Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR has gone home to God.
It’s not a surprise: We’d heard reports of his recent fall, which injured the same arm that had been injured ten years ago in an auto accident. Doctors who treated him for this most recent injury chose not to repair the damage, fearing that he could not survive surgery in his weakened state; so he was sent home in a great deal of pain. At 11:00 p.m. Friday, October 3, Father Groeschel slipped away, homebound at last.
I wrote about Father Groeschel when, two years ago, he’d made the faux pas that necessitated his retirement from his EWTN television show. Speaking about clerical abuse, the 79-year-old cleric seemed to imply that children who had been harmed by Catholic priests may, in fact, have been partly at fault. The outcry was immediate; and EWTN, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and Father Groeschel himself hastened to apologize. His show was immediately canceled.
But that final broadcast must not be the defining moment in the life of this holy and humble man of God. I wrote before about my own experience of his holy presence, his wise counsel, and it must be these things that we remember today. In September 2012, I wrote:
In the past, it has been my privilege on several occasions to meet Father Groeschel—and once, to greet him at the airport and drive him to his destination for a speaking engagement. He was a fearless purveyor of truth: That meant that when he spoke to members of Legatus, the organization of Catholic CEOs, he told that group of wealthy business leaders that they should give more to the poor, that they should feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, dine with the common man, and give freely of their wealth for the sake of the Gospel. When he spoke to addiction professionals at Guest House’s summer conference, he issued a clarion call for honesty in protecting victims of abuse. He had no interest in acquiring wealth or building a name for himself; his prayer was for the people who were served by his four community centers in New York City.
It is painful to realize that his long career as a teacher and helper of souls has ended so ignominously, that readers and viewers may disregard his wise counsel because of a single lapse in judgment. Even if it was compassion that drove him to defend the priests whom he has guided through addiction and personal failure, the issue of clerical abuse is a flashpoint for Americans, and the public enforcement of a “zero tolerance” policy is universal.
So I’m certain that Father Groeschel will recede into his cell, avoiding any potential pitfalls and praying for souls. I hope that in his general prayer, he remembers sinners like me; for I’m sure Jesus and His Mother Mary look with great love toward this humble servant who has served so well and given so much in his long lifetime.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Fr. Benedict. He was an example to us all. His fidelity and service to the Church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come.”
A memorial page established on Facebook quotes Father Groeschel himself:
“Saint Vincent de Paul said: If you love the poor, your life will be filled with sunlight, and you will not be frightened at the hour of death. I wish to witness that this is true.”
Well done, good and faithful servant. May God welcome you into His kingdom.
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UPDATE: Schedule of Services for Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
Wednesday, October 8th – A wake will be held on from 12-9 PM at St. Adalbert’s
Church located at 420 E 156th Street, Bronx, NY 10455
Thursday, October 9th – A wake will be held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart located at 89 Ridge Street in Newark, NJ 07104 from 4-7 PM.
A prayer vigil will be held from 7-9 PM.
Friday, October 10th – The funeral Mass will be held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart located at 89 Ridge Street in Newark, NJ 07104, at 11 AM.
(The burial will be a private ceremony not open to the public at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary, Newark, NJ)