Monday, December 05, 2005


Only after I received an e.mail from a confrere of the late liturgical giant Fr Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B., did I realize that I left out a very touching vignette from my report on the funeral of Msgr. Fred McManus....

In his tribute to Fred, Dr. John Page, executive secretary of ICEL until The Intervention, spoke of getting a call from Godfrey Diekmann. It seems that Godfrey would have premonitions of his imminent death from time to time and proceed to divest himself of his prized possessions, sending them to those he thought would make good use of them.

In the midst of one of these moments, Diekmann he called Page to announce that he was going soon and that ICEL should expect a final gift from him in the mail. So when a portrait of John XXIII arrived from Collegeville a few days later, Page excitedly opened it.

But it wasn't the John the world knew: the good Pope's eyes were drawn, his face sullen, hands reaching out. John Page was puzzled, but as he reasoned that it was a gift from Godfrey -- and that Godfrey could well come bounding in the door at any moment -- he had it hung in a prominent place in the entryway at ICEL.

So Godfrey excitedly called shortly thereafter and asked Page if the gift arrived safely. When John said it did, he added, "Tell me something about it..." And Godfrey immediately knew what Page was referring to -- the sad appearance. Godfrey told Page that this was the artist's interpretation of John at the close of the first session of the Council, knowing that the cancer which would claim him was spreading, his time was short, and that he wouldn't live to open the second session -- or if there would even be a second session.

According to Diekmann, that portrayal was John XXIII saying, "I've done all I could do. And now, the work belongs to you to carry it forward. May God who has begun it bring it to fulfillment."

Bringing it in to Friday's context, Page said it would be Fred's message to the assembled.