Seattle's new Archbishop J. Peter Sartain told the faithful that he has nothing to offer them, except the faith he has received in an unbroken tradition from the apostles.
“I have nothing at all of my own to offer you,” he told the congregation at St. James Cathedral during his installation Mass on Dec. 1. “Everything I have, I have received … What I have, I will offer you: the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The previous Bishop of Joliet, Ill. then reflected on his position of leadership. He noted that the Church's leaders must see themselves primarily as followers, walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
A bishop, he said, must first be led and taught by the Church, in order to be a leader and teacher himself. “It is the Lord Jesus who leads, guides, protects, and nourishes the flock,” he explained. “It is first and foremost, in following him that we (bishops) shepherd the portion of the flock entrusted to our care.”
In his first address to the Catholics in his diocese, the new archbishop offered them clear and practical guidance for following Christ more closely. He advised them to recall God's presence throughout each day, and in all situations.
“He is always before us, and we are to follow,” Archbishop Sartain exhorted. “The name of Jesus should be on our lips: in every homily, at every meeting, in every counseling session, in every moment of prayer.”
“His name should be in every parish and school mission statement,” he continued, “and as we go through the day, we should pray his name silently to remind ourselves of his nearness, and seek his protection … for Satan does not like to hear his name, and he flees.”
“In union with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,” he announced, “and with Catholics around the world, we will follow the one whose name we call, day and night … We will proclaim his name, even when his name meets rejection and ridicule.”
“We would not be the Church,” he noted, “were we to be bashful about proclaiming Christ.”
The archbishop, who learned to speak Spanish in order to minister more effectively among Hispanic Catholics, delivered a portion of his homily in that language before delivering the same remarks in English.
“Perhaps some of you have arrived recently in the state of Washington,” he said in those remarks, “but you are not new to the Church.”
Archbishop Sartain reflected on the expanding ethnic diversity of the archdiocese and turned the observation into an object lesson on the value of all human life. “In every culture, and through every language, and in every human person, our heavenly Father reveals the face of his beloved Son.”
The archbishop expressed gratitude for the timing of his installation, during the first week of the Advent season that precedes the celebration of Christmas. He stressed the importance of taking time to pray and take stock of one's life during the traditionally penitential season, in order to appreciate the inestimable gift of Jesus' birth.
Following his resolution to pass on the Church's tradition faithfully, Archbishop Sartain explained the hope of Advent and the essence of Christmas by quoting a traditional prayer: “Come, break down the prison walls of death, for those who dwell in darkness … and lead your captive people into freedom.”
The new archbishop also kept his opening promise to preach the unchanging message of the gospel, without alteration.
“By his birth, his death, and his resurrection, the Lord Jesus has opened the door shut by our sin,” he taught.