Frans Jozef van Beeck, S.J., died yesterday in his native Holland at age eighty-one. Although trained in literature, Father van Beeck taught theology for more than fifteen years at Boston College and then another twenty years at Loyola University, Chicago.He was, in every way, an out-sized personality who wrote voluminously, conversed pungently, and enjoyed life with great verve. I once called him "the Rubens of theology" -- he was not displeased.His many-volume systematic theology, God Encountered (sadly unfinished) is noteworthy for his integration of the mystical tradition into the doing of theology. Further, he had a great liturgical sensitivity and commitment. The central chapter of the first volume of God Encountered is entitled, "Doxology: the Mystery of Intimacy and Awe.""Joep" --as he was called by friends -- wrote a number of articles for Commonweal. In the March 11, 1994 issue I introduced his theological vision and approach in an article: "Catholic Identity After Vatican II: On the Theology of Frans Jozef van Beeck." The book to which the title refers, "Catholic Identity After Vatican II," still strikes me as one of the most helpful guides through the post-conciliar shoals.When I learned of his death my prayer took the form of the first verse from the poem, "The Living Flame of Love," by one of Joep's beloved mystics: Saint John of the Cross:
O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive,Now Consummate! if it be your will: Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!