Beloved in Christ,
I can hardly imagine that I was consecrated a bishop – a successor to the Apostles – 23 years ago today. Yesterday at Mass at St. Timothy’s in Fort Worth, I celebrated a Vigil Mass of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and I focused on the incongruities that exist in the celebration of two diverse individuals.
In the midst of the day, I recalled a question asked of me recently, “Why do you and your family seem to be so happy?” It’s true – in our 55 years of dating and our 50 years of marriage, Jo and I rarely argue. I do not ever recall having an argument with our children, and, in spite of the fact that I come from a volatile part of the country – Western Pennsylvania, my family did not engage in conflict – there was enough around us! My parents did not use profanity, and my father claimed that his Swedish heritage resulted in his being “neutral” in a variety of ways.
I think what I learned, and have experienced is that people can choose to be angry, but that, in fact, we do not make people angry. Some people simply choose to make every “slight” in life become an unnecessary component. In the Diocese of Quincy it was said that the Bishop of Quincy reserved his right to be angry when righteous indignation was indicated, but in retrospect, it meant that with all of the truly tragic circumstances of the world in which we live, anger is a waste of energy. Conflict is a luxury that those who are engaged in international tragedy cannot endure. In the funny book, “Who moved my Cheese?” The author points out that for people with an extraordinarily small worldview, minuscule matters are elevated to a level of absurdity. As I have often said, traditional Christians are regularly adept at shooting their own people, or, perhaps more particularly, we all too often have traded in the Foot Washing Ceremony for the Foot Shooting Ceremony.
So…if I do not seem to be angry very often, it is because I have reserved that decisional emotion for something really important – like the persecution of Christians or Heretical Teaching, and a departure from what God has revealed. Far too many people today maximize matters that are truly minimal in importance. Egocentric behavior is all too often more prominent than Christocentric behavior, and the task of the Christian is to present Christ to the broken – not to sing the hymn “How Great I art.”
So…..why do my family and I never engage in arguments and disagreements? It is because we know that being a Christian family is far more important. Jo always told the children to thank God that Daddy was following Jesus and helping others, and our children spent more time in prayer than in conflict. I am blessed. Twenty-three years later I must strain to recall conflict in my Diocese. If I eliminated outside interference from ecclesiastical bodies, and limited egocentric behavior – there is nothing to report.
Those who enjoy the art of anger and conflict are welcome to entertain it, but God is not a God of chaos – He is a God of Order – and His Son has demonstrated His Love – with His arms stretched upon the Cross ready to embrace you and me.
Bp. Keith L. Ackerman, SSC