relationship with God in Christ is to retreat. One either grows in Divine intimacy or retreats from it; but the spiritual life is never static. Let me stress then that when we study the various homilies, talks and addresses of the Holy Father, we do so in order to better comprehend the vibrant, evangelical vision he proposes for the Church in America. We want to understand his vision so thoroughly that we will see it with our own eyes, hear it with our own ears and feel it beat - pulse for pulse - within our own Oklahoma heart. Then, with that deep understanding we hope to achieve, we will be able to look at our situation here and assess more honestly and more humbly the life of the Church in Eastern Oklahoma according to the popes universal vision.
Not measuring things but gauging the depth of our faith
In effect, I want you to understand that I am not proposing an evaluation of our programs, but of our vision. We are not looking to assess how effectively our programs work, but how well they reflect the Gospel we preach. We are not measuring things but gauging the depth of our faith in God and our trust in His Providence. And with that, let me introduce an idea, which is evidently a strongly felt part of the popes vision, but oddly enough, a part which he did not communicate to us personally while he was in Washington and New York. Instead the pontiff expressed his desires several months prior to his trip through the Congregation for the Clergy in a circular letter from the Prefect of that Congregation, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes. That idea, briefly put, is this: Since there is an undeniable link between - on the one hand - the holiness of our clergy, the effectiveness of their pastoral ministry and the depth of their personal commitment and on the other hand - the centrality of prayer and Eucharistic adoration in their lives, then of all the things which are necessary for the good of the Church, nothing can be considered more important, more necessary or more vital than helping our priests and deacons grow in Divine intimacy.
The holiness of priests and deacons
The holiness to which Jesus calls his priests and deaconsflows from their configuration to Christ the Priest and Christ the Servant as our Lord stands before the Father in the Kingdom of Heaven. All the baptized, including the priest and the deacon are united to Christ; but each priest and each deacon - by virtue of his ordination- is configured to Christ the High Priest or to Christ, the suffering Servant; but in either case, by their ordination these men become in a sacramental sense the ministers of Christs self-giving love. Thus, their growth in holiness depends upon their exercise of that ministry into which they were ordained. This is why, after their ordination, priests and deacons step to the altar of sacrifice and kiss it. They embrace a life of sacrifice which opens them up and makes them vulnerable to their Masters redeeming love and allows His Eucharistic love to flow through them to sanctify the communities they serve. As Pope Benedict said The secret of (priestly) holiness lies precisely in the Eucharist. The priest must be first and foremost an adorer who contemplates the Eucharist.(Sept. 18, 2005) In order to emphasize the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the holiness of the ordained, while at the same time exploring the special maternity of Our Blessed Lady, Cardinal Hummes asked that Eucharistic adoration be fostered in every parish and Catholic institution, with priests, chaplains and directors encouraged to strengthen the practice of adoration where it is already firmly established and introduce this devotion in places where it has not been known or where it has been allowed to disappear.
Eucharistic adoration in the Diocese
Cardinal Hummes would be pleased to know that the kind of Eucharistic renewal he envisions has been quietly but steadily growing in our Diocese. Already eight parishes (plus St. John Hospital a ninth site!) offer continuous (daily or even24-hour) adoration, and a further 32 offer weekly periods of adoration. In fact, fully 72 out of our 78 parishes and missions have some form of Eucharistic Adoration during the course of the year! Given the great variety of parish life in eastern Oklahoma, you can well imagine that this Adoration assumes a variety of different forms depending on whether a parish is large or small, located in a city or rural area, or whether the parish population is predominantly elderly or enjoys a mixture of young and old. But among these different forms we could include all-night adoration leading into First Fridays, our diocesan Holy Hour of Adoration in Reparation each Friday night, adoration between Masses on Sundays or immediately following morning Mass on one or more days during the week. Several parishes foster periods of special Adoration for school children, CCD students or young adults, and 21 parishes encourage Eucharistic Adoration on Corpus Christi with special devotions and processions.
Three specific suggestions
All of this is in a collective effort to enhance the prayer life of the Church, but the letter from the Vaticans Congregation for the Clergy made several specific recommendations:
1. Cardinal Hummes asked that wherever possible, specific churches or oratories be set aside by the Bishop to serve the diocese as Eucharistic shrines, similar to Marian shrines. In these shrines of adoration, the Churchs special love for the Holy Eucharist, worthily celebrated and continuously adored, can be fostered and nourished until the light of Our Eucharistic Lord transfigures the whole Diocese. I have already decided to do this, but have prayed much that Our Lord direct me to the best location of our first such Eucharistic Cenacle of Prayer.
2. A second recommendation made by Cardinal Hummes was that in each Diocese a priest be appointed to the specific priestly ministry of promoting Eucharistic adoration. In some ways, the ministry of this priest-servant of the Eucharist would be to coordinate this important movement throughout the Diocese; but his ministry would be much more than simply coordination and management. Dedicating himself generously to making Our Eucharistic Lord better known and more loved, this priest would live a life of personal reparation and sacrifice offered for the holiness of the clergy. I am taking Cardinal Hummes recommendation very seriously; but I think that in this Diocese, it would be very beneficial to add to this priests ministry of sacrifice, a further responsibility, that of serving as spiritual director and confessor to our priests and deacons.
3. The final recommendation made by the Congregation for the Clergy is designed to make more obvious the intrinsic connection between Eucharistic Adoration and the sanctification of our priests and deacons by encouraging generous lay women to consecrate themselves to a life of spiritual motherhood of our clergy. Cardinal Hummes explained the idea of spiritual motherhood as a help to priests in their own self-offering, prayer and penance and specifically said that this could be done following the example of Our Lady, who gave to her Son the very flesh He would give us in the Sacrament and whose initial fiat led her to stand in silent acceptance of the Fathers will on Calvary.
In our next conversation here in the EOC, I will present more completely my plans for our first Eucharistic Cenacle of Prayer and will introduce to you the priest whom I have asked to come and help us in this vital mission. But until then, I would like to encourage your reaction to this initiative. Let me know your thoughts on ideas about adoration and reparation. And I would very much like to hear the initial reaction of the faithful women of the Diocese to the idea of spiritually adopting priests and offering sacrifices and prayers for them. Write me your thoughts at P.O. Box 690240,Tulsa, OK 74169-0240. And let me close by sharing with you, one of my favorite prayers: Receive, Oh Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You, Oh Lord, have given me. I give it all back to You and commit it wholly to be governed by Your will. Your love and Your grace give to me and I am rich enough and need ask for nothing more. - St. Ignatius Loyola