The Cardinal Spellman Story
By Marian Curd
The Cardinal Spellman Story, by Robert I. Gannon, S.J. (Robert Hale, 30s.).
WRITING the biography of a living Prince of the Church can be no easy task: for the reviewer it is like picking up a diary dropped in the street. One is curious. but it seems almost wrong to look at the recorded thoughts, opinions and comments of someone who is still (happily) alive. Hugh Walpole might have written this book. It has that racing carry-you-along appeal of the big historical saga. with the difference that the people are real, and mans of them living or known by name to most of us. With Cardinal Francis Spellman, Archbishop of New 'York. as central character, the picture covers Rome and the U.S.A. from 1889 to 1458. These years include the reigns of Popes Pius X, XI, XII and uow John XXIII; the Lateran Treaty, two World Wars, Rooseyell's New Deal, Myron Taylor; Years which were not always happy for a boy born in the New England smalltown of Whitman but years in which Providence -remarkably often-landed Spellman in the right places at the right time.
It is the story of one of the world's foremost long-distance travellers. a scholar, author, poet, pilot (with licence). diplomat, administrator and. above all, a man, who knows and appreciates -and is apreciated by -his family and friends. Fr. Gannon tells us that some sources of his material will never again be available. and contemporaries are already beginning to d isa ppear.
School at Whitman, Pordham University. then to Rome.
'Iwo serious illnesses. Ordination, and on to a strange and rather humiliating period where a term as curate at Roxbury was followed by his volunteering for work as a Chaplain with the armed Forces (1st World War) and was oddly plucked out at the last minute by Cardinal O'Connell to push up circulation on the "Boston Pilot". A move to the cellar Archives of the Boston Archdiocese, another to the Chancellory offices. then another travelling to Rome as secretary to a bishop who didn't want a secretary. But here the pushing around days ended, and there started an extraordinary succession of "firsts". He was the lirst American to land a job in the Vatican Secretariat of State looking after children's playgrounds subscribed for by the U.S. Knights of Columbus.
Here it was that Francis Spellman made all those friends that make Rome such an open door to him to-day.
We can understand the great friendship of Mgr. Spellman with Cardinal Pacelli, then Secretary of State, when we hear how they went on holiday together in Switzerland: Cardinal Pacelli distributing holidays to the local children wherever he went. When Marconi presented the Holy See with its Radio Station in 1931, Francis Spellman followed Pope Pius XI's opening address with an English translation, being the first English-speaking prelate on the Vatican "air". When, following the Lateran Treaty Mussolini directed a campaign to abolish Italian Catholic Action and Catholic youth activities, the Pope denounced the campaign with an encyclical letter Non Abhianzo Bisogrzo. This could not he published in Italy, so Mgr. Spellman was the priest chosen for a spot of cloak-and-dagger work in carrying the letter to Paris where it was printed and distributed to news agencies.
In June, 1932, Francis Spellman became the first American Bishop to be consecrated in St. Peter's
Basilica. Back to the U.S. as Auxiliary of Boston and parish priest of Newton Center. In 1936 he took his old friend Cardinal Pacelli on a coast to coast tour of the U.S.A. Three years later Pope Pius XI died, and around the same time died the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Hayes. Cardinal Pacelli became Pope Pius XII. A month later Bishop Spellman became Archbishop of Boston. The war years brought superhuman activity from the new Archbishop. He became military vicar and increased his work tenfold. both for the armed services and for the destitute. It was during this time that he started those famous journeys which are now traditional and a source of admiration as, each Christmas, he foregoes the pleasures of being at home to join the armed services in the most outof-the-way or uncomfortable and cold bases imaginable. Archbishop Spellman became a Cardinal in 1946 at the then largest consistory ever held.
More travels followed. Round the world. and round again, and then, in 1950 to England for the centenary celebrations for the Restoration of the Hierarchy : one of the most momentous events in recent history. It was there that I first met Cardinal Spellman, an occasion I shall always remember. He won't, The guests were circu lating before a celebration dinner. Bishop Young. now Archbishop in Tasmania (then, the youngest bishop in the world), was talking to the "Evening News" and myself. At our side were a long line of waitresses, diffident and rather overwhelmed at the sight of so much scarlet and purple. Breaking away from two rather stern looking eminences from Germany, Cardinal Spellman swept across, beaming. He had a warm greeting for the "Evening News" and for the CA 1HOLIC Heara.o, then. with immense charm he shook hands with every waitress in the line putting them in a good humour for the rest of the evening. A small incident. but one which answers a prayer cabled long ago by his mother and father on his consecration day "God bless and guide our boy, keep him kind and humble". It is this spirit, I believe, which has carried him through the storms and won the friendships. Roosevelt and diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the New Deal, school problems, Fr. Coughlan's famous onslaughts, the arduous journeying and his constant fight against Communism which on occasion sends Moscow radio into hysterics, all are taken in his stride.. The Cardinal Spellman Story is happily unfinished. It is a candid story of joys and sorrows. Fr. Gannon is the ideal biographer for a warm-hearted character, a real American, with the common touch. Long. lively, excellently documented, fascinating reading.