July 7: Bring On Apostolic Courage! (14 C)

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:1-12, 17-20.

Many of our fellow citizens are returning today from the July 4 holiday. So there are a more significant number of automobiles on the roads. And there are long lines of passengers passing through S.F.O., and airports across the country.

Luke’s Gospel is, in part, a travel narrative. Jesus is traveling with his disciples from his region on the Lake of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem. The location of the Temple, and the seat of religious learning and power for Jews.

On this journey, Jesus tells many stories or parables but also faces opposition, and despite the doors closed to him, bravely, Jesus calls together his band of 72 disciples.

In the Bible, numbers are most revealing, and in this instance, the number 72 came to represent all the tribes of nations. In choosing these seventy-two disciples and pairing them in groups of two, Luke forwards the ideas that Jesus’s mission is for Israel and the whole world.

Two weeks ago, I was on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. Otherwise known as the “Fightin’ Irish!” Well, you know the place.

The University of Notre Dame has a deep resonance within the Catholic culture of our country. I was there attending a conference on preaching sponsored by the university’s Theology Department.

While the campus and its buildings are impressive, so much more is the 10 AM Sunday Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I’m happy to report the Church was filled with students, visitors, and with many youngsters and their coaches for a national lacrosse camp. This particular Sunday Mass was on the highest level of worship, with excellent music, good preaching, and heartfelt community expression. It’s worth a visit, even when you cannot get tickets to a football game!

For me, one small item stood out most. As I was exiting the Church, I took a quick look at the printed handouts at the back of the Church. There I picked up the church bulletin, a few pamphlets, and this impressive poster.

The poster contains 63 individual portraits of the 2018-2019 Holy Cross Men in Formation presently in the Moreau Seminary as well as the photos of the Notre Dame undergraduates who are considering a vocation to the Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers in what they term their “Old Collegian” program.

Looking at the photos of these young men and reading their short biographies, so reminded me of my days in the seminary, fifty years ago. There appears to be the sort of unit cohesion I remember from my days in the seminary and quite frankly missing in the diocesan priesthood today.

With the shortage of vocations today to priestly and religious life, believe me, if there were an N.F.L. style-draft, each of these 63 guys would have a signing bonus worth millions!

Getting accepted into the University of Notre Dame is daunting. To think that these candidates for the priesthood would come from the ranks of such highly selective and motivated students tells you that the Congregation of the Holy Cross must be doing something right!

Of course, deep within the spiritual and religious heritage of the Holy Cross order of priests and brothers were people like Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C, and Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. Again back to the Gospel, these two men, both Hesburgh and Payton, were ordained on June 15, 1941, in the same ceremony at the Notre Dame Basilica.

Hesburgh’s long tenure as president of the university made him a national figure; this included his service to the Church along with his appointment to the United States Civil Rights Commission during the most conflicted days of the 1960s.

Father Patrick Peyton led a national prayer crusade with the slogan: “The Family that prays together, stays together” that still resonates with our own needs.

Interestingly, both men are the subjects of two very recent documentary films, which can be seen either in theaters or online.

Patrick Creadon’s “Hesburgh” recounts Father Ted’s very public and even political ministry for the sake of a just society. Of course, the film benefits from the Nixon tapes where President Nixon talks to his White House staff on how to rid himself of the meddlesome priest, who Nixon had appointed to the Civil Rights Commission.

Produced by the Family Theater Productions, the new documentary “Pray, The Story of Father Patrick Peyton” details Peyton’s passage from his boyhood in Ireland to the United States, and how Peyton’s religious imagination and family prayer of the rosary attracted thousands to his cause. Seeing the newsreels footage and photographs of Father Peyton while on his worldwide crusade compares with Billy Graham’s evangelical efforts and offers an insight into the American Catholic Church during the Cold War.

Together both Hesburgh and Peyton had influential moral voices that at times uplifted and even challenged our Church and country.

How about today? Who are the Church leaders who rally us to social action and justice? Not so much?

To my mind, I ask myself who today speaks with a degree of clarity and moral courage? I believe Pope Francis does, but I may be in the minority if you listen to the pope’s critics.

Like the gospel account of Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, some of the doors were shut closed to him; nonetheless, his 72 disciples continued the journey often in the most difficult of circumstances, and in distant places.

Here these followers of Christ were both witnesses as well as martyrs. Indeed, this is what Pope Francis calls “apostolic courage.”

So much of what I think about ministry today includes the vital work of women and youth ministers and those who are not formally considered clergy. If the numbers continue on the decline, this urgency alone will demand answers to the genuine pastoral needs of our parishes and apostolates.

So bring on this era in which all those in ministry – women, and men celebrate the inner priest that is in all of us, those witnesses to the Gospel who inspire us.

This year the Congregation of the Holy Cross ordained five new priests, among them, is twenty-nine-year-old Father Karl Romkema, C.S.C.

Of his calling to the priesthood, Father Karl writes:

“I began feeling called to the priesthood when I was just six years old. At first, I was afraid of these feelings because I felt I was too shy to be a priest. But my Mom always gave me the following advice: ‘If God is calling you to something, He will also give you the grace to fulfill that call.'”

Karl concludes: “This has proven so true in my life! God has given me so much grace throughout my life, and He has helped me overcome so many fears. Sometimes we have to take a risk and humbly trust in God’s providence.”

Yes, it’s a time for apostolic courage, a time to take risks for Christ. Let us trust in God’s good grace that we will forward spiritual leaders worthy of the tasks of mission and ministry.

Saint Vincent’s School for Boys, San Rafael, CA.

Here’s the preview of the film documentary “Hesburgh.”


Here’s is the preview of the film documentary “Pray, the Story of Father Patrick Peyton.”

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