Sunday, July 2, 2017

Boring sermon week ... :(

July 6, 2014
St. Junipero Serra (Transferred)
Independence Day
Feast – Patron – Diocese – Archdiocese - Veneration – Bishop – Archbishop – Apostle – Liturgical –Province
July 1st was the feast day of St. Junipero Serra. St. Junipero is our patron saint for our diocese – Diocese of the West. Today we celebrate this feast day transferred.
I've just rattled off a few terms some of you are familiar with and some of you may not be. So, today, I thought I would do another “lesson” day as opposed to a sermon. I know you all are just bursting with excitement! Suffice to say, that one might want to know why we have a patron saint over a diocese and how all these other titles seem to relate to one.
First, what is a “feast day” of a saint?
The Catholic Church assigns one date out of the year for each saint — known as the saint’s feast day, or “festival”. The saints are remembered on their individual feast days with special mention, prayers, a scripture reading, and sometimes great events, such animal blessings for St. Francis Day. The feast day is that day where we place special honor and veneration for a specific saint in thanksgiving for their holy lives and for their continued prayers and intercessions to our Lord.
Some saints’ feasts are only celebrated in the particular saint’s town or country. Others are internationally celebrated. Some saints have churches, missions, various forms of organizations, monasteries, convents or dioceses named after them in their honor. Some Bishops may ask a particular saint to watch over their ministry and even include that saint in the bishop’s coat of arms.
Now, what is a Diocese?
Originally the term diocese (Gr. dioikesis) signified management of a household, and later an administration or government in general. This term was used in Roman law to designate the territory dependent for its administration upon a city. During this time, because the Christian bishop generally resided in a city, the territory administered by him, being usually shared with the juridical territory of the city, came to be known by its usual civil term, diocese.
From roughly the Fourth century on, the Church has used a “diocese” as an official form of designating areas of governance by a bishop.
What is a Bishop? Why are they considered the Successors to the Apostles? What is Apostolic Succession?
Bishops generally hold all authority in their designated area or diocese. Most liturgical (Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Orthodox, etc.) churches have some form of hierarchy and hence bishops. They would equate, in comparison to civil jurisdictions, as something similar to mayors or governors. All bishops and archbishops have a formal salutation or “formal” address known as “His Excellency” or “Your Excellency” (Some use “His Grace” or “Your Grace” though less common).
An archdiocese is usually more significant than a diocese mainly due to its geographical size or population. An archdiocese may have or have had importance due to size or historical significance and is thus presided over by an archbishop. The archbishop may have metropolitan authority over other bishops and their dioceses within his ecclesiastical province. Such as Los Angeles or New York are both Archdioceses. An Archbishop’s formal address is the same as that of a bishop.
Or as in our denomination, Archbishop Bekken is our Presiding Bishop. As Presiding Bishop, he automatically ascends to the designation of Archbishop. Unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church, the Presiding Bishop is considered first among equals and has some limited powers to make decisions governing our denomination when required. He works in collegiality with all the bishops, carrying out what the majority of bishops have voted on and thus mandated. He can, and sometimes does, makes decisions as defined by canon when there is an urgent need and all the bishops cannot meet immediately to make the decision needed. Hence, his role would be similar to that of a president of sorts.
Additionally, the Presiding Bishop holds office for a term of four years and can be re-elected. The Presiding Bishop is elected by a majority vote by all the bishops of the denomination. The Presiding Bishop oversees any and all areas not otherwise governed by another bishop. Such as the Province of the United States would be part of his jurisdiction. Any area not governed by another bishop would fall under him and is called a Province. The Presiding Bishop is our Patriarch. His official address is, “Your Beatitude” or “His Beatitude”.
Since I have touched on it, what is Patriarch?
A Patriarch is very simply a bishop who is an Archbishop and holds authority over entire countries or of a specific “Rite” within the church. The Catholic and Orthodox churches all have patriarchs. In our case, the Presiding Bishop “rules” or governs over the entire United States and of a branch of the Liberal Rite churches, of which we belong. In many of these cases, these patriarchs are acknowledged by Rome, but do not submit to their governance.
Bishops are considered the direct successors of the original Apostles. As we know, the Apostles were specifically chosen by our Lord and told to continue to carry out the ministry He started while among them. As we have read in the Scriptures they were given various powers, “gifts” and graces by our Lord and the Holy Spirit came upon them to carry on this work – not all having necessarily the same Powers, “gifts” or graces. As such, they were to carry on in His stead.
As we also know from history and the Scriptures, many of the Apostles traveled to various countries and areas carrying out this continued ministry. They, in turn, to ensure this ministry continued and because the Holy Spirit directed them to so do, they laid hands upon men who were to follow in their path and also continue this same ministry. It was the intent of the Apostles to transfer some of their grace and call down the Holy Spirit upon these new successors to be empowered with the same authority and powers given to them by Jesus himself.
