Friday, December 12, 2008

Death of a Legend

Not even six hours since news of his passing first emerged, the tributes to Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ have quickly become a torrent as mighty as the man himself.

To list but a few, the Jesuit flagship America has posted a collection of Dulles' writings for its pages; First Things -- likewise a highly-favored outlet for his contributions -- has done the same, and video of Salt & Light's "Witness" session with the lone American priest ever elevated into the Pope's Senate is up and streaming. From the house archives, prior pieces on the cardinal ran on these pages for his golden jubilee as a priest, after his emotional private meeting with Pope Benedict during the latter's April visit to New York, and August's celebration of his 90th birthday at his beloved Fordham -- where, as one account put it this afternoon, he was the "life and soul" of the place.

For all these, though, two things seem to best sum up the man and his work: Dulles' farewell lecture, given in early April, (fulltext/fullvideo) from the Bronx school's Laurence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society, which had been his for over two decades; and but one quote -- the closing line of his conversion memoir, A Testimonial of Grace....
"Although I cannot rival the generous dedication of St. Paul and Ignatius of Loyola, I am, like them, content to be employed in the service of Christ and the Gospel, whether in sickness or health, in good repute or ill.

"I am immeasurably grateful for the years in which the Lord has permitted me to serve him in a Society that bears as its motto: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

"I trust that his grace will not fail me, and that I will not fail his grace, in the years to come."
* * *

Precise details for the first funeral of an American cardinal since 2004's rites for Washington's James Hickey remain in the works. Early indications appear, however, that the first days of liturgies and lying-in-state would take place at Fordham, with the final Mass likely to be celebrated at St Patrick's Cathedral.

We won't be seeing the papal telegram 'til the morning, and shortly thereafter will learn the identity of B16's chosen cardinal-legate to the ceremonies -- a senior Vatican cardinal is traditionally sent to represent the pontiff at farewells for the College's members held outside of Rome.

As always, more as it becomes known... but in the meantime, send up some prayers for everybody in the Bronx -- it's an emotional day on Rose Hill... and from there, across the globe.

SVILUPPO: The USCCB pays its respects to the body's first and only member to decline episcopal ordination....
The death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, "brings home to God a great theologian and a totally dedicated servant of the Church," Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said of the cardinal who died December 12....

"His wise counsel will be missed; his personal witness to the pursuit of holiness of life as a priest, a Jesuit and a Cardinal of the Church will be remembered and will encourage the Church to remain ever faithful to her Lord and his mission," Cardinal George said.

"I am deeply saddened at the loss of a personal friend; but I rejoice in the hope that now he sees clearly what he explored so well in his studies on revelation, on grace and on the nature of the Church and the papal office. May he rest in peace."

Cardinal Dulles... assisted the USCCB as a key contributor to the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue and to the committee on doctrine.

"For a generation of priests, scholars and faithful, Cardinal Avery Dulles has been a reliable and faithful interpreter of the Second Vatican Council. A number of his books have become classics in theological education, such as Models of the Church," said Father James Massa, executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the USCCB and a student of Cardinal Dulles.

"In some ways, his life bears comparison with another great cardinal-theologian, John Henry Newman, on whose birthday, 200 years later, Avery Dulles was created a cardinal of the Catholic Church."
And it was an all-New York consistory in 2001 as three Big Apple clerics received the red hat together: Dulles, Gotham native Theodore McCarrick and the city's freshly-arrived archbishop.

Cardinal Edward Egan had a particularly close, gentle bond with the theologian-prince. Here's his statement:

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing this morning of His Eminence, Avery Cardinal Dulles at his residence here in New York. Cardinal Dulles was an eminent theologian and professor of Theology in seminaries and universities throughout the nation, including the Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York, Saint Joseph’s in the Dunwoodie section of Yonkers. All of us here in the Archdiocese are very much indebted to him for his wisdom and priestly example. We were delighted to be able to arrange a meeting between Cardinal Dulles and Pope Benedict XVI when the Holy Father was at our Seminary last April. I express my heartfelt condolences to the family of Cardinal Dulles and to the Jesuit community here in New York and across the world. Tomorrow morning, I will celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in my chapel for the repose of the soul of this distinguished Son of Saint Ignatius, an esteemed collaborator and dear friend.”
And from one theologian to another, the tribute of Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington:
Cardinal Avery Dulles was the United States’ preeminent theologian and his death is a great loss for the Church in our country but also for the Church Universal. His elevation to the College of Cardinals was a sign of the particular esteem in which he was held. In his writings, lectures, conferences and talks, he presented an authentic Catholic theology that was deeply rooted in the Church’s intellectual heritage and in the American experience of that tradition. He was our theologian of the Second Vatican Council and we shall miss his clarity of insight and breadth of understanding.

Personally, I shall always cherish the opportunities I had both as a priest and later as a bishop to work with him on various projects over a 40 year period. He was always insightful and ever kind. He had a way of making complicated and sometimes opaque issues clear and intelligible. But he also always had time to listen to others who did not have his level of theological mastery and to welcome their contribution. As much as he was an exceptional theologian, he was also a great gentleman.

May God grant him a place at the heavenly table with so many with whom he would be comfortable, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Robert Bellarmine.