Our Bishops, Our Church

For the past 38 years—since I received the Sacrament of Confirmation (or there abouts)—I am the only one in my family of origin who is still Roman Catholic. My parents ditched the faith in favor of the local Assembly of God where they have worshipped and held membership for umpteen years.  Prior to that they had made their home at a local non-denominational church and prior to that it was another Assembly of God church. My only sibling (older) was largely unchurched during her 23 years of marriage to H#2; she and #3 now also attend the same AoG as the folks.  Me?  I remain in the Church because I love the Church. I have done plenty of research into other communities of faith (not all qualify to be called churches) and I know what the offerings are.  Why study them?  To see where common-ground is…so I can better minister to them when I speak of my love of the Church.

Here in eight essays are the reasons I absolutely love the Catholic Church.

The role of the Bishop in the Church 

One of the primary reasons there are in excess of 35,000 (and climbing daily) religious denominations is the great lack of central leadership.  It seems that everyone is caught up in doing their own thing.  “The Bible is self-interpreting”, they say.  “The Holy Spirit and me”.  If the Holy Scriptures really did have the capacity to be self-interpreting then 100% of the people who read them would come to the same exact interpretation, 100% of the time. There would be no divisions:  Assembly of God, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Lutheran, Mennonite, Congregational, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.  St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians (14:33), God is “not a god of confusion but of peace” Paul also gives warning about the myriads of divisions: “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” (1 Cor. 1:12)…today’s communities can fill in the blanks and point to their respective human founders:  “I belong to Luther”, “I belong to Wesley”…“to Calvin” and countless others.

In the Catholic Church it is the Magisterium who interprets Sacred Scripture (for an easy-to-read/understand article on the Magisterium read my online blog,  and scroll down or go here).

It was to the apostles and their successors, the holy order of bishops that Jesus gave the power to bind and loose – not just in the forgiveness of sins but in all things: “Whatever (emphasis mine) you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 18:18). Five chapters later (23:2-3), Jesus clearly exhorted his followers to adhere to those in high office:  “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.  Nothing here about checking Scripture to see if whatever the Pharisees mandated was biblical.  Note Jesus clearly says… “Do and observe all things whatsoever”. In today’s Church it is not the seat of Moses from whence comes our authority but from the See (seat) of Peter — “cathedra” — from the Greek word which means “chair” (and whose feast the Church celebrates is February 22).

I love the role of the bishops in today’s Church.  My journey through life is greatly enhanced by them.  I mean, I just don’t have to figure stuff out all by myself. My salvation, thankfully, does not rely on my own interpretation of Scripture and other things.  Bishops are like fathers – they ARE fathers – and they, too, have a commission: “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).

But the role of the bishop is not just about mandates. Bishops enjoy the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  All priests have the power to consecrate the sacred elements at Mass whereby bread and wine become the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Bishops have this same power, of course, but they also have the power to ordain new priests for the sake of the Eucharist.

The role of the bishop (Episkopoz) is that of “the new high priest”, established by God himself in the Old Testament and “in the language of the Fathers of the Church…is the supreme power of the sacred ministry” (Lumen Gentium ¶21, §2).  This important document of Vatican II also states that Bishops hold the title of Vicar of Christ (#27).

The mission of the bishop is, therefore, “To be with God through Christ’s mediation and, as Christ’s emissary, to bring God to men — this is the mission of the bishop. ‘He who does not gather with me scatters’ says Jesus (Mt. 12:30): the bishop’s raison d’être is to gather with Jesus” (Ratzinger*).

I find this statement to be powerful and profound.  The author of Genesis tells how God…“walked about in the garden in the cool of the evening” (3:8). Later “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) it was God become man who walked among his people in the person of Jesus. Today it is the bishops who walk/minister among us and they are to be “reverenced” according to one of the Church’s greatest bishops, Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Ephesians and “we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself”.

Ignatius further exhorts in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans, “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father… Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil”.

Bishops are guides on life’s journey – pilgrimage, really – they warn of unseen dangers lurking about; they tell which “foods” are safe and unsafe while helping to locate “shelter” and other needs for one’s personal safety. If I decided to climb Mount Everest, I’d better be willing to put down good money for a very professional Sherpa guide – someone who knows the way far better than me.  I’d want a guide who tells me that the journey is tough but also assures me that the summit is exhilarating.  I’d also want a guide who’s been in business for many years and not someone who’s just set up shop awhile ago.

The Holy Order of Bishops is, therefore, a great gift of God’s love in the Church. I pray for them daily and remind each and every bishop of St. Paul’s charge to them through the young bishop, Timothy: “O Timothy, guard well what has been entrusted to you” (1 Tim 6:20)…and thank-you, Sweet Bishops, for all you do!

