The Last Word
Every morning at the office of Prime, we read the martyrology, the book of martyrs. However, on certain days, it could very well be called an “episcopology,” the book of bishops, because of the great number of canonized bishops mentioned in it. And many of them were the first bishops of their city.
These first bishops, and they are legion, be they called, Apolinarius (Ravenna), Ireneus (Lyon), Augustine (Canterbury) or François de Laval (Québec), did what they were sent to do: to expand the Kingdom of God, to radiate the four marks of the Church, with that of Romanity. They were truly “made a pattern of the flock from the heart” (I Pet. 5:3). They were saints, and, many of them, martyrs.
Reading the stories of these great men can make one desire to become a bishop. Indeed St. Paul even says, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (I Tim. 3:1).
However, the Angelic Doctor, with a smile, warns those who have such a desire: “As Gregory says, when the Apostle said this, he who was set over the people was the first to be dragged to the torments of martyrdom, so that there was nothing to be desired in the episcopal office, save the good work,” in this case, nothing less than martyrdom! (2a2ae, Q. 185, a.1, ad 1m)
Just as the history of the Church is truly the history of the popes, the history of the development of the Church, country after country, is often that of its bishops. They are the local head of the Catholic Church, they are the link with Rome, they are the defenders of God’s truth and moral law. Well, they are supposed to be.
Today’s crisis, no doubt, confirms this: we are living a crisis of bishops. Whether one speaks of the recent tragedy of abortion in Ireland, the Viganò report, or the Third Secret of Fatima, it almost always boils down to the actions or omissions of bishops.
We can apply what the good professor of logic taught: a small error in the principle is a big error in the conclusion. The little concessions given to liberalism in the 19th century, although clearly condemned by the popes, and the larger ones accepted by the Conciliar Fathers at Vatican II, have led to the “abomination of desolation” we witness today. This should urge us to pray more for the hierarchy of the Church.
O Lord, grant us Holy Bishops!