The Shepherd

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9780025439474: The Shepherd

With simple and profound prose, Joseph Girzone bringing to light incredible insights into modern Christianity and adds to his bestselling series with the story of the revolutionary Joshua in a contemporary setting.

It is the end of a bitter cold winter. A crowd of people files into a cathedral to celebrate the consecration of a new bishop—a good man, they think, strict in doctrine but capable of compassion. A man of tradition, not of reform. A “company man.” His name is David Campbell.

And sitting in the last pew of the cathedral is a clean-shaven man of ordinary build, with gentle hazel eyes. His name is Joshua.

Within twenty-four hours of his first encounter with Joshua, David Campbell will propose the most far-reaching reforms in a millennium, reforms to destroy sectarian barriers, reforms to change the direction of the church, reforms to return Christianity to its founders with a simple message. With Joshua as his mentor, David Campbell—the Shepherd—preaches to Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews of the universal truth of God’s love. It is a message that changes everyone it touches. And no one who reads Joshua and the Shepherd will ever forget it.

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About the Author:

Joseph F. Girzone retired from the active priesthood for health reasons and took up his lifelong dream of writing. He is the author of Joshua; Joshua and the Children; Joshua and the City; Who Will Teach Me; Gloria: A Diary; and Kara, the Lonely Falcon. He lives in Altamont, New York.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

The record-breaking winter had frozen everyone's spirits. A happy event was needed to melt the gloom and free everyone from the depression that hung over the community. The consecration as bishop of a priest who was loved by almost everyone was that event. The previous weeks, and months, had been cold and dismal, but this day seemed to make up for it all. The weather was perfect. The sun bright and warm, the crisp air fresh from the morning dew, the cool, blue sky with hardly a cloud, all hinted of an early summer. Happy voices filled the air. The sidewalks surrounding the massive Gothic cathedral were teeming with people of every race and religion. An unusual number of Jews, some with beards and long black coats, mingled with their friends; at a distance from them in another section of the crowd was a small group of Muslims, a handful wearing fezzes. There was a sprinkling of Oriental people, too. It was hard to imagine all of these people fitting into the building even as vast as it was, but its huge, bronze-framed doorways swallowed them all as they poured through.

Tommy Burns was a squat, thickly built Irishman. He and his wife, Emily, were walking toward the cathedral next to a rabbi. Tommy was curious as to why a rabbi, especially the old-fashioned kind, was going to a Catholic bishop's consecration. Never reserved, Tommy asked him.

"Rabbi, if I am not being ignorant or too forward, why would a man like yourself be coming to a bishop's consecration?" Tommy asked bluntly.

The rabbi, taken aback, answered simply, "Because he is much more than a bishop to me. Our congregation will always be indebted to David Campbell. When the state was going to take away our synagogue to build a highway, David used his influence with the governor's office to have the course of the highway moved. He is like one of our family. He visits and prays with us on many Friday nights. It is as if one of our own was being made bishop. Perhaps you could tell me why you have come to his consecration."

Tommy grinned. "About six months ago I lost my job and couldn't keep up the mortgage payments on my house. The bank was starting foreclosure proceedings. My wife and I were beside ourselves. If we couldn't afford the mortgage we wouldn't be able to afford rent either. We had nightmares about being thrown out in the streets with our five kids. Mysteriously the money appeared, enough to pay the mortgage until I was able to find a job. It was only later we found out that it was Father Campbell who had sent the money through one of my cousins whom he knows, and that he had sold his own car to raise the money. I'll never be able to pay him back, but I was told he didn't want it back. You don't come across people like that very often. Some people say he's tough when it comes to Church matters, but I can't imagine it."

By that time the two were approaching the entrance to the church. The street was still crowded. Uniformed policemen had difficulty keeping clear the walkway from the rectory so the procession could advance in orderly fashion. As the bells tolled in powerful bursts of joyful exuberance, the procession emerged from the rectory. First came the deacon bearing the Book of the Gospels, its gold and jeweled cover glistening in the sun. He was followed by altar boys and girls, then the part of the choir that was not already in the church, and ranks of clergy of various denominations, including Orthodox bishops in their unusual trappings. Then emerged the consecrating bishops and Archbishop O'Connell from the neighboring archdiocese. Last was the bishop-elect, David Campbell, with his two assisting priests.

Father Campbell was impressive in his priestly robes. He was tall and not powerfully built, but scholarly-looking. His walnut-colored hair was slightly wavy, and his metal-rimmed glasses accented his intellectual appearance.

