Lord of the Ring

Bishops were special. Cardinal archbishops even more so. It was 1954, the Marian Year. The place was Soldier Field, Chicago’s huge football stadium, and we were at the end of the Holy Name Holy Hour. The place was filled to capacity with thousands of devout Catholic men who had come to pray, sing, and, perhaps most important, show the Protestants of the World Council of Churches meeting at Northwestern University just how powerful the Catholics of Chicagoland were. It was a time of unapologetic triumphalism.

Being in the seminary choir, I was in a position to see Samuel Alphonsus Cardinal Stritch coming toward me, and suddenly realized he would pass within inches. It was my golden opportunity. As he passed, I could reach out, kiss his episcopal ring, and gain three hundred days indulgence! I could clearly see the huge emerald ring encrusted with diamonds. In a moment he would be near. But the stadium floodlights suddenly hit his pectoral cross, also made of large emeralds set in a frame of diamonds as it rested on his mantle of white ermine. I was blinded by the splendor of it and could easily have missed the moment, but I was not to be denied my indulgence. I grabbed his hand, bowed low, and kissed the great ring of the archbishop of Chicago, metropolitan of Illinois, and cardinal priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, cardinals were very special.

Still my cup of joy was not yet filled. When the...

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About the Author

The Reverend Willard F. Jabusch is chaplain emeritus of the University of Chicago.