Learning how to bishop – Bishop Oster in Rome

Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau shares the photo below on his Facebook page. Germany’s youngest ordinary met Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Archbishop Georg Gänswein over lunch yesterday and brings back the retired pontiff’s heartfelt greetings and promises of prayer to Passau, the diocese in which Benedict was born in 1927.
oster benedict gänswein

Bishop Oster is in Rome as part of the annual “training course” for new bishops who were appointed in the past year. With him from Germany are Archbishop Stephan Burger and Bishop Michael Gerber from Freiburg, Bishop Ansgar Puff from Cologne, and Bishop Herwig Gössl from Bamberg (pictured below while attending one of the seminars earlier this week).

gerber, burger, oster, puff, gössl

The training week is organised by Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s  Congregation for Bishops, and is attended by some 130 bishops from across the globe. Various cardinals and other Curia members offered seminars on such topics as the Church’s social teaching (Cardinal Turkson), the spirituality of bishops (Cardinal Amato) and the workings of the Synod of Bishops (Cardinal Baldisseri), the reforms of the Curia (Cardinal Ouellet), and finances (Cardinal Pell), but they also heard the sobering stories of bishops from Iraq and Syria. The ten days of the training is, as Bishop Oster says, also a time of reflection, prayer and community and will be closed tomorrow with an audience with Pope Francis.

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The spirituality of serving at the altar

An interesting film which reveals the spirituality behind the duties of altar servers., which are not just some tasks which need doing. Like so many elements of our Catholic life, it is based in a well-developed spirituality, and in turn, feeds that spirituality on a  very personal level.

This is one of the beautiful things about our faith: holiness is achievable by simply doing it. Physical actions, like the speaker in the film says, can help us achieve an inner disposition on the road to personal holiness.

We live in an age where people appreciate spirituality, the transcending elements that we can strive for. Often, this appreciation is manifested in the popularity of self-help books, paranormal events and elements of the eastern religions. Our own Catholic faith also has spirituality on offer, a spirituality which is mature, deep and continuously challenging, but which is attainable for all of us if we would just devote some time and effort to it.

HT to Fr. Dwight Longenecker.

Congratulations, bishop!

Today my bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Not something  I should let go by unmentioned, so let me take the opportunity to offer my heartfelt congratulations and prayerful wish for many blessed years to come.

Bishop de Korte will mark the occasion with a Mass in the cathedral of St. Joseph, with Cardinal Simonis and several other bishops attending. Afterwards, Cardinal Simonis, who is something of a spiritual father to Bishop de Korte – he was ordained by him to deacon, priest and bishop – will receive the first copy of a collection of the bishop’s writings on four general themes: the future of the Church and Christianity in general in our country, Catholic spirituality, the place of the Church in society and the liturgy.

In October, the bishop will also be leading a pilgrimage to Rome for the faithful in his diocese.

Being a bishop is a hard and often thankless life. Keep your bishop in your prayers, support him however you can in his work as successor of the Apostles, so that he in turn may strengthen you in your faith.

Pope abroad, to Portugal this time

The pope is off again tomorrow, this time on a slightly longer trip and somewhat further away: Portugal. The full program of this second international trip of this year can be found here.

Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting Lisbon, Fátima and Porto and of these, the second destination may be the most interesting. Fátima is, of course, the place where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three children in 1917, and as such one of the most important Marian shrines in the world. Pope John Paul II had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin and credited his surviving of an assassination attempt in 1981 to Our Lady of Fátima. The crown of the statue of Our Lady in the shrine contains the bullet that was removed from the Venerable John Paul II’s body.

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the shrine will be different from the three visits of his predecessor, simply because they are not the same men. The current pontiff is much more scholarly, and his faith is rooted in theology more than highly spiritual devotions. Not to say that he is not spiritual – he clearly is – but John Paul II’s devotion came chiefly from the heart, while Benedict’s is tempered by his head.

Portugal, unlike other European counties, has not been affected by the abuse crisis, but I do expect that the pope will say some things about it. Whereas the Malta trip was very much a personal trip, this has the feel of a more official journey. The length (four days instead of two), the meetings with politicians and bishops (Portugal has 48 of the latter, whereas Malta has only 6) and the context of Portugal as middle-sized player in Europe will assure that the eyes of the media will be on the pope more so than in Malta.