Cardinal leaves legacy of faith, courage, wisdom Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Apr. 23, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Cardinal Francis E. George

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World

Cardinal Francis George
Role of faith in his life

He soon learned that self-pity got him nowhere. “Faith was the way out, because in faith I was not alone, and good can come of something that appears bad at that time,” he said during a catechesis session at World Youth Day in Germany in 2005.

A native of Chicago, Francis George decided he wanted to become a priest. However, he was rejected by the Chicago archdiocesan seminary because of his disability.

Instead, he enrolled in an Oblate seminary in Belleville, Ill., and entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1957. He was ordained a priest of that order in 1963 at his home parish in Chicago.

Bringing Christ’s love

As a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, I met Cardinal George and talked with him a number of times. He was the grand prior of the North Central Lieutenancy of the order, which includes Wisconsin.

Cardinal George was always cordial and willing to chat with anyone, including me and my husband.

I would often take pictures of him at Equestrian Order meetings. Even though standing for photo sessions was not comfortable for him, Cardinal George would always try to accommodate the people wanting to take photographs. In recent years, he would tell us to take a group picture rather than individual pictures, but he still made the effort to be available.

Archbishop Blase Cupich, who succeeded Cardinal George as archbishop of Chicago, commented after his death that Cardinal George did not let “his physical limitations moderate his zeal for bringing the promise of Christ’s love where it was needed most.”

He celebrated Masses, gave talks, and visited people throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago, accepting the arm of an assistant if need-be.

Taking faith into public arena

I also admired Cardinal George’s insights into how people can take their faith into the public arena. He himself was never shy about speaking out on the important issues of the day from a faith perspective.

I have an autographed copy of his book God in Action (published by Doubleday Religion) and have read it twice — and I might read it again! The subtitle of this book is How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World. Cardinal George discusses such issues as religious liberty, the human body and personal freedom, war and peace, immigration, the economy, and globalization.

In this book, Cardinal George points out that the Second Vatican Council “challenged Catholics to read the ‘signs of the times.’” He added that the council’s challenge was “to detect signs of eternity in the events of our world because the eternal God is at work in our times.

“The criteria for discerning God’s action have to be read from within human events with an eye for discovering a presence that brings good out of evil, hope from despair, and life out of death,” he writes.

Cardinal George held to that optimistic, faith-filled view of life during his personal challenges with polio and a long fight with cancer. We have to admire his courage.

We will never forget him. His wisdom will remain in the words he left behind in his books and speeches.

As he is buried in the George family plot at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Ill., this week, let us pray that he rests in the peace of Christ, who was such an important part of his life.