Bp. Vasa of Baker, OR! WDTPRS is impressed – kudos!

Bishops are standing up.  Priests are standing up.

Will you now stand up?

Here is another good example of leadership from a bishop in the USA.

This is a strong and very personal appeal from a bishop about standing up and doing one’s duty.

This is from the Catholic Sentinel by Bp. Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon.

You might remember from Scripture the martyrdom of the Maccabees, whom we celebrate on 1 August.

If you do nothing else due to lack of time, read at least the end part where I make the emphases and comments.

We are edified by the courage of Eleazar and companions

By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — Note that Eleazar has no illusion about the practical value of his fidelity. It would not cause the king to change the law, it would not cause his friends to convert, it would not result in a miraculous intervention by God. In worldly terms, his death is useless, his resistance futile. Yet, Eleazar states the hope implicit in his willingness to die: “I will prove myself worthy of my old age and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.” This is what it means to be a witness, a martyr. It means leaving a noble example for the encouragement, the emboldening of one’s successors.

Another example is found in the chapter immediately following the story of Eleazar. It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. One of the brothers speaking for the others said, “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Then follows a description of a whole series of the most horrendous tortures which these brothers endured. All the while the mother watched and encouraged her sons. The Scriptures then rightfully recognize the dignity of the mother: Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother who saw her seven sons perish in a single day yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage she exhorted each of them in the language of their forefathers. The mother was the last to die after all her sons. None of these family members was given a name. In purely secular terms we could come up with all kinds of reasons why the mother and her sons should have feigned eating pork in order to spare their lives. These seven sons could have been valuable resistance fighters. They could have raised up faithful sons and daughters to assure the survival of Israel. It could be argued that their faithfulness, which led to the destruction of the entire family, was an exercise in complete futility and even foolhardiness. Was their witness foolhardiness or was it courage?

These Old Testament examples manifested wonderful and exemplary courage. Saint Thomas positions the Cardinal Virtue of fortitude or courage between fear and daring. Courage, he says, curbs fear and moderates daring. We would be more inclined to say that courage stands between cowardice and foolhardiness. A secularist looking at martyrdom would, almost of necessity, conclude that the death is the result of foolhardiness. Such bold actions, in our current, “can’t we all just get along” mentality, will always be viewed as imprudent, politically incorrect, and misguided. Such a disdain for martyrdom and for holy boldness is nothing other than a disdain for faith; a disdain for a hope in the Lord. It is perhaps, also a symptom of the hopelessness of which Pope Benedict XVI speaks in, Spe Salvi. In the case of these Old Testament examples it is clear that each was confronted with a very definitive choice. None of us have ever been confronted with such a dramatic choice but for these Old Testament heroes it came down to this, “Your faith or your life.” In a positive sense, using Pope Benedict’s words, the question would be: “In what do you hope?” We are edified, in the best sense of that word, by the witness, the martyrdom, the courage of Eleazar and companions. We could cite many such examples from the early years of Christianity. Even in our own day, the numerous saints canonized by Pope John Paul II, many of them martyrs, is a testimony to the fact that faith-filled courage is not dead. It is a testimony that hope is not dead.

When I consider the courage of these Old Testament figures and the firm witness of other saints and martyrs I would honestly have to say of myself, “I am a coward!” There are many times when fear impedes me from acting with what could be called holy boldness. The nature of that fear which impedes is perhaps different for each of us but I hope that each of us acknowledges such fear, grapples with it and even occasionally overcomes it, at least for a time. [This bishop is hitting the nail on the head.  Watch where he goes with it now.]

Unfortunately, for me, the nature of the perceived threat is so paltry that allowing it to impede correct acting can only be the result of profound cowardice. The most serious threat to my well being for acting with greater boldness has been an intimation that I will be rejected, hated, ridiculed, rendered ineffective, deprived of financial support, judged to be insensitive, misunderstood, or verbally vilified. [This is what has been aimed at the Church.  It is aimed at individual priests and bishops too, to intimidate them into silence and inaction.] In other words the threats, all things considered, are quite innocuous and yet these things generate within me a variety of fears and doubts and misgivings. At times they even paralyze me into a state of cowardly inaction. [But indeed… he has overcome it here!]

It might be the perception of some that the issuance of my 2004 document, Giving Testimony to the Truth, was a courageous act. Others would classify it as foolhardiness. This is the document which required that individuals serving in a variety of Diocesan Ministries must affirm some basic tenets of the Church in order to continue to serve. It is, however, very difficult for me to see how the simple fulfillment of the episcopal duty which I have to teach could be considered an act of courage. In that I would turn to the Gospel of Saint Luke, 17:10: “When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” It is a rather sad commentary for our age that a simple fulfillment of duty is mistaken for a courageous act. [A very good point.  He is trying, however, to put the outside pressures into perspective.]

