Today we honour the memory of Saint Julie Billiart, the heavenly patron of Sister Julie (Prioress). Saint Julie established the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1804. She devoted her life to education and the care of the sick, including the wounded at the Battle of Waterloo. Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1969.
Today’s passage from Saint John’s Gospel has traditionally been understood as Our Lord’s commission to Saint Peter, charging him with the responsibility of shepherding and protecting the Church. And we pray in a special way today for our Holy Father Pope Francis who continues that task as the 266th successor of Saint Peter. But you and I, each in our own way, share in that same responsibility.
We are shepherds when we pass on to others a desire to know God, by encouraging a sense of wonder and awe that comes naturally to those seeking God.
We are shepherds when we bring to those tasks the values we have cherished for centuries as Christians: a deep and abiding respect for the dignity and the rights of each individual; a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong.
By the dignity and wisdom gained through experience from those of us who have grey hairs on our heads there come signs of God’s abiding and steadfast love. Our elders shepherd us with their clear sense of the enduring values of love, patience and of lives well lived.
And so today as we pray for all the shepherds of the Church let us remember that we all share a common call and let us pray for the strength and the grace to be always true to that call.