“In Weakness, Strength”

Archbishop Weakland wrote his biography about his vast, well-traveled life, (he circled the globe ten times as head of the Benedictine Order). A graduate of both Julliard Music in piano and Columbia University in music. Our Milwaukee Archbishop for over twenty years, he writes a comprehensive pastoral letter on behalf of the U.S. bishops on the economy and assisting in a pastoral letter on War and Peace. With all his accomplishments, accolades and honorary degrees, the book begins…the book begins with … his fall from grace.

He begins his memoir with what most people would have either entirely left out or briefly mention at the end. St. Paul says there’s a thorn in his flesh keeping him from being too elated. We Wisconsinites know that very well. A friend says, “It’s a beautiful day today.” Her friend responds, “Yeah, but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” A thorn tossed back when a rose was offered. Paul also says, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

We only have one body. Is there enough room in your body for both your and Christ? How much room does Christ take up in our bodies? Is he just in our feet when the weekend comes along to come to church or is Christ in our eyes, ears, nose, and throat every day and in every situation in our lives? (ENT for those older folks, they know those letters very well!)

Paul concludes, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So where are we in my little afternoon sermon? Strength/Weakness, Power/Submission.

I recall a funeral years ago, and the funeral director handed out roses to everyone in the family. I thought it was a nice touch. But then I saw it! The roses had all the thorns removed. Smooth roses were given to those grieving relatives. Scared of a little prick? The rose is the perfect representation for this weekend because it beautifully contains the rose’s beauty and a stem full of prickly thorns. Isn’t that how your day begins each day? You say to yourself, “I’m all set for this bright new day.” (Rose) “That is, once I crack my back.” (Thorn) “I’m giving my son granola and fruit before going to school this morning.” (Rose) “I hate this stuff Mom, where’s the donuts?” (Thorn)

How much room does Christ really need in our bodies? How much space does he need while giving us enough space?

There’s a ridiculous dichotomy that we make in our society. It’s so often “either/or.” Either you’re a Catholic, or you’re not. Either you’re pro-life or pro-abortion. I think there’s an in-between space. It’s that space where I think Christ lives. St. Paul also says, that Christ’s “grace is sufficient…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” We are all strengthened when Christ is in the middle; in the middle of any disagreement whether in marriage or busyily buzzing around privately in our minds.

“He’s ‘full of himself,’” we say of a self-bloated person. There’s no room for Christ when you’re bloated.

Weakland was bloated when he agreed to give money to a man; money that Weakland didn’t have. It was embarrassing for the Milwaukee Catholic Church and for him. Months later, he preempts the 6:00 news. What individual in Milwaukee has ever preempted the 6:00 news? (Rose) Through Evening Vespers, he apologizes and humbly asks for a prayer of forgiveness. (Thorn) He wrote of the televised event in his book, “I was about to face the faithful of the Catholic Church of Milwaukee to make a necessary public apology, impelled by my concept of church as community of loving, sustaining, forgiving believers. I went over and over in my mind every word of what I planned to say, wanting to take full responsibility for my actions and not blaming others. This penitential ceremony would give me an opportunity to apologize and to seek not so much God’s forgiveness, having done so long before, but that of the community.”

“Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church” is the name of his book. A pilgrim. I love that word because it means movement, a constant movement always looking for a place, a space within our lives for Christ to reside, guide and inform us. Weakland found Christ’s space in his own life by beginning to tell us about his enriching, wonderful, full life (Rose) with his weakest and the most vulnerable episode of his life (Thorn).

Can we do any less with the Christ who wants a place to live within us?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”

inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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2 Responses to “In Weakness, Strength”

  1. Pat Oeffner Sand says:

    Archbishop Weakland is such a holy man – he is the mainstay in my life as I look back over the many years I served at St. Roman. Thank you so very much for this beautiful tribute to a man that I hold near and dear. You still write so very well Joe – thanks for your time in my life – Chris truly appreciated you in short life. Please continue to write…… Pat


  2. Jack Carini says:

    Another excellent post, Joe. I will always have high regard for Archbishop Weakland. It turns out the Clergy is human like we all are, we all make mistakes. Weakland was an excellent leader for our Archdiocese. In addition, he showed His ultimate commitment to our faith with his openness and request for forgiveness in his toughest moment.


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