What a marvelous sight to behold as video images of Pope Benedict giving his final Angelus message were broadcast throughout the world. To see the tens of thousands of individuals gazing at the small window overlooking the beautiful square is a great testimony to the quiet yet steady leadership of His Holiness. One cannot stop and wonder what he himself may have felt during this short time before the world.
It is easy for someone like me who daily is involved in the workings of the Church to believe that the entire world is watching the events unfold at the Vatican this week. And the world is well represented by the tens of thousands who in many ways represent the world given all the cultures and languages that are represented in St. Peter’s square. The Holy Father, as his predecessors did, responded in a grand fashion by speaking directly to the faithful in their own language. And the world is watching!
We live in a world that is defined by the moment or by recent memory. So often, when people are asked to name the greatest individuals in a particular sport or leadership, they will respond traditionally by naming someone who is the most current. Little attention is given to the historical significance of the past but only the present is often considered. Ask a present fan of baseball to name the greatest and they will speak of recent names not mentioning “Murderers Row” or the “Gas House Gang”. So too it is with the Holy Father.
This morning the news did not concern itself with the wondrous work of the Holy Father these past years but rather on the “real” reason why he will abdicate in a few days. For some it involves a scandal and for those who love scandals they, as the expression goes, eat it up!
Any observant person can easily understand how difficult it has become for the Holy Father is lead an organization of over one billion people. The demands of the office are staggering and yet, according to some, the reasons are much more complicated and mysterious. My response to those who look for mystery is to look at the man himself and then to reflect on their own lives as to why they like to tear down as opposed to being grateful.
I pray these next days will be days of peace for the Holy Father. I pray also for those in the world who would rather destroy the good he has accomplished rather than celebrate his goodness.
Bishop Stika and Cardinal Rigali with Bob Newhart
This past Friday (February 1) I had the great experience of hosting Mr. Bob Newhart for dinner at my residence. It was truly a memorable night to share a meal with this very iconic figure in American entertainment. He is indeed a great gentleman who kept the entire group entertained both with his humor as well as sharing stories about so many icons of television and movies. He spoke about his friendships with Groucho and Harpo Marx, Stan Laurel and Johnny Carson. He spoke about his favorite shows and the great ensemble that he was privileged to work with throughout his two productions.
He also spoke about his faith and how it influenced his life. Bob is dedicated to living out his faith as a Catholic and shared stories about certain priests and religious who were influential in his life. He spoke about his wife with whom he just celebrated 50 years of marriage. He spoke about his children and grandchildren who often had great difficulty in trying to understand how grandpa can be contained in the box that is called a television.
The characteristic that I immediately noticed was that in person he was also the same character that he presented on his television shows. It seems that by being Bob he was also the Bob that so many have come to love throughout the years!
Bob was in Knoxville to entertain members of the community at the grand Tennessee Theater.
It is refreshing to know that in the world of Hollywood there are still men and women of faith!
This past week I had the wonderful experience of visiting with my young brothers and sisters from St. Mary School in Johnson City and St. Dominic School in Kingsport. Joining these two fine institutions were the children from St. Anne School in Bristol Virginia.
The day began with Mass which was a delightful experience. Specials kudos to the choir members from St. Mary’s! They did a fabulous job in leading us in song as we joined together in prayer.
Following Mass, I had lunch with various grades of the combined schools. The lunch was great but the conversation was excellent. Had an enjoyable time interacting with the students! Spoke to a number of students about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Let’s hope it works!
Following lunch had a nice session with the kids as I shared with them my experience of a catholic education. Spoke about my first grade teacher, Mrs. Ryan. Still pray the prayer she taught us 50 years ago!
Was followed by a magician who did an excellent job blending faith and magic. He explained to them that faith is real, magic is an act. Pretty good at the tricks!
All in all a good day. I am so proud of our schools and especially grateful to the teachers for their commitment to catholic education!