Happy Endings… New Beginnings

Oct. 20-26, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 36
Happy Endings… New Beginnings
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch & Chuck Wainwright
Knights of Columbus with swords and feathery plumes, along with Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre wearing their capes and veils, joined hundreds of the diocese’s faithful in welcoming Edward Cardinal Egan to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 16. The cathedral was filled to overflowing for the afternoon service of solemn vespers that marked the end of the Year of the Eucharist declared by Pope John Paul II last October. Even though the visit was the first for the Archbishop of New York, it appeared that he felt very much at home.

Cardinal Egan and Bishop James Moynihan were classmates and ordained together in Rome in 1957. “The Cardinal and I were classmates, although you might not guess that because he looks much younger than me,” Bishop Moynihan commented at the beginning of the service. Cardinal Egan is from Chicago but has enjoyed the arts and culture of New York City since becoming archbishop in 2000. The night before the event, Bishop Moynihan took Cardinal Egan to hear the Syracuse Symphony indulging the cardinal’s interest in the arts.

The cardinal led vespers, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction. The choir was accompanied for most of the event with a set of simple tone chimes. Much of the music was in the form of chant and Father Joseph Scardella, director of the diocesan Office of Formation for Ministry and Liturgy, served as cantor and Armand Di Scenna served as music director. There were approximately 75 priests and deacons there to celebrate with the cardinal, along with Bishop Thomas Costello. Cardinal Egan’s homily took the congregation on a scriptural tour through the significance of the Eucharist. He first expressed his gratitude for being invited for the occasion. “I’m honored, I’m delighted and I feel already that you have drawn me closer to the Lord,” Cardinal Egan said.

He said the Year of the Eucharist was “a gift from Pope John Paul II to all of us.” The Eucharist is central to the Catholic faith and the cardinal explained in his homily that there is no truth more evident in either the New Testament, or one foretold so completely in the Old Testament, as that of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.

Cardinal Egan pointed out that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of the Last Supper in almost identical terms. “Matthew, Mark and Luke, in virtually the same language, tell us the same story and drive it home in their Gospels,” Cardinal Egan said. He said that the story of the Last Supper was not poetic or prose, but reality. The cartdinal explained that the Eucharist is no mere literary tool. “We do not have poetry or hyperbole here. We have what I would call stark realism.”

He said that during the Last Supper the Lord was at the table with His apostles, He washed the feet of the apostles, and He announced that He would be betrayed and He would be denied. Jesus said this is my body and this is my blood. Do this in memory of me. “There’s nothing poetic about this context,” Cardinal Egan said. “There’s no poetry here. It is stark truth.”

Cardinal Egan also spoke of St. Paul and St. John and how they too proclaimed the importance of eating the bread and drinking the wine. “All of this was preparing and forecasting the truth of Jesus Christ; that He is really, truly substantiated under the appearances of the bread and wine.”

Members of the Commission on Women in Church and in Society assisted in the liturgy and also sponsored the reception that followed the vespers service. As Cardinal Egan made his way to the police escort that would take him to the OnCenter for the reception, he was followed by throngs of wellwishers who asked for blessings and offered words of encouragement. He had taken time after the benediction to walk down the aisle of the cathedral and talk directly to the congregation. It was clear that he had left an impression on the crowd. One woman remarked, “He has a presence doesn’t he?”

The reception offered the opportunity for hundreds of people, including many young people, to greet Cardinal Egan and Bishop Moynihan. They stood in long lines waiting for the cardinal to autograph their programs. The two men signed programs for nearly two hours before retiring to the bishop’s residence.

When he was ending his homily at the cathedral, the cardinal told the story of a priest in his archdiocese who managed to recite Mass in German during one of New York City’s German and Austrian celebrations. He asked the priest how he could possibly have learned to do this. The priest told the cardinal that he had been an exchange student in Germany when he was in high school. He was not Catholic then, but had decided he wanted to attend a church service daily while he was there. He chose a nearby Catholic church and he memorized the Mass spoken in German. He later went to a church near his hometown back in the U.S. and asked the pastor to “Make me a priest.” That same priest went on to become a diocesan priest in New York City. He told Cardinal Egan that Mass is “a wondrous event” and that “once it gets ahold of you, it never lets you go.”

Cardinal Egan ended his homily by saying, “My prayer for the people of God in the Diocese of Syracuse is that tonight, Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior gets ahold of you and never, ever lets you go.”

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