God Bless the D.o.K.

The noon Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral celebrated three things: the Feast of St. Joseph, the inauguration of Pope Francis; and the fourth anniversary of the ordination of Bishop Richard Stika.

In his homily, Bishop Stika told a story about his friend and mentor, Justin Cardinal Rigali, who participated in the conclave to choose the new Pope. The Cardinal moved to Knoxville when he retired as Archbishop of Philadelphia. Several years ago, when the two men worked together in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, then-Archbishop Rigali told then-Monsignor Stika about meeting an Argentine Bishop who had a special devotion to Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. The 19th-century saint served the people of Missouri. The Argentine Bishop went on to become Pope Francis.

Cardinal Rigali is still in Rome and found himself at the same table as Pope Francis during meals in the past week. Bishop Stika seemed surprised by the coincidence. I imagined that because the Pope and the Cardinal are close in age, they might be on the same early-bird schedule. Bishop Stika asked Cardinal Rigali to remind the Pope about Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne and to ask him for a verbal blessing for Knoxville. The Pope told Cardinal Rigali to have the Vatican Secretary of State draw up an official blessing document. The Pope signed the document, which Cardinal Rigali will bring home to Knoxville on Saturday.

Kristin Farley of WATE reported on the local ceremony. Before Mass began, Kristin told me that the Bishop almost didn’t make it to the church on time because his flight was delayed in Atlanta. At the end of Mass, the Bishop told the congregation that he spent the weekend watching the St. Louis Cardinals at Spring Training in Florida. He was still as enthusiastic as a kid when he told me about visiting with Lou Brock and 90-year-old Red Schoendienst.

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