Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Receive the Ring" -- and Don't Lose It

(Photo removed by order of the Houston Chronicle.)

As if the new reds didn't have enough to juggle through these hectic first days, most are needing to keep a rather close eye on their golden gift from the Pope.

In the days before a consistory, the designates send the biretta and zucchetto they'll receive from the Pope to the Vatican MC's office in in their preferred size. Their rings, however, are ordered by the Holy See without respect to measurements, but with an opening kept at the back of the band. So, even though each of the newly-elevated has paid the customary "tax" to the Papal Household for their ring, it's on them to get it properly fitted after the fact.

And, as one incident at Sunday's Ring Mass illustrates, the sooner, the better.

Given the size of the group, only the four neo-reds given the "speaking parts" in the Eucharistic Prayer ascended the papal altar of St Peter's to flank the Pope. Just as one lifted his right hand to remove his zucchetto from his head, though, onlookers saw a flash... as the weighty ring flew off his finger, and proceeded to roll down the altar steps.

Gratefully, if there's a place you'd want a ring to go missing, this is it. One of the army of observant MCs on-hand quickly snatched up the band, returning it to its rightful wearer at a quieter moment.

* * *

On a related note, while no superstition's attached to flying rings, Roman lore holds it to be a very bad omen if, on his elevation day, a neo-cardinal's headgear falls to the ground.

While no incidences of actual touchdowns -- or their consequences -- are known, one near-miss took place at the consistory of 2001.

As the theological legend Cardinal Avery Dulles steadied himself after receiving the biretta, it slipped off and began to tumble. Luckily, a quick reflex from Connecticut's Msgr Bill Millea, a longtime staffer in the Secretariat of State, saved the Fordham Jesuit from the reputed curse.

PHOTO: Smiley N. Pool/(Removed by order of the)
Houston Chronicle