Thursday, June 01, 2006

From the Metro Desk

Get ready, everyone. This Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer -- soon to be run by the former DEFCON 1 media operative of the archdiocese -- will at long last take the wraps off its years-in-the-making, five-part series on the state of global Catholicism. This'll surely be of interest to many of you, so stay tuned.

In related news, the Guns 'N Roses Chinese Democracy album -- which has been in the works since 1987 -- is now slated for a fall release.

So I was with one of the hometown storm-troopers last night, and asked when "The Changes" were coming.

To my shock and surprise, I found that I'd missed the boat. The vaunted once-a-year juggernaut of Philadelphia's clerical assignments had been published last week. Thankfully, my friend was able to quickly scrounge up a copy of the Catholic Standard and Times for my perusal of the crib sheet. And I couldn't help but think while going over the list -- which is so much shorter than it was in the days of my youth -- "Good Lord, we have no parochial vicars anymore." At least that's what it seemed like.

The changes -- and it seems this is the last place where the bulk of them still take place in one major annual thrust -- used to go on for page, after page, after page. Now, the whole kit n' caboodle was accomplished in two pages flat.

Talk about your signs of the times. Then again, we just ordained our smallest class of new priests here since... 1860. It used to be that becoming a pastor was a priest's goal to reach by his silver jubilee of ordination. Now, the dream gets accomplished in ten years, more or less.

Anyway, with this year's reshuffle behind and everything returned to an even keel after the destabilizing period of the grand jury, everyone's buzzing over word that Cardinal Justin Rigali is poised to move on the project which might well end up as the centerpiece of his ad intra legacy in Philadelphia: moving the tabernacle back to the main altar of the Cathedral-Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul.

It bears repeating to say that this has everyone buzzing. It's no secret that Rigali is highly enamored of the central tabernacle in the parishes -- those places which don't have said arrangement currently have been "invited" to change it -- but to reflect that in the Cathedral sanctuary, which (unless you count the "disappearing galeros") hasn't been touched in any meaningful way since 1964, is a notable development.

I'm just intrigued to see how this is going to work -- well, besides the fact that the sanctuary lamp won't distract from anything.

In the current setup, there's really not much space behind the altar to fit a suitable tabernacle, and I'm told that the change of scenery is looking to be "a bit more extensive" than simply plugging in the central place of reservation. However, the plans haven't yet been announced. (Remember, we don't do public consultations here -- the laity get what they're given, and it all just appears out of the sky.)

While they're at it, though, here's hoping that something's done to improve the sight lines at the 140 year-old Romanesque wonder. If you've ever been to anything at Philly Cathedral, you know that the liturgical altar is at the back of the sanctuary, which seems like a football field away from the first pew of the nave, let alone further down the aisle. That's wonderful for theatre, of course, but it doesn't do wonders for helping the people be engaged by and feel like something more than spectators at the action.

Oh wait, that's the local ecclesiology.