Saturday, January 10, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus, R.I.P.

Father Richard John Neuhaus died a few days ago. He was an important man among the voices of the American Church and I shall miss him, as will many others. Father Raymond de Souza, who considered Father Neuhaus to be a real father to him, wrote this testamonial, posted by Rocco. You can read the entire post here.

Unlike no man I have ever met, he was utterly at ease discussing the most serious things; not so much this or that influential book, but struggles in the life of virtue, mysteries in theology, the great questions of my life and his: What does the Lord want of me?

That his preferred method of doing so was after evening prayers had been said, with a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, was the practical affirmation of his theological conviction that to rejoice in the Lord's gifts was an obligation of gratitude.

It is also true that the long-faced saint is a poor evangelist, and nearly everything in Fr. Neuhaus' life was aimed at preaching the Gospel in one way or another.

He had many gifts and did not pretend otherwise. Yet he knew that to whom much is given, much is demanded, and he filled his life with so much reading, writing, preaching and launching of new ventures that one suspected that he knew that a great deal would be demanded of him indeed.

He once began a conversation with me by asking, even before the first sip of the pre-prandial drink: "How are you managing your ego?"

When I choked on my own drink at that conversation starter, he chided me for pretending to false modesty. The point was not to pretend that gifts hadn't been given, but use all of them for God's glory, for which purpose they were given.

Then, as always, he gave the Christian lesson. This time it was from 1 Corinthians 4:5: "Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God."

The Christian task is to do our best with what God has given us, and to rejoice along the way. Whether accolades or criticism comes-- and Fr. Neuhaus knew both -- let no one judge before the time. It is only for us to be grateful; to be faithful. The time has now come for Fr. Neuhaus; his gifts were many and as he goes to glory, his many sons pray the Lord to grant him his commendation.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon him;
may his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed,
through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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