Left to Right: Maurice Moon, Jonathan Demma,Most Rev. Michael F. Olson and Rijo Philip.
October 19, 2016
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, Jean de Lalande, Antoine Daniel, John de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel: these are the names of the saints whose feast we celebrate this day. Christ called each of them by name. He called them by name at baptism; He called them by name at their profession and ordination. They heard Christ’s call to follow Him, they said “yes” to Him, and they placed Him first in their efforts to evangelize the Huron and Iroquois people of North America. Each of them were different and were given different gifts as enumerated by Paul in his first Letter to the Corinthians from which we have just read. Each of them were clear in their resolve to love Him and His People and they gave their lives for both.
St. Isaac Jogues was a man of clear resolve. He wrote his superior, ‘Yes, Father, I want whatever the Lord wants, even if it costs a thousand lives.” It was the gift of fortitude that brought him and the other martyrs to clarity. When Isaac Jogues and Rene Goupil were accompanying a party of their Christian Hurons on a trade mission they were ambushed by a war party of the Iroquois and outnumbered. In the ensuing battle, Isaac Jogues found himself hidden in the weeds while the seminarian Rene Goupil and the Hurons were captured. He could have remained hidden in the weeds but he came forth to absolve, to anoint, and to comfort those who were captured. He came out of the obscurity of the weeds because he was a priest and a priest belongs with his people. Today we need from priests the clarity of hope bolstered by fortitude just as much as we need the certitude of faith articulated with reason.
Isaac Jogues suffered immensely at the hands of the Iroquois for thirteen months—he had hot coals thrown on him, he was beaten daily, malnourished and mocked, he had two of his fingers gnawed off by an Algonquin woman who also sheared off his right thumb with a jagged shell. Most painfully, he suffered by witnessing the murder of the Christian Hurons whom he had baptized and catechized and loved as a pastor. He also witnessed the murder of the seminarian Rene Goupil for whose priestly formation he had been responsible. Isaac Jogues was later liberated by a Dutch trading party and returned to France. Immediately upon his return to France he attended Mass. He kept things simple and prioritized and he did not hide in the weeds of obscurity and cowardice.
The temptation against clarity and simplicity did not end there because the Jesuit leadership had spread the word around Europe about his exploits as a missionary. Isaac Jogues, having suffered all of this, was then presented to the courts of royalty and politicians to further the complicated political agendas of many within the Church and the state. They attempted to use him as a vehicle for promotion. They offered him the weeds of politics and celebrity in which to hide and cower. Yet, he trusted, he loved, and remained simply faithful to Christ’s call. His fidelity brought him to an obedient return to North America where he courageously met his martyrdom being tomahawked to death and decapitated by a Mohawk warrior. This Mohawk warrior was later to be converted and baptized. At his baptism, Christ called this Mohawk warrior by the new Christian name of Isaac Jogues—the name by which Christ was to call him later at the Mohawk’s own martyrdom for the love of God.
The Rite for the Reception of Candidacy is very simple. It seems to be so much of an understatement; it’s almost stark. There are two short and direct questions and an equally short declarative statement of reception made by the Bishop in the name of the Church. Yet, like an evil age, we seek a sign for the Rite. There is no Book of the Gospels; there is no Chrism; there is no imposition of hands, no chalice or paten, no tonsure. Yet, this simplicity is precisely the point. Like the evil age no sign is given it except the Son of Man. It is truly simple.
The Rite is truly marked by the simplicity of hope; it is the hope required to hear the call and courageously to say “yes.” It is the hope of the simple-hearted whom the Lord protects with compassion. The Rite is steeped in simplicity because our human condition encounters so many temptations to complicate our response to the call, even to the point that a man can forget that he is here because he answered a call at Christ’s initiative.
There is much around our lives and ministries to tempt us towards opaqueness and complication. There is much about the human dimension of the Church that tempts us to hide in the weeds and to obscure the true nature of our call from Jesus Christ. This can be done through distractions like inebriation from alcohol, manipulating the formation program, the seduction of power, and the comfortable life of self-righteous entitlement. All of it is marked by the sin of acedia, the “noonday devil”; it is boredom with the spiritual simplicity of one called by Christ. Acedia is the sin that leads us to seek out the weeds in which to cower from love.
Yet, Jesus gives us the courage of the Cross, His selfless love. He enables us to love as He loves. As we have just prayed with the entire Church in Psalm 116, “I trusted even when I said I am sorely afflicted, and when I said in my alarm ‘no man can be trusted’.” Thus, should you, our aspirants to candidacy (and each of us as well), trust God Who is upright and will never reject us (His People, His Church) even when we cannot grasp the details of the entire picture and are frightened. Perseverance in trust is required and specifically sought from our aspirants in the Rite we celebrate in today’s Vespers.
In a few moments, you will each be called again by name. I will ask you two questions that seek the declaration of your clear resolve to prepare for ordination to which Jesus, who never obscures, who is never opaque, who never deceives, who is never deceived, calls you and offers you His love. Jesus lovingly calls you by name to prepare for service and to come out of the weeds by courageously saying “yes” to Him—to love His People as He loves them—to live in the clarity of His Truth.
+ Most Rev. Michael F. Olson
Bishop of Fort Worth