The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world.
The most familiar version of the Great Commission is depicted in Matthew 28:16-20:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Why do I bring this up? What does the Great Commission have to do with this Blog or the situation surrounding Msgr. Harris? Two very important reasons that are the very true foundation and heart of the Roman Catholic Church. One may escape you, since not all will answer the calling. And that is to spread the Good News of God as a priest. Second, here Jesus gave his final mortal instructions to the remaining eleven disciples to go out and be His canon, His voice and tell the story of Jesus Christ and let all peoples know from every land that forgiveness and complete redemption can only be found thru Him. Jesus gave these men the Power to forgive sins just as He had forgave sins and He also gave them the authority to go out confidently and proclaim the Word knowing that He would always be by their side and their place in the Kingdom of Heaven was awaiting them; but first they had work to do.
So, these men went out and preached, recruited and baptized in His name and started to build the Church as we know it. Or do we really know it? Question? What if these men decided to go home after Jesus left them and do nothing? What if they were all just "Yes Men" and simply chose the easier route and the safer path of no danger and less headaches? The Roman Empire and many Jewish Leaders were still after them and wanted them silenced at all costs. What if they decided to just clam up and do NOTHING? This is an ironic tale because it mirrors and runs parallel to the exact same instincts that many people in this situation regarding Msgr. Harris would have the Men of Cathedral Prep do. What? Absolutely Nothing!! How does this follow in the words of Jesus?
It is our understanding that the BEST coarse of action according to many is to just pray and take NO action whatsoever. The Archdiocese will handle it in a proper way to ensure Wally is given his day in court. Whatever that means! I tell you all now; everyone that is reading this Blog, that this is not the nature of the Prep men that Msgr. Wallace Harris taught in high school, mentored thru college and has been a devout and loyal friend for over 25-30 years. Like the remaining eleven apostles, I too have been given my instructions and know in my heart what I must do and that is NOT to sit back and wait and just pray. This NEW GREAT COMMISSION did not come from Wally's Lips nor did it come from a voice in the clouds or a burning bush. My directive came from men like Fr. Sal LaSalla, Fr. Eddy O'Halloran, Msgr. George Thompson, Fr. Kevin Neelan, Fr. Gerry Walsh (now Bishop Walsh), Fr. James Sullivan, Fr. Wallace Harris and even John Cardinal O'Connor. All these men, priests yes, but more importantly our teachers and role models during our time at Cathedral Prep. These priests instilled in us the desire to be good Christian men proclaiming our faith and told us to shout from mountains on high for all to hear; because how will people know who you are and what you have to say unless they hear your voice; especially when held in darkness. Isn't it ironic that our sport teams were known as the Cathedral Prep Canons? Now, all of a sudden, people want the Canons to sit dormant and quiet. Doesn't make sense to me....
There is nothing wrong about voicing support for someone you believe in. There is nothing wrong with showing that support either. Fear is probably the most powerful weapon one can use against another; it's the Devil's own WMD. Fear is the EXACT opposite of what Christianity is all about. Those eleven men were in danger of losing their lives every single day but they chose NOT to be silent. They chose to be CANONS!
I want to know why people are still scared to voice their feelings on the Wally matter? Why do some do and others don't do? What is the real danger here? Wally not being allowed to go back to St. Charles and be Pastor? Is that it? Or, maybe Wally being defrocked as a priest? Maybe.. It is possible. The New York DA's office has said that Wally can't go to jail under any of these allegations, even if proven true, due to the statute of limitations having expired many years ago. So what is the fear? I understand why Wally can not speak for himself at this time. Besides his pen that drafted some of the rules and guidelines that govern his exile right now, he took a vow of obedience to the Church and to his Bishop. Fine! But that does not mean the flock has to follow the Shepherd on this journey as well. Just cause the Cardinal says so, makes it so? Maybe it is the American spirit in me that makes me cry out for swift justice and a speedy trial, but that does not seem to be the way of the Church in these cases.
I truly believe Cardinal Egan should tackle the issue head on and address it with vigor and sincerity; like Pope Benedict did on his recent US visit. The problem of sexual abuse by priests exists and we can not hide from it. It exists in every religion but just like the United States, when you're the Biggest and the Richest, everyone is gunning for you and if you are always the 500 lbs gorilla in the room, you are the easiest target to blame for the problem that exists well beyond the walls of Vatican City or St. Patrick's Cathedral. I believe Cardinal Egan should voice support for his priests and let them publicly know that he is praying for them as well as let victims know that they too have room in his heart, thoughts and prayers as well. This is not an issue to take sides either way; but as the Shepard it is his responsibility to tend to all in the flock and not just the wounded or the dead. I pray for Msgr. Harris every nite that this ordeal would come to some resolution soon and I also pray for Cardinal Egan that he may see this thru to the very end, no matter what the result because I am sure this weighs heavily on his mind and heart. He has a job to do and it must be carried out at all costs. He knows his popularity is not at the height or magnitude of a Terrance Cooke or John O'Connor. But make no mistake, he is NOT a stupid man. He knows and appreciates the gravity of the matter, but I just wish that the Cardinal, who is known for his distinct and booming voice, would listen very closely to this group of Men from the Prep and realize that more voices and testiments should be heard in suport of the man not so much the issue. Being a CANON is not just a Team Name or Mascot for us Men of Cathedral Prep, it is the way we were taught to live our daily lives.
In Matthew 10:27 Jesus instructs His followers: "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops!"
Class of 1990