I just got back from my trip to Fr Larry Boadt’s funeral. Here you see the Paulist Fathers and other clergy and Fr. Larry’s family surrounding his casket as they exit St. Paul the Apostle Church, the Paulist Motherhouse.
Fr. Kevin Lynch, CSP, the President Emeritus of Paulist Press was quoted in the homily (given by Fr. Michael Kerrigan, CSP) at a Paulist Press anointing service for Fr. Boadt. I’ll paraphrase:
“In the Emmaus Gospel, the disciples on the road said after their eyes were opened and they saw the risen Jesus the words, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us as he opened the scriptures to us.’ The same can be said about Fr. Larry Boadt.”
Indeed. “Fr. Larry had that rare gift”, said Bishop Walsh, the Archbishop’s representative, “of being able to be a scholar who could be understood by the average person in the pews. Some other academicians are way over their heads. I was always able to read Fr. Boadt’s stuff and understand what he was saying clearly and easily and that was a true gift, not only to me but to countless seminarians and other students who used his books.”
That’s not to be read as dumbing things down, either. Fr. Boadt challenged his students and was a fine scholar whose frequent flyer miles would challenge anyone else’s. I was once on a flight with him and he was in the first class cabin. I jokingly said to him, “I guess it’s good to be the King (a jibe that as President of Paulist Press, he held the pursestrings)?”
He replied, “I have so many miles because I fly between the U.S. and the Holy Land so often, that if I don’t use them, I lose them. So I donate some, upgrade some and use the rest to cut costs by flying with them when I can. And there’s still some left over!”
That shut me up.
I have two letters from Fr. Boadt from the publication of my book that indeed I treasure. He always wanted to make sure that you were satisfied as an author and that Paulist Press was appreciated. The first at the start offered a kind word of the project being “a truly promising one” and the later congratulating me on a job well done. I’m sure he did that for all authors but it certainly did not seem like a random form letter and I know he took much time to make sure that my book got a lot of attention at various conferences and other venues.
I used his book during my study of the wisdom books in graduate school. One of the quotes from his book on the book of Ecclesiastes seems to sum up his attitude on all matters:
“While admitting that God directs all things, he (Qoheleth, the books author and a word that means “preacher”) insists that we cannot know what God is doing or why, and so our proper human response is to enjoy what God gives us now and use it the best we can….In the end Ecclesiastes message is one with that of Job–trust and surrender to God’s loving care even if you cannot know where it will lead.”
(L. Boadt, Reading the Old Testament, pg 484-85)
He looked as if he lost a tremendous amount of weight as I paid my last respects to him in the church yesterday. Bladder cancer is a tough one to beat and he tried with grace and charm, but it was not to be. But he did enjoy his life and tried to make every experience a experience of joy.
One final memory, a Paulist at dinner (who I’ll not name here) once said that India owed all that they are as a country to the British Empire. Fr. Larry nearly choked on his meal and fired back sarcastically, “Oh I’m sure! Let’s just start with the Taj Mahal, and we can see that they owe the Brits oh so much!”
I think I laughed for an hour.
Thanks again, Fr; Larry for so many memories and for continuing to have our hearts burn within us as you opened the scriptures for us.
And how you always left me laughing.
For more on Fr. Larry check out Paul Snatchko’s blog who was kind enough to attend the funeral with me.