Friday, December 13, 2019

Final Day of the Ad Limina Visit - Feast of St. Lucy

December 13, 2019
St. Lucy, Virgin/Martyr
As I greet you to recap this final day of the official “Ad Limina Visit”, the weather has changed and it is a rainy, windy, grey December day, the antithesis of what this Feast of St. Lucy represents, one whose name means Light, and one who is a special patron of the ability to reflect the Light of Christ in every aspect of her life.  As one whose sight was violently taken from her as part of her torture before her martyrdom, she is the patroness of those with issues of Sight.  Santa Lucia, ora pro nobis!

Our final day had a more leisurely beginning, but certainly ended up being a full day and one that was quite interesting.  There were 3 Dicastery meetings, beginning at 9:00 with the Dicastery for Consecrated Life, at 10:30 with the Pontifical Council for Culture, and at 12:00 with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Each of these meetings were interesting, generated fruitful dialogue among the Bishops and the Dicastery Staff members, and were mutually helpful to all of us.

One of the generalizations that I would make about all the meetings we have had over these days is that the Roman Curia holds the Church in the United States in fairly high regard.  Each has made the point that they want to learn from us, and they have also each gone to great lengths to assure us that while we may see our own situations as “the glass half empty”, from their perspective on the global scene, they see our “glasses to be half full”; in other words, they continuously urge us not to be discouraged by the circumstances that we find to be our current reality.  They remind us that there are parts of the world that are having much greater problems.  They also remind us that no matter what the realities we are facing, the Church remains a profoundly important stabilizing force in society, and always serves as a beacon of Hope to a world that for all the ways it tries to say that Faith is irrelevant, the Gospel continues to be the Good News that all the world needs.

Following the last Dicastery meeting, our Region VI celebrated Mass together late this afternoon as our final joint spiritual event, before joining with the Bishops of Region VII to attend a reception at the Villa Richardson, hosted by the Ambassador of the United States to the Vatican, the Honorable Callista Gingrich.  She was joined in hosting us by her very well-known husband, former Speaker of the House, the Honorable Newt Gingrich.  It was a lovely evening, and a very enjoyable way to conclude this official “Ad Limina Visit”.

This has been a long, full, and very busy week.  It’s been filled with many wonderful highpoints:  the celebration of Holy Mass at each of the four major Basilicas, especially at the Tombs of the great Sts., Peter and Paul; the personal, fraternal, and very open meeting with our Holy Father, Pope Francis; the great dialogue with each of the important Dicasteries of the Roman Curia; the special grace of having this Ad Limina visit in this beautiful Season of Advent, amidst two special Feasts of our dear Blessed Mother; the joy of seeing Rome getting prepared for the Joy of Christmas; and the wonder of being in this amazing City of Rome, and the Vatican itself—-a city that is ancient, but always new—-the Eternal City.  I have prayed intensely for all of you every day of this week: for the priests, deacons, religious, lay leaders, and lay Faithful members of all the parishes of our beloved Diocese; I have prayed for all my beloved family and dear friends who support me and give me strength; I have prayed for an increase in Vocations to the Priesthood, Religious Life, and the Sacrament of Marriage; and I have prayed especially for those who are struggling with any particular issues of health, family concern, or vocational dilemmas.  I have prayed that our Diocese will be renewed, beginning with me, including all our priests/deacons, and encompassing every one of our Faithful people—-renewed in our love for Jesus in the Eucharist, and renewed in the practice of our Faith.  I have prayed that more people will open their hearts to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ who don’t now know Him; and I have prayed that all of us who DO know and love Jesus will become fervent witnesses to our Love for Jesus as true missionary disciples.  These have been my prayers at each of the holy places I have visited throughout this week.

I am more than ready to return home.  Please pray for a safe flight.  Please pray that I will continue to be a faithful and loving Shepherd after the Heart of Christ.  And please pray that our upcoming “Year of the Eucharist 2020” will help to “renew the face of the earth”, at least this part of the earth in the 9 counties that makes up the Diocese of Kalamazoo.

As we move into the final 1 and 1/2 weeks of Advent, may we truly long for the coming of Christ into our hearts.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!

