Monday, May 05, 2008

Seeing Red in Shreveport

As the church of Shreveport preps for the ordination of Bishop-elect Mike Duca a fortnight from today, this year's Red Mass for lawyers and public servants in the western Louisiana diocese saw a special guest star: the archbishop of New York... capping a week which had, of course, likewise begun in the public square.
The well-attended Mass was held inside the historic Holy Trinity Catholic Church downtown and was attended by most area attorneys and judges, as well as ministers of other faiths and members of the lay public, Catholic and otherwise.

[Cardinal Edward] Egan presided over the Mass and also served as its principal celebrant, even though [diocesan administrator Msgr Earl] Provenza was listed as the celebrant.

"Why not?" Provenza said after the Mass, when he, Egan and other celebrants talked with attendees and headed to a reception at the nearby Second Circuit Court of Appeal. "People see me all the time."

In his homily, Egan didn't talk much about ground zero or his recent experiences in New York City other than in passing but, instead, focused on the law and justice, morality and how those entrusted by God with "mind and gifts only a little less than the angels" must value human life and the awesome powers they have over their fellow men. For this, he drew on the Scriptures chosen for earlier readings, Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Corinthians 1:18-20 and 22-25.

Describing the law as "a splendid calling" and contrasting that with the view of it as a profession, he said people must be inclined to "love the law and embrace it" just as they must discharge it "so civilization may progress in a manner worthy of the children of God."

He did not shy from controversy, addressing the issue of DNA exonerating people falsely convicted of capital crimes, languishing on death rows, and on the meaning of human life from its earliest moments.

"There is nothing more precious than the life of a human being," he said, noting when it measures lives in its actions, "the legal community needs to look in the mirror."

He specifically decried dehumanization of life in the womb, noting photographic treatments that clearly presented sentient, thinking beings yet were described as "masses of tissue."

But Egan also displayed humor on several occasions, drawing chuckles from the crowd when he said they might regret Provenza allowing him back before the microphone, and observing when he saw the piano, he was compelled to warn the congregation.

"I'm a piano player — that's different than a pianist."
The archbishop of New York... the Deep South....

Who said "Omen"?

According to local reports, a cardinal hadn't come to the 'Port since the Cush made a pop-in in the late '60s.

In that light, Egan's appearance was good preparation for the first episcopal ordination Shreveport'll see in its own history as a local church. The diocese has announced plans to webcast Duca's 19 May rites, to be held in its see city's convention center.

PHOTO: Henrietta Wildsmith/Shreveport Times