The Homily at Fr Maurer’s funeral

Yesterday I posted the homily that Fr James Farge, CSB, delivered at the wake service for Armand Maurer. Today I'm able to post the homily that Fr James McConica gave at the funeral proper (thanks, again, to Fr Teske):

HOMILY: Funeral Mass for Armand Maurer CSB
Cardinal Flahiff Centre, Toronto
Wednesday of Easter Week, 2008
Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24: 13-35

"That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together, who said, 'The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!'"

Some time shortly after six in the morning of Holy Saturday, five days ago, Armand Maurer was called from his sleep to God. The journey was brief. On getting settled in his new quarters, where he was fondly reunited with his parents and many members of his family, he made his way soon as possible to Etienne Gilson, who was expecting him. Armand immediately inquired about the accuracy of a text he had been editing, an unpublished lecture once given in Montreal about the education of a philosopher, and recently discovered in a transcription that seems to pose an internal inconsistency in Gilson's argument.

This much is certain. More, I cannot say, except that nothing in heaven or on earth could shake Armand Maurer's focus on his life's work. As Father Farge reminded us last night, he was a philosopher to the end. He was truly in love with Wisdom.

For those of us who lived with Armand, there was something astonishingly familiar about the manner of his going. In his week in hospital the doctors could provide no diagnosis. Apart from his obvious weakness, there was no drama. It seemed to us that Armand did not so much die as – quietly - withdraw. So he has kept his Easter on another plane, and seems to be with us now as he was then: quiet, attentive, present, and at peace.

It is fitting that we should be gathered here to say goodbye in the light of Easter, especially on that day in Easter Week – still, in liturgy, on Easter Day – when we have the brilliant story of the journey to Emmaus and the gift of discipleship. Armand's pilgrimage has come to an end that is, for him, a new beginning. Nonetheless, his journey here must have been one that, over his lifetime, contained its own anxieties and disappointments. Whatever those may have been - and who now can say? – one thing is clear: he was supremely faithful to his vocation, and to his teachers: St Thomas, of course, and certainly Etienne Gilson. But he had another Master than St Thomas, or even Gilson. That Master was his rock.

Let us think for a moment of the disenchanted followers of Jesus in today's Gospel. Jesus, they lament, has failed to meet their expectations, and they complain sadly and unknowingly to him: "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel".

He stays with them patiently, teaching them, explaining to them how what had happened was entirely consistent with all that they had been taught to expect of the Messiah. They are intrigued, but that is not enough. They offer him hospitality: "Stay with us because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." This, it seems, is the condition finally needed by Jesus to reveal himself in his true nature. "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus and he vanished from their sight."

Their joyful realization is followed by their return to the tiny community of the eleven in Jerusalem, who confirm the truth of their immense discovery: "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" This passage may be the oldest text that we possess testifying to the Resurrection. It is the Gospel. Within it is contained the whole of our faith.

There are surely many journeys such as that to Emmaus, and many epiphanies of the Lord Jesus. Jesus reveals himself all of the time and in many ways, to those who give him hospitality, which is to say, to those who seek him, knowingly or not. And he does so through his presence in his devoted followers. Among the most important, and most potent formal means is that of teaching - always synonymous with the breaking of bread, the bread of wisdom, of the Word, to which Armand was so entirely devoted.

He was a great teacher, and that in a community dedicated to teaching in its many forms. His stature was revealed in his commanding grasp of the tradition, in his clarity of exposition, and in his sense of mission. A reviewer of his recent Festschrift called him, "one of the most outstanding historians of medieval philosophy of our time." For all of his gentleness of manner, he was also most demanding – I know whereof I speak, as I attended his seminar on Scotus and Ockham. He would not tolerate slackness or indifference in the all-important pursuit of truth.

In the early '70's, to a brash and very bright, determined student of the day who was keen to learn Aristotle but objected to studying Greek, Armand said with a shake of the head and a gentle smile: "Our way or the highway," and showed him the door. The student told me of this some years later. Of course he learned Greek, and his career since that day has been rooted in what he learned at the Institute, and the study of Aristotle.

Above all, Armand's devotion to the breaking open of the Word was not confined to the classroom. It showed also, and above all, in his nature: in his modesty and humility, his patience, his quiet dignity, his charity – who ever heard him utter a critical word? – and it showed in his delight in the arts, in literature, in nature, and quite simply, in all aspects of our human vocation, including its comedy. Some time ago a passer-by on Bay Street pressed a ten-dollar bill secretly into his pocket, evidently taking pity on this distinguished looking, frail old man. When he got home and realized what had happened, Armand was immensely amused and in no way disconcerted or abashed. It was part of la comédie humaine.

In the end, he showed us what it is to live and to be, in the light of the Resurrection, in the light of that commanding proclamation, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Let us honour Armand's example, and conclude with the prayer we use on Easter day: "May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes, that we may know him in the breaking of bread, and follow him in his risen life."

James McConica, csb


Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is an associate professor of Theology at Marquette University, and founded on Squarespace in November of 2004. He studied with James Weisheipl, Leonard Boyle, Walter Principe, and Lawrence Dewan, at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (Toronto, Canada).