Reflecting on the first couple of days here in Rome at the Bishop's School with 120 bishops from all over the world I have to say the operative word is overwhelming. We have only begun several days of talks and there is already more to do than I could ever accomplish. Even as I say this I'm aware that probably the most important thing is to remember I CAN NOT do it all. Ultimately we only cooperate with the grace of God.
I hope this reflection is helpful to you where ever you find yourself. Whether a student, a parent, a professional, a priest, a woman religious, a deacon or some combination of these roles I suppose we all feel overwhelmed at times. One of the bishops spoke of the grace of office and I definitely feel the strength that brings. The Lord truly does give us the grace to fulfill His call for us.
We had an excellent presentation last night where a bishop from Brazil touched on some very practical points. I laughed when he reminded us that time is very democratic. Whether the Pope or a kindergartener we all get the same 24 hours every day. He emphasized that as bishop I need to manage my time well. I know that is a challenge we all face.
The most important message I heard yesterday was to focus on the essentials. This resonates with my own prayerful reflection on what we need in the diocese. I believe we all need to live the essentials of our Catholic faith. There are so many distractions and fragmentations of life for all of us. These include serious threats to the very fiber of our life in Christ. Catholic teaching through the ages guides the people of God to be fully alive in this world and to live with Him eternally in the next.
When we begin to speak of the essentials I'm sure many priorities flood our minds. I would propose the following as at least a beginning list.
1. Our relationship with Jesus Christ God's only begotten Son who guides us in His Spirit
2. The Virgin Mary Mother of God and model of Christians
3. The Eucharist & all the sacraments especially marriage, signs of Christ alive with us
4. The Word of God nourishment for our souls
5. The sanctity of life from conception to natural death
Some may be surprised at my second essential. I place Mary immediately after our personal relationship with Christ because she constantly points us back to Christ. As our loving Mother she always nudges us back on the path of her son.
We immediately think of a multitude of important things that radiate from these five essentials. Hopefully these five help us to constantly refocus on the essentials of our life in Christ while not neglecting these important things.
Let us continually return to these in all that we do and let us support each other in living the essentials.
Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was named the fourth bishop of Tyler in September of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to being named bishop, he served a number of roles in the diocese, including vicar general, judicial vicar, and pastor of the Cathedral parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.