I met our Archbishop!

My daughter is a senior at a local Catholic high school. Last week she and other students were recognized for their academic achievements in the prior semester. We are proud of her as always, but I do not usually attend these things, as she has had a continuous string of them from the beginning.

I felt that my attendance at this one was important as it would be her last since she graduates at the end of this semester. The school always sends a nice invitation. It said simply:

Please join us for Mass
Honoring Principal’s List
and
Deans’s List Recipients
Thursday, January 21,2010
9:15 a.m.
Reception immediately following Mass

We left in plenty of time, but it rained hard that morning. When that happens, traffic around here always gets really slow and backed-up. Sitting in traffic, as the minutes ticked by, I began to estimate that we could not possibly be there on time. Maybe our attendance just wasn’t meant to be, but we went this far so we persisted. We got to the school only a few minutes early, quickly picked-up passes at the office and rushed off to the gym. We made it there a little wet and a little flustered but right on time and went in.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there to greet us. The lobby was fairly empty at that moment except for two priests assigned to the school and a calm, distinguished gentleman in bishop vestments including an amaranth red zucchetto (skull cap). It was Archbishop Wilton Gregory, personally greeting the arriving parents.

In that moment I was a little startled…   and unprepared. I was trying to think quick and remember how to address a bishop. “Your Excellency” would have been correct, but even “Father” is appropriate. I must have looked dazed – like a deer in headlights – so Archbishop Gregory simply shook my hand and said in a confident but gentle voice, “good morning.” The best I could offer was “good morning” in reply, but I could tell that was OK. I suppose this happens often when people meet him.

Archbishop Gregory celebrated the Mass. He is a very good speaker and delivered a powerful homily. One unusual part was the Eucharistic Prayer. I never thought about this before, but usually the celebrant will say “We offer them for Benedict our Pope, for {name of Bishop} our bishop, and for all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles. That would not fit when the celebrant is the bishop! Archbishop Gregory simply said at that point “for me, your unworthy servant.”

I was thrilled to meet Archbishop Gregory and delighted to attend a Mass at which he presided. The thing that impressed me the most, however, was that this bishop from the unbroken line of bishops originating with the apostles selected by Jesus, took the time in our large archdiocese, to visit one of our many schools and personally handout academic awards. At the dismissal he made all the students quite happy by saying “Don’t worry, I didn’t forget — whenever your Archbishop visits you get a free day!”

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