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A time for Thanksgiving

 

We have entered the Lenten season now, and I want to draw your attention to something we no longer do.

In the 1960s most theologians believed in the traditional Thanksgiving after Mass.  They did so on the assumption that bread was still bread and wine was still wine until digestion was completed.  The substance of Jesus was still there then until the form of bread and the form of wine was gone.

Today I suspect most theologians still believe in the traditional Thanksgiving after Mass.  But they do not share the assumption of their earlier brothers.  For them the reception of the Eucharist is a spiritual thing mediated by physical realities.  The substantial Christ remains with the believer, therefore, long after the physical realities of bread and wine are gone.

But look at what happens after a normal Sunday Mass.  The celebrant sits a very short time after communion.  The final prayer follows, and the final blessing.  He and the servers process out, and the people file out to greet him and one another.  It is a festival of fraternity, and hand-shaking, and back-slapping, and coffee drinking, and non-stop talking.

But, whether you agree with the old theologians or the new theologians, what happened to the Divine Guest we have just received?  Is he not still with us?  Does not what we now do drown the Guest in a sea of distraction?  Do we not prefer human conversation to the more difficult Divine Conversation?
The German theologian, Karl Rahner, once related a boyhood memory of a priest who sent two servers with lighted candles to follow a man who left the church right after Communion.  It is a scene to remember and to think about.

How can we recover some of that?  Perhaps through a longer silence after Communion, though it will be uncomfortable at first.  Perhaps through a recommended time of Thanksgiving with the church doors closed.  Perhaps through sending those who want to talk to a separate place, the cafeteria, for example.

Rahner’s image is something to remember and to think about.

+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City

With deep gratitude


I write this on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  A Church in Pittsburg, KS took that name to itself many years ago.  And that parish was the spiritual home in which I grew up.

St. Mary’s, as it is known locally, was where I learned to serve the 6:30 Mass riding my bike from our south side home.  St. Mary’s was where the school Mass each day was a Requiem High Mass, complete with catafalque.  St. Mary’s was filled by a larger-than-life pastor with ties to our Diocese, Monsignor Alex Stremel.

St. Mary’s was the place then peopled by good and holy priests, and by the devoted Sisters of St. Joseph.

St. Mary’s was the place where my vocation to the priesthood first opened its eyes in Sr. Justin’s fourth grade classroom.  St. Mary’s was the place where that vocation was confirmed years later in Sr. Justina’s history classroom during my sophomore year in high school.

Father Bob Kocour, Father Mike Blackledge, Sister Cleophas, Sister Paula, Bob Fleming, Jim Schirk, Chuck Clugston, Herb Krumsick, A.J. Wachter:  St. Mary’s was the place that helped to make all of these, and me too.

Pilgrims to Lourdes bathe in the holy waters.  This pilgrimage in my mind leads me to bathe in these inspiring waters of memory.  I bathe with deep gratitude.

+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City

'Lord, help us heal our wounds'

The week from 18 January to 25 January was devoted to Prayer for Christian Unity.  It is such an old practice now that it often becomes mindless, heartless, routine.  Perhaps a line from Shakespeare can tug us out of that rut.  Romeo said he jests at scars that never felt a wound (Act 2, Scene 2).  Think on that a while.
We have grown comfortable in overlooking the scars.  We miss the scandalous scar of the separation of the one Church, of the one Body he left us.  We miss the scandalous scar of the multiplicity of Christ’s.  We miss the scandalous scar of not wanting to know the truth of Jesus of Nazareth.  We look and look and look, and see none of these.  We are comfortable in our overlooking -- at home, at ease.
We have forgotten to feel the wounds.  We have forgotten to feel the wound to the Jesus who prayed that all might be one in him.  We have forgotten to feel the wound of the seamless garment ripped apart, a sleeve here, a cuff there, a cuff there, a sleeve there.  We have forgotten to feel the net with 153 fish that has been torn apart.  We look and look and look, and see none of these.  We are comfortable in our overlooking -- at home, at ease.
But the real Christian instinct is to bleed from the wounds and to regret the scars our sins have helped to cause.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem because she would not let him gather her under his wings.  Can we not weep over our fractured and scattered Church of Christ?  Can we not again feel the wounds?  Can we not again keen over the sinful scars?
Our ancestors have much to answer for historically.  We have much to answer for psychologically and spiritually.  Lord, help us feel our wounds, and stop our jesting.

