Thomas John Paprocki is the Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. The occasion of this interview was the recently-completed Springfield Diocesan Synod, the first since 1963.
Kevin: Our Lord had a public life we can read about in the Gospels, as well as the majority of his years on earth which were mostly hidden from view. What is the hidden day-to-day life of Bishop Paprocki? How do you spend your typical 24 hours?
Bishop Paprocki: First of all, I would say that there is no “typical” day in the life of a bishop! Every day is unique and brings with it a variety of different activities, often dependent on the time of year.
For example, my schedule in the Spring during the weeks and months following Easter is filled Masses where I administer the Sacrament of Confirmation in parishes across the diocese.
In the Fall, I serve as an adjunct professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, where I teach a course called “Introduction to Canon Law” on Friday mornings.
I would say, however, that whatever my particular schedule for any given day, I always try to start each day with prayer and exercise, often combining them, for example, by praying the rosary while I am running.
I celebrate Mass every day. If I do not have a public Mass in a parish on my schedule for a given day, I will celebrate Mass in the morning in my private chapel at the Cathedral Rectory, where I reside.
Throughout the day, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which, as the name implies, punctuates the day with prayer at different times, such as morning prayer, mid-day prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. I try to make some time during the day, usually in the morning, for mental prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
When I am not travelling to various meetings around the United States and sometimes in Rome, I go to the office of our Catholic Pastoral Center in Springfield, where I meet with people, sometimes individually or in group meetings of various consultative bodies and staff members of the Diocesan Curia.
Of course, there is plenty of correspondence that comes by email and postal mail. So my days are always quite full, one of the benefits of which means that I am never bored!
Kevin: Bishop Paprocki, you are notorious! Well, you have notoriety, at least in the sense of you are notable as a bishop, even considering our diocese is small in population and tucked away in central Illinois. Despite this, you have drawn a great deal of ire from some folks. What do you think about being a kind of lightening rod in the culture of America today?
Bishop Paprocki: I just try to teach what the Catholic Church teaches. I do not seek notoriety or controversy, but it just goes to show how anti-Catholic our secular culture has become and how countercultural being a Christian actually is.
Kevin: Let’s do a little time travel. You are a year older than I am. How did you escape the cultural insanity of the 1960s? Along these same lines, how did you become an orthodox Catholic and maintain your orthodoxy as a seminarian and then as a priest in the 70s and 80s?
Bishop Paprocki: I was blessed with very devout parents who practiced their faith and taught me and my siblings to do the same. I entered the seminary when I was 14 and I had some wonderful priests who were excellent role models for me over the years. Of course, there were plenty of bad influences then as there are today, but the key is to choose your friends wisely and surround yourself with people who will help keep you on the right path.
Kevin: In what direction do you see Catholics and the Church going in regard to secular society? Do you think Catholics who remain faithful to the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Magisterium will face discrimination and even violent persecution in the coming years?
Bishop Paprocki: In many ways, it seems to me that Christians today are living in an age and in an environment similar to the early Christians surrounded by pagans in the Roman Empire.
As recently as 50 years ago, the values of our country were much more in line with the values of Christianity. Now we are often swimming against a secular tide, but we cannot let ourselves be either discouraged or prideful.
Catholics who remain faithful to the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Magisterium are already facing discrimination here in North America, as we experienced when our Catholic Charities were forced out of foster care and adoption services by the State of Illinois because our religious beliefs would not allow us to place children with same-sex couples.
Christians are also suffering violent persecution in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East. I hope that will not come to pass in our country, but we must keep in mind the example of the early Christians and modern martyrs as well who were willing to die for the faith because they knew it was true.
Kevin: I sense you to be a very optimistic man. Why do you think young people will still give their lives to Christ as priests, as religious, or as married persons who have and raise children?
Bishop Paprocki: Young people will still give their lives to Christ as priests, as religious, and as married persons who have and raise children in the Catholic faith because they know in their heart of hearts that the Catholic faith is the true faith.
As I say in the first sentence of my new pastoral letter, the art of living and dying in God’s grace is the key to everlasting happiness in eternal life.
May God give us this grace!