Monday, October 10, 2011

Bishop Sample shares his Vision and Program for the New Evangelisation

At the final session of the Convocation of Priests serving in the Diocese of Marquette, Bishop Alexander Sample spoke about his vision or program for the New Evangelisation. He summed it up by saying: It's the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

This is very much in line with Pope John Paul II's view: that there is no need for any new program. However, Bishop Sample highlighted two central themes that are, as it were, coming over the horizon:
  • the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
  • the work of the New Evangelisation.

The Sacred Liturgy
Bishop Sample suggested that the new English translation of the Mass was an opportune time for the Church, for us, to set about the work of renewal and reform of the Sacred Liturgy, and that this is central to the work of the New Evangelisation.

The bishop placed himself clearly in the camp of Pope Benedict who spoke of the need for a reform of the reform long before becoming Pope. Some might say that the bishop just wants to take us back to the way things were before? The fact that he celebrates the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at the Cathedral every month has apparently created some waves. And the positioning of the Crucifix on the altar facing the celebrant has also provoked some comment. But there could be nothing further from the truth. Pope Benedict allowed a greater flourishing of the Extraordinary Form so that it would stand side by side with the Novus Ordo, that both forms might enrich one another.

It is a good time to take a step back and to examine: what has been good, what has been lost, what can we recover. "I'm following, I'm listening to Benedict XVI. I trust that the Holy Spirit guides our shepherd" Bishop Sample said.
Priests pray silently before Mass.

A forthcoming Pastoral Letter
Bishop Sample referred to a letter concerning the liturgy that he - with the help of others -  is working on. In this letter he will examine:
  • The Essence of the Liturgy
    What is the Holy Mass? We do not create Liturgy. It is what it is. It has an objective and intrinsic meaning as both
    - Sacrifice
    - Sacred Banquet (as per St Thomas Aquinas - Sacrum Convivium).
  • The Cosmic nature of the Liturgy
    Pope Benedict discussed this in his book "The Spirit of the Liturgy". The Mass has an eschatological orientation. In the Mass we celebrate and commemorate what already is but await what is to come.
The offertory
A clear understanding of these points informs the celebration of the Mass. In Pope Benedict's book "The Light of the World" the Holy Father reminds his readers that the liturgy is not the expression of the community. It is not to be tinkered with.
  • Ars celebrandi
    The Mass is the Sacramentum Caritatis.There is an art - ars - to its celebration. It should be beautiful, reflecting the beauty and greatness of God. We should appreciate the purpose and meaning of the words, gestures, vessels, the Cross on the altar, the orientation of prayer. The East is connected very much with the Cross. Our gaze - especially in the Eucharistic Prayer - must be fixed on Christ glorified on the Cross as we await his coming.

  • Sacred Music
    The renewal of the Sacred Liturgy is intimately connected with the renewal of Sacred Music and Bishop Sample will address this in his letter.

Also to be addressed are some practical points:
  • some do's and don'ts;
  • some things that need correcting;
  • not to invent options.

The bishop advised us all to re-read the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and the rubrics. He quoted Fr Z's blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say, and Fr Z's motto: "do the red, say the black." Chances are that if we re-read the GIRM and the rubrics, we will probably notice something that we either had not known, had forgotten or had overlooked.

We must celebrate the liturgy well. Then it will be the Church's liturgy, celebrated with beauty, prayerfully, reverently. "If we don't have the Liturgy, what do we have?"
Bishop sample offering the chalice
The New Evangelisation
Bishop Sample referred the priests to his Holy Thursday Letter.

The letter of Pope John Paul II Novo Millennio Ineunte reminded us that the program for the New Evangelisation is contained in the Gospels. But there were seven pastoral priorities:
  1. the call to holiness
  2. prayer in the Church
  3. Sunday Mass
  4. Penance/Confession
  5. the primacy of grace (not just our own efforts)
  6. listening to the Word
  7. proclaiming the Word.
As regards the call to holiness: Are we serious about prayer in our own lives? We must live what we proclaim. When he was elected bishop one of the priests of the diocese presented Bishop Sample with a poster of the movie "The Lord of the Rings" with the quotation of Frodo saying: "I wish the ring had never come to me." The bishop recalled Gandalf's reply: "So do all who live to see such times. That is not ours to decide, but ours is to do the best with the time that has been given to us."

