Funeral for a Cardinal
David Gibson December 19, 2008 - 11:15am
Others who may have attended or concelebrated at the funeral yesterday for Avery Dulles, SJ, at St. Patrick's Cathedral may have better accounts, but this photo from The New York Times story is as evocativeas any of the wonderul words spoken and written about the "dean of American theologians."
Cardinal Egan's warm homily took as its central image an ancient crucifix he had seen some 50 years ago in Umbria; from one side the face of Christ appeared contorted in pain; from the other illumined by joy. This image, suggested Egan, could be said to characterize Avery's life, one of triumph and, towards the end, of pain. Of the triumph: "In the life of our lamented cardinal, there was triumph of the most authentic sense," he said. "You have the example of a triumphant life story, never matched, to my knowledge, by any other American Catholic."As a young man in the Navy, Avery contracted polio, and was told that, because of the paralysis is his arm, he would never write again. "He proved them monumentally wrong," said Egan, referring to the over 800 articles and 23 books written by the Jesuit cardinal.Cardinal Egan remembered visiting Avery on his 90th birthday at Fordham--when Avery was bedridden, crippled by the recurrence of his polio--for a Mass in his honor. The cardinal wheeled Avery's bed up the aisle of the Fordham chapel, but only with difficulty, as a result of Egan's childhood polio. "I'm afraid it's a case of the lame pushing the lame," said Egan to Dulles.With that Avery broke into broad smile, and Egan was put in mind of that crucifix.
And in a moving culmination,the crowd erupted in applause as the casket was borne out of the cathedral and onto Fifth Avenue, where even the mass of holiday shoppershad to pause.