When I set out to list 40 reasons why it’s cool to be Catholic I reverted to the ancient, low-tech method of using index cards. I listed each reason on its own card with the intention of sorting them in order of importance. I ran into two problems. First, over a period of a few weeks I ended up with more than 40 cards. So, if you watch carefully you’ll see that I’ve combined some of them into a single post.
My second problem was, how to present these 40 or so reasons. Do I do a “David Letterman” and list them in the order of importance, building up from number 40 to number 1? That’s worked for Letterman, and for Casey Kasem for many years. But how do you rank, for instance, Catholic Schools vs. Catholic hospitals? And, what about timely issues? I certainly don’t rank today’s reason as 39th out of 40 in importance. The Cardinal is very much in the news right now, so I put him in the 39 slot. If you know me, you can probably guess what (or who) will be number 20 on my list. That post falls on March 17. It (or he) wouldn’t seem right on any other day.
So, be aware that this list is arbitrary at best. When we get to the top 10, beginning on March 27, those will be what I consider to be the “biggies”, though you may disagree. Also, if you would like to contribute your ideas, please don’t hesitate to post a comment. Now, let’s get down to today’s business.
Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York was recently elevated to Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. You probably know that. It’s been all over the news. Even one of our local anti-Catholic television stations has been running a promo piece bragging that they had a reporter in Rome for the occasion. Cardinal Dolan is a character. And I mean that in the best possible way. From the time he was Auxiliary Bishop here in Saint Louis, it was clear that God had big things in store for him.
There’s an old Irish expression, “He can tell you to go to hell and have you looking forward to the trip.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the new Cardinal. One minute he can be walking down the streets of New York cracking jokes with the people and the next minute he can be on the phone with the President of the United States demanding that he back down from his unconstitutional mandate that Catholics pay for artificial birth control and other immoral procedures that violate our religious rights.
Right now, the Cardinal is the very visible face and voice of Roman Catholicism in the United States. And, he’s cool. He loves baseball. At the consistory he joked about the red hat of the Cardinal and the fact that he grew up as a fan of the Cardinals, the Saint Louis variety, who also wear red hats. In his homily this past Sunday he told his mother that, no, she couldn’t wear his new red hat on Easter Sunday.
I’ll admit I may be slightly prejudiced in the Cardinal’s favor since he grew up about 20 miles from where I’m sitting right now, and that he graduated from the same high school as my son. (In Saint Louis that’s a big deal. The appropriate greeting when two strangers meet in our fair city is “Where did you go to high school?” But this is a man who is unabashedly Catholic. He loves the Church and is proud to be a part of it. We could all learn from his example. And, growing up in the midwest, he has a kind of down-home personality that you don’t often see in men of his stature.
This is a guy who believes in ecumenism yet makes no apologies for his Catholic faith. At his official “welcome home” service this past weekend there were representatives of all major faith traditions. Clearly he respects them and they respect him. But, make no mistake, Timothy Cardinal Dolan is a proud Roman Catholic and we’re blessed to have him.
There have been other prominent Catholic “characters” in the history of the Church. Bishop Fulton Sheen is another one who comes to mind. Like Cardinal Dolan, the late Bishop was a very public spokesman for the Church, dominating network TV in its early years. Videos of his programs are still available both on-line and for purchase.
Our Church has a definite PR problem. Anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well, especially in the United States. We desperately need men (and women) who have a big megaphone to sing the praises of the Church that Jesus founded. We need those voices to offset prominent nominal Catholics like Joe Biden, Nancy Pollosi, Claire McCaskill, and so many others who proclaim their loyalty to the Church while publicly trashing the basic principles of our faith.
Personally, I’m proud and very grateful to have someone as cool as Timothy Cardinal Dolan speaking for my faith.