On a Mid-Spring day in 1951, Fr. Fulton Sheen from Illinois was summoned to become an Auxiliary Bishop in New York, the commercial capital of America, and arguably of the world. Just a few days ago on the birthday of St. Philip Neri, while school was out at the Mundelein seminary, its rector, Fr. Robert Barron has been appointed by the Holy Father to become an Auxiliary Bishop in Los Angeles, the media capital of America, and arguably of the world. There have been no shortage of comparisons between these two figures. Barron is today the leading figure in the church’s New evangelization and it is sensible that he will lead the flock whose primary industry is modern culture and media.
It is not at all difficult to see the fittingness of this post – that the mind behind Word on Fire ministries and the Catholicism TV series, act as the shepherd for those who work in film and television. Even in his press conference he acknowledged the importance of supporting the various ministries geared towards Christifying the world through the beauty allowed by the media of the visual and audio senses.
I don’t expect Barron to be a slouch of a shepherd. He is repeatedly invited to address the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, a Catholic conference that hosts speakers that routinely stray outside the boundaries of orthodoxy, yet courageously declares the end of “banners and balloons Catholicism” in a room of banners, balloons, and people who love them…and still gets a standing ovation at the end.
No one today has the theological and communicative brilliance to be able to synthesize the thinking of the Church Fathers with modern theologians and manifest the truth of it all through beauty. His astuteness to have the Gospel discoverable on Youtube has been an incredibly successful way of starting positive dialogues about what the church really teaches, and the fair ground on which internal church debates take place.
In Los Angeles, a large archdiocese under the influence of many separate forces, I expect a patient arbiter, a steady and wise hand at improving preaching and liturgy, and a persistent advocate for the less fortunate. As an auxiliary among many, he will also demonstrate true collegiality at the service of the Church’s teachings.
It will be a challenge that may generate some heat, but I pray will bear much light. Blessings, congratulations, and prayers to you, Fr Barron.
St. Philip Neri, Cardinal George, Ven. Archbishop Sheen, St. Mary of the Lake, pray for him, his brother auxiliary bishops, and the people of Los Angeles!