I took this photo one year ago, of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas in 2009 when he was installed as Archbishop of Detroit after six years in Oakland.
I had many ideas for a photopost today, but computer problems hindered me timewise. I was going to dig into some numbers, but ... no time.
Last year I sat on the floor of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and photographed the installation of Archbishop Vigneron. I was there on a press pass with Real Catholic TV , which had invited me to capture some images. While photos are always impressive in capturing a moment, for me, the most memorable part of the Mass, outside of the Eucharist, was Archbishop Vigneron's most powerful homily, drawing from St. Paul and the wisdom of St. Thomas (you can read the homily here, or listen to the audio, which I highly recommend). Here is an excerpt:
St. Paul in today's Epistle gives us wise teaching about love in the context of this fallen world, scarred as it is by that refusal to love which is sin – the originating sin of Adam and Eve and every other sin, which ratifies that first sin. St. Paul tells us that the total gift of self is signed with the cross. It was on the cross that Christ "loved us to the end," loved us with the love he learned from his being loved by the Father. And we, if we love, must share in the cross. Here below the gift of self will always be a death to self.
That is why the wisdom of divine love in this world will, as St. Paul says, appear to be foolishness to those who do not have faith. For those who do not recognize that Christ crucified is the ultimate manifestation of divine love, his death cannot but seem to be an absurdity. However, those who think like God, those who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, understand God the way he understands himself, recognize that the impotence of Christ, freely willed for love of us, is the act of the wisest man, for it is the act of divine wisdom itself.
In every age the wisdom of this crucified love has been mistaken as foolishness by many, and is often for them a stumbling block along the way of Christ. It is certainly so in our own time, with our ethic of radical autonomy, which, in exalting the rights of the individual, sees no sense in sacrificing one self and one's comfort and convenience for the love of others.
There are many ways in which this conflict between the true wisdom of the gift of self and the pseudo-wisdom of self-sovereignty are exemplified in our society. I will mention three of those that seem to me among the most lamentable. First, there is the conflict between those who base their decision about a state in life or their selection of a profession on discerning the will of God and those who make these choices on the basis of gaining wealth or security or the world's esteem. Second, there is the conflict between those judge it wise always to protect the right to life of others, even at a cost to themselves, and those who would be willing to violate that right, if that is the price to be paid to keep control of the circumstances and conditions in which they have decided to live. Third, there is frequently in our society a conflict between those who make the well-being of their spouses or children the first priority in their lives and those who are convinced that their families exist to bring them self-gratification.
The sorts of conflicts I have sketched out and which we all feel so deeply form the context in which we are called today at this Installation Liturgy to renew our commitment to our identity and mission as apostles of the wisdom of God, after the example of St. Thomas Aquinas.
When he first got to Oakland, California, it was said that there were only 10 Adoration Chapels. When he left, there were more than 50 adoration chapels. Archbishop Vigneron also led the first Corpus Christi procession here in Detroit in more than 50 years, using a vestment that hadn't been worn in as many years.
I wish I had time to go through statistics for seminarians while he was there in Oakland. If someone knows some numbers (before he came and when he left), that would be appreciated in the combox. Or send it to me via the email in my profile. Here in Detroit, I predicted that under Archbishop Vigneron we would see a very significant increase in diocesan seminarians over the next several years. I didn't expect to hear that there were 16 new recruits this year! This brings the number of seminarians to 49 for the Archdiocese of Detroit. According to the Michigan Catholic, that is the largest boost in 20 years.
The Archbishop has been involved in very distinctly Catholic experssions of the faith, such as the public recitation of the Rosary at the Cathedral for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Similarly leading a Rosary prayer procession several blocks to two abortion clinics (see my photostory here). He also began online devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He even went down into one of Detroit's salt mines and blessed a shrine!
When the Notre Dame Scandal broke, and many bishops wrote their disapprovals, Archbishop Vigneron also spoke up.
On August 15, 2009, Archbishop Vigneron accepted Fr. Perrone's invitation to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption at our parish, Assumption Grotto. Yep....I photographed that too - a Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form, celebrated "Grotto style" - that is, ad orientem. Grotto-goers were endeared by his willingness to celebrate Mass using an optional posture for the priest which is the norm at the parish. I always like to explain to people, "we seek the face of God in the Mass, not the face of the priest". I am accepting of versus populum celebrated Masses, but I desire them to be very reserved.
'I'm reminded of how much I depend on God'
Those are the words of Archbishop Vigneron in a new interview in the Michigan Catholic, which I saved for today, the anniversary of his installation. Bob Delaney did the interview in early January and it was released about one week ago. While he talks about some things specific to Detroit, it is well worth mining for his thoughts on a number of issues. His Excellency touches these, and more:
- Catholic Schools and Homeschooling
- Economic issues
- Archdiocese of Detroit restructring
- and.....the faith
Here was one of my favorite excerpts:
Bob Delaney: You have spoken of enriching the spirituality of the faithful. What can people do, what is your advice for what they can do to strengthen their relationship with God?
Archbishop Vigneron: Three things come immediately to mind: First of all, they should participate in the Sunday Mass regularly every Sunday, and they should do it with attention and fervor. One place in the (documents of) the Second Vatican Council, the fathers say it is in the Eucharist that the Church receives all the spiritual riches of Christ. The Eucharist is the lynchpin of our friendship with Jesus, in our adoption by the Father, and in the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is the principal touchstone for a relationship with God. The second is regular, frequent confession, because the relationship with God always involves conversion. There is no growth in holiness that doesn't mean putting aside selfishness; we're the children of Adam and Eve – it always means conversion. And the sacrament of penance, reconciliation, is the principal grace, the principal forum, in which this process of ongoing conversion is lived out in the life of the Christian. And so, confessions that are frequent, and confessions that are serious, where the person brings himself, herself truly, honestly before the mercy of God, and pursues a plan of renewal. And then the third thing is personal prayer based on the sacred Scripture. For many people, that does involve prayerful reading of Scripture. There are lots of ways, methods that work for people, but a knowledge of God and dialogue with God based on hearing Him speak through the revealed Word, and then answering. And here, the rosary is a very, very effective experience of a Scripture-based prayer, because all of the 20 mysteries of the rosary are mysteries to which the sacred Scripture testifies. The prayers that we say in the rosary are, by and large, taken from Scripture. So, as I pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary, I make the words of the Bible my own words. So those three things – devout participation every Sunday in the Holy Eucarist; regular and devout celebration of the sacrament of penance, reconciliation; and daily prayer that uses the sacred Scripture.
Go read Bob Delaney's interview with Archbishop Vigneron as he looks back on one year as Archbishop of Detroit.
Pray for our bishops!
The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!