Just back from St. Patrick’s and Solemn Vespers.
Now, I didn’t have the best view. The media were put on the side of the sanctuary, behind two sections of priests. So we mostly had to watch on TV screens, although we could see the tops of everyone’s heads in the sanctuary.
We did get a good look at Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s back when he climbed up to the pulpit to deliver his homily.
It was a good vantage point, actually, when he talked about his “brother priests.” “I am so awestruck,” he said, “to be the elder brother of a presbyterate known for its zeal and devotion. I thank you, brother priests, for continuing to be agents of the divine institution, and to you I pledge my life and love.”
After he said this, he stopped back, turned around and motioned to the rows of priests in front of us. He wanted to emphasize that he meant it — his life and love. Clearly, Dolan knows that priests have been battered in recent years and that the priests of New York, in particular, are suffering from low morale.
Having knocked on the doors of St. Patrick’s (9 times!) to start the service, Dolan talked about the need to open oneself to Jesus and the church. He cited some reasons that people close themselves off:
“There’s sin, fear, and sadness to keep us closed-up inside, evident in so many problems and worries: the scandal of clergy sexual abuse and caring for those hurt; the challenges of strengthening our parishes, schools, and charitable outreach; the threats to marriage, family, to the unborn baby and fragile human life at all stages; the need for vocations. The list is long. The list is haunting.”
He joked about having on his own chains, which made him weary of coming to the great pulpit of NY.
“Following the likes of Hughes, Hayes, Spellman, Cooke, O’Connor, and Egan! Sounds like McNamara’s band, and I’m not up to being part of it.”
But he decided to be brave — counting on some God-given confidence — and called on the Catholics of New York to do the same:
“And this evening, when you opened those bronze doors to my knock, and I beheld a church, an archdiocese, that has been opening the doors to Christ for 201 years, am I ever glad I listened to him and took the chain off.”
On to tomorrow’s Mass of Installation, when this midwestern prelate — who blows kisses to his congregants — takes canonical possession of NY and its 2-and-a-half million Catholics (give or take a few hundred thousand).