The Cardinal on 501 South


This is not an account of the criminal behavior involving some seminarians, deacons, priests, bishops and cardinals in the Catholic Church. This is a story about a bird. To understand the significance of this story two things are required: first, some knowledge of geography and second, some appreciation for theology.


There is a stretch of Pennsylvania highway, route 501, which connects the state's turnpike with the city of Lancaster. Although this truck-laden ride is relatively carefree to the north, the 8.8 miles of the southern section can get heavily bogged down. The reason is simple. The houses on either side of the street are extremely close to the road because the dwellings predate the pavement. In some spots there is enough room for a middle turning lane but this otherwise narrow thoroughfare is as wide as it can be without bulldozing a path through several living rooms.


There is a local preacher who often refers to this road as a good place to practice the virtue of patience. Why? Because a smooth 8-minute cruise can easily quadruple into a 30-minute parking lot, especially during rush hour. Other delays, like inclement weather or fender benders, are not the only causes for a frustrating snail's pace. As odd as it may seem traffic can come to sudden crawl because of a stubborn bird. For example, the other day an otherwise healthy, but nevertheless confused cardinal decided to stand his ground in the middle of the northbound lane. Honking horns only seemed to strengthen his resolve to trill back at the metal monsters who were slowly making their way around his perch into oncoming traffic which in turn was causing those vehicles to slow down and veer off to the shoulder as well. One was tempted to wonder where are the feral cats when you need them?

Tranquility seems to be in shorter supply than ever in this age of frenetic cell phone texting. Perhaps this tiny creature's chirps can teach us the value of curbing our own electronic tweets, at least long enough to appreciate the beauty of nature by practicing the virtue of patience.

We Catholics are this bird. In the midst of scandals, in a world of turmoil, in a culture of hedonism and self-centered isolation, we join hands, stand firm and patiently pray together for a renewal of baptismal vows, a repentance of sin and a deepening of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For Holy Homework:

Let's take a leisurely stroll to any pedestrian intersection that is equipped with “walk/don't walk” crossing signs. When the sign says “walk,” instead of crossing the street, let's remain on our corner until the next evolution of the sign says “walk.” While waiting patiently at the curb, let's observe all the natural wonders we often take for granted. And let's thank God for the blue sky, the passing clouds, the oxygen we breathe, our food, our shelter, our loved ones and our very lives. And we can thank God for lessons learned from stubborn birds as well.

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