It might be a perception that my boldness regarding pro-abortion politicians is courageous but in truth I only follow the lead of those who exemplify a boldness far greater than my own. [Well said.] The bold speaking out on the part of Archbishop Raymond Burke regarding the contentious issue of Catholic pro-abortion politicians and Holy communion emboldens cowards like me to follow his example. [God love this man.]  The firm and measured response of Cardinal Egan and a variety of other Archbishops and Bishops to misleading statements of the Speaker of the House emboldens others, like myself, to shake off the shackles of fear and to stand with them.

WDTPRS is impressed.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TJM says:

    Bravo, bravo! If the good Bishop changes only one mind, then his message will have been worth it. Tom

  2. ED says:

    Bishop Vasa is one of the better bishops ,perhaps he can be promoted to Archbishop of San Francisco.

  3. Chris M says:

    I, too, am impressed by the Bishop’s forthrightness and the credit he gives to Abp Burke, Cdl Egan and, of course, the Holy Father himself.

    To see a man openly reflect on his past weaknesses and show us how he’s overcome them, he provides us with enCOURAGEment and an example to follow in our own lives.

  4. Paul S. Quist says:

    Very moving, indeed!

    Paul, Edmonton

  5. Diane says:

    His letter is also profoundly humble, in addition to thought provoking.

  6. Tominellay says:

    Bishop Vasa is rock solid!

  7. Most Excellent Sledgehammer says:

    I’d love to see him go to St. Louis…He’s been a bishop for 9 years in a tiny diocese…he’s not even 60 yet, so he’s ripe for the picking. Former priest of the diocese of Lincoln…surprise, surprise.

  8. Ben says:

    Bishop Vasa touches on a belief I have about real liturgical reform and the Gregorian rite. I think the majority of Bishops would follow the Pope and the restoring of traditional forms in both the New Mass and the Old. There are just not many “movers and shakers” out there. And the ones that seem to have the courage are thet progressives. Many bishops are in fear of “shaking things up” too much. That is why Bishops like Burke are so immportant. It is not just what they personally can do but what kind of movement they may start. With more faithful Bishops and younger priests in the future, the tide can turn. We must pray for too things. First for the Pope and Bishops to turn toward tradition and second for the fear that the majority are living under to lift.

    Anybody ever get bullied by a bully in school? Well, tradition has been bullied for many many years now. It is really humiliating to stand back up after being so intimidated. We want to be free from further bullying and have the rest join our side. But they have just witnessed the bullying also. We also want to avoid just bullying back because that leads to just fighting for a side. Ultimatly we win because our strength comes from courage in Christ whereas their’s comes from intimidation.

  9. MM says:

    Byline says Bend, but he’s bishop of the diocese of Baker, Oregon.

  10. Jim says:

    I am moving from California (Land of the Spineless) to Bend, Oregon (Land of the Brave).

  11. Most Excellent Sledgehammer says:

    His Chancery is in Bend and, for all practical purposes everything occurs in Bend, which is a beautiful mountain resort town with a population of about 80K…but the Cathedral is Baker City, OR (an old mining town of about 10K), about 200 miles away.

  12. Howard says:

    I has been very encouraging to hear from so many bishops over the past few months. I really hope this is a real change and not just a flash in the pan. The real test will be whether they go back to “business as usual” and disappear from the public eye once the election is over.

  13. magdalen says:

    The handful of brave bishops that have been speaking out for yers were often belittled but they held on for as Bishop Vasa said, it is the job of bishop to be speaking out and teaching the truths of the faith. I am glad that at long last (too little too late) perhaps 40% of the bishops are addressing the non-negotialbe issues. The deafening silence on the part of some others is still in place. The USCCB …well, never mind.

    Thanks to the bishop and priests who are speaking the truth. In the early years of the church, one had to be willing to lay down their lives for the faith. That goes for all of us now as well.

  14. Dr. Mel-South Carolina says:

    I am proud to say that His Excellency, Bishop Vasa is the Episcopal Advisor of The Catholic Medical Association and has been a true witness to the “Culture of Life” for all healthcare providers.

    Dr. Mel-South Carolina

  15. TomG says:

    You know, for a while after Cdl Egan took over the great Cdl O’
    Connor’s archbishopric, I was very unimpressed with him. Over the last few years, I have come to realize I was hasty in forming my impression (certainly a first for me!): His Eminence has his own style and has shown himself to be a worthy successor to Cdl O’Connor. His formidable intellect and mastery of canon law are additional blessings.

