Friday, October 16, 2009

Bishop Nickless: Ecclesia Semper Reformanda - Post 1 (Introduction)

A pastoral letter penned by Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Souix City, Iowa, has been circulating well on the web here in the US, and abroad.  

This bishop took on the so-called, "Spirit of Vatican II", which has long been used by some to distort what is actually in the documents of Vatican II. 

I spent my lunch hour reading the entire pastoral letter and I can tell you that it is rich and worth spending time on.  Don't look at excerpts and move on.  Rather, come here and read one more small segment each day that I post.  In fact, several are already scheduled to appear just after midnight local time the next few days.
He introduced this to his diocese on October 15, 2009 - the Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila. 
As I publish this pastoral letter, I do so on the Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus. On this day, the Church prays: “O God, you raised up Saint Teresa by your Spirit so that she could manifest to the Church the way to perfection. Nourish us with the food of her heavenly teaching and fire us with a desire for holiness.” May Saint Teresa be an inspiration to all of us in our desire to grow in holiness.
In this first post, we will simply look at the Introduction.  He is just warming up here, but brace yourself for some real meat and potatoes in subsequent postings. 

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! It has now been almost four joyful years of being your bishop. It has been a time of learning and growth for me as a priest, called beyond my desires and talents, not without God’s grace making up for all that is lacking in me, to be the shepherd for the flock in northwest Iowa. As shepherd, I am called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), the truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, inseparable from His Church, “at the same time holy and always in need of renewal and reformation.”1 In order to do this, I have traveled to meet the priests and people of the diocese, always listening, asking questions, studying and, of course, praying about the current state of the Church. Now I offer my understanding of the state and direction of the Church, both universal and particular, at this juncture in her history. I propose this pastoral plan—a vision, so to speak—for the future of our diocese, and some practical guidance for achieving our goals.

My understanding begins with these personal reflections. I studied and was ordained a deacon and priest during the exciting, almost intoxicating, time of the Second Vatican Council. I am thoroughly a product of that momentous time, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in centuries. It has formed the context and culture of my entire ministerial life. Like Pope John Paul the Great, I have no other desire for my ministry than seeing the hopes and reforms of the Second Vatican Council fully implemented and brought to fruition.2 Like Pope Benedict XVI, I know that, while we have worked hard, there is still much work to do.3 My understanding of this work has grown and deepened over the past forty years. So it must be for all of us. The Church is always in need of renewal because it is made up of us, imperfect human beings. This is the deepest reason: as individuals and as a Church, we are always called to grow, change, deepen, repent, convert, improve, and learn from our successes and failures in the pursuit of holiness and fidelity to Jesus Christ and the mission He has given us. Moreover, we need to do this in the midst of an ever changing world, culture and society.

I have experienced this as a priest and now, through the biggest change of all for me, as a bishop. Despite my own unworthiness, I have been blessed abundantly by the Lord Jesus Christ in his call to me, in the graces of my episcopal ordination, and in your support and cooperation. I am happy and blessed to be your bishop. Having been called by God and the Church, I want to do my part to fulfill His mission among you. Thus, we need serious reflection and evaluation of the current state and direction, challenges and opportunities, for faith and ministry in our Lord Jesus Christ in our Diocese.
Tomorrow I will have another section of this great pastoral letter. 

If you prefer to read it all at once:  Get the PDF from the Diocese of Souix City, IOWA for Ecclesia Semper Reformanda.

Footnotes applicable to this section:

1 Lumen Gentium #8

2 E.g., Christifideles Laici, #2: “In looking over the years following the Council the Synod Fathers have been able to verify how the Holy Spirit continues to renew the youth of the Church and how he has inspired new aspirations towards holiness and the participation of so many lay faithful. This is witnessed, among other ways, in the new manner of active collaboration among priests, religious and the lay faithful; the active participation in the Liturgy, in the proclamation of the Word of God and catechesis; the multiplicity of services and

tasks entrusted to the lay faithful and fulfilled by them; the flourishing of groups, associations and spiritual movements as well as a lay commitment in the life of the Church; and in the fuller and meaningful participation of women in the development of society. At the same time, the Synod has pointed out that the post-conciliar path of the lay faithful has not been without its difficulties and dangers. In particular, two temptations can be cited which they have not always known how to avoid: the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world; and the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life, that is, a separation of the Gospel's acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various situations in the world.”

3 Homily of 8 December 2005, on the 40th Anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council; e.g., “If we live in opposition to love and against the truth - in opposition to God - then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise. Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis. We call this drop of poison ‘original sin’.”

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!