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'Faithful to the teachings of the church and to the Gospel': Archbishop Gomez Takes LA
By Deacon Keith Fournier
February 17th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The faithful of the Archdiocese of the Angels have been given an extraordinary gift, a holy, faithful, courageous, joyful and dynamically orthodox new Shepherd to lead them at a critical time in Church history. Stay tuned, the real story on the appointment of the new Archbishop of Los Angeles has yet to be written.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On April 6, 2010 a Co-Adjutor Archbishop was appointed to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a move which has huge implications not only for Los Angeles but for the Church in the United States and the entire American continent. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez is highly regarded for his theological orthodoxy, his warm pastoral heart and his teaching gifts. His selection is another example of the astute leadership of Pope Benedict XVI.
He is a long time proponent of the "New Evangelization" advocated by the Venerable Pope John Paul II, to whom he has had a long and deep devotion. In fact, his marvelous letter entitled "You Will Be My Witnesses" is one of the best statements on the Call to the New Evangelization available. He is a passionate advocate for the poor and the authentic Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, properly understood.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez is beloved by many, many people. He is, in a special way, loved within the Hispanic community. He has an abiding friendship with the Archbishop of Mexico City. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico. He is the only "Numerary" (celibate and lifelong member) of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei currently serving in episcopal office. He was ordained a priest for Opus Dei in 1978.
He first served as an auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Charles Chaput in Denver. Archbishop Chaput is also beloved by many and, like Archbishop Gomez, is known as a dynamically orthodox Bishop. Then, Archbishop Gomez was sent to San Antonio where he again served with distinction. Time Magazine named the Bishop one of the most influential Hispanic leaders in America.
On February 27, 2011 Archbishop Gomez will automatically assume the office of Archbishop of the Los Angeles without any further action. The appointment of a Co-Adjutor usually fuels speculation and this appointment was no exception. However, within a very short time he has won over many of who initially expressed concerns about his appointment. Observers of this good Bishop were not surprised by the way in which this he has been received by the faithful of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
He has eased some earlier concerns expressed in some circles of the huge Archdiocese based upon his undeniable commitment to theological orthodoxy and orthopraxy. He is well known for his pastoral heart and sincere love for the Lord and for all of His people. People immediately like him and discern his close relationship with the Lord. From those who know him, he has that wonderful blend of personal warmth and doctrinal fidelity which are both so needed in our Bishops. However, there is little doubt that the Archdiocese of the angels will not be the same under his leadership.
The Archbishop gave a lengthy and candid interview a week before Christmas to Mitchell Landsberg, of the Los Angeles Times. It was released in its entirety in the Sunday edition of the Times, on February 13, 2011. The timing of the release of the transcript, like most matters involving such a significant transfer of leadership in the Church, was certainly not an accident. It is very enlightening and can be read in its entirety here. I have chosen three questions, along with the Archbishops answers, because they give us insights into who he is and where I believe this huge and influential Archdiocese will be headed under his leadership.
No, I really don't like to talk about - you know, those are kind of political terms, conservative and liberal. I think we all are called to be faithful to the teachings of the church and to the Gospel. You know, obviously my background in Opus Dei sounds like a more conservative. But I'm as conservative as Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict.
But theologically, I suppose one can speak of someone who is more traditional or less traditional. Where would you put yourself on that spectrum?
That's a good question. On some issues I'm traditional. On some issues I'm more - like, participation of the lay faithful, that's not typically considered a more conservative issue. I mean, what I'm trying to do is be faithful to the Gospel. The Gospel is both conservative and liberal.
Since the subject of Opus Dei came up, can I just ask you - what is your affiliation now with Opus Dei? Do you have a formal affiliation with them?
No. No, now my ministry is to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, so I don't really participate in the activities of Opus Dei. You know, obviously my spirituality as a priest is the spirituality of Opus Dei, but I don't actively participate in any of the activities of Opus Dei. My commitment is to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and I'm trying to minister to every single person in the archdiocese and every single religious community or movement or any people in the archdiocese.
I asked you the question about prayer.
I usually get up in the morning and have a holy hour, from, I guess, 7 to 8 every morning. And then during the day I try to be in the presence of God. You know, I usually try to pray the Angelus at noon, that's an old tradition of the church. And then when I can, I try to spend some time in prayer in the afternoon too, before the Blessed Sacrament, as I do in the morning. I celebrate Mass every day. We have a chapel there at the rectory, and when I don't have Mass outside I usually say Mass over there.
I try to read the Gospels every day, at least one chapter. It is so I will keep my spiritual life alert, thinking about it. I usually try to do some spiritual reading, depending on my schedule. Like, right now, I'm reading the book of the pope. ["Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times" by Peter Seewald.] And I just finished a book of St. Augustine, one of the biographies of St. Augustine, by Peter Brown. It's a huge book.
The Archbishop quickly exposed the utter inadequacy of political terms such as "liberal" or "conservative" as descriptive adjectives for discussing leadership in the Catholic Church. His simple response to this question reminded me of a response given by Francis Cardinal George at his installation in Chicago in May of 1997, "The faith is neither liberal nor conservative; the faith is true". However, it was the Archbishop's comment immediately after which sends a signal to the faithful, one which they should receive with great joy, "I'm as conservative as Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict."
His defense of the dignity of the human person is also instructive. At the heart of Catholic Social Doctrine is the bedrock truth that every single human person has an inherent dignity because they are created in the Image and Likeness of God. This is why we must defend the dignity of our first neighbor in the womb as well as the dignity of immigrants. He will not be categorized as a political "liberal" or "conservative", because he is first, last and all in between, a Catholic!
He describes his spirituality "as a priest of Opus Dei" - even though he made clear he is the Shepherd of all of the faithful. Again the faithful should be thrilled. Next to the soon to be declared Blessed John Paul II - whom Archbishop Gomez rightly extols - it is St Jose Maria Escriva who best exemplifies the universal call of all of the faithful to holiness and the invitation to a New Evangelization of the Church for the sake of the world.
Finally, this man lives in prayer, centered on the Eucharist, in an ongoing relational communion with the Risen Lord. His response brought to mind a passage on prayer which has always inspired me from Isaac of Ninevah , an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:
"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart. Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God."
The faithful of the Archdiocese of the Angels have been given an extraordinary gift, a holy, faithful, courageous, joyful and dynamically orthodox new Shepherd to lead them at a critical time in Church history. Stay tuned, the real story on the appointment of the new Archbishop of Los Angeles has yet to be written. Faithful to the teachings of the church and to the Gospel, Archbishop Gomez takes the helm in the City of Angels.
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