Friday January 15 “We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.”
Ken Untener’s last job was as bishop of Saginaw, MI for the last 24 years of his life (d. 2004); I am hardly alone in holding him as one of my saints and heroes. About the time he became bishop, complications from a broken leg required amputation of his right leg below the knee. One artificial leg did not deter him from his love of hockey. Hence my choice of a favorite picture, just below.
Bishop Unterner wrote this prayer/poem in 1979. It has sometimes been attributed to Bishop Oscar Romero, martyr of El Salvador. It seems like a good poem for this week when we lost Gerry Stockhausen, who died too young.
Blessings on your weekend.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
It is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying
That the kingdom lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capacities.
We cannot do everything,
And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete
But it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are the workers, not the master builder,
Ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Ken Untener, Bishop of Saginaw (deceased)
This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.