On Fr. Benedict Groeschel: "He was not a stereotypical saint"

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.

Check out the rest.


  1. brother jeff says:

    A great priest. I have attended some of his talks and to me he is kind of a Gandalf figure. Very wise and very smart.

  2. naturgesetz says:

    The post offers a fascinating view of a very human but holy man. The whole thing is well worth reading.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    I love Father and have many of his books. I also love Fr. Andrew Apostoli, he has written some very good books also
    This is the last I read:

    Father has his warts llike Mother Angelica, but always admits them and lives a good life. You never hear anything bad about his order and I think it is because not only orthodox, but the life they live. No flashy cars (most break down) no extras that aren’t shared.

    When I met him and other priests at a talk, there was a holiness about them, a reverence you see “off the podium” . My teen wanted to see him and said unlike other TV priests, there was just something about him that made her listen..a quietness, a goodness. He loves everyone, not just Catholics and speaks of friends that are other demoninations often. He answers a lot of questions, doesn’t just preach, he’s not perfect, but I wish we could have his brothers and priests and nuns in more areas that are starving for such good teaching and witness in how they live.

  4. Deacon Tom says:

    I love Fr. Mitch Pacwa, too,

  5. brother jeff says:

    He had a terrible car accident once that almost took his life. I think it made it much harder for him to move about but he did not let it stop him. I remember during one retreat he really let catholic universitiea have it for the loss and watering down of their catholic identities.

  6. I have spent time on retreats and evenings of recollection with Fr. Groeschel and can totally agree with this post. He is a good man and a true Christian.

  7. I can’t help but think of Mr. Natural when I see the picture and read the description of the van trip.

  8. When I was a volunteer with Covenant House almost 25 years ago, the NY community was blessed to have priests including Fr. Benedict and Fr. Andrew regularly come and celebrate our Mass we had each weekday evening. They also offered retreats for us as well as formation talks for the new volunteers. I always felt they treated us as equals in ministry as we were working with the same populations. As such, their homilies never gave the sense that we were being talked down to but rather they lifted us up and encouraged us. Those liturgies and the sense of community that we shared was what I missed the most when my term of volunteer service was over.

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