Monday, March 21, 2011
Being What I Do, Doing What I Am
Here's the holy huddle from last Saturday. Take my word for it; I'm in there somewhere.
The day was utterly joyful and completely exhausting. It's been just a couple of weeks more than a year since I had the first serious conversation with someone about the possibility of being nominated to become the 11th Bishop of Springfield. The disposition of my heart at the time was that, yes, this may indeed be a vocation, that I had the raw charism that, perfected by the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of ordination, might make me a round peg in a round hole. But the odds were long, and I've had plenty of unvalidated spiritual premonitions in my time. So I'm still completely in awe at what has transpired. When I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday morning, my first thought was, "Who's that guy in a purple shirt who looks so much like me?"
That purple shirt--along with the other associated "bling" (as my 30-something children are wont to call it)--may be a small thing, inconsequential in itself, but as I've pondered it all during fleeting moments of solitude over the past couple of days, it has been the conduit toward a deeper understanding of the calling into which I have been (and continue to be) incorporated. It's a symbol, and among Anglicans, it evokes an immediate--almost visceral--response. It "means more than it says."
And it reminds me that being a bishop in the Catholic tradition, simply making myself available to be a symbol is a hugely important part of the job. Sure, there are thorny pastoral and administrative issues to tackle, and I've already got such things on my radar screen. But when I walked into St Paul's Cathedral yesterday morning wearing a mitre and carrying a crozier, I was aware--almost crushingly aware--of the weight of responsibility for me to simply be The Bishop, as distinguished from doing bishop-like things.
After the consecration liturgy on Saturday, I tried to go to the reception, but hardly got more than ten feet into the hall. I was beset with, of all things, requests for my autograph on the program booklet. I complied cheerfully, and posed for a lot of pictures in the process. But I was fully aware, even in the midst of such joyful activity, that people didn't really want an autograph from Dan Martins. They wanted an autograph from Daniel, Bishop of Springfield. That may seem like a fine distinction, but it is, I believe, a significant one (literally ... significant).
Today, I've tried to figure out whether I want to wear my ring even when I'm not "in harness" (Monday is my day off). Again, that may seem like an utterly trivial decision, and on one level it undoubtedly is. My first thought is, No. The ring is heavy, and I'm almost constantly aware of it being there when I'm wearing it. It feels like an interloper; I haven't worn anything on that finger since I had a class ring in high school. But perhaps the weight of that ring is precisely what I need to be aware of right now. This vocation indeed weighs something. I am suddenly acutely aware that I am less "my own" than I have ever been. This was true, of course, as a priest. But that truth is now magnified several times over. I have no doubt that there will be heartache in what lies ahead. I also have no doubt that grace will abound. No doubt whatever.