Monday, March 06, 2006

Sean, the Man

Eighteen days from the red hat -- the tenth Capuchin to be so honored -- the Boston Globe runs a lengthy piece on Cardinal- designate Sean O'Malley as his friends and intimates see him.
All too often, it seems, O'Malley is the unsmiling face on the evening news, closing churches and schools, apologizing for sexual abuse by priests, trimming millions from the church's budget.

Not so for Erin Stephens, 35, who waited tables at Victoria's Diner, a busy Roxbury restaurant with Formica tabletops and oldies on the sound system. She knows O'Malley as a Friday night customer who always orders clam chowder and doesn't care which booth he gets.

Her co-worker, Linda Zyskowski, enjoys trying to banter with the powerful prelate. Once, she asked O'Malley to perform an exorcism on her unruly 13-year-old granddaughter.

"He looked at me crazy first," Zyskowski said. ''Then he said, 'I'll pray for her.' Two weeks later, I told him, 'She's a lot better now. The prayers must have worked.'"

O'Malley, easily recognizable with his snow-white beard and brown robe, draws stares from customers, some of whom approach his table to talk to him, said Samira Droubi, 54, manager and hostess at Victoria's. O'Malley, glancing up from his bowl, greets them with a smile.....

A more deferential welcome awaits the archbishop when he walks into his favorite bookstore, Schoenhof's Foreign Books in Harvard Square. The Rev. Paul DuPuis, who works at the shop, said that when O'Malley enters, he kneels and kisses his hand.

A voracious reader who speaks Latin, French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Italian, and Portuguese, O'Malley has recently been spending plenty of time in the Haitian Creole section, said Rupert Davis, store manager. He can spend an hour or more in the aisles, casually leafing through titles.

"He likes just to browse quietly," Davis said. ''We like to leave him to do that."

"I think it's kind of a relief for him," DuPuis said.

The books he buys ''are all oriented to studies that will help him better grasp the people," DuPuis said. ''I don't think he has much time for just literature."
God knows the man needs all the relief he can get.

The piece draws to a close with a quote from Peter Meade, the onetime board chairman of Boston Catholic Charities who, along with seven others, quit the board last week in protest of the stance taken by the bishops of Massachusetts, who are seeking an exemption from a state anti-discrimination law mandating that gay and lesbian couples have equal opportunity in adopting children.
"He's intelligent and he's holy and he's humble," said Meade, a Catholic civic leader, who recalled O'Malley showing up unannounced at his mother's hospital bedside after she had a stroke. ''And I don't think the College of Cardinals is oversubscribed in those categories"....
Hmm.... A lot of people hate Meade these days, but he might well be onto something.