A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as one who […]
Michael had been writing a column for the Diocesan newspaper called “Some Seed Fell” and posting them after publication on his blog. His sweet secretary Allison just sent me the last column he wrote, being published this week, that he wrote Monday night.
While in Washington, D.C. several weeks ago, I ran into an old friend, Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, with whom I have collaborated on several books. We met after a Mass for pro-life leaders at Trinity College. It was exactly five years and 10 days from that night in Orlando, FL when Father Benedict nearly lost his life in a tragic accident, and almost four years to the day that I spent a week with him in New York, assisting him in putting the finishing touches on a book that he co-authored with Bishop Baker.
Working with a very frail Father Benedict at the time, I was reminded of an interview that he had given some years earlier at EWTN with Doug Keck on Booknotes. During that interview, when Father Benedict’s book Arise From Darkness was first published, Doug asked Father Benedict to elaborate on something that Father had called the “big lie” in his book. The “big lie,” Father Benedict said, (and I’m paraphrasing him at this point), is to think that if we say all the right prayers and live correctly, then nothing bad will ever happen to us. Sadly, there are many good people who have lost their faith by believing such a lie, and that makes it a big one indeed!
One only has to think of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, and how much He suffered on the cross, to correct one’s view on this matter. In our own day, there are many whom we know have lived saintly lives, many who have prayed much, and yet have suffered too.
This brings me to another incident that I learned from Father Benedict while working with him four years ago in New York. I was waiting for him to make some corrections on a text when I noticed what looked like a wedding program. I asked him if it was for a relative or a couple he had married. He replied that it was neither, but told me the story of the person behind it.
Diana was a young Puerto Rican woman who grew up in a very faith filled home. Even though they were poor, her mother taught her at an early age to trust God above everything. By the time she was old enough to go to college, Diana found a way to pursue her education – again something that she credited to her strong faith – and became the first member of her large family to graduate from college. She then married and was hired by a large investment firm in New York.
Even though her job kept her busy, she found time to attend Mass everyday. When her friends threw parties, Diana made up goodie bags for them that included candy and make-up, but also a prayer book and holy water. When a member of her family couldn’t pay their bills, Diana secretly paid them. When someone in the family got into trouble she bailed them out of jail.
One night Diana had a strange dream. In the dream Jesus appeared to her, dressed in a white robe, standing on a cloud of smoke. He was beckoning her to come to him, telling her not to worry, that he was going to take her with him. Then it seemed to her that the whole world disappeared from beneath her and she awoke. She told her husband about the dream the next morning, but he didn’t want to hear about it—it scared him.
The next few nights, the dream repeated itself. She told her mother, who wondered what it could mean.
A month later on September 11, 2001, Diana was at work at her investment firm in the World Trade Center on one of the top floors. She phoned her husband and mother on her cell phone after the second plane struck the tower below her. She reminded them of the dream, just before the tower crumbled.
What is the opposite of the “big lie”? Trust.
When questioned by an English journalist about the future of the Religious Order that he co-founded, Father Benedict gave a simple reply, “We have no plans, except to be led by God.”
None of us knows what the future holds, but hopefully we can embrace what is inscribed in our coinage, “In God we Trust.”
Sunday, February 8
7pm Vigil Service
Fr. Brian Flanagan, Diocese of West Palm Beach
1475 Old Dixie Highway
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Office: (904) 824-1672
MASS OF THE RESURRECTION
Monday, February 9
35 Treasury Street
St. Augustine, Fl
Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, celebrant
Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., homilist
If you knew Michael in any capacity – as a friend, editor, co-worker – and have a specific remembrance you would like me and others to read, please email me. Either the text, or if you have a website or blog, the link – such as this kind remembrance from Greg Erlandson at OSV. There are many out there that I have already read, especially from OSV authors whom he edited and mentored. I am collecting them and will publish them next week. Thank you.
If you would like to hear Michael speaking about the topics so important to him, please go to the Omaha Catholic radio station KVSS page, where they have downloads of all the many interviews he did with them over the past few years.
Michael’s obituary at the funeral home website. Amended versions will appear in the Birmingham, Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Keene, NH newspapers.
The readings for Michael’s funeral Mass: