This week we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are discerning these particular vocations.
By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
I am grateful, humbled, and privileged to be the recipient of “The Good Shepherd: Defending the Truth” Award this evening from the Pontifical College Josephinum! In a real sense, I accept this award on behalf of my brother bishops and priests, including many alumni of this venerable school of priestly formation, who have been and remain good shepherds, defending the truth. As good shepherds, they focus on Jesus the Good Shepherd, who exhorted His apostles, the first shepherds of the flock, to lay down their lives for the sake of love – love for Him and love for those entrusted to their pastoral care.
At first hearing, some may wonder how the image of Good Shepherd and the image of a defender go together. But, upon closer reflection, we understand so readily how the good shepherd must defend the truth. Those images are not, therefore, in opposition, but rather form one integral reality.
Jesus Christ, Himself the Good Shepherd, reminds us that the good shepherd lays down his life for the flock. Why? Because he truly loves them and desires their well-being, their total well-being, including their eternal salvation.
The good shepherd leads the flock to where they will receive true nourishment, to where life is sustained. The truth God revels to us through His Word, the Living Tradition of the Church and the Magisterium: this truth is life-giving, both here and beyond! How could the good shepherd do other than to lead people to the life-giving water: to the Truth!
The good shepherd also protects his flock from the enemy, from anyone and anything that would bring harm to those entrusted to his care. So then, today’s shepherds, especially we bishops and priests, must defend the truth: the truth that is Jesus Christ, true God and true Man; and the truth which He proclaims, again in His Word, in the Living Tradition of the Church and through the Official Teaching Office of the Church, to whom Christ has guaranteed the unfailing assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, the good shepherd must proclaim the “truth in love” as Saint Paul so wisely reminds us. We shepherds must speak clearly, unambiguously, firmly, yet with the spirit and demeanor of welcome, patience, understanding and endless hope. We must listen to where our people are, so that understanding what they think and experience, we may then accompany them, seeking to open their minds and hearts to truth, to what will give them true life.
Surely, this is not easy, to be kind yet firm, to empathize yet to be clear in proclaiming truth, to be patient yet not weak. We need to go to the Good Shepherd and let our hearts be transformed by His.
Our places of seminary formation, like the Pontifical College Josephinum, must be the arena where men preparing for Christ’s ministerial priesthood learn, in mind and in heart, how to be good shepherds, shepherds after Christ’s Own Heart, laying down their lives for the sake of love as they defend the truth that saves and gives life.
Please pray that I never cease seeking to be such a shepherd, so that despite my human frailties, I may be a good shepherd, defending the truth out of love for Jesus Christ and for the people entrusted to my pastoral care. I entrust each of you and this Pontifical College Josephinum to the Good Shepherd, to His Holy Mother, and to your patron Saint Joseph. Thank you once again!
This address was originally given on October 29, 2015 at the Pontifical College Josephinum.
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