Yesterday we experienced a change in our Archdiocese. A new man sits upon the Cathedra to preach Christ by his life and his words.
“Getting to know each other is a great adventure. Our life together is part of the story of salvation, which God continues even into our own time. Mary didn’t expect the Annunciation. She didn’t expect to be mother of the Redeemer. And yet her act of obedience changed the course of history and led to a new covenant of love and fruitfulness. I have no illusions of being worthy of this ministry, but I do trust in the wisdom of the Holy Father. So I’m deeply grateful for his confidence and the privilege of serving this Church.”
The Cathedral-Basilica was crowded with all sorts of people who came here to witness the transfer of service from Cardinal Justin Rigali to Archbishop Charles Chaput. It was hot and every once in a while a cool breeze blew over my face. I had a good seat. I thought, after thirty years, I actually get to see what’s happening. I was first row center. Usually I am tucked back behind the Altar or in the last pew or even sitting aside the last side altar in the back of the Cathedral. But not today, I was seeing it all. I needed to see it. I needed to see two men, like any of us, having been called by God, with their particular gifts, with their own talents and weaknesses, still doing what God has called them to do.
Cardinal Rigali has served the Church since his college days in Rome. He knows nothing else but the mind of the Church and yet yesterday It was happening to him again; the Holy Spirit was directing his life ever fresh and ever new and he responded by surrendering his will to God’s. I watched as he removed the pallium given to him by the Blessed John Paul II and reverently hand it over to his assistant for safe keeping. I was moved by this simple gesture of surrender.
Archbishop Charles Chaput comes from another America. He comes from the West into a specific northeastern culture which I know seems rushed and hectic and to some rude. Philadelphia was at one time known for its sophistication and grace, yet somehow there are parts of it losing itself in a rawness that is painful not ever becoming. But he comes and is excited to be with us. And I am excited that he is here! Philadelphia has so much to offer the Church and She has a willingness to open her mind and heart to the ever abiding presence of God in our lives.
It will be a challenge for all of us as we get to know each other and come to understand where he desires us to go. The Archbishop said, “I love you,” and when he says that he means Jesus loves us. He wants so much to be our Shepherd. I know that he is a human being, like any of us, called by God to serve the Church and that’s ok by me! I promise him like I did Cardinal Rigali, Cardinal Bevilacqua and Cardinal Krol – my obedience, my faithfulness and my life. Whatever worth I have is up to God and I leave it up to Him to use as best he knows how. I am willing to go on this great adventure with him. AD MULTOS ANNOS!