Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Foley Stories: For "The Voice," An Irish Wake

He was, in a word, the best of us...

...and that's exactly why, for so many years, we all looked to him as the first of our kind.

For John Cardinal Foley, that descriptor is true for any number of different groups -- the Catholic press, Americans in Rome, his classmates from Columbia J, and more... even if, among them all, he was only ever being himself.

Lord knows he loved each and every one dearly, and was adored just as much by the rest in return. In its keenest instance, though, how true and immense was his love for us, for his Philadelphia -- this place he never stopped seeing as home, where he seemed to know everyone from construction workers to the titans of commerce -- and above all else, the local church that, beyond dispute, was the greatest love of an extraordinary life.

Indeed, Phils fans, it is very tough to imagine a path ahead here without our "Patriarch." Still, precisely in the moment when our people learned of a dramatically new future for the faith in our midst, it was eerily fitting that the last pristine embodiment of the grand old age was called home, that he might intercede for the success of the difficult, but ever more needed, work of renewal into which we're now called.

Since Sunday morning, no shortage of tributes have emerged from seemingly every place "His Foleyness" touched over a half-century of priesthood and, just like his mentor, 27 years at the work that made him a legend. Yet as the tributes have predominantly been circulated by folks with outlets or platforms of their own, even these are unable to capture the full measure of the great friend and gentle soul so many of us now grieve, and who we'll miss very much, often intensely so, going forward.

Despite his training, Foley had a funny way of turning journalism on its head: he didn't just find a story wherever he went, he tended to leave one, too. As his cherished student-turned-secretary, Msgr Hans Browers, told the suburban paper the future cardinal delivered as a boy, "When you use the expression 24/7, that was him -- twenty-four hours, seven days a week he worked.”

Contrary to appearances, though, relatively little of that labor was the work of mass media. Far more often -- whether in airports and diners; chance meetings, speeches or letters -- it, all of it, was the service of a priest: person by person, soul by soul, bringing life and goodness everywhere he went.

When Foley was sent to Columbia for graduate studies as a young cleric, his archbishop urged him to never lose sight of the reality that "You are a priest who happens to be a journalist, not a journalist who says Mass."

It was just one of many things he remembered impeccably. And as a result, all the towering accomplishments and hours of commentary over satellites and airwaves, on tape and in newsprint, were only ever a complement, an extension -- or, to use today's language, a "plug-in" -- of the "beat" he started into on May 19, 1962, on the top step of the High Altar beneath which he'll now be laid to rest.

And so, Foleyites, wherever you are, here's where you -- indeed, the fruit and yield of said priesthood -- come in.

For everything that's already hit print or the web these last two days, something seems to say that there are many, many more "Foley stories" around than those we've already seen... whether they're born from years of tuning in for Midnight Mass to hear his voice, having known him for decades, or anywhere in between.

Along those lines -- especially for those among us at a physical distance, but not a spiritual one, from this week's farewell -- as these days begin, for this readership to bring our stories and moments of grace together seems to be the best tribute, thanks and sendoff we can give.

Ergo, the combox is again open below, and you're all more than welcome to share your memories and recollections of one of the all-time greats. But as, by necessity, submissions will need to be moderated, suffice it to say that the cardinal's lifelong example of class, dignity, mutual respect and good humor serve as the guiding standard of the exercise.

Further reflections to come... in the meantime, as a day many of us have long dreaded approaches, may the church's ancient prayer likewise be our own:
Saints of God, come to his aid;
Hasten to meet him, angels of the Lord:
Receive his soul and present him to God, the Most High.
And with that, gang, the floor is yours.

PHOTOS: Pontifical Council for Social Communications(1,2); Catholic Standard & Times Archive(3); The (Columbia) Missourian(4)



Anonymous TNCath said...

I met Cardinal Foley several times on trips to Rome over the years. He always had time to chat for a few minutes, either about what he was doing or who you were and where you were from. I remember his receiving the red hat at the Consistory back in 2007. Although he was recovering from a bout of the flu, he took his place among the new cardinals at the ceremonies and at the reception at the Great Hall in the Vatican. Although you could tell he was exhausted, he insisted on greeting everyone personally. Although I hardly knew him personally, I always felt like he was genuinely interested in the people he met. May he rest in peace!

13/12/11 22:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For his Vatican office,
he went to the furniture storage room and got the old furniture of Pius XII...

a bit aged and moth-eaten, but with a real sense of the history of the Church.

I visited the (then-) Archbishop and Dr. Marjorie there several times. Gracious people!

13/12/11 23:07  
Anonymous Dave in Wisconsin said...

His voice over at Christmas was a longstanding highlight of Christmas Eve for me, and for years had been seemingly the only reflective time I had in that busy time of liturgies, hymns and overindulgence. The heavenly realms are brightened as our worldly walk is dimmed.

May perpetual light shine upon him and the souls of all the faithful departed.

