By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published January 11, 2007
The bishops of the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic provinces are going on retreat this week at the Passionist Retreat House in West Palm Beach, Florida. It will be my second time praying with my brothers at this facility. Bishops generally seem to pray quite well together. Every priest is supposed to make a meaningful retreat each year—including bishops!
This time of spiritual renewal ought to strengthen us for the tasks that we must fulfill in ministering to our people. There are many things we need to place before the Lord in prayer—above all we shall pray for our people during this week of spiritual exercises. Archbishop John Raphael Quinn, the former Archbishop of San Francisco and a personal friend of mine, will be our retreat director. He is a man of incredible wisdom and vast ecclesial expertise. I am certain that he will offer us all many thoughtful reflections. But above all, the bishops will bring our people with us in mind and heart—I shall bring all of you along with me.
One of my last public events before going on retreat was to host the Epiphany reception for the women Religious at my home. We were just gathering for this party when a fire broke out in my dining room—we should probably not serve such warm hors d’oeuvres next time. It was a fire that started from one of the chafing dishes and created more excitement than damage, but I do apologize to all of the sisters who traveled from throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta to share in this festive event only to find us standing outside watching the smoke clear! As the excitement died down, I realized how quickly such small catastrophes can change our lives—or even take them in more serious situations.
Let me suggest that each home needs to re-examine its own safety procedures. Do we all have fire alarms that work, fire extinguishers that are properly charged and visible? Do we have a plan for exiting our homes in case of an emergency? Those might not seem like things that the Archbishop of Atlanta ought to include in his weekly column, but having had the experience of a home fire yesterday, I think that I could provide no more timely advice than to remind all of us of the need for safety procedures that can and do save lives!
Last Monday I was honored to participate in the prayer service that set in motion the inaugural festivities for Gov. Perdue as he began his second term. I assured him of the prayers of the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Whatever our political affiliation, we all should pray for all our public officials since they are entrusted with the safety and the well-being of our nation, our state and our local governments. May all those elected to pubic office fulfill their responsibilities to us in a manner that will enhance the common good and strengthen our nation, our state and our local communities.
Praying for government officials is an ancient Catholic custom that finds one of its most solemn expressions in the Good Friday prayers. The prayer service was an ecumenical ceremony that brought together pastors from several denominations—all joined together in supplication for God’s blessings on the new term that the Governor began last week. May our prayers be answered and our State be blessed with four years of progress, security and justice—surely things well worth our common prayer. As always, I ask that in your charity, you also pray for me—especially this week during my retreat!