Prayers for Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
  • From our friends at Whispers in the Loggia comes this sad news:

    Neuhaus at the Gate
    NRO posts a rending update to the below....

    His friends and family are keeping vigil and he was administered last rites shortly after midnight. Fr. George Rutler, who gave him the Catholic Sacrament, says that “he is not expected to live long” and suggests “that it is appropriate that prayers be offered for a holy death.”...

    Fr. Neuhaus might say, if he could right now, what he's already written:
    We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well. Most of us are at ease in discussing what makes for a good life, but we typically become tongue-tied and nervous when the discussion turns to a good death. As children of a culture radically, even religiously, devoted to youth and health, many find it incomprehensible, indeed offensive, that the word "good" should in any way be associated with death. Death, it is thought, is an unmitigated evil, the very antithesis of all that is good.

    Death is to be warded off by exercise, by healthy habits, by medical advances. What cannot be halted can be delayed, and what cannot forever be delayed can be denied. But all our progress and all our protest notwithstanding, the mortality rate holds steady at 100 percent.

    Death is the most everyday of everyday things. It is not simply that thousands of people die every day, that thousands will die this day, although that too is true. Death is the warp and woof of existence in the ordinary, the quotidian, the way things are. It is the horizon against which we get up in the morning and go to bed at night, and the next morning we awake to find the horizon has drawn closer. From the twelfth-century Enchiridion Leonis comes the nighttime prayer of children of all ages: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take." Every going to sleep is a little death, a rehearsal for the real thing.


    Given that today marks the 15th anniversary of my beloved mother's death, I read the blog with much sadness. I wrote to Fr. Neuhaus awhile back. He sent me both an email and a letter via snail mail. I kept both.

    Please keep him in prayers. He is certainly one good and holy priest who should have been ordained a bishop. God only knows that we need more priests like him.
  • After coming home tonight from the Chant Intensive I phoned my wife and we had a brief discussion about that certain paradox between what we can and cannot do regarding the disposition of either body and soul while on this plane and planet. And I was quite aware of Father Neuhaus' prognosis beforehand.
    God has blessed this man, as He intends for all of us, with gifts that he accepted with full knowledge and humility to share with Christ's True Spouse and Body on earth. I pray with you, Fr. Rutler and all Christendom that he has already surrounded himself with the company of saints unrecognized, and when his time comes, those saints and angels with whom he shared and edified his faith.

    Amended after news of his passing last night,

    In paradisum deducant te angeli
    in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres,
    et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

    Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
    et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam
    habeas requiem.
  • I called First Things at about 8AM (CST-Texas time) and was told that he was hanging in there. Sadly, when I called at about 9:30AM, or so, I was told by their staff that he had just died. The Church in America lost the clearest and strongest voice of orthodoxy and reason. I believe that he was to the print and internet what Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was to TV.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Fr. Neuhaus and First Things was part of what brought me back to Rome. I am happy for his soul, but grieved for all of us who suffer his passing. God, have mercy on him and let him sit among the saints! They would be delighted with his conversation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,549
    May his memory be eternal.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 706
    Like many people, today I came across Fr. Neuhaus's beautiful article, Born Toward Dying, in which he relates the story of his near-death experience with colon cancer in the early 1990's. He warns the reader "that this story would smack of the commonplace", and gets into some graphic detail. After several surgeries and a long recovery, he writes:

    When one day I was sent home from the hospital after another round of tests, I was told that, if I did not urinate by five o’clock, I should come back to the emergency room and someone would put the catheter back in. My heart sank. It was quite irrational, but going back to the emergency room would have been like recapitulating the entire ordeal of these last several months. I could not endure the thought. When at four o’clock I peed a strong triumphant pee, my heart was lifted on high, and with tears of gratitude I began to sing with feeble voice a Te Deum. I thought, “I am going to get better.” And I allowed myself, ever so tentatively, to be glad.

    I thought this was a wonderful illustration of how Gregorian chant is not simply a rigid ceremonial song, but is really and truly prayer capable of expressing our hearts' purest yearnings towards Heaven at the "commonplace" moments of intimacy with God in our ordinary lives. How sad it is that so few Catholics today know the Te Deum!
  • He brought up the TeDeum when he heard the name Iosephum Ratzinger called out as the new Pope. He said that he was tempted to belt out the venerable hymn.

    Fr. Neuhaus certainly gave credibility to EWTN's coverage of Papal events. He kept Raymond on a short leash and curbed his excessive exhuberence and lent the program an air of dignity.

    I remember wanting to throw something at the HDTV during the Papal Mass at Nationals Stadium. The music was horrid and insipid. Evidently, Fr. Neuahaus wanted to swing something at the folks who chose the music. He made comments that were stingingly accurate. I sent him an email commending him for his candor and his honesty. I am going to certainly miss that.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 706
    The funeral has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 13, 2009, at 10 AM at Immaculate Conception, 414 E. 14th Street.

    Fittingly, that church, built in 1896, was "a Protestant complex converted to Catholicism".

    Let us pray that the music chosen for the funeral will be equally fitting. In Catholic Matters, Fr. Neuhaus wrote:

    Not so long ago, convert stories typically stressed the compelling aesthetic attractions of Catholicism. People such as Thomas Merton were drawn to the Church by the beauty, the solemnity, the ceremony, the dignity of the worship. The word commonly used was "mystery"...

    One now more commonly encounters people who, instead of being attracted by the beauty of it all, entered the Church despite the aesthetic shambles of liturgy and music in many parishes. For the "high church" Lutheran or Episcopalian, contemporary Catholicism can be a liturgical and musical move downmarket, and sometimes way down. When over lunch I told my editor friend Norman Podhoretz, with whom I share musical passions, that I was becoming a Catholic, there was at first a long pause. Then, with a baffled expression, "But, Richard, what about Bach?" What about Bach indeed.

    As I say, anyone thinking about becoming Catholic should brace himself by reading Thomas Day's Why Catholics Can't Sing.
  • You know, after watching Fr. Neuhaus for many years of commentary, Marcus Grodi and "the Journey Home" and my own involvement with parish level RCIA, I think I have an appreciation that the trappings and vagaries of contemporary RC worship are not the first and foremost agenda items on the Ben Franklin YES/NO list of converts to RCatholicism. I, like everyone else with a single neuron of common sense, appreciated Fr. Neuhaus' none-too-veiled disapppointment with the Papal Mass music at D.C.
    But such agendae seems not to be the concern of most thinking converts, despite "lex orandi, lex credenti."
    It is because Christ bestowed Peter with the keys that really matter for eternity. We are in communion best with angels and saints singing a Sanctus that was historically sung by real saints of eras past. But to fret about conversion based upon the aesthetic artifice a potential convert would find from parish to parish is really not to the point of conversion. YMMV.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 706
    Fixing all the problems in the Church certainly should not be the #1 agenda item of converts when they are converting. The Faith is inherently beautiful, but the faithful witness of Catholics makes that beauty visible. I think the remnants of sensible beauty attract many non-Catholics to open their hearts to the Church today and many Catholics to a deeper practice, even if it appears from our irreverence that "there is no beauty in" Her (Isaiah 53:2).

    But it is hard to take the Keys of Eternity seriously when they are packaged by the so-called faithful as Happy Meals. Beauty is a path to God. I've heard it said that "God is Beauty". Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony are living proofs of the historicity and holiness of the Church. The banality of worship in the average Catholic parish is something many faithful, catholic-minded Protestants and others are repelled by. I have even heard one woman, an Anglo-Catholic, tell me flat out she could never leave the beauty of her parish for the Catholic Church. I pray for her that she changes her mind.
  • Are most CMAA members admirers of this man? Do most share his political outlook? I, for one, do not lament his passing at all.
  • I NEVER use "passing" to mean "death." I don't know what came over me. What I mean to say is, "I do not lament his death at all."
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,338
    This might be a good time to read something from John Donne.
  • I, for one, was an admirer. I began reading First Things a few years ago and never failed to be interested in what he had to say in his section at the back of the journal. I will miss him.
  • I also was, and still am, an admirer of Fr. Neuhaus. He was such a strong and unafraid defender of the teachings of the Magisterium, and he had such a unique way of getting his point across...straightforward yet with compassion. I will never forget his commentary during the time of papal transition, nor his words of wisdom and deep insight in his comments about our Pope's visit to the USA. I too will miss him greatly as will millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike who were profoundly affected by his life and teachings.
  • Bruce, that is a most cruel thing to say. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus made significant contributions to both the religious and secular world. He was a giant. I would rather have one of him than 10 dulicates of someone else.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,549
    "I NEVER use "passing" to mean "death." I don't know what came over me. What I mean to say is, "I do not lament his death at all."

    I am slightly familiar with him, and he was supposedly a defender of orthodoxy. I always pray for those who fall asleep in the Lord, and even for those who may not have been in the Lord. I would like to read your opinions on this man and his work, even if you would prefer not to post them publicly.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,338
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 187
    Father Neuhaus was a brilliant and holy man, and his pages in First Things magazine were worth the price of admission. No one can fill his shoes.

    On the bright side, I believe we have a new advocate for beautiful and dignified liturgy in heaven.

  • Bruce, I think you might be alluding to his political outlook, and politics is just not part of any sacred music program, or shouldn't be, in my view.

    I have my own views on his politics, which don't include approving of his views on American wars. Yet I must say that I was deeply touched by his writings on death that I read on the day he died, and I even ordered his book. And within Catholic circles, he emerged as a real champion of good liturgy, and publicly so.

    For all those who happen to run across this post: i hope you agree that there should be a "wall of separation" between politics and liturgy. It would break my heart for political divisions to elicit rancor on this forum.
  • I did not think that such comments should have been made against the deceased, whether they concerned the person's political views.

    I wrote to Fr. Neuhaus a couple of years ago to comment on something that he said on the liturgy. I explained the situation in my own diocese and how I wished things were different. To my surprise, a note popped up on my inbox from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. It was not the standard issue form letter. It was a brief, but, solid response. He reminded me that despite the foibles that exist, Christ promised to be with His Church. A couple of days later, I got a letter from First Things. It was the same letter, but, printed. This will now be a cherished possession.
  • Jeffrey, I totally agree with you. The mention of someone's political leanings has no place on this forum. In the case of Fr. Neuhaus, the fact that he was a strong defender of the dignity of life as well as an orthodox advocate of good liturgy, things that are of primary importance to the existence of the Church, have nothing to do with his political views, which were his own personal ideas. I pray that God will welcome Fr. Neuhaus into His presence.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I understand if Bruce Ford did not agree with Fr. Neuhaus's political views during his life. From what I've read of the late Fr. posthumously, I doubt I would have either. I hope Bruce feels there are no political demands with the CMAA, as Jeff so well put it, and that all viewpoints are welcomed here. We're not here to enforce one mode of thinking over another, we're here to let the Western liturgy be the best it can be.
  • As a fellow convert, I have more sympathy with the work and thinking of Fr. Neuhaus than Bruce. And as one who has worked in the past in as a writer and editor, I deeply admire Neuhaus' professional skills. He clearly had an ability to recognize literary talent. Is there a better writer around than Joseph Bottom?

    For some, his alignment with the Bush administration - particularly the Iraq war - was a grievous error. It should be remembered, however, that most of us, even the best and brightest, make serious blunders along the way. I won't even tell my wife who I have voted for through the years.

