Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Praebe nobis cor tuum

On Monday, December 9 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in the revised calendar this year), I was in frigid Minnesota, to attend the ordination to the episcopate of Fr. Andrew Cozzens, as Titular Bishop of Bisica and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

I first met Bishop Cozzens in 2010, when I was visiting the Companions of Christ in St. Paul. Since then, we've met on a few occasions: he's been to the Mount a couple of times, I've been to the Twin Cities on several occasions. The Companions have been -- at a distance -- a rather big part of my priestly formation. Their Ideals are what I strive to live by. When I received an early morning text on Oct. 1 from Deacon Marc, my close friend who is a seminarian of the St. Paul Archdiocese (and also a member of the Companions), with the news of the appointment of Fr. Cozzens, I was filled with tremendous joy. He is a priest of deep prayer, keen intellect, humility and simplicity. That the Holy Father has raised him to the episcopate is truly a gift to the Church! I was grateful that the parish schedule allowed me a quick get away to attend his ordination.

Bishop Elect Cozzens (center), in what I am calling "Companions Pontificals,"
with Fr. Greg (Diocese of Fargo) and yours truly.
The Ordination Mass was, needless to say, simply beautiful. The magnificent Cathedral of St. Paul, was packed. Hundreds of priests, so many seminarians, deacons, religious, and the faithful filled its vastnesses. There was such an exuberant air on that cold (I mean cold -- it was 0°F!) Minnesota day! The Mass lasted a full three hours. There was a tad bit of confusion during the Prayer of Consecration (let's just say Bishop Cozzens was almost ordained a deacon!). The Te Deum (wonderfully chanted by the seminary schola) had to be repeated, because the newly ordained took his time wandering the vastness of the Cathedral imparting his first episcopal blessing to the faithful. Oh yes, and the Mandate from the Holy Father was misplaced, if just for a moment. This was all taken in his stride by the Archbishop, and certainly, with that characteristic twinkle in his eye, by the Ordinand.

The Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul, MN
It was in the morning and in the evening, bookends to this glorious day, that I got a sense of just what a gift this episcopal appointment is to the Church.

At 7:45 a.m. I joined the Companions for their morning Holy Hour and Lauds in the lovely basement chapel at their house on Marshall Ave. And right there, up front, with this small group of priests and seminarians, was the Bishop-Elect, in a simple fleece and sandals (and appropriately, magenta socks!) praying, singing, praising God, as he would on any other day. Afterward, everyone repaired to the dining room for egg bake and joy-filled, light-hearted, conversation. I could sense the joy, the pride, in those assembled, as the man they've known as a spiritual father, as their seminary professor and mentor, was to take on this immense mantle of responsibility for the People of God. I think we were all struck by just how calm and collected the Bishop-Elect was, how recollected and peaceful. He is a man of true freedom, the freedom of the sons of God, the freedom of Our Lady, freedom which is the fruit of obedience. His simplicity and humility were evident, in choosing to spend these last hours before his Ordination with this community. It is a rarity, and a tremendous gift, to see a bishop relate to priests and seminarians with such fatherly ease.


The episocpal crest on Bishop Cozzens' crosier
At the other end of the day, as the receiving line at the reception in the Crowne Plaza ballroom was dying down, we looked up and there was the newly ordained Bishop, surrounded by the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, a religious community based in New Ulm, MN, which he had helped found. They had just started chanting a heavenly hymn, the lyrics of which came from St. Louis de Montfort (the source also of Bishop Cozzens' motto, Praebe mihi cor tuum). I saw Mother Mary Clare's face, radiant, effulgent, her eyes closed, enraptured. I was moved to tears at the beauty of this scene, these beautiful Brides of Christ surrounding their spiritual father and singing and praying for him. These moments were truly an icon of spiritual fatherhood.

Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt. 
Accipio te in mea omnia. 
Praebe nobis cor tuum, Maria.

(I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, lend us your heart.)

While the Bishop went to spend time with his family, I joined my friends (who were among his handlers for the day), in taking his things back to the house, in his old Nissan Sentra (I hope he gets to keep this car!).

It was truly a glorious day, a day of glory, a foretaste, indeed of the life of glory that awaits God's elect. The Church, in all her dazzling diversity and variety, gathered in praise and thanksgiving, rejoicing in the Father's gifts, honoring the "yes" of the Immaculately Conceived Virgin Mother, and the "yes" of one of her little servants, now a High Priest and Shepherd of the flock, a man utterly and totally after the Heart of the Good Shepherd, and the Immaculate Heart of His mother.

Lend us all, O Mary, your heart!

Please pray for Bishop Cozzens, and as assumes his duty in a time of great difficulty in his local Church.

Wintry Minnesota! From the "sun room in the Companions' house.

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