Saturday, November 23, 2013
St. Clement I, Pray for Our Bishops
Today is the feast of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr. Here’s an excerpt about him from the Divine Office readings for Matins:
His teaching and the holiness of his life brought many to believe in Christ, and he was therefore exiled by the Emperor Trajan to Kherson, in the Crimea, where he found two thousand Christians, who had been condemned by the same Trajan. There they all worked in the marble quarries. During their labor they suffered for want of water, and Clement prayed, and then went up an hill hard by, on the top whereof he saw a Lamb standing, touching with its right foot a flowing spring of sweet waters. Therewith they all quenched their thirst, and by this miracle many unbelievers were brought to believe in Christ, and began to honor the holiness of Clement.
These things moved Trajan to send a messenger to the Crimea, who tied an anchor about Clement's neck, and cast him into the deep of the sea. After it had been done, while the Christians were praying on the shore, the sea went back three miles, and when they followed it, they found a grotto of marble, in form like a temple, and therein a stone coffin wherein was laid the body of the Martyr, and, hard by, the anchor wherewith he had been sunk. Then were the country people moved to receive the faith of Christ…
Thinking about St. Clement and his martyrdom led me to think about our modern-day bishops, especially here in the US. Back in Clement’s time, one’s life was at stake when it came to defending belief in Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.
You could die for the faith. You could die a horrible excruciatingly painful death that was preceded by horrible excruciatingly painful torture.
Now, in some parts of the world today, this is going on right now, and we all need to be praying for those souls who undergo such trials, that they would stand fast in their faith and be welcomed directly into Heaven for their martyrdom.
But I was thinking about the US. Here, there seem to be so few bishops who would measure up to Clement’s steadfastness in teaching and preaching the truth of our faith. I can’t imagine Clement failing to teach about the sinfulness of his people if he knew sinful acts were being committed. I can’t imagine Clement being intimated by a government that said he couldn’t speak out against politicians and laws that were unjust and contrary to the faith!
Clement defended the faith and paid for that defense with his life. Who among our bishop would do that? We have seen so many times the strong start and the weak finish! A bishop stands up for the faith in the public square by saying “Homosexual acts are evil!”, and two days later he recants due to the pressures of the media and current societal thinking. A bishop demands that the faithful in his diocese who serve as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, or who are teachers in Catholic schools, or who are catechists, profess their faith and even sign a statement to that effect; we applaud, and are disappointed a few days later to see him back down against the wave of popular opinion that says he is being “judgmental”.
Would these bishops die for their faith? Would they even go to jail for it?! Or are they so concerned about being “pastoral” that they allow the faithful to persist in their sin? Are they so concerned about the bad press they might get that they are willing to endanger their own souls by failing to proclaim the truth? When our bishops start sacrificing for the faith, then we might see people begin to sit up and take notice that Catholicism is something worth fighting for, even to the point of death.
As Rod Pead pointed out in his talk and article entitled “Sword of Unity”:
… Episcopal salvation is, to say the very least, problematic. "Many priests are lost and few bishops are saved," said St. John Chrysostom, himself a bishop. After his mother congratulated him on his appointment as Bishop of Mantua, St. Pius X told her: "Mother, you do not realise what it means to be a bishop. I shall lose my soul if I neglect my duty."
So we have to stop pandering to duplicitous Shepherds and start fearing - for them, since they appear to have lost all fear of God themselves, and fearing for our complicity in their negligence.
Fear for our bishops, and out of that holy fear, pray that they start ministering in a way that merits Heaven, and not hell.