Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jose in S.A. and Joe Mc at Home

If I chose to make the trek, I would've been sitting in San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio last evening for the installation of Archbishop Jose Gomez. But instead I hung back, screened the simulcast feed and downed a couple Amstels -- just as good a time, and I didn't have to endure the forced pleasantries which come with my public appearances in this job.

The best analogy of the episcopal office in the church, and its responsibilities, comes from Albert Ottenweller, bishop of Steubenville from 1977-92. A diocesan bishop, according to Ottenweller, lives with a "funnel" over his head -- priests, religious, seminarians, school tuition, parishes in debt, the shelter seeking permission to expand, the state leaning more and more on Catholic Charities, every other crazy thing that happens, it all depends on you.

The homily of the new archbishop -- the second-ranking prelate worldwide of the Opus Dei, we should remind -- reflected him well: gracious, wonderfully versatile and inclusive, and with a great spirit of awe and love. (Who says I don't like ecclesiastical conservatives?) Its central thread was a meditation on priesthood -- and, given that San Anton is his first time at center stage, it gave an eye to his leadership style -- extending only in its periphery to the concept of lay priesthood and the concept of the faithful as being "leaven in the world."

Normally, I'd brand a message to priests as being overly clerical and internally isolationist -- particularly in the context of an installation liturgy, which is for the whole local church (messages to the presbyterium being best kept to the evening prayer service the night before). But not this time, because Gomez sounded a clarion call which, though seemingly obvious to rational people, is unexplicably refreshing after three years of episcopal scandal rooted in irrational hubris:

"Leading the people of God has very little to do with power. It has everything to do with sacrifice."

Oh. My. God. Would that it were -- and if that line ever got a public airing in Philadelphia, the orator would promptly be beheaded, then burned, by a clerical mob. (For the record, and thankfully, none of our lobotomized Philadelphians were present at the ceremonies to immediately flail their arms and cry "Heretic!" We don't let them leave town all that often and, honestly, they'd stand out a bit too much elsewhere....)

I'll have to serve as Jose's bodyguard on his next trip here. In the meantime, knowing how much he'll be missed in Denver, I wish him nothing but the best -- he'll be just fantastic.


Finding the Philadelphia bishop who wouldn't cry "Heretic!" when reminded of the link between priesthood and sacrifice is like the camel passing through the eye of the needle -- doesn't happen all that often. Fortunately for Justin Rigali, he followed excellent advice and had one of these gems named a bishop: Joe McFadden.

I've got a ton of (brotherly) love for Joe because he's a real person, a servant-leader and a true believer. He served John Krol well, he's done every job entrusted to him marvelously because he's a solid study and a workhorse and he's got a real sense of higher purpose about all this. So powerful is the aura of this Bishop McFadden that he has done the seemingly impossible -- broken the spell of bad press on the archdiocese. Read it.

"How?!" you ask, dear reader? Simple -- like the good product of the Jesuits at St. Joe's that he is, Bishop Joe just sat, talked and was a real person, not some ostentatious Wizard behind a curtain.... m-hmm.

OK, 'nuff said.



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