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Called to holiness... as a bishop

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

May 17, 2017

As I offer these thoughts about my personal response to the universal call to holiness as a bishop, I begin by Bishop LaValleyrecalling that the bishop is above all else, like every other Christian, a child of God and member of the Church. 

All the faithful of Christ, regardless of status, are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. 

The Bishops at Vatican Council II taught: “…in the various types and duties of life, one and the same holiness is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father, worshiping   God the Father in spirit and in truth” (LG, 41). 

One of the early Church Fathers, St.Gregory of Nazianzen, so eloquently made the connection between personal holiness and episcopal ministry: “First be purified, and then purify others, first allow yourself to be instructed by wisdom, and then instruct others, first become light, and then enlighten others, first draw close to God, and then guide others to him, first be holy yourself, and then make others holy.”

I simply cannot give what I do not possess.  I must practice what I preach.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Gregis (2003), St. John Paul II wrote: “Together with all the faithful, the bishop shares in the incomparable dignity of the children of God, a dignity to be lived out in communion and in a spirit of gratitude and fraternity.  On the other hand, by virtue of the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the bishop is also the one who, before the faithful, is teacher, sanctifier and shepherd, charged with acting in the name and in the person of Christ.” (#10)

As your bishop, it is impossible for me to be your servant unless I am first a servant of God.

My spiritual journey, like that of every Christian, is rooted in the sacramental grace of Baptism and Confirmation.  I share this grace in common with all the faithful. 

As St. Augustine once wrote to his people: “…for you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian.” 

With you, I need to nourish my spiritual life with the living and effective word of the Gospel.  I remember well my episcopal ordination liturgy when the deacons placed the open Book of the Gospels on top of my head, a sign of my responsibility to be a man of the Word.  I cannot be a credible witness of hope and joy without attentive listening to the Word of God and daily sharing the Living Bread of the Holy Eucharist.

A bishop’s personal sanctification is pursued and realized in the exercise of his ministry, in all its many dimensions.

Amid my own weaknesses, I am called to live out my vocation to holiness, like everyone else, in a daily context of joys and challenges. 

Thank God we have one another, fellow companions on this journey of faith, to challenge and to support us as we all seek to follow Him, Jesus Christ, our hope and our life.

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