                                               Faithfully yours in Christ,

                                               + Bishop Paul J. Bradley

                                               Bishop of Kalamazoo

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Day 4 - Ad Limina Visit - Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas

Thursday, December 12, 2019

As our official “Ad Limina” Visit to the Tombs of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, and our accounting to our Holy Father continues, what a great blessing to be able to celebrate the second major Feast of our Blessed Mother this week. On Day 1 of our Visit, we were privileged to be celebrating the universal Solemnity of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Patroness of the United States. Today, on Day 4, we rejoice that we are able to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of all the Americas. And we were particularly privileged to celebrate Holy Mass very early this morning at the last of the 4 major Basilicas in Rome, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the only one of the four dedicated to our Blessed Mother. Our bus brought us all the way across the City in pre-dawn darkness to this ancient and beloved Basilica early this morning, where we were able to celebrate Mass and pray for our Blessed Mother’s protection and grace to grow in holiness.

St. Mary Major Basilica appears to be the Basilica for which the last several Holy Fathers have had special affection. Before and after every journey that Pope Francis goes on, his general practice is to go to St. Mary Major to pray for our Blessed Mother’s special protection. It was at that altar where we celebrated our Mass this morning.

After the Mass, all the Bishops were led in procession to the Crypt of the Basilica where the relic of the true Manger which held the Christ Child on Christmas morning is held, and it was there that for the 4th time during this Visit, we recommitted ourselves to be in union with our Holy Father and to work tirelessly for the preaching of the Gospel to all the people in our Dioceses. Please know that I spiritually placed in that Manger all the intentions of all those who have asked me for special prayers, for the intentions of all the Faithful and Clergy of our Diocese, those of all my family and dear friends, and a special remembrance of all those who are in particular need of prayer.

Following the Mass, those of us who were attending the meeting at the relatively newly-formed Dicastery of “Laity, Marriage, Family Life, Youth and Human Life” began our travels there. This Dicastery is led by one of our own American Cardinals, Kevin Farrell, formerly the Bishop of Dallas. It was established by Pope Francis, bringing together several former Dicasteries into this one that is dedicated to every important aspect of human life and relationships. These offices were among the most modern and electronically well-equipped, with the capability of world wide electronic media for conferencing to all parts of the world; perhaps a sign of future ways that all these offices may go. We had a wonderful meeting with stimulating conversation that focused on marriage preparation and “Amoris Laetitiae”, young adults, lay ecclesial ministry, the various Movements within the Church, and special events such as World Youth Day, World Gathering of Families, and a first ever Special Gathering for those Ministering to the Elderly in January 2020. It was good to see Cardinal Farrell again, and I assured him that we miss him from his days of great involvement with the USCCB.

Because the next meetings had overlapped this particular meeting, we returned to the NAC until our next meetings after Lunch. During that time, I was able to have a private meeting at the Congregation for Clergy to take care of some diocesan business, and I also did a little shopping until the rains came just after noon. This was the first inclement weather we have had during our time here. It was a passing shower, and soon it was over. After returning to the NAC, and a little time for lunch and “reposo”, we headed out for our meeting at 3:30 at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Another one of our American Cardinals, Cardinal O’Malley, serves as the President of this Commission; but he was not able to be present. Msgr. Robert Oliver, a priest of Boston, who is the Secretary for this Commission was a gracious host and facilitated the meeting for us. The Commission very hospitably provided us late afternoon snacks and refreshments, very welcome at that time of day. As you would surmise, the matters that this Commission deals with are of critical importance to the Church worldwide, and in particular to us in the United States in the midst of the crisis of credibility that the Church currently faces. This was a sobering, but very helpful and hopeful meeting.

Our bus then took us back to the Vatican where we had our 6:00 meeting at the Secretariat of State. Cardinal Parolin is the Secretary of State, the # 1 Consultor to our Holy Father, and an extremely key figure in the life of the Church around the world. He was truly gracious, soft spoken, and a clearly wise, insightful leader. We discussed many sensitive issues, and we left with the reassurance that the Church’s global concerns, while quite complex and very significant, are being addressed by our Holy Father with skill, charity and wisdom.

That meeting ended at 7:00 p.m., which was followed by a reception at the Villa Stritch which some of the Bishops attended, and for others of us, a return to the NAC for some quiet before the end of this next to the last official day of our Ad Limina Visit.

For me, the highpoint of this long and full day took place very early this morning, both at the celebration of the Eucharist at Holy Mass, followed immediately by revering the Relic of the Manger in the Crypt of the Basilica. The two are directly related. What we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas, now less than 2 weeks away, is the Birth of Jesus, Who has come to be our Savior, and Who gave Himself to us in the Eucharist to be our spiritual Food and Drink. Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem (which means “House of Bread”), was laid in a Manger (which is the box to keep the food for the animals), and He promised us that He would remain with us always In the Eucharist to be for us the Bread of Life. That was all captured this morning from one miracle (the Eucharist at Mass) to another miracle (the Birth of Jesus laid in the Manger), not to be food for the animals, but to be the Spiritual Food for us, His followers. My Christmas Card this year (which will be sent out late due to this Ad Limina Visit) tries to capture this very connection.: Jesus Birth in Bethlehem and His Gift to us of Himself in the Eucharist.

I consider what happened for me this morning to be a great early Christmas gift from Jesus, and in sharing this with you, I hope you receive it as a spiritual gift for your own reflection as well. As you continue to prepare yourself for Christmas, when you look at Jesus in the Manger, just know how much Jesus loves YOU, and wants YOU to be with Him always. You can have that oneness with Him every time you receive the Holy Eucharist, the Bread of Life for YOU. O come, o come, Emmanuel!
                                                 Faithfully yours in Christ,
                                                 +Bishop Paul J. Bradley
                                                 Bishop of Kalamazoo

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Day 3 - Ad Limina Visit

December 11, 2019 
Wednesday, Feast of St. Damasus, Pope

Greetings on this day 3 of the official “Ad Limina” Visit, and another beautiful December day in Rome. The sky is blue, the air is crisp, the city is festively decorated for Christmas, and the pace of  the traffic and the pedestrians is bustling. Today had a slower pace to its beginning with a more

leisurely time for breakfast, and our departure for our meetings from the NAC not until 9:00 a.m. While there were several Dicastery meetings scheduled today, our Region had to divide up since many of them overlapped in scheduled times. The two in which I participated were with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Causes for Saints.                                                                                
The first meeting with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue focused our attention on the role of the Church—-universally, nationally, locally, and parochial—-to foster dialogue with other religious leaders. “Dialogue” is a concept that seems to be becoming more alien to today’s society that focuses less on listening and more on talking. “Dialogue”, as Pope St. Paul VI was fond of saying, “means even before speaking, we must listen.” When we listen to another person, we are much more able to understand him/her, and not allow prejudices or stereotypes to form our opinions. Dialogue is not about watering down my own religious beliefs, nor trying to convert others to my religious beliefs, but to have a mutual understanding, leading to a greater respect, for what each of us believes. As Pope Francis reminds us often, “humanity is wounded and the Church must offer her ministry of healing to help heal the wounds of misunderstanding.” It was a very helpful meeting.                                                            

The second meeting was at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This is the Congregation that investigates thoroughly the life of any person that is being promoted for the cause of canonization. This has been the practice of the Church from the earliest ages; no one can be declared to be a Saint without a rigorous and thorough examination, and the fulfillment of all the multiple requirements are met. I was very surprised to learn that in the two Regions attending this meeting (Region VII Bishops joined us Bishops from Region VI), that is in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, there are 11 Causes under consideration currently; 3 of those are in our Province of Region VI. Of course, while only a very few—-those who have lived a truly exemplary and “saintly” life—-in this world will become canonized, ALL of us are still called to become “saints” with a little “s”; we are all called to live lives of holiness, and even if it takes a lifetime, to conform our lives to Christ’s.

During some free time in the early afternoon, I went with a couple of my brother bishops to do some exploring throughout other parts of the City. We returned to NAC just in time to board the bus at 3:00 which took us to celebrate Holy Mass at the 3rd major Basilica, St. Paul Outside the Walls.
This is truly a magnificent structure, honoring a truly magnificent man—-St. Paul. While he was not one of the Twelve Apostles, he is considered by the Church to be “the Apostle to the Gentiles”, and it is to his tomb and to St. Peter’s Tomb primarily that all Bishops are to celebrate Mass, pray, and recommit ourselves to serve God’s People in the spirit of these two greatest of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. We had a beautiful Mass, and after the Mass, all the Bishops were led to the Tomb of St. Paul, in the crypt of the Basilica, and had time to pray together, and quiet time to pray silently. At St. Paul’s Tomb, one is also able to pray before the very chains which had bound St. Paul during one of his many times in prison. It was a truly moving and grace-filled time for me, and for us all. Please know that I am remembering all the priests, deacons, religious, lay leaders, and lay faithful of our Diocese, and all my dear family and friends, at each of these holy places.