Concerning prayer, the bishop commended the practice of the Holy Hour. "I beg you," he said, "to be men of prayer."

  1. go!
  2. preach about it.
  3. be available.
On the primacy of grace, it is less about numbers and more about fidelity. The Church is His Church. Novo Millennion Ineunte refers to the discouragement that can result with the instigation of yet another new program following on the heels of others that have either fizzled out or that have not produced results. It's not us. In other words, it's not a question of dreaming up new programs. The Lord does not want us to be successful but faithful.

Pope Benedict has established a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation and there is an upcoming Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation. Whilst we await guidance from these ecclesiastical organs, for us it is time to stop talking about the New Evangelisation and rather make it happen.

Whilts it is not about a new program we do need a strategic plan, and we need to develop it together. So perhaps there might be established a task force to focus on a diocesan plan, a strategy for the New Evangelisation, focussed on the 7 headings of NMI.

Our personal holiness really matters as priests. It makes all the difference in the Body of Christ. In the year of priests we were reminded that the effectiveness of the priestly ministry relies on the holiness of priests. If the priest is holy, the people are good. If the priest is good, the people are ok. If the priest is mediocre, God help the people!

We must be serious in our life of prayer, in our sacrifice, etc. The bishop confided to the priests that he prays and offers sacrifice for each priest in the diocese. His Friday Mass, fast, prayer, abstinence are all offered for the priests of the diocese. He asks Our Lady to pour out the Precious Blood and Water that flowed from her Son's side upon all the priests and that she would hold us close to her Immaculate Heart.

Bishop Sample also encouraged us to reach out to one another, to foster priestly friendships, to reach out to one whom we notice to be isolated, reclusive, etc. He encouraged support groups, and exhorted us to do all we can to be present at ordinations, the Chrism Mass, the funerals of our brother priests and of their parents.
Bishop Sample preaching on the feast of St Bruno
In his homily at the Mass that followed the final session, Bishop Sample, commenting on the gospel appointed for the Mass of St Bruno, encouraged us to serve the Lord with undivided hearts, to be men of hope. We are blest because we hope in the Lord, that we should teach our people to place all their hope in him.

On the previous day, Bishop Sample invited all the priests to make the following Act of Consecration after the homily:

Mary, Mother of Jesus and Queen of Peace
since Jesus from the Cross
gave you to me,
I take you as my own.

And since Jesus gave me to you,
take me as your own.
Make me docile like Jesus on the Cross,
obedient to the Father,
trusting in humility and love.

Mary, my Mother,
in imitation of the Father,
who gave His Son to you,
I too give myself to you;
to you I entrust all that I am,
all that I have
and all that I do.

Help me to surrender ever more fully to the Spirit.
Lead me deeper into the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection
and the fullness of the Church.

As you formed the heart of Jesus by the Spirit,
form my heart to be the throne of Jesus
in His glorious coming.
As a final thought, perhaps it is worth recalling Bishop Sample's coat of arms:

You can read about it at the Bishop's Page of the Marquette diocesan website. Concerning his motto, we read the following:
For his motto, Bishop Sample uses the Latin phrase, “VULTUM CHRISTI CONTEMPLARI” (“to contemplate the face of Christ”). This theme is taken from the writings of Pope John Paul II (Novo Millennio Ineunte and Ecclesia de Eucharistia), in which the Holy Father reminded us that it is the task of the Church to make the face of Christ shine before the generations of the new millennium. The Holy Father further reflected: “Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.” 
So the New Evangelisation has been at the heart of Bishop Sample's vision: that all may be led to the contemplation of the face of Christ.


  1. These are all very nice words, and I agree with them . . . but, alas, just words. The proof is in the pictures (like, where is the tabernacle placed?).

    Also: Is that a comfy chair for the Bishop to sit in?! (Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inquisition.)

    Read the GIRM? Shouldn't that have been done whilst in the seminary? . . . but, I disgress. Okay, let's say a priest of the Diocese of Marquette reads the GIRM and, based on that reading, starts celebrating Mass in Latin ad orientem. Will good Bp. Sample support him?

    The Bishop wants to listen to Pope Benedict; the Bishop says he's following Pope Benedict. He says the Tridentine and the Post-conciliar forms of Mass should enrich eachother.

    How is that evident in the pictures above? What changes will he make in HIS OWN DIOCESE, amongst HIS OWN FLOCK, to restore Catholic liturgy to its former beauty, to "enrich" the New with the Old.

