My sister told me the news Sunday night on my drive home that one of my favorite bishops has passed away.
I overheard a few voices at the Newman Center the year he came to town. He was replacing a parish pastor who had been chosen as the ordinary at Bishop Sheen’s suggestion that Rome would do better to elevate from within a diocese.
A Roman guy was viewed with some skepticism. I did not share that feeling. My early experiences were positive. His first decade in Rochester matched my time as a young adult there, and a grad student in theology. It was a very formative time for me, and my second bishop was a positive influence.
I was impressed with how he presided at confirmation in the small parish where I served in 1984. It wasn’t how it’s done today–no large groups at a cathedral or a collection of local parishes banding together in a one-for-eight or ten event. My parish was only about 250 households at that time, barely a scratch in today’s church. When each candidate was anointed, the sponsor was there as well as the family. Bishop Clark took his time with the liturgy.
From a choir loft once, I noticed a delay of some sort at the incensing at Evening Prayer. A friend who was the thurifer told me someone forgot to bring the incense, so the bishop just traced his fingers in a circle on the ceramic plate while the miss was remedied. No calling out to the assembly of the oversight, as I’ve heard some clergy do. It was all prayerful.
In my more liberal parish in the 80s, another confirmation visit happened. The staff seemed rather bothered having to host the bishop, and there was much relief when he left. I tucked that bit of news into my hat. He got into a fair bit of trouble with the CDF for that parish in the following decade. Perhaps more gratitude and graciousness would have fit his thinking of them.
Whenever I encountered Bishop Clark, he was personable and friendly. He inquired about my studies. He seemed to remember my name, though I’ve joked that bishops who do call me by name possibly has a dossier on that troublemaker to read in the car on the way to church.
The formal prayer seems apt:
O God, who chose your servant Matthew
from among your Priests,
and endowed him with pontifical dignity
in the apostolic priesthood,
grant, we pray,
that he may also be admitted to their company for ever.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
And the final verse of James Quinn’s hymn, “Day is Done.”
Eyes will close, but you, unsleeping,
Watch by our side;
Death may come, in love’s safekeeping
Still we abide.
God of love, all evil quelling,
Sin forgiving, fear dispelling,
Stay with us, our hearts indwelling,
I chose Day is Done among the hymns (for offertory) for my late mother’s funeral in 2014; the parish music director were a bit nonplussed but it was in their hymnal and the tune is so singable. My mother had a long struggle with many ailments, including severe macular degeneration for years, and the text fit her perseverance in Hope. It would fit many others like her; it’s not just a Vespers text.
Unrelated: Btw there’s a revised English translation of the Order of Penance for use in the United States that may be used as of February 22, 2023 (Ash Wednesday) and must be used as of April 16, 2023 (Divine Mercy Sunday).