Will the Next Cardinal Die in Prison?

George Francis obitCardinal Francis George died at home in bed on April 17. This would be normal for any other 78-year-old…except for the cardinal’s prediction.

In 2012, George warned priests “what the complete secularization of our society could bring”: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/1021/cardinal.aspx

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tim-drake/the-myth-and-the-reality-of-ill-die-in-my-bed/#ixzz3ak6LDkFq

George insisted, “What I said is not ‘prophetic,’” but many of us disagree. http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/1021/cardinal.aspx

Martyr What Would You Die ForHe echoed an earlier Archbishop of Chicago who before World War II “tried his hand at reading the signs of his times. On May 18, 1937, Cardinal Mundelein,” warned how Adolf Hitler was restricting youth ministry and silencing bishops in German media. He warned, “There is no guarantee that the battle-front may not stretch some day into our own land. Hodie mihi cras tibi. (Today it’s me; tomorrow, you). If we show no interest in this matter now, if we shrug our shoulders and mutter … it is not our fight…when our turn comes, we too will be fighting alone.” http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/1021/cardinal.aspx

How can we best contend against secularization? Our best weapon against secularization is early experience with the Gospel of Christ. Cardinal George wrote, “‘The first time I thought about being a priest was my first Holy Communion, when I really came to appreciate the nature of that sacrament as much as a 7-year-old could,’ he said in a church documentary in December 2013 commemorating his 50th anniversary as a priest.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-cardinal-george-dead-20150417-story.html#page=1

George Francis Interesting Man“George was 13, not even out of grammar school, when polio struck. When he arrived at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago on crutches, eager to begin his freshman year, George was told he could not stay and likely never would be ordained.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-cardinal-george-dead-20150417-story.html#page=1 He pressed forward in discipleship and scholarship.

Secularization lost in George’s life. In his final days, he told a friend, “As I’m approaching death, my curiosity is awakened. I’m so eager to see what it’s like.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-cardinal-george-dead-20150417-story.html#page=1

As for his legacy? He himself put it best in the refrain that he repeated several times in his final homily at his last Mass as archbishop in a packed cathedral in downtown Chicago:
“‘In short,’ he told the crowd, ‘you are my legacy.’” http://www.religionnews.com/2015/04/17/chicago-cardinal-francis-george-dies-78-icon-conservatism-suddenly-favor/

Libya-21-beheaded-2015May we be a godly legacy. May the cardinal be wrong about prison and martyrdom. But this year’s news from Africa and the Middle East makes him sound prophetic.

About Ben Unseth

Executive Director at Project Understanding (2014-2017), social service agency in Ventura, CA
This entry was posted in Church, culture, leadership, public square and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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