22 April 2010

He Offered Pastoral Care for the Founders of the Carthusian Order

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Saint Hugo of Grenoble. He is also referred to as Hugo of Châteauneuf. In art, he is sometimes depicted as a Carthusian even though he wasn’t; he was Benedictine. He was the Bishop of Grenoble for a remarkable fifty-two years. For the Carthusian spirit, Saint Hugo is perhaps best known for receiving Saint Bruno and his six companions and making available to them, the mountainous area near Grenoble where now stands La Grande Chartreuse, the motherhouse of the Carthusian Order.

Father, through Saint Hugo you manifested the
Church's pastoral care for our first founders.
Through his intercession may our Order continue to flourish.

At the hour of Matins, four of the Readings proclaimed were from Saint Thomas Aquinas concerning shepherds, and of course Saint Hugo shepherded Grenoble’s flock for a long time. Here’s what was proclaimed to the monks:

Christ states the office of a good shepherd. That Christ is a Shepherd is clear enough, for as a flock is led and fed by the shepherd, so the faithful are nourished by Christ with spiritual Food, and even with His own Body and Blood: and the letter of Saint Peter says, ‘For you were straying like sheep, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:25); The prophet proclaims: ‘He will feed his flock like a shepherd’ (Isaiah 40:11). To distinguish Himself from the evil shepherd and the thief, Jesus states that He is the Good Shepherd. The adjective ‘good’ indicates that Christ fulfils His task with the same seriousness like a soldier is called good who fulfils his service. But since Christ had said that the shepherd enters by the door, and here He says that He is the Shepherd, and before He said He was the Door, then He must enter through Himself. And He does enter through Himself, because He manifests Himself and through Himself knows the Father. We, however, enter through Him, because it is by Him that we are led to happiness.

Note that only He is the Door, because no one else is the true light, but only shares in the Light: John the Baptist, ; ‘was not the light, but came to bear witness to the Light’ (John 1:8). But we read of Christ that ‘He was the True Light, which enlightens every man’ (John 1:9). No one else refers to himself as a door; Christ reserved this for Himself. But being a Shepherd He did share with others, and conferred it on His members: for Peter was a shepherd, and the other apostles were shepherds, as well as all good bishops: ‘I will give you shepherds after my own heart’ (Jeremiah 3:15). Although the Church's rulers, who are her children, are all shepherds, yet He expressly says, I am the Good Shepherd, in order to emphasize the virtue of charity. For no one is a good shepherd unless he has become one with Christ by love, and has become a member of the True Shepherd.

The office of a good shepherd is charity; thus He says, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. It should be noted that there is a difference between a good shepherd and an evil one: the good shepherd is intent upon the welfare of the flock, but the evil one is intent upon his own. This difference is touched upon by Ezekiel (34:2): ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep’? Therefore, one who uses the flock only to feed himself is not a good shepherd. From this it follows that an evil shepherd, even over animals, is not willing to sustain any loss for the flock, since he does not intend the welfare of the flock, but his own. But a good shepherd, even over animals, endures many things for the flock whose welfare he has at heart. Thus Jacob said in Genesis (31:40): ‘By day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night’.

However, when dealing with mere animals it is not necessary that a good shepherd expose himself to death for the safety of the flock. But because the spiritual safety of the human flock outweighs the bodily life of the shepherd, when danger threatens the safety of the flock the spiritual shepherd ought to suffer the loss of his bodily life for the safety of the flock. This is what our Lord says, the good shepherd lays down his life, that is, his bodily life, for the sheep, the sheep who are his by authority and charity. Both are required, for they must belong to Him and he must love them; the first without the second is not enough. Furthermore, Christ has given us an example of this teaching: ‘He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’ (1 John 3:16).