It's the catholic Lenten season, when the faithful seek redemption for past sins and pay penance through a series of personal sacrifices, Chicago's cardinal gamely proceeded with Sunday mass, weaving his personal struggle into that faced by Jesus.
"A life in faith a life lived in Christ is a comfort, always," the Archbishop of Chicago said. "And also a life of some consternation and confrontation, we pray on this fourth Sunday for the courage to accept both."
Parishioners packed Holy Name Cathedral, and spilled onto its staircase, eager for a moment with their leader, who gratefully acknowledged their prayers for him.
It is always easier to pray for other people, I find, then I count on other people praying for me," the cardinal said. "That's what it means to be a community of saints, a family.
"I was in the hospital for a week and they were filling me full of fluids and antibiotics, and all kinds of things like that, so I am more wobbly than usual, but other than that I am doing ok."
The cardinal caught a bug around his first round of chemotherapy but kept up with paperwork and calls while hospitalized.
You get stir crazy, but on the other hand you are so flat on your back without much energy you kind of forget about it, too, until you are ready to go and then it starts to bother you the walls close in," he said.
He plans to go to Rome next month for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and John XXIII, but says his recent setback, especially during Lent, was a wakeup call to be more patient.
"Every time you are sick or something happens you learn something don't you? And so I feel grateful for that new sense of who I am and what the future holds as far as we can tell," he said.
The cardinal's doctors tell him the infection is gone and he can start a new round of chemotherapy for cancer cells found in around his right kidney soon. He says he is not in pain, but will continue to have to restrict his public schedule, again to preserve his strength for his cancer fight.