Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered these comments June 17 at the conclusion of the Mass to celebrate Msgr. Scott Friend’s 30th anniversary of ordination.
I think we all know that in addition to his larger group of disciples and apostles, Jesus had an inner circle of three pillars to whom he was especially close: Peter, James and John. He shared certain experiences only with them, for instance the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden.
The same is true for any bishop. I consult widely on many topics, have informal conversations and go to many committee meetings, but I also have an inner circle of persons to whom I am especially close and with which I work more closely on a day-to-day basis, and two of these persons are celebrating big anniversaries this year.
Last month Msgr. Frank Malone, my chancellor for ecclesial affairs, celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and of course you all know that today, Msgr. Scott Friend, my vicar general and vocations director, celebrates his 30th anniversary of ordination.
The three of us obviously have a shared vision about how Jesus wants us to serve him and these two Monsignors bring to the table many gifts that help me do a better job of implementing that vision in the concrete circumstances in which we find ourselves today.
In the case of Msgr. Friend, I think all of you know what many of his gifts are. I would like to draw your attention especially to two things.
n His spirituality: Msgr. Friend has been a priest now for more than half of his life and has borne the cross of MS for more than half of his priesthood — 16 years of living with constant pain. With the uncertainty of what is going to happen next, with the relapses, the secondary auto-immune disease of osteoarthritis, the many surgeries and the chemotherapy, the difficulty sleeping, the neuropathy in his feet, the sciatica, the muscular spasms and cramps, the frozen muscles in his back, the difficulty with his balance, the strabismus which impairs his eyesight, living from the cross.
We have also experienced the mystical side of his spirituality, the generosity and vulnerability with which he risks sharing experiences when he felt our Lord or the Blessed Mother to be especially present to him, often with a special message, or just a warm, encouraging presence. Out of this the Lord has given him deep spiritual insights. He listens well and with such deep intuition that we are sometimes taken aback by how well he has helped us articulate the inner movement of the Lord in our own hearts. He has far more intuition than I’ll ever have and that’s part of what makes him such a good Vocations Director.
n His vision of ministry: One of the things that a bishop has to do within a few months of arrival is to choose a vicar general to help him with the administration of the diocese and I prayed about this for a long time and I gradually realized that Msgr. Friend was the person I wanted.
So I was happy to see that he had made an appointment to come to speak with me on another matter, which I presumed would be to give me a report on his work as vocations director. But actually he had made the appointment to update me on his health situation and to tell me that his doctor recommended that he take a medical retirement due to his MS.
Anyway, I told him that we could work around his MS and anyway, what was he going to do, just sit around doing nothing? I told him that I couldn’t imagine him really wanting him to retire, knowing him as I did, and by the way, I wanted him to be my vicar general too. And as for strength, if this was of the Lord, he would supply all the strength that was needed.
So Msgr. Friend came to that appointment almost nine years ago offering to give up his one job on doctor’s advice and left the appointment with two jobs.
When I chose him to be my vicar general, it was because I was looking for someone who spoke Spanish well and has a heart for the poor and a commitment to social justice and the right to life from the first moment of conception to natural death. Someone who would be able to represent me well when I couldn’t be present and deal with things directly myself. That is what a vicar general is, the alter ego and personal representative of the bishop. His personal and ministerial history and experiences paralleled mine in many ways, and yet I could also see how open he was to seeing new possibilities — I tend to be more practical — and how beneficial that additional perspective would be. He’s passionate and he’s all in.
As you can imagine, Msgr. Friend is quite different from any other vicar general I know and the reason is that his starting point when addressing issues is spirituality rather than Church governance, which comes later.
But first he asks, “Where is the Lord in all this? What’s really going on here?”
The Church has gotten into a lot of trouble over the years by putting institutional concerns first, covering things up, turning a blind eye, but not Msgr. Friend. And he does this in part because of his trust in the Lord, that the Lord will bring us through if we simply do what faithfulness requires.
And Monsignor, in addition to describing my admiration of your spirituality and our shared vision of ministry, I simply want to thank you for embracing the sacrifices you make to serve me and to serve the Church in Arkansas. Like Peter, James and John, you are one of my pillars on whom I most rely and most trust.
Happy 30th Anniversary! May the Lord preserve your health and grant you many, many more years! I’ll be 83 at your 50th and I hope to be present.
Please read our Comments Policy before posting.Article comments powered by Disqus