During closing comments at his ordination Mass, Bishop Thomas Zinkula spoke of his new bishop’s ring, and what it means to him. “It’s a symbol of a bishop’s fidelity to and his nuptial bond with the church, his spouse. Of course, the nuptial imagery comes from Scripture. Jesus Christ is the bridegroom. The church is bride. … I promise to be faithful to you and to do the best I can as your bishop.”
How are we called to pledge our fidelity in this sacred partnership of three persons: God, bridegroom and bride? As married couples learn, a good marriage requires communication, collaboration, consultation and consensus. The four “Cs” as Bishop Zinkula calls them, are essential in every relationship.
Fostering the four “Cs” requires patience, perseverance and a commitment to listen. Skill-building is in order because as a society we’re growing more suspicious of each other’s motives and intolerant of opposing views. Let’s begin in small faith groups, Bible studies and parish halls to discuss and prayerfully consider sensitive topics, one issue at a time. What about sharing a meal with parishioners we don’t know well, or offering thoughts over coffee and rolls following First Friday Mass?
Let’s take time during Mass to process our spoken responses and the prayers that roll off of our lips like second nature. What are those prayers calling us to do? Listen to what the priest is saying during the Eucharistic Prayer. “…Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit …” (Eucharistic Prayer II).
The church, as bride, has much to share with the bridegroom: the lived experience of our faith and all that comes with being human: the joys, sorrows, accomplishments, challenges, hopes and fears. Share them with one another. Reach out with encouragement to someone having a bad day; visit a person who is lonely; swallow a harsh word instead of unleashing it on a loved one.
Remember to see the face of Christ in every person encountered. That’s a good way to build on compassion and to move us closer to union with our Triune God. The more we enter prayer, Scripture and solid spiritual writing, the more attuned we become to God’s whisper to do the right thing and to respond in a Christ-like manner.
The grace of the sacrament of matrimony “perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life,” we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Grace doesn’t happen by osmosis; it comes to us as we build on our relationship with God and one another.
Bishop Zinkula was deeply touched that the people of the Davenport Diocese prayed for their future bishop without knowing who that might be, and then when the appointment was made, prayed for him by name. “You prayed for me by name. I’ve been praying for you by name since the day of the call,” he said. Our new bishop ended with a quote from St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, a profession that Bishop Zinkula practiced before entering the seminary:
“Pray for me, as I will for thee, that we may merrily meet in heaven.”
Prayer is a good start to marriage with our new bishop.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor