Being Catholic means 'paying a price,' says Detroit archbishop

By David Kerr

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Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit

Being Catholic in 2012 involves “paying a price” for loving Jesus Christ and his Church, says Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit.

“If we are not willing to pay a price for the grace of the revelation then it is a sign that we don’t really treasure it,” the archbishop told EWTN News Feb. 3.

“And maybe that is what God is asking us to do – to re-appropriate our own conviction about how precious the knowledge of Jesus is to us.”

Archbishop Vigneron is currently in Rome with 16 other bishops from the Provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati to update the Vatican and Pope Benedict on the health of their dioceses. As part of their “ad limina” visit, the group has also made pilgrimages to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul.

“When I see those tombs,” said Archbishop Vigneron, “I immediately think of Our Lord’s big recruitment speech to the apostles when he said ‘I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves’ and I imagine them looking around at one another and saying ‘Is he talking to us?’”

And yet, Christ's prediction that “if they rejected me they’ll reject you,” is present for Catholics “in every age” even if “it differs in how it takes its shape,” he said.

He believes that one clear manifestation of this is the Obama administration’s decision to force all health insurance to cover sterilization and contraception services, including abortifacient drugs. The “price to be paid,” he said, could be in terms of religious freedom and also financially.

“If I think about these fines that it seems the government will impose upon us, well that is money I could use in my Catholics schools, it’s money I could use for feeding the hungry, providing services to people with addiction. I expect we’ll have to pay a price like that.”

The one price that Archbishop Vigneron said he will refuse to pay is any violation of Catholic moral teaching. As Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York recently said, “they’ve given us a year to figure out how we can violate our principles – it’s not going to happen.”

On Friday morning, Archbishop Vigneron led the bishops of the Detroit Province as they met with Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience. During the seminar-style discussion, the Pope was asked about how to authentically interpret the Church’s mind as regards the liturgy.

“The Pope’s way of talking about it was to say that the liturgy is the experience of the Church and what should happen is that people experience at the Mass the existence of the Church as it is true through all time. I thought that was a very good way to talk about it,” said Archbishop Vegneron

He added that he has “heard the Pope make this point before. The liturgy isn’t something we do. It’s something we inherit and enter into.”

Archbishop Vigneron said the meeting with the Pope also “confirmed” the bishop’s own intuition “that we really have to focus ourselves on the new evangelization,” which involves giving “intentionally focused energy on bringing the Gospel to people who think they’ve already heard.”

That doesn’t involve “some sort of miracle program,” he contended, but does involve “helping people who are strong in their faith to share their faith.”

The archbishop said he took take inspiration from the 19th century English cleric, Cardinal John Henry Newman, who saw faith as growing “grows from being passed from one heart to another heart.”

In modern society, there is immense opportunity to evangelize those “parts of our culture that look upon the Gospel and Gospel way of life as a burden which they seem to think they are fortunate to have escaped,” he noted.

“What we bring is not an onerous burden – we bring a liberation,” he said, “and people may not know they do want this good news from Jesus but it really is what they’re looking for.”

Archbishop Vigneron and the other bishops conclude their “ad limina” visit on Monday Feb 6. He said they return home full of “new encouragement” after a week that has helped them to “take stock of our lives and to find some new breath to go back to reapply ourselves to our task.”

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