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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Archbishop Chaput recalls men and women religious to obedience

I think His Excellency was trying to make a point about...obedience.

Remarks of Archbishop Charles Chaput at the 2008 LCWR-CMSM Assembly (Leadership Conference of Women Religious -Conference of Major Superiors of Men)

Pictures and other speeches from the assembly can be found HERE. (If you are looking for pictures of religious in habits, this won't be the link to visit)

August 1, 2008
Denver, Colorado

Thank you for the invitation to address your meeting. I want to begin by welcoming you to Denver -- both as a fellow religious, and as a bishop.

Being a Capuchin and being a bishop is an unusual combination. Many people enter religious life for a radical experience of the Gospel, and one of the reasons they sometimes do this is to avoid the institutional frustrations that can go with diocesan life.

When I became a capuchin, I would never have expected to be here today as a bishop. I got here, frankly, for one extraordinary reason. The Holy See decided it needed a Native American to be a bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, because a large percentage of the Catholics there are Native American. I’m very blessed to be a Potawatomi Indian, and that’s why I went to Rapid City, out of love and in obedience. Now I’m the Archbishop of Denver. I know that I am also here because of love and obedience.

All of us who are religious share that same commitment to love and obediencelove FOR and obedience TO Jesus Christ, to the Church and to her pastors. Charles de Foucauld called obedience the “yardstick of love.” It’s a clear way we measure the fidelity and unselfishness of our hearts. I do not think it’s an accident that John XXIII had the words, “Obedience and Peace” as his papal motto. The Church belongs to Christ, the Church is His spouse and we find His peace through love and obedience to His Church, which is finally not an institution or corporation or bureaucracy, but our mother and teacher.

I’ve experienced authority in the Church both as a Capuchin major superior and now as a bishop. I know very well the frustrations good people sometimes suffer at the hands of leaders who are made of clay.

Nevertheless, St. Francis and St. Ignatius and many other founders had a common experience: For them, obedience was that “yardstick of love.” The kind of radical love expressed in obedience – an obedience that can make our hearts ache and bruise our vanity – is the seed of renewal in every age of the Church. I entered religious life because I wanted to be one of those seeds, because I knew my own happiness depended on it. I am sure you want to be those seeds of renewal too.

The theme of this meeting is “On This Holy Mountain.” As I was thinking about that theme, my mind turned to the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration showed the Apostles and us that Jesus is not merely a great teacher or wise thinker or brave leader. He is our Lord and God. So Christian discipleship and consecrated life demand more than a polite relationship with Jesus and His Church. Christ does ask for our approval or agreement. He doesn’t need either. Instead, He asks us to follow him – radically, with all we have, and without exceptions or reservations. What he deserves is our love – a love that is expressed in our worship, in our service to others and in our obedience to the Church.

On the Holy Mountain of the Transfiguration, a bright cloud cast a shadow over Jesus and his disciples and the voice of God said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him,” which could just as accurately be translated, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; obey Him.”

We religious are women and men who consecrate ourselves to God through poverty, chastity, and obedience. All the vows are important. Poverty is about things outside ourselves. Chastity is chiefly about things within us. But obedience is about everything, within and without. It is truly “the yardstick of love.”

My God grant you all a time of refreshment, friendship and peace in your meeting, and thank you for coming to Colorado.

Text of greeting originally posted here.

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