February 14, 2012

RIP: Fr. Stanley Marrow, SJ

Today there was news of the death of one of our favorite teachers, Fr. Stanley Marrow, SJ. A seemingly cantankerous but really very gracious old Iraqi, every student he ever had is full of his sayings.

The last time I saw Stanley, on a visit to the old Jesuit home, he showed me a manuscript that he had just completed. A commentary on 1 Corinthians, I think it was. He remarked how nobody would publish it. Not the conservative presses, he said, because his exegesis proved the non-existence of the sacrament of penance, and not the liberal ones, because he insisted on calling God 'Father.' In this, as in everything else, he was the consummate iconoclast. He was very insistent on the God the Father thing. When he thought our more progressively-styled school Masses were ashamed of it, he declined to attend, saying that he worshiped a different God. I remember once when he did come to a school Mass, he remarked that the music sounded like "something from a Moroccan whorehouse."

During the same visit that I mentioned above, Stanley told me that he was praying for death. But, he said, the answer to his prayers thus far had only been, "Please stay on the line; your business is important to us." 

Underneath all the humor, though, was a very serious scholar of the Scriptures, and that's something we younger folks sometimes forget. You don't just get to be an iconoclast. You have to work for the privilege, and work long and hard.

When I was a new priest, Stanley sent me one of the most beautiful and encouraging notes I have ever received:

Before all else, congratulations! One of my fellow-ordinands, a man of extreme emotional reserve, remarked after the ceremony, "Now I know what Rahner means when he speaks of the 'physical redundancy' of grace." I shall offer my Mass for you some day this week, and ask the "author of our calling" to make your priestly ministry the unfailing source of your peace and joy. God has blessed you with an abundance of gifts, and the great beneficiary of that abundance will be those he entrusts to your pastoral solicitude. May you find in your selfless service of them the infinite satisfaction of saying, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty."

The quotes could go on and on. But I always respected how he responded when he was asked how he saw his work as a professor of Sacred Scripture: he said that it was his mission to minimize the damage his students were going to do to God's people.

Requiescat in pace.


4 comments:

Thom, OFS said...

He sounds like a guy I would love to have met. Memory eternal +

Patricia G. said...

I was a student at Weston and had a class with Sfanley Marrow SJ. He was an amazing, charismatic teacher, a great gift to his students. He actually used a wonderful example to discuss the nature of a gift -- he brought in a paperback New Testament and handed it to a student (me, actually), and said it wasn't a gift if the recipient had done anything to earn it, and it wasn't a gift if he took it back. A few years later, he wrote me the most beautiful sympathy note when my husband died. My guess is that people will be telling Stanley Marrow stories for a long time. A great man.

Arlen Harris said...

I also knew Fr. Stanley from my time as a student at Weston. I took two classes with him, one on the Gospel of John and the other on the Johannine Letters. I also served as Deacon at the final graduation Mass at Weston (2008) where Fr. Stanley was the preacher. The Gospel of the day was from Mark, which seemed to be one of his favorite books of the Bible in addition to the Gospel of John. My favorite lesson from him was his insight into the charge to "love one another" which he took time to explain in class. At the end he said that it is simple, but not easy. But, for me, he made the words credible because he tried to live it.

Dan Lloyd said...

Thanks so much for the remembrance of Fr. Marrow, Brother Charles. I came across your post when I was doing a quick search to find his article about the idea of the immortality of the soul. I will never get the image out of my head of him suggesting that the washing of the feet ceremony is equivalent to a pastor walking into a church and throwing seeds at everyone (Mt 13:1-9). It is an image that never left me. I picture him doing it and I laugh every time I read that parable.