Above: Cardinal Bernardin
Fair Use Image
JOSEPH LOUIS BERNARDIN (APRIL 2, 1928-NOVEMBER 14, 1996)
Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago
It has been a great privilege to know a very great man.
–Retired Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, 1996
Joseph Bernardin was a famous and respected cleric. Shortly before he died, he spoke with the President of the United States. The Governor of Illinois and the Vice President of the United States attended his funeral Mass. Bernardin had made quite an impression.
Bernardin rose from humble origins. His parents were poor Italian immigrants; his father earned a modest income working in a quarry. Our saint, born at Columbia, South Carolina, on April 2, 1928, grew up in a predominantly Protestant culture of that state. In 1946 his family was still so poor that his mother made the suit he wore to apply to study for the priesthood. Bernardin studied theology at Baltimore and at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Our saint, ordained to the priesthood in 1952, served as a priest in Charleston, South Carolina. During 14 years he rose through the ranks in the diocese, serving in administrative posts. In 1966, at the age of 38 years, Bernardin became the Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta and the youngest bishop in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
Bernardin’s rise through the ranks continued. From 1968 to 1972 he served as the General Secretary of the National Council of Catholic Bishops. Subsequently he was the Archbishop of Cincinnati (1972-1982), the President of the National Council of Catholic Bishops (1974-1977), Archbishop of Chicago (1982-1996), and a member of the College of Cardinals (1983-1996). Our saint took his faith into the public square. He, among other actions, opposed President Nixon’s bombing campaign in Vietnam, articulated the theology of the Seamless Garment of Life, and worked on The Challenge of Peace, the National Council of Catholic Bishop’s 1983 pastoral letter declaring nuclear war morally unjustifiable.
Bernardin had to endure public humiliation and suffering in the 1990s. In 1993 Steven J. Cook sued Bernardin for sexual molestation that allegedly occurred 17 years prior. The following year Cook dropped the lawsuit, citing unreliable memories. Bernardin, who had always insisted upon his innocence, stated publicly that the matter had proven humiliating but that he harbored no ill feelings toward Cook, who stated that he wished the Cardinal the best. The following year Bernardin received the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He followed the advice of Pope John Paul II:
Offer your suffering to the world.
Bernardin ministered to other cancer patients and made himself vulnerable to the public. He died on November 14, 1996, aged 68 years.
Bernardin was certainly a man of God.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
FEBRUARY 12, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A
THE FEAST OF ABSALOM JONES, RICHARD ALLEN, AND JARENA LEE, EVANGELISTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS
THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREER ANDREWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST
THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF MICHAEL WEISSE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR; AND JAN ROH, BOHEMIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER
Almighty God, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church,
including your servant Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.
May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,
so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35
1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21
John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60
Above: South African President F. W. de Klerk with Nelson Mandela, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993
Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16052
NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA (JULY 18, 1918-DECEMBER 5, 2013)
President of South Africa and Renewer of Society
I have added a host of “new” saints with feast day in December to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days recently, but I have reserved Nelson Mandela until the end of this round of saints for December. (One of the advantages of maintaining my own calendar of saints is that I have complete editorial control of it.) To save the best for last is a good policy. The process of adding to the Ecumenical Calendar will go on hiatus after this post, and I want a major, contemporary saint to be the first holy person a person comes across when scrolling down the page until I begin to add “new” saints with feast days in January again. (I have twelve monthly lists of names to consider.)
In the great majority of posts in this genre I provide more personal details than I do in this one. This time, however, I choose to include links to sources for those details and to focus instead on some targeted reflections related to Mandela.
Nelson Mandela Foundation
World Methodist Council
Apartheid was a brutal and unjust system in the Republic of South Africa. The national government deprived the majority population of civil rights and liberties. It also persecuted even nonviolent activists for social justice. Racism was one reason for these policies. Some people were simply callous bastards. Other reasons for these policies were the desire to retain power and the fear that a politically empowered majority African population might take revenge on the minority White population. Those fears of revenge were predictable. Indeed, movements of national liberation have not always led to peace and reconciliation. Nevertheless, injustice is wrong at all times and places, and fear is no excuse for not respecting the image of God in other people.
Nelson Mandela struggled for social justice. For a time, as part of that effort, he approved of violence. Perhaps that was the only option the South African government left him for a while. I choose to refrain from judging Mandela for that tactic, for I am in no position to do otherwise. Far be it for me, one who has never lived under such an oppressive system, to judge those who have and who have resisted! I do not know what decisions I would have made in their circumstances. I do know, however, that my liberal tendency to oppose oppressive regimes and to support oppressed people renders me amenable to those who struggle for the recognition of their human dignity, which those in authority deny. Slave rebellions make sense to me, after all. Will the slaveholders emancipate the slaves if the slaves ask nicely? The historical record does not indicate that they are inclined to do so.
Mandela, a Christian (a Methodist, to be precise), became a peacemaker. The man, who, as a high-profile political prisoner, negotiated the terms of his release with President F. W. de Klerk, served as President from 1994 to 1999. Then, unlike, many national leaders in Africa, he retired from office willingly. Post-Apartheid South Africa featured no reign of vengeance. No, President Mandela sought to united the diverse, divided population.
When Mandela died in December 2013 tributes to him in the United States were bipartisan. Many of those who praised him were former critics. However, many people on the conservative end of the political spectrum remained critical of the great man. These criticisms were relics of the Cold War. During the Cold War the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa were allies against Communists. (The Cold War made for some uncomfortable and unfortunate alliances. Frequently the U.S.A. allied itself with brutal governments.) The Cold War also became an obstacle to seeking social justice in South Africa. President Ronald Reagan, a firm opponent of the Soviet Union, told Archbishop Desmond Tutu to his face in the 1980s that the majority population of South Africa would have to wait for its freedom. With the government of the United States allied with the government of South Africa and labeling the African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization, many South African dissenters found allies which dismayed the U.S. government and confirmed it in its distrust of the ANC. But what if the U.S.A. had allied itself with those seeking freedom in South Africa instead of those who seeking to deny it? What is the value of boasting of high ideals without living them?
Mandela was an agent of God, social justice, and national reconciliation. The human race needs more people like him.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
AUGUST 2, 2015 COMMON ERA
PROPER 13: THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B
THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOANNA, MARY, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION
O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,
and to give his life for the life of the world.
Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world
offers no comfort and little help.
Through us give hope to the hopeless,
love to the unloved,
peace to the troubled,
and rest to the weary,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60