Bishop Flavin began serving on the Committee on Missions for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in 1970. On November 17 of 1971, Bishop Flavin was elected chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Missions. Committee members included John Cardinal Carberry (Saint Louis), Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (Rochester), Bishop Richard H. Ackerman (Covington), Bishop William G. Connare (Greensburg), Bishop Frederick W. Freking (LaCrosse) and Bishop Harold H. Perry (New Orleans).
Taken from the book “Bishop Flavin – Loyal Servant of the King” by School Sisters of Christ the King in collaboration with Peter E. Mayeux and Monsignor Myron J. Pleskac.
You may obtain a copy of this book here: Sisters of Christ the King
Homily given by Bishop Fulton Sheen on the Occasion
of Bishop Glennon P. Flavin’s Consecration as Bishop
Basilica Cathedral of St. Louis, Missouri
May 30, 1957
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
May it please Your Excellency Most Reverend Archbishop Ritter, Your Excellencies Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops, Right Reverend, Very Reverend, Reverend Fathers, beloved religious, family and relatives of His Excellency Bishop Flavin, my good friend Your Excellency Bishop Flavin, and all friends in Christ . . .
On this beautiful day, forty days after Easter, Our Lord took leave of His Apostles and as He ascended into Heaven, two angels standing nearby said to the Apostles, “Why stand ye here gazing into the Heavens?” That seemed to be the normal thing to do. This was their Lord and their Master? If He was taking leave of them, why should they not look into the Heavens? And yet there was the reprimand and the reason was the world is worth a look! Heaven is only for those who have completed their tasks and fulfilled their duties. Our Lord was practically saying, “I have sent you into the world; therefore finish your work.” And because we are taking the world seriously, there is being consecrated today the Archdiocesan Director of one who is aiding the world. Now let us meditate on the meaning of this ceremony. . . .
Our Blessed Lord (after), as He prepared to ascend into Heaven, said to His Apostles that they were to remain in Jerusalem for ten days and to wait for power on high. Why should they not go into the world immediately? Why wait for ten days? Had they not received all the powers? In the Gospel, which you just heard, before the Ascension, our Blessed Lord had given them the power to forgive sins. He gave them the power to preach in His Name, to heal the sick, to baptize. He had already given them the power and the authority to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and the memorial of His death. Why should they wait for power on high? Because the Apostles, up to that point, were only priests. They had to wait for ten days until the Holy Spirit would come to make them bishops. Notice that in the conferring of the priesthood our Blessed Lord, as it was said, “breathed on them.” The breath is the only symbol that we have of the Holy Spirit. First of all because it’s the soul, life, it’s invisible, and it’s something that lies too deep for words. The Son can express Himself by words. Now the breathing on them was the giving of the measure of the Spirit. But notice that on Pentecost, it was a wind not a breath! We make a distinction between a breeze and a gale and a wind. So too, Sacred Scripture makes that distinction. Up to this time they had been given the truth, but they had not been given the Spirit of truth! So our Lord said “It is fitting for you that I go. If I go not, the Spirit of Truth will not come unto you.” In the greatest mind of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, makes this distinction that I have just made for you. He said that the priests receive the power to offer sacrifice, and to administer sacraments and to preach but to the Bishops was given the authority, ad ostendendam doctrinam, for the manifestation of truth and of the doctrine of the Church.
So on this blessed day, we are witnessing a greater measure of the Holy Spirit poured out upon a truly great and apostolic priest. Now this distinction that I have made, between the priest and the bishop, is even in the life of Our Lord in an analogical way. Suppose we put it in a catechetical form to make it interesting. When did the Son of God become a priest or was He always a priest? And when did He become a bishop? Our Lord is called the Bishop of our souls in the Scriptures. Was the Son of God a priest in Heaven? No. He became a priest when the oil of divinity anointed His humanity. He became a priest in His Incarnation. For that moment, He was given a body. He was given the raw material of a sacrifice. It was now possible for Him to be both priest and victim on the cross. So, on the cross He would be upright as the priest. He would be prostrate as the victim. “Corpus optisti mihi.” “A body thou hast fitted to me” (Hebrews 10:5).
