05 May 2010

Bishop Paprocki's homily at Illinois Prayer Breakfast

Thomas Peters, the American Papist, kindly posted the homily preached by His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas J. Paprocki, soon to be the ninth Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, at the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

The text of Bishop Paprocki's homily follows, with my emphases and comments:

As you may know, Pope Benedict XVI has appointed me to serve as the ninth Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. As the date of my Installation Mass, I have chosen June 22nd, the Feast of the English martyrs, Saints Thomas More and John Fisher. This day is appropriate because St. John Fisher was a Bishop, while St. Thomas More is a special patron saint for me not only because I am named Thomas and I served as Chancellor, as Thomas More did, but also because Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers and politicians [I am very much looking forward to hear what he will say at his installation. Saint Thomas More, together with Saint Thomas Becket, has long been a hero to me]. I think his intercession will be vitally needed in my pastoral ministry as shepherd of our state capital.

My favorite movie of all time is “A Man For All Seasons,” about the life of St. Thomas More [though not my favorite, it is certainly high on my list; I try to watch it every year on More's feast]. In the screenplay written by Robert Bolt, there is a very poignant scene towards the end of the story of the trial of Thomas More, who was charged for High Treason for his refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII the head of the Church of England. Sir Richard Rich has just perjured himself on the witness stand by giving false testimony by which More would surely be convicted. Before Sir Richard leaves the witness stand, More says, “I have one question to ask the witness. That’s a chain of office you are wearing. May I see it?” Rich allows More to examine the medallion, whereupon More says, “The red dragon.” More then asks Cromwell, who is conducting the interrogation, “What’s this?”

Cromwell answers, “Sir Richard is appointed Attorney-General of Wales.”
More we are told, looks into Rich’s face with pain and amusement and asks, “For Wales? Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . But, for Wales!”

Unfortunately we live in a time when many other politicians are quite willing to give their souls for even less than Wales! As we gather for this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass preceding the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast, we pray for the intercession of Saints Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, that politicians and all government officials may follow their courageous example of faithful adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Today’s Mass is celebrated as a Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, who lived during the time of Saints Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. The pontificate of Pope Pius V was one of the most glorious of the 16th century. He enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, published the Roman Catechism and revised the Missal and Breviary. We pray for his intercession as well.

Our liturgy today also continues the celebration of the Easter season. Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us of the life of the early Christian community. Then, as now, courtroom trials depended on the testimony of courtroom witnesses. Conviction or acquittal can depend on what a person has experienced and how credibly the person expresses that experience to a judge or jury. If we expect people to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, there have to be credible witnesses. St. Paul cites the companions of Jesus as witnesses to the resurrection. He passes on their testimony as well as their own.

We are called to bear witness to Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. Jesus shows us how to live by His example of selfless sacrifice. He teaches us the truth about God, about ourselves, and about the world. He gives us eternal life through faith and the living of our sacramental life. Everything we say and do should convince people of the Gospel message. The Eucharist we are about to receive fills us with the presence of Christ so that we may be credible witnesses to the good news of eternal life with our Risen Lord.

May God give us this grace.


  1. It sounds as though Bishop Paprocki will take to task office holders who vote against the welfare of the poor and immigrants. I'm glad to hear that Jesus' charge to care for the vulnerable--the stranger, the outcast, the poor person, the unborn, the imprisoned--will remain a focal point of Catholic lobbying in Springfield. Meeting the needs of the poor and vulnerable before granting tax cuts for the rich or TIFs for big-name developers, let's hope for it!

  2. Steve, with all due respect, that is a most unfair and unjust comment given what Bishop Paprocki. He referrenced no particular laws, issues, or votes.

    What is to be gained by his words is that he will encourage Catholic politicians to "faithful adherence to teachings of the Catholic Church, which certainly includes Jesus' "charge to care for the vulnerable."

    Before rushing to judgment, let the Bishop speak. Remember, Bishop Paprocki first pursued his civil law degree to legally represent the poor.

  3. Father, my comment about tax cuts that are targeted towards the wealthy (GW Bush style) and TIFs for wealthy developers may very well have been too pointed, and I apologize for that.

    Regarding the rest of my comment, however, I don't think I was being unfair at all. Truly, I was demonstrating a hopeful spirit -- hoping that Jesus' teaching about how we need to tend to "the least" among us will continue to receive attention in our state capital and throughout the state. You're right, Bishop Paprocki did play a huge role in founding a legal clinic for the poor in South Chicago, and it does speak to his interest in the needs of the poor and vulnerable. I'm glad when bishops (whether as a group or individually) speak up for, and take action on behalf, of people who are poor, people who are regularly targeted for discrimination (e.g., immigrants, working-class mothers of young children), people who can't stand up for their own rights adequately and who are subjected to our culture of death in the name of convenience, economics, or expedience (e.g., the unborn, men and women on death row).

    I live at the western edge of the Springfield diocese, close enough to Missouri that I end up seeing/reading a lot of MO news. About five years ago, MO Gov. Matt Blunt took office and began cutting Medicaid in a severe way. Almost 100,000 people lost their regular access to health care as a result of those cuts. Unfortunately, you heard far too in the Christian leadership (Catholic or otherwise) loudly proclaim that such cuts were wrong, inhumane, unChristian. When bishops and archbishops speak up for the poor and against politicans turning a blind eye to the needs of the poor, I am impressed. Most of my comment, Father, was geared towards a hope that our new bishop will be very much attuned to the needs of all the poor and vulnerable in Illinois. We do indeed need that kind of leadership. That's how I read Bishop Paprocki's comments in the speech you posted. He's not just going to give politicians a nice pat on the back when they ignore the needs of the poor and vulnerable. He's going to continue to call them to economic and social justice, in the best spirit of the USCCB.


  4. Now I owe you an apology, Steve. When I read your comment yourself, I took it in a sarcastic tone. Reading your second comment and re-reading your first this morning I see that I was quite mistaken. Somehow I must have missed a word you wrote or unconsciously read one in. I am sorry.

  5. No harm, no foul, Father. But thanks. You're a good guy, an intelligent guy. On occasion we do disagree, but there is plenty to respect in you, and I mean that sincerely.