Sr Barbara and I spent the day at Maria High School, assisted by the intrepid volunteer Joseph (God bless you with that hundredfold, Joseph!), as we ran a book exhibit for the Catholic leadership day. For me one of the highlights was standing in the high school cafeteria, eating my packaged lunch and listening to Cardinal George at his best: responding to questions submitted to him on index cards. He would pick up a card, read the question aloud and just give an off the cuff, but highly nuanced (and usually really witty) answer. Among other things, he called for "more intelligent public conversation," saying that the nature of the news media is to focus on controversy, on opposition, on conflict itself rather than on the ideas. We as Catholics have to learn not to feed into that or be limited by that!
The inevitable question about women's ordination came up: how long before we see this (if ever)? The Cardinal explained that in the reformation communities, ministry is a function, a service, but in Catholicism, we do not have a sacrament of ministry, but a sacrament of Orders. And sacraments are not about functions, but about signs. The "sign language" of Orders is meant to communicate the presence of Christ the Bridegroom. The Church doesn't have the possibility of altering this embedded meaning. Then he took a very interesting cultural approach. In every age and culture, the Church has taken on much of the cultures it has entered, but there have also and always been aspects of the culture that the Church could not assimilate. For us Americans, absolute equality of access to anything by anyone has become not just a value but is assumed as an absolute right. We may not like it, the Cardinal said, but the fact remains that Jesus was not an American... And in this very counter-cultural area of the limiting of ordination to men, we have to remember, he said, that the real "hierarchy" in the Church is that of holiness. "When I get to heaven," the Cardinal said, "a few years after I die..." (I don't think too many people caught that wry aside)... We were all baptized for this, and we all have "equal access" to the means of grace. Do we take advantage of that access? Do we make the most of it?
Tomorrow Sr Martha will return to Boston, and Sr Raymond Marie (another singer!) will come to Chicago to help out for a few weeks. We are looking forward to Sr Lusia's return after her cancer treatments (looking good), but in the meantime it is delightful having our sisters take turns helping us to keep the doors open. Thanks, Sisters!