Technically, this visit to the Tomb of St. Paul, combined with Monday’s visit to the Tomb of Peter, and my/our meeting with the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis, yesterday essentially fulfills the requirements of the official “Ad Limina Visit”. However, it’s very nice to look forward to two more 
more days in this beautiful city.

On the bus trip back to the NAC, night had fallen over the city, which gives it a whole different and wonderful character.  May God’s blessings of Peace be upon you as we look forward to the joys that tomorrow will bring.

                                                 Faithfully yours in Christ,
                                                 +Bishop Paul J. Bradley
                                                 Bishop of Kalamazoo

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Day 2 - Ad Limina Visit with Pope Francis and Region VI Bishops

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
                Our Lady of Loreto

Greetings on this beautiful December day in Rome,

   While this is only Day 2 of our official “Ad Limina Visit”, I have already experienced the highpoint of the whole trip.  Having celebrated Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter yesterday morning, followed by today’s meeting with our Holy Father Pope Francis, our Visit is truly complete.  The next 3 days will be wonderful, and filled with special meetings and Masses at the other two major Basilicas; but the main purpose of our official Visit—-to pray at the Tomb of the Apostles, Peter and Paul (which we will do tomorrow afternoon when we celebrate Mass at the Tomb of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls), to renew our unity with Peter’s Successor, our current Holy Father, and to give an accounting of the vitality of our Diocese has been fulfilled.  Let me provide some additional detail to this very special day.

The day began very early, much before dawn, as we boarded our bus at 6:40, following an even earlier brief breakfast, to take us to the Basilica of St. John Lateran.  As you know, St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom, and serves as the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Rome.  While Pope Francis is automatically linked to St. Peter’s Basilica, in his official capacity as the “Bishop of Rome”, St. John Lateran is Pope Francis’ Cathedral Church, and the  “Mother of all Churches in the world”, just as St. Augustine Cathedral serves as our Mother Church for our Diocese.  And as the Cathedra in St. Augustine Cathedral, the chair where the Bishop presides, is the symbol of the Bishop’s teaching authority for the entire Diocese, so too the Cathedra at St. John Lateran Basilica serves that same purpose for Pope Francis as the Bishop of Rome.  It is in that special regard that Pope Francis is one with all Bishops in the responsibility we all share in to be the Shepherds of our particular Dioceses.  Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is not only the Bishop of Rome, but the Vicar of Christ’s Church on earth, and therefore the Universal Shepherd for all Catholics.  Our Mass at St. John Lateran was a beautiful celebration in which, as today’s Gospel reminded us all, Jesus is our Good Shepherd Who will do anything it takes to go in search of the one Sheep who wanders away and gets lost, and not just to take care of the 99 who remain.  We are all reminded that our role as “Shepherds” is to provide good and loving pastoral care for those who remain, but also to find ways to reach out to those who have wandered away, or who are temporarily lost.  Following Mass, we returned to the NAC for just enough time to prepare for our visit to Pope Francis. 

  For such a meeting, the Bishops are asked to wear what’s called our “house cassock” (or fitella).  The meeting is held in the formal and ancient building known as the Apostolic Palace.  Each room of this gorgeous building is filled with beautiful religious artwork and artifacts that are outstanding.  For those Bishops who have priests who accompanied them, are students in Rome, or who have seminarians studying in Rome, those priests/students are permitted to accompany their Bishop to the Visit, but only for the official greeting and photo with the Holy Father.  Then the priests and seminarians are dismissed and the Holy Father meets only with us Bishops.  None of the Holy Father’s personal staff join him.  This meeting is meant to be personal and just between the Holy Father and us, his Brother Bishops.

