Sunday, November 30, 2003

From the Cardinal's Chair

The Cardinal's chair in the glorious new $200 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is set apart from all other chairs and pews, juxtapositioned between the choir loft and the Native American Memorial section, facing most of the 2,800 sanctuary seats, and per tradition, to the left of the altar. The chair, called a cathedra in Latin, is the formal seat of the Catholic archdiocese leader of 5 million Los Angeles-area Catholics, from which he exercises his "responsibiities of teaching, governing and sanctifying."

This cathedra is not oversized and throne-like, as are most older cathedras. It is a simple design, stands 74 inches tall, weighs 800 lbs, and is set at the top of two short steps on its own platform. The back of the chair is composed of interlinked crosses, each made from different woods from around the world: olive wood from Israel, carob wood from Lebanon, coca bola from Central America, ebony from Africa, holly from the US, lacewood from Australia and buena burro from Thailand. The woods symbolize the various communities and ethnicities that compose the Los Angeles community.

One would think that it must feel powerful for Cardinal Roger Mahoney, 18-year head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, to sit in this majestic symbol of church authority. I had the privilege yesterday to sit in the Cardinal's chair and to view the sanctuary from the cathedra's lofty location. To my awe, it didn't feel powerful or lofty at all. Like all pastors I've ever seen, his chair is positioned so that he can still study the face of every person in the complex and large, yet intimate sanctuary. Despite all the trappings, Roger Mahoney remains connected to the people, and they to him.

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