“THE LAITY WILL SAVE THE CHURCH”
MOST REV. BISHOP RAYMOND E. GEODERT, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus, Archdiocese of
Delivered at the Adoration Chapel Leaders Gathering of the
POPE JOHN PAUL II EUCHARISTIC ADORATION ASSOCIATION
of the Archdiocese of
October 15, 2005
I am always amazed at the kind of things I remember and those that I don’t retain at all. For instance, someone asked me recently what I had been doing last Monday night. Though it was only a few days ago, I couldn’t for the life of me remember. It was only after I looked at my calendar that I could reply: “Oh, yes, I had dinner with my family.”
As we get older, our memories begin to fade; but for whatever reason, there are some things that stay with us for as long as we live. Let me cite an example. This was an incident that happened to me well over thirty years ago. I was shopping in a church goods store downtown and the saleslady and I began to talk about the rather depressing state of affairs in our Church. Keep in mind; these were the late 60s and early 70s, a time when there were numerous departures from the priesthood and religious life. Hardly a week went by that you didn’t hear about another priest leaving the active ministry or another nun that left the convent. Those were very discouraging times for the Church and I guess my face must have shown my deep concern. The saleslady, with absolute confidence, said to me: “Don’t worry, Father, the laity will save the Church.” What an insight she had! “The laity will save the Church.”
Today, some thirty years or so later, the Church is once again in very serious trouble. And once again, we priests and bishops are pretty much responsible for the terrible crisis we are facing. But interestingly enough, I am much more hopeful today than I was thirty years ago. And you want to know why? I think it’s because I know the answer—it’s the same one that the saleslady gave me, and I am more convinced than ever of the truth of her statement. For reasons known only to God, you have been chosen to be the leaders who will save our Church. We are in desperate need of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and especially vocations from our own families here in the Archdiocese of Chicago. We are in desperate need for our people to be able once again to trust their bishops and their clergy. I firmly believe that you, the laity, will be the ones to save our Church.
And how will you do it? The answer, I think, is right there in John’s Gospel (John 15:5) that you just heard proclaimed. So often, when faced with overwhelming problems, we try to solve them on our own. We develop programs of one sort or another, and undoubtedly, these do help. But the real answer is Jesus Christ! In the fifth verse of John, our Lord says: “I am the vine and you are the branches.” If the branches are not connected to the vine, they will bear no fruit and are going to die. And today, Jesus says to you, the leaders of the Eucharistic programs throughout the Archdiocese, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.” The secret, the answer to our troubles in the Church, will be found in the deepening of our relationship with Jesus Christ,
There is no way you and I could create a “program” that would heal the problems of the Church, that would restore trust between the clergy and laity, that would produce the vocations we need. I think we have to face the fact that we will never become the Church that Jesus Christ wants us to be, unless we become a truly holy people. We priests have to be converted. The priesthood, in my mind, is not just another career. It is a calling from God to a new way of life. We must be totally dedicated to Jesus Christ and His mission. In a word, we must become saints! This, as you well know, will not happen by magic or by programs. No, it will only happen through the power of Jesus Christ.
That is why I think your role in the Church today is so important. You have been called to be leaders. Jesus has singled you out and commissioned you to attract other people who will be as devoted to the Eucharist as you are, people who will be willing to spend quality time in the presence of Jesus. The more you spread devotion to the Eucharistic Presence, the more you get others to pray for the conversion of us priests, the more will the wounds in today’s Church be healed. Pray for priests. Pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. You, the laity, have the power to save the Church!
You wouldn’t be here this morning if you didn’t firmly believe the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel. You understand quite well what Our Lord is talking about. You know that He is the Vine, and that is why you are devoted to the Holy Eucharist. And you know that you are the branches and that you will bear fruit only to the extent that you are joined to the Vine. Jesus has chosen you to be a leader in the Eucharistic Adoration program. What a mission he has entrusted to you! What a privilege that He has asked you to join with Him in saving the Church!
When I was ordained a Bishop back in 1991, I had to do something that was quite foreign to me. As you know, it is a long-standing tradition that Bishops have a coat-of-arms. So with the help of an expert in these matters, I started to work on the design. Along the bottom of the coat-of-arms it is customary for the bishop to select a phrase, some motto upon which he wishes to base his Episcopal ministry. If you have occasion to see my coat-of-arms, you will note that I chose as my motto a phrase from today’s Gospel: Sine Te, Jesu, nihil sum, the Latin for Jesus’ statement that “Without Me, you can do nothing”. I chose that motto because I really believe it. I know only too well, that without Jesus, I am nothing. I also know from today’s Gospel, that with Jesus, all things are possible!
And that’s precisely the message that I want to leave with you today. WITH JESUS, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. WITH JESUS, THE CHURCH CAN BE SAVED. WITH JESUS , VOCATIONS CAN ABOUND. WITH JESUS, TRUST BETWEEN THE CLERGY AND THE LAITY CAN BE RESTORED.
Yes, I firmly believe, that you, the laity, devoted as you are to the Eucharist, will truly save the Church!