I tuned in to watch the Installation of Archbishop Chaput yesterday, and I really couldn’t help but be profoundly moved by the extreme reverence and humility of Philadelphia’s new Archbishop. His sermon, in my opinion, is one of the best ones I have ever heard (ranking alongside Bishop Slattery’s sermon at the Pontifical Mass at the National Basilica, which you can listen to here). I have taken certain parts of his sermon and put them here for your enjoyment. We must pray that, when Bishop Clark submits his resignation, we receive someone as dedicated to Truth as Archbishop Chaput is.
The relationship of a bishop and his local Church — his diocese — is very close to a marriage. The ring I wear is a symbol of every bishop’s love for his Church. And a bishop’s marriage to the local Church reminds me, and all of us who serve you as bishops, that a bishop is called to love his Church with all his heart, just as Christ loved her and gave his life for her.
Of course, my appointment to Philadelphia is an arranged marriage, and the Holy Father is the matchmaker. The good news is that romance is a modern invention — and given the divorce rate common today, it’s not everything it’s cranked up to be. In fact, history suggests that arranged marriages often worked at least as well as those based on romantic love. When arranged marriages were common, there was an expectation that people would get to know each other and then come to love one another. Good matchmakers were aware of the family history of each of the spouses and their particular needs. And the really wise matchmakers could make surprisingly good choices.
Our life together is part of the story of salvation, which God continues even into our own time. Mary didn’t expect the Annunciation. She didn’t expect to be mother of our Redeemer. And yet her act of obedience changed the course of history and led to a new covenant of love and fruitfulness. I have no illusions of being worthy of this ministry, but I do trust the wisdom of the Holy Father. So I’m deeply grateful for his confidence and the privilege of serving this local Church.
Along with a ring, two other symbols really define a bishop’s ministry. The first is the pectoral cross that rests next to the bishop’s heart. And Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciples, we need to do three things (Mt 16:21-27): We need deny ourselves, we need to take up our cross, and we need to follow him. It’s vitally important for the bishop to really believe this, to live it, and to preach it, even when calling people to accept very difficult things in fidelity to the Gospel.
The second symbol is the crosier, which is a symbol of the shepherd. The Good Shepherd was the first image of Christian art created by the earliest disciples in the catacombs in Rome. One of first representations of Jesus we have is the Good Shepherd who carries a lamb on his shoulders. All of us, especially the people of Philadelphia, should keep that image in our hearts in the months ahead because the Good Shepherd really will bring the Church in Philadelphia through this difficult moment in our history to security and joy and a better future.
This installation today takes place in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The word cathedral comes from the Greek word cathedra, which means “the chair.” The cathedral is the church that houses the bishop’s chair, which has always been seen as another key symbol of the bishop’s role – in this case, his teaching authority. St. Augustine of Hippo, speaking in the 4th century captured the role of the bishop in these words. He said:
“Jerusalem had watchmen who stood guard . . . And this is what bishops do. Now, bishops are assigned this higher place” — the bishop’s chair in the basilica – “so that they themselves may oversee and, as it were, keep watch over the people. For they are called episkopos in Greek, which means ‘overseer,’ because the bishop oversees; because he looks down from [his chair] . . . And on account of this high place, a perilous accounting will have to be rendered [by the bishop] – unless we stand here with a heart such that we place ourselves beneath your feet in humility.”
Another time, on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination, Augustine described the bishop’s duties in the following way. He said (this is a big job):
“To rebuke those who stir up strife, to comfort those of little courage, to take the part of the weak, to refute opponents, to be on guard against traps, to teach the ignorant, to shake the indolent awake, to discourage those who want to buy and sell, to put the presumptuous in their place, to modify the quarrelsome, to help the poor, to liberate the oppressed, to encourage the good, to suffer the evil and to love all men.”
My dear brother bishops, it’s crucial for those of us who are bishops not simply to look like bishops but to truly be bishops. Otherwise, we’re just empty husks — the kind of men St Augustine referred to when he said, “You say, ‘He must be a bishop for he sits upon the cathedra.’ True – and a scarecrow might also be called a watchman in the vineyard.”
God bless Archbishop Chaput, and all our bishops, that they might not be mere scarecrows in the vineyard of the Lord.
(Below is the full video of Archbishop Chaput’s sermon. Please do watch it!)