13/12/11 23:16  
Anonymous BarbA said...

While working at USCCB, Archbishop Foley called to check arrangements for WYD. We talked for about 20 minutes about all sorts of things and we had never met before. He was friendly and engaged in wherever the conversation would take us, including some very interesting stories. It was my only firsthand encounter with him but it was as if we had known each other for years. He is now providing commentary on the eternal liturgy. May he rest in God's loving embrace.

13/12/11 23:20  
Anonymous Dr Philip Smyth said...

I first met Archbishop John Foley when studying for the priesthood in Rome in the company of another great Philadelphia priest, Monsignor Al Norrell. "Big Al" and I had become great friends at our time together at the Beda College and Archbishop John used to drive over to the college to take us out for a meal. I remember his battered old car, a BMW, I recall, and his exquisite good manners, kindness and generosity. He always put others first and had that most lovely of traits, and a sign of greatness, a sense of self-depreciating humour. I remember him telling me that in many ways he owed so much to Monsignor Norrell, as he had introduced him to the Legion of Mary, and the Servant of God Frank Duff. I was honoured to have several meals with the Archbishop and on no occasion would he ever allow you to pick up the tab. I also recall a conversation with the Archbishop when he spoke somewhat sadly about his desire to return to the United States and serve as a Diocesan bishop (he was at Social Communications at that time) and how he had expressed this hope to Cardinal Agostino Caseroli, the then Secretary of State to Blessed John Paul II. Cardinal Caseroli took him by the arm and said: "Caro, like myself, you will die on the Roman Curia!" Thankfully that was not to be. I pray that the gentle and loving souls of both Monsignor Albert Vaughn Norrell III and John Cardinal Foley have entered into the Home of the Father and have found light, happiness and peace.

13/12/11 23:28  
Blogger Christopher M. Zelonis said...

Cardinal Foley visited us often and fondly at St. Charles during my time there (1994-2003). In a homily he shared a prayer he'd learned while at St. Joseph's College (now University), a prayer he would recite after receiving Holy Communion:

"I want you, dear Jesus, for my sake: because I am nothing, because I am weak, because I am a sinner; for your sake, that I may know you, love you, and grow to be like you; for the sake of others, that I may never do them harm, always do them good, and give you to them. Since you want me, dear Jesus, take me: all that I have, all that I am, and all that I can be."

13/12/11 23:36  
Anonymous Fr. Steve G said...

Since he encouraged me to begin writing a blog in November of 20110, I wanted to post my thoughts on this man who was first, last and always a priest. I first met then Father Foley in 1972 when I entered St. Charles Seminary. He was one of the priests who lived at the seminary and, in addition to serving as editor of the archdiocesan newspaper, was a professor there. Father Foley taught various courses in the philosophy department, the most memorable for me (and due to one infamous exchange between he and I which I will not repeat here, I daresay memorable to him also) was a course in Logic.
Father Foley was a very precise teacher, and this precision was seen in other aspects of his life as well. To say that he was a little tight would not be too much of an exaggeration. As I progressed through the seminary, he would become Monsignor Foley and after ordination he was a brother priest - John. When God's will took him to Rome and service to the Holy See, many years would go by before we reconnected again. But when I finally managed to get to Rome, then Archbishop Foley welcomed me, gave me a tour of his Vatican office and, like the good adopted Italian he had become, too me to dinner.
As tends to happen, Rome and the Italian culture had a definite effect on him. I could see that, while more committed than ever to his priesthood and the Church, he had begun to adjust to the slower, more deliberative pace of life there, and came to appreciate the shades of grey that are part of life. Whenever I was in Rome, admittedly not that often, we would try and connect for dinner. One memorable time we were not able to get together for diner, but did bump into one another in St. Peter's of all places. I was just leaving from having celebrated Mass and now Cardinal Foley had just left the area where confessors are available for those seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He informed me and a priest friend that he had just taken care of his spiritual health and was going to see his doctor to take care of his physical health. Unfortunately the news on the physical side was not good and he was diagnosed with Leukemia, which would end his career as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and, this morning, his life.
Even though I did not get to see him too often in Rome, one place I was sure to see him each year was the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. As Archbishop and later as Cardinal, he knew and appreciated the tremendous work done by the K of C for the Church, and was particularly touched by their unfailing support of and respect for priests bishops. And he didn't just "pop in" for a Mass and dinner - he came to the meeting and always shared his thanks and appreciation for the support of the Knights. But then, that was always a part of this gentle man and priest.
I could go on for much longer, but will never be as eloquent as Father, Monsignor, Archbishop, Cardinal Foley. I can only hope that someday I will be half the dedicated servant of the Church that John Foley was. Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Rest in peace, Your Eminence. You will be missed.

