I have known and been profoundly influenced by three priests in my life, all of whom, I am convinced, could and should be canonized. One of them is my long time friend, professor, and mentor, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR. Last night, Friday, October 3, 2014, the Lord called him home to heaven at 11 PM. This was the same date on which St. Francis of Assisi, whose spirit and religious charism Father Benedict lived and taught, died in 1226.
In the coming days I will share many memories about my teacher and friend, but at this point I know what he would most want to say to all of us. It is the echo of something I heard him say in talks many times. He said, “When I die, don’t say, ‘He does not need our prayers!’” Instead, he wants us to pray for him and have masses offered for him for the rest of our lives. I remember him saying that when we are called from this world, we may well enter purgatory and find our great-great-grandparents still there, scolding us and asking us why we stopped having masses offered for them!
The other thought that comes to my mind is that now that the Lord has called him home, we have an even greater obligation to promulgate his teachings far and wide. He had profound insights into the spiritual life, and more importantly, how to translate those insights into practical action and apply them to the needs of our times. In that context, my entire ministry of Priests for Life benefited from his wise counsel, guidance, encouragement, and at times, navigation through the mine fields of opposition, even from within the church.
During these coming days, let all of us who knew Father Benedict bring together the memories and the stories and commit ourselves to passing them on to a generation so in need of his teachings and example!