This is the first time I am writing to meet the publication deadline for the Catholic Sun. I have been told that Bishop Cunningham never missed a deadline — no pressure — and I am not about ready to break that precedent.
I have enjoyed very much the various regional Masses and gatherings as I familiarize myself with the diocese. The hospitality and the people I have met make me feel right at home in the Diocese of Syracuse. This week I am looking forward to two Masses of the Holy Spirit for the beginning of the academic year: one at Le Moyne College and the other with the Catholic School teachers of the Diocese of Syracuse. Again, I appreciate the opportunities to meet various sectors of our diocesan family in order to get to know them and to introduce me to ways I can be of service to them… even if it is just serving as a referee.
My first days have been full of meetings and the sharing of information to assist me in fulfilling my administrative duties and responsibilities. I appreciate the concern of the people of this diocese that I not be overwhelmed by the challenges facing the Catholic Church today. I tell them (and remind myself) that I just have to take things day by day and that ultimately it is the Lord who is in charge. I have started training at a gym again and the diocesan staff is diligent about making sure I take my day off and get out from behind my desk.
This past Friday evening, I took the opportunity to watch the entire Ordination ceremony as it was presented on EWTN. To watch it unfold, to listen to the angelic music, and to see the mixture of light and darkness throughout the liturgy was breathtaking. Once again, I must thank most appreciatively all who helped to put the Ordination liturgy together: our diocesan and Cathedral staffs, our Cathedral musicians and those who joined them, the Masters of Ceremonies, the servers, the Ministers of Hospitality, and of course all our pray-ers! A common definition of “liturgy” is “the work of the people.” Our diocesan Liturgy of Ordination and Installation was certainly that and, because of people’s labor, a beautiful act of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Cardinal Dolan in his homily — unbeknownst to him — made a correlation to an image that is a particular favorite of mine: the shepherd’s staff as a lantern. One may see it portrayed especially with the figure of Joseph or that of the shepherd in Nativity sets. It is a representation that has given me much pause in the days since my ordination as bishop, especially when I hold the crosier.
It reminds me of the story of the lamplighter as told by a 19th century English Baptist preacher by the name of Charles Spurgeon. When Spurgeon was a boy one of his favorite activities was watching the lamplighter light the streetlamps of London, England. Each evening as darkness settled upon the vast city, the lamplighters would go to work. Spurgeon, as a little boy, would watch the lamplighter in his part of town, from his second-story window.
The lamplighter would come down the street, pausing to light each streetlamp then quickly moving on to the next, always taking a moment to “wave to young Charles,” the little boy hanging out the upstairs window, watching with great delight. He would watch the lamplighter appear smaller and smaller until he disappeared in the distance.
Then the real fun began for Charles. Even though Charles could no longer see the actual lamplighter, he could “see” where the lamplighter was going… because each lamp lighted lit up that part of town. Sometimes Charles would watch for an hour or more as the various lamplighters zig-zagged across London, making the trail of lights meet up, completely removing the ever-smaller pockets of darkness. One by one the dark areas completely disappeared, and soon the whole of London shined in the bright light, its skyscrapers — of that day — gracing the skyline.
My dear new family, could there be any better mission we could embark on together? Remembering the words of this Sunday’s Psalm response, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News,” let us carry the lantern of faith, hope, and love to remove the pockets of darkness from Central New York and beyond, and to radiate Christ wherever we find ourselves.
God’s blessings on your week and let us not forget to pray for each other!