Rest in Peace, Fr. Mike!

For the man who follows Jesus all the days of his life

Who picks up his cross and walks with his God,

A glorious inheritance awaits him at the end

Where he will see and know his true Father

And the pearl of great price is in his hand.

 

In the 1980s, a young man in New Jersey by the name of Bob Filoramo wrote a song as an inspiring message to share with some graduating high school seniors he knew.  The song was embraced and shared and quickly became a moving choice for funerals.  I sang it at my Grandfather’s wake in 1992, and again at my Father’s funeral in 2010.  It is difficult for me to even think about the words, let alone to sing them, without crying.  And the words have that effect on me regardless of who I might be thinking about, praying for, or singing them to.  They are the words of a lifetime of prayer.  The song is called, “Press On.”

Last Saturday, when I heard about the death of a dearly beloved friar in a small town in Ohio, the words came rushing back at me once again.  And I was not alone.  Social media was abuzz with people saying things like, “I can’t stop crying and singing ‘Press On.’”  Me too.

Fr. Michael Scanlan, the former president and chancellor of Franciscan University of Steubenville, passed away on January 7, 2017 after a long illness.  And the empty space his death left behind…it’s just hard to even put into words.  Fr. Mike was a giant, and he would have been a giant in whatever profession or vocation or passion he chose to pursue.  But again and again and again, what Fr. Mike chose to pursue was the will of God.  So clear was his vision on doing whatever Jesus asked of him (and so often was he asked this very question by countless students!) that he distilled this wisdom into a wonderful little book, “What Does God Want?”

He will approach the throne of his Father with Jesus at his side.

The Father will rise and say, “welcome home.”

“You’re a good and faithful servant, come in and take your reward.

The battle’s done. Come and take your rest. Stay with me forevermore.”

 

That zeal, that humility, that love in action, and the joy that radiated from his radical faithfulness and utter trust in God’s plan became gifts of profound witness to all who met him—even in the briefest of encounters.  But for those of us who were blessed to study at the university during his tenure, ah yes, those were the days.  Fr. Mike knew and loved us all.  He called us by name.  He hugged us.  He prayed with us—and certainly for us!  He shared meals and dances and road trips with us.  He laughed and cried with us, praised and challenged us.  He had a smile for every soul he encountered, and a word or a prayer for everyone he saw.  He had time, he made time, he gave his time to anyone who asked—and always with that wonderful, radiant smile and a strong hand on your shoulder or a warm embrace.  He was truly Jesus in the flesh.  He set the tone on that campus for hope, joy, love, acceptance, trust, faithfulness, strength, good humor, and zealous faith.  He asked “who are you serving?” and he showed us the way.

In 1998, just after completing my master’s degree at Franciscan University, I was blessed to travel on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Fr. Mike, his dear friend and fellow friar, Fr. Sam Teisi, and Jeff Cavins.  While in Cana, I another single lady on the pilgrimage asked him to pray over us that we might find faithful husbands.  I was engaged within a year.  Later, when he came to my town for an alumni event, I shared with him the fertility struggles my husband and I had been experiencing, and I asked if he would pray over me.  He said, “I have to warn you—I have a really strong track record with this one, so you should know what you’re getting yourself in for when you ask me to pray for this.”  My husband and I have since been blessed with six children on earth, and four in heaven.

And the heaven’s will resound with the thunder of praise.

The angels and the saints will shout for joy.

And the Father will dance, for His son has come home,

Another warrior returns from the fight.

Another victory for the Lamb of God.

 

As soon as I heard of Fr. Mike’s passing, I had an incredibly strong urge to go to Steubenville to pray for him and to celebrate his life.  As it turned out, there was a wake and Memorial Mass at the University, and another wake and then the funeral Mass at the T.O.R. Motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania.  The trip to Loretto would be difficult, but I could get to Steubenville!  I took my two oldest children and my nursing baby along on the 4+ hour trip, and I am so very glad I did.  I had not been back to the University since a brief stop in 1999, and my heart just melted as I drove up the hill to campus.  How dearly I love that place, how profoundly it shaped me, and how profoundly did Fr. Mike shape every aspect of that beloved hill.  It was an entirely blessed and moving visit, and I am so very grateful that I could be there to say a final “thank you” to this man who meant so much to so very many people.  My baby did not travel as well as I would have liked, though, and so during Fr. Dave Pivonka’s wonderful homily at the Memorial Mass, I was bobbing and weaving in and out of the fieldhouse trying to not miss anything.  Finally I accepted that I needed to find a place to go to sit down and feed the baby, and I was feeling a little sad for myself that I could not be fully present to this beautiful Mass.  I was nursing my baby in a room well-removed from the fieldhouse when the Offertory hymn began.  I could not make out the song at first, but slowly and surely, there it was.

So as for me I will press on in running the race

With my eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects my faith.

I will fight the good fight with all my heart and soul

Until the day when I am with Jesus, the day I’m finally home,

The day that I have won the crown.

 

Thank you, Fr. Mike!  Thank you for showing us how to live, how to love, how to be like Jesus.  I will never forget you, and will always be so very grateful for your witness.  Well done, good and faithful servant!  Santo Subito!!

If you are unfamiliar with the man, here are some wonderful articles that have been written in the days since his passing.

http://www.franciscan.edu/news/Franciscan-University-Mourns-Father-Michael-Scanlan/

http://aleteia.org/2017/01/07/fr-michael-scanlan-president-emeritus-of-franciscan-university-of-steubenville-dies/

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/father-michael-scanlan-tor-1931-2017

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-man-who-rebuilt-steubenville

 

To hear Bob Filoramo sing his song, “Press On,” click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W6AYW7IONk

 

About The Author

Karen

I am a homeschooling mom of six kids, married to a patient, supportive, and crazy smart husband, whom I met on the internet in the days of screaming modems. Raised on the east coast, I am happily raising my family in the midwest. I love to collect and share traditions, recipes, prayers, crafts, and activities for living out the Catholic Faith in my home and family.

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