St. Augustine said in one of his letters, “The way to Christ is first through humility, second through humility, third through humility” (Letters 118:22). Humility is a word that comes to mind when I look at all the people and figures that we are honoring in the Diocese of St. Cloud in this new year of 2024.
In December, we celebrated the ordination to the priesthood of Father Jean-Claude Duncan who, just a few years ago, asked Bishop Emeritus Donald Kettler to receive him and his entire family into the Catholic Church. A father of nine children, he was granted a dispensation by the Vatican to be ordained a Catholic priest. An extraordinarily gifted man, he is humble and loving to the core.
We begin this new year by honoring Mary, the Mother of God. It is amazing how God chose a simple, humble handmaid of 15 years of age to bear the greatest gift he could give us: his only beloved Son.
The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the Three Kings who humble themselves on bended knee before Christ the King: our God incarnate in a tiny child lying in a manger.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord underlines the mystery of the Son of God humbling himself to become one with us. As a human person, Jesus identified with us not only in our strengths, but in our frailty.
This month, we pray for the legal protection of unborn children, who are the tiniest and most vulnerable of human beings, created in the image and likeness of God.
We honor Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said about his mother, “She taught me that I should feel a sense of ‘somebodiness’ but that, on the other hand, I had to go out and face a system that stared me in the face every day saying you are ‘less than,’ you are ‘not equal to.’” He managed to remain humble and loving in the face of countless humiliations.
In this month when we also celebrate Catholic Schools Week, we honor our Catholic school teachers for their humble and loving service of our young people. In the words of Pope Francis, “Let us thank all those who teach in Catholic schools. Educating is an act of love; it is like giving life.”
Being a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, I truly admire our first Holy Cross saint, St. André Bessette, whose feast day is Jan. 6. He could not read or write and humbly served students at College Notre Dame in Montreal, Canada, as a porter, which meant that heswept, mopped andmaintained thecleanliness of the school. He prayed long hours and was known for his gift of healing through the intercession of St. Joseph. He once wrote that, “It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.”
Let us never forget that while we may be the smallest of brushes, God, the artist, paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures with each one of us. The way to Christ is through humility.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Patrick M. Neary, C.S.C