Ad limina apostolorum, that is, “To the threshold of the Apostles.” This is the name of the ancient apostolic pilgrimage that I will be undertaking by the time this column appears in the Sooner Catholic. In a centuries- old practice that expresses the communion of every Catholic diocese with the pope and the See of St. Peter, bishops from around the world make an ad limina visit to Rome every five years. Together with the bishops of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas I will be making my ad limina from March 14-21.
The purpose of the ad limina visit is twofold. First and most importantly, it is a pilgrimage to pray at the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It offers a grace-filled opportunity for bishops, as successors of the apostles, to re-focus on our mission and seek the in-tercession of these two great apostles of Rome. The second purpose is to present to the Holy Father a report on the condition of the Archdiocese since the last ad limina visit in 2004. This quinquennial report is a detailed account on virtually every aspect of the life and ministry of the Church in the Archdiocese. It has already been submitted to the Holy Father. Various sections will be distributed to the ap-propriate departments, or dicasteries, of the Roman Curia for review and discussion.
So what does a bishop do during the ad limina? The course of our days in Rome will include Masses at each of the four papal basilicas. We will begin, appropriately, with Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in the basilica that bears his name. I am grateful to have been invited to be principal celebrant of the Mass when we visit the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Our itinerary will also include Masses at St. John Lateran, which is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and at St. Mary Major, the oldest Church in Christendom dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the particular highlights that I look forward to in a very personal way will be the opportunity to pray and celebrate Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. Pope John Paul has been a tremendous influence in my life, as in the lives of so many Catholics. It was he who inspired me toward the priesthood and appointed me bishop late in 2004, shortly before his death.
In addition to these liturgical and spiritual exercises we will have an opportunity to meet with Pope Benedict XVI and discuss matters of concern to our local churches as well as those which impact the universal Church. Undoubtedly our conversations will touch on the upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization as well as the current threats to religious liberty in the United States. I will be happy to offer the Holy Father assurance of the prayers and support of the clergy, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese.
Much of the time will be taken up with meetings and visits to the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Among these I have made an appointment to meet with Cardinal Amato, the Prefect of the Congre-gation for the Causes of Saints. It will be my purpose to demonstrate support and inquire about progress on the cause of canonization for the Servant of God, Father Stanley Rother.
Finally my pilgrimage to the Eternal City will conclude with a brief stay at the North American College to visit and encourage our young men studying in Rome.
I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops during this pilgrimage “to the threshold of the apostles.” In turn, I will carry you and your intentions in my heart as I visit the shrines of the holy apostles, the glorious martyrs and all the saints.