Archbishop Dolan on John Paul II's Example (Part 2)

On an Examination of Conscience for Bishops

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, DEC. 7, 2004 ( Archbishop Timothy Dolan has found that John Paul II’s recent writings on the role of bishops can serve as an examination of conscience for those entrusted with shepherding Christ’s flock.

Archbishop Dolan shared with ZENIT how the Pope’s book, «Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way» (Warner Books) and postsynodal exhortation «Pastores Gregis» have helped him evaluate how he is leading his own flock and challenged him to imitate John Paul II’s example as a bishop.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.

Q: What most surprised you about the Holy Father’s personal stories in the book?

Archbishop Dolan: Two things were remarkable to me.

First, the profound impact of Poland on him came home so vividly — not that I needed convincing. It has been said that Poland is a country where Catholicism is in the stones. The culture, society, history, art and literature are all steeped in the richness of Catholicism.

This is in every cell of Karol Jozef Wojtyla’s body. He exudes that beautifully rich, devout, incarnational brand of Polish Catholicism that has captivated the world through him. So the first thing that stood out was how profoundly this man is a son of Poland and how deeply he loves his country and its culture.

The second thing that jumped out at me after reading the book was how comfortable he is with the laity — how many lay friends that he has, especially families and young people. He speaks very often about his priest friends, but what comes out particularly are the friends who have nurtured his life who are among the laity.

He loved his camping trips with young people, his conversations with students, the company of married couples and their families. He is very much at home with them all.

Again by his example, he embodies and promotes the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that a major duty of a priest — and, therefore, of a bishop — is to serve lay people, to know them and love them, so that they are able to carry out their role of evangelization in the world.

Q: What thoughts of the Pope’s on modern matters seemed most significant to you?

Archbishop Dolan: Again, I would say his thoughts on the role of the laity. But also, his feelings on the horror of war, his worry about the decline of the practice of the faith in Europe; his powerful meditations on the Holy Land; his views on the necessity of collegiality and collaboration in the Church; his thoughts on Africa and Latin America.

Those are areas of profound insights that he had on challenging issues in the modern world that really attracted my attention.

Q: What can you take from John Paul II’s experience as bishop to inform your own service to the Church?

Archbishop Dolan: A number of things. First of all, that I have to be a man on fire with love for Jesus Christ. I have to be a man at peace with myself and with my mission and vocation as a bishop; a man who has some very practical pastoral goals in mind that never leave my attention; a man who is not afraid, who firmly believes that Jesus is in charge of my life and that his grace is sufficient.

I need not be afraid about «casting out to the deep» and calling my people to sanctity, to heroic virtue and to perfection. The Holy Father tells us that this is what he did in Krakow; that it is what he has done as bishop of Rome and bishop of the Church universal. I, too, need to learn about that.

Secondly, his experience as a bishop teaches me that I must be very close to my priests. John Paul II loves his priests. He loved his priests when he was archbishop of Krakow, he loves his priests now as successor of St. Peter.

I need to do a better job of reaching out to my priests, of listening to them, of being with them, of praying with them, of encouraging them, and yes, of challenging them and correcting them when that is necessary.

A very beautiful model of a bishop that I think John Paul II exemplifies is that a bishop should be to his priests what a pastor is to his people.

We should be a priest for priests — we should be a pastor of priests. That is the second lesson that I took from both the Holy Father’s book, from his exhortation «Pastores Gregis» and from his model.

Thirdly, I learned again the importance of the Eucharist, an insight appropriate during this Year of the Eucharist.

The most important part of the Pope’s day is his celebration of the Eucharist. Everything flows from that, and he returns to be with our Lord really and truly present in the Eucharist throughout the day. The Eucharist is the heart of the day, not just part of the day, as an old saying goes.

For me to be with my priests and people with the Eucharist, and for me personally to be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, that says it all.

And, finally, I think that these documents — both his masterful personal reflections and the postsynodal exhortation — serve as a real examination of conscience for me.

I have to admit that when I see all that he has accomplished and all the duties that «Pastores Gregis» puts upon the shoulders of bishops, I feel a certain amount of frustration, trepidation and, yes, anxiety. When I read it, I think, «My Lord, who am I to live up to all of this?»

But we never give up trying. We keep this as a noble goal. We keep it before us always and we examine ourselves to see if we are indeed a good shepherd for God’s people.

We are never going to be able to do it all. We are never going to be able to follow the example of Jesus completely. We are never even going to be able to follow the example of the Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II, completely. But we must never give up trying.

We are constantly refining and renewing our approach to being a successor of the apostles. The Pope gives us so much; that’s good, because he is calling forth what is best in us. There is no wavering, no dilution here. He is holding up the ideal and he is calling us to it.

This examination of conscience is something that we all need. As our Holy Father often says, «Love for Jesus and his Church must be the passion of your lives.»

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