Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 25, 2001
Bernardin provides Lenten meditation
The Journey to Peace: Reflections on Faith, Embracing Suffering, and Finding New Life, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Doubleday: Toronto, 2001. 151 pages.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
Meaghan was as lost as a little four-year-old could possibly be. Shopping for Christmas dinner was turning out to be an unhappy affair. Her daddy had warned her about being too slow, but she had dawdled. . . . Her father was nowhere in sight.
So she sat down by the bananas and began to cry. . . . When she saw her daddy, her courage melted like the chocolate bar she had been given by the store manager. Her father picked her up in his strong arms and said "Meaghan, princess, I'm sorry I lost you!" He promised he would never lose her again. And you know, he never did! Daddies are like that.
Summarizing this story used in a homily, Joseph Cardinal Brenardin said: "Basically, that is the promise our Heavenly Father makes to us. He promises us, here and now, once and forever, that he will never abandon us. Think about that! The Lord will never lose us."
In the darkest moments of life, the cardinal could personally affirm that somehow, with God's help, new life comes out of pain and suffering.
Those who read one of the 300,000 copies of Bernardin's posthumously published The Gift of Peace several years ago may want to read more. Those new to his writings may wish to include The Journey of Peace just released, in their Lenten devotional reading this year.
"I am Joseph your brother," (a quote from Joseph, prince of Egypt, in the book of Genesis) Bernardin would say when addressing the priests in his charge. "My best gift to you is myself.
"Beneath the titles of archbishop or cardinal is a man - Joseph Bernardin - who is weak and sinful like you, in need of affirmation and support, at times full of doubts and anxieties, very sensitive, easily hurt and frustrated. . . . Know that this man Joseph has a great affection for you."
His profoundly authentic, carefully crafted and direct style - neither sentimental nor rationalistic - touched countless Catholics and non-Catholics alike in the archdiocese of Chicago where he served for 14 years until his death on Nov. 14, 1996.
Selecting from 1,500 homilies located in his archives, the editors construct a series of meditations on 15 Stations of the Cross. They offer previously unpublished excerpts to reflect on various aspects of each station; including a final one acknowledging the resurrected Lord.
Readers are encouraged to place themselves fully in God's presence, reflecting personally while journeying with Jesus each step of the paschal mystery.
Bernardin was both a pastoral and prophetic witness. His life demonstrated that he was a man of prayer and of social concern. He will be remembered as a bishop who believed that religious conviction can be brought to the public policy debate in a reasonable and effective way.
Because he believed that life is a gift to be valued he fought for the rights of the unborn and those on death row. What brought him to national prominence was the war and peace theme and his commitment to conciliation between warring parties within the Church itself through his advocacy for the Catholic Common Ground Initiative in 1996.
Of particular value are his reflections on the three stations where Jesus is remembered for falling under the burden of the cross. Bernardin applies this to his own life. The first, when he was falsely accused of sexual abuse; the second, when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; and finally, when he came to accept his own death.
Bernardin has the uncanny ability to identify with his readers. The material is carefully chosen and well edited, although there is some tendency to repetition.
When confronted with a choice between ambition and being there for others, Bernardin chose the human side. He showed us how to live and how to die.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne Holst is an instructor in religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)