The Homily at Fr. Neuhaus' First Year Anniversary Mass
He could speak heart to heart, and we are here a year later in consequence of that. Becoming a Catholic was for him not a matter of burning the bridge behind him, Rather, it was a walk across the bridge on which he was first set in baptism. This is not to say that such a walk is without cost, for the bridge that any man of conviction crosses is a toll bridge. Grace is free but not cheap, and we know what it cost our Lord to give it to us. The Eucharist as the “source and summit” of true devotion became the font and height of each day Father Neuhaus lived. This priestly vision only sharpened his prophetic voice. Among his benefactions to Catholic life in a troubled time was the way he lived a maxim of Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ: “For the word of God is the light of the soul, and the sacrament the bread of life. These also may be called the two tables set on one side and on the other, in the storehouse of the holy Church.”
There is a story which has the attribute of being true, of two colleges in a university of Father Neuhaus’s native Canada. They were of opposite theological opinion , built facing each other. In the chapel of one was inscribed words of the Resurrection angel at the empty tomb, “He is not here.” One day some seminarians, from the more Sacramentally ordered school, placed next to the inscription a sign reading: “He is across the street.”
Father Neuhaus was more aware of the full demands of charity, and did nothing like that, but he said in persuasive syntax tactful enough to win friends as deftly as he won debates, that Christ really is there. We must always remember the unfathomable patience and handsome pathos with which our Risen Lord spoke to those men on the Emmaus Road: “Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” There it was: correction without condescension, an appeal to the mind in the light of glory passing all understanding, and a zeal for souls that could beguile pedestrians to paradise. The one we last saw a year ago was yoked to that enchantment and daily he stood in the public square asking on behalf of his Lord who in a marvelous agony of grace had asked Philip, “Have I been so long with you and do you still not know me?” Father Neuhaus has bequeathed that public square to all of you who now can do in your own ways what he did in his singular way.
Ein feste burg ist unser Gott. Richard John Neuhaus sang those words before he learned Tantum Ergo. The author was a redactor of King David with his harp (Psalm 18:2): “The Lord is my rock and fortress and my deliverer.” The verses go on: “The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.” The words are far more ancient than the hymn. St. John had seen it all with his own eyes in his Revelation (11: 7,11): for he says: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the Beast that ascendeth out of the Bottomless Pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. . . . And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.”