The usher who hands me the music leaflet directs me to the center aisle where the Cardinal is greeting folks before Mass. I make sure to go and say hello, for any number of reasons. First, because the proper form of address for him is Eminence. How often do you get to say, “Good morning, your Eminence?” Second, I really honestly like him. Finally, he is the one after all who confirmed me, who made the sign of the cross on my forehead with oil with his thumb, and he washed my foot once, so I kinda know him, although he meets like a million people a day so he doesn’t especially remember me, but still. It’s nice to say hello and shake his hand. Monsignor is next to him, and I give Monsignor a big hug.
But since it’s the Cardinal, the Mass is in English, not Latin. Which normally would disappoint me a little bit, since we go to the Latin Mass because it’s the Latin Mass. But the new Archbishop is being installed on Thursday, so this is Cardinal McCarrick’s last Mass at the Cathedral, or rather at his Cathedral, from his seat, before it becomes someone else’s. So it’s nice and bittersweet and our chance to say goodbye to each other.
He doesn’t make any grand pronouncements or farewells during his homily. He talks about hunger and thirst, and spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied by the Lord. Good, basic stuff. But he does it from the way high up pulpit, rather than the normal ambo, so it’s something of a special occasion. I’ve only seen him up there once before.
(But it’s certainly not his last Mass ever or anything. He’ll still be a priest and a Cardinal.)
The readings are all blood and covenants. First is from Exodus, where Moses reads the covenant of the Lord and splashes the blood of the sacrificed animals over the altar and then over the people. Then Paul tells us, if the blood of goats and bulls can sanctify then how much more will the blood of Christ, and, “for this reason he is mediator of a new covenant.” In the Gospel, from St. Mark, Christ establishes this feast day: “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
So in the Responsorial Psalm we sing, from Psalm 116, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.” I especially like one line that the choir sings: “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
It seems so primeval. But the Psalms are from like three thousand years ago, so, yeah, primeval.
But, then again, it doesn’t say that the Lord is pleased by the death of the faithful. It says that they, or their deaths, are precious.
Okay, whatever that means.
Surely it must be better to die as one of the faithful, rather than without faith. Surely the death of the unfaithful isn’t precious. And it doesn’t say that the life and the faith of the faithful isn’t precious, either.
But then it dawns on me that maybe I should go and read the whole Psalm itself, to see what this means in context. And darn it if the translation isn’t different at the USCCB website for the NAB. They’ve got it as “too costly” rather than “precious.” That’s a whole different thing.
“Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his
I feel like Emily Litella. “Never mind.”
And the recessional hymn is once again Alleluia! Sing to Jesus, again with the Hyfrydol tune. It’s clearly either one of the Cardinal’s favorites or at least Bill Culverhouse’s. (Bill’s the Cathedral’s Director of the Schola Cantorum.) As they’re marching out, the lectors and Eucharistic ministers and altar servers and Monsignor and Father Hurley and the Cardinal himself, some brave soul in the nave starts applauding for Cardinal McCarrick. And I’m so glad, as everyone starts applauding, as I join in applauding too and never would have had the guts to start by myself. And the Cardinal is clearly moved by our display, and then I’m very moved by it all as well, by him and us, that he’s so great, and that I’ll really miss him.