The Bishop Time Forgot

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"The Bishop Time Forgot" by Kathryn Swegart (CatholicMom.com)

By User:Sajor – Derivative of File:Mitre_-_Heraldry.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions so I will share my best resolution — one that I have been able to keep. Several years ago, I made a promise to go to confession once a month. Like Goldilock’s porridge, I learned that once a week was too much, twice a year was too little, but once a month was just right. In order to establish a good habit, it is important to keep the goal reasonable. It becomes a discipline in which the more one practices, the easier it becomes. I also added a prayer to my examination of conscience: Lord, show me my sins. Now that’s a prayer that is always answered. Sometimes it is not always comfortable. Shortly after saying this prayer, I was reprimanded for speaking out of turn and making rash judgments about a person. Now that was a humbling moment.

I also try to stay on track by reading the lives of saints. I believe the most common trait of a saint is humility. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus once described herself as “God’s little ball.”

Recently I came across this story about a bishop who became God’s rubber ball. His name was Bonaventure F. Broderick. In this tale of misunderstandings and humiliation, Broderick was bounced around from Connecticut to New York to Cuba and then back to New York. In 1903, he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop and then a coadjutor bishop in a Cuban diocese. Unfortunately, he had a disagreement with the Holy See regarding financial matters and was forced to resign and return to the United States. Upon his arrival in New York he was shunned by the Church and stripped of any livable wage.

Now here comes the plot twist. Like you and I, Bishop Broderick had to scramble for a living. He ended up in Millbrook, New York and opened a gas station that he ran for over thirty years. No longer did he wear the red cap and black robes of a bishop. He traded them in for work jeans. Often, he would end the day with grease on his hands and the smell of gasoline on his clothes.

One day, perhaps while he was pumping gas for a customer, Bishop Broderick came up with an ingenious idea. He invented that little gadget at the end of the gas nozzle that automatically shots off the pump when the tank is full. This was the life of the bishop for thirty years. He never complained. It is said they he never revealed his identity. All we know is that he lived his life quietly, giving each day up to God’s will, regardless of where it might bring him.

One day that all changed. Pope Pius XII knew of Broderick and asked Archbishop Francis Spellman to track him down. Spellman found an old address and drove up to Millstone, New York. As fate would have it, the archbishop stopped to get gas and asked the attendant if he knew of a man named Broderick.

“Doc Broderick? Sure, he lives right there,” the man replied, pointing to a little house next door.

Spellman rang the doorbell and a man in overalls answered the door.

I am pleased to report that the saga of Bishop Broderick has a happy ending. He was fully reinstated as an auxiliary bishop and vicar of religious. I imagine he taught them the value of patience and humility.

Father Benedict Groeschel wrote about Broderick, believing that he could be called “patron saint of the patient … (instead of a lily) he could be portrayed holding a gas pump nozzle with that little gadget on the end of it.”

The next time I am pumping gas, I will think about Bishop Broderick and resolve as best I can to be humble in that minute, on that day.


Copyright 2020 Kathryn Swegart

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About Author

Kathryn Griffin Swegart and her husband raised three children on a gentleman’s farm in rural Maine. Kathryn, a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order, is the author of Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids and Perilous Days, both awarded the Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval. Visit her website at KathrynSwegart.com.

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