Saturday, March 19, 2011

First in the hearts

It was a splendid occasion this week when our Archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl, came to confirm our young people on Tuesday evening. The kids acquitted themselves splendidly under his scrutiny – that is, they stood up and answered all of his questions. Their parents and catechists had obviously prepared them well, so now they are fully initiated Christians, since the Holy Spirit is unstinting with His gifts.

It also turns out that this was first Confirmation that Cardinal Wuerl has ever done – that is, his first Confirmation since becoming a Cardinal last November. That is something this class of confirmati can always remember, and I can assure you, it is something the Cardinal will remember. Because it was obvious that he also remembers the first pastor of a parish he installed as Archbishop of Washington. That was….yours truly, here at Saint Bernadette. Five years ago, after he became Archbishop in June, in September he came here.

That is two big firsts in his life, both for Saint Bernadette. Of course, I wouldn’t dare suggest that we are the Cardinal’s favorite parish, no sirree bob. Well, maybe a little. Rather, I suggested to him that perhaps it does indicate that the strength of our affection for him is first among the parishes in the whole Archdiocese.

While we are on the subject of cardinals, which most of you know have figured more prominently in my life than for most people, let me tell you something about Cardinal William Baum, for whom I was secretary from 2002 - 2005. He was Archbishop here from 1973 to 1980, before moving on to serve the Holy Father in Rome until only recently. He has been rather “low profile” for the last several decades, but his work for the Church Universal, and on behalf of the Church in the US, has been vital.

As of last weekend, he is now the longest-serving cardinal in the history of the United States, surpassing Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, who died in 1920 after more than thirty-four years of service. In May of this year, he will mark two more milestones; first, he celebrates his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination, and then he marks his 35th anniversary of being created Cardinal. I feel like such a neophyte whenever I talk to him!

He has participated in many important events in the Church and the world, not least three Papal conclaves. Catholic author, papal biographer, and good friend of mine George Weigel wrote his weekly column about Cardinal Baum, which you can find online here: If you would be interested to know more about this magnificent churchman with whom I spent some years of my life, and learn some history in the process, you will enjoy this article.

On a more painful subject, I have been watching along with you the drama that is unfolding in Japan over the past week. The destruction and the danger are breathtaking, and we feel for our Japanese brothers and sisters. But I think we could also be inspired by the self-control which they have shown even in the face of such privation and chaos, revealing that so much of our dignity lies in choosing how we respond to events we cannot control.

It is vital that we help. Because of that, we will hold a second collection this weekend to help them, through the effective ministrations of Catholic Relief Services. But even greater than that is the help that we offer when we engage in prayer for them, making our sacrifices for them, and bringing to them the help that can only come from God. May He bless you with perseverance in this and all your prayer.

Monsignor Smith

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