The Cardinal’s Column
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
May 12 - May 25, 2013
Lourdes and Chicago: services and community
Cardinal George’s Schedule
- May 12: 12:30 p.m., Mass for Expectant Mothers, Holy Name Cathedral
- May 13: 3:30 p.m., Finance Council Meeting and Reception, Quigley Center
- May 14: 9:30 a.m., Presbyteral Council General Meeting, DePaul University O'Hare Campus; 6 p.m., Catechetical & Youth Ministries Awards Banquet, Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
- May 15: 10 a.m., College of Consultors' Meeting, Quigley Center; noon, Episcopal Council Meeting, Residence
- May 16: 6 p.m., The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Canterbury Medal Dinner, New York
- May 17: 6 p.m., Confirmation Liturgy, Seven Holy Founders Parish, Calumet Park
- May 18: 10 a.m., Priesthood Ordination, Holy Name Cathedral; 4:30 p.m., 125th Anniversary Mass, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
- May 19: 9:30 a.m., 50th Anniversary Mass, Holy Ghost Parish, South Holland; 2:15 p.m., Permanent Diaconate Ordination, Holy Name Cathedral
- May 20: 1 p.m., Administrative Council Meeting, Quigley Center; 7 p.m., Adult Confirmation, Holy Name Cathedral
- May 21: 5:30 p.m., The Lumen Christi Institute Great Books Seminar, Chicago Club
- May 23: 12:15 p.m., Vocation Office Donor Luncheon, Quigley Center
- May 23-24: The Lumen Christi Institute Conference on Economics and Catholic Social Thought, Park Hyatt Hotel, Chicago
- May 25: 11 a.m., Mass Celebrating The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence 100 Years of Service in the United States, St. Pascal; 5 p.m., Mass, Notre Dame de Chicago Parish
Cardinal George approved the following clergy appointment April 9. All appointments are effective immediately:
Rev. Msgr. Michael Adams, senior priest and resident of Christ the King Parish, South Hamilton, to administrator of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, Oak Lawn.
This week I have been privileged to be part of the annual pilgrimage of the Order of Malta to the Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes, France. Lourdes is a small town in the mountains on the border between France and Spain. Its place in the history of salvation comes from the Blessed Mother’s appearance there to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Mary told Bernadette that she is “the Immaculate Conception.” Sinless herself, the Blessed Virgin expressed a mother’s concern for the effects of sin in the lives of all her children. She told St. Bernadette to wash in a spring that was underground until Bernadette used her hands to scoop out dirt from the floor of the cave where Mary appeared. The Blessed Mother also asked that a church be built where all could come and experience the mercy of God for sinners. The healing of souls and the healing of bodies is what Lourdes makes visible and available in a sinful world. It is a city entirely ordered to the care of the sick, whether physically or spiritually sick.
The Order of Malta is much older than the Shrine at Lourdes. It traces its history back many centuries to the hospital of St. John in Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades. Jerusalem had been captured by Muslim forces, but Christians continued to come, with great difficulty and in great danger, to visit the places made holy by Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. An order of monks created a hospital for sick pilgrims. It became a military Order to protect Christians in the hospital and in the city itself and in the Holy Land and the Mediterranean basin. A small group of laymen who have professed the vows of religion and a convent of contemplative Sisters in Malta are now the nucleus of a large network of honorary Knights and Dames of Malta around the world. They care for the sick and the poor and are dedicated to defending the faith. Because they are an active group in our archdiocese, they invited me not only to join the Order but to come with them on pilgrimage to Lourdes. The shrine brings together the special orientations of the Order of Malta and the expressed concerns of Our Lady when she appeared to St. Bernadette.
The pilgrimage is well-planned and deepens the spiritual life of those who take part in it, whether they come as sick people or their caregivers. The sick need special services, and these are generously and skillfully provided. Since the services are given in a spirit of faith and love, a community quickly forms among all those who have come on pilgrimage, whether or not they had previously known each other. Services can be provided according to needs and as part of the institutional structure of the shrine. Community, however, depends upon the personal relationships that are formed in the course of praying together and caring for one another. Services of themselves are just functions set up to respond to particular needs. Services done in faith and love, however, are the foundation of a community that unites people to one another and to God. The services could be bought; the community is a grace.
Just before I left Chicago to go on pilgrimage, many ministers of religion presented a public case for not taxing water that had previously been provided freely to small churches, parishes, mosques and synagogues. Taxes of tens of thousands of dollars would destroy many of these religious centers, for the power to tax is the power to destroy. What would be destroyed? The case is usually made in terms of free social services provided by these communities of faith, and it is a very strong case. What should be said more insistently, however, is that these services are provided within communities of faith and love. If these communities disappear, the texture of what is left of common life in the city will be irreparably weakened.
Many of these churches, parishes, synagogues and mosques exist in food deserts and medical deserts. Grocery stores and medical centers are largely gone from these neighborhoods. Sometimes the only institutions left are the church or the parish, the mosque or the synagogue. People who would otherwise be isolated in their homes are part of faith communities whose members visit them and care for them. If someone needs a ride to a food pantry or to a doctor in another neighborhood for health care, it is a person from the faith community who knows of the need and provides the service. If these faith communities disappear, people will be trapped and abandoned. Government can provide services; it cannot create community. Faith communities do both.
I left Chicago with water on my mind. I came to Lourdes, where water is an instrument of healing. Water sustains physical life. In our baptismal fonts and holy water containers, in the baths at Lourdes, water is used by God, through the prayers of the Virgin Mary, to sustain both physical and spiritual life. Water is a gift from God as an essential element of creation, along with earth, fire and air. Their communal use has to be sensibly regulated by governments that serve their people. But water is always more, symbolically and spiritually, than government can understand. That “more” is clear in Lourdes and should be recognized by fair taxation in Chicago, with regulations that respect and strengthen the communities of our people. I prayed for you at Lourdes. God bless you.