As he begins to celebrate the one year anniversary of his installation as Archbishop of San Antonio, Archbishop Jose Gomez has released a pastoral letter in which he encourages faithful to seek the truth of Christ, revealed through the 2000 year tradition of the Church, not merely through their own opinions and tastes.
The Archbishop took the opportunity to meditate on one year of shepherding the Catholic people of San Antonio and to look toward the future of the nearly 700,000-member Archdiocese.
He told faithful that using the words “’your archbishop‘—[fills] me with pride and humility: pride at being called to serve this wonderful archdiocese and humility in the knowledge of my limitations.”
Archbishop Gomez began the letter proper by first challenging the faithful to delve more deeply into their faith in Jesus Christ.
“How strange it would be”, he said “if young man told his fiancée, ‘I know everything about you I want to know’ or a scholar said of her field of study, ‘I've learned as much as I wish’ or a music lover declared, ‘I've heard all the symphonies I care to hear.’ Is that how people in love talk?”
“It is the same with followers of Jesus Christ.” he stressed. Quoting Pope Benedict’s new encyclical God Is Love, he said that “the Holy Father…calls Jesus' dying for us on the cross ‘love in its most radical form.’ If we truly love Our Lord in return, we will want to know him better every passing day. Not wanting that would make our love seem doubtful at best.”
Going on to speak about faith formation, Archbishop Gomez pledged to continue the “work of education and formation, including formation in the social teaching of the Church,” which, he said was very close to the hearts of his predecessors.
“An essential part of this body of social doctrine”, he said, “is the dignity and sanctity of human life and the obligation to reverence and defend every human life from conception to natural death.”
He likewise encouraged parents in their proper roles, saying that they “are the first educators of their children, and the home is the first school of education and formation in the faith.”
“I am grateful”, he said, “to dedicated parents who raise their sons and daughters to be faith-filled Catholics. I promise them my support.”
Pointing out that the truth of Christ must be found through the fullness of the faith, passed down for centuries by the Church, Archbishop Gomez stressed a deep appreciation scripture, prayer and the Eucharist, as well as the other Sacraments--particularly Confession.
He wrote that “What Catholics believe is not a matter of opinion or personal taste. It has nothing to do with the corrosive ‘dictatorship of relativism’ of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the eve of his election as pope.”
He quoted the Pope, who said that this error “does not recognize anything as definitive” and has as its final goal only “one's own ego and desires.”
Alternatively, the Holy Father wrote that we have “a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ.’
“Here”, the Archbishop pointed out, “is, among other things, our best foundation for ecumenism and interfaith dialogue.”
On a practical level, Archbishop Gomez wrote that “important means of education and formation in the faith include homilies, Catholic schools and religious education programs, adult education, authentic Catholic media, and religious art—paintings, sculpture, music, and architecture.”
He again cited Pope Benedict, who once said, “‘The arrow of the beautiful can guide the mind to truth‘--That fully satisfying truth which is Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Gomez used the latter part of the letter to stress the fundamental importance of vocational formation, particularly for future priests and nuns.
He encouraged an “update and review [of the Archdiocese’s] Formation programs and plans” through parish programs, schools, evangelization and charitable acts “which Pope Benedict calls ‘the practice of love.’”
“The time has come”, wrote the U.S.’s first Mexican-born Archbishop, “to renew our commitment to God and His people, rediscovering the joys and hopes of the true teachings of the Second Vatican Council, with a new enthusiasm based on the certainty of God’s love for us and our generous response to His love, especially shown in our love for others.”