Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral Burned, Hats Still Hanging

Thanks God, nobody was killed. And, Father Matt Compton, one of the priests on duty at the Cathedral, got the Blessed Sacrament out.1

Francis Cardinal George said:
" 'First of all, we want to thank God that no one was injured ... Father Mayall, the priests, the sisters who live in the convent are all safe. There was one firefighter whose back was sprained while trying to get into the crawl space.2 We should pray for his health and recovery,' he said...."
(NBC Chicago)
I'll add my 'amen' to that.

Icicles on the Pews, Masses in the Auditorium

Holy Name Cathedral Parish updated their website a few minutes ago. The home page now starts with:
In case they change the home page address, Holy Name Cathedral Parish's URL is Right now, that shows you a simple splash screen.

The home page has a nice photo of the cathedral's interior, taken before the fire.

Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago: More than a Fancy Church

Make no mistake, the Holy Name Cathedral parish took a big hit this morning. They'd remodeled the cathedral, fixing up the bookstore, confessionals, and children's playroom. Now, from what I read, bride's room in the basement is waist-deep in water.

A "cathedral" isn't a fancy church: although they generally are tricked out more than other Catholic churches in an area. A cathedral is the seat of the local bishop. You could think of it as a regional headquarters. And, in this case, one where the bishop is a cardinal (the next rank after cardinal is pope).

So, the effect of Holy Name Cathedral's physical damage is something like what people would feel about a fire in their state's capitol building.

Firefighters have been pushing water off the floor, and my guess is that the Cardinal, or whoever he assigned to handle the project, is getting appraisers and contractors lined up to get the building fixed.

Wet and Dripping, but Still Hanging

Set against the two millennia 3 since the Church got started, the Holy Name Cathedral fire of February 4, 2009, in Chicago, Illinois, isn't all that major an event. The damage will be repaired, and the work of the Church will go on.

A deacon, showing a reporter around, "pointed to the cardinal's hats hanging above the altar. He believed they were wet, the purple color darkened, the hats sagging ‹ but they were still hanging." (Chicago Sun-Times)

I think those sagging hats are a good symbol for what's happened. There's been some physical damage, but the Church, like those hats, is still there.

In the news:
  • "Inside look at Holy Name after the fire"
    Chicago Sun-Times (February 4, 2009)
    Includes videos
  • "Cardinal: There Are Icicles on the Pews"
    NBC Chicago (February 4, 2009)
    • "Cardinal Francis George went inside Holy Name Cathedral on Wednesday morning to survey the damage, shortly after the fire was out...."
  • "Chicago cathedral ravaged by fire"
    BBC (February 4, 2009)
    • "A fire has swept through Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral - a city landmark and the seat of Roman Catholic Cardinal Francis George...."
  • "Crews snuff blaze at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral"
    FOXNews (February 4, 2009)
    • "CHICAGO — Crews have extinguished fire at Holy Name Cathedral, a 134-year-old Chicago landmark and the seat of Cardinal Francis George...."
  • "Fire is latest problem for Holy Name"
    Chicago Tribune (February 4, 2009)
    • "In November, daily worshipers finally returned to Holy Name Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, after a piece of decorative woodwork fell from the ceiling in February, forcing the cathedral to close its doors while workers inspected and repaired.
    • "A piece-by-piece check of the ceiling found 4,000 pieces were either loose or missing. Each one was removed by hand, milled, repainted and reattached with long metal screws. Each one was also cleaned, a task that had filled the worship space with a new glow.
1 Getting the Blessed Sacrament out of a burning church is a pretty big deal for Catholics. Father Compton was doing what White House security probably has standing orders to do: in case of fire, get the boss out. It may look like 'just a cracker,' but the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus, really present in the flesh (1373-1377). I don't understand how, and don't expect to: I'm not God. Not even close.

2Somebody's likely to pounce on that "no one was injured ... one firefighter whose back was sprained" gaffe, so I'll address that now: The fire started around 5:30 this morning, odds are good that the Cardinal was alerted shortly after that, and he's got quite a lot to think about right now. He's also human. I'm not all that surprised, when someone says something like "no one was injured," instead of "no one was [adjective] injured."

3 Okay: it's more like 1,975 years, give or take. "Two millennia" is easier to read and remember than "1.975 millennia" - and sounds a lot less geeky. Plus, it's only off by 1.25% or so.

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