Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Pope's "Crystal" Smile – Suddenly, B16's Bulls Can Talk

On a quick aside – as we've got peces grandes to fry in short order – something as strange as it's notable has been happening of late: in his recent letters of appointment on these shores, the Pope's actually been saying something.

More likely, one of the aides is having some fun Over There. Either way, the texts still begin "Benedictus episcopus, Servus Servorum Dei," are signed in the Apartment and sealed with the Fisherman's Ring. (To employ a variation of the Pottery Barn rule, "You Bulled it, you bought it.")

The most distinctive evidence of a new spirit in the documents came a couple weeks back in Tyler. Not in memory has a congregation broken out in laughter during the reading of a Papal Bull, but amid the usual thicket of formality, the inclusion of the see-city's moniker of "The Rose Capital of the World" in Bishop Joe Strickland's Roman mandate clearly tickled the locals (as well as the bishops in attendance), and even brought the normally austere Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, to crack a smile on reading the line.

Before ending with an invocation of the Immaculate Conception – patroness of the cathedral where the beloved native son served as rector for 15 years – the Pope went on to use a conspicuously strong word in describing the nominee's caliber, judging that Strickland was found to be "resplendent in priestly zeal."

Like so much else in that unique case, said accolade is anything but "over the top."

A fortnight earlier, the thread began to show in Lincoln, when the letter naming Bishop James Conley riffed on the diocese's 125th anniversary, declared the retiring Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz "venerable" and spoke of the new appointee's "carrying the pouch of Gospel seeds from the Rocky Mountains down to the Nebraska plains."
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For purposes of context, to find any specific reference to a person or place in a Stateside appointment letter, you'd have to go all the way back to 2002, when then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan's bull on being sent to Milwaukee referenced the Beer City's Holy Hill Shrine dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians, and the following year's mandate transferring Dolan's mentor to Philadelphia, in which John Paul II noted that, 18 years prior, he had ordained Justin Rigali a bishop in the Cathedral of Albano. 

Both prelates, of course, had long, storied records of service in Rome – and each, in time, would be rocketed to the red hat.

Ever since, variations have been so few that a fairly observant sort could've conjured the letter's text, sight unseen, within about five or six words. Yet again, however, some very localized lines appeared in the bull transferring Bishop Kevin Vann to Orange, including both the invocation of the nominee's own amadísima patrona... and most of all, an oblique, yet no less pointed – and very, very clever – reference to what'll soon be his cathedral.

Here, the relevant parts of the letter as read (emphasis added)....
That region where Mandarin Orange trees once flourished now greatly abounds with faithful, so that the diocese of Orange in California should be counted among the larger ones in the United States of America.... 
While we know for sure that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe – to whom the spiritual welfare of the church in Orange in California has been entrusted, and whose virtues, like crystals, reflect the divine light – will, with her loving glance, watch over you as you come to meet the flock entrusted to your pastoral care. Yet nevertheless, we earnestly direct our prayer to her to help the bishop, that she might so dispose all your initiatives undertaken on their behalf, so that they might reach a joyful, favorable and beneficial conclusion....
Even if Rome's nihil obstat was required before the Grand Bargain could be accomplished late last year, only with the above has the "Tod Mahal" received The Ultimate Thumbs-Up.... 

And now, let his successor enjoy it.

Hit that organ: