.- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is encouraging others to use his recent cancer diagnosis as a time to “reflect upon God’s goodness and grow closer to Christ.”
If people use his diagnosis for spiritual growth, he said, “then even my sickness and, at some point at a still unknown time and way, my death will be an answer to what I prayed many years ago: that I and all those God has given me to know and love here might live in such a way that God’s will for the salvation of the world will be realized.”
The cardinal said in his Aug. 26 column for the Catholic New World archdiocesan paper that he plans to say “little” about his cancer and his treatment even though it will “probably be a trying time for me in the next several months.”
“How can we know what to say when our knowledge is so limited?” he asked.
Cardinal George, 75, underwent a medical procedure Aug. 15 that discovered cancerous cells in his kidney and in a nodule that was removed from his liver.
In July 2006, at the age of 69, the cardinal underwent a five-hour operation to remove his bladder, prostate gland and sections of his ureters, the tubes which connect the kidneys to the bladder.
The cardinal said he is “profoundly grateful” to those who have already prayed for him. In the six years since his first diagnosis, he has collected a “lengthy list” of cancer victims who have asked him to pray for them.
“It’s not a small club, and each one has his or her story about the disease and its treatment.”
He saw his diagnosis as a reminder of his ultimate end.
“God awaits us because he is with us now and wants to bring our life to its fulfillment in his kingdom. History is what God remembers; and God interprets history through the lives of the poor, the first citizens of his kingdom.”
Cardinal George said that those who live their lives in relationship to God “begin even now to live in his kingdom, proclaimed by the prophets and personalized in Jesus.”
In this light, this world becomes a “strange land” and Christians are beckoned to “our true home.”
God’s kingdom is one of “self-sacrificing love that transcends this world even as it permeates it in quiet ways.”
The cardinal explained that in his youth he prayed “that I might live in such a way that God’s will for the world’s salvation might be realized.”
“That prayer was first answered in a call to make vows of religion in a missionary society consecrated to preaching the Gospel to the poor.”
Cardinal George learned from his experiences that “I was no more in control than were the poor I was visiting or living with.”
He also called to mind Pope Benedict XVI’s homily for the Feast of the Assumption.
During that homily, Pope Benedict said, “One thing, one hope is certain: God awaits us, he attends to us, we are not headed for a void, we are expected ... God awaits us: this is our great joy and our great hope that is born precisely from this feast.”
Cardinal George has headed the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1997. He previously led the Diocese of Yakima, Wash. and the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. He is a past president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a past vicar general of the Oblates of Mary religious order.