The Feast of St. Lawrence always reminds me of my college Catholic campus center. Each year we would have a barbeque on the memorial feast of St. Lawrence. Gotta love that Catholic humor! This year I experienced a very different feast of St. Lawrence. I attended the traditional vespers prayer vigil that is a part of the installation ceremony of a new bishop. Beautiful psalms, hymns and chant were all part of this prayer that is integral to daily Catholic liturgy, the Liturgy of the Office. It was a fitting welcome for our new bishop, the Most Reverend William Callahan. The feast of St. Lawrence was also a most fitting feast to hold this special welcoming because of the manner in which St. Lawrence suffered and died for Christ.
As the homilist noted this evening, suffering is beneficial to others. Whenever we give of ourselves, suffering comes with it. We die to the part of us that wants to do what we want and we give that service, that time, that food, that money—whatever it was that was going to be used to please ourselves—to another person. This is what St. Lawrence did. He sacrificed his life, his comfort, his flesh for the souls of those who witnessed his death. There is no greater witness to faith than a person who suffers for Christ.
Why suffering? Suffering goes against our nature. Every inclination tells us that suffering is bad and pleasure is good. Avoid pain, seek pleasure. Psychologists have developed whole treatment regimens based upon this axiom. It is for this very reason that suffering is such a valuable witness. We are not inclined to suffer, yet we welcome it when we know it will benefit our beloved. Love’s evidence is suffering. If our beloved is Christ, how is it possible that we could benefit Him? We cannot contribute to Christ’s intrinsic glory. The glory of Christ is intrinsically complete. We can, however, contribute to the glory of Christ that extends outward and encompasses the Church. Our suffering allows us to participate in the redemption of man with Christ through His suffering on the cross. As a wise professor of mine said, we are either crucifying Christ or being crucified with Him. As I would say, there is no mushy middle.
It is with this knowledge about suffering that the installation of a bishop commences. The faithful are aware of the sacrifices this man of God has made up to this point in his life. We are also grateful that he is about to witness Christ’s love in a very special way for each one of us in the diocese he is about to shepherd. Thank you, Bishop Callahan, for loving all of us enough to suffer for our salvation. We look forward to having you lead us by your holy example.