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On March 11, 2018, after having entered hospice, Fr. Richard Hauser preached his final homily to dear friends with whom he had shared the spiritual journey for forty years. He honestly shared what dying means to him in terms of learning more about what he believes and what he has yet to believe.
Years ago, in a Jesuit recreation room, engaging in light conversation over drinks, my fellow priests and I had a discussion about what we would like on our tombstones. And rather spontaneously I replied, “He helped us recognize God’s presence in our lives.” And the realization hit me: that theme has run through all my teaching and all my writing.
I remember when it all started.
When I finished my graduate studies and came to Creighton University, I was asked to teach a beginning course in theology. What could I contribute to help students better understand their faith, and perhaps even cherish it? Christians affirm that through faith and baptism we receive a new life from God called sanctifying grace. Most Christians, however, have never identified this life in their experiences. Nor have college students. I decided to teach a course centered on helping students recognize this life. I called my course Faith and Experience. Most theology courses at Creighton dealt only with doctrine. I wanted to teach doctrine to the degree that it helped my students recognize their experience of God. The course was well received—in fact, it was very highly praised. And every subsequent course I taught contained as a main element the experience of God. Not simply doctrine, but how a particular doctrine pointed to the experience.
This was the post-Vatican II era. After calling for an ecumenical council, St. John XXIII prayed that the breath of the Spirit might rejuvenate the Church. And the pope’s prayers were answered. The documents of Vatican II brought to our attention the role of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier. Our experience of God is directly related to the actions of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, but so often we do not recognize that it is the Holy Spirit acting within us. My courses became eye-openers for students as they recognized for the first time that God was alive and well in their lives. And I subsequently recognized that I myself had not really had an experience of the Holy Spirit before I started teaching courses at Creighton University.
My courses eventually evolved into articles I wrote for various journals and then into my three books. All three of my books focus on recognizing God’s Spirit in our hearts. The first book, In His Spirit, has to do with recognizing God’s Spirit and power in prayer. The second, Moving in the Spirit, has to do with recognizing God’s Spirit and power in ordinary daily life. And the third book, Finding God in Troubled Times, has to do with recognizing God’s Spirit and power in suffering. Through my own teaching and my own writing, I have discovered and appropriated the presence and action of God in my life at a level I never dreamed existed. In this way my work has been almost sacramental in uncovering the presence of God, a presence that was there all the time, but which I had not recognized.
This awakening of the self to the Spirit within our experience is a watershed in following Christ, a very important moment in our journey toward union with him. With this awakening, everything changes. Jesus moves from an acquaintance to a personal friend. This affects our daily living. Only after we have experienced this awakening can we speak of the goal of Christian spirituality as responding to the Spirit. Fidelity in responding to the Spirit will bring us into deeper and deeper union with Jesus and lead us to the highest union with God.1
Jesus said, “[I have come] that everyone who believes in me may have eternal life” (John 3:15). Yet I have to confess: up to this point I’ve done almost no thinking about eternal life. The things I teach and preach and write about are all about finding God in daily life. The total focus of my spirituality has been learning to recognize God’s presence in our ordinary daily lives. And I’ve taken for granted that if we do that, the continuity between this life and the next life will be respected. I still think that’s the right focus: living this life with love for one another and not worrying about the afterlife. But that focus hasn’t made me look forward to the next life.
I like this life, and I don’t want to die. But now I think that my spirituality would be enhanced by a realization that this life is a prelude to the next life, and it would be good for me to think about that more often than I do.
1. Excerpted from Fr. Hauser’s book In His Spirit, available from DynamicCatholic.com.
by Richard Hauser
Death. It’s not a popular topic. Most of us prefer to ignore it and act as though we’re going to live forever. But, as Matthew Kelly writes in his introduction to this final testament of Father Richard Hauser, “Knowing you are going to die is in many ways a great blessing and a rare grace.” It shows us what’s truly important and clarifies what we really want to say to the world.
In The Last Homily, Fr. Hauser provides us with the fruits of his own courageous encounter with death. Delivered while he was in hospice care, this is the message this beloved priest and spiritual mentor shared with his family and friends as he celebrated his final Mass.
In it, he reiterates many of the familiar themes of his life’s work—recognizing the Holy Spirit in prayer, following the Spirit’s guidance in life, and clinging to him in times of suffering. More importantly, Fr. Hauser shows us what that looks like through his own example. Full of the urgency that only imminent death can bring, this book imparts priceless wisdom about what matters most and what matters least in this world.
Back to The Last Homily (Hardcover)
Author description goes here...
Product Type Media Books
Author Richard Hauser
Book Format Hardcover
This is the best, most thought provoking, book that I have read in a long time.
It is a very quick read but a book that you will want to read over and over.
Don't hesitate, order it now.
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