Summary: Our prayer, “Save us, Lord, for we are perishing,” will always elicit a positive response from Our Savior. God never changes His mind.

Tuesday of the 13th Week in Course

Many years ago–well before I was ordained--a parishioner came to me with a sad tale about her brother. He had been raised Catholic in a strong Catholic family but had fallen away from the faith. She was very despondent about the situation, so I reminded her about the mercy and love of God for all of us, especially those who had been baptized into the faith. The reality is that nobody who has been touched by God, who has been washed in the cleansing waters of baptism, would be abandoned by the Lord. There is always hope when you are a member of God’s family.

We read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Lot and his family, and should do so with the same understanding. Traditional interpretations of this passage in Genesis tell us that Lot’s visitors had only by divine power escaped homosexual assault, and that even counting Lot, there were not even ten righteous men in these two huge cities. Therefore the whole area was judged evil by God and consumed, probably in some kind of combination of violent storm and volcanic eruption.

But there are more important lessons to be learned. First, Lot was weak and had anemic faith in God. He had to be dragged out of the city. Yet he was saved with his family by God’s grace. Why? His uncle was Abraham, whose faith was so strong that even now he is revered as the patriarch of three religions. Second, God’s judgement was withheld probably for generations until the wickedness was threatening to consume the whole land. The Lord is just, but more importantly He is merciful, and forgives any sin if we will only repent and confess and accept His mercy and forgiveness and grace. Third, as the Gospel teaches, there is no real peril, especially moral danger, from which the Lord will not rescue us. Our prayer, “Save us, Lord, for we are perishing,” will always elicit a positive response from Our Savior. God never changes His mind. He is always intent on doing good things for us. His steadfast love, His hesed, is always before our eyes.

Every Catholic and many other Christians have heard of St. Hildegard of Bingen, renowned for her piety and mystical experiences and music, but few have heard of her bishop. Saint Otto of Bamberg is one of those men who have huge impact in the Church but are relegated to footnotes a thousand years later. In a day when the Church is afflicted by a handful of bishops, it’s helpful to remember that most of Her leaders have been men of personal piety and fair administration. Otto is certainly one of these bright lights, one who reminds us of the Father’s steadfast love.

His was an aristocratic family of Swabia, born in the late eleventh century. He was destined for a career in the Church and began it early in life. “When in 1082 the Salian princess Judith of Swabia, sister of Emperor Henry IV, married . . . he followed her as a chaplain to the Polish court. In 1091 he entered the service of Henry IV; he was appointed the emperor's chancellor in 1101[2] and supervised the construction of Speyer Cathedral.

“In 1102, the emperor appointed and invested him as Bishop of Bamberg in Franconia (now in the state of Bavaria),” but he would not accept the investiture until it was approved by the Pope. This was the era of the investiture controversies, where secular prince and Pope contended for the right to appoint bishops. It’s a controversy that continues between communist China and the Vatican today.

“At the Congress of Würzburg in 1121, Otto successfully negotiated the peace treaty, the Concordat of Worms, which was signed in 1122. In the 1130s, he continued to arbitrate between Emperor Lothair of Supplinburg and the rising Hohenstaufens. As bishop, Otto led a model, simple and frugal life, but did much to improve his ecclesiastical and temporal realms. He restored and completed Bamberg Cathedral after it had been damaged by fire in 1081, improved the cathedral school, established numerous monasteries and built a number of churches throughout his territory.”

But his greatest work by far was missionary work to the area called Pomerania, which is the region of Germany and Poland closest to the coast. Others had tried to convert those people, but his devotion and style attracted many, so that he is known today as the “Apostle of Pomerania.” In turn, Pomerania became the source of many missionary vocations, and they converted areas around Gdansk. And so we say, in a day when mission should be everyone’s vocation, St. Otto of Bamberg, pray for us.

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