13/12/11 23:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happened to be in Washington DC two years ago in August. For the Feast of the Assumption, I thought it would be nice to go to the Basilica as I had never been there before. I was pleasantly surprised to find his Eminence celebrating the Mass (and if memory is correct, Cardinal Baum was also there in choir). During the homily, he mentioned that the first couple he had married were in the audience as it was their anniversary. Because Italy is off in August, he is always back in the U.S. and made time to meet up with them for their anniversary every year.

14/12/11 00:19  
Anonymous Carol Stanton said...

No one has mentioned this wonderful man's ability to mimic. Back in the 80's then Archbishop Foley was attending the annual Catholic Press Conference in Orlando, FL and graciously accepted my invitation as communications director of the diocese to dine with the Catholic media reporters of Orlando. It was a wonderful evening during which he patiently and seriously answered all questions from the gathered reporters about Rome, the Pope, the church. But the highlight of the evening was his own story of dining with British royalty during which he graced us with his spot-on, and hilarious, "Princess Margaret". Never demeaning, he nevertheless had her voice "down to a t"! He won the hearts of those reporters because of his humanness, accessibility and humor. A great priest and communicator who has left a space which may never be filled.

14/12/11 10:05  
Anonymous Martin Johnson said...

Yes we have really lost a great friend. I represent a small Anabaptist community movement from the US, UK, Australia etc. related to Amish and Mennonites etc. How is it that we feel such a love for Cardinal Foley. Our first of several meetings with him in Rome was 12 year ago and he was always ready to meet us ever since. You can all imagine how he reached out to us with humor and love. we will have representatives at his funeral and will miss him very much. we last greeted him in the North American College last year in October and have prayed for him ever since he retired to Philadephia because of illness. We received a Christmas Card from him two days after he passed away!!

Martin Johnson NY

14/12/11 11:45  
Anonymous Gary Ziuraitis, C.Ss.R., Rome said...

I first met Cardinal Foley through the Catholic Press Association back in the 80's, through my Redemptorist confrere and mentor, Father Norm Muckerman, who was serving as President. They, and other stalwarts of those days in the CPA, were giants...physically as well as professionally. And they knew how to have a good time too! Father Norm passed on two years ago...so I imagine it was a boisterous and very funny reunion at the Gates!

I loved Cardinal Foley's ability to tell a story and as Carol Stanton said above...his humanness, accessability and humor!

14/12/11 13:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thank the blessed Cardinal Foley for leading the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepluchere in the last few years. He will always remain an inspirational leader and a person filled with the Holy Spirit+

14/12/11 14:09  
Blogger tomschulzte said...

I had the opportunity to meet Cardinal Foley earlier this year, when he stayed with the Archbishop that I work for. I was showing him around the residence. Because his mobility was limited, I showed him how to use the elevator, which is 40+ years old. In trying to make light of the situation, I jokingly told His Emienence that the elevator was quite old, about 40 years, so it does not work so well. He quickly replied, "Well, how old do you think I am?" After I saw his great smile, I knew he was kidding me for putting my foot in my mouth.
Not a profound moment, but one I will never forget.

14/12/11 14:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the chance to meet Cardinal Foley during the Red Mass at The Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle in Washington a few years back and was so wonderfully impressed with his homily and very pleasant personality. I am sure the solemn mass on Friday, which I will be attending, will be a fitting tribute to such a wonderful person.

14/12/11 22:14  
Anonymous Fr. Mark Haynes said...

I remember Cardinal Foley as Msgr. Foley as he taught in St. Charles Seminary in the early 1980's. A man of true outstanding integrity, and man of the Church and a Priest of Jesus Christ. For these and many other gifts he shared with us, he will be missed and we have been blessed by knowing him. God give him the rest from his labors, for his good deeds go with him.

15/12/11 14:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a seminarian at the NAC in Rome, having previously been at St. Charles Borromeo. Up until 2 years ago, before he fell too ill, on the feast of St. Charles (4 Nov.) Cardinal Foley would have mass at the Casa Santa Maria for all the St. Charles alumni in Rome, and then take everyone out to dinner at the Abruzzi. The tradition continues, but it is certainly lacking w/o the good Cardinal. R.I.P.

15/12/11 17:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cardinal (then Abp) Foley told a wonderful story of the first time he saw the Italian film "Life is Beautiful".
He saw it in the Vatican screening room, in a total audience of three - Foley, Pope John Paul II, and the film's director, Robert Benigni. Foley was placed between the two to prevent Benigni from jumping into the Holy Father's lap and kissing him (a la Benigni's famous Academy Award acceptance). At the end of the film, the Holy Father was moved and just said quietly "That's what it was," and he gave Benigni a rosary.
Cardinal Foley was a devoted son of Mary, having made the Total Consecration to Our Lady on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception during his seminary days, and this was no doubt part of what made his charism so compatible with that of John Paul II (the late Holy Father having made the same Consecration during his early years). It is wonderful to think of them reunited before the Lord in continuing service to the Church through Our Lady.
"Thou art a priest forever."

16/12/11 10:42  

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