Saturday, October 4, 2014

Benedict Groeschel, RIP

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

Fr. Benedict Groeschel died last night, the vigil of St. Francis, at the age of 81.  Born in Jersey City, Fr. Groeschel entered the OFM Capuchins a few days after graduating high school, and remained a Capuchin for the next 36 years.  In 1987, motivated by his desire to live the Franciscan vocation more faithfully, Fr. Groeschel, along with 7 fellow Capuchins, left the order to found the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.   The FFRs now count 115 members, and a similar order for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, now numbers 35.

Fr. Groeschel had a PhD from Columbia, and although he didn't publish his first book until 1983, he would go on to author 46 books in all, and was at work on number 47.  His wispy beard and raspy, slightly lisping voice were familiar to viewers of EWTN, where he appeared regularly for 30 years.   Fr. Groeschel was humble, learned, orthodox and funny, and he had many admirers and friends, some of whom, like Mother Teresa, are now saints.  He will be missed, and I hope his own cause for canonization will move quickly.

Long ago, during my high school and college years, I met Fr. Groeschel several times at the retreat house he'd founded at the request of Cardinal Cooke.  At first I had no idea Fr. Groeschel was famous, and not just for his holiness and learning, but that became clear enough at meals, when everyone in the place, and especially his fellow Capuchins, would crowd around to hear his table talk, which was often uproarious, even though Fr. Groeschel barely spoke above a whisper.   Once, his gentle gaze having fallen upon the awkward, shy lad at far end of his table, he asked me what college I was attending.   When I told him Columbia, he asked if I'd ever visited Riverside Church, the towering, gothic, cathedral-like Baptist church built at enormous expense by John D. Rockefeller.   I replied that I had (it's a landmark a few blocks from campus), whereupon Fr. Groeschel said, in a confiding tone, "You know what that is, don't you?  Rockefeller's fire escape."

Fr. Groeschel's obituary here.

Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis:
Requiescat in pace.  Amen

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