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Funeral for Rhoady Lee August 27, 2012 For as long as any of us can remember, Rhoady would be the

one at a moment like this to break the tension, putting us all at ease with just the right word a touch of humor, a lighthearted quip -- and we would know that all was well. He did that for a lifetime, and now I guess its somebody else turn at the moment, mine -- and, to be honest, Im feeling pretty inadequate. Happily, Im among friends, and were all in this together -- all in the same boat. Each of us is trying to come to terms with Rhoadys death, wondering what life without Rhoady is going to be like, already missing him terribly this dear and wonderful man who was family to all of us - a bright light and a great joy. I said family, because we were all Rhoadys family in one way or another, werent we! He let us be. To be Rhoadys friend was to be part of his family. For Rhoady, life was all about family, friends, and faith. Many people have a difficult time balancing those three, but not Rhoady. He found a way to weave them all together into the seamless tapestry of his amazing life. Faith was the lens through which he looked at life, and family and friends were the joy of his life. And, Jeanne Marie, for more than 61 years, you were the love of his life. Your life with Rhoady was a beautiful, utterly believable love story that overflowed into the lives of your 6 great kids and their spouses, and the lives of each of your 15 wonderful grandchildren. We feel his loss keenly but your loss is beyond words, and our hearts go out to you and to your great family. For reasons some might find hard to understand, we call what we are doing here today a celebration. Sometimes that word doesnt ring true especially when the pain is very deep, or the faith very shallow, but this is a celebration and it feels like a celebration! There is pain, of course how could there not be in losing someone like Rhoady? but his faith was so strong and deep -- and so is his familys -- that we really are able to celebrate today. And theres a lot to celebrate, isnt there! A giant of a man, a husband like no other, a fabulous father and grandfather, a treasured friend, a good and, I dont hesitate to say, holy man who died last Wednesday afternoon full of years, full of gratitude, and full of grace. Now, I imagine at this point Rhoady would be telling me to tone it down. He was a modest man in every way, unpretentious and common as an old shoe. The only accolades Rhoady was ever comfortable with were the ones he gave to others. But now its his turn, and since he paid me the honor of asking me to speak at this funeral, I guess I get to say what I want! Dont worry, though, Im not going to canonize Rhoady because thats not mine to do and, to be honest, theres nothing I can possibly say this morning that will make Rhoady any better than he was!

I will do best, I suppose, if I let the scripture readings we just heard do the speaking. Each of those scriptures was a word that took flesh in the life of our dear friend, and each of them sheds light on who he was and what he was all about. The reading from the prophet Micah was simple, strong, direct, and to-the-point just like Rhoady. You have been told, O mortal, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. Only to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. That kind of says it all, doesnt it? In a very few words we get the essence -- the heart and soul -- of Rhoady Lee. Its all about being centered on God and walking with God. And its all about doing for others: standing for justice, ministering mercy. That was Rhoady Lee. His entire life was a humble walk with God. He was every inch a Christian. and his Catholic faith ran deep within him. His faith was solid, it was alive, it was intelligent with just enough questions, concerns, and issues to make it very real. With Jeanne Marie, he lived and breathed the great vision of the Second Vatican Council and he never stopped believing that the Church he loved could be and should be better than it was. And he knew, too, that before all else, the Church was -- and is -- people. Simple as that! Hierarchy had its place, of course (and I know how deeply honored he would be by your presence here this morning, Archbishop Sartain) but Rhoady was, before all else, a common man and he really wasnt one to stand in awe. In the end, it was people -- the good and graced and gifted People of God -- that Rhoady stood in awe of! The reading from Second Corinthians was about sowing bountifully in life and reaping bountifully. And it was all about giving. But not just any giving. Cheerful giving. There are a lot of givers in this world but some of them, frankly, give giving a bad name, so painful do they make it look, and so grudgingly do they do it. Well, that wasnt Rhoady! Giving was Rhoadys middle name. Cheerful giving. Rhoady had a lot of blessings in this life but I dont think he ever looked upon any of them as personal possessions. No, whatever God gave him and Jeanne Marie were gifts entrusted to them by God, gifts to share with others, to make life better for others, to build up the community of faith. Can you imagine what the Catholic map of this region would look like were it not for Rhoady and Jeanne Marie? The Catholic map (schools, churches, charities) is dotted with monument after monument to Rhoady and Jeanne Maries incredible faith and generosity (although I hasten to say that they were the last ones ever to think in terms of monuments!). Of course, it wasnt just institutions that benefited from their generosity individuals did, too. Wherever there was need, there they were. And I would add, too, that the cause of progressive, forward-looking, Vatican II Catholicism in this country owes a great deal to their generosity and their commitment.

With Rhoady, giving was always done in such a low key way. It was as if he was the grateful one grateful that he could help, grateful that he could give. And he was, of course. Its nice to have St. Pauls word for it that God loves a cheerful giver. For me, thats just another way of saying that God loves Rhoady Lee! The gospel came from the Sermon on the Mount. I thought those verses suited Rhoady to a tee. In telling his followers that he wanted them to make a difference in the world, Jesus used two simple, down-to-earth images: salt and light. They dont require much, if any, explanation. Just as food is dull without salt, and the world dark without light, so the landscape of life and faith is dull and dark without people who, by who they are and the way they live, add zest to life and a spark of light. Well, Rhoady certainly did that. Being around Rhoady was never dull and never dark. He took life seriously and he took his friends seriously, but he didnt take himself very seriously. What he did take seriously was the gospel of Jesus: to love others and to love them unconditionally. And he did it so well, and so naturally, didnt he! No fuss, no bother, no drama, no big deal. He loved and he was loved. And right up to the end, he was salt and light -- cracking jokes and smiling putting everybody at ease with his one-liners and his trademark good humor. Days before his death he was still saying his patented, If I was any better, I couldnt stand it! I have long subscribed to the wisdom of the saying that people tend to die the way they live. Rhoady certainly did. With a lot of courage and a lot of peace and resignation, he calmly took charge of his dying just as he did his living. When he said the other day, I want to go home, I think he was talking more about heaven than Hunts Point, and while letting go wasnt easy, he found a way to make it look easy and, true to form, he found a way to make it as easy as possible for Jeanne Marie and the family. Ive seen my share of people on their death bed but I can honestly say I never saw anyone more at peace, more calmly and consciously in Gods loving hands, than Rhoady. And, as you might expect, right up to the end, it was never about Rhoady -- it was about you. He wanted to thank you and to tell you that he loved you. And he wanted you to be okay. When I stopped by late Wednesday morning only hours before he died, granddaughter, Lauren, was reading him a poem of John ODonaghues on dying. Read it again, he said, and slowly! He listened with rapt attention, with a smile and a look of great contentment on his face -- although a little while later, he did express a certain impatience with Jesus for not coming for him a little more quickly. That was Rhoady: he taught us how to live and he taught us how to die. Our last conversation is something I will never forget. I told him that when he got to heaven his work wouldnt be finished. When you get up there, I told him, you need to pray for all of us and you need to pray for the Church. I told him I

thought he should team up with Pope John XXIII to crank open the churchs windows again and keep the renewal going. With that familiar glint in his eye, he said, Okay, Ill look John up when I get there! Rhoady, we are confident that you have gotten there. After all, if youre not in heaven, theres no hope for the rest of us! We often say rest in peace at a time like this, and were confident that there is peace for you -- and joy without end -- but maybe not too much rest because theres still a lot of work to be done and were counting on you to do it! And so, dear friend, May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon for fields and, Until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of his hand. (And may you be a half-hour in heaven before the devil even knows youre dead!)

Father Michael G. Ryan