Good-bye to an old friend

On Saturday morning on my way into Hilbert College for the morning class I’ve been taking on weekends, I called my friend Brother Kevin to see how we was and he told me he couldn’t speak at that time as they were taking Fr. Dan Hurley, OFM to the hospital. He wasn’t feeling well. I sensed that this might be more serious but tweeted to those who follow me on Facebook and Twitter to pray for Fr. Dan. When I got out of class at 1:00pm there was a message from Kevin and I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to be good news. Kevin’s tearful message gave me the news that Fr. Dan Hurley had been called home. He died in emergency surgery.

Here was a man who lived and well for more than ninety years. A Franciscan Friar since soon after he graduated from St. Bonaventure College (now University) in 1940. Ordained to the priesthood in 1945 and ministering to all of us and our parents too for all these years. Memories have flooded and ebbed in the past several days as I have joined friars and laymen to recall Dan Hurley’s impact on our lives.

I only met him ten years ago when I started attending Masses regularly at Mt. Irenaeus. In that time I came to enjoy his wit, wisdom and keen insights on life. Fr. Dan and his memory will live on in my life. He was an angelic cherub who always brightened my day. My only regret is that I didn’t tell him how much I loved him on Sunday, March 7 when I last saw him. Wednesday of this week the members of the area community will get a chance to say goodbye at St. Bonaventure University and on Thursday there will be a Funeral Mass offered at the University Chapel at St. Bonaventure. I’m pretty sure that seating will be gone and it will be a standing room only event for a man who touched the lives of so many. I think he’s probably in heaven eating a bowl of ice cream or maybe a slice of his famous blueberry pie. I’m very grateful that I got to know him.

Sunday thoughts

Today I made my weekly trip to Mt. Irenaeus. It was a lovely morning and when I first arrived I met Br. Kevin who is a good friend. He was walking toward the House of Peace and after dropping off some groceries for brunch I accompanied Kevin up the path toward the chapel. As we walked I could see overripe elderberries hanging from their bushes. Kevin and I talked about how he had prepared elderberry preserves last year, but not this year.

Once inside the chapel I spotted many familiar faces. Several present were members of our St. Irenaeus Secular Franciscan fraternity. Others were parents of St. Bonaventure alumni and others were Mountain regulars. Four of those present were students from nearby Houghton College. A Houghton alumni member who currently is on the faculty of Daemen College in Buffalo and me the spouse of a Houghton graduate. Amazingly there were more Houghton students than St. Bonaventure students.

Mass began and our celebrant, Fr. Lou McCormick, OFM led us in the opening song. The readings were very powerful for me today. Especially the second reading from James. A familiar quote of “faith without works,” was part of that reading and that got me paying attention a bit more. Fr. Lou’s homily on the readings and in particular the gospel caused me to see where I’d been in an error lately. I hadn’t been picking up my cross and following Christ. I’d been complaining a bit more than necessary about a situation where I believe I’d been wronged, but complaining no longer seems to work, at least in that situation so I have to pick up my cross and follow. The Serenity Prayer has a line about “wisdom to know the difference,” and today’s readings and homily helped me to see and know that difference.

After brunch and an extended visit with the Houghton students I wandered back up the hill toward the labyrinth and walked it very mindfully. I really tried to stay in the moment and be cognizant of what I was doing. After my contemplative walk I took a nap on one of the benches near the labyrinth. I had a sense of peace as I walked and later drove down from the Mountain. Merton’s prayer was with me as I walked and it continues to be with me at times. “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead…” Yet, I continue to walk the road which much like the labyrinth continues to twist and turn.

Those are my thoughts this day and into the night. I’m looking forward to working with the students again this week. I’m surprised and challenged by their excitement. I’m challenged by the graduate classes I’m involved with at St. Bonaventure too. I cannot imagine a schedule that could be more full. I’m almost overwhelmed at times.

Chapel Picture

SBU chapel

This is a picture I took with my Motorola RazR when I was in the St. Bonaventure University Chapel last night for the Feast of St. Bonaventure. Although a picture can’t really capture my own emotions, it can convey a sense of what we experienced last night. I was lovely and a moment that I’ll cherish. I felt so blessed to be in the company of so many other Franciscans.

As we closed the Mass last night all voices were raised singing.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Oh Praise Him! Oh Praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Big Cat

Tonight memory was at flood tide as I drove to Olean, New York along with my wife and daughter. We were going to have dinner somewhere in Olean and then drive to St. Bonaventure University.

I remember watching St. Bonaventure led by Bob Lanier defeat the Purdue Boilermakers in the 1969 Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden. I sat with my father and brother in our family room and watched the game on our black and white television. Mr. Lanier scored fifty points that night and put St. Bonaventure on the map that year. Bonaventure up ended the favorite, Purdue which was led by All-American Rick Mount.  Purdue’s center who was called the “Big Dog” told New York papers that he was going to take the “Big Cat” from St. Bonaventure to the cleaners that night. The reverse happened and Bob Lanier went on to become the MVP of that year’s ECAC Holiday Festival.

Bob Lanier returned to Olean and St. Bonaventure today and tonight to dedicate the new basketball floor at the Reilly Center that is named in his honor. In 1969 and early 1970 New York’s southern tier was talking proud. St. Bonaventure University Men’s basketball team led by Bob Lanier had advanced to the NCAA finals. Names like Billy Kalbaugh, Matt Gantt, Greg Gary and Paul Hoffman and others filled newspapers and the airwaves. These guys were heroes to a seventeen year old boy who loved the game of basketball.

After dinner at Attards on North Union Street in Olean we drove to the St. Bonaventure Campus and walked into the Reilly Center a bit late but arriving in time to see Bob Lanier signing autographs and the current St. Bona’s squad scrimmaging. It was great to see my childhood hero in person again. My daughter marveled at the height and stature of Mr. Lanier. My wife and I recalled the memories of our childhood and the memories of the spring of 1970 when a group of young men captured the hearts and minds of thousands of fans in Western New York.