Praise the Lord!
Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (1933--2014) went to his heavenly reward a few days ago on Friday, October 3, the eve of the feast of his holy patron Saint Francis of Assisi and the very same day on which Saint Francis himself died. I fondly recall my own personal encounter with Father Groeschel as a boy of eleven when he came to speak at Saint Joseph's High School in my hometown of Santa Maria, California, in July of 1997. My mom and sister and I had the opportunity to meet him in the outdoor bookselling area after his talk. I remember how I was impressed with what a humble, quiet, kind and gracious man he was--very Christlike in every way. He wanted to sign a copy of one of his books and give it to us but for some reason wasn't able to, so he just wrote his small signature on a copy of the Grayfriar News, his religious order newsletter, and gave us that.
Like millions of others, I watched Fr. Groeschel's television programs on EWTN for many years and benefited tremendously from his preaching, teaching and spiritual wisdom, which he also poured into dozens of books. His personal warmth and sense of humor made him an engaging speaker and author for people of all ages and backgrounds. He never boasted of his great learning as a priest-psychologist but always used it to serve the Church and human needs. His record of faithful service to the Church included working on the causes of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Servant of God Cardinal Terence Cooke; he also rigorously screened potential seminary candidates, helping to keep men with spiritual and psychological problems out of the priesthood. His decades of untiring humble service to the poor, the sick, and the outcast were truly inspirational. Furthermore, his Christian witness and ecumenical outreach drew millions of non-Catholics closer to the Church and led to many conversions to Catholicism (including Marcus Grodi, host of The Journey Home program on EWTN).
In his later life, Fr. Benedict's courage and patience in suffering were remarkably edifying to see, reminding us of the similar example of Saint John Paul II. If a "tree is known by its fruit", as Our Lord tells us (Matt. 12:33; Luke 6:43-44), then Father Groeschel was "a good tree" that produced abundant fruit in the Lord's vineyard. He was a true hero of the Catholic Church in America, undoubtedly one of the greatest priests and friars our country has ever produced. His shining example of personal holiness and radical fidelity to the Gospel of Christ will continue to inspire the Church here in America and around the world. Let us pray that his cause for sainthood will be opened in the near future. May he rest in peace.
Click here for a ZENIT news article with a detailed obituary written by Father's fellow friars.