It was appropriate on this father's day weekend that I would begin it by celebrating an event of central importance with the local Church at which five new priests were added to the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Washington.
I participated with joy in the Mass with the cardinal, bishops, brother priests, deacons, women and men of religious communities and so many families and lay members of the Church who filled the beautiful basilica and became all together so many voices joined together in the oneness of prayer and praise that manifests the Body of Christ, the Kingdom in our midst, in the fullest way.
This is part of the growth of the kingdom the Lord describes in today's Gospel: "the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how." You may have noticed a change in the landscape around the rectory. I have planted a garden each year, delighted at the process by which the seeds I plant sprout and grow. I do not need to know how this mystery takes place in order to cooperate in the process. I am content to be delighted at the results even though the way in which it happens remains very much a mystery hidden in the designs of the Creator.
These men began their vocations like a small seed, which had to be nourished with care so that it might grow big and strong, like that tree in today's Gospel that even becomes sufficient for creatures to live in it. That is why the place in which men are formed to be priests is called a "seminary", describing this process which is partly a mystery to us in which a man grows to become a close collaborator with the Lord in the mystery of our redemption, itself growing like the small seed of a new vocation to become the largest of plants. As a matter of fact, when we attain our heavenly glory the Kingdom in which we live will be the largest reality imaginable because it will be as big as God Himself: infinite in love, glory and grace and joy.
"... to his own disciples he explained everything in private." In the life of the first seminary the Lord Himself did the work of the formation of the Apostles, elaborating in more detail for his closest disciples upon the parables by which He began to explain the mysteries of Faith to the people. Our work for the mission continues in collaboration with our bishops who also today undertake the formation of priests, they and their co-workers "explaining everything in private" within the setting and life of the seminary.
The work of the Kingdom which the Lord began continues also for all of us. The bishops are the authentic teachers of the Faith. Archbishop Lori recently spoke out about the effort to defend religious freedom.
"In a presentation on religious liberty issues, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore ,chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, acknowledged the U.S. bishops' 'fortnight for freedom' campaign has come under heavy criticism in the secular media, in the blogosphere and by some Catholics as being a partisan political effort.
" 'But the two-week period is meant to be free of politics and will emphasize church teaching on religious freedom', he said.
" 'Already we realize that defending religious freedom is not a walk in the park,' he said. 'We've seen some reaction to our work that is sometimes hostile, sometimes unfair and inaccurate and sometimes derisive.'
"The upcoming fortnight, which takes place June 21-July 4, will be a period of prayer, education and action aimed at explaining how a federal health care contraceptive mandate violates religious principles. The mandate requires most religious employers to provide free health insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations.
"At the end of the discussion on religious freedom in the United States, the bishops affirmed by a unanimous voice vote a recent statement of the USCCB Administrative Committee regarding the HHS mandate titled 'United for Religious Freedom.' "
On this Father's Day weekend we rightly celebrate the fatherhood of our men who answer the call to the vocation of holy matrimony as those who make up the largest group as natural fathers in the Church. They answer a heroic call with their spouses to cooperate with God to bring new life into the world. We also look to our bishops as "fathers" in the life of the Faith, who teach us what it means to love and believe in Christ the Lord as we together with them nurture the seed of Faith for the benefit of all in the growth of the Kingdom.
A happy and blessed Father's Day to all of our natural, and supernatural, Fathers.