A Very Old Obituary

Maybe someday everything will be available online.  Here’s something I hadn’t expected: the college newspaper I did some writing for has made its archives available on the Internet.  I can’t bring myself to read most of what I wrote way back then.  But there was one piece I was curious about — an obituary for Richard Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston when I was growing up (I was named for him, incidentally).  It holds up pretty well, I think, although the balance doesn’t quite work in one spot, and there’s a which in there that I’d definitely turn into a that.

FOR SOMEONE who grew up a Catholic in Boston, Cushing was not a name, not even an institution, he was a part of life itself: he was always there, at Confirmations and graduations and dedications of the countless schools and churches he helped build. His picture was in everyone’s hallway, a fullcolor portrait cut out of the Globe when he was made a Cardinal. You took pride in his voice and his Red Sox cap and his friendship with your President because in him you had someone only Boston could produce: that blend of worldliness and sanctity, that despiser of stuffiness and lover of ritual.

Times change-the schools start closing, the churches aren’t quite as filled anymore; a younger man with a strange unIrish name takes over. And finally, Cushing himself is gone, less than a month after the ceremony which concluded his life’s work. It’s fitting; you know it could hardly have been otherwise. But still the memories linger, of the rasping twang, of the swishing of his red silk robes, of a life that was part of Boston’s life.

Cushing is part of the past now, but he can’t rest there-by the nature of things he must become the stuff of legend and anecdote. You are supposed to remember that there was a pool for how long he would speak at Confirmation, with the winning number being around an hour. And you will recall the stories and tell the jokes even if they seem to miss what he meant to you, because Cushing was from Boston, and that is how Boston remembers a man, that is how Boston honors a saint.

Here’s the link.

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7 thoughts on “A Very Old Obituary

  1. I was at Logan on the day that he and his entourage took off for Rome and the investiture. It was the late 50s and so there were no security checks. I walked out on the Tarmac with a bunch of other people and we applauded him as he climbed the gangway. At the top of the stairs he turned back and stage-whispered to the crowd: “Imagine, four cardinals on a plane and no collection!”

    A few months ago I reread my brittle paperback edition of Summit. It holds up well too.

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      • I didn’t spend a lot of time at The Beachcomber — I had no interest in being a reporter. There were some folks there at the time who have become moderately well-known. My sponsor when I was trying out for The Beachcomber was Frank Rich, later drama critic and columnist for the New York Times.

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      • Frank was your rabbi? That’s interesting. He’s over at New York Magazine now. Still writing articles complaining that the disrepair of the Bayberry Road bridge is Bush’s fault.

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  2. Pingback: Contraception (and Cushing and Wills and Montini) | richard bowker

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