I was born and raised a Catholic, but I never did the confirmation thing as a teenager like I should have. With Dad being in the Army, we moved every year or two, certainly never more than three years in one place, so we didn’t ever really put down much in the way of roots in any one parish anywhere. And it was the seventies, when a lot of people were drifting away from the Church. And I was a typical teenagers, much more interested in girls and drugs and AOR music than some dumb old God and Jesus stuff.
So fast forward twenty-five years and part of my initial attraction to Dawn was not just that she was Catholic, but she actually went to Mass. And she invited me to go to Ash Wednesday with her. This was before we started dating proper even. And when we got engaged I wanted to go ahead and actually get confirmed, even though there wasn’t like any rule or anything that said I had to do it. But I wanted to do it.
And the whole RCIA process was incredible and great. Chris McCullough was the faith coordinator at the Cathedral at the time, and I loved him. And Michael and Barbara and Will and Bridget. And Barbara Reck, my sponsor. And the cool kids in the class of ’03 with me, Dori and James and Sam and Heather. And so come the big day, the Easter Vigil Mass, April 19, 2003, it’s Elvis himself, Cardinal McCarrick who presides and traces the cross on my forehead with the oil.
And today he celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Happy Fiftieth, your Eminence. Or, as Rocco Palmo says everyone calls you, Uncle Ted.
We got to meet him in a more personal setting an hour or so before the Mass that day we got confirmed, down in the East Conference Room. We lined up, each of us with our sponsors, and Chris presented each of us to and introduced us to the Cardinal, who gave us each an icon of St. Matthew, appropriately enough. It sits to this day on my dresser, gazing at me every morning as I get ready for work. He was a civil servant, St. Matthew was, and is the patron saint of same.
I had had a rather more personal encounter with his Eminence two days before that, actually, when I was one of the dozen whose feet he washed at the Holy Thursday Mass. It was really scary, actually, before hand. But then so very moving at the actual moment. For him and for us, it seemed to me.
And the other picture of him that I always carry with me is at the Vigil Mass on April 2, 2005, which otherwise would have been a pretty ordinary Saturday, except that His Holiness John Paul II had passed away that afternoon, a couple of hours before the Vigil Mass. So Cardinal McCarrick came to celebrate, and President Bush and the First Lady arrived as well. I certainly never expected to be in the same room, albeit a pretty big room, with the President of the United States ever in my life. Oh, hey, and certainly not this President. Not by choice by a long shot. But there I was. Praying so very hard: Thy will be done, and As we forgive those. Thy will be done. As we forgive those. Thy will be done. As we forgive those. The Cardinal was very warm and generous that day, much nicer than I’ll ever be.