Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Consistory Week: "It's Almost Like the Super Bowl"

With just over three days to go until the public consistory for the elevation of 23 new cardinals, the pilgrims have begun trickling over to Rome, as have the far-flung prelates of the new intake.

Consistory Week gets underway on Thursday as the present and future members of the Pope's Senate prepare for Friday's daylong meeting with B16, and the slate of liturgies, receptions and dinners accordingly goes into overdrive.

Cardinal-designate Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston arrived in the Eternal City on Tuesday morning local time. Not long after touching down, the "Cardinal of the South" headed to Gammarelli for his final fitting in the scarlet robes of a prince of the church.

Earlier this month, the papal atelier sent a tailor to Texas to take DiNardo's measurements, and after emerging from the famed shop, the designate said that, aside from minor adjustments to his sleeves and collar, the cassocks fit great. (The vesturehouse's longstanding practice holds that a cardinal-designate may only bring one aide to his fittings. The aide is the sole person outside the Gammarelli staff who'll see the cardinal-to-be in his "dress reds" before Consistory Morning dawns.)

A Houston TV station recently sat down with DiNardo for an extended interview; fullvideo is up. The cardinal-designate will get a private lunch with his family on Turkey Day before heading to the US Embassy to the Holy See for an evening reception honoring him and Philadelphia's Cardinal-designate John Foley, the pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Bowing to concerns expressed by his staff given the prominence of his new post, in recent weeks DiNardo reluctantly agreed to appoint a priest-secretary for himself. Until now, citing his personal tastes and an aversion to drawing further upon the already-stretched presbyterate of his archdiocese, he's done most of his own driving and has declined the use of a master of ceremonies for all but the largest of liturgical functions. Both for Saturday's consistory and Sunday's Mass of the Rings, DiNardo will be accompanied by alternating priests of Texas' mother-see.

The southwestern cardinal will head home on Wednesday, the 28th. Four days later, he'll celebrate the first of six Masses of Thanksgiving in Houston's current Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Turning to things Foley, the native son's main pilgrimage departs Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night, to arrive on Friday morning.

Among the many tributes and profiles written in recent weeks by the at-long-last-Eminence's friends in the press, tops among 'em is a piece by Joe Ryan, currently with the Wilmington Dialog, a former Foley lieutenant at the River City's Catholic Standard and Times.

Among his gems, Ryan recounts the story of when Foley accompanied the Pharaoh -- in this case, his mentor John Cardinal Krol -- on a visit to the Pyramids:
Philadelphia’s Cardinal John Krol was touring the Holy Land in the early 1970s when he went to Egypt and visited the pyramids at Giza. Like many tourists there, the distinguished prelate was invited by a persistent hawker to ride a camel.

The cardinal asked the editor of his newspaper, The Catholic Standard and Times, if he thought he should get on the camel.

“No, your eminence,” said Msgr. John P. Foley. “I would advise you not to get on that camel.”

Cardinal Krol, caught between a beckoning Bedouin and his dubious priest-editor, decided his opportunities in life to ride a camel would be limited, so up he climbed.

Msgr. Foley promptly took his boss’s picture, which ran in Catholic newspapers around the world. It showed the Archbishop of Philadelphia, ungainly in the camel’s saddle, looking more like the former butcher from Cleveland he had been than Lawrence of Arabia.

“You told me not to get on the camel; why did you take my picture?” the cardinal asked the editor.

“As your loyal priest, your eminence, I gave you my best advice,” Msgr. Foley said. “As the editor of your newspaper, I took your picture."
Ryan goes on to reiterate the new cardinal's cherished principle... one oft-forgotten in not a few quarters these days:
That incident at Giza summarizes the essence of Catholic journalism as I learned it 30 years ago from Msgr. Foley, who was named a cardinal Oct. 17 by Pope Benedict XVI; when the word Catholic modifies the word journalism, it doesn’t alter the discipline with bias, it strengthens it with a profound truth — the way, the truth and the life of Jesus Christ.

Whether reporting on a cardinal’s camel encounter, a parish’s anniversary, a clothing drive or the tragedy of a victim’s molestation by a priest, Catholic journalism’s duty to report the truth in light of our faith is never detrimental to the church.

When I worked for the future Cardinal Foley at The Catholic Standard and Times, he reminded us that the Good News contains bad and unsettling news. Christ’s outburst of anger at the moneychangers, his betrayal by Judas, the denials of Peter and the abandonment of Christ by the Apostles after his arrest were dutifully recorded by the evangelists.

“You are not journalists who happen to be Catholic, nor are you Catholics who happen to be journalists,” he said during a 2004 meeting of Catholic journalists in Thailand. “You are Catholic journalists with a true vocation to tell the truth with love and to help others do the same."...

Cardinal-designate Foley likes to say life is a banquet — if so, his has had many courses. How many other churchmen have made it a practice to bless babies in the congregation after Sunday Mass, calmed a stranger who entered a sacristy carrying a bloody knife, been to a Beatles concert (in London’s Albert Hall), met Noel Coward in Capri, hosted a Phillies’ home-run derby, attended a Salvador Dali press conference in a New York City sewer, dangled from a parasail above a beach in Mexico, slept in a bureau drawer in Poland, sung a song from “The Music Man” on the banks of the Seine, inspected an election in El Salvador and taught Victorian literature to sleepy high school sophomores?
...and now, thanks be to God, it's entreé time.

On Tuesday, the day before the Philly pilgrims head home -- and prepare to revel all over again at Foley's 13 December Mass of Thanksgiving -- the new cardinal will take possession of his titular church, S. Sebastiano on the Palatine Hill.

First built in the 10th century, the church last belonged to Cardinal Dino Monduzzi, the onetime prefect of the Papal Household, who died in October 2006.

* * *

All good wishes for a blessed, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in the States, and safe travels to everyone hitting the highways or airports for the weekend. Posting will resume Friday after a much-needed breather.

As many of you know, the game-plan had been to cover this weekend's events from the banks of the Tiber. Recent developments on the homefront, however, have led me to cancel those plans. (In a word, the Boss is hanging in there, just not enough to be comfortable with the prospect of being 2,000 miles away for ten days.) But fret not: full coverage will proceed, thanks to a squad of pilgrims and all the usual suspects. (And, if there isn't one already, we might have to get a consistory-watching festa on at 4.30am Eastern Saturday.)

Rome might be eternal. Much as we'd wish otherwise, though, the people we love aren't, especially when they need us.

Doing and giving whatever we can for them is, by far, the most important thing, the only thing we can do. And the privilege to do that is a gift in itself.

Be good to them, be grateful for them, this Thanksgiving and always... and know how thankful I am for the gift of all of you -- for all your support, your kindness, your friendship, encouragement and trust. 

Travel safe, gang, get some rest, and hope you all have a great one.