More on Perry Lorenzo

More on Perry Lorenzo December 21, 2009

This is from a letter from Ted Naff that is making the rounds:

Our dear friend Perry Lorenzo died Saturday night after several months of battling cancer. He was courageous and faithful in his resignation to God’s will in his final months. He told us during this past summer that if it be God’s will that he be healed, he would even more fervently dedicate himself to education, as he had throughout his rich life. If it not be God’s will that he be able to continue his work, he prayed that he could be like Pope John Paul II and offer himself to God in his death as he had in his life. Perry especially wanted us to pray to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, for whom he had a particular affinity and devotion.

Perry spent his life teaching at Kennedy High School and later at the Seattle Opera. He had a unique ability, a glorious talent from God, greater than I have ever seen before or expect to see again in my life, to be able to take beautiful, complex ideas and explain them clearly with great passion and drama. His lectures whether at Kennedy or for the Opera were at the same time truly inspiring from a poetic standpoint and thoroughly rigorous from a rational perspective.

He was always reading and read very broadly from the rich panoply of Western Civilization. He would sometimes read Ancient Roman poets, or Medieval philosophy, or English history. His facile mind was able to put together all the disparate things he read into a cohesive whole. That is partly what made his lectures so engaging; he was able to draw on the tremendous amount of knowledge he had acquired in numerous disciplines and bring that knowledge to bear on whatever subject he might be lecturing on in such a way that a whole new world would open up for you as you listened to this man who so loved learning and the life of the mind.

I remember one lecture he gave last year on Joan of Arc. It was typical Perry. He explained simultaneously the history behind the drama and the deep interior life of the saint. He brought her life so clearly before us and let us see her in her glorious humanity. He brought the struggle she had with Church authorities vividly alive so that we saw their compromised political decision-making at work. Sitting on the edge of our seats, spell-bound with his palpable love of the subject and sublime rhetoric, he led us to the culmination of his speech in which he, like any great orator, resolved his argument by bringing together various elements of the story together in a brilliant synthesis. He was able to fuse the three iconic images of the heart, the dove, and fire and explain how they somehow summarized her saintly life and death.

He loved the Church, even though as a student of history he knew intimately her foibles and failures. In fact, he was fearless in his presentation and defense of the Church. While giving public lectures for the Opera he would regularly mention his Catholic faith and draw from the intellectual history of the Church. He would weave Hans Urs Von Balthasar or other Catholic theologians into his presentations. I was always shocked by his courageous attitude, but no one, that I ever saw, tried to gainsay what he said. I think everyone knew that they were no match for him in an argument and he was just so interesting to listen to, anyway. Perry was someone you just had to take entirely as he was.

If I had to try to articulate what I think Perry’s greatest intellectual interest was, I would say it was how God is revealed through Beauty. Of the three Transcendentals, The True, The Good, and The Beautiful, I can remember Perry arguing that Beauty is the one most able in our present age to lead people to God.

I can thank Perry for leading me to the Catholic faith and for my choice of college where I met my beloved wife, Sarah. He has meant a tremendous amount to me and many others. He will be missed and there is now a hole in my life where his inspiration and wit are no longer.

Perry, you gave a us a glimpse of heaven’s splendor, may you now behold directly the radiant face of God whom you mirrored so enchantingly in your captivating words when you were with us.

Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Requiescat In Pacem!

He was a profoundly gifted teacher and one who could effortlessly weave the Catholic tradition into his teaching on all manner of subjects from the Western tradition. I head him speak on a number of occasions, most recently in a series he presented on von Balthasar at Blessed Sacrament parish a couple of years ago. We won’t have his like again here in Seattle anytime soon. Of your charity, pray for him.

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