God’s ways are mysterious and marvelous


Last week, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was packed to overflowing for a Mass of Thanksgiving and farewell with Bishop-elect James Ruggieri. At the reception after the Mass, people waited upwards of two hours to greet him personally. It was a truly beautiful evening of prayer and fellowship and I am so grateful to the many volunteers and diocesan staff who worked to make the gathering possible. Of course, I am grateful for the Bishop-elect. His humble gift of himself drew us together as he has done for so many years across multiple parishes of the diocese. While it is difficult to say goodbye to a friend — and there were certainly some tears shed that evening — it was nonetheless an evening filled with a sense of joy in the blessings of God and a desire to send the Bishop-elect to his new ministry accompanied by the prayers and best wishes of Providence.
I know that too often, we have to read of decline in the practice of the faith. The “chattering classes” like to cite such reports and announce our imminent demise on a regular basis. And yet I have to ask, how many other events took place that Thursday evening in Rhode Island that drew more than 1,500 committed and joyful people? It was not a gathering to give anything away or entertain. It was, instead, an experience of true communion in the Lord and of great love for one another. The experience of that night will stay with me for a long time. Perhaps those reports of our demise are premature!
It can be challenging in the midst of life’s circumstances to clearly discern God’s purposes. Often, the presence and action of God become clearer when we look back on our experiences. If we look at the long history of this family of faith that is the Catholic Church, we can recall many moments when the faith experienced crises. Wars, schisms, scandal, revolutions and more have disrupted the Church’s peace and sometimes her functioning. If we pay attention, we can also discern in those moments of crisis the seeds of renewal and new life. In so many instances it has been those worst moments that the greatest Saints have been called to live their witness and return hearts to the worship of God and the life of faith.
Bishop-elect Ruggieri’s own ministry has been one of those signs of new life. Wherever he has ministered, communities and ministries have flourished. He draws people, including young people, into the work of God. This is not so much because he is better than the rest of us. It is rather the quality of his surrender to God’s will that has marked his ministry and made it fruitful. It is now for us to trust in the Providence of God as we send our brother to his new mission. If we wish to honor him, our best gift would be to imitate his trust in God’s will and in his compassionate care for others.
I do not always understand what God is up to — as the Scriptures teach, the Lord’s ways are mysterious! I do know that God is among us and summoning us to His own mission of love and mercy. When we trust and give ourselves to the grace of God, marvelous things happen. Bishop-elect Ruggieri, we rejoice at your pending episcopal ordination and we offer our prayers. We will never be further from you than we are from our altars and our communion in the Holy Mass.