Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saint Cookie and Uncle Bert, 25 Years On

His administrative acumen might've fuelled his rise in life... but as the quarter-century of his death approaches, it's the sanctity of New York's Cardinal Terence Cooke that leads the story-line.

The seventh archbishop's cause for canonization formally opened in 1992, a St Patrick's Cathedral Mass will be held on the 6 October anniversary of Cooke's passing at 62 after a two-decade battle with leukemia. With Gotham's twelfth ordinary slated to celebrate and preach, among others confirmed for the mid-morning liturgy are two of Cooke's former secretaries, now Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore.

And earlier this week, a much quieter 25th was marked in Red Sox Nation as the Boston church recalled its seventh head, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros:
It was an immense challenge for Cardinal Medeiros to succeed the larger-than-life Cardinal Richard J. Cushing as the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley said.

Cardinal Medeiros took charge of the archdiocese when it was heavily in debt and facing difficult decisions, Cardinal O’Malley said.
“Many times, as I traveled through Latin America and found plaques with the words: ‘Donated by Cardinal Cushing,’ I have been tempted to take a piece of chalk and write: ‘and paid for by Cardinal Medeiros,’” Cardinal O’Malley said.

Speaking to The Pilot before the Mass, Father Carreiro recalled the time as a boy that he met then-Msgr. Medeiros at Fall River’s St. Michael Parish.

“He was the pastor when I received my First Communion and he heard my first confession. It was before Vatican II, but he heard my confession face-to-face as I knelt at the communion rail. I remember his kindness and his understanding, which is so important when you start going to confession.”

It was the example of Cardinal Medeiros that led to his own vocation, Father Carreiro said. The priest entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton during the time Cardinal Medeiros was Archbishop of Boston. “I reminded him who I was and he remembered my family. Afterwards, he would always speak to me in Portuguese.”

The seminary was not immune from the turmoil of Cardinal Medeiros’ tenure, Father Carreiro said. “I read about it in the newspapers and heard it from classmates, but I always knew him as my former pastor. I felt Cardinal Medeiros blocked it out. He never showed the strain.”
An "outsider" described in a recent bicentennial lecture as having -- at least, until his time -- the "most polarizing" of Beantown's legendary episcopal reigns, the Azores-born Medeiros was laid to rest not with his predecessors, nor even in his see, but on his parents' plot in Fall River.

In more uplifting news from Boston (where, like most of the Northeast, participation estimates hover in the 20% range), sign-ups for "Arise" -- the three-year diocese-wide renewal program -- have surpassed expectations.

Yet again, the once-vaunted flagship of Stateside Catholicism leads the way with an important lesson, this time an infinitely more hopeful one: you can get back up... but only after accepting that you're down.

More than just sometimes, especially in this famed, storied corner of the vineyard, that reality can be the toughest pill to swallow. But just like the grain of wheat that bears much fruit, no life nor future can come without the sacrifice of pride that is its humbling, necessary first step.