Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Goodbye to a Friend

I meant to go to Bishop William Friend's farewell Mass on Monday as just another member of the faithful. But too many things struck me to leave them all in my head.

Young and old, black and white, people packed the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. All of the "important" people were there - priests, sisters, even the mayor. But the vast majority were just normal, faithful Catholics who wanted to honor their leader one more time. It was a powerful testament to his 27 years here.

As Bishop Friend stepped up to the altar and turned to look at the congregation, he was obviously touched. His voice shook as he assessed the crowd thanking them and saying "it is a gift." He talked little about himself, but focused on the reading of the day, which was the baptism of Jesus as told by Luke. He encouraged the people to continue their work of justice, ecumenism and evangelization. In the style that endeared him to so many, he made big ideas simple: "God loves you beyond measure. He invites you to love him. He invites you to love each other."

With that this crowd of everyday people gave him a standing ovation. While one could argue that bishops are supposed to have profound things to say, the people are certainly not obligated to react like this.

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