Egan bids farewell to a cardinal classmate

And now I’m back from St. Patrick’s.

The funeral Mass for Cardinal Avery Dulles was quite touching. There were dozens of Jesuits, as you might expect, not to mention five American cardinals (not counting Cardinal Egan). Egan, who gave the homily, seemed to have real affection for “our beloved Avery Cardinal Dulles.”

Egan told Dulles’ always fascinating life story, in detail. “He was born into a well-to-do illustrious family,” Egan said. “He was reared in comfort and given the best in academic formation.”

But Dulles gave it all up, Egan said, despite the family troubles that his conversion to Catholicism caused: “The young convert accepted their hurt and moved on.”

The Rev. David S. Ciancimino, head of the New York Province for the Jesuits, spoke of how much Dulles appreciated his friendship with Egan. He spoke of regular phone calls that Egan made to the ailing theologian and of how Egan accompanied Dulles this past April — when Dulles could no longer speak or hardly move — to a Mass for Dulles’ 90 birthday at Fordham.

It was back in February of 2001 that Dulles, Egan and retired Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick all got their red hats in Rome.

Egan also mentioned something else that he shared with Dulles: polio. Dulles was suffering from post-polio syndrome and Egan has battled the effects in recent years, as well.

At the conclusion of the Mass, as Dulles’ casket was carried up the center aisle of the cathedral and out of its great doors, the assembly cheered the life of a man of faith and intellect. It was quite a scene as cardinals and bishops accompanied the casket to a waiting hearse on 5th Avenue. Hundreds of people stopped to watch on both sides of the street, although I got the feeling that many of them did not know who had died.

Dulles, who had a good sense of humor, might have laughed at the sight of shoppers and tourists craning their necks to see the casket of a bookish theologian.