    As for the separation between politics and liturgy, Jeffrey is correct - at least in theory. If good liturgical music were dependent on a solidly conservative political and theological environment, the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School venture would never have gotten off the ground. The perception of a relationship, however, does exist. That's why I was a little apprehensive to hear that Jeffrey was writing for the Wanderer. Those readers need to hear the good news too, but it enforces mistaken perceptions held by the broader Catholic populace.
  • Well, the Wanderer is not as predictable as one might think. In any case, they are interested in articles on Sacred Music, which says much in their favor. I've never heard of any other publication that is willing to run 2000 word per week on the topic. If there is one, I'm open to offers. The Wanderer has never once censored me on any topic. I really appreciate that.

    That said, there is a perception out there that conservative politics and sacred music go together, but in the real world, I see little evidence that this is true. Many conservative Catholic I know prefer "praise music," while some of the biggest supports of sacred music are on the far left politically. Just speaking from my own experience.
  • I remember how Fr. Neuhaus reacted when he and Raymond were covering the Papal Mass held at the Naiionals Stadium. He was livid and did not hide his disgust with the music. It was, as he called, it "cultural mishmash". In fact, he devoted a lot of verbage to the situation in a subsequent article on "First Things".

    During the World Over recap of the Papal Mass, I got to call in and be a part of the program. I told Raymond Arroyo that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was right on-target with his observations. However, what really got to me was his reaction to the election of Pope Benedict XVI. He practically wanted to belt out the Te Deum as the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger emerged onto the loggia.

    I would love to have heard him preach. I am sure that this homilies would have been of the highest caliber.
  • For those of you who may not have read it, here is what Fr. Neuhaus wrote regarding the music at the Papal Mass held at Nationals Stadium (exeprt):

    "The Thursday Mass at Nationals Park introduced the Holy Father to aspects of the aesthetic suffering endured by the faithful in America. The background notes we have been supplied are not specific about who, for instance, is to blame for the choice of music… I offered an observation or two on this in the course of our EWTN coverage, provoking the response that the people in the stadium were obviously enjoying themselves and we mustn’t try to impose our elitist musical and liturgical criteria. Ouch. The point I was making is that Benedict has written very specifically over the years about the distortion of the dynamics of worship when attention is focused on “our wonderful selves” rather than on the glory of God. He has also stressed the importance of renewing commitment to and continuity in the tradition of sacred music, including Gregorian chant, a tradition almost entirely absent from the stadium Mass. So the point of the commentary on that Mass is that it is remarkable that, on matters about which Benedict has been so emphatic, his views were so egregiously ignored or defied."

    I wonder if EWTN still has it available on its archives. I would like to watch that again, along with the events that unfolded during that historic April 2005.
  • If you go to the EWTN website and look in the catalogue section under Multimedia - Home Shows - Other, you will find numerous DVDs of various Papal events including the Washington, DC, debaucle.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,032
    As a convert to the Faith, my own conversion would have come sooner, I think, had I known that there were interesting Catholics like Fr. Neuhaus. His intellect, faith, writing skill, and quick wit always made for interesting reading. Getting hung up on his views on the Iraq war or his neo-con views, is a bit off; certainly, these were not issues remotely related to the Magisterium, Tradition, or even sacred music. I suggest those who haven't read "The Public Square" in an issue of First Things go posthaste and do so! Unless you are burdened and heavy laden by political correctness or an inability to poke fun at oneself and life in general, it should be good reading...regardless of your agreement with his opinions.

    Neuhaus' important legacy, I think, is to remind Americans that from the founding of the country to MLK Jr. to this day, religion has always had a place at the table in American political life, culture, and governance. Once our free exercise of religion (whichever incarnation you prefer) is replaced by the religion of secularism, things get dangerous. This is not a policy or political board, but I feel free exercise of religion is something we can all agree on!

    Certainly, Fr. Neuhaus was a defender of orthodoxy. Such defenders seek truth, which is a road that often leads through our beloved liturgy. The fact that a human has inclinations on non-essentials (politics, etc.) with which we disagree simply serves to make life more interesting. Many I know don't share my predisposition toward bourbon and cigars, but we can still be friends. On the other hand, maybe these two things are just another reason I liked Fr. Neuhaus!