Cardinal Dolan does live Town Hall on radio

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NEW YORK - In a genial, live, two-hour national satellite radio broadcast May 8, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan sent his first Twitter message and fielded questions on issues ranging from his priesthood to his favorite foods and beverages.

Cardinal Dolan was featured in a Town Hall event on SiriusXM's the Catholic Channel 129. Twenty invited listeners perched on stools in a small glass-enclosed studio at SiriusXM's New York headquarters. They read their queries from prepared cards and responded appreciatively to the cardinal's thoughtful responses.

The broadcast was moderated by Sirius XM personalities Father Jonathan Morris and Tim Farley. NBC's "Today" co-host Matt Lauer, former Major League Baseball manager Joe Torre and Shirley Dolan, the cardinal's mother, were "surprise guests."

Cardinal Dolan said he aspires to be a saint. "I'm longing for it and trying my best. Great saints are just recovering sinners," he quipped.

He cited St. Therese of Lisieux, or the "Little Flower," who famously defined sainthood as doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. "For a cardinal, most of life is routine," Cardinal Dolan said.

The cardinal applauded St. John Bosco's creative approach to ministry and said St. Maximilian Kolbe is an inspiration for priests. The priest, canonized in 1982, gave his life at Auschwitz to spare a young father. "I love Maximilian Kolbe because he came to us at a time when priests were questioning our identity and confidence was flagging."

"We're all called to be saints. I hope 50 years from now someone will remember something I said or did and be inspired," Cardinal Dolan said.

The cardinal, who hosts a weekly talk show on the Catholic Channel, opened the Town Hall with a milkshake toast to the audience and the event was peppered with references to food and drink. Without hesitation, he described his favorite meal - "meatloaf, mashed potatoes, no gravy, butter, a cold beer and cherry pie." Budweiser is his favorite brand of beer and peach his preferred flavor for a stand-alone snack of pie and cold milk. He also described feigning indecision at a gelato stand to sample many flavors before ordering.

Cardinal Dolan said his guests at an imaginary dinner party would include St. Peter, the Roman emperor Constantine, Abraham Lincoln and Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He said he would ask how St. Peter "recuperated so quickly from denying Jesus to being at his tomb" on Easter.

The cardinal said Lincoln is "one of the holiest and wisest men I've ever read about" and then laughingly acknowledged that Archbishop Sheen, a skilled broadcaster, "would probably dominate the conversation." Jesus, he said, is a presumed guest at the dinner, one whom he meets every day in the eucharistic meal.

Addressing priestly vocations, Cardinal Dolan said families and parishes should invite and encourage young men without pressuring them. He said he aspired to the parish priesthood from an early age, but would likely have become a married father and history teacher if he was not ordained.

"Pope Paul VI said a priest should want to be a husband and a father," Cardinal Dolan said. "We're not called to be bachelors. A bachelor freely chooses not to be married. We're called to be celibate, which means we have a deep longing for a wife and children but we have placed that under God's domain. We then have a spiritual spousal relationship with the Church and a spiritual paternity with our people."

Cardinal Dolan said his faith was tested in 2000 when his young niece was diagnosed with bone cancer.

"I was never tempted to doubt God, but I was tempted to doubt that God knew what he was doing," he said. Ultimately, he latched onto the Gospel question "Lord, to whom shall we go?" and adopted it as his prayer and part of his episcopal coat of arms. His niece is now a young adult.

Cardinal Dolan advised a new grandmother to be gentle, prayerful and persistent in encouraging the baby's lapsed Catholic father to have the child baptized. "A genius of the Catholic faith is that adults return to the faith through their kids," he said.

Asked to speculate about an American papacy, Cardinal Dolan said it might happen eventually, but not in the near future. Traditionally, he said, the pope is a referee in international affairs, and the College of Cardinals would "shy away" from choosing someone from a superpower because it might place a burden on him.

When Lauer appeared in the studio, he reminisced with Cardinal Dolan about a moving 2011 visit they made to St. Peter's Basilica after it was closed to the public for the day. Lauer described himself as "deeply spiritual, but not religious" and said he was raised by a Jewish father and a Christian Scientist mother. Cardinal Dolan said, "Rome brings out a natural inquisitiveness about religion."

Joe Torre called in to the program and Cardinal Dolan said, "You're one of my heroes, Joe. You take your faith seriously." The former baseball manager and the cardinal had a rapid-fire exchange worthy of late-night sports radio, including updates on former major leaguers Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog, Tony La Russa and Frank Torre, Joe's brother.

Cardinal Dolan said there is an analogy between the Catholic Church and sports. "Strength in athletics and spiritual life are allied. The same traits that serve well on the field apply to spiritual life: team work, perseverance, grittiness and vigilance," he said.

Diocesan bishops, like sports managers, have to "craft a team to fit the park," Cardinal Dolan said. Both have to assess the local situation and develop their personnel to meet the challenges and opportunities.

During the broadcast, the cardinal used an iPad to send his first Tweet. With the handle @CardinalDolan, he wrote: "Hey everybody. It's Timothy Cardinal Tebow. I mean Dolan. I'm on Twitter. And I'm live on Town Hall on SiriusXM's The Catholic Channel 129."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970