Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him
J. Peter Nixon February 17, 2008 - 9:44pm
Rocco (among others) is reporting the death, at age 95, of Walter Burghart, S.J., the famed Jesuit theologian and preacher:
Numbered by many among the nation's most eminent clerics of any denominational stripe, Burghardt authored countless works long and short, served on the Holy See's International Theological Commission, taught at Woodstock, Catholic U. and, of course, Georgetown. A 1998 documentary series on the nation's "Great Preachers" tapped Burghardt as one of two priests among the group of nine servant-masters of the pulpit -- helmed, as one would expect, by the age's first heir to George Whitefield, Billy Graham. (For the record, both Catholic contributions to the list were Jesuits.)The successor of John Courtney Murray as editor of Theological Studies -- a post he held for 24 years -- he wrote on topics as varied as preaching in the American vernacular, man's merit of peace, the Holy Family and the proclaiming of the "just word" that became the cause of his later years. But the thread that ran through the whole of it was encapsulated in the title of a 1989 piece bearing an oft-necessary reminder in the journey: "Without Contemplation, the People Perish."
I'm sure that many folks here have their own favorite memories of Fr. Burghart. Mine dates from the Fourth Sunday of Advent in 1997, when my wife was pregnant with our son, Joseph. We were attending the 5:30 Sunday Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, where Fr. Burghart was presiding. The Gospel that day (Lk 1:39-45) spoke of Mary's journey to be with her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. Elizabeth greets Mary with the words "For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy." As Fr. Burghardt spoke those words in his rich, resonant voice, Joseph was leaping and cavorting within my wife. It gave the Gospel--indeed our entire Advent season--a deeper meaning.Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.