I had not met Father Art before that moment; I knew nothing of his reputation, but took an instant liking to him. In a matter minutes, he had welcomed me, told me he was happy I’d be his bishop, and, without telling me that I looked like I needed to reassured, he reassured me. It was the beginning of a beautiful priestly friendship.
Pretty soon, I was asking him to review my homilies and talking over with him some of the challenges I knew I’d be facing. When the first few big challenges came my way, he didn’t behave like an advisor or a consultant but like a wise and loving friend. When he faced challenges – whether it was his own health challenges or challenges in running a downtown parish – he could be vexed – but I marveled how quickly and constructively he re-channeled any anger he felt. With Art, you could talk about anything and laugh about almost anything… and pray about everything… he was humble, joyful, and very normal.
My way of addressing the problem, the project or the work, sometimes seems to say, “Well, a little God in this mix couldn’t hurt!” Of course, I don’t consciously limit God’s role that way and I don’t pray as if God were merely a help and not the all in all – it’s only that I sometimes act as if I’m the primary agent and God is secondary. When that happens, the results are never good. My barely-aided efforts produce grass that withers and fades, not the good and lasting fruit of the Gospel. And you know, even at this late stage in my life, I still sometimes fall into that way of acting.
Art by no means gave up and in the months that followed he did amazing work; but it became more and more clear that time was running out. It began to dawn on me that it was now my turn to accompany Art – this time, to the threshold of eternity. I was not the only one to do so, of course, there were many who made this journey with Art – life-long priest friends, classmates, his medical team, parishioners, co-workers – but in God’s Providence I was privileged to live down the hall from him.