Friday, December 16, 2011

Everything Ends... Everything Begins....

And so, Phils fans, the time has come for the last goodbye...

...and as it seems, not just for the best of us.

At the close of a surreal year that saw its priests, people and Rome alike combine to effect revolution, history will likely recall this Friday as the end of The Era -- the symbolic final act of the uniquely distinctive culture which has defined Catholicism in Philadelphia for 181 years.

The reality of the shift will be hammered home to a staggering degree over the weeks and months to come. Lest anyone doesn't believe it still, just watch. And buckle up.

* * *
In the presence of six cardinals -- Keeler, Maida, McCarrick, Rigali, DiNardo and Wuerl -- some 50 bishops, 300 priests and a packed Cathedral-Basilica, the Funeral Mass of John Cardinal Foley is set to begin at 2pm local time (2000 Rome, 1900GMT) after a half-hour's procession.

For those at a distance, livestreams of the liturgy will gratefully abound: from the archdiocesan website, the local ABC and Fox affiliates, Telecare and CatholicTV, Salt + Light and EWTN. However you tune in, a worship aid is available for download. (And for those watching via mobile devices, iOS streams are available from each of the latter three.)

As previously noted, the cardinal's successor as Grand Master of the Holy Sepulchre, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, will be principal celebrant, with the USCCB President, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, serving as homilist.

The sendoff to close with Foley's entombment at dusk in the Crypt of the Pharaohs, a rare tour of the sub-Altar space was given yesterday by the Cathedral's Rector, Msgr Arthur Rodgers:

While its last internment took place in 1996 with the burial of John Cardinal Krol, the 48-niche Crypt has only seen four commendations in the last half-century.

Keeping with local custom, the two surviving archbishops-emeritus of Philadelphia each chose their own spaces on their respective retirements.

* * *

On the first leg of the formal farewell, a steady stream of friends and admirers made the trek to St Charles Borromeo Seminary through Thursday, the 10-hour lying in state reaching its end with a Mass celebrated by the cardinal's onetime student, fellow Curialist, longtime close friend and spiritual directee, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Thomas.

As Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. presided in choir, Foley's successor as the Vatican's Media Czar, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, concelebrated, as did Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio and, in a poignant hometown cameo, Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden -- ordained from Overbrook two years behind Foley, and a cherished brother and collaborator of his for the three decades that followed, both in Philadelphia Chancery and the Roman Curia.

In a homily by turns personal and spiritual that took the cardinal's motto as its springboard, Thomas closed thus:
Every night before John Foley went to sleep, he had a devotional practice. After praying night prayer, as he closed his eyes to go to sleep, he would picture himself at the Last Supper as the Apostle John, resting his head on the chest of Jesus.

Dear Cardinal Foley, this evening, as we celebrate the memorial of that Last Supper, we pray that, as you have fallen asleep in death, you may awaken to the heavenly banquet, where you find yourself resting your head on the chest of Jesus for eternity. As son, cousin, neighbor, priest, mentor, bishop, cardinal, and friend to so many, John Foley, by God's grace, strove to live his life "For the Greater Glory of God."

In this city which Cardinal Foley so loved, as in many cities, there are publications each year which seek to highlight the best cheese steak, the best soft pretzel or the best restaurants. One might say that John Patrick Foley was the best of Philadelphia, the best of the priesthood, and the best of the Catholic Church.

For the reflection of Christ's humility, integrity and joy found in John Foley, priest and bishop, we offer thanks to the Lord this evening. For Cardinal Foley, we beg that, by the help of the Lord's mercy, he may be "free from sin and safe from all distress", "as, (in this Advent Season), we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." And for ourselves, we beg the grace that, whether bishop, priest, deacon, seminarian, lay faithful, younger or older, we might live lives of humility, integrity and joy "For the Greater Glory of God" -- "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam!"
At an earlier point, the senior auxiliary evoked what's become the cardinal's famous nickname among his own -- "'His Foleyness,' as he was affectionately known" -- adding in an aside that "it's doubtful anyone called him that to his face."

To be sure, at least one of us did, in every conversation over these last years. And every time, the response was always the same: a big laugh, and those same four words -- "Oh, God help you!"

But now that you're even closer to Him, dear Foleyness, don't forget how much that help is needed still and ever more on this end.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend, support, counsel and Cursebreaker always...

...and as an earlier archbishop of New York once farewelled your beloved mentor on another Friday long ago in this town, "Know how much we love you. And we will miss you... we will miss you. Pray for us!"

PHOTO: Nancy Wiechec/Catholic News Service