Those of us who went to Catholic grade school in the baleful days of pre-Vatican II recall the nuns drilling into our heads that it takes three bona-fide miracles to make a saint, even before beatification ceremonies are initiated in the Vatican. I have long felt that the man whose biography I wrote, Msgr. Ignatius McDermott, the tough-talking apostle to the addicted who dealt with the unfortunates of our society in skid row and who built a haven for them at Haymarket Center qualifies. Herewith is a few irreverent jottings about miracles that I am sure the venerable monsignor, who died at the end of 2004 at age 95, prayed for.
Without doubt, miracle number one is the White Sox winning the World Series. Number two would be the Chicago Bears going to the Superbowl. Right now theyre leading the pack. Number three would be an instance that I would hate to see: the acquittal of former Republican governor George Ryan. Ryan was Father McDermotts favorite. For many reasons, even before his indictment, he was not mine. I have never seen in 50 years of politics a more gruff, arrogant, insensitive, crass, bullying clod. Indeed for years I tried to tell Father Mac this. It made no impression. Finally, one day when we were together I told him that his fondness for the Kankakee baron was seriously misplaced. The next day when I arrived at Haymarket, Father Macs secretary told me, Father told me he couldnt sleep last night because of what you told him. I said good, he finally got to appreciate what a bounder George Ryan is.
Not exactly, she said. He thinks theres something wrong with you.
With that I abandoned any thought of changing the mind of a ninety year old. Without prejudicing the case involving 22 counts against Ryan, let me give you a glimpse into him. Fifteen years ago when Ryan was secretary of state, he went as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. It so happened that I flew down in a trim Lear jet with the Quaker c.e.o. who was also a delegate and chairman of the state Republican finance committee.
At conventions end, Ryan, dead cigar in his mouth came up to my boss and grunted, Bill, can I bum a ride home to Illinois in your plane?
This particular c.e.o., new to politics and newer still to Ryan, was pathetically eager to please. Yes, he said, of course, George.
Ryan grunted again. Bill, can my wife ride along, too?
I have a security guard. Can he come, too?
We have lot of luggage. So does my body guard. Can we bring it all?
Uh, yes, I guess so."
When we were loaded in the planeand I mean loaded, with Ryan, his wife, the body guard and tons of baggage, hat boxes and souvenirs stacked on my lap, he leaned over and said:
Bill, you mind dropping us off in Kankakee?