30 September 2014

Card. George: Opening Tolton's Cause "one of the most important - if not the most important - events" in my time as Archbishop of Chicago

His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago said yesterday that opening the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant ofGod Father Augustus Tolton is “one of the most important - if not the most important – events” of his seventeen years as the chief shepherd of the Windy City.

He made his remarks in the St. James Chapel of The Quigley Center in downtown Chicago during a ceremony Monday afternoon in which the various documents pertaining to the research into the life and virtues of the first black priest in the United States of America were bound and sealed with the official seal of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The official sealing of the documents by the Cardinal Archbishop testifies to the Holy See that the dossier contains, as Bishop Perry explained, “authentic and exact copies of the original documents.” The seals on each package will not be broken until done so by officials in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Today’s closing ceremony, as it were, brings to completion the Diocesan phase of the investigation first begun on February 24, 2011. The dossier will soon be sent to the Apostolic Nuncio who will dispatch it to the Congregation in Rome in diplomatic pouch. Naturally, I offered to take the dossier myself to the Congregation; my offer was not accepted because the Nuncio is expecting it. Fair enough.

Father Tolton’s Cause will soon rest with the Postulator in Rome, who will have the task of compiling a positio on the life and virtues of Father Tolton to be presented to the Holy Father. Should the His Holiness be convinced that Father Tolton lived a life of “heroic virtue,” he will issue a letter declaring Father Tolton “Venerable” by reason of his heroic virtue. If he so decides, we will then await the recognition of a miracle before he can be beatified by Mother Church.

A spirit of great joy filled the chapel as clergy, religious, and lay faithful began filling the chapel. When I arrived thirty minutes prior to the beginning of the ceremony, I was pleased to see the chapel already 1/3 filled and surprised that Bishop Perry reserved a seat for me in the first pew, right on the aisle.

PHOTO: C. Vanessa White
The ceremony, which took place within the context of Midday Prayer of the Feast of the Archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, began with the singing of“Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” the final verse of which was sung with deep emotion and audible gratitude:
O friends, in gladness, let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia, alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Alleluia, alleluia!
Following the reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel, Cardinal George thanked His Excellency the Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, for his “thorough, quiet, and very effective” work as Diocesan Postulator of the Cause.

Bishop Perry referred to Father Gus as a “shining example of perseverance” who “showed us how to handle setbacks … with our love intact.” By looking to the example of this “humble but courageous” priest, the local churches of Chicago, Springfield, and Jefferson City, he said, “have been brought closer to holiness.”

The simple ceremony was, of itself, not much to see, but the symbolism of the what the act of binding and sealing represented was deeply moving and filled my heart with joy and gratitude for the gift of such an example of priestly life.

His Eminence and some of the officials of the Cause had a few final documents to sign to finalize the Diocesan investigation.

These last documents were then inserted into the acts of the Cause:

The two packages of documents were then bound in red ribbon and stamped with the seal of the Archdiocese:

After the two packages were stamped with the seal, Bishop Perry held one up for the view of the faithful, who applauded with great happiness and hope for a swift beatification and canonization of Quincy's first citizen.

Once the final documents were signed and the all of the documents sealed, we prayed the official prayer for Father Tolton’s Cause:
O God,
we give you thanks for your servant and priest,
Father Augustus Tolton,
who labored among us in times of contradiction,
times that were both beautiful and paradoxical.
His ministry helped lay the foundation
for a truly Catholic gathering in faith in our time.
We stand in the shadow of his ministry.
May his life continue to inspire us
and imbue us with that confidence and hope
that will forge a new evangelization for the Church we love.

Father in heaven,
Father Tolton’s suffering service sheds light upon our sorrows;
we see them through the prism of your Son’s passion and death.
If it be your will, O God,
glorify your servant, Father Tolton,
by granting the favor I now request through his intercession

(pause here to mention your need in silence)

so that all may know the goodness of this priest
whose memory looms large in the Church he loved.

Complete what you have begun in us
that we might work for the fulfillment of your kingdom.
Not to us the glory,
but glory to you, O God, through Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord;
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are our God, living and reigning forever and ever. Amen.

We then concluded the ceremony with Father Tolton’s favorite hymn, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”

After all is said and done, I can honestly say that I am very glad I decided to attend yesterday's ceremony, brief and simple though it was.

Tomorrow I will return to Rome and then return to Assisi to celebrate the Holy Mass and Friday and Saturday morning for a group of American pilgrims. My classes at the Pontifical Gregorian University begin on Monday.

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