Monday, November 17, 2014

For Chicago and Beyond, "The Resolute Urgency of Now"

Thirty-two years ago, John Paul II's bull appointing Joseph Bernardin as archbishop of Chicago famously called the place "maxima" – "the greatest" – a nod to the near-century for which the Windy City church reigned as Stateside Catholicism's largest outpost.

On hearing the line proclaimed during the rites at Holy Name, a certain disgruntled cardinal was said to have exclaimed "Maxima forsa sed non optima" – "The largest, maybe, but not the best."

At least, that was the story as Pio Laghi told it. And now, all these years later, it is a surreal twist of history that – even if Chicago is no longer the "maxima" among us – a very different Pope has chosen Laghi's favorite son as his own "optima": barring the unforeseen, the most consequential choice Francis will place in the American hierarchy's top rank.

If you love or simply just respect this beat and what it represents, we've come to a moment as moving as it's meaningful in the life of the nation's largest religious body, its influence all the more palpable in the nation's third-largest city: a place where The Archbishop – in time, again The Cardinal – is outranked in public clout only by its Mayor.... After all, this is the turf where a half-century of chief shepherds made their rounds in the car marked with Illinois License Plate "1."

Bearing the blunt object he's termed a "hammer," Blase Cupich hits the doors of Holy Name Cathedral at 7 tonight to announce his entrance at the seat of the 2.4 million-member archdiocese, thus opening a new chapter in the life of this local church and the wider fold beyond.

While Tuesday's Installation Mass will be amply broadcast and streamed far and wide, this evening's kickoff Liturgy of the Word – featuring the welcome from ecumenical and civic leaders alike and a message geared to the presbyterate – won't.

That said, fear not – your Whispers will be on-hand to witness the moment and cover it around, along with the rest of these days. As always, though, the work simply could not happen without this readership's support – and if you don't, well, then I can't....

Between last week in Baltimore and the days to come, you can probably imagine how the house has dived into the kind of red ink that would've made Mundelein's head explode (and we don't have the luxury of bond issues). Still, if news is going to be the name of the game here, the nature of this moment requires the investment for the sake of the product. And if the result means something to you, then I'm gonna need your help with pulling it off without going bankrupt.

Lastly, there is almost too much to work with here – at least, for one brain to process and try to beam out while taking it all in. Then again, this is the easy part – we get to watch, but somebody else has to do the job. So as the shadow of Peter now falls on the Ninth Archbishop in the form of a herculean, thankless task, we'd all do well to pray for the "Thunder" sent to rekindle this house for a new generation... and right with him, the epic, venerable, unforgettable genius now embarking on a role as unique and pioneering as his mind: the first native son to lead his home-diocese, soon to become the first-ever Archbishop-emeritus of Chicago.

Lest anyone forgot, Church, everything is grace... and may these days be an outpouring of It and more for the City of Big Shoulders, and the rest of us looking in from near and far alike.

Archbishop, the time for shock is over – time to lead now, Blase... and above all, to believe, that the rest of us can too.

Billy, sing us in: