Two years ago today, a beloved friend, priest, and teacher passed from this world to be with his Heavenly Father. I am remembering him today, with great fondness, and would like to repost this article which I originally posted September 11, 2008, the day he was commended to God.
I mentioned this week that a dear friend and teacher died on Sunday. He was my husband's high school history teacher, as well as my oldest son's. He also married Doug and me in 1985.
Today I attended his Funeral Mass, with my children and husband, and witnessed over 50 priests and deacons, and three bishops commend Father to Our Lord. My second son stood with his classmates, my oldest son sat with many friends from his graduating class who came back for the Mass, and my husband spotted numerous former classmates among the crowds. There were over 1500 people in attendance, including the 620 boys who attend the school. It was a wonderful tribute to a good man. And while Father wasn't prone to emotional behavior, I imagine it brought a tear to his eye to see how many people truly loved him.
This man taught school at the same all-boys Catholic prep school for 46 years. He taught a lot of boys. Every single boy who graduated from the school had Father for at least history class. Some of the older guys had him for British Lit, economics, Latin or composition, and countless others had him for study hall or as a lunch proctor.
In my opinion, every Catholic boy should be exposed to a Catholic priest like Father Bennett. Often. Father Bennett was gruff, and you could even say grumpy sometimes, but he had a soft underbelly, and the boys knew it. They knew his great love for God, and they knew he loved them, too. And, Father Bennett accepted nothing but their best for God, for themselves, and for each other. He expected them to act like the men they pretended to be. And from countless conversations that I've had with alumni, they were better men because of the relationship that they had with him.
This past spring, all of the senior boys, including my son, were required, for Father's class, to attend our diocesan Red Mass (well, you didn't have to attend, but if you didn't attend, a really long paper was due instead). I took Geoffrey and sat in the back of the Cathedral alone while he went to sit in the seats reserved for the senior boys. Father sat at the end of the pew where I sat and each boy who came in quietly checked in with him to make certain he received credit for being there. Each boy came in and said, "good afternoon, Father" or "hello, Father, I'm here" or "Yes Father, it's me, Father." Each and every boy addressed him as "Father" as he requested them to do, and each and every boy was as polite to him as I imagine they would be to the President of the United States. No one said "yeah" or "huh." They looked him in the eye and treated him with the utmost respect, and it was as natural for them as it was for them to kid around with their friends. It was truly a pleasure to watch these young men, who I knew stood head and shoulders above their peers in maturity. And Father Bennett was a large part of that maturing process.
I am not sad that Father died. He is rejoicing in heaven with His Creator. But, I find it to be most sad knowing that there will not be another Father Bennett, at least for quite a while. There are no spare priests to assign full-time to Catholic education. Priests are busy in pastoral care, and they have no extra time these days. There will be parish priests who will come and celebrate Mass for the boys, and occasionally visit, and of course hear confessions several times a year. But the regular, influential presence will be absent.
My husband passed on to me a list of 50 Father Bennett-isms that one of the alumni classes put together. I thought you might enjoy some of them. You must know that they were likely said for almost all of his teaching years -- I have heard alumni over and over say, "do you remember when Father would say..." and then they'd laugh together and slap their thighs. He gave them good, good memories.
Famous Father Bennett Phrases -- never to be forgotten
Apodictically speaking, one cannot clearly state…
Teenage rebel hippie youths!
Front and center!
Drop and give me 20 – and clap the last five.
This is another example of how gracious I am but, hideously ill-appreciated, as always.
Those who are finished with their tests, move to the immediate back, those who are not (move) to the immediate front, leaving a barrier in between – absolute silence being maintained!
Please to refrain from talking.
Resist the urge – the manly urge…
Fix your cravat and scream in pain.
I know some dummy is going to come in tomorrow and say I didn’t tell him, but I did, I DID.
Does anyone have a girlfriend? Wonderful, does she type? No? Then get rid of her!
Hands in the pockets? That is a vulgarity!
Did you shave this morning?
You are a one-man pain. You know that, don’t you?
Look at this mess. It’s a veritable pigsty. It looks like your room at home, doesn’t it?
Why must I suffer perpetually the indignities of the ages?
Do not ask me about this test, you will get this test back when I get them graded and not before.
When you are done with this test, put it in the podium with the head to the west, feet to the east, facing upwards.
It’s a miserable day for a fat man!
Tally ho, gentlemen!
Let’s turn our thoughts to the joys of history, shall we?
Let us devote ourselves to silent, self-developmental growth.
The paper is to be ten pages, not nine and nine-tenths, not nine and three-fifths – TEN FULL PAGES.
The presidents are at the local pub, having a drink. (The Presidents of the United States were a big part of Father's history lessons.)
Once the door is shut, the Doors of Mercy are closed forever.
Did you have a query? I thought you had a query.
Do you have hair on your chest? Then you do not need it on your face!
Did you know that when you cough, you spread enough germs to give three germs to every person in the United States?
Does anybody know what is being served for luncheon today?
Q: Who’s Captain Cleanup today?
A: I am, Father.
Q: Very well then, who’s helping?
Tuck your shirt in – you look like a rowdy!
Fill your lungs with air and SHOUT LIKE A MAN!
Welcome to fat city!! (reserved for alumni who came to visit Father)
God bless you, Father. You made a difference.
I just have one more comment to add to this post. Father Bennett taught every young man entrusted to him, "always tell your mother that you love her." My son is still young, but three years after Father Bennett taught him, he stills tells me he loves me every time we talk. For that I will always be so grateful to Father Bennett.