Bill Cork posts a document from his Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston listing some ideas about encouraging more vocations among young adults to the priesthood and religious life. Among the points, I was glad to see this:
Develop love and respect for the archbishop and the local Church; campus ministries should involve him at the center as much as possible.This is excellent. It's far to easy today to see ministers involved in campus ministry who openly and actively encourage rebellion against the bishop, mock him as not understanding their "way" of ministering, selectively interpret his instructions, and boast about how far away their campus ministry is from the bishop's cathedral. This is a horrible witness for young adults.
This is in a campus ministry, and young adults do pay attention -- and with ministers who encourage disrespect for the bishop of the local church, how do they expect to foster vocations to love and serve in such a church? It has given rise to erroneous ways of thinking among many young adults about the Church and its ecclesial expression, where it seems the most authentic expression of Catholic life includes complete autonomy from their local bishop. But that couldn't be further from the truth. I am often reminded of the words of one 1st/2nd century bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and his statements concerning bishops in his letter to the Church at Smyrna, which could just as well have been written to some of these campus ministries today:
Follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father; and follow the presbytery as you would the apostles. Let no one do anything involving the church without the bishop. Let that eucharist be considered valid that occurs under the bishop or the one to whom he entrusts it [i.e. a presbyter (priest)]. Let the congregation be wherever the bishop is; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there also is the catholic (universal) church... It is good to know both God and the bishop. The one who honors the bishop is honored by God; the one who does anything behind the bishop's back serves the devil.Strong words! Especially the bit about serving the devil. But what Ignatius means by that is precisely that anyone who actively fosters disrespect for their local bishop is also fostering discord and division within the Church itself. The Church, while made up of human members, belongs to Christ, and divisive activity such as this does Christ no good service. Such activity seeks to cut the sheep themselves off from their shepherd and encourages others to do likewise. This is not the way to foster vocations of service in the Church -- a Church that is made up of sinful human beings, who, as St. Paul says, are also baptized into Christ and into His death so that as Christ was raised from the dead, we might also walk in newness of life, being sanctified by His grace unto salvation. So it is thus as I have said before - always pray for your bishop. One need not look past his own mistakes in ministry to do that.
Fortunately, the young adult ministry with which I have been involved over the past few years has fostered a healthy relationship with our local and regional bishops -- and, guess what, young adults are drawn to that! Yes, it helps to have a bishop who loves spending time with his flock.