Remembering my Friend: Eulogy for Father Gerold Schubert, OFM

This eulogy was delivered at the funeral Mass for Father Gerold Schubert, OFM on August 5, 2015 at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, Illinois. 

There are so many things I would like to say about my friend and spiritual father, Gerold Schubert, the priest. Two summers ago I was assigned to St. Mary Immaculate as a summer seminarian intern and had the opportunity to live with Father Gerold. During my time at St. Mary’s it became obvious to me that everybody not only knew Father, but loved him dearly as if he were their own brother, uncle, or grandfather; everyone in this church today could stand here and tell a thousand stories about this man of God, this man who, through his priestly commitment and witness to us as an alter Christus, another Christ, changed or deeply impacted the way we pray, the way we see and know the Lord, and the way we live our lives.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved in was the frequency with which Father Gerold used the phrase, “God bless you.” It was the way he told me a that my joke was funny (ha ha ha, GOD BLESS YOU), that he was surprised at something I said (Oh yeah? God bless you!), that he was proud of me (Wow, God bless you), and even the way he said goodbye (Heh, well, God bless you). I remember my last day at St. Mary’s, after I’d loaded up my car and was ready to leave I found Father diligently inspecting his new scooter sidewalk that had just been put in connecting his house to the St. Mary’s parking lot. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “so soon?” He then put his hand on my head and gave the most meaningful “God bless you” of all, not just because it was in Latin, but because it was a blessing from the pure hands of a good and faithful priest, a life-long servant of Jesus Christ whose hands and body had become frail and worn from the work of the vineyard. Father Gerold was a man whose mission was obvious: to bring the blessing and the grace and healing and the mercy and the love of the King of kings and the Lord of lords to a hungry, lonely, desperate world. He never lacked the energy or time to stop and raise his hand in blessing, knowing full well he was not standing merely in the shoes of Gerold Schubert, but in the shoes of Jesus Christ.

Father Gerold never wanted to stop learning about how he could be more accessible and helpful to the people of God, especially in the countless hours he spent in the confessional here. Despite being ordained for more than 60 years and having been in the hands of the Franciscan order since high school, he was thirsty for knowledge. Each morning after daily Mass, we would come back to our house and he would turn on Relevant Radio, notepad in hand, and take notes for the next two hours about whatever Father Robert Barron wanted to tell him. He was also engaged in the study of scripture, world religions, the Comcast cable manual, and the behavior of “you 21st century seminarians.” Father Gerold wanted to be a conduit of the grace of God in every moment, so that in every moment he might be able to reach out to someone else, to touch the life of someone else, and bring them the blessing and the presence of God.

Father Gerold also loved to encourage the people here to allow Jesus into their lives and hearts. I remember the first time I went to confession with Father. I went in to the confessional, and knelt down behind the screen as I always do. From behind the screen I heard the familiar line I would often hear whenever I came home too late, “hey, is somebody there?” He said, in the gentlest way possible, “what are you doing behind the screen? I don’t bite, you know. There’s no reason to be afraid in this moment; there’s no reason to be afraid of Jesus.” Fr. Gerold showed me that there is no reason to be afraid of Jesus or of the life that he is asking me to live in his name. To all people, in this parish and everywhere we went, his familiar chorus which echoed that famous slogan of St. John Paul II, taken from the words of Christ himself: DO NOT BE AFRAID. Do not be afraid because Jesus is near and Jesus is love, and “perfect love casts out all fear.” 1 John 4:18

Somewhere between our afternoon discussions of politics and the current events as told by Fox News and our late-night hangout sessions which consisted of watching re-runs of COPS and eating Oreos, Father Gerold showed me what it means to be a priest. He showed that no matter where you’re from or what kind of ministry you’re doing, you have to be Jesus for the people of God. People want a lot of things from the world, but the only want one thing from their priests: the Heart of Jesus. And so the priest must not be afraid of going out to teach and preach and heal, but more than this, he must not be afraid of being rescued, over and over, by the blood of Jesus. Father Gerold showed me the drama and joy of the priesthood and just how fulfilling his life as a priest really was.

Father Gerold, if I can be half the priest that you were, I shall die a blessed and happy man.

To live in the midst of the world
without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family,
yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering;
to penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds;
to go from men to God
and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men
to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity,
and a heart of bronze for Chastity
To teach and to pardon,
console and bless always.
My God, what a life;
and it is yours,
O priest of Jesus Christ.

A Priest – Lacordaire

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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