  16. TNCath says:

    This is one of the most encouraging statements yet. The humility and sincerity with which he writes is extremely impressive and moving. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a bishop admitting to personal weakness. May Bishop Vasa’s confreres be inspired by his honesty and integrity.

  17. Bishop Vasa has been a great bishop from the git go. His columns over the years have all been outstanding and his having diocesan volunteesr & employees swear a Mandatum is awesome.

  18. Reading this was very humbling. It’s great to see anyone admit their own weakness. Like Ben has said Tradition has been bullied around since Post Vatican II. Christ is our hope. The Saints give us the example to go by. God Bless the good Bishop…maybe he could be sent to LA?

  19. Fr Charlie (formerly frcd) says:

    This is going on my desk pad, where I can see it and pray with it and apply it everyday.

    Thanks for posting this!

  20. Phillip says:

    This is one of the most amazing Episcopal statements I have ever read…it is good to see him owning up to “cowardice” on the part of Bishops in the past in standing up for truth. [He is certainly speaking for himself. He is not speaking of all bishops. As a matter of fact, he cites the example of Archbp. Burke and Card. Egan. However, many bishop, priests, and laypeople must apply this to themselves to see if they pass muster. After all, laypeople are the politicians, who often cave in under pressure.]

  21. tertullian says:

    “holy boldness”

    gotta love that phrase…sounds like a nice name for a blog…

  22. Cel says:

    One might hope to receive grace sufficient to be half so bold and courageous as the Bishop who calls himself “coward.”

    Bishops like this inspire vocations.

    May God bless and keep good Bishop Vasa.

  23. Mary Ann says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. I was beginning to doubt the courage of my convictions re my vote on Tuesday. My courage is renewed. Prayerful thanks to you, Bishop Vasa, and to you, Fr. Z.

  24. Alan says:

    Courage and strength of conviction from the priests and bishops INSPIRE the faithful.

    They should teach that in seminary.

    It also generates respect and prestige. There is a lot to be learned from even the
    military when it comes to leadership. When I think of those who I respect the most… my
    thoughts without a doubt go to those who lead me when I was in the service.
    The faithful want and need leaders! Everyone deep inside yearns to be lead by a cause greater
    than themselves. A little bit of courage will harvest a lot of fruit for the Church.

  25. Rancher says:

    Giving Testimony To The Truth is a good step IF it is enforced. It is my understanding from first hand knowledge and personal experience that not all of Bishop Vasa’s pastors are enforcing it. The Bishops heart and words are certainly encouraging and are in the right place. The next step, as referred to by Alan in the previous posting, is to develop the intestinal fortitude necessary to actually enforce the directives he may promulgate as a Bishop. The Bishop is on the cusp of providing great leadership in his small (population wise) but large (land area) Diocese. Some firmness and follow up (action not just words) with some of his pastors would help a lot. Such an example might even cause a couple of vocations to the Priesthood within the Diocese–something sorely lacking at the moment.

  26. johnny b says:

    Joe the Plummber

    Tito the Builder

    Robert the Bishop

    all of then simple men, but tough as nails and courageous under pressure.

  27. dominic1962 says:

    Amen, preach it Your Excellency!

  28. Andy Brandt says:

    God Bless America! Good that American Church is slowly waking up! Great to have such bishops. Now, if only more European bishops had same attitude and courage…

  29. JohnE says:

    Yes Cel! If Bishop Vasa considers himself a coward, then what am I?

  30. q7swallows says:

    No matter what the results of this election are, the silver lining through it all has been all of these wonderful bishops who have stood up and articulated the Church’s teaching on abortion so carefully and clearly and with fire in their bones. Thank you, Fr. Z, for making their statements available to us here. Though this country sells its birthright for a mess of pottage, at least we can see the Church glimmering through the ashes. So, though these have been days of fasting, penance, and prayer in our home for our country, we are resolved to celebrate this evening the courageous bishops who stood up for our unborn brethren at this juncture. Better late than never. Thank you, dear Excellencies, for mapping the way Home—at every cost to yourselves! I wish you could know how deeply your own fire inspires us! It is not lost on your little sheep. Kissing the ring you wear, we salute you.

  31. Sue says:

    I am with you all the way to the courage of Cardinal Egan. His witness was, unfortunately, negated by his extending the Alfred E. Smith dinner invitation to Obama.

  32. Alice says:

    While Bishop Vasa’s humility is genuine, it must be pointed out that for every step of his 9 years as
    Bishop of Baker, he has been courageous in word, print and action. If you go to the Catholic Sentinel
    website and view dozens of his columns archieved there you will find a man with the heart of a lion
    for Our Lord. He is surely not new to speaking up as a Bishop and we hope he never changes.

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