Notebook

Numquam minus

The art of Fernando Botero can be provocative. It can also illuminate. I am charmed by this ‘Journey to the Ecumenical Council’ in the Vatican Museum. The travelling bishop has no qualms about being visible – that’s the least one can say. He advances with as much of a spring in his step as his girth will allow. His pastoral staff serves a purpose: not a status symbol but an aid to progress through uneven terrain. We may object that he is on his own. Should a pastor not be surrounded by sheep? Well, he is moving between folds: his cathedral’s steeple is seen in the background; the assembly of the council lies ahead. We mustn’t forget the solitude to which a bishop is also called. It is a prerequisite for his ministry of episcopacy, meaning ‘oversight’. His solitude will entail an element of suffering at times, but can also be joyful. One who is truly grounded in the Lord is, to cite Cicero’s phrase, ‘numquam minus solus quam cum solus’ – never less lonely than when alone.