February 22, 2014

Rome: Day 2, the big day

Today was the day.  Today, Gerald Lacroix, the son of a lumberjack, an immigrant to the United States, a Trinity High School Pioneer, a pastor, and a shepherd became a cardinal.  The consistory (it wasn't a Mass) was held inside St. Peter's Basilica and of course presided over by Pope Francis.

The day began at 7am with a quick breakfast here in the Motherhouse.  Mr. and Mrs. Henning and I then walked over to the Metro stop and took the subway to St. Peter's Square.  The consistory didn't begin until 11am but we arrived around 8am and the line was already down the square.  I had heard horror stories of people, even those with tickets, not getting into past consistories because of the crush of people.  But thankfully we got in and had decent seats.

What has struck me about Rome is the universality of the Church.  In front us in line was a priest from Haiti, next to us at the consistory were folks from London, there is a huge group of people from Burkina Faso staying here at Casa La Salle, and everywhere you walk you hear a different language being spoken (mostly Italian of course!).

Around 10:30am, we saw Archbishop Lacroix walk down the main aisle of St. Peter's.  As I saw him I wondered if he was thinking that he is walking into this 600 year old basilica to take his place in the 1,000 year old College of Cardinals.  It must be so humbling to know that he is playing such a prominent role in such an ancient Church.  I am always humbled when I walk into a place like St. Peter's and see and feel the history.  

The consistory was fairly simple - an opening prayer, a gospel reading, a homily by Pope Francis, and then the creation of the 19 cardinals.  Each one approached the pope and knelt down.  The pope then placed a red biretta on their heads, a ring on their fingers, and a scroll with the name of their titular church in Rome.  Each cardinal is the honorary head of a parish in Rome and while he has no real power or oversight of the parish, it is a nice way to connect the cardinals with the Diocese of Rome.  Cardinal Lacroix was assigned St. Joseph all'Aurelio.

Following the consistory, we all headed over to the Canadian Pontifical College for a nice reception.  There, Cardinal Lacroix offered some remarks during which he seamlessly transitioned from French, English, and Spanish.  A few us then walked over to the hotel where the priests from Manchester are staying and chatted and relaxed.  We then headed back to St. Peter's for a sort of open house.  Every time there is a consistory, the Apostolic Palace is opened to the public and the cardinals greet everyone who comes.  The line was long and it took us over an hour to get in but it was so worth it.  We got to see the Sala Regia which is a series of halls with breathtaking artwork.  One of the hallways is the entrance to the Sistine Chapel and while we saw the door leading to it, it was not opened.  There were a number of cardinals there including the new secretary of state and the new head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Many cardinals, including Cardinal Lacroix, were in the Pope Paul VI hall which is separate from the Apostolic Palace.  We didn't greet any of the cardinals as the lines were just too enormous.

We all broke off around 6:30pm and I came back to the Motherhouse.  Today is Mrs. Henning's birthday and she went out to dinner with her husband.  They kindly invited me too but I was dreaming of going to sleep (I actually did dream a little during the consistory I am sorry to say, I was so tired that after Cardinal Lacroix became a cardinal, I drifted off while the others were made cardinals!).  I am also sorry to say that I stopped at the McDonald's that is right down the street from where we are staying.  I wasn't very hungry but I knew I wanted something and when I saw McDonald's, a hamburger and fries sounded so good.  I know...I should be shunned for eating McDonald's when in Rome.

Now I think I am going to read a little and go right to sleep.  It's not even 8:30pm but my eyes are getting so heavy.  Much more to come...

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