Photo: Cardinal Edward M. Egan, retired archbishop of New York, is seen greeting a member of the Knights of Columbus in this 2007 photo. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)
The following is the homily for Cardinal Edward M. Egan’s funeral Mass delivered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan today at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee!
Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world!”
“Dying He destroyed our death!
Rising, He restored our Life!”
With these ancient confessions of faith ringing in our ears, we assemble with faith in this magnificent cathedral of Saint Patrick to commend our beloved Edward Michael Cardinal Egan to the mercy of the Lord from whom he came and to whom he now returns.
For it is indeed faith which summons us here. This funeral Mass, our Catholic wisdom holds, is not about one Edward Egan, but about the one true God.
Cardinal Egan and I attended many funerals together, and he was uncomfortable with eulogies. In fact, his family shared with me the story of the funeral of the Cardinal’s own mom. As soon as the Mass was over, Cardinal Egan started down the aisle to process out. One of his nieces whispered, “Uncle Eddie, you forget that we have someone to give a eulogy.”
To which he replied, “I didn’t forget at all. Mom didn’t like eulogies. Neither does her son. Let’s go – – – “
Now, don’t get me wrong: saying wonderful things about him would not be difficult.
His family, his nieces, nephews, and cousins, for whom he had such love, and to whom all of us express condolences, could speak at length about the uncle they cherished;
My brother Cardinals – – here in such supportive numbers – – and so many brother bishops – – thank you all for your solidarity – – would add to the chorus complimenting Cardinal Egan’s leadership in the Diocese of Bridgeport, here in the archdiocese, and nationally;
The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the nuncio to the UN, could tell us glowingly of Cardinal Egan’s service to the Holy See, at the North American College, the Roman Rota, and his numerous duties to the successors of Saint Peter; thanks, archbishop Viganó and Archbishop Auza, for being with us;
His brother priests – – look at the tribute of so many today, from his home Archdiocese of Chicago, from the Diocese of Bridgeport, and, of course, from here in New York – – could each give a eulogy indeed, especially his loyal secretaries, Father Michael Jones, Monsignor Gregory Mustacioulo, Father Jeffrey Maurer, Father Brendan Fitzgerald, and Father Douglas Crawford, who anointed him at his transitus;
Our deacons, seminarians, women and men religious; the attentive archdiocesan staff, our lay faithful leaders who did not let him down in offering counsel, support, and pastoral collaboration; could all regale us with episodes of his concern and heroic efforts on behalf of parishes, charities, healthcare, schools, religious education, and communications;
Our ecumenical and inter-religious leaders, Orthodox, Jewish, Islamic and Christian, could attest to his robust camaraderie; and we thank them for their company;
Our civic and community dignitaries, our governor, our mayor, their predecessors, our police and fire commissioners, so many revered public servants whose presence means a lot this afternoon, could enthusiastically tell us of his ready ear, big shoulders, and hearty help;
and, God’s good people would step forward as well to share stories of consolation given on and after 9/11, prayers offered, sick visited, prisoners encouraged, children taught, immigrants welcomed, and parishes strengthened . . . as Bishop Dennis Sullivan documented so well at last evening’s vigil Mass.
Oh, a eulogy would be so easy and natural. . . but, he’d have none of it, and simply want us to confess our faith in God, rather than our gratitude to him, our departed Cardinal.
See, when all is said and done, his “pearl of great price” was, not his erudition, his love of music and art, his renown in canon law, his administrative acumen or distinctive preaching, his bishops’ ring or cardinals’ hat . . . but his faith in Jesus Christ, who, “by dying, destroyed our death, and by rising restored our life.”
For Edward Cardinal Egan, Jesus Christ is God from God, light from light, incarnate in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the way, the truth, and the life, the alpha and the omega, the resurrection and the life . . .
. . . who – – this Jesus Christ – – who remains alive in His Church.
When Pope Saint John Paul II would remark, as he often did, that, “Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of your lives” no one would smile more broadly, nod more vigorously, and applaud more exuberantly than Edward Egan.
Visiting the priests’ lot at one of our cemeteries, he once pointed out to me the inscription on one tombstone: Dilexit ecclesiam. He liked it, not just because it was in Latin, but because of what it said: “He loved the Church!” “What a tribute,” he commented to me.
A tribute, my friends, Edward Egan also merits, because delexit ecclesiam, he loved the Church.
And so I call him a churchman, a term that cannot be reduced to describing a man who prefers brick-and-mortar, ledgers, and an aloof institution, but a man who sees in the Church, Jesus Christ, His Lord and Savior, alive in teaching, serving and sanctifying.
Yesterday, as I enjoyed visiting with the Egan/Costello family, one of them observed, “We loved him as our uncle, and he us as his family . . . but the Church was his real family.”
Indeed, it was. He met Jesus in the Church; he learned of Jesus in the Church; he was united to Jesus in the sacraments of the Church; he served Jesus as he loved and served the children, the sick, the families, the poor, the elderly through the church; he worshipped Jesus in the Church . . . and now this Church thanks God for him and commends his noble, priestly soul to the everlasting mercy of Jesus.
In the middle of the night, I snuck over here to an empty (except for some of our ever-loyal police officers — thank you, Commissioner Bratton) and dark St. Patrick’s just to add a few more prayers to the myriad already offered for Cardinal Egan. As I gazed upon his body, as thousands of people have these last twenty-four hours, I saw on him in the casket what he treasured most: on his chest was the cross, in whose victory we trust he now shares; in his hands was his rosary, reminding me of his prayers and his trust in the Mother of Jesus; on his finger the bishop’s ring, telling us that he was married to the bride of Christ, the Church; beneath his head was his pallium, yoking him to the successor of St. Peter in Rome; and all around him were the vestments each priest wears for Mass, his most sacred duty. Those were the essentials.
When I was a boy in fourth grade, the young parish priest visited our classroom.
“Father, are you married?” asked one of the girls!
“Yes”, he replied. “I’m married to the Church!”
“Oh good,” she answered,” ‘cause that means you belong to all of us.”
Schmaltzy? Maybe . . .
True? You bet your life on it! He sure did!
“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we blessThee!
Because by Thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world!”
He loved Jesus Christ, who, “by dying, destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life!”
And, he loved the Church!