I got down to Sheila and J.P.'s spread around sundown, where the mailbox on the road already said "Hurt," and joined the couple who were sitting on the back deck with Sheila's folks. They were a great expatriate Boston family who'd been living in Michigan most of Sheila's life, and immediately made fun and welcoming conversation. It was all very low-key, with a few anxious phone calls about people's travel plans getting screwed up because of the horrible state of the airline industry. Some people are having to try to make alternative flight/car rental arrangements at the last minute, leaving the bride and groom to wonder if they'll manage to get a dozen people to show up at the church. I was disappointed to find out that J.P. had filled his quota with family and locals pretty quickly and thus this will not be the great Folk Choir Reunion wedding I had assumed. But that'll give me more time to hang with Erik and Mark, I suppose. Those guys had some sketchy travel plans, too, and if everything goes right, might make it just in time for the rehearsal. The wedding party has matching blue tie-dyes, with "Wuv" written on the breast, and on the back, over the couple's name and wedding date, "Twoo Wuv." Japes ordered me an extra-large. I love my friends. :-) So, after her folks had left, we stayed up too late for the schedule just laughing and getting to know one another, sharing some of those key stories that are always part of that ritual of someone who is joining the wider family. The stars were thickly strewn across the sky in ways I didn't remember from being too long in Milwaukee, and J.P. and I saw a blazing Perseid meteor leave a streak of glowing dust above us just as we were looking at them. We both have the amateur astronomy corner of our lives, and so that was a particularly pleasing vision to share.
Here I also keep a spare eye on the continuing coverage of the services for Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger of Paris, whose passing I noted a few days ago.
Multifaith Farewell for French Cardinal
Aug 9, 6:02 PM (ET)
By ANGELA DOLAND
PARIS (AP) - Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a convert from Judaism who sought to bring the faiths closer during his extraordinary life, is carrying on the mission in death - with a funeral rich in symbolism that includes a Jewish prayer read by a Nazi death camp survivor.
Jews and Roman Catholics plan to join in front of the sculpted saints of the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday to hear the Jewish prayer, known as the Mourner's Kaddish, before the funeral Mass for the former archbishop of Paris.
"This was his wish, to share the remembrance this way," said Arno Lustiger, a cousin and 83-year-old Auschwitz survivor, who plans to read the prayer.
The late cardinal, whose mother died at Auschwitz, converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager and rose to become a confidant of the late Pope John Paul II and was sometimes even touted as a possible papal successor. Lustiger died Sunday at age 80 in a Paris hospice.
The Mourner's Kaddish is among a series of prayers central to Jewish worship. The prayer praises God and the virtues of faith, but does not specifically mention funeral or burial traditions.
It is "highly unusual" to be read among mourners for a convert from Judaism, said Rabbi Joel Roth, an expert on Jewish law at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.
"It's important to emphasize that it's not possible to be both Jewish and Catholic," he said. "That is what this could suggest to some people."
But Lustiger dedicated much of his life to trying to bridge the faiths and once called Christianity "the fruit of Judaism."
On Friday, a grandnephew, Gila, plans to read a psalm. Another relative, Jonas-Moses Lustiger, is bringing earth from Christian holy sites in and around Jerusalem to be sprinkled on the coffin.
Shortly after the Kaddish, Lustiger's successor as archbishop of Paris, Andre Vingt-Trois, will lead a funeral Mass inside the 12th century cathedral, one of the most famous symbols of French Catholicism.
Among those in attendance will be France's leading Jewish and Catholic figures, as well as President Nicolas Sarkozy, who interrupted a U.S. vacation. Sarkozy later plans to fly back to Maine for lunch the next day with President Bush.
Many of those attending the Mass are expected to also attend the Kaddish reading, the Paris archdiocese said.
"It's a beautiful symbol," Rosita Ferrer, a Parisian waiting to pay her respects at Notre Dame on Thursday. "He did so much for the reconciliation of religions. ... He is leaving us a beautiful gift for years to come."
Aaron Lustiger was born in 1926 in Paris to Polish immigrant parents who ran a hosiery shop. As an adolescent, he was sent to the town of Orleans, 80 miles south of the capital, to take refuge from the occupying Nazis. There, Lustiger converted to Catholicism at the age of 14, taking the name Jean-Marie.
He was ordained a priest in 1954, and served as chaplain to students at the Sorbonne University, reportedly zipping on a motorbike through the winding streets of the Left Bank student neighborhood.
Lustiger climbed up the church hierarchy before becoming archbishop of Paris, a post he held for 24 years before stepping down in 2005.
Lustiger remained a populist figure, creating a Christian radio station, Radio Notre Dame, in 1981 and expounding on issues from the August 2003 heat wave that killed thousands of people in France to the building of a united Europe.
He also respected his Jewish heritage.
"For me, it was never for an instant a question of denying my Jewish identity. On the contrary," he said in "Le Choix de Dieu" (The Choice of God) published in 1987.
Lustiger's funeral comes as the Vatican seeks to calm Jewish anger over Pope Benedict XVI's meeting with a prominent Polish priest accused of anti-Semitism. It said the encounter did not imply any change in the Church's desire for good relations with Jews.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton contributed to this report.
More on the Lustiger services from my new info source, the incredibly-impressive news-gatherer Whispers in the Loggia. Note that there is a LiveJournal feed for his stuff, too.
EDIT: And this morning's http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2007/08/you-were-manner-of-miracle.html