Let's remember Russert

Let's remember Russert June 14, 2011

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.

Read more.

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.

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10 responses to “Let's remember Russert”

  1. I always felt that Mr. Russert was a real professional. I never got the sense of liberal bias with him, though I’m sure he leaned slightly to the left. I have missed him. Except for catching the Fox show in a repeat, I never watch the Sunday Morning News shows anymore.

  2. You know, I can’t understand how there are people in the media who are religious and yet the new agencies never report on the good works that the Church does everyday. Maybe Deacon Greg can answer this. He was a writer for CBS news. Why didn’t you speak up when they bash the Church? Why don’t religious people in the media report on positive stories about our faith. Is it peer pressure? Are you embarrassed about your religion? Afraid you won’t be taken seriously?

    Because I think the 2 biggest failures are in the media and in academics. Institutions of Higher Learning have become hostile to religion. I hear many parents complain that they send their children away to college as good Catholics and they return, estranged from their faith. This is happening even in Catholic Universities. Look at Notre Dame, covering up statues of Jesus for the Obama. What kind of message does that send?

  3. To be the best advertisement for the Catholic faith, what a tribute. I pray that those who know me, those that I meet each day, might think that I am even a fair advertisement for this faith that we love.

  4. Ray …

    An Evening News program is 22-minutes long, and there are a lot of stories (and reporters) fighting to get on the air. Also: one of the unfortunate realities of the mainstream media is that too many people who work in it see religion and religion news as something marginal, on the periphery of American life.

    FWIW: Producers at CBS periodically asked my opinion about stories related to the Catholic Church. They also relied a lot on CBS’s Vatican consultant, Fr. Thomas Williams.

    Dcn. G.

  5. It’s too bad that people like yourself and Tim Russert (by all accounts good Catholics) didn’t do enough to change the view that religion is unimportant and marginal.

    I know the networks give coverage of Papal events. But I think that makes us Catholics look like a bunch of silly Papal groupies, like little girls a the Beatle’s Ed Sullivan show. I would much rather they took a camera and interviewed the volunteers at Eva’s Village in Paterson, NJ who feed hundreds of people every day. Or Priests and Nuns who minister to sick people at Hospitals all across this country. To me, that is the heart of our Faith.

    We’ll maybe the younger generation of Catholics will have the courage to speak up for their faith, and not let their bosses push them to the periphery.

    Thanks for your honesty and insight.

  6. Ray are you serious? What part of “deacon” and “no longer working with CBS”, don’t you get?

    I respect your concern for the faith, but I think on this one Ray, you’re clearly not seeing what is in front of you when it comes to Dcn. Greg (VOLUNTEER Deacon). And if that’s not enough witness to the faith, he does this ” Catholic blog thing” which certainly can’t be easy.

    As for Tim Russert, unlike many of the other “Catholics” in network TV, at least most knew he WAS a Catholic, went to church, and for the most part, appeared to be a good man, no doubt why he was so popular and trusted, unlike no one else I can even think of in newwork tv today.

  7. Klaire I was only speaking of Deacon Greg’s time with CBS and Russert’s time with NBC. Deacon Greg admitted his bosses thought “religion news as something marginal, on the periphery of American life” Russert may have let people know he was a Catholic, he may have been a good person, I don’t presume to judge that. But he was a major figure at NBC News, and in terms of featuring positive news stories about our faith, he did little or nothing. The oportunity was there for both men to combat negative stereotypes and show the good work that our Church does, and unfortunately neither one took advantage of it. That’s all I’m saying.

    I think highly of Deacon Greg. His current work as a Deacon, his love for the Church, the homilies he writes, the news stories he finds for us, the free and open discussion he allows on this website. I wish he would reconsider letting pagans proselytize here, but otherwise I have the utmost respect for him.

  8. And isn’t it strange how bitter ex-Catholics like Joy Behar and Maureen Dowd can carry on their vendettas against the Church, and their bosses in the media give them all the time and space to do it.

  9. I remember watching Tim Russert’s Memorial at the Kennedy Center three years ago this June
    His son’s tribute to him was a gem. (Tim must be proud of his son, who is now a broadcast journalist on MSNBC.)

    As people were leaving the auditorium a song from Russert’s iPod was playing
    “Somewhere over the Rainbow” by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole. Just then a Washington summer rainstorm ended and a rainbow extended across the sky.


  10. Russert’s words

    ” Work hard, laugh often and retain your honor” are posted in my office.

    A lot of talking heads on the TV , alas none who can compare.

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