That said, Apostolic Succession is the method in which the ministry of the Catholic Church is held to be derived from the Apostles by a continuous succession through a series of bishops. This series of bishops, each consecrated by other bishops themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the Apostles. One could suppose that every bishop could trace his ordination back to a specific Apostle if one were of the patience to trace it. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic (of which we are part of), Anglican, Moravian, and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this Apostolic succession."
Apostolic succession is also understood as continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the Apostles to the present, which in most Catholic churches, this is known as “Tradition” with a capital “T”. This means, we hold that there are matters of faith (beliefs or teachings) that were handed down by the Apostles orally that are not found in the Scriptures, but still support what we read in them.
St. Clement, who was Pope in the years 92 to 99 A.D., explicitly stated that the Apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed that these bishops should in turn appoint their own successors. So, it was the direct will of the Apostles to continue this succession that Jesus started.
Lastly, to simplify – Bishops, like the Apostles, are meant to be spiritual leaders, or spiritual fathers if you will. As we know from Scriptures, Moses was the leader of the Israelites. In a different way, the Prophet Elijah too was a Spiritual leader by virtue of his proclaiming God’s commands to the people of Israel. In essence, God has always chosen leaders of his people, and in a form, this would be the bishops today.
Earlier I said most liturgical churches have some form of hierarchy and hence bishops. Briefly, what is Liturgical?
Liturgical, simply put, is a church like ours. Liturgical churches are those that have a set tradition and set of practices for their form of worship. Meaning, as example, we have the Mass. The Mass is virtually the same year round. It, as you’ve all heard me say at some point, is derived from the ancient Judaic form of worship. If you were to attend a service at a Jewish Synagogue, you would find similarities to our service. As such, to some small degree, we still carry on the ritual as it was handed on to the Jewish peoples by God through Moses. So, we are in keeping with the earliest periods of human existence in some fashion. In comparison, the Rock Church here locally in San Diego, or some other independent churches, do not normally have a set pattern of worship or rituals, which is to say they are not a “Liturgical” church. Their service, in theory could vary from week to week, and ours stays relatively the same.
What is a Saint?
The Christian church as a whole, based on St. Paul’s letters, believes that all believers who are in heaven are “saints”. This was a generic term in Scriptures that St. Paul used to describe various believers, most especially those who have died and thought to be in heaven.
However, what is usually implied in our time when one says “saint” is that of one who it is believed to have led a very holy and devote life before God and His Church. They were those who were exemplary models, extraordinary teachers, wonder workers, sources of benevolent power, intercessors, lived a life often refusing material attachments or comforts and had possession of a special and revelatory relation to God, to name but just a few. They were people, who the church has declared, led a life of great holiness in some fashion and are thus in heaven with Jesus. As examples in more recent times, they would be people such as Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II and Junipero Serra.
The Church declares a person to be a Saint normally after a long and difficult process. Their life is thoroughly examined – anything they wrote, where they worked, any correspondence (if still available) they may have had – every possible facet of their life. The investigation looks to ensure there is nothing found that would be considered evil, scandalous or otherwise in contradiction to Christ’s teachings; and if they lived a heroic life of virtue and holiness; the Church will usually require two proven miracles attributed to their intercession and if these are found, the person is declared a Saint, and thus in heaven with God.  (This is a simplified understanding. We shall go into this deeper in future “Mini Catechisms” we do each Sunday.)
Why are saints important to us and why does the Catholic church hold those declared a Saint in such high esteem?
Saints act as our guides. They can act as our role models. Every saint is known for something. As examples: St. Jude Thaddeus is the Saint of Difficult causes. St. Matthew, the tax collector turned Apostle, is the Saint of bankers and tax collectors. St. Christopher, not only is still a saint, but he has always been the Saint for travelers. (No, the Catholic Church did not “un”saint him. He was simply removed from the calendar of regular feasts. Some dates have too many saints to appropriately honor, so a more current or prevalent saint may now be listed, but certainly older saints may be used and honored.)
What is a Patron?
Most usually, the saint is a patron of something related to their life. When we call a Saint a “patron,” we mean to say they are the protector or guide for something. They can be a patron simply by virtue of being honored for whatever it is they are named a saint of. As an example, as I mentioned a moment ago, St. Matthew was a tax collector who became an Apostle, and is therefore the Patron Saint of bankers and tax collectors.
Thus, because we believe the Saints are truly in heaven before us, we believe they have the “ear of God”, if you will. They are close to God – much closer than we – and are thus able to obtain favors and/or have been given special powers to minister in God’s place in matters on earth. They are not “mini gods” and are NOT worshipped ever. They are still mortal souls who worship God, but due to their proximity to God, are able ask God on our behalf of the needs we may present them. When we say we “pray to a Saint”, we mean to say we ask them to pray with us and obtain a favor for us from God. We believe that the soul of a holy person lives on in heaven; while their body be buried here, their soul lives on.
As you may have heard it explained before …. If as a child you wanted something and you went to one of your parents and he or she said, “No”, what did you do? You went to the other parent hoping they would say, “Yes”. Many times it worked. Sometimes not. However, the principal here is the same. Additionally, we remember Jesus saying in Matthew 18:20 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Hence, because the saints have led holy lives and are in heaven and thus closer to God, we believe that when we pray and ask the Saints to pray with us, thus we have two or three praying even if it is only you and a Saint or two.
