From the editor: April 24, 2015
A Witness In the Cathedral
—April 23, 2015. Commemoration of St. George, 4th century martyr. Easter Season.
This morning my bus crosses Chicago's Magnificent Mile, where stores are preparing to open their doors to shoppers looking for high-end fashions, jewelry, Apple computer products, or tourist souvenirs.
Most of these stores and hotels were not here when I worked at the hospital nearby some 40 years ago. Every workday morning back then I walked past Holy Name Cathedral on State Street. It looked old; it was dedicated in 1875, built after the Chicago Fire destroyed the Church of the Holy Name. The coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago appropriately features a phoenix, rising from the ashes, a symbol of the Resurrection.
In 1950 you could take a street-level photo of Holy Name silhouetted against a lot of sky. Today, from the same angle you can't see much sky, for the cathedral lies in the shadows of high-rises and glass and steel towers hugging the "Mag Mile."
As my bus approaches State Street, I see Holy Name surrounded by barricades and police cars, in the final stages of preparation to open its doors to an invitation-only audience. In front of its doors there is an empty sidewalk and street, but this will soon change.
Inside the cathedral lies the deceased former Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, who died last Friday after a long illness from cancer. The funeral Mass will begin at noon. At least 100 bishops will be there, along with the mayor, the governor, the county commissioner and other leaders.
Across the street, television vans have hoisted their antennas. Since the Cardinal's passing, I have seen his face daily on the local news. The coverage has been respectful: a good man, a man of faith, conviction and compassion. (The same commentators are happy to promote causes contrary to Catholic teaching.) George was solidly orthodox and outspoken about life and marriage and Catholic doctrine. He was the finest Cardinal Chicago has had since I've lived here, to say the least.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain said that the Cardinal talked to him about his funeral sermon. "He hoped I would preach the gospel message at his funeral and that I would bring a spiritual reflection on his death" focused particularly "on the mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection."
"He truly wanted me to focus on the gospel message," Sartain said. "His whole life that's what he wanted to do, whether he was teaching a class or commenting on the current scene, it was always a matter of trying to understand where the gospel message fit into the topic."
Aside from that, most media commentators will speak for the now-silent Cardinal and situate him, like the cathedral in 2015, as overshadowed by higher concerns of their own. The Gospel will be domesticated, if referenced at all, into a call to be a little more compassionate. But the Gospel speaks of the resurrection of the Cardinal Francis George's body: that's the faith he held.
When the glass and steel giants surrounding Holy Name fall, and perhaps even the stones of the cathedral fall, the buying and selling on the Magnificent Mile and in the offices looking down on Holy Name will have been forgotten, unable to survive eternity.
But what takes place today-and on a thousand and more previous Sundays-in that consecrated space sheltering the Cardinal in his casket, will endure. And more than that: it will bear witness until, in even greater force in a final burst of glory, the Lord comes again, when the dead in their tombs hear the voice of the Son of Man and rise into everlasting life. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" Bless his Holy Name.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James