Friday, April 24, 2015

"What We Have Given Away:" The Funeral of Francis Eugene George

Friday greetings to all.

As I said in Tuesday's post, my plan was to pay my final respects to Cardinal George on Wednesday. So, after reading the schedule of events on the Chicago Archdiocesan web site, I rushed home, ran to the bus, then got on a train and arrived at the cathedral a few minutes after 6:00 P.M. The schedule of events had said that public viewing would take place until 6:30 P.M. I climbed the steps of the cathedral, only to be told that the doors were now closed and that a "ticketed event" would occur at 7:00. I calmly told the person that the Archdiocesan official schedule said otherwise, but there was no way that any of us were going to be allowed in. "You can come back at 9:00 when public viewing continues through the night." So, instead of paying my respects in the cathedral, I toasted the Cardinal with a glass of Cabernet at a local Italian restaurant not far from his residence and ate a nice bowl of mushroom risotto.

Late that afternoon, I had been asked by the owner of our company if I wanted to accompany her to the cathedral the next morning; she had an extra ticket for the funeral. So, at least I knew that I would be able to pay my respects more formally the next day.

I arrived at the cathedral for the Noon funeral at about 10:15, in order to stand in line. As I stood in line, I looked across State Street and saw a sign, indicating that that particular portion of State Street had been named in honor of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Difficult to read, but here is the photo I took of that sign.

The memories of Cardinal Bernardin flooded across my mind. Two very different shepherds; two very different eras in Chicago, American, and global Catholic history.

When we finally entered the cathedral, we were fortunate enough to be seated in the seventh pew; the Cardinal's body was still in full view. I sat there and gazed at his remains and prayed hard for him and for his sister, Margaret, and his family.

The funeral was simple. There were cardinals, archbishops, bishops, ecumenical leaders, the governor, the mayor, the city council, the chief of police and the fire department commissioner; there were hundreds of priests and deacons; the cathedral was packed. Yet, it was a simple funeral. Archbishop Sartain's homily was moving and painted an accurate picture of Cardinal George. He quoted the Cardinal and this was the heart of the homily: "The only thing we take with us when we die is what we have given away." I think these words will stay with me for a very long time. I sat there and asked myself, "What is it that I have given away in my life here on earth?"

The music was superb; the congregation's chanting and singing filled the cathedral. Two very poignant moments for me: 1. The singing of the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem. It was sung just before the introductory rites began. The single soprano voice coming from the choir loft was sublime. Very moving; 2. Following the final hymn, those priests whom the Cardinal had ordained the last time he was the celebrant at the ordination here in Chicago came forward to escort the casket down the aisle of the cathedral one last time. As the casket began to move, the choir sang Ecce Sacerdos. I had to catch my breath.

You can see the entire funeral Mass here, via CatholicTV.

After exiting the cathedral, I looked back and this was the view.

I am grateful for the life and ministry of Francis Eugene George. May he rest in peace.

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem,
Dona eis Domine, sempiternam requiem.

Blessed Jesus, Lord, I pray in your mercy O grant them rest.
Blessed Lord Jesus, I pray in your mercy grant them everlasting rest.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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