May 8, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Like St. Theodora and Bishop Bruté, let’s live our faith courageously

After a truly impressive celebration of our 175th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Indiana last Sunday, gratefully our thoughts turn to the future.

When I think about the challenges we face in carrying forward the mission of Christ in our local Church, I think often about our holy founders. It seems to me they epitomized the missionary teaching of Jesus.

One of many striking features about the life of Mother Theodora Guérin is the courage of her faith.

She put her life on the line for what she believed. She didn’t have to risk her life crossing the stormy Atlantic Ocean several times on ships that were minimally seaworthy. She admitted that she was petrified all the while on ship.

Nor, at the time, did she have to establish her community in the woods of primitive western Indiana. She did not have the money and teachers to establish schools for the poor, but she started them with conviction and prayer. She truly embodied the beatitude: Blessed are you who are poor, you who are weeping and you who are hungry.

Mother Theodore risked much. She compensated for what she lacked with hard work and prayer even while in very poor health. We and countless others are the beneficiaries of her courageous faith and action.

The Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté had been offered the position of physician of the French imperial court by Napoleon. He turned it down. Later, as a new priest, he was offered the position of court chaplain by Napoleon.

Instead, Father Bruté chose to become a missionary in the new world. He could have lived a life of material comfort, but he chose rigorous missionary life in the most difficult circumstances. He, too, exemplifies the beatitude: Blessed are you who are poor.

He also did so in poor health. It is likely that he already suffered from tuberculosis when he sailed down the Ohio River to take up his mission as bishop of the new Diocese of Vincennes.

Under his leadership, the Catholic Church in Indiana took root. He had not wanted to become a bishop. Yet, we and countless others are the beneficiaries of his courageous faith and humble obedience.

It is important for all of us to accept our respective roles to contribute to the leadership in our faith communities, and to reflect on the fact that the vast majority of us Catholics enjoy worship and the availability of the sacraments, religious education and other aspects of parish life in facilities we did not pay for.

Even if at present we happen to be members of a new or expanding parish and have contributed to the Legacy for

Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future campaign, we were probably reared in a parish where the facilities and services were handed down from past generations.

We enjoy the fruit of the blood, sweat, tears and money of past generations; we have a responsibility to hand on to future generations the fruit of our generosity. In doing so, we acknowledge that everything comes from the hand of God and belongs to him.

St. Theodora Guérin and Bishop Simon Bruté risked their lives so that the mission of Christ’s Church could take root and eventually flourish in our archdiocese. Our courageous pioneers of faith knew very well that the Church and her mission live in the real world. We can do no less.

The circumstances of our day make our ministries difficult to maintain, to foster and to develop with the faith and vision of our holy founders.

We have many advantages and blessings which they never had or could even envision. But with these advances have come contemporary forms of poverty. We do well to pray to our founding patrons, asking them to help us be courageous in faith as they were—and to work hard for the benefit of our children and generations to come.

If we truly place our confidence in Christ our hope, we can be the faithful who proclaim the Gospel of Christ for our times and for the future. We can especially offer the compassion of Christ, and welcome others to experience authentic charity in our communities of faith.

We have a pattern that we can follow in pursuing our part in the mission of our local Church. I suggest that we look to our founders for guidance.

St. Theodora and Bishop Bruté could never have known how the seeds of faith they planted would take root and prosper through the years. I suspect they didn’t think in those terms.

They proclaimed their faith and lived with hope in Christ, and reached out as best they could in charity to those in need, leaving to Divine Providence the fruit of their ministry.

We can do that. †

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