posted on: Thursday October 21, 2010
Fr. James Cudd, O.P./Contributing Writer
As St. Dominic lay dying in Bologna in 1221, he summoned his brothers to his side to speak to them his last words. These first Dominicans were grieving and anxious, and understandably so. They were worried that they would not be able to survive without their friend and leader. They were distraught, thinking that without their brother, they would be like rudderless ships tossed about on turbulent seas.
But with his last breath, St. Dominic gave comfort and assurance to his brothers. He said: Do not weep for me, for I shall be more useful to you after my death. From heaven I will help you more powerfully than during my life. All generations of Dominicans – from that one until our present day – have depended on the prayers of our great saintly father. Through his intercession, the Order has grown and flourished for eight hundred years. St. Dominic didn’t leave us orphans, but remains our brother, a friar forever.
Was Brendan a saint? No, and no one is saying that he was. But is Brendan a Friar forever? You’d better believe it. His death, no matter how tragic and sudden, does not change that fact. And like St. Dominic, Brendan’s passing from this life does not mean the end of our relationship with him. He is still your son and your brother. He’s still our friend.
Our Lord says in the Gospel tonight that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children. And this was Brendan. But don’t be fooled. To say that Brendan was like a child is not to say that he was childish or immature. Rather, to be childlike is to have a certain lightness of heart that makes others happy simply to be in your presence. To be childlike is to be filled with enthusiasm and excitement for even the smallest things in life. That’s what it means to be like a child, and that’s what characterized Brendan’s life.
Over the past two months since he died, I’ve heard countless stories, from Yorktown to Providence, of how his childlike joy for life improved the lives of others. There are small things. I’ve heard from friends who tell stories about how he would raise their drooping spirits by simply (and obnoxiously) chanting their names. He’d start slowly and quietly, and then it would grow – louder and faster, and louder and faster – until finally he’d be shouting at the top of his lungs. And he wouldn’t stop until they’d crack a smile and say, “Shut up, Frail.”
Then there were the large things, like his deep and abiding desire to serve young people at the Yorktown Day Camp and as an Elementary Education major. Brendan had the heart of a child and used that heart to love others with great generosity. And so we have reason to hope that the Lord will make good on his promise to give our brother Brendan the fullness of life forever in heaven. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. There are many here in this chapel whose lives were turned upside down by Brendan’s death. For some, the grief seems to be getting worse as the weeks go on. These days without him have been marked by many moments of anxiety and restlessness. So to you who still suffer, and to you who still mourn, consider the words of St. Dominic to his brothers. Do not weep for me . . . From heaven I will help you more powerfully than during my life. This is the wonderful hope that those first Dominicans had, and it’s the same wonderful hope that you in this latest generation of Friars can have tonight. Through the mercy of God, we pray that Brendan might live forever in heaven and from there come to our aid when we are struggling; and from there, inspire us to live good and meaningful lives. And from there, help us to have childlike joy in our lives, and so be a source of joy to those around us just as he was.