Sunday, January 11, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

I liked and admired him, and felt that I knew him in some way from his writing. Although I never met nor spoke to him, I read the words of many who did, including some whose acquaintance with him was merely casual. Many of those people have left reminiscences of him (read here, here and here for starters), and there isn't anything I can add that would be particularly worthwhile.

What I will say is this: a number of those writing on the web mention, in some way, that though their contact with Fr. Neuhaus might have been minimal (contacting him with a question or a request for a comment), he was always gracious in reply, and thoughtful in response. He was, in other words, approachable. He was also a parish priest, one who married and counseled and buired, who heard confessions guided conversions and celebrated Mass; and in the sense that he did so many other things (writer, editor, commentator), that can sometimes be lost.

So the moral of the story is this, and it's one that I must apply to myself as well as those whom I've admired throughout the years continue to fade away: never be afraid to approach anyone, whether it be the priest you see every Sunday or an author whose works you admire, someone you think might have the answer to a question, or even your parents. Don't be afraid to ask for an opinion, or some advise, or simply to pass along a word of support. It's kind of like the story about the most beautiful girl in class, the one who never gets asked out because every boy assumes she already has others beating down her door. Those who may seem most unapproachable may in fact be the ones just waiting to share a word with you. If you don't hear back from them, it's not as if you're any the worse off than you would have been if you had never tried. And even if you never become best friends with them, you'll probably emerge from the exchange richer in some way.

Because once they're gone, so is your chance.

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