Today’s gospel from Mark speaks about the return of Jesus to his home in Nazareth. It reminded me of the great spiritual figures I’ve lived with, one of whom is Father Theodore Foley, CP, whom I appreciate more and more. Here’s a summary of his life.
He was born in 1919 in Springfield, Massachusetts into a devout Catholic family. He went to Catholic schools and experienced a vibrant Catholic life in Sacred Heart parish in the north end of Springfield.
As a young boy of 14 he was attracted to the missionary spirit and spirituality of the Passionist community. Entering the Passionists, he was ordained a priest in 1940 and became one of its best spiritual guides and teachers of theology.
In 1958 Father Theodore went to Rome to be a general consultor for the worldwide Passionist community. In 1964 he became its superior general. He led his community through the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 70s when social unrest, political confrontations, assassinations, anti-establishment and anti-war demonstrations began shaking the western world and the Catholic Church.
As traditional values came into question and church membership (including membership in his own community) began to decline, he was a rock of hope to those shaken by the times.
A participant in the Second Vatican Council, Father Theodore took up its challenge and worked tirelessly to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world. Seeking new opportunities to do God’s will, he traveled to Asia and Africa to extend the missionary outreach of his community. He also promoted the study of the Passion of Jesus as a remedy for a world in danger of forgetting God.
For him a perilous time like ours was not a reason to do nothing. It’s a time for “God’s purification in our lives and we have to accept it and do our best for the future of the congregation and our church.”
While furthering new ventures in Africa, he contracted a deadly virus which on his return to Rome caused his death on October 9, 1974.
A gentle man, faithful to prayer and unfailingly kind to others, Father Theodore believed that God is always at work in our world, even in bad times. The mystery of the passion of Jesus, which he kept constantly before his eyes, nourished in him a steady hope that God leads us on, no matter how dark life seems to be.
A hope like his is a hope to pray for today. Father Theodore is a candidate for canonization, and here’s a prayer that his cause succeeds:
Prayer for the Beatification of Fr. Theodore Foley, CP
Lord Jesus Christ,
You called Theodore Foley to follow you to Calvary’s heights as a Passionist priest and through your Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother taught him to fulfill your Father’s will by loving God and neighbor.
Let his life inspire us to a life of deeper virtue.
We humbly ask you to glorify your servant Father Theodore according to the designs of your holy will and through his intercession, grant the request I now present to you. (here mention your request). Through Christ our Lord. Amen.