Declaration of our Family’s Year and a Day of Penance for Shepherding in our Most Holy Catholic Church
(This is a letter I sent our Bishop on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 25th, 2018)
I am the lowly servant of the Lord, appointed by my bishop to the blessed ministry of praying for our Church, a calling given each of us in our own way. This is a time of painful clarity and a call for examination of conscience and penance. Like St. Peter, the waves of fear swallow us and bash our most holy Church. I see my own failings as shepherd. Though we may not have individually committed them, we each bear responsibility for the sins that occur in the body of Christ. There is deep sin from within the body of Christ. Our corporate betrayal of the Good Shepherd cries to heaven condemning our sinful abuse of earthly power and falling for pride, sloth, and cowardice instead of wielding God’s loving authority with those entrusted to us.
“The deeper crisis that must be addressed is the license for sin to have a home in individuals at every level of the Church. There is a certain comfort level with sin that has come to pervade our teaching, our preaching, our decision making, and our way of living ... St. Thomas Aquinas said that hatred of wickedness actually belongs to the virtue of charity ... It is an act of love to hate sin and to call others to turn away from sin. There must be no room left, no refuge for sin” (Bishop Robert Morline, Madison, WI, August 18, 2018, speaking about the clergy sex abuse scandals).
What does it mean that Christ appointed me as head of house, shepherd of not only my soul but my wife and children as well? How much greater the challenge and bewilderment for a priest with a flock of hundreds or thousands! A bishop, whose flock is all those shepherds plus hundreds of thousands or millions of people in all walks of life!
What have we forgotten as a Church about how to shepherd? What has Christ revealed that we’ve yet to fully understand? How do we reclaim and discover this lost science of shepherding the soul?
Pope Francis, in his August 20, 2018 letter, has called all faithful to prayer and fasting as penance:
“The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God.”
In the authority given me by Jesus our Christ as shepherd of my beloved wife, who reveals Christ to me daily, and our beloved children, who love me despite my failings, I proclaim that on this coming Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 25th, 2018, our family will begin a year and a day of reconciliation, penance, prayer, study, and formation about each of our calls to shepherd our soul and those souls Christ entrusts to our care, loving them as Christ loves his Church. We will engage in daily prayer and reading on shepherding from Christ’s full revelation in the Holy Gospels, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the lives and writings of our Saints, that we may reclaim the just authority we have abdicated. The authority that has been given us by Jesus our Christ as shepherds to wield his power of the keys over sin, which our sin has tarnished and rusted, in daily life and the lives of all within my flock. We will prayerfully engage in daily acts of corporal discipline, as God calls us, reflective of our humbly donning spiritual sackcloth and ashes.
Each member of the body of Christ is shepherd of their soul and of those entrusted to them by Christ (family, parish, etc.). I invite all shepherds — indeed all faithful, as we each are shepherd of our own free will — to join our family in a year and a day of penance to reclaim our authority as shepherds. May Jesus our Christ grant us the humility, strength, fortitude, wisdom, and most of all love in living out this prayer for shepherding in our Church as we complete this reconciliation, penance, prayer, study, and acts of corporal discipline for our good and the good of all who run this race of faith with us. In the embrace of Blessed Virgin Mary our Mother, who reveals the way to the Father, through her son, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
With wild abandon in Jesus our Risen Christ,
Our Lady of the Shepherd
Immaculate, Sorrowful Heart of Mary, who let the sorrows of all the fallen world’s sin, heaped upon your most holy Son pierce your heart, petition your son on my behalf, that he may grant me humble courage to allow my slight sorrows to pierce my heart and open it to a love as deep and boundless as yours.
May he grant that with this deepend love I may humbly see sin where there is strife in myself, and following the example of your son our Good Shepherd, in those I shepherd and those who are obsticles to answering your call, and seek to correct it with love, bearing into the world your son’t most healing balm of peace.
What is Corporal Discipline?
Corporal discipline is the bodily dedication to holiness. Among the often lost traditions of corporal discipline are: head coverings for women, hats for men, fasting on Fridays, time limited vows of silence, additional chores and labors, among other practices.
How can I and my flock study shepherding?
- Daily reading and prayer and discussion of the daily Gospel and the second reading of the Office of Readings are a powerful way to discover Jesus’ revelation on shepherding. Disciplines of praying the rosary, the angelus, or the chaplet of divine mercy, and other prayers of daily devotion are great ways to reflect on what we’ve read and studied throughout the day in family life and deepen how we live our faith daily.
- Start or join a Halo.