   I’ve only had one other “Ad Limina” Visit, and that was with Pope Benedict in 2012.  While that was memorable and inspiring, this visit with Pope Francis was quite different and unique.  While what we discussed remains privileged, I can tell you that Pope Francis is a master at making people feel welcome and “at home”.  I have no doubt that just as I was nervous about this meeting, most of the 17 Bishops were probably also quite nervous and a bit anxious to meet with such a holy and truly world-renowned person as the Pope.  Yet, he began by greeting us as Brothers, asked us to raise any question, concern, or problem that was on our mind, and that we should all feel free to speak openly and candidly as Brothers are supposed to do.  And that’s what we did for the next two hours.  Any one who wanted to was given the opportunity to ask a question or express a concern, and most of us did so, including me.  Pope Francis, just like any public person, receives his fair share of criticism by the public media.   But I can say from personal experience, Pope Francis is a simple, holy, humble, but truly brilliant and insightful Man of God.  He is our Holy Father, and we owe him our love, our allegiance, and our prayers.  I will share one of the discussion points since it involves all of you.  When asked what he wanted us to tell our people on his behalf, he said:  Please tell them to be encouraged, that is, filled with courage.  He asked us to tell you to keep close to Jesus and to Mary our Mother.  He asks you to practice the corporal works of mercy and charity, to stay close to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to pray. And he imparts to all of you his Blessing, and asks you to pray for him.


At the end of the two hour private meeting, he bid each of us a personal farewell, and it was at that moment that I presented him with the Spiritual Bouquet on behalf of many of the Faithful of our Diocese who chose to participate in this special gift of prayer and sacrifice, and he was extremely grateful.  I wished him a very Happy 50th Anniversary of his Priestly Ordination, which he will celebrate on Friday, and a very Happy Birthday which he will celebrate next week.  And his final words to me: “Pray for me!”

   After finding our way out of the Apostolic Palace and reboarding our bus, we returned to the NAC for lunch, and a brief rest, before heading out for our meeting at the Congregation for Clergy.  This was a wonderful meeting which lasted from 4:00 until nearly 6:00 this evening.  It was a very helpful meeting since the entire focus was on the Bishop and his priests.  We are truly blessed by the priests of our Diocese.  Pope Francis had mentioned, as did the Prefect of this Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Stella, the fact that all priests are struggling in this environment of suffering that the Church is enduring due to the ongoing sexual abuse crisis and related scandals.  We need to pray for all priests, and I would ask you in particular to pray for all our priests, that they can remain good, holy, loving priests, and worthy instruments to help bring all their people closer to Jesus and His gift of Salvation.

   With that, another day comes to a close.  I very much look forward to the various events that Day 3 will bring tomorrow.  May Our Lady of Loreto shine her beautiful Countenance upon you all, and keep you close to Jesus her Son, our Lord.  

                                                                        Faithfully yours in Christ,

                                                                        +Bishop Paul J. Bradley
                                                                         Bishop of Kalamazoo 

Monday, December 9, 2019

First official day of the “Ad Limina Apostolorum” Visit

December 9, 2019                                        

Dear Family of Faith,

                May the Peace of our Lord Jesus, and the Hope we celebrate in this Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate His Coming to us anew, be with you all!  Greetings from the Eternal City! 
                The official “Ad Limina Apostolorum” Visit to the Holy Father and to the Tombs of the Apostles has officially begun.  We unofficially arrived yesterday, Sunday morning Rome time, after a long, and thankfully smooth, flight from Detroit, to Philadelphia, and then to Rome.  While it was 3:30 a.m. in the morning for our “real-feel/body time”, our six-hour time difference kicked in and Rome was already a bustling active city, at least for a Sunday.  The several Bishops who were on the flight with me were met by our drivers from the North American College (NAC) to pick us up and drive us the 30 minutes from the airport to Rome.  

              The weather in Rome at this time of year is moderate, warm for our standards; in the mid-50’s on average, and mostly pleasant.  We found our reception at the North American College to be warm, efficient, and smooth.  By noon I was situated in my room, which is quite nice by any standards, and certainly nice for a Seminary.  After time to freshen up after a long flight, unpacking and a brief siesta, and the low-key concelebration of Holy Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent, our preliminary meetings began.  There was an orientation meeting at 5 p.m. to explain the procedures for the busy days ahead, followed by a beautiful banquet in the Seminary Dining Room in honor of the Patroness of the North American College, the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, whose Solemnity is one day deferred this year due to the conflict with the Sunday. 

