Tuesday, April 5, 2005

MH - The Word is Extraordinary

If CNN's Anderson Cooper used the word once yesterday, he must have used it a score of times in describing the ceremonies surrounding the transfer of the Pope's body to St. Peter's. There's no doubt it made an impression on Anderson - the entire events surrounding the Pope's death seem to have impacted him. As Judie pointed out, "He'll leave Rome a different man than he arrived."

For those of us who believe in the pomp and ceremony of Catholic tradition, it was a confirmation of why we feel that way. For the events yesterday were spectacular - moving, emotional, ultimately uplifting. As Cooper pointed out, these traditions have been going on for centuries, and probably will continue to do so; and there's something reassuring about that, especially in an era when informality reigns supreme. He often pointed out that each and every one of these gestures and rituals means something. Again, he would use the word "extraordinary." And it was, even for those of us used to seeing it on a more regular basis - the solumn procession with John Paul's body as the Litany of the Saints was chanted, the turning of the body to face the people one last time, the blessing of the body in St. Peter's with water and incense, and the immense crowds that continue to pour in from everywhere. Yesterday was something, and at this point one can only imagine the impact of the funeral on Friday.

I don't know much about Anderson Cooper, although I've always been inclined to like him personally. I don't know what kind of impact this has all made on him, and whether or not it will last once it's all over. But this week has been a reminder of the glory and the power of the Church. It reminds me of the story once told about priests walking into the poorest neighborhoods wearing their most glorious vestments, in order to show even the poorest and most illiterate that there was something important at work here, something that merited such pomp. This whole thing is having a great effect on everyone, and I find it hard to believe that tamborines, guitars, and Kumbaya would have had the same effect.

It is the richness of the Church, of her liturgy, of her music and her tradition, that lets everyone out there know that this is about something more than a man, more than the merely visible; it's about the One who's very much present, the One who's very, very important. Doesn't He deserve our very best? He's already got John Paul, and this week He's also receiving the best we have to offer.

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