Now, there came a greater measure of the Spirit to His humanity on the day when He was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Then it was the Heavens were opened. God the Father spoke and said, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” And the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Men receive the Spirit under the symbols of water, of oil, as His Excellency has just received it, water, fire, wind. But, the Son of God received the Spirit under the symbol of a complete organic form, namely that of a dove, to indicate the very fullness of the Spirit and notice that, that was the moment when our Blessed Lord began teaching. See how it is related to what St. Thomas says about the, the manifestation of the truth and the witnessing to the doctrine? That is why we always speak of the episcopacy as the fullness of the priesthood.
Now St. Paul says it is a good work to desire the episcopacy. But the reason St. Paul said it was a good work to desire the episcopacy was because in those days everyone who became a bishop was martyred. And today many are martyred.
Now there are three practical conclusions that follow from this meditation. The first is this: that a Bishop is consecrated for the world not for a diocese. A diocese is a sign for jurisdictional reasons for the purpose of government, but the consecration itself commits a bishop to the world. It is therefore very fitting that the one who was consecrated today has already world interests. And though you good people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis are to take pride in the fact that one of your sons has been raised to the burden of the episcopacy, nevertheless, the very presence of other bishops from other diocese manifest the fact that the whole world is rejoicing. His Excellency Bishop Flavin today becomes, for example, part of the bishops whom he serves, like, like the Bishop of Shanghai who’s a kind of a “Mindzenty” of China, of the bishops behind the Iron Curtain. This is a world event! And not only does it bind him to the world, but in virtue of this consecration, he also is given a very exceptional and extraordinary power. A priest cannot beget priests. The priesthood would die without the episcopacy. Therefore when a bishop is consecrated, the Church assures the propagation of the priesthood. This is a very fitting day for His Excellency, Archbishop Ritter, to have a spiritual son. For His Excellency was ordained forty years ago today. This is therefore a double reason for rejoicing. And, when I was in Rome just a few weeks ago, a couple of Cardinals told me that one of the outstanding Archbishops in the United States, for an unmeasured love of the Church throughout the world, is the Archbishop of St. Louis. And I know that His Excellency Bishop Flavin is very happy to receive the spirit of Archbishop Ritter. And those of us who know His Excellency Bishop Flavin well, also know that those who are ordained by him, in years to come, will be as proud of their father as he is proud of his spiritual father today.
And this last and final reflection, about the Bishop, we said that the Bishop is the sign of the preservation and the continuation and the manifestation of truth. Perhaps, in order to understand that well, let us seemingly digress. You remember reading the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew there is a tremendously long genealogy there of forty-two names broken into three distinct groups of fourteen each in which there is a genealogy of our Lord carried back to Abraham. Luke carries it back, of course, farther. Now in this genealogy of both of these evangelists, there are names mentioned that do not seem to mean very much for example: Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, Nahshon begot Salmon. Will, why should Sacred Scripture give us this pedigree at the very beginning of the Gospel of Our Lord? In order to show that our Blessed Lord was tied up with all humanity! Why, like a great river this pedigree of humanity runs through the course of history! Some of the names indeed are important like a David, like a Jesse, like a Solomon and others are unimportant like Ram, like an Amminadab, like a Nahshon. But it makes no difference when they all are mentioned! It means that our Blessed Lord comes full-blown into history with this tremendous genealogy and attachment to the whole human race! Some are good, some are bad but He is bound to the world and to men, whom He is to save. Now the Bishop is in relationship to the truth of Christ as the genealogy in Matthew is related to humanity. In other words, if we wish to know, today, the truth of the Church, how it has come down to us, it has come down to us through the Apostles, through their successors under the leadership of Peter and His successors. How do we know the Resurrection took place? Not just because it is written in the Gospels, but because we have had some of our ancestors present there! The Apostles were there! They bear witness to the Resurrection. That’s how we know that the Resurrection took place! And so here we’re just adding one name, not a minor name like Ram and Amminadab and Nahshon but a great name, that will assure this continuity of truth from Christ on until His second coming as the genealogies attach Christ back to Adam and to Abraham. And in the glory of this day, since he is attached to the truth of Christ now by consecration, we cannot at the same time forget that he has been attached to Christ by the sanctity of his life. And if there was any way of describing the apostolic labors of Bishop Flavin, it would be to say, as it was said of Our Lord, “He went about doing good.” And may his good father and mother, since they have begotten one so Christ-like, find special joy in the words that were spoken by Christ Himself from the cross; this time words of joy and rightful praise: “Behold thy Son a Bishop of the Church.” God love you.