Thursday, January 2, 2014

Homily: Requiem Mass for Ray Pearce Updated

By any reckoning Ray Pearce was an extraordinary man. Both the adjective and the noun are important, extraordinary and man.

First, then the adjective.  Manifestly he was an extraordinarily good husband, father, and grandfather. These things, however, I could only observe at some distance and that story is not mine to tell. What story is mine to tell is that of an extraordinary friendship, extraordinary because it was a friendship of a kind  now so rare. A reflective friendship,  to use Iris’s categories, a matter of thinking, of conversation, of ideas, of the meeting of minds. When a politician suggests that we need to have a national conversation about some matter or other that usually means complete nonsense will ensue. But Plato and Jesus shared at least this much in common: they imparted wisdom through conversation.

Socrates would have recognized his own method in the conversations of Jesus:

Jesus asked his disciples: who do men say that I am?

They replied: Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli′jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!

Talking is not always just small talk; it can also be love: C.S. Lewis quotes Emerson: “Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?-Or at least, "Do you care about the same truth?” Such was the friendship between Ray Pearce and myself: we cared about the same truth.

A constellation of circumstances made that relationship possible. Fr. Rogers in the first place: who said that, while he once had to try to convince people that Christianity was reasonable, he finally had to convince them being reasonable was reasonable. Fr. Rogers formed in Ray a theological mind and a law degree gave him the tools to exercise that mind. A law degree is a good preparation for theology: in Law one's thinking is constrained by the  text of law and by precedence in the same way that in theology thinking is constrained by Scripture and Tradition. When Ray was confirmed, as was the custom in those days, he took the name Thomas and I think we can safely assume the Thomas he had in mind was the Angelic Doctor and not the Apostle.  It is true also that Ray became an Anglican at the tail end of that great 20th Century renaissance of lay theology: C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, and T.S. Eliot, to name only the best known. Ray knew that theology was too important to be left to the clergy, who are an unreliable lot anyway.

In fact it was not at all the case that I was the teacher and Ray the student. On the contrary it was Ray who taught me at vestry meetings, weekly bible studies, but mostly in conversation because we always had more to talk about than the weather.  The fans of Fr. Rogers’ Instruction Class are many. What is more rare is to see the Romance of Orthodoxy in  action. I shall miss him profoundly.

As to the noun Ray knew that he was only a man.  Above all Ray knew that , as Padre put it he was not one in a million, which is why he was one in a million. In a eulogy for G. K. Chesterton Fr. Ronald Knox said:  

“Whether he was a great author, whether he was a true prophet, does not concern him now-he lies deaf to the world's praise and secure from its catastrophes-nor does it concern us here. We are met, as Christians, to say farewell in our own fashion to a fellow Christian who has outstripped us in the race for eternity. The most important thing about Chesterton, he would have been the first to say it, the most distinctive quality in Chesterton was a quality which he shared with some three hundred million of his fellow men. He was a Catholic.”

Ray, as a Catholic, would find the notion of ‘celebrating his life’ not only offensive but absurd. He knew first hand that men are rebels and that God alone can ‘order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men.” Not only did he believe in purgatory; he was banking on it. We are met here as Christians to say farewell in our own fashion, not in the fashion of the world observing the death of political leader.  We are here do what the Church has always done for every man: to pray for him, to ask Our Lady and all the Saints to pray for him, Jesus mercy-Mary pray. Some may say, even some Christians might say what is there to pray for? Plenty as it turns out:  as the old Missal says:

That holy Michael will lead him into that holy light which was promised of old to Abraham and his seed;

To offer the one thing that matters in this vale of tears the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to plead that the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, will make Ray not just comfortable but  perfect in every good work to do God's will, working in Ray that which is well pleasing in his sight.

As the Book of Common Prayer says

That he may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service.

That he might be washed in the blood of that immaculate Lamb slain to take away the sins of the world; that, whatsoever defilements he may have contracted in the midst of this earthly life being purged and done away, he may be presented pure and without spot before God;

That our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, will set his  passion, cross, and death, between his  judgment and Ray’s soul.

An extraordinary man who asked to think but now ‘deaf to the world's praise and secure from its catastrophes’ all he asks of us who love him is our prayers.

Rest eternal grant unto him.
Let light perpetual shine upon him.
And may he rise in glory. Amen.

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