                Let me just say a word about the North American College.  While its name could be deceptive, the NAC (as everyone calls it) is the Major Seminary for American seminarians sent here by their Bishops for their four years of Theological studies and formation in the last four years of priestly preparation for Ordination.  The NAC is referred to as the U.S. Seminary in Rome.  A number of our priests serving in our Diocese have attended the NAC, including Fr. Jim O’Leary as well as our more recently ordained young priests, Fr. Max Nightingale and Fr. Jeff Hanley.  Because it is a Seminary sponsored by the U.S. Bishops, it also serves as a residence for Bishops when visiting their students, or who are just making a pilgrimage to Rome.   During the “Ad Limina” Visits, the NAC hosts all the Bishops who choose to stay there during their week-long visits. 
                By the way, the “Ad Limina” Visits are supposed to take place approximately every 5 years; the last visit for U.S. Bishops was in 2011-12.  Due to the change in Holy Fathers in 2013, the schedules have been a bit behind, so it’s now been 7 years since our Ad Limina Visits.  On another side note, besides the Bishops from Michigan and Ohio (Region 6) here for our visit this week, the Bishops from Region 7 (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana) are also here, so we truly have a “full house”. 
                So with all that being said, our first official day began today.  And what a beautiful day to do so, as the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother.  Our day began very early with leaving the NAC at 6:45 a.m.  to bring us to celebrate Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter in the downstairs of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

While I have had an opportunity to do this several times in the past, every time is extremely moving and quite special—-to be at the very spot where the mortal remains of the original Vicar of Christ, the one to whom Jesus said: “You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”  This is always a highpoint, and a required visit for all Bishops on their Ad Limina Visits—-to recommit ourselves to be in union with Peter’s Successor, our Holy Father, and to take this occasion to re-profess our faith in a solemn reciting of the Creed, which unites us all.  Following the Mass and a time of personal prayer and a very brief breakfast, the first of four Dicastery meetings began at the Congregation for Bishops. 

                Just a word about the Roman Curia.  Just as every Pastor has a staff of faithful and competent people to help coordinate programs and ministries at the parish, every Bishop has a Diocesan Pastoral Staff (or Curia) to do the same.  I am truly blessed by those who serve on our diocesan Staff, not just for the competence they bring, but also for the dedication and commitment they bring to their work which is truly a great gift to me and to us all.  In a similar way, the Holy Father has a very large staff, which is oftentimes known as the Roman Curia.  It is divided into departments known as Congregations, Secretariats, and Pontifical Councils (Dicasteries).  Many of these departments are headed by Bishops or Cardinals, and they are staffed by many priests and a lot of dedicated lay people from around the world. 
                During the Ad Limina Visits, we Bishops make an accounting to the Holy Father directly to provide him with a report on the vitality of our Diocese, to point out what the challenges are, and to share with him any areas of success or problems.  Those reports were written, formally prepared and sent to Rome 6 months ago, to give the various departments/congregations time to review them so they can be prepared for our visits. 
                As I mentioned earlier our first meeting was a 90-minute meeting with the Congregation for Bishops, followed by an hour-long meeting at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), then a trip back to the NAC for some lunch and a break, followed by two more hour plus- long meetings this afternoon at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and then with the Secretariat for Communication, which concluded at 5:30 p.m. this evening. 
                While the content of those meetings are confidential, I can say that each of them were interesting, helpful and informative. 
                We returned to the NAC for Evening Prayer and other evening activities.  Tomorrow we will begin the day with early Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, followed by the highpoint of the week: our meeting with Pope Francis.  We will meet with him as a Region, but we are told that the Holy Father spends a lot of time, and wants to hear from each of us, about the state of affairs in our Dioceses.  I very much look forward to this very important meeting.

                Please be assured of special remembrances in my prayers throughout this week at each of the Basilicas and holy places I will be visiting.  Know that high on my list of prayers and intentions are an increase of Vocations to the Priesthood, Religious Life and the Sacrament of Marriage, and unity/vitality/renewal of the faith of each of us, and a deeper love and devotion to the Holy Eucharist as we prepare for “The Year of the Eucharist: 2020”.  Please pray for me as well.
                                                                                                    In Christ,
                                                                                                + Bishop Paul 

Christmas at St. Peter's Square

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome- Audience with the Holy Father - April 3rd and 4th, 2019