Saints are also known as protectors, like the Angels. Due to their holiness and status in heaven, they have the ability to protect and guide those of us on earth. As such, we name a Saint as a patron over a church, or a monastery or even a diocese. The said Patron Saint is believed to look out for this ministry, protect and guide it – most especially in the manner in which the Saint may have done on earth during their life or as prescribed by the assignment dedicated to the Saint by the church.
Lastly, why do we say we “venerate” saints?
Simply put, only God is worthy of being truly worshipped. No person or other created being is worthy of being worshipped; only God deserves worship. However, God indeed wants us to honor the saints, because of their great holiness and faith, in a manner befitting another mortal being. Thus, we “venerate” them. By "venerate” we mean, we given them great honor. We offer up prayers and Masses for the desires of the saints. We light candles before them. We name schools, churches, etc. after them. We give them great honor, but never worship.
As example, we venerate St. Francis by naming him the Patron Saint of our church. We venerate him by having statues and icons of his likeness throughout the church so that others may honor him. Additionally, we use statues and icons so that our eyes can have a visual of who we are asking to pray with us. They act as a way to bring to mind this person, never to worship. These are mere images. We venerate them by trusting in their ability to intercede – to pray – for us and our needs as a church. Like with St. Francis, he will guide us in our ministry much like he carried on his own while still on earth. As a “thank you” for our honor toward him, and because we named our church after him, he looks out for us and intercedes with God on our behalf.
Okay, so now to St. Junipero Serra. Let me give you a brief biography.
He was a Spanish missionary. Born in 1713 on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain. He took the name Junipero when he joined the Franciscan order in 1730. He taught for more than a decade before going to Mexico in 1749.
After working as a missionary in Sierra Gorda and Mexico City, St. Junipero Serra was sent to California. He made the trip by foot despite having terrible sores on his legs. Once he reached California, he established his first mission, San Diego de Alcalá, in 1769. Yes, the one on Mission Gorge Rd here in San Diego. He built eight more missions over the next thirteen years: San Antonio de Padua; San Gabriel, Archangel; San Luis, Obispo de Tolosa; San Juan Capistrano; San Francis de Assisi; and San Buenaventura. He worked tirelessly to maintain the missions and is credited with helping the Spanish establish a presence in California.
The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives. (There has been some controversy to both sides of this, that we do not have time to go into here.) St. Junipero pushed for a system of laws to protect natives from some abuses by Spanish soldiers, whose practices were in conflict with his. Other aims were to integrate the neophytes into Spanish society, and to train them to take over ownership and management of the land. As head of the order in California, St. Junipero not only dealt with church officials, but also with Spanish officials in Mexico City and with the local military officers who commanded the nearby presidios (garrisons).
St. Junipero Serra died in 1784 at Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo located in present-day Carmel, California.
At the creation of this Diocese on the date of my consecration (ordination) as a Bishop, I formally recognized and established Junipero Serra as a Saint and worthy of veneration as the Patron Saint of our Diocese (he was not yet formally recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, so our Diocese would have been the first). The intent was to have St. Junipero intercede on our behalf to help spread the word of Jesus Christ to all. He will help us in our ministry endeavors, in imitation to his own missionary ministry over two centuries ago.
The reason for choosing him is simple. He is a Saint who formed the Missions of the Church here in California. Further, he followed the Church’s direction of ministering to the Native peoples of California and started parishes and thus brought the Church to California. He braved unknown territory and unknown peoples who were not exceptionally trusting of outsiders. He successfully established Mission Parishes in the midst of these unknowns. He willingly traveled from his home country to unknown territories and unselfishly gave his life to spreading the Gospel message. Therefore, if he was able to do this, he most certainly will act as our guide, protector and intercessor in our growth on the West Coast and help in guiding me as its Bishop.
It is especially momentous that the date set as his Feast day for both our Denomination and the Roman Catholics is July 1st, three days from the celebration of the founding of our nation in 1776. St. Junipero Serra, just seven years prior established his first Mission right here in San Diego in 1769. Divine providence? Could be!
May we always look to St. Junipero Serra to be our guide in helping the Diocese of the West grow as a church for all – welcoming all!
Let us pray.
For all those You have called to preach and teach Your Word; sustain them in courage and zeal. We pray to the Lord.
For all those You have called to labor through physical illness; sustain them in patience and hope. We pray to the Lord.
For all those struggling to forgive those who have harmed their loved ones; sustain them in love and humility. We pray to the Lord.
For the Diocese of the West and the Universal Catholic Church to whom You sent St. Junipero Serra; sustain them in holiness, justice and peace. We pray to the Lord.
That on this anniversary of America’s independence we will remain true to our nation’s founding principles and always work for the common good. We pray to the Lord.
That God bless and protect our nation’s armed forces, those serving now, those who have come home, and those who have given their lives in service. We pray to the Lord.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

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