Friday, May 23, 2014

The "Reluctant Prince" at 65

For all the exceptional attributes that come with being the first Cardinal of the American South, the most "ordinary" of them remains the most salient – among the US' active red hats, Dan DiNardo is the only one to have served as pastor of a parish...

...and – much like the saintly mentor who crafted the Pittsburgher's ascent before imitating his return from Rome to the trenches – if DiNardo had his way, he wouldn't be anywhere else.

Even if the tale was told long ago, its central thread has only become more evident over the time since the epic 2007 elevation that made Houston these shores' first new scarlet hub since Los Angeles in 1953. Among other examples, despite strong leanings to decline his confreres' nomination to last November's 10-man slate for the USCCB leadership (as he had done before), the archbishop of Galveston-Houston only relented upon assurances that the presidency and vice-presidency would go elsewhere. In the end – the traditional ascent of the #2 being restored – DiNardo was given the VP's post by a margin of nearly 2-to-1... and, well, complete the sentence.

Sure, a story-arc that stretches from the corridors of the Vatican to two rooms in a suburban Steeler Nation office-park, the "true darkness" of nighttime driving down Iowa roads and, finally, the "happy chaos" of what'll soon be the nation's third-largest city is rich enough on its own. Still, it's just emblematic of what is rightfully – yet far too often, isn't – recognized as "Stateside Catholicism 3.0": a Church which, by far, remains the nation's largest religious body, but one just now seeing the largest diocese it's ever known, and one likewise become the biggest faith in Texas, atop whose largest diocese the founding cardinal – after all of eight years at the helm of a H-Town crowd grown five-fold since 1990 to 1.5 million Catholics – has dedicated some 30 new churches, each upwards of 1,500 seats.

Put bluntly, a reality of the sort begs – or, to many, should – one question: "What 'decline'?"

Now the lone North American prelate named by Francis to the Pope's new, broadly empowered Council for the Economy in addition to all the rest, today sees DiNardo's 65th birthday... as for slowing down, however, it's fair to say that he's yet to fully rev up.

In token of the occasion – and, indeed, his place as the home-bench's most energetic of preachers – below you'll find the cardinal's homily at last week's Baccalaurate Mass for this year's graduates of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he was born before the clan moved to Pittsburgh. Amid these days of Commencements all around, it doubles as both a congrats and an Easter reflection for all the grads among us....