Who doesn’t know saints like Francis, the apostles Peter and Paul, and of course Mary, the mother of Jesus? The major saints. But what about the others, most unknown to us, even many we’ve lived with? What about them, the minor saints?
The Calendar today for October 9th lists St. John Leonard, St. Denis and Companions, who lived many centuries ago. They’re remembered in Italy and France, respectively, but they’re not well known to us. The reason they’re in the Calendar, besides their appeal to a nation or region, is they’re minor saints. Minor saints are part of the saintly communion; a necessary part.
I think we buried one here today.
We buried Father Theodore Walsh, CP, a classmate of mine. I preached at his funeral.
“I sat next to Theodore Walsh for meals and prayers for 8 years in student life. For 8 years when a baked potato came around for a meal, I took the skins from him and he took the insides from me. For 8 years we played basketball together on half days. He was a wonderful athlete, great to have on your side, but watch out when he played against you. He had a quickness you wouldn’t suspect. One minute you had the ball, the next you didn’t. I learned never to underestimate him. He was a quiet, humble man, and he could be underestimated.
After ordination Theodore volunteered to go to the Philippines as a missionary. A big move for someone just ordained. Not only that, but Theodore became the first novice master for our community in the Philippines. It wasn’t easy setting up that novitiate. The housing arrangements were extremely poor. Two young Filipinos finally applied, but when the Provincial from the States came over on visitation he didn’t like the situation, not professional enough, he said, and he told Theodore to send the boys home and close the place.
Father Theodore Foley, the Passionist general came through a short time later and told Theodore to get those boys back and open the place again. The young men became the first Filipino Passionists, Fr. Gabriel and Fr. Nonito.
Theodore really believed in our community and the Passionist vocation. We saw his love for vocations in these last few years here in Jamaica when he would hobble out on his walker at the 10 AM Mass and after Communion ask a family in the congregation to take home a vocational crucifix and pray for vocations the next week. Vocations were important for him.
Preaching was important too. He was a very good preacher. For many years, after returning from the Philippines, he and Fr. Kenan preached missions and retreats together in this area in the spring and fall and Florida in the winter, where they would go from parish to parish.
I went with him on a number of parish missions. I thought he was a great preacher; his preaching was simple, homey, deliberate, sincere, no notes, excellent material. He was an excellent missionary.
As his health declined he loved being able to preach at the 11 o’clock Mass in the public chapel in Jamaica and to stay on to talk to people and give them his blessing. He heard confessions here every week.
He began writing homilies for the Province website, and gradually, when he couldn’t preach at Mass, he read the scriptures during Mass in that deliberate way of his that made every word count.
Theodore was a contemplative, someone who could spend hours in his own room reflecting and praying. The perfect vacation for him during the summer was to go to Shelter Island and sit on the shore looking out on the water, then take a swim.
It wasn’t that he neglected people, though. He loved his family, his sister Maureen, and his deceased brother John’s children and grandchildren. He was on the phone with them all the time. He visited with them as often as he could. Unfortunately, as for so many others, the Covid 19 epidemic prevented them from visiting him in his last illness and attending his funeral.
He loved the Passionist community, the people in it, the things it did. Usually, the first thing he said to me when we met was “What’s going on?” He wanted to know what was happening, how people were doing. “Is there anything new on the bulletin board?” he would ask as he got weaker. He wanted the community to flourish here and in the world.
I guess I could say about Father Theodore what our wise classmate, Fr. Paul Cusack said about him awhile ago: “He was the holiest of us all.”
Now we won’t see Theodore here in the chapel, at meals, in his room on the 2nd floor any more. Death is a time of closure. Some say death is a complete closure. He’s gone, all that’s left are memories of him, and they will die soon enough.
But that’s not true. For Christians, death is not the end. Life is changed, not ended. We don’t see it with our eyes or hear it with our ears. But there’s life ahead. We believe what Jesus says in the gospel. There are dwelling places prepared for us and he’ll lead us to them. There’s a dwelling place for Theodore Walsh, and Jesus is leading him there.
Life is changed, not ended. Let’s not forget that that changed life is still connected to this one. The dwelling places Jesus promises are not gated communities separating us from the world where we were born.
There’s a communion of saints. Saints who care for us. Saints who cared for our world when they were here and care for it now, saints who were zealous for spreading the gospel in their lifetime and still are zealous for spreading the gospel now. Saints who lived with us, and still do.
There’s a communion of saints. Those who leave us don’t turn away from us. They don’t leave us orphans. They keep us in mind. Theodore Walsh will still be asking “What’s going on.?”
I think this is important to remember today when so many in our world think we are all alone, on a lonely planet, with dwindling hopes.
But we know, our our scriptures today remind us, that from the mountains, those who see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion, bring us comfort. From the places prepared for them, those who go before us guide us still.
We are not alone. There’s a communion of saints. Great saints whom we never knew, but also saints who were our companions in life and are our companions still.
Saints of God, pray for us.
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| | | Dear Father Victor,This was so beautiful! God bless you for your words of remembrance, encouragement and love. Be well!Love,Jack and Rorie Coppola |
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Dear Father Victor, My condolences to the Passionist community on their loss. I will miss the Daily Reflections Father Theodore Walsh used to post on the Passionists.Org website. From his homilies there, I could tell he was a Storyteller and a prayerful man, ending his posts most days with a prayer. He hasn’t posted in awhile but here is how he once concluded a reflection: “On one occasion a novice asked St. Teresa of Avila how to become a contemplative. Without missing a beat St. Teresa remarked: “Say the Out Father-but take an hour to say it”.” Like your blog posts, Father Victor, sometimes I take a camera shot of the page, so I don’t forget it. Like this one from Father Theodore Walsh. May he rest in peace.
Thanks so much for your condolences.
Thanks so much, Rorie. Best to Jack and all at St. Marys. Miss you.
Dear Victor. I have always considered both Fr Xavior and you As Saints among us. Be well and safe. Pray for me as I do you. Harry