At the end of the service, an eight-man honor guard solemnly carried O'Connor's casket through the church, allowing mourners to pray and offer a final good-bye. The church erupted in applause as the casket was taken down a narrow staircase to a crypt beneath St. Patrick's altar, where all previous archbishops of New York are buried.
O'Connor helped plan his funeral, choosing many of the songs and prayers. The music included "Ave Maria," sung by Metropolitan Opera soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, and "Lift High the Cross," the hymn sung when O'Connor was installed as head of the New York Archdiocese in 1984.
By John Mallon*
For those who missed it, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston preached at the funeral of his close friend John O'Connor, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. O'Connor was a bold and fierce preacher on the subject closest to his heart: the sanctity of human life.
The funeral, broadcast live nationwide, was attended by the president and vice president, their wives and numerous dignitaries including the mayor of New York City.
At one point in the sermon, O'Connor's hand picked homilist said, "What a great legacy he has left us in his constant reminder that the Church must always be unambiguously pro- life."
There was a beat and then applause broke out. It grew louder, increasing as the cameras fixed on the Clinton-Gore party showing them on screens throughout the cathedral. Cardinal Law attempted to quiet the crowd with his hand, when suddenly the congregation began to stand up, applauding in a wave that moved from the back of the church to the front. If it hadn't been a funeral they would have cheered. It was a defiant, pivotal moment.
Then the bishops and cardinals in the sanctuary stood up. The elder George Bush stood up applauding, as did his son somewhere off camera. The camera panned back to the Clinton- Gore party who looked bemused and bewildered.
Having no water glasses to reach for as they did in 1994 when Mother Teresa received a thunderous ovation for telling the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that there could be no peace as long as a mother could kill the child in her womb, Clinton leaned back and started whispering in Hillary's ear. Gore's face was as blank, flat and white as a sheet of paper. Behind them another abortion "rights" supporter, Rudy Giuliani, began to applaud, albeit weakly, and stood. And lest they be the only ones left seated, the Clintons and Gores lamely stood up but refrained from applauding.
It was not Cardinal Law's intent to embarrass anyone. He was merely doing his job and honoring his friend. The vehement applause came from the people.
When the applause subsided, Law quipped, "I see he hasn't left the pulpit." Even a news commentator said it was as if O'Connor himself had spoken "from beyond the grave." Even through the TV screen you could feel the presence of that humble but larger than life churchman fill St. Patrick's Cathedral one last time, driving home the message he lived.
The leaders of the free world are currently the hierarchy of the culture of death and it is difficult to know what those poll-conscious politicians took away from that anointed moment, but I have some suggestions.
Perhaps they can no longer smugly snicker up their sleeves, take the Catholic vote for granted and play us for suckers. They can no longer ridicule other Christians and pro-lifers while claiming to be "compassionate" and "for the children" as they condone scissors being driven into infants' skulls, their brains sucked out and the unborn chopped into pieces and sucked out of their mothers with industrial strength vacuum machines. They are on the wrong side of history. In no small part thanks to John O'Connor, the future belongs to life.
Well done, Cardinal O'Connor. Requiéscat in pacem.
Cardinal O'Connor was wonderful, and I think he should be canonized.
I - and thousands of other New Yorkers - used to line up on Good Friday to hear him preach on the Seven Last Words. He wasn't like Fr. Rutler, witty and elegant and scholarly, but he was incredibly orthodox and sincere and prayerful.
He was also very bold and stood up to all the New York City authorities to defend the Church and preserve its right to adhere to its own beliefs and practices. To my knowledge, Cdl Egan has not filled his shoes very well in this respect.
I used to go to the all-night Adoration at the Lady Chapel, and every so often, in the middle of the night, the Cardinal would come out to join us.
This article mentions Archbishop Timothy Dolan. He is my archbishop. I know him pretty well. I have heard the rumors that he may be headed to NYC in the space of a few years. Should that happen, our loss will be their gain.
Upon ordination at St. Charles Borromeo, his only goal was to be the pastor of a parish somewhere. He hoped to apprentice to some old wise pastor like the Barry Fitzgerald character in "Going My Way", and then take over the parish.
But his first assignment was at a school for mentally retarded children in Upper Darby. While there were different rewards in that job, it wasn't quite what he was looking for. When the Korean War broke out, O'Connor asked Cardinal Dougherty to let him join the Navy to be a chaplain. It was the key decision of his life.
O'Connor discovered that as a Navy chaplain he was pastor of a parish. Granted, his parish floated and moved around a lot, but a parish is a parish. O'Connor decided to stay in the Navy and ended up as chief chaplain of all the armed forces with the rank of Navy captain.
When he was about to retire, he sent out resumes to bishops in the hope that somewhere there was an opening for a parish pastorship where O'Connor could spend the rest of his career.
Then he got the call from Rome. They wanted him in Scranton-Wilkes Barre -- as a bishop.
The rest is history.
Thanks a lot NYer!
I am starting my morning with your post.
Now I have to keep my door closed for a few minutes so I can regain my composure.