Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Unexpected Surprise

Today I went to Mass at the Pro-Cathedral again. The music and liturgy were excellent as ever, and even more so today because it was the Feast of St. Laurence O'Toole, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Dublin. One thing that I will miss about Dublin is the availability of beautiful music and reverent liturgies. PEI is a wonderful place, but there's only so much happy-clappy 1960s nonsense that I can take. Maybe I can start a schola this spring.

At Mass this morning, there was good news and bad news. The good news was that Cardinal Seán from Boston was visiting. (Read his blog here; he updates on Fridays.) I was seated next to the center aisle, so he walked right by me in the entrance procession. I saw him in my peripheral vision and thought, "Gosh, he sure does look like Cardinal Seán!" Then when he got to the altar and bowed, I could see his brown Franciscan hood hanging down his back, and I realized that it was him, after all! I mean, how many Franciscans in cardinal's hats and big white beards are running around, really? What a small world, eh?

But, the bad news was that Cardinal Seán was visiting. You see, he's a lovely guy, and has a great blog (yes, my priorities are in order). He has a special care for pro-life ministry, young people, and immigrant communities. In fact, if anyone is in the Boston area, I know he has Theology on Tap and various dinners and things for college students and twenty-somethings on a regular basis. You should check it out. However, he's like Nanny McPhee - he's there when you don't want him, but you need him; and when you want him but don't need him, he leaves. He has a reputation for cleaning up messes, like financial or sexual abuse scandals. And not just sweeping things under the rug, either - I mean real clean-up. He was sent to Boston in 2003 or 2004 to deal with the sex abuse scandals that started breaking in 2002. One of the first things he did was to sell most of the Cardinal's property, which brought in millions - he only kept one building for his living and working space. As a Franciscan, he knows how to live in poverty. Of course, his reforms also meant closing a lot of parishes in order to more efficiently use the resources of the diocese. That meant that in Lowell, my hometown, we went from 13 parishes to 6 in the summer of 2004. Thankfully, my own church was allowed to remain open, but the church of my grade school, and the also the one from my siblings' school, was closed. (The French community grumbled - loudly - that this Irishman had come in specifically to close the French parishes. The only people who can hold a grudge longer than the Irish are the French, let me tell you.)

So he's in Dublin right now doing a visitation, helping the Dublin Archdiocese clean up their own mess from the scandals that have rocked the Irish church in the last couple of years. I bet this life - a cardinal, the go-to man for dealing with sex abuse scandals - was not the life that he envisioned when he took up his Franciscan vocation.

So that was the good news and the bad news. Though hopefully, the bad news will turn into good news soon, with faith and hard work.

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