Friday, April 20, 2007
By Bishop Glen John Provost
On this weekend, the eve of my ordination and installation as the Bishop of
Lake Charles, I extend to all of our good people in the diocese my heartfelt
best wishes and ask your prayers for me as I begin this important ministry.
It is customary for a bishop before he is ordained to attend a retreat of
six days. I had the joy of doing so at St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict,
Louisiana. Some of you may know this beautiful spot. The abbey is over one
hundred years old and set in the piney woods of Southeastern Louisiana.
During the retreat, I joined the monks for prayer, singing the psalms,
celebrating Mass, and quietly reflecting. Abbot Justin, the superior of the
abbey, directed my retreat, giving me conferences every day. I appreciated
his keen insight into the mystery of the priesthood and the role of bishop
as shepherd and teacher.
Abbot Justin chose as a source of reflection the writings of Pope St.
Gregory the Great. The work was entitled "Pastoral Care" and was written by
Pope St. Gregory to serve as an instruction for those assuming the office of
leadership in the church.
One reflection in particular of Pope St. Gregory, that we meditated upon,
impressed me a great deal. The quotation was as follows: "In the affection
of his own heart he sympathizes with the frailties of others, and so
rejoices in the good done by his neighbor, as though the progress made were
his own. In all that he does he sets an example so inspiring to all others,
that in their regard he has no cause to be ashamed of his past. He so
studies to live as to be able to water the dry hearts of others with the
streams of instruction imparted." This eloquent ideal, articulated by Pope
St. Gregory, reflects in a real way the thought of Pope John Paul II. In
Pope John Paul's writings on the pastoral ministry, our late Holy Father
reminds us that everyone is called to holiness, but the priest is
furthermore called to holiness for others. Even though written 1500 years
apart, both popes are expressing the same ideal.
This holiness about which they speak is rooted in prayer, in our open and
intimate conversation with God and in our encounters with Christ in the
Sacraments. This is indispensable. "To water the dry hearts", to sympathize
"with the frailties of others", to rejoice "in the good done by his
neighbor" as though it were his own - all of this is possible only with a
heart that knows God.
On this eve of my taking up the shepherd's staff to teach, to lead, and to
sanctify in the Diocese of Lake Charles, I pray sincerely that I may do so
with a heart renewed by prayer. Please pray for me. Let our work be the
same, as we pursue the goal of holiness. Let our work be that of Christ.
I am reminded too of the words of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, the great
Carmelite saint. She wrote, "If anyone were to ask me the secret of
happiness, I would say it is no longer to think of self." May our thoughts
and actions be motivated not by self but by what Christ would have us do.