While a lot of attention these days is focused on a celebrated priest who until recently was a star on EWTN, one blogger, Daniel Nichols, is taking a fond look at another, very different EWTN star, Fr. Benedict Groeschel:
I was among the first postulants when the community he helped found broke away from the Capuchins to live a more ascetic life, over twenty years ago now. Living with them in New York I got to see Father Benedict close up.
One of the first things I learned about him was that he was not a stereotypical saint. He may well in the interim have mastered these things, but back then he was impatient and short tempered. The brothers would roll their eyes at his acolytes, mostly older women, who oohed and ahhed over Father. Occasionally one of them, or sometimes a young pious man, would land a post as an assistant at the retreat center where Father Benedict lived. They were starry eyed at the prospect of sharing such close proximity with the “holy man”, and we waited for the inevitable tears when Father would snap at them for some infraction or other.
One of my most vivid memories of my time in New York was Father Benedict, driving a van full of habited friars in thick traffic, laying on the horn and yelling out the window “MOVE IT LADY!”
Only in New York.
Yet there was not one of us who did not recognize the man’s essential goodness, his holiness. For none of the fame went to his head. He was as bemused as the rest of us at the adulation of his devotees. He was utterly humble, and did not take himself seriously at all.
His love of God was as obvious as his detachment from material things. He lived austerely, wore a simple habit, and utterly loved the poor, not in some abstract way, but as his brothers and sisters. A man of great intellect, he delighted in simple folk, some of whom were seriously dysfunctional or addicted. And they loved and revered him, cognizant of his affection and respect for them.
How did Father Benedict resist the allures of pride that come with fame? I suggest that it was his embrace of poverty, coupled with the community. Every healthy community curbs such foolishness, and anyone who knows this particular community knows that no one would last long in it who took himself too seriously. And there can be no holiness without asceticism.