Last evening I attended the opening event in a week set apart to honor the tenth anniversary of Francis Cardinal George of the Chicago Archdiocese. The event was an ecumenical gathering and one that made some deep impressions upon me personally. Several of my impressions were very positive, one not as positive. I have written a longer piece on the evening that will appear next Monday, May 7, as the ACT 3 Weekly. If you do not subscribe to this you can do so at the Web site (www.act3online.com) by filling out the request form for the free weekly mailing.
I was invited to this occasion because of my personal friendship with leaders in the Chicago Archdiocese and my ongoing dialog with Catholics as an evangelical teacher. I was happy to participate and saw absolutely no one I knew from my own world. That always feels a bit strange but I am intrigued by meeting new people and watching how other Christians, and people of non-Christian faith, express themselves in public and private. I remain a learner and thus this was an occasion for learning for me.
The evening was titled: "Gratitude for the Past, Hopes for the Future: Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. in Conversation with His Ecumenical and Inter-religious Neighbors." Christians from many backgrounds, including Greek Orthodox and various Protestants (all of whom were from the mainline and more liberal groups), and non-Christians, including Jews, Muslim and Sikhs, were present to respond and offer their greetings. The best part of the evening was Cardinal George himself, who also spoke to me very warmly even though he was obviously very tired and weak after the long evening. (He recently suffered a fall and also had major surgery last year.)
Before the event began I spent some quiet time inside the Cathedral. I looked around, prayed and silently thought about a number of things. Then I picked up the GIA Worship book in the pew. As I looked over the hymns I began to see how deeply our evangelical faith has impacted the modern worship hymns of the Catholic Church. There were ten Charles Wesley hymns, three John Newton hymns, eight Isaac Watts hymns, nine Brian Wren hymns and even four Martin Luther hymns, including a modified version of "A Mighty Fortress." What really encouraged me was the presence of one of my favorite hymns: "How Firm a Foundation." It was all there with the entire hymn unaltered. The stress on "his excellent word" being the foundation for personal faith remains.
This was a wonderful evening. Cardinal George spoke of our collective difficulties uniting us as we pursue peace in a violent new world. I was so deeply impressed that I wrote the longer piece this morning and hope you will want to read it next Monday. I welcome serious and reflective comments, both comments that agree and disagree with my own observations.