My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is my first column as your new bishop and I plan to write this piece as a regular feature in our diocesan newspaper, Catholic Times.
The title that I am giving to this column is Lex Cordis Caritas — “The Law of the Heart is Love.” This is the motto that I chose when I was named a bishop in 2003 by our late Holy Father, the beloved and great Pope John Paul II. It is customary for a bishop to choose a motto when he is appointed a bishop to serve as a guiding principle for his ministry. I chose Lex Cordis Caritas — “The Law of the Heart is Love” — because it expresses in a succinct but powerful way the theme that has been the main focus of my ministry as a priest and which I wish to continue to make my ongoing point of reference as a bishop.
My episcopal motto is based on Sacred Scripture. In chapter 31 of the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet tells us that God has written his law on our hearts. In chapter 13 of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says that love is the fulfillment of the law. Putting these two passages together, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, we arrive at the truth that God has written a law on each of our hearts, and the law that he has written on our hearts is fulfilled in his love.
It is also customary for a bishop to have a coat of arms. The right side of the shield from the viewer’s perspective visually depicts my episcopal motto. It has two scales of justice to reflect my background in civil law and canon law, but above them both is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Below the scales of justice is a cross set in a circle, a symbol of the Paprocki family, which is displayed on a green field with golden (yellow) lattice, a device in which many individual slats form a single, integrated device of strength, far greater than all of its components. This device expresses that all aspects of Christian life, theology, church law and civil law, social involvements, form a framework of the total Christian.
My personal emblem is joined to the coat of arms of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. These arms are composed of a gold (yellow) field on which is displayed a blue cross of the Faith. Within each quarter that is formed by the cross is a circle of alternating blue and silver (white) wavy bars. Each of these circles is known heraldically as a “fountain” and it is used to represent a small body of water, such as a pond or a spring. So, playing on the name of the See City, the background of the diocesan arms is a “field of springs,” thus, Springfield. At the center of the cross is a silver (white) crescent, to represent the moon, a classic symbolism for our Blessed Mother, in her title of the Immaculate Conception, titular of the Cathedral-church in Springfield, for as it is described in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 12:1), our Holy Mother has the “moon at her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”
In my column, I plan to write from a bishop’s perspective on a variety of themes that touch our lives in the realm of faith and morals. Some of these themes may be more internal to the life of the church. Others will address issues in our contemporary world about which our faith has something to say regarding the moral dimensions of right and wrong, good and evil. Always I will write as a shepherd of souls. As such I seek first and foremost to have a pastoral relationship with you, and help to guide you in that most important relationship of all, our relationship with God.
A Catholic bishop is also called to be the center of unity for the Christian community. Here, I take inspiration from Springfield’s most famous citizen, Abraham Lincoln. In his historic “House Divided” speech given on the floor of the Illinois Hall of Representatives in the Old State Capitol on June 16, 1858, Mr. Lincoln quoted the Bible (Mark 3:25, Matt. 12:25, Luke 11:17) in reminding people that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” So also a bishop must make every effort to be a sign of unity among all Christians and solidarity among all the peoples of this world.
I hope that you will read my column regularly and that you will find it helpful.
Please pray for me as I take up my new pastoral duties. I pray for all of you every day.
May God give us this grace. Amen.