Sunday, December 04, 2005

Old Soldiers Don't Die...

...they just fade away.

I've been thinking a good bit about that quote in the wake of Msgr. Fred McManus' passing last week. The New York Times and Washington Post have each chimed in with relatively sizable obits, but in most of the Catholic world (or at least its incarnation in these quarters) there's been nary a sound, which is noteworthy given the significance of his commitment and work over the last forty years in the areas of liturgical renewal, jurisprudence and ecumenical relations in the church. Such was McManus' humility that the Times obit notes what even friends of his didn't know until after his death -- that he presided over the first vernacular liturgy in the United States in 1964.

Fred's funeral took place on Friday at his childhood parish in the suburbs of Boston. As a tribute to the two loves of his life, the American and Vatican flags were attached to the front of the hearse -- many thanks to Our Roving Correspondents for the photo. The liturgy, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of Boston Richard Lennon, took place before a half-full church, with half of congregation being comprised of the priests with whom Fred had worked or whom he had formed over almost six decades in the priesthood. A message of appreciation and tribute was read aloud from Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. The thanks of the Congregation for Divine Worship, however, was conspicuous by its absence.

After a tribute by one of Fred's nephews, John Page, who served as executive secretary of ICEL until The Intervention, rose to speak. Page noted that, anytime he'd call McManus up, Fred's first question would be "What's news?" followed shortly thereafter by "What's next?"

Answering the latter question in its new context, Page replied, "What's next? Heaven, Fred -- and the glory of the Father."

The event provided the backdrop for a reunion of liturgical types past and present, with ample opportunity for war stories and getting the rest up to speed with what's news.

In death, as he had in life, Fred brought 'em all together once again.... With him gone, however, who knows what's next for those who remain?