His long, tapering fingers moved gracefully as he waved to people lining the procession route, a shy smile etching his finely chiseled features. His thin face showed the strain he had been under since his call to the bishopric. A long, thin nose of precise proportion was set between warm, penetrating brown eyes that smiled easily, betraying a kind peacefulness beneath the surface. His look seemed to linger rather than move rapidly, hinting at a thoughtfulness that absorbed everything, weighing carefully, never forgetting. David was not a simple man. What appeared on the surface of his life gave no indication of the wholly different world that existed beneath, into which he would not allow even his most intimate friends to penetrate.

As the procession moved into the church, working its way up the aisle, the organ music stopped and the choir intoned the processional, magnified by the almost two thousand happy voices that filled the vast, vaulting sanctuary. Many of the bishops were smiling to people they recognized as they walked up the aisle. The bishop-elect, his hands folded with palms pressed together, seemed unaware of anything around him. His eyes looked straight ahead but not seeing, as if he were absorbed in thoughts of things far away, or deep within.

As the procession approached the sanctuary, only the officiating bishops and their assistants entered, together with the bishop-elect and his two assisting priests. He was seated before the altar facing the congregation.

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," the archbishop intoned. The congregation roared its "Amen." "My brothers and sisters," he continued, "we have come here today from many places and many backgrounds, but all as God's children. He is very much present here with us as we prepare for the consecration of our friend David as bishop. As we call upon our Father to witness and consecrate what we do, we humbly acknowledge our own sins and failings, and beg for His forgiveness. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy."

The Liturgy of the Word continued, and after the Gospel, the ordination of the bishop-elect took place. The choir sang "Veni, Creator Spiritus": "Come, Creator Spirit, touch the minds of these your children, fill with your heavenly grace these hearts you have created."

During the singing of the hymn, David was led by his assistants to the place of consecration.

"Most Reverend Father," one of the priests addressed the archbishop, "the Church of this diocese asks you to ordain this priest, David, for service as bishop."

"Have you the mandate from the Holy See?" the archbishop asked.

"We have."

After the letter was read, the archbishop addressed the whole assembly. "Consider carefully the position in the Church to which our brother is about to be raised. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father to redeem the human race, in turn sent twelve apostles into the world. These men were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel to every race and people into a single flock to be guided in the way of holiness. Because this service was to be until the end of time, the apostles selected others to help them. By the laying on of hands which confers the sacrament in its fullness, the apostles passed on the gift of the Holy Spirit, which they themselves had received from Christ. In that way, by a succession of bishops unbroken from one generation to the next, the powers conferred in the beginning were handed down, and the work of the Savior lives and grows in our time." Then, looking at David, he continued, "You, dear brother, have been chosen by the Lord to guide His people. You have been chosen to serve rather than to rule, and to proclaim the good news of Jesus endlessly. You are called to be a good shepherd in imitation of the Master. Love all those entrusted to you' the poor, the sick, the weak, strangers, and the homeless, as well as those who are rich in the things of this world. May your own life be blameless and a shining reflection of the goodness of Jesus Himself. And may God have mercy on your soul, as you accept this awesome responsibility."

The liturgy, stripped of all the medieval pageantry that had once characterized these ceremonies, was still impressive. The rich traditions of the Church, the unbroken line of priestly power and authority that Jesus had given to His apostles and which He had intended should be passed on forever, were reflected in every facet of the beautiful and timeless rite. David could trace his own spiritual lineage to one of the apostles through the unbroken line of succession. It was a graphic expression of the organic bond between the Church of every age with the living Christ who walked the roads of Palestine.

After all the preliminary interrogations and prayers, the bishops laid their hands on David as he knelt before them. With the Book of the Gospels held above his head, the archbishop recited the prayer of consecration over him: "...Father, pour out Your Spirit upon Your chosen, that he may be a shepherd of Your holy flock and a high priest blameless in Your sight. Grant him every power You bestowed upon the apostles themselves, so he may carry on their work in our time. May he be pleasing to You by his gentleness and purity of heart, presenting a fragrant offering to You, through Jesus Your Son."

After the consecration, the symbols of office were presented: the Book of the Gospels, the ring, the miter, and the shepherd's staff. The Mass continued as usual, but when the ceremony ended, thunderous applause spontaneously erupted, attesting to the extraordinary popularity of this quiet and unassuming cleric.

It was difficult for many of David's colleagues to understand the reason for his popularity, since his recent assignments were not high profile situations in which he could cultivate a following. He worked part-time at the chancery, where he had a reputation for exact observance of Church law. When people called for help with difficult predicaments, he would always listen, but if help demanded bending any of the rules or countermanding canon law, he could be uncompromising. Many people left hurt and mor...

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