Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Transitions Matter

On Saturday evening, already feeling "the enormity" of what lay ahead, the figure who'll become Los Angeles' fifth archbishop arrived quietly at LAX, accompanied by his two sisters.

Whether José Gomez's Ford Taurus has likewise made the trip remains unclear at press time. Still, as one local op noted, the reserved prelate's inauspicious touchdown was a far cry from the old days -- in February 1948, Archbishop-elect James McIntyre's train was met outside the city by the 36 year-old auxiliary, Bishop Timothy Manning, who escorted the New Yorker into Downtown, where a frenzied crowd of thousands waited at the station to greet McIntyre on his entrance.

(Five years later, McIntyre would go on to become the Pacific coast's first cardinal... and in 1969, after 18 months in Fresno, Manning returned as coadjutor-archbishop -- the last understudy given a red hat on these shores. At least, until now.)

That 1948 arrival is likewise notable today as it was the last time an "outsider" came to take the reins of the LA church -- its Catholic population then just hovering around 800,000.

Clearly, no shortage of things are different today -- for one, the venerable 1876 cathedral where McIntyre was installed (left) is now a reception hall. (And his mentor's "Kingmaker" clout now belongs to a tag-team of native Angelenos.) Still, much remains the same -- above all, the significance of the moment in the life of a local church... just, in this case, multipied several times over.

In that light, as tomorrow's reception Mass for Coadjutor-Archbishop José Gomez approached, the LA church's Theological Commission took to preparing a series of catecheses on the role of the bishop in the life of the church that've been circulated widely around the nation's largest diocese.

While the historical or political aspects of this transition are easily grist for the mill, its prime import -- namely, as an ecclesial moment -- can just as easily be missed.

Ergo, here below are a compilation of the Commission's four articles on the office and its meaning today:

PHOTOS: Getty(1)