Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan wanted to talk about rebirth and renewal in his Easter homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan.
He didn't have to look far for a good metaphor. He didn't even have to look outside the cathedral, where metal and plywood framework from a $175-million repair project cast shadows on worshippers' heads Sunday morning.
In his remarks, Dolan likened the work on the 134-year-old sanctuary to the continuing efforts he said that Christians should make to improve themselves. And he used the project as an allegory for the Catholic Church's efforts to transform itself under a new pope.
"Like this cathedral, we, too, are dying. We, too, are rising," Dolan said. "Even Jesus himself underwent repair. If we stop with the repair, the renewal, we miss something big."
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York began the renovations last year, with plans to fix decaying marble and dimming stained-glass windows. Since then, workers -- for whom the roughly 2,500 faithful said a prayer during yesterday's service -- have wrapped half the cathedral's interior walls and columns with scaffolding and screens, as well as most of the exterior.
After the service, Dolan told reporters that because there was no denying the evidence of the construction, he decided to embrace it as an "audiovisual aid."
"You can't miss it. Everybody knows it," he said.
Patrick Smith, 24, who attended the Mass with his family while on vacation from Minneapolis, said he appreciated Dolan's choice of such a tangible metaphor.
"It's a useful analogy, when you can use something concrete like that," he said.
Plus, the message made sense in a broader context.
"You think the Catholic Church is, maybe, in a state of disrepair, with the scandal," Smith said. The church has come under fire for its handling of sex abuse allegations and has seen the previous pope's butler convicted of theft charges for stealing the pope's private papers.
Less than a month after the election of a new church leader, Dolan remarked only briefly on the installation of Pope Francis, saying that it showed "in a particularly fresh and new way" how the church itself is constantly undergoing renewal.
L.A. Amadi, 72, who was visiting the city from Nigeria, said he appreciated that Dolan kept his message local.
"For the past two weeks, we have been talking about Pope Francis," Amadi said. "I think the cardinal was right" to focus on more general themes of restoration, he added.