Changing of the guard in Chicago

Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Photo by Rich Hein for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Photo by Rich Hein for the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Friday, Nov. 14, I attended weekday Mass. The experience was bittersweet.

It was the 12:10 liturgy at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. The main celebrant was Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the retiring archbishop of Chicago.

I sat along the central aisle. I tried and failed to ignore cameramen from local media outlets who had set up for a good shot. As the organ thundered “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” a phalanx of clergy marched within inches of me.

There were deacons and priests in white stoles, most bearing the red-eagled coat of arms of the archdiocese. There were the auxiliary bishops, some familiar to me and some not, all wearing tall white miters. And finally there was the Cardinal, in his red zucchetto and white-and-burgundy chasuble.

He was unsmiling, purse-lipped, and on crutches. George, who is suffering from his third bout with cancer, has a tumor pressing on nerves and veins. It makes it painful for him to walk, on top of the polio-related limp he has endured for more than sixty years anyway. A seminarian altar server, hands veiled in a vimpa, carried the Cardinal’s crosier for him. Continue reading

Quotable Quotes: “The Risen Christ” (Bernardin)

The Risen Christ is with us this day,

And He continues to need each one of you.

Jesus needs your eyes to continue to see.

He needs your strength to continue to work.

He needs your voice to continue to preach.

He needs your hands to continue to bless.

He needs your heart to continue to love.

And Jesus needs your whole being to continue to build up His body, the Church.

As we believe, so let us live!

–Joseph +Cardinal Bernardin (April 2, 1928 – November 14, 1996). Taken from For You, O God: Loyola University Chicago Prayer Book, 1995 edition.

Take me to church, part 2 of 2. The convert.

I had some remarkable experiences at church a couple of weekends ago. I want to blog about them. I have done too many “Asides” lately, I try to preserve “Fireside Chats” for “secular” things (more or less), and I don’t think either of these stories fit at Young Adult Catholics. Therefore I am doing a two-part series called “Take Me to Church.” This is the second and final installment.

The weekend of my birthday, I went to church twice. There was Mass on Saturday night. Then I went to a Reformation Day service at my dad’s Lutheran church on Sunday afternoon. It’s quite the combination.

Reformation Day celebrates Martin Luther nailing his theses to the church door in Wittenberg: the hammer heard round the world. He did it on Halloween of 1517. But Missouri Synod Lutherans, as best I can tell, observe the event on the Sunday closest to the 31st.

I did not dress for the occasion. I wore a hoodie with the name and logo of my Catholic high school. Nobody seemed to care, though I suspect that may have been German Midwestern decorum at work. I also wore my largest and most garish St. Benedict medal. But I had the sense to keep it under my hoodie.

Our preacher was a guest. He is a pastor who runs a fellowship for Lutherans of Arab background who have converted from Islam. The fellowship also seeks to convert Arabic-speaking Muslims to Christianity. Islam, they teach, is a false religion.  Continue reading

My life with the saints

St. Benedict of Nursia by Fra Angelico. Via Wikipedia.org.

St. Benedict of Nursia by Fra Angelico. Via Wikipedia.org.

For the feast of All Saints, 2014.

I was maybe five years old on that rainy Monday afternoon when my mom and I visited my grandparents. The house smelled Polish, like it always did: fresh bacon grease and Vienna bread. My grandmother waved a soaking-wet envelope triumphantly.

“I asked St. Anthony. He found it for me,” she said.

Grandma and Grandpa were supposed to get a check of some sort: Social Security, Grandpa’s steelworker pension, World War II reparations from Germany, something like that. Anyway, this particular check was days if not weeks late. So Grandma invoked the patron of lost objects. Now it was here.

In this way I met the saints.  Continue reading

Take me to church, part 1 of 2. The healer.

I had some remarkable experiences at church last weekend. I want to blog about them. I have done too many “Asides” lately, I try to preserve “Fireside Chats” for “secular” things (more or less), and I don’t think either of these stories fit at Young Adult Catholics. Therefore I am doing a two-part series called “Take Me to Church.” This is the first installment.

Last Sunday was my birthday. On Saturday evening, I attended Mass. The elderly lady who sits behind me, and who likes to give me a hug, handed me a birthday card. I stayed afterward so I could open and read it while she watched. The dog in the card announced to me that “despite our age,” we’re still “tarp as shacks!”

The birthday card provided enough of a delay so that when I left the building, after almost everybody else had gone, I encountered a parishioner to whom I’d never paid much attention. He was old, skinny, stark (I would say stooped, but if anything he seemed stooped backward), dressed in a black jacket, and decked out in a bandanna.  Continue reading