Editor’s note: On Aug. 7, Evening Prayer was celebrated on the eve of the ordination of Father Douglas J. Lucia to the Order of Bishop. The prepared text of the homily the bishop-elect preached on that occasion is below.
One of the most common questions I have had in the last couple of months is, “How do you pronounce your last name?” To which, I respond, “Lucia… like the island!” And I admit when I say it in such a manner it immediately takes me to warm sunshine, tropical breezes, and white, sandy beaches. Now, I know folks are interested in my ancestry… Am I Italian? Am I French? And the answer is both, as well as, I have discovered through Ancestry.com, even a bit of Basque, like St. Ignatius of Loyola.
So, brothers and sisters, what’s in a name? It would appear quite a bit. As I was unpacking, I found this plaque, which defines the Gaelic origins of my first name, Douglas, meaning “One of Mystery.” I suppose that is what I am to you as I arrive on the scene to become the 11th Bishop of Syracuse and still am even to my closest friends… one of mystery… “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.”
However, in the Christian tradition, the word “mystery” has a different connotation. While acknowledging it to be “a truth that can only be known by revelation and not fully understood,” it signifies also the Christian sacrament. Sacrament — “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” Or as I like to say, “a visible sign of God’s presence alive in the world today.” We use the word “mystery” in reference also to the rosary and its 20 mysteries leading us to reflect on the life of Jesus and its meaning… its “sign value” for you and me.
This evening, you and I, sisters and brothers, have gathered in this Cathedral church for a vigil of prayer as we prepare for the celebration of a Sacrament… that of Holy Orders. Yet, this is not just a moment to pray for the one being ordained, but even more to pray for ourselves as Church, that we might become that “living sign of God’s presence” in this corner of the world… to pray that we let the lamp of faith shine in our lives and not let it be hidden in obscurity because the cares of today’s world seem to crowd it out or cover it up.
There is a story told about a soldier in the army of Alexander the Great who was brought before the great world conqueror for a court martial. When the emperor had listened to the charges and the evidence, he turned to the soldier facing condemnation and said, “What is your name?” “Alexander,” was the reply. Again the emperor questioned, “What is your name?” And a second time the soldier answered, “Alexander.” At this moment, the emperor roared and asked a third time, “What is your name?” And when the soldier answered, “Alexander,” the great general angrily replied, “You say your name is Alexander? You are found guilty of your crime as charged and now you must pay the penalty. Either change your conduct or change your name, for no man can bear the name of Alexander, my name, and do the things you have done.”
Brothers and sisters, what is your name? How are you known? And as Church, we ask ourselves, are we living up to the name we have been given, “Christian”? At this moment, in our own lives, would those who are neighbor to us know that we are followers of the Way? Are you and I a living Gospel for all people to hear?
Now, you might want to say, “Bishop-elect Doug, you are the one being ordained, not us!” However, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The Church is like a sacrament — a sign and an instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people” (#775)… in the unity of this Body [of which Christ is the head], there is a diversity of members and functions. All members are linked to one another, especially to those who are suffering, to the poor and persecuted (#806). In other words, sisters and brothers, make no mistake… you and I are in this together!
At his time of Ordination as Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine wrote the following:
“Where I’m terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian. The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation. Finally, as if in the open sea, I am being tossed about by the stormy activity involved in that one; but as I recall by whose blood I have been redeemed, I enter a safe harbor in the tranquil recollection of this one; and thus while toiling away at my own proper office, I take my rest in the marvelous benefit conferred on all of us in common.
“So I hope the fact that I have been bought together with you gives me more pleasure than my having been placed at your head…”
I began this reflection by asking, “What’s in a name?” And maybe at this moment more than you and I cared to know! Nonetheless, in the name that gathers us together as Church we find new strength, new hope, new direction. And this is my simple prayer on this eve of Ordination: that together “in the name of Jesus” we will come to know the One who meets us where we are at in life and invites all of us in His name to give God’s flock a shepherd’s care! Amen.