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Monday, June 20, 2011

Riding Shotgun IV

This week I pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. James Downey, O.S.B., who died January 29, 2008.

I met Fr. Downey while living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was a resident and fellow at the time, and I met this good priest through one of Carolyn's sisters. He would call me occasionally to ask for some medical advice; after a while he started to refer to me as his doctor.

I recall on Ash Wednesday, 1996, attending a private Mass and distribution of ashes at Fr. Downey's residence at 5 a.m. I was on call that day, and did not expect to get to Mass because of the full schedule we had that day. It was beautiful to be there in the presence of Our Lord as well as such a good and holy priest.

After we moved to Texas we did not see him very much. Carolyn visited him while he was staying at St. John Cantius in Chicago. While she was happy to see him, she was also struck with how much he had aged in just a few years. Shortly afterwards, Fr. Downey returned to the Benedictine Abbey in Atchison, Kansas for the last years of his life.

We found out about his death on a weekday in late January, 2008. I recall going to work the next day, and thinking about how I had never found time to go and see Father one more time. As the day went on, I started thinking that Atchison was not that far from Dallas, and that we could leave after work on Friday to be there for the funeral on Saturday. When I called Carolyn to tell her about my thoughts about taking a road trip, I found that she was already planning it. I hadn't told her about my plans, and yet she knew what was in my heart.

We drove to Kansas on Friday night, and got up to go to the funeral on Saturday afternoon. The monastery - St. Benedict's Abbey - was located on the campus of Benedictine College. It was a beautiful campus, and was experiencing unseasonably mild weather during that weekend, and we were very impressed with the college and area. It appears that Benedictine College is one of several American schools which are striving to become centers of orthodoxy and obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church. That was refreshing to see.

I dropped off the family at the entrance to the abbey and then went to park the van. I was a few minutes late getting into the church, and so I missed seeing my old friend one more time. They had just closed the casket as I walked in.

After Mass, we went to a luncheon reception held in the refectory, or dining room, of the monastery. We got to meet some of Fr. Downey's fellow monks, and some alumni from the school. All of them, once they realized how many children we had, encouraged us to consider Benedictine College when our children were ready for a higher education.

I wrote about Fr. Downey back then in this post. Little did I know that in two month's time we would be having a funeral for one of our own. Lately, St. Benedict seems to have become more important to our family, especially with the blessings that have come to us from such places as the Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, the Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, and now the Abbey in Clear Creek near Hulbert, Oklahoma. All of these places, and the monks who live there, have been a source of strength and consolation to our whole family.

I am glad that one of our sons is named after such a holy saint, Saint Benedict.

Fr. James Downey, O.S.B., Monk of St. Benedict's Abbey

Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

And may his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.

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