+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City

'It is all about receptivity to his Word'

It might be helpful to mine our rich Catholic tradition about Lectio Divina as we move toward Lent and the new Word-Working season.  One aspect of that tradition was more personal than what we normally do in our Word-Working.  We do more a sharing of the heart, as the St. Joseph Sisters used to say.  The older form is more a listening of the heart.
Guigo II, a Carthusian monk who died in 1137, gave the old tradition its definitive formulation.  He wrote of the Lectio moment (the Reading moment), and of the Meditatio moment (the Meditation moment), and of the Oratio moment (the Oration or Prayer moment) and the Contemplatio moment (the Contemplation moment).  In the years since, the Church has made his structuring her very own.
Lectio is a reading of the text with the listening ear of the heart.  It is the most important step in the process: for God starts all prayer.  He is always the first Word.  Our reading should be a reverent and a slow one with one question in mind:  What does this text say?
Meditatio is a reflection on that question by asking What does this text say to me?  The text should be a mirror in which we see some of our experiences, some of our challenges, some of our thoughts, and some of our questions.  We should reflect in silence, allowing the text to resound in us, slowly chewing this holy food, as Guigo wrote, savoring it, digesting it, and absorbing it in our whole being.
Oratio is a praying in response to God’s Word.  It asks a third question: What do I want to say to God after this reading and reflecting on this text?  This practice is, after all, a dialogue with God.  You can do this in writing if that is a more comfortable way for you.
Contemplatio is a quiet resting in God.  Whereas Oratio is a word-filled prayer,  Contemplatio is a mostly wordless silence, a prayer of few words, at least.  It is the most essential thing in Lectio Divina: it allows God who must have the first Word in prayer to have this last Word as well.  It is all about receptivity to his Word.  What happens here is not really up to us.
It is not a question of choosing Lectio Divina over Word-Working.  It is a question of using it as preparation for Word-Working’s sharing of the heart.  The one completes the other.

+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City

'Take up your pen'

My Dear People,

We read just before Christmas that familiar story of St. Joseph: his problem, his decision, and his dream that turned his world upside down.
Scholars remain perplexed by St. Luke’s text.  They find it next to impossible to know what really happened.  May I suggest one possible way of looking at it?
It may well be that Joseph was tapping into his unconscious, that border-place where God and man meet.  He was in the twilight state between sleeping and waking: that state in which the deep fears, and the deep hopes, and the deep feelings jostle and jockey for position.
It was there that the Angel approached him, touched him, and told him what to do about Mary.  His admirable response was instant obedience: no more dilemma, no more decision, just prompt obedience.
May I suggest a way of re-living the Joseph experience in this Christmas season?  Get up an hour early, and go immediately go to the liturgical readings of the day.  Read them slowly, once, twice, a third time.  Do not struggle to decipher their meaning, just absorb the words.  You are in the twilight state between sleeping and waking.  Let the words you read sink into that creative swirl.  Let them rest there a while, and a while-and-a-half.
Then take up your pen and begin to write about the first reading.  Write whatever comes into your mind.  Write quickly.  Write automatically.  Do the words trouble you?  Write it down.  Do the words charm you?  Write it down.  Do the words inspire you?  Write it down.  Write it all down.
Then take up your pen and begin to write about the Gospel.  Write whatever your unconscious gives you.  Write whatever comes into your mind.  Can you see the Gospel scene?  Write it down.  Can you hear the Gospel word?  Write it down.  Does the Gospel touch off fears, and wonders, and hopes?  Write them all down without thinking.
Do you not see that you are doing what Joseph did?  You are allowing the sleeping unconscious to emerge in your waking life.  You are inviting the Angel to approach you, to touch you, and to tell you what to do.  We can refuse to do what we are told, we can sin, of course.  But the only real answer is Joseph’s answer: instant obedience.
Repeat this exercise on each day of the Christmas season, and you will find your prayer life recharged and rejuvenated.  May Joseph the Dreamer fill your twilight time, and call down the Angel to touch you.

+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City

Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop Emeritus
Ronald M. Gilmore

Ordained & Installed
Bishop of Dodge City
July 16, 1998

 

Diocese of Dodge City


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