Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Teacher's Passing

Yesterday, while consulting a portion of a book written by a professor of mine, the chime sounded on my computer indicating an email arrived. It was not from whom I was anticipating an email, but from The Divinity School, Yale University. It emails periodically about happenings at the school. As I scrolled down the page I read that Aidan Kavanagh, O.S.B., had died last month. I followed the link to the complete article. Aidan was a pioneer in liturgical theology. In fact, I had been consulting his seminal work, On Liturgical Theology, when the chime sounded. Aidan was only 77.

Aidan was a monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey. Its chronicle (number 9 of the July entries) indicated a long illness preceded Aidan's death. During his life, which he lived away from his monastery teaching, first at Notre Dame, then The Divinity School, Yale University, God used Aidan, anomalies and all (to paraphrase one of his many expressions: "warts and all") for the betterment of the church in the modern world.

He was always quick to remind his students and others who heard him that the Greek word we fashion into "laity" has a royal connotation. Aidan was convinced that the church praying at the Lord's Table is a dynamic orchestration of several orders: the assembly; servers; lectors; deacons; priests. That means all the baptized--living their faith in numerous ways day to day--exercise their royalty which they share in Christ Jesus for the sake of the world.

A final, personal note: Aidan was always teaching in any venue, although one would not realize it at the time--in part because Aidan instilled much joy into it. Aidan took me to lunch before I was ordained. He was sorry he could not come to the ordination. At that lunch Aidan taught me another remarkable thing. He said, "Paul, write down each of your homilies and save them. Periodically--6 months, 9 months, a year--review them, and you will see how you have grown." I did that (I always took Aidan's advice). He was, of course, correct! Now that I am in a position to do so, I recommend that to preachers, and I always give Aidan credit.

Aidan is truly deserviing to enjoy the liturgy of heaven. He devoted his earthly life to helping people experience it in some small way on earth by God's gracious gift.

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