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
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.