I realize it has been some time since my last posting here and I will admit to a certain “desert” experience during which I felt neither the muse nor the motive. However, that brief period is now over and I am ready again to take “pen to hand” (well, not exactly literally) and share some thoughts with you again.
I am currently killing time in Baltimore awaiting my return flight to St. Petersburg after the fall meeting of the bishops of the US (USCCB). Admittedly, there was both some soul-searching and some navel gazing following the recent elections, but the work of the Church continues. Among the public actions taken, I think a special message on “preaching” written for bishops, deacons and priests who are privileged to have this special task was probably one of the best things which we accomplished during the two days of public meetings. It is a challenging document, sober in its analysis of both the challenge and efficacy of preaching. In my humble opinion, it is one of the better pastoral items coming from the USCCB in recent years. When published, I intend to give a copy to all of our priests and deacons but for those who cannot wait, Rocco Palmo of the “mother of all ecclesial blogs” has the text in its entirety and up even before the USCCB’s own website. You can read it by clicking here.
There is always a lot of “business” and “busyness” accompanying our annual meetings since the annual budget for the conference and the priorities and plans, in the case of this year’s meeting, for the next three years must be passed. Cardinal Dolan’s Presidential address on the need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation was different than what we usually hear and built upon Pope Benedict’s homily that the new evangelization must spring from the twin foundations of reconciliation and charity. The representative of the Holy Father to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, addressed us thoughtfully on a number of matters including the care of the bishops for his priests.
It was hard at times for me to concentrate as there is a major challenge awaiting me at home in the diocese. With somewhere near 1,500 employees whose health care plan is administered by United Healthcare, the battle between they and Baycare, whose doctors and hospitals many of our employees use, is approaching a decisive hour when major decisions will have to be made. I can not envision being a part of a healthcare plan which does not include St. Anthony’s and St. Joseph’s Hospitals, but Baycare is demanding a dramatic increase in reimbursement fees which will also impact the already stretched and tight budgets of our parishes, schools and institutions. Nowhere in seminary training, then or now, were we trained how to deal with a “Clash of Titans.” November 30th is the drop dead date after which some major decisions may have to be made by my administrative team.
Tampa is in the news in a tragic and unflattering way these days, as most of you know, which leads me to share some concluding thoughts on fidelity, marriage, ordination and consecration. I don’t know if it is just me, but it seems that infidelity has brought down too many role models in the last decade, be they athletes, religious leaders, politicians, and now, high ranking leaders of the military. That marriages fail is an understandable reality and fact of life. That dalliances prevail is a tragedy of modern life. Cheating on one’s firm commitment undermines the stability and trust not just of the promises, but also of the major institutions of society and the people we elect, chose or admire who hold those positions. Fidelity, where art thou? It seems to me that fidelity is in, shall we say, a “skyfall!”
With that last paragraph, you might wish that I re-enter the desert where there are no birds, no ravens, no orioles, and no bishops!