Archive for July, 2010
We missed this in December of 2008 and wish to share it with you now, one of our favorite guys talking about another.
In Memory of Fr. Miller
Homily delivered by Holy Cross president emeritus, Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., ’49 at the funeral Mass for vice president emeritus for development, Rev. Francis X. Miller, S.J., ’46 celebrated at the Campion Health Center, Weston, Mass., on Dec. 3, 2008, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier
Homily delivered by Holy Cross president emeritus, Rev. John E. Brooks S.J., ’49 at the funeral Mass for vice president emeritus for development, Rev. Francis X. Miller S.J., ’46 celebrated at the Campion Health Center, Weston, Mass., on Dec. 3, 2008, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier
We gather this morning on the Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier to express our temporary “good-byes” to our beloved brother, Francis Xavier Miller, to celebrate his passage from this life, through death, to a new and everlasting life in the presence of our loving God, and to offer all the comfort and consolation we can possibly command to Frank’s sister, Mary, and to those relatives and many friends who have repeatedly experienced Frank’s kindness, patience and love over the years.
My words this morning can only constitute an inadequate labor of love, for there is nothing I can say, or that any of us might say, that would begin to do justice to the fullness and the richness of the life lived by our good friend Frank Miller.
Frank and I enjoyed a deep, personal understanding of each other. Each one knew that he could ask the other whatever he would, and it would be given. The simple knowledge that Frank was my friend, that I had his affirming, unconditional love, has from the early years of my Jesuit life made me feel a much better person than I am. It gave me courage to do things I would not have attempted otherwise. Such is the power of love.
It’s hard to define the precise moment when friendship is formed. It is as filling a vessel drop by drop, and there is at last a drop which makes it run over.
At what point in my relationship with Frank Miller my cup runneth over, I cannot really say. It all began so many years ago—66 years to be precise—in the fall of 1942 when both Frank and I enrolled as freshmen at the College of the Holy Cross. A violent World War II soon interrupted as each of us volunteered for military service—Frank to the U.S. Navy and eventual assignment to the island of Guam in the Pacific; I to the U.S. Army and assignment in June 1944 to France in the European Theatre of Operations. Once hostilities ceased, we returned to the Worcester campus with Frank graduating in 1947 and I in 1949. Following his graduation from Holy Cross, Frank journeyed to New York City and entered the Chase Manhattan Bank’s prestigious and highly competitive executive training program where his industry, talents and personal skills were quickly recognized. At the end of fall 1949 semester, I departed graduate school to enter the Jesuit novitiate at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass.
One morning in early August 1951, I was told that the Novice Master, Fr. John Post, wanted to see me that afternoon at 4 p.m. in his office. Given the 17 months experience I had had in that particular environment, I spent the entire day wondering what I had done now that was about to be corrected. Promptly at 4 o’clock, I knocked on the door of Fr. Post’s quarters, entered the room, sat down and waited. Fr. Post looked at me and said, “Brother, a Holy Cross friend of yours will be entering the novitiate and joining you on August 14.” Before he could tell me who it was, I said, “Father, I don’t think any of my Holy Cross friends are likely to be coming here.” Unmoved by my comment, the Novice Master informed me that the new novice would be Frank Miller—and so it happened. Frank Miller and I were reunited, and for the next 57 years we were blessed, we were given that gift of time. We traveled much the same path down through the years, diverging here and there, as paths do in the woods, but always coming back together again.
In 1973, Frank returned to Holy Cross where his father had served as College Bursar for 47 years, joining me and working as the Vice President for Development and College Relations. For the next 22 years we traveled the United States together, visiting 40 to 50 cities a year from Maine to Florida, from the East Coast to California, meeting with individuals and addressing countless gatherings of alumni and friends at receptions, dinners and in private homes—seeking always their generous support of Holy Cross. On flights from one city to another, Frank would “prep” me as to who would be in attendance at our next gathering—providing me with names of alumni, graduation years, job titles, spouses’ names, number of children and schools they attend. As the years went by, people began to comment on the wonderful memories we appeared to have—the truth, of course, being not so much that our memories were strong, but rather that whatever memory skills we did display were due directly and solely to the detailed preparation Frank had executed prior to our departure from campus.
That preparation, coupled with the immense respect and admiration alumni across the country had for Frank, were the keys to the College’s ability to engage nearly 60 percent of its alumni as donors each year to the Annual Fund—clear evidence of the truth of the old fundraising axiom that “people give to people”—people gave to Frank Miller.
The late German Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, in a classic essay taking the form of an address by St. Ignatius Loyola to contemporary Jesuits, tells us that a Jesuit must be selfless and serviceable, and that the ultimate task of a Jesuit is to help others experience God directly and realize that the incomprehensible mystery we call God is present to us, and is someone to whom we can speak and with whom we can converse. That being the ultimate task of a Jesuit, it follows that whatever one does as a member of the Society of Jesus—be it an academic, pastoral, administrative, social or political activity—must be tested to see that it serves that purpose.
Frank Miller’s long career in the Society of Jesus earns high grades on that test:
• his strong and exemplary commitment to service to the New England Province of the Society of Jesus and to the College of the Holy Cross
• his vast and intimate knowledge of Holy Cross
alumni and their families
• his approachability by and accessibility to everyone
• his personal warmth and genuine kindness to all without exception
• his integrity, his trustworthiness, his humility, his loyalty
• his work ethic and administrative skills
• yes, even his great love and genuine respect for the game of golf.
All of these attributes have, over the years, served to bring relatives, friends, co-workers and brother Jesuits to a reassuring experience of God and to a knowledge of Christ’s presence among us.
The famed French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote, “I am more keenly aware that for the rest of my life my task is to develop in myself, humbly, faithfully, doggedly—and at the same time to impart it as much as possible to others, that form of spirituality which makes one seek God in every single thing and in all one’s activity.”
That statement seems to me to have a peculiar pertinency to the life of Frank Miller. For the secret and source of Frank’s amazing energy, his complete dedication, his countless acts of kindness and his boundless but hidden charities was that, like Teilhard, when he looked at the world, he saw people not in their nameless, unlovable collectivity, but with the face and heart of Christ. He saw his vocation (and that of all Christians) to recognize and find Christ everywhere in the world, to find that divine, personal Omega point who alone is capable of drawing all women and men to Himself, and of changing the world into a better, happier place by the power of His love.
Was not Frank Miller’s life a fulfillment of the life described by Teilhard? His life of service to the Society of Jesus, to Holy Cross and to his many admiring friends, both Jesuit and non-Jesuit, was an extension of his priesthood.
This is the “moral virtue” that filled Frank’s life—a life whose main thrust and unwavering direction was his priestly calling as a Jesuit.
May his soul now join that of his beloved brother Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier, in the welcoming embrace of our loving God.