Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Scio Cui Credidi"

Those words -- taken from the first letter of Paul to Timothy -- mean "I know him in whom I have believed."

Tomorrow, at a Mass at his beloved Fordham, Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, who employed the verse when he unexpectedly had to take on a motto five years ago, will celebrate his Golden Jubilee of priesthood. (The precise anniversary is 16 June.)

Dulles' story is a well-known one -- the scion of a blue-blood political dynasty who entered the church in his late 20s, became a Jesuit, launched into a prolific service as a theologian, authoring over 750 articles and 22 books and was honored as no prior American priest had been when John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals at the 2001 consistory.

However, the emblematic sign of Dulles' commitment and love for the church he's made his own is one which has been manifested not before his red hat, but since.

It would've been quite easy and universally understood if the octogenarian marvel -- who'll mark his 88th birthday in August -- chose to rest on his laurels and enjoy the quiet life. But, if anything, the cardinal has only increased his amount of engagement, teaching and service since his elevation, so much so that those half his age who've tried to keep up with him in the process will tell you that, even now, it is no easy task. As all the obligations he takes on aren't rooted in the duties of another post, but simply out of the love of his craft and an eagerness to share his wisdom where it's sought, it's no stretch to call this "prelate without portfolio" the hardest-working American cardinal.

A flood of well-wishers headed up by three other cardinals will join Dulles for tomorrow's liturgy and a fund-raising dinner for Fordham. As he marks this great milestone, many congratulations, thanks and happy returns to His Eminence.