Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In New York, The Last Goodbye

Hard as it is to believe, it's almost 15 years since New York was last here... sure enough, though, even as St Patrick's Cathedral was said to be "packed" for last night's vigil and the full pomp of the state funeral is again on display, this isn't May 8th, 2000 – it's a different world, and arguably even more, a different church.

With at least five cardinals and 30 bishops on hand, the burial liturgy of the Big Apple's ninth archbishop begins at 2pm Eastern after a half-hour procession (worship aid); both the city's ABC and CBS affiliates will livestream the rites from the "nation's parish," whose front half is currently racked with heavy scaffolding as part of the cathedral's years-long, $175 million restoration.

In keeping with Cardinal Edward Egan's desired plans, the Mass will be framed around the 1897 Requiem written by Lorenzo Perosi, an Italian cleric and protege of the future St Pius X who led the Sistine Choir from 1902 until his death in 1956 – a year before Egan's ordination in Rome. In an encore of the memorable close of the cardinal's Installation Mass in June 2000, the soprano Renée Fleming – Egan's favorite singer from his beloved Metropolitan Opera – will return to perform his sendoff, joined this time by the Met tenor Matthew Polenzani.

After the final commendation, the chanted In Paradisum will signal the final procession to the cathedral's crypt behind and beneath the high altar, where Egan will be entombed alongside all his predecessors going back to New York's first archbishop, John Hughes, the Irish-born strongman who envisioned the "cathedral of suitable magnificence" in Midtown as the symbol of his faithful's ascent, but didn't live to see it completed.

In more recent history, meanwhile, at the last two funerals of Gotham cardinals – John O'Connor in the aforementioned May 2000 and the Jesuit legend Avery Dulles in December 2008 – the exit of the casket from the cathedral saw applause erupt from the congregation: a sign of respect for the deceased usually seen only in Europe.