I’ve been working through the “Read the Bible and the Catechism in a Year” for about 6 years now. (I’m over half-way through — huzzah!)
As I was reading about the role of the bishops, I was shocked at the language I read from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” quoting St. Ignatius of Antioch who lived in the First Century after Christ, was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, and was personally appointed to his bishopric by St. Peter:
“Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.” (CCC 1549.)
I was stunned: “the bishop is like… the living image of God the Father.”
Did my children even know the name of our bishop? Who was our bishop, anyway? Did I ever stop to pray for him? What were his needs and intentions?
At that moment, I made a commitment to get to know and, above all, to pray for my bishop on a daily basis. In my own personal prayer life, I have begun adding an extra Our Father at the beginning of the Rosary for the intentions and needs of my bishop. Right after my prayer for the Holy Father of the Church, I include a prayer for the Holy Father of my diocese. My children know our bishop by name and have written him. We tune in to our diocese’s “Bishop’s Corner” radio program.
I have really grown to love and respect my bishop, and so has my family. We all — the men in our family included — have a affection for him as a father.
But, what if you don’t like your “father”? In a church full of sinners, we are guaranteed to find ourselves under the leadership of an imperfect human being. We may feel justified turning ours spiritual backs on our bishop or priest.
What if, rather than seeing our bishop as a “boss” or a “CEO,” because of whom we could “switch offices” or “vote against,” we were to see him as the Catechism teaches — as our father? How different would our response be to “mismanagement,” if we kept the Fourth Commandment in the forefront of our minds: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12)?
And, how much more honor could you give a bishop than to pray and fast for him?
Regardless of how you feel about your bishop currently, I urge you to get to know him. Teach your children his name and what the Catechism teaches about his office. Look for opportunities in your diocese to interact with him. And most importantly, ask God for the grace to love him as your “living image of God the Father” (or to be moved with pity for him), so that you may pray for him from your heart.