Seek The Lord by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr
With great joy and gratitude, this month the Archdiocese of Cincinnati celebrates the 200th anniversary of our founding as a diocese by Pope Pius VII on June 19, 1821. In doing so, we reflect on our rich history. At the same time, we look ahead to a future that will be different, but full of promise if we remain faithful to our promises as God’s people.
Catholics are probably more aware of being members of a parish than members of a diocese. The parish is where we encounter Christ in the Eucharist and in our fellow communicants on a week-to-week or even a daily basis. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called the parish “a beacon that radiates the light of faith.” For that, the parish is indispensable. And yet, the diocese – under the leadership of its bishop in union with the Pope – is the basic unit of the Church. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church says the diocese “constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active.” That is why a diocese is referred to as “the local Church.”
Our local Church, which spans 8,500 square miles over 19 counties of Western and Southwestern Ohio, has a coat of arms with deep significance that may not be immediately obvious. The crest features stylized images of a plow and three crosses. The plow represents the ancient Roman farmer-general Cincinnatus, who famously left his plow and farm to lead Rome’s army against its enemies, and then returned home afterwards rather than assume political power. The three crosses have sharpened feet for planting in the earth, and budded tips burgeoning with new life. Taken together, these two elements of our diocesan crest signify that we are a people called to work our land for the growth of the Gospel.
This task is not, nor has it ever been, exclusively for those called to the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. It is the primary vocation of every member of the Church established by our Lord, Jesus Christ. As I wrote in my bicentennial pastoral letter, Radiate Christ: “We all have a role to play in the present and future of the Church, even as our parents and grandparents had a part to play in the Church’s past. None of us is superfluous, disposable or unimportant. God has given each of us something specific to contribute … Our local Church will only be the instrument God intends it to be if each of us seeks the face of the Lord, is converted to Him and allows Jesus to work through us – in short, if we each radiate Christ!”
With the decline of religious practice in this increasingly secular age, we are tempted to echo the words of Jesus: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8). Yes, He will! Our faith in Christ is alive! We see that lived out every day in homes, schools, offices and even recreation. It has been my hope that the call to Radiate Christ will focus each of us ever more intentionally on our own roles in building up the Body of Christ.
On June 19 we celebrate the 200 years of faith since the establishment of our local Church, but the depth of our faith is far more important than the number of years. May our faith always remain strong and may we radiate the love of Christ to all whom we encounter every day.
Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother, pray for our local Church as we begin our 201st year of faith!