Strive to balance what exists, what is possible

Bishop Barry C. Knestout processes in at the beginning of the LEMI commissioning Mass on June 15, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Michael Mickle)

Because the start of summer and my priesthood ordination anniversary – 35 years on June 24 – coincide, they provide me with a time to look back at my years in ministry, as well as look toward the future.

On my anniversary, I always take time to reflect on the experiences I’ve had in ministry, to consider how I’ve grown in serving the Church, and to open my heart to becoming a better priest and bishop between now and my next anniversary.

As we get older, we might become averse to change. We like what’s familiar, comfortable and uneventful. Theoretically and experientially, I know that can lead to complacency. There isn’t a place for that in the life of a priest and bishop.

Our vocation calls us to deal with the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable, no matter how difficult. For me, those are opportunities to deepen my trust in God, to accept his will, and to grow in faith. As the adage reminds us, if we’re not growing, we’re dying.

As for summer, mine will be different this year. In July, I will visit Burlington, Vermont, as a classmate of mine will be ordained and installed as bishop of that diocese. Later the same month, I will be in Indianapolis celebrating the Eucharistic Revival with thousands of Catholics from throughout the United States, renewing our emphasis on and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.

I will keep a light schedule through mid-August. While I will still work at the Pastoral Center, I purposely build in time off to reflect on the just-completed pastoral year and to prepare for the next. This is an important part of my pastoral leadership, because after a few years in any role, it becomes easy to settle into a pattern.

Routine is beneficial when it comes to planning and organizing. In the past pastoral year, we celebrated ordinations, confirmations, dedications, anniversaries and our liturgical seasons. Those are threads in the life of our Catholic community. However, when there is nothing to stir interest and renew excitement, the routine can become a rut – a rut that deepens if we become complacent.

When I arrived here in January 2018, everything was new for me as I traversed the diocese, visiting parishes and meeting the faithful. However, within my first year, we had to confront the effects of the clergy abuse crisis. Then, as we continued to address that and foster healing among victim survivors, the Church and everyone else had to deal with COVID. It was a disruption to which we had to adjust and adapt. Handling the immediate crisis replaced routine.

Post-COVID, we’ve returned to something of “the normal.” But we must be vigilant about complacency, for it can hinder our willingness to look for what our Lord is trying to teach us. He is always offering us opportunities to grow in our faith, spirituality and in our daily lives. He wants us to look more deeply at ourselves to be sure we’re fruitful in how we live, and in our ministries and professions.

Summer provides time for planning. What are ways we can stir the flame of faith? In stirring it, we generate ideas, excitement and activity. In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote that God is “ever ancient, ever new.” He wants our life’s work and discipleship in the Church to be rooted in time, history and tradition, but always open to the promptings of the Spirit.

While the familiar remains, it should be imbued with excitement and hopefulness about the new things God wants to reveal. Those revelations should permeate our lives as we respond to his call.

As I age, there’s a part of me that wants things to stay the same, to not have to deal with new things that arise. Does that sound familiar? Yet, as comfortable as I might be with the way things are, as a leader, I need to be ready to move forward, embrace challenges that may arise while welcoming new opportunities to grow the spiritual life for our diocesan community.

In planning for the upcoming pastoral year, I know we will have something new, e.g., celebration of the Church’s Jubilee Year in 2025, that will help stir our faith. The Eucharistic Revival in which we have been engaged will continue. As we welcome what is new, we will maintain the routine which is important for each person and parish. The key is to strive for balance between what exists and what is possible.

While we enjoy the respite that summer can provide, use it as a time to deepen your faith and hope in Our Lord, and to express gratitude for all he provides. Grow in the assurance that God is leading us to fulfillment of all his promises. We can move into the future, not with fear and anxiety about changes, but with confidence and joy, knowing God will provide us with the wherewithal to benefit spiritually from them.

Rest, renew and have a safe and blessed summer.


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