My farewell prayer: Amid distractions, may we focus on Jesus

Photo: Ricky Turner via Unsplash Photo: Ricky Turner via Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

This column will be my last for Northwest Catholic. For almost nine years, it has been my privilege to write a regular column as a personal means to reach your home and share thoughts about the Catholic faith, the Church, and issues of the day. Doing so has been a privilege, and I hope my words have resonated with you from time to time.

By now, you have heard that I will soon be retiring because of my health. I am deeply grateful to Pope Francis — and excited for all of you — that he has appointed Archbishop Paul D. Etienne as coadjutor archbishop and thus my successor. No doubt, you will quickly come to love him, as he already loves you. He will be a wonderful shepherd.

Farewells are rarely easy, and this one is no exception. I have cherished the opportunity to serve as your archbishop since December 2010. It has been my honor to travel about our 30,000-square-mile territory, to witness thriving parish life, to marvel at the unmatched beauty of Western Washington — and most of all, to meet tens of thousands of you.

Along the way, you have inspired me by your faith and commitment to live that faith in a largely secular culture. You have invited me into your lives by asking prayers for personal intentions. You have offered your talents and treasure for the building up of the Church. You have given countless hours to serve others — the unborn, the poor, the immigrant, the mentally ill, the downtrodden, and your own families.

You have challenged me and other Church leaders to work tirelessly for the purification of the Church. You have supported our priests, deacons and seminarians when they, too, were feeling the heat of the day.

You have taken seriously your own place in the Church. You have sought to grow in holiness and have asked me and my brother priests to be holy ourselves. You have stood up for human life at all its stages in an increasingly throwaway culture that does not regard human life as sacred from the moment of conception until natural death.

Western Washington is increasingly wealthy, and with wealth comes poverty — and thus responsibility. I am proud of the 170-year history of the Catholic Church’s care for the poor and homeless, the sick and the orphan, a history that continues today through the extraordinary work of individual Catholics, parishes, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services.

At the same time, each of us has a responsibility as citizens to take seriously our own part in ensuring that as our state grows wealthier it does not become so proud of its wealth that it neglects the needs of God’s beloved little ones. Whoever they are, they are our neighbors.

Our wealth is not only financial — it is technological, entrepreneurial, educational, scientific, agricultural, architectural and cultural. All of that can be a blessing. But just as wealth comes in many forms, poverty comes in many forms.

St. Teresa of Calcutta often reminded us that in Western cultures the most serious kind of poverty is spiritual poverty. Thus, Catholics in Western Washington have a responsibility to do our part to ensure that as our state grows wealthier, it does not forget its soul. You and I have something valuable — something beyond price — to offer, and we must offer it with courage and joy.

We have the Lord Jesus.

Or better said, the Lord Jesus has us as disciples and missionaries.

If ever we find ourselves bemoaning the secularity of our world or its often-impersonal character, it is time to remember that we are where we are precisely because the Lord Jesus has sent us here. The Lord Jesus will use us here. The Lord Jesus will work through us here.

What have we to offer Western Washington? The Lord Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the World, his redeeming word, his living presence in the Church and her sacraments. Everything — everything — we do flows from him, and him alone.

In an archdiocese the size of ours — with so many blessings and talents in a congregation almost a million strong — it is important to remember that everything comes from the Lord Jesus and everything should be offered back through him to the Father. Ironically, as St. Paul VI once wrote, it is easy to be so wrapped up in the work of the Lord that we forget the Lord of the work!

My farewell prayer is that amid all the distractions that beset daily life and the Church herself, we will focus more intentionally, more lovingly and more prayerfully every day on the Lord Jesus. The Church is, after all, his Body.

The refrain of an African-American spiritual helps me keep the ultimate perspective:

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus,

You may have all the world,

but give me Jesus.

In retirement, I intend to remain active in ministry as my health allows in whatever way the Lord needs me. I have a feeling he will keep me busy! I want you to know that throughout the coming years you will remain close to my heart and always in my prayers.

“Of You My Heart Has Spoken.” (Psalm 27:8)

Sincerely in Christ,

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - September 2019

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain

Send your prayer intentions to Archbishop Sartain’s Prayer List, Archdiocese of Seattle, 710 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104.