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Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Archbishop of Philadelphia

 

What distinguished Francis of Assisi from all the other reformers of his day was one simple thing. He understood that he could never live out his love for God alone -- or even with a group of friends. He needed the larger family of faith that Jesus founded. So he never allowed himself or his brothers to separate the Gospel from the Church, or the Church from Jesus Christ, or themselves from the virtue of obedience.

xxv-aniversario-chaput.jpgWhat Francis heard from Jesus on the Cross of San Damiano was not "replace my church" or "reinvent my church," but "repair my church, which as you can see, is falling into ruin." And he did that in the only way that lasts - one stone at a time, with the living stones of his own life and the lives he changed through his personal witness. 

Eight centuries later, God calls new men and new communities to exactly the same task.  This is why the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are so appropriately named.   If we want to be disciples and make disciples; if we really want to repair the Lord's house in the shadow of so many seeming problems in modern Catholic life; then we need to understand that without saints, nothing we do will work. Without holy men on fire with Jesus Christ and a filial tenderness for his mother; without men who are in love with Christ's Church, and zealous in preaching the Catholic faith through their words and actions; nothing will work.  We can't give what we don't have. If a joyful Catholic thirst for God doesn't burn in the interior cathedral of our hearts, we can never possibly rebuild the external life of the Church in the world.

During my years as archbishop of Denver, I had the privilege of meeting many fine young priests and many faithful new movements and communities dedicated to renewing Catholic life in accord with the Holy Father.  Very few have the blend of maturity, joy, energy and discipline I find in the Disciples.  In Denver I entrusted the Disciples with one of our largest and most important parishes.  It was a risk:  Only one of the four Disciples assigned to the work spoke English well; none was an American citizen; and very few of our priests or people had ever heard of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  Yet within 18 months, they took a good and faithful community and turned it into a vibrantly great one.  People respond to leaders who act with conviction, and the effectiveness of the Disciples flows from three great assets: keen intelligence, an obvious passion for their faith, and a humanity that brings the presence of Jesus Christ alive for the people who meet them. 

I've always believed that a parish rises or falls on the character of its priests - and nowhere is the character of the Disciples more revealing than in their constant, generous devotion to providing the Sacrament of Penance to their people and their love for the Lord in the Eucharist.  They lead their people to God through the witness of their own faith and love.  This is the essence of being a Good Shepherd.  This is the kind of leadership we need to purify and renew the Church in the United States.  It's the reason I consider it a privilege to call the Disciples of Jesus and Mary brothers.