The still center

In the midst of this remarkable interview with the Prelate of Trondheim, this passage struck me:

Trondheim didn’t have a bishop for 10 years until your appointment.

It was a long wait. One of the things I’ve been very struck by, and humbled by, is how happy people are to have a bishop again. You can abstract from who that bishop is and what his strengths and weaknesses are, but that there is someone there who represents that personal bond of this local Church with the universal Church and who embodies that… A bishop’s primary task basically is to sit on his chair, his cathedra, and embody that link.

Our current idea of a “good” bishop borrows heavily from the world around us. In my own experience, as well as in others, a bishop is seen as doing a good job if he is a dynamic and active figure, leading new initiatives and boldly shaping the world.

John J. Reilly used to joke that the job of an emperor is to answer his mail. A grander way of saying the same thing is that the emperor is the still center around which the world turns, a source of order that is himself unmoving.

What Bishop Varden is telling us is that the job of a bishop is to be, rather than to do. And since the Church teaches us that Holy Orders is a permanent change in what and who you are, there is deep wisdom in that.