WelCom June 2017: Recently I was in Auckland to celebrate ‘Founder’s Day’ at the seminary. Some claim anniversaries and jubilees are a kind of pre-Kardashian pre-Facebook outlet for self-absorption. ‘Look at what we’ve done and for how long.’
That’s a cynical interpretation. In fact, in our Christian understanding of time chronos – the sequential unfolding of history day by day, year by year, anniversary by anniversary, is crowned by Kairos – the sense of time embraced by the divine; with the wonder and beauty of seasons and affinities, of opportunities and providence.
Anniversaries, including birthdays, are then occasions to celebrate that God is at work among us, to celebrate te wairua mahi within us.
The Gospel reading at the seminary Founder’s Day was one we all know well: the Good Shepherd, who knows and calls his sheep and they know and follow him. That ‘knowing’ is relational because its fullness is love: ‘I will lay down my life for the sheep’ (Jn 10:15).
In a world stalked by worksite regulations, copyright warriors, RAMs forms, and increasing layers of bureaucracy, this Gospel reading poses some raw questions especially for Bishops, priests and seminarians: how many of our parishioners and school families do we call by name, who do we really know, whose homes have we visited this week? Do we try, stumble though we may, to be icons of the Good Shepherd or is there a risk that we are tempted to fashion idols of priesthood according to our own vision or image?
These are not peripheral or secondary questions. They are questions that point to the heart of who we are as ministers, as priests after the heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Sometimes as a Bishop I’m tempted to cry out to our priests and pastoral workers – no more pointless meetings, no more recycled agenda. Let’s for six months just have one focus for reflection: in whose homes and places have you been, what did you talk about, what did you hear and learn, how was your faith kindled through simply being with others and listening?
In preparing to preach at the Founder’s Day Mass, it struck me that a seminary is a school of the heart and mind; a school of love and knowledge. The heart and love have the upper hand not because the mind and knowledge are less important but because only love can sustain our life as a daily outpouring (cf. Jn 10:16-18) for those multitudes of people we find alongside us. It is this that a priest must know and try to live.
Bishop Charles Drennan
Editor’s note: The annual Founder’s Day Mass celebrates the founding of Holy Cross Seminary at Mosgiel by Bishop Verdon in 1900. In the 1980s this seminary was closed and the present Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland was opened in 1989.