            Wednesdays in Rome always witness a huge influx of pilgrims who gather in large and small groups, having come from every country and continent on earth, just to be present for the General Audience with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.  This Wednesday, April 3, 2019, was just such a day as our small group of Pilgrims set out to take the early bus across the city of Rome to be at the Vatican in time to secure the best vantage point for the Audience which began at 9:30 a.m.  Through the kindness of the Sisters of Mercy of Alma (Michigan) who staff the U.S..Bishops Visitors Office, we were able to secure excellent seats for our small group, while I had the great privilege of having a seat right on the dais where our Holy Father gives his weekly Audience address.  Perhaps due to the time of year, the chilly temps and the threat of rain, the crowds were noticeably smaller, and I was one of only five Bishops to have one of those official seats near the Holy Father. 
            At approximately 9:15 a.m., the Holy Father entered St. Peter’s Square in his famous “Popemobile” and was driven through the large crowds of pilgrims, stopping frequently to greet persons with special needs and to bless and kiss little “bambinos”.  Finally at 9:30 a.m., the Holy Father got out of the Popemobile and walked up the walkway to his chair to begin the Audience with prayer. 

            The prayer consisted of a brief Reading from the Gospel repeated at least eight different times in the major languages of the world, followed by the Holy Father’s catechesis for the day, which for our Audience, was about his recent pastoral trip to Morocco, and a beautiful reflection on the importance of religious freedom and how we are all called to be “servants of hope”.  The Audience concluded by praying the “Pater Noster” (Our Father) together and with the Holy Father’s blessing for those of us who were there, and for our families, which includes our entire Family of Faith of our Diocese of Kalamazoo. 
            As the Audience concluded, it was time for the Bishops who were present to personally greet the Holy Father.  It was a great privilege for me to be the first of the Bishops to have this great honor.  After greeting him and reminding him of our Diocese (and the Holy Father loves to repeat “Ka-la-ma-zoooo” after me with a big smile on his face), I told him I brought him greetings from all the priests, deacons and faithful people of our Diocese and that we are grateful to him and asking God’s graces to help him to remain courageous in his leadership of the Church in these difficult times.  I concluded in Spanish: “Que Dios los bendiga y Nuestra Senora lo guie y proteja”.  It was a wonderful and exhilarating spiritual experience, and I pray that you all feel the graces and blessings one time removed. 

            After a quick lunch, we spent the afternoon visiting the Catacombs of St. Priscilla.  Though a completely different kind of experience, it was so very moving to have the opportunity to visit the burial places of the early Christians who lived in Rome in the 3rd century.  This particular Catacomb had evidence of over 40,000 burials that covered an area of approximately 7 miles.  The tour guide was a wonderful, well-informed and articulate young woman who explained in great detail the history of the Catacombs and the strong sense already in the 3rd century of the concept of the resurrection of the dead.  As opposed to the strong majority of the pagan people in Rome who mourned their dead, the Christian community understood that those who had died buried their bodies for a time of sleeping awaiting the resurrection of the dead at the end of all time. The actual term “cemetery” comes from the Greek word for “sleeping”.  It was a truly moving experience.  “Eternal rest grant unto all your Faithful Departed, oh Lord, and let Your perpetual Light shine upon them.  May they Rest In Peace. Amen.”
            The day came to an end with a delicious dinner at Msgr. Osborn’s favorite restaurant, Trattoria Scavolina Roma.  For all intents and purposes, that was our last meal together, which was a fitting way to bring our Lenten Pilgrimage to a conclusion. 

            Today (Thursday) was a special “side-trip” of a one-day tour of the beautiful Amalfi Coast along the Mediterranean Sea.  Fr. Max and I, along with members of my family, enjoyed this trip immensely.   Though the weather was unpleasant (it had turned cold and rained most of the day—-our first unpleasant day weather-wise), it was a wonderful experience enjoying the august beauty of God’s creation in this part of the world.  A highpoint of this day trip was a visit to the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi, which houses the mortal remains of the great St. Andrew, Apostle.  What a special grace and blessing.  

            Early tomorrow morning, we will all be boarding separate planes to find our ways back home, bringing to an end this wonderful Lenten Pilgrimage.  I return to our Diocese very proud of our two young priests who have done exceptionally well in their studies as they prepare to return to our Diocese by the end of June; and I also return spiritually enriched for these final days of Lent and prepared for the approaching days of Holy Week and the Sacred Paschal Triduum. 
            With prayers for the continued intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church for our Diocese, and in thanksgiving for all the graces God continues to bestow upon us, I remain

                                                                        Faithfully yours in Christ,

                                                                        + Bishop Paul J. Bradley
                                                                        Bishop of Kalamazoo