Editor’s note: This article is part one in a series on the Eight Reasons to Love the Catholic Church. Look for a new reason every Tuesday. 

Cynthia Trainque

By

Cynthia Trainque is an author who is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) for the Laity at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA. She has served the church for several years as a worker, writer, and volunteer and is presently an active member of St. Mary's Parish in Ayer, MA. Cynthia is available to come to speak as a guest speaker/teacher on the beauty of the Catholic faith.  She gives talks and also creates/uses PowerPoint presentations. She may be contacted at Catherineofsienamedia@yahoo.com.

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  • Mark

    Bishops also unfortunately hid the despicable acts of hundreds of priests over the years, so not the wonderful folks you speak of in the article.

  • Mark

    I think you forget about the many bishops that hid and moved the activities of despicable priests that took advantage of children over the years in many parishes and dioceses They were not so wonderful or a gift from God then.

  • Lepanto

    The fact that there were (and are) many corrupt bishops does nothing to invalidate the importance of the episcopacy.

    Judas was the first corrupt bishop, and he was chosen by Christ Himself.

  • noelfitz

    This is another great article, so I am grateful to Ms Trainque and CE. Every
    evening I try to do some spiritual reading and recently this is from CE, as I
    find the articles uplifting.

    In American Catholicism the USCCB seems to be attacked from all
    sides. If you are attacked by the extreme left and right, it may be
    showing you are correct.

    In Catholicism now there seems to be many opinions, beliefs and practices, some
    legitimate and some not so., so can we really boast about our unity, as in fact
    we are allowed freedom of opinion, except in core beliefs.

    Initially reading this article I wondered why so many family members left the Church, but there were explanations.

    You might like to look at http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.ie/2011/10/on-authority-of-bishops-from-st.html.

  • Mark

    So do you think it is expected collateral damage to have corrupt bishops that were enabled by structure of the church?

  • Ian

    Having corrupt bishops is never a good thing. It means that they MISUSED the role and office of the church. As Lepanto said, a corrupt bishop does not invalidate the importance of the episcopacy. It is still important as stated in the article, and it is up to whoever it was elected, to uphold the honor and dignity of that office.

  • Confused

    I am on the fence about even having to pick or choose just one religion and don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket because what if I pick the wrong one? Then do I end up in hell?? Why do religions preach, we are right and they are wrong, believe us not them…WHAT? I think they are all wrong, why even add that in at all? It doesn’t matter, how about love that they found somewhere to feel loved and accepted. What does it accomplish by judging who is who by where they go to find God? Does it make you feel better about yourself for picking the right religion and they didn’t? Can’t we just be happy we have somewhere to go that makes us feel loved. When they preach about that this is the only way and we are right others are wrong is when I stop listening. Why not say this is what we believe and leave it at that? Let them decide and believe what they want, teach them what you know and believe because what if what you were taught is wrong too? You DON’T know if you are right either do you? How can you find love in judgment and that is why I can’t decide either? I guess I don’t know any bishops that have taken that out of their teachings to make me believe one way or another. Good to hear you found a place to call home and share that with others.

  • Lee

    Confusion is keeping you from finding the Love of Jesus Christ. How do we know anything if we do not search out answers, with critical minds, for ourselves. Do not decide a church until you know some history of its beginning. Jesus Christ gave us the Catholic Church; and promises His presence, now. Visit Him anytime at the altar of any Catholic Church, maybe you will hear what you have been searching for. Blessings upon you.

  • Cynthia

    It was Jesus alone who ever made the claim of I am the way, the truth and the life. This was not a claim of Martin Luther or Muhammad (PBUH) or Buddha or anyone else. Jesus never said I am one of many ways or many truths. Jesus founded only one Church. Those who truly loved Jesus find that they must then be in the one Church he founded. As I said, Protestantism is founded on each person’s own interpretation which even most Protestants complain about the sheer numbers. What if “they believe what they want” as you suggest? That’s exactly how we end up with 40,000+ denominations in the first place. Certainly there is good and truth in all faiths — but the fullness of it is found in the Catholic Church. That’s not a statement about “I am better than you” but it is to show forth that I found the way and I’d like to help you find the same way that I’ve found. That’s not pride but humility. If you and I were lost in a corn maze and I suddenly found the way out would you want me to go alone or to come back for you?

  • Diaconos

    I loved the article. I only wish you had mentioned deacons in your description of the servants of the Church. Read what St. Ignacious of Antioch has to say about deacons, very profound. I am Thankful that the Latin Church restored the Diaconate and allowed married deacons. Before coming into full Communion with the Catholic Church, I was a Greek Antiochian Orthodox deacon. The diaconate was highly honored in the Eastern Churches and in the Byzantine Greek Catholic Churches, but not so fully honored in the Latin West, It is the most strangest thing I have come to realize.

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