Bishop Morneau gives Lenten reflection on holiness

By | March 3, 2010

Of course, becoming a saint, takes a long time, “85 years, plus eternity … to be all we can be, fully alive,” Bishop Morneau said. And, by the time we are, we will look more like “a tempered twisted piece of steel” than a shiny gold saint, he said, quoting a poem by Fr. Gordon Gilsdorf, a diocesan priest and English teacher at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay.

Noting that the bishops of Vatican II, in their document on the church (Lumen Gentium), had said that all baptized Christians have “a universal call to holiness.”

Bishop Morneau outlined 11 qualities of holiness. He illustrated his points with anecdotes from his own life — including how he used his physician father’s stethoscope to listen to his younger brother’s stomach — and poems from as varied of sources as Emily Dickenson and Edgar Allan Poe.

He said the qualities of holiness are all about having a new heart, which is also the goal of our Lenten journey. The bishop said he asks God for this new heart every morning, based on a prayer by Dag Hammerskjold, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. The first four qualities come from Hammerskjold; the last seven were added by Bishop Morneau because, “Boy, I need more than that.”

The bishop said hearts filled with holiness have:

n Purity. Pointing to the Blessed Mother, Bishop Morneau noted that purity means that someone radiates God’s light and love, and is a “revealer of the mystery of our God.”

n Humility. A person who is truly humble, lives in the truth, “by facing who we are,” the bishop said. “And that’s really tough. There are so many illusions in our daily life.”

n Love. Love is revealed in a person who shows respect, concern for others, responsibility and knowledge. “Are you a lover or not?” Bishop Morneau asked his audience, adding that the best tombstone will say “Here lies a listener and a lover.”

n Faith. Faith is the deep-down belief, the radical conviction that “we are loved by God,” the bishop said.

n Courage. This is one of the four moral virtues, on which all others hinge, Bishop Morneau said, along with fortitude, prudence and justice.

n Joy. Bishop Morneau said, “We live in a world of a lot of sadness” in which we are called “to be a joyful people.” He said that knowing God loves us causes “great joy and peace within our lives.”

n Praise. He said true praise “goes beyond acknowledgement to adoration,” which is why we have Blessed Sacrament chapels. “We need to develop a deep sense of reverence for the Lord along the journey,” the bishop said.

n Gratitude. Citing the author Mary Jo Leddy, Bishop Morneau noted that we can choose to live in “radical gratitude” or “perpetual dissatisfaction.” It’s a challenge, he admitted, to be grateful. Yet good stewards, he added, realize that they are gifted, grateful and generous because they are loved by the Father, redeemed by the Son and gifted by the Holy Spirit.

n Kindness. “Never sell short a phone call, a pat on the back or a word of affirmation … they can transform a life,” the bishop said of the quality of kindness. “Be kind because everybody is struggling.”

n Hospitality. A holy heart is welcoming, the bishop said, noting that the present Catholics Come Home campaign in our diocese is bringing back to church people who need to feel welcomed and loved. “Hospitality can open doors,” he said.

n Hope. Bishop Morneau pointed to the example of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was born into slavery in the Sudan in 1869 and who died in 1947 as a Daughter of Charity. The bishop noted that St. Josephine sought her freedom and the right to enter the convent because she knew she was “created by God, known by God, loved by God and awaited by God.”

For a closing challenge, Bishop Morneau asked his audience, by Easter Sunday, to memorize a prayer by St. Richard of Chicester in the 12th century — which was partially quoted in “Godspell” — to see God more clearly, love God more dearly and follow God more nearly. (“Day by day” was added in the rock opera.)

Joan Wetzel, after hearing Bishop Morneau speak said he reminded her that we “are called to live simply, with a heart of kindness.”

Mary Ann Pflum, as she waited in line to have Bishop Morneau sign copies of his book, said that the bishop had reminded her “to realize who our Creator actually is. We don’t listen to him, take time during the day.”

Deacon Tim Downey of St. Thomas More echoed what many said after the talk. “What a great teacher (Bishop Morneau) is. What a model he is for all people of good will. I never miss a chance to hear him talk.”

“He puts his whole body and self into his talk,” said Sandy Scheibe. “He never ceases to make my heart sing.”

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