Thursday, March 02, 2006

Local Cleric Done Good

In her story on the dropping of the "Patriarch of the West" gong from the list of the papal styles, Cindy Wooden quotes a priest of my archdiocese who is, simply put, an impressive character:
Msgr. Michael K. Magee, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who presented his doctoral thesis on "The Patriarchal Institution in the Catholic Church" Feb. 20 at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said that by early in the sixth century "patriarch" had become a "somewhat fixed" title used to refer to certain church leaders.

However, he said, "not until 642 can be it ascertained that a pope actually referred to himself by the title 'patriarch of Rome,'" and "by the end of the seventh century the residence of the bishop of Rome will come to be known as the 'patriarchium.'"

In the same way that the pope, as bishop of Rome, shares some of the characteristics of other bishops, Msgr. Magee said, the pope "as patriarch of the West -- or, more specifically, as head of the Latin Church -- has counterparts in the Eastern patriarchs who are also heads of larger particular churches comprised of a number of local churches of the same ecclesial tradition."

"The pope is not only a bishop, nor is he only a patriarch, but is also each of these as the first among local bishops and the first among the patriarchs," Msgr. Magee said.
Mike Magee's is a wonderful story.

If memory serves, Magee was an Evangelical from Baton Rouge who converted to Catholicism in his late teens. He came to Philadelphia to study engineering at UPenn -- your humble scribe's alma mater -- then, after some time in the world of commerce, went into the seminary and was ordained for this local church in 1991. Not long after, he was sent to Rome for advanced studies in Scripture and has been at CDW for somewhere around a decade.

I met Mons. Magee all of once. It was about 10 years ago but I have a very clear recollection of it -- the legendary radar which detects solid, praiseworthy qualities (and future bishops) blipped significantly.

Somehow, this priest-student -- home on summer vacation -- had dropped into our humble city parish to celebrate a Sunday noon Mass in the dead of August, when 85% of the faithful had decamped to Wildwood, at the Jersey Shore.... I was on as lector that day, and I can recall a very prayerful, exquisitely executed liturgy. And, behind the scenes, the visiting celebrant was just extremely gracious, sweet and kind. I remember it well.

He had a beard at the time, but that's probably gone now.

We could use men of Magee's calibre back here, but as this cameo appearance shows, he's doing good work all'estero.

And one more thing:
Msgr. Magee argued, however, that in addition to his universal ministry the pope is head of a "particular church" -- the Latin-rite Catholic Church -- distinguished by its own liturgy and discipline.

Maintaining a distinction between the pope's role as head of the universal church and as a patriarch, Msgr. Magee said, could be seen as protecting and opening up "the rightful place of other particular churches within catholicity."
One prominent outlet echoed that assessment yesterday.... Good to know that our homeboy's on the same page.....