After I picked up my little girl from preschool one day this week, I met another parent outside the class who had also been to Father Davern's funeral. She shared that Father Davern's dad and her own had grown up together in Flagstaff, Arizona and that Father Davern had come to her father's funeral 18 years ago.
We talked about Father Davern's unique personality. Once during Mass when her son was very small, she told me, he looked toward the altar and pronounced, "Look, Mama! It's Jesus."
"No, no," his mama replied, but she knew she had to share this with Father.
So after Mass she found him in the narthex and told him what her son had said. She anticipated he would have something smart to say.
"Well," said Father Davern, "I can see how he might think that."
I assumed then she had known Father Davern quite well, but she finished by saying, "I could never just joke or talk easily with him. I never knew how to take him."
Completely do I know what she meant. At the funeral even one of his closest friends said during his memorial homily, "In his later years he became much harder to discern."
It was also during that homily that I discovered Father Davern had not only battled ailments like his diabetes and the recent broken hip, but he had also battled alcoholism. No wonder the obstacles were so fierce on the road to recovery. They proved eventually insurmountable. But can I speak just a little about courage? When Father Davern fell down the stairs at the rectory late one night last February, he lay there at the bottom of the flight for six straight hours before someone found him.
Courageous, yes he was. He had often shared details of his ongoing battle against alcoholism with parishioners.
Both my husband and this fellow mother were gratified that Father Davern's struggles were laid bare - by himself and by those who knew him well - so that, through Grace, they could help and strengthen someone else who is struggling.
This mother and I also agreed that some of the greatest gifts Father Davern had given others were his homilies. Short, great, inspiring, guiding.
I want to share this one, if I may, and I hope I don't bungle it, because I honor the lesson I gleaned from it. It was so wise and so simple, but if it sounds obvious - well, it should be. Great speakers illuminate the obvious, direct the beam on what we already know to be true but do not think about as we should.
The homily was about Love, and it was based on Christ's words (John 15), "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Father Davern pointed out how loosely we use that word. I love pizza. I just love my new truck! I love my new ring. I love this song! But we do not really love these things. We like and appreciate them for the often superficial joy they give, but we do not love them in the way we love our mother (Father Davern mentioned his mother first), our father, our children, our spouse, or our friends.
Then Fathern Davern went on to talk about his aunt who often went on trips to Ireland. On these trips she invariably bought Waterford Crystal and brought it home for her collection. On holidays and other special gatherings her house would be filled with children - her own and many nephews and nieces, and the Waterford Crystal would be there in plain view on its shelves, waiting to get damaged or destroyed during some childish accident. Yet this aunt did not care, though she really appreciated the beauty of her collection. She did not forbid them to touch it or to go near it. She let them play around her displays of Waterford Crystal. Why? Because these children she loved. The crystal was just a thing she enjoyed.
Love. We love people. We aim to love family, friends and others, as Jesus' disciples, so that we are willing to lay down our life for them. And not just because we love them do we work toward this, but because we love Christ, and he laid down his life for us.
As Father Davern pointed out, sometimes we do not like other people as we like our pizza or our new car, because they irritate us, perhaps. But we absolutely love them as we could never love that pizza or car, because we see Christ in them and that divine spark of life that comes from our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God.