Susan Klemond is a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minn., who writes news and feature articles for the Register, OSV Newsweekly and the Catholic Spirit, the diocesan paper for St. Paul-Minneapolis. She also has worked in marketing, editing and magazine production. She thinks about St. Peter’s exhortation to ‘always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.’ While some days it’s probably better that no one asks, she keeps working on it.
Newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles gave the first keynote talk of the World Meeting of Families Congress today, before a capacity audience at the Philadelphia Convention Center, emphasizing the faithful’s role in proclaiming the truth of God in the world.
Below are some highlights of the address:
Our deepest task is to lead all of creation in the great chorus of praise. Through our human voices, the whole cosmos finds its voice, giving praise to God.
When we speak the moral law, when we speak the truths about the body, the truths about the family, the truths about complementarity, we’re not seeing it as imposing some alien limitation on freedom; rather, we’re posing what makes true freedom possible. That’s the hinge upon which an awful lot of this turns. We’ve been cowed, I think, into prophetic silence … and so we privatize. We silence ourselves. But part of the imago Dei (image of God) is to engage in prophetic speech precisely for the sake of the world. If we stop speaking, it won’t be heard. That’s the prophetic call.
The Church’s extravagant demand, calling us to sainthood, is coupled with an equally extravagant mercy. … Don’t drive a wedge between the two things, and don’t pretend it’s a zero-sum game. … Moral demand all the way; mercy all the way.
Authentic Christianity is religion on the march. It’s meant to be brought out to the world. … We go out, of course, in nonviolence; of course, in love; of course, in compassion — but by God, we go out on march because we’re kings meant to “Edenize” the world.
The family is the place where we are taught to be prophets, priests and kings. … Families where a sense of mission among the children is cultivated and encouraged, that’s a family that’s learning right praise, and that family can now go out into the world to teach right praise.
A family where basic moral truths are taught and above all lived is a family that is learning how to engage in prophetic speech. It now learns how to go out to the wider society and speak this important truth. Families where the virtues are cultivated … that’s a family that can now go out to teach the world those same virtues.
Rediscover who we were meant to be, not as private privilege. The image of God is a mission; it’s an adventure; it’s a command. We carry the image of the King out to the world. Do it confidently, as priests teaching right praise. Do it confidently, as prophets speaking truth. Do it confidently, as kings, people on mission, people on the march.
The talk, “Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love,” was well-received by attendees.
Teresa Davovich of Eugene, Ore., and her brother, Ed, of Sewell, N.J., met in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, and both said they found Bishop Barron’s discussion of the idea of prophet, priest and king insightful, along with the idea that Catholics are on a mission.
Ed said he is looking forward to the entire congress. “It’s just going to be a great opportunity for individuals who never really get an opportunity to learn about what it takes to make a great family and what the unity of the family means across the world — and basically make that a better-defined capability to go out into the world and [live] that kingship.”
Redemptorist Father Immanuel Agbulu, of Lagos, Nigeria, said he appreciated the talk because he believes the emphasis on mission for the family is not just making individual families a success, but also that we are called to live out the image of God that the family represents.
“To have a successful family is not just enough. You must be able to affect other families. You must transmit what you discover,” said Father Agbulu, who serves in a parish and on the family and human life council for the Archdiocese of Lagos.
Julia Smucker of Phoenix said she was excited to see Bishop Barron come on the stage with his “fresh bishopry” (zucchetto and bishop’s cassock) The idea of the Church’s moral demands of discipleship and what it means to be Christian, coupled with “radical mercy,” especially resonated with Smucker, a World Meeting of Families volunteer who translates French and Haitian Creole. “The moral demand all the way and the mercy all the way” line impressed her.
Smucker, who is an interpreter and has also studied theology, said, “Rarely do I get such an opportunity to combine my language background and my theology background and deep love of the Church and to see a cross section of the worldwide Church, congregating in one place, and get a sense of the catholicity of the Church universal.”
Which is exactly the purpose of World Meeting of Families.