Rocco did yesterday, on the anniversary of the legendary newsman’s passing:
Above all, Russert’s death genuinely, deeply shook no shortage of folks — above all, the many ’round here who were so blessed to have known him, but just as much, the far more of us for whom his hour on Sunday morning was almost as awaited as the Lord’s own (or, in some cases, equally so).
Indeed, even now, some of us still can’t think of him without a tear (or multiple) in our eyes. Yet even for this, it bears remarking that his loss — in particular, the days of epic, cross-network, nationally-broadcast grief that accompanied it — bore evidence to a significant evolution come to pass in our time.
Much as they were deeply stricken, those early summer days and their flood of tributes arguably marked the most prominent, positive — indeed, inescapable — expression and praise of Catholicism at its best these shores had seen since the death of John Paul II… and in the years since, no moment has come close. Yet in the three intervening years between those titanic losses from our midst, something big seemed to happen: a powerful public shift implying that, as the future goes, the caliber of this church on the Stateside scene won’t principally be judged by the example of its Bishops, Fathers or even Sisters, but the caliber of our Moms and Dads — the lay faithful, who (the stats being what they are) increasingly form the backbone of this People of God at practically every turn, and more than we have in two centuries, on whose daily witness and work all the rest only falls all the more… and now, apparently, as much in the public square as within the walls.
And there is this, from my homily three years ago, two days after he died:
Many years ago, when his wife struggled to give birth during a difficult delivery, he went to a nearby church. And he made a promise to God that if his baby was born healthy, he would never again miss mass. His son came through it, and Tim Russert kept that promise. He named his son Luke, after the patron saint of physicians. And not long ago in an interview he said he liked to remind Luke of the gospel of Luke: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Tim Russert was given much by the nuns, the Sisters of Mercy, who taught him in Buffalo all those years ago, and he never forgot it, and often spoke out passionately about the importance of Catholic education. He tried to live what he was taught, in whatever way he could.
This morning I read an interview with the journalist Howard Fineman, who is Jewish, and who said if he ever thought about becoming Catholic, Russert would be the best advertisement for it. Fineman said that he worked in a town, Washington, with many false gods, but that Tim Russert always sought the real one.
He’s an example, I think, of one ordinary layman who labored to reap God’s harvest. How many others are here in this church today?
Ask yourself: what is God calling me to do in his fields? Could anyone here be the best advertisement for the faith?
We need more priests. We need more Fr. Hectors. But we also need more Tim Russerts, too: more men and women and children and young people who will each, in their own way, go out into the world, to live the gospel. They will remind those they meet that to whom much is given, much is expected.