In recent years, I have come to admire St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), confessor and doctor of the church, as a model bishop.
His father wanted him to become a lawyer so he obtained a doctorate in civil and canon. But he felt called to the priesthood and his father finally relented. Having overcome a youthful fear of damnation through filial devotion to Our Blessed Mother, he was ordained a priest and set about the healing of those lost to Protestant teaching by the simple device of love.
At 35 he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions and catechize the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. He practiced his own axiom, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”
Besides his two well-known books The Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence.
Because of his many writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints.
As he wrote in The Introduction to the Devout Life: “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman.... It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world. ”
His liturgical observance (January 24) will not be kept this year as his feast falls on a Sunday. However, for 44 years a message for World Communications Day (Ascension Sunday, May 16 this year) is released on his feast, which and was anticipated today at the Vatican (the whole text of the Pope's message may be found on the Vatican website [www.vatican.va]).
Combining the theme of new communications technology and this Year of the Priest, the theme this year is:
"The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word."
"Le prêtre et la pastorale dans le monde numerique: les nouveaux medias au service de la parole."
Here are some excerpts from the Holy Father's message:
All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments.
Gathered and called by the Word, the Church is the sign and instrument of the communion that God creates with all people, and every priest is called to build up this communion, in Christ and with Christ. Such is the lofty dignity and beauty of the mission of the priest, which responds in a special way to the challenge raised by the Apostle Paul:
"The Scripture says, 'No one who believes in him will be put to shame ... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:11, 13-15).
Responding adequately to this challenge amid today's cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul's exclamation: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16)
The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.
The spread of multimedia communications and its rich "menu of options" might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace.
Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.
Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord.
Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a "soul" to the fabric of communications that makes up the "Web".
* * * * * *
GRIEVING FOR THE DEAD OF HAITI
The Cathedral of Port-au-Prince burning in the wake of the earthquake on January 12
À Monseigneur Louis Kébreau,Archevêque de Cap-Haïtien et
Président de la Conférence épiscopale d’Haïti
Ayant appris avec une extrême tristesse le tremblement de terre qui vient de frapper si durement la capitale du Pays, je tiens à vous assurer, ainsi que tous les fidèles de l’Église qui est en Haïti, de ma très grande proximité spirituelle et de ma prière fervente pour toutes les personnes touchées par cette catastrophe.
Je demande à Dieu d’accueillir dans la paix de son Royaume tous ceux qui ont trouvé la mort dans le séisme, en particulier Mgr Serge Miot, Archevêque de Port-au-Prince, qui a partagé le sort de tant de ses fidèles au nombre desquels figurent des prêtres, des personnes consacrées et des séminaristes. Dans ces heures sombres, j’invoque Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours afin qu’elle se fasse Mère de tendresse et qu’elle sache diriger les cœurs pour que la solidarité prenne le pas sur l’isolement et le chacun-pour-soi.
Je salue la très rapide mobilisation de la communauté internationale, unanimement émue par le sort des Haïtiens, de même que celle de toute l’Église qui, à travers ses institutions, ne manquera pas d’apporter son concours au secours d’urgence et à la reconstruction patiente des zones dévastées.
En gage d’affection et de réconfort spirituel, j’accorde de grand cœur à tous les pasteurs et fidèles de l’Église en Haïti qui sont dans l’épreuve une particulière Bénédiction Apostolique.
Du Vatican, le 16 janvier 2010 - BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
Today in Port-au-Prince they will hold a funeral for Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot (November 23, 1946-January 12, 2010), killed instantly in the earliest stage of the Haiti earthquake.
The Church of Ottawa gathered on Thursday night to pray for the dead and wounded, to console the bereaved and to invoke God's blessing on the people of Haiti and those coming to their succour (BTW, Haiti's patron is Our Lady of Perpetual Help).
In sorrow, purple vestments were worn. Some photos:
The Haitian flag says "L'union fait force" (Being united makes us strong)
Young and old were present for the Mass
Msgr Luca LoRusso representing the Holy Father and Mgr Gilles Cazabon, omi, emeritus bishop of St-Jerome
Words cannot convey one's emotions
Haitian-born Abbe Joseph-Lin Eveillard (pastor at Casselman) and his parents; he spoke movingly to the congregation at the close of the liturgy and led them in singing a song he had written, "A word of hope for Haiti"
Sharing the grieving
Sorrowing but built up in faith....