Together in the Heart of Christ

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Adapted from remarks delivered by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for the "Together in the Heart of Christ" celebration Nov. 2 at Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park.

I am profoundly grateful, more than I can put adequately into words. I heard so many beautiful things this evening, and I am very grateful for those heartfelt expressions. I kept thinking, "I wonder if there is someone else here named Paul Loverde! Who is he?"

And yet it would be ungracious of me not to accept them and to acknowledge the progress that has taken place in these 16 years here. We have done it together, in Christ, and from that power that comes from the overflowing love of His heart. Indeed there has been much progress, much achievement, but as I said, we have done it together. No bishop can do things by himself. Impossible. And all the more impossible for me. So yes, in Christ's name, we have done it: yes, with my leadership, yes with the collaboration of all of you.

Tonight we are expressing gratitude for and remembering the events of my own life and the life of this diocesan church which I have been privileged to lead these 16 years. Our Holy Father Pope Francis talks about the joy of the Gospel. He lives it! He truly lives what he says, all of the time. And truly tonight, brothers and sisters, you and I can be grateful for the gift of faith. That is where our joy is, that is where our treasure is. That is the source of our rootedness, because faith leads to Christ, and He is our all.

And then there is the joy of the priesthood. Many of you have heard me say this repeatedly, "I now know more about being a priest than I did 50 years ago when I was prostrate on the floor of the Altar of the Chair, Dec. 18, 1965. But knowing all I know and all I've experienced, I'd be a priest all over again in a heartbeat!"

No life is perfect, but priestly life is truly that gift and mystery, which Pope Saint John Paul II spoke about often. He used that title when he gave that recollection of his own memories having served his 50 years a priest. I'm grateful to God for the call, unworthy as I am. I'm grateful, too, to my parents, who were just ordinary, good people. You saw a picture of them earlier. You notice I was and am taller than they were! I'm grateful because they gave me the example of hard work. And so many others in my formation! I couldn't be where I am without all of those many people, whom we remember today on All Souls' Day, and we lift them up in prayer.

My priesthood was lived for 22 years in the Diocese of Norwich, Conn., and I wanted to make that come back tonight. Often I try to wear a pectoral cross or a ring that brings back some history. The cross that I am wearing tonight belonged to Bishop Hines. He was the bishop when I was ordained a priest. He did not ordain me, but he was there and accepted me for philosophy and theology. I was ordained by Bishop Francis Reh who was the rector of the college. When I was announced a bishop many years later in 1988, I called him and said to him, "I would be privileged if you would be one of the co-consecrators," and he accepted and sent me a ring to wear, and that is the ring I have tonight.

It is a privilege, as my brother priests know, to lead people to Jesus. To proclaim Jesus, the Truth, to give people the life of Jesus in the sacraments. I'm always moved to think as people come up to receive Communion, "What better gift could I give them than Jesus?" To think He uses us, humble as we are - imperfect, frail, limited - to actually act in His person and to care for people with the Heart of Christ as our ideal.

And that joy of the priesthood continued when I was named a bishop. It is a privilege to be a bishop, but it is also very humbling, to be a Successor of the Apostles. "Lord," I say repeatedly, "I am not worthy. I do not know how you found me." But on the other hand, God chooses whom He wills, and we cannot say "no" to that choice. He always gives us the grace to do what He wills, and I trust that. It has been a gift to have been here, to serve this particular Church called Arlington. And as I've said, whatever advancement has happened, we have done that together in Christ.

My episcopal motto as you know is "Encourage and Teach with Patience." As I look back, it has been the directive for me - it has been the constellation, the star to guide me. Encourage, teach with patience. To encourage is to give new heart, and to give hope. And teach … to teach the truth and to do it patiently.

It has been good to be with you. I am grateful and humbled, I am grateful for your collaboration over these years, and for your prayer and sacrifice. So I close by thanking you one and all. We have traveled together in faith, hope, and charity, building up the kingdom of God, evangelizing more by witness, but also with words and with deeds. So let us continue walking together, God's people, together in Christ Jesus. Thank you!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015