From my pew in St. Patrick’s Cathedral

April 16, 2009 | Uncategorized

From my OSV Daily Take post:

What can I tell you about the installation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan that you haven’t already heard? Well, I can tell you that sitting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday watching the event unfold and listening to the new archbishop speak to the standing-room-only crowd gave me renewed hope for the Church in New York and the Church in the United States. Archbishop Dolan’s enthusiasm for his faith is surely infectious, but, more importantly, his ability to speak clearly on Church teaching while drawing in people from all camps seems to be just what the doctor ordered in these days of moral relativism and cloudy consciences.

The most moving moment of the entire two-and-half-hour installation came when, during his homily, the archbishop stressed the Church’s position on the dignity of life. At the mention of “the tiny baby in the womb,” the congregation erupted in applause that just went on and on, and, after a few minutes, rather than dying down, the applause became more deafening and the crowd got to its feet for a rousing standing ovation. As I stood there clapping, near tears at the sight of thousands of people spontaneously applauding the unborn, I wondered if all the politicians and secular media present were taking note. These weren’t the on-again-off-again Catholics interviewed by pollsters. These were practicing, faithful Catholics, and their collective voice on the abortion issue was obvious and evident and clear yesterday afternoon.

One of my favorite lines of the homily came soon after when the new archbishop said that the Church is a loving mother who has a “zest for life and serves life everywhere,” but she can also “become a protective mama bear when the lives of her innocent cubs are threatened.” What a wonderful image, and what a gentle way of putting a teaching that many in our society find very hard to accept.

Of course, the new archbishop touched on many other topics, including the fact that he wants to help Catholics reclaim Sunday as their own and give the “family meal” of the Eucharist renewed prominence. He acknowledged that many Catholics are fatigued due to the problems of our day, and the “wounds” of the sexual abuse scandal, and by ridicule of the Church for its positions on things like the sanctity of life and sacredness of marriage (which was especially timely since, hours before taking his seat in the front row of St. Patrick’s, Gov. David Paterson of New York had just announced his plan to introduce a gay marriage bill today).

Alluding to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus from the Gospel reading, Archbishop Dolan said that Catholics today cannot be downcast as those disciples were at first, failing to recognize Jesus as he walks alongside them — and us.

“My new friends of this great archdiocese, would you consider joining your new pastor on an adventure in fidelity, as we turn the Staten Island Expressway, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Broadway, the Major Deegan and the New York State Thruway into the Road to Emmaus?” he asked.

Those roads will eventually take the new archbishop to the corners of his archdiocese, which stretches from the urban neighborhoods of Manhattan and Staten Island and the Bronx, to the suburban centers in the counties just north of the city, to the rural farmland of the lower Hudson Valley. Having covered those areas for many years when I worked for Catholic New York and having sat in St. Patrick’s Cathedral through many Church events over the past two decades, I can tell you that yesterday’s Mass was a high point for this New Yorker and, I think, for many others who welcomed Archbishop Dolan. As my husband said, “My faith has been energized by what I saw and heard today.” Amen to that.

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