    Will he ask for ad orientem worship throughtout the diocese? With 6 candles on the altar? With a fully sung liturgy, including the Gospel? More Gregorian chant? Incense? Etc., etc.

    I'm doubtful.

    It's easy to talk about "reforming the reform" . . . but, it means eventually having the guts to do something about it as well.

  2. Matthew: As another famous blogger says, brick by brick. Your doubts are probably based on your experiences elsewhere. I think we can have no doubt about the direction in which Bishop Sample is taking his diocese. Which doesn't mean you will see the goal of the program immediately. But there is a goal. (So, Mass in a hotel, things arranged with as much dignity as was possible, and celebrated with utter faithfulness, in accordance with the GIRM and clear signs of enrichment from the Bishop's celebration of the Extraordinary Form. As for Latin Mass - I assume you are referring to Nobus Ordo - ad orientem, I daresay the bishop would counsel the priest to ensure that proper catechesis is carried out. Prudence is a virtue. Most of us in parish situations know you can't do something so drastic without preparing the people first. I know how much preparation is needed for the new translation. To prepare them for a Latin Mass ad orientem would also need preparation.) Yes, 6 candles (or 7 when the bishop celebrates) is not uncommon in the diocese - it is how it is in my parish and is being looked into at the Cathedral - and all the other things you mentioned are, I am confident, part of the program.

  3. Thank you, Father, for your comments.

    My doubts are based precisely on the kind of response that you gave above.

    Brick by brick? Bishop Sample was consecrated for Marquette in 2006! Please, name one thing since then that His Excellency has mandated for his diocese that would qualify as enriching the “new liturgy” with the “old.” (And, I don’t mean bringing the hammer down on Permanent Deacons preaching at Mass.)

    Bp. Sample says he’s listening, he says he’s following His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Well, how about listening to and following Vatican II? Sacrosanctum Concilium (#54) clearly states the faithful should know the Latin responses. There is not one Mass of Pope Paul VI in Latin on the schedule at St. Peter’s Cathedral. There is a Tridentine Mass scheduled . . . at 3 P.M. . . . in a chapel. Wow, what enrichment!

    Ah, that old wriggle word, “catechesis.” Fr. Boyle, when you use one of the optional greetings at the beginning of Mass . . . or, use the sprinkling rite in lieu of the Penitential Rite . . . or, wear an amice . . . or, use Eucharistic Prayer IV instead of (whichever one) . . . do you feel the need to catechize the congregation before choosing such options? I doubt that you do. It’s like asking the congregation’s permission for you, the priest, to say Mass according to its legitimate options. Then, why would you need to catechize them regarding your choice of the perfectly legitimate option to celebrate ad orientem.

    By the way, I make no mention of the fact that a whole group of priests with their bishop should need NO CATECHESIS regarding the ad orientem celebration of Holy Eucharist. So, why isn’t Bp. Sample doing it?

    Because they’re words . . . and, words are easy to say. They make one sound orthodox and reverential and traditional.

    But, look at your last revelation about the traditional practice of having 6 candles on the altar: It’s “being looked into at the Cathedral.” And, YOU ask ME why I have my doubts about His Excellency?!

  4. Mr Dunn

    I am saddened by your negative attitude to such a good bishop. I can't possibly respond here to all the negative remarks you have made. So, you may have the last word on this.

    Yours in Christ.

  5. Oh Matthew - how sad that you are so concerned with the external trappings of liturgy - no mention in your rant of the teachings of Jesus, the Gospel, or prayer - all about candles and vestments..............
    Remember the old saying 'softly softly catchy monkey' - the things you mention ARE important but can't be achieved through mere legislation - if that be the case then the next Bishop has the right to legislate in the opposite direction - remember - you can catch more flies with a teaspoon of honey than with a gallon of vinegar. It would have been very easy for our beloved Holy Father to have legislated on such matters, but if he sees fit to adopt 'change slowly and by example' then we maybe should do likewise. Don't confuse the substance with the external trappings - is the material used for the construction of the Bishop's chair a barrier to his leading his flock to God! Adopt a mature and Christian attitude - do you think, from the evidence we have in the Gospel, that Jesus would be so negative?

  6. Mr Dunn. I am not publishing your latest comment. If you are at all interested as to why, do get in touch. (jboyle1502 at gmail dot com).


Please avoid being 'anonymous' if at all possible.


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