Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Houston's Hour

At this hour, the first liturgical celebration in Houston's Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart -- a ticket-only Vespers -- has begun in advance of tomorrow's full-dress Opening Day.

Scheduled to start at noon local time (1700UTC), H-Town's ABC affiliate KTRK will stream the three-hour Dedication Mass over the web. As if the event wasn't already feeling enough like Christmas in the South's largest local church, the coverage will feature play-by-play from the "Voice of the Vatican" Cardinal John Foley, the grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. To enhance genuine participation from viewers far afield, a copy of tomorrow's liturgical program has been posted.

While Foley'll be holding down the commentator's booth, Cardinal Dan DiNardo will be joined in the sanctuary by around 60 other prelates and several hundred priests and deacons from the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, Texas at large and beyond.

In the largest-ever descent of the hierarchy ever upon the nation's fourth-largest city, four more cardinals -- Mahony, Keeler, Maida and McCarrick -- will serve as chief concelebrants alongside the project's "mastermind" Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio and Galveston-Houston auxiliaries Joe Vasquez and Vince Rizzotto. An over-capacity crowd of 2,000-plus lucky ticketholders will pack the pews. Public events in the new space are slated to begin this weekend.

Seven years in the making, the 1,820-seat, $64 million modern-Romanesque hub is but the latest sign of Texas Catholicism's rapid rise from Bible Belt minority to the Lone Star state's largest religious group and vanguard of the US church.

Now with its first cardinal, two archdioceses, booming churches, expanding seminaries -- and the gaze of Rome fixed squarely, and approvingly, upon it all -- it's no longer a vague, promising "future" that belongs to Rockets Country, but a confident, energetic present.

Suffice it to say, it's been a long time coming.... And the only question these days is whether the rest can simply keep up.

PHOTOS: Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston