Opening the doors
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly April 15, 2009 - 10:38am
Last night Archbishop Timothy Dolan was formally welcomed to his new home and cathedra at St. Patrick's in New York. He knocked at the doors and was granted entrance and welcomed with applause. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio, read the letter of appointment from Rome (in Italian-accented English), and after proceeding to the bishop's chair, Dolan presided over Vespers and delivered a memorable homily.The New York Times has posted a copy of that homily (provided by the archdiocese) online. It includes references to Bret Favre and C. C. Sabathia, "McNamara's Band," and the William Holman Hunt painting "The Light of the World." That luminous (if slightly cloying) Pre-Raphaelite painting -- or one copy of it, at least -- is on display in a chapel in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, but Dolan lived up to his salt-of-the-earth reputation by talking instead about his encounter with it in his second grade classroom. The sister who used it as a teaching tool delivered a reading at yesterday's service. And Archbishop Dolan thanked his mother, also in attendance, for sacrificing to send him to Catholic school, where he learned the importance of answering Christ's invitation. Overall his homily was, I thought, a sophisticated message, in spite of its folksy flavor, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from the new archbishop.
The coverage in today's Times is extensive, and includes several large photos -- including a great one of a priest using his program to shield himself from the rain as he waits to process into the cathedral. (I noticed some of the Dominicans were taking advantage of their habits' hoods for the same purpose.) The most telling detail in the main article by Paul Vitello about yesterday's proceedings is the observation that Dolan's "was the first homily at St. Patricks in recent memory that was punctuated with exclamation marks in the official transcript." Indeed, Dolan seems to punctuate nearly everything he does with an exclamation point, and a grin. I watched on television as he greeted people by name outside the Cathedral: "Hey, Steve! How's it going?... Are you all vicars? Well, thanks very much!" Whatever Cardinal Egan's virtues, he isn't known as a people person. So it's exciting -- and a little bit astonishing -- to see a bishop who takes such obvious joy in his vocation.There is also an amusing sidebar article about the preparations for Dolan's climactic knock. (In the end, a hammer was provided for the archbishop to use.) This afternoon the Mass of installation will be held in the Cathedral -- those not important enough to be invited can read along at home, using the .pdf of the program posted on the archdiocesan Web site.Oh, and good news for those of you who might have been worried that Archbishop Dolan aimed to lead the archdiocese into overt schism: after Dolan spoke to the press outside St. Patrick's on Tuesday, the New York Daily News reported, "There will be no major changes in Catholic doctrine under his watch, especially on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage." That's a relief -- New York can only take so much change at once!