A Real Prince: A Rabbi Remembers Cardinal George

I met Cardinal George at a Sabbath dinner at the home of a local Jewish leader. It was during the height of the clergy sex scandal, and I did notice he drank a few extra glasses of the Sabbath wine.

At that dinner I was impressed with the Cardinal's intellect. He talked about theology, church history, and even Jewish tradition and liturgy. He clearly had a razor sharp mind.

We never had the chance to speak in person again, but my appreciation and affection for him only grew. It grew not because I agreed with this views. It grew because of a legacy we are only now beginning to appreciate.

Cardinal George faced cancer three times. He faced it publicly and humbly. Each time he struggled, he inspired, he instructed.

Leaders Are Not Invincible

We sometimes have a difficult time imagining the physical weaknesses and decline of great leaders. Franklin Roosevelt hid his polio from public view. Our presidents tend not wear an overcoat at their chilly January inaugurations. They know people like to idealize their leaders.

But Cardinal George fought cancer openly and poignantly. He continued to visit parishes. He kept a busy schedule of meetings and pastoral visits. He did not stop speaking out on issues he cared about.

Those suffering in body and spirit felt a unique connection to him. For those who watched him, he became a real pastor as well as a Cardinal, a human being as well as a Prince of the Church.

What Matters Most

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, "When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people." You don't have to be old to appreciate Heschel's wisdom.

For spiritual leaders it is not the intellect that matters most. It is the kindness they display, and the legacy of love they leave. Cardinal George leaves a legacy of love for God, for the church and for our world. Get a taste of this legacy with the following quotes.