Saturday, October 1, 2016

Remembering Bro. Charlie

I am quickly learning a lesson.  The longer I am a Marianist, the more difficult funerals become.  My first few years, we would receive news of the death of a Brother, and he was someone I only knew in name, if even that.  Now, after some 10 years, the names are well-known, and in many cases I knew the Brother personally.

So, this morning, as we prepare for the funeral mass of Bro. Charlie Wanda, there is a pit in my stomach.  Sure, we knew it was coming.  I had visited him at hospice the evening before he passed into his eternal reward.  But, all the same, it's never easy.

Bro. Charlie (right) with Bro. Mark and Bro. Jean

Life can be funny.  Just last weekend, after hearing of the passing of Bro. Charlie, I was sitting on a plane going to St. Louis for the profession of perpetual vows of two of our brothers.  It's the big event.  The culmination of years of formation and the celebration of their decision to make a life-long commitment.  They are great guys, and the party was grand!  And I think it was even more poignant than normal.  As we celebrated their saying "Yes!" we also remember another "yes" that was made to the very end.  

Sitting here this morning, thinking about Bro. Charlie, two stories come to mind.  I think both remind us about saying yes and about our commitment to live Stability as Marianists.  

In early January, I traveled to Dayton to assist with a vocation retreat.  I got in the night before, and arranged to stay in a guestroom of the Novitiate Community where Charlie lived.  I didn't get there until about 11:00 that night.  I knew that the priest in the community was going to be out of town and I had meant to call ahead to see if the community wanted me to say mass the next morning.  Of course, in typical Bob fashion, I never called or emailed.  When I got to the house, I saw that the community message board said there would be mass in the morning.  Charlie heard me and came out to say hi.  I asked, "Oh, is someone coming in the morning for mass?"  Charlie looked at me, and as deadpan as he always was, drolly replied, "You're here.  Isn't that why we ordained you?"  Of course, a smile then broke out on his face, followed by, "No, seriously, you're saying mass.  After all you are a priest now."  

I smile now as I remember that night.  Bro. Charlie lived his life as the person he was.  I think I saw that vividly in these past several weeks as he accepted his illness with grace and peace.  He put his chemo-ridden bald head on Facebook as if to tell us all, "This is who God made me, this is who I am.  I'm going to live who I am until the end."  On that January evening, he called me to live who I was.  And he will always remind us all to be who God has made us to be, to continue to say "yes" to God in all moments of our lives.

Then, a few weeks ago, I stopped by the hospital on my way home from work to visit Charlie.  At that time, he was in a lot of pain, and the cancer was really taking its toll on him. While he was still waiting the results of tests, I think he somehow knew what the outcome would be and that it was coming faster than expected.  At the same time, there were two mutual friends of ours going through an excruciatingly painful family situation, having just lost a child.  In the midst of his weakness and pain, he asked about them.  He was so concerned about them, and was somewhat upset that he couldn't be present to them.

As I reflected on that visit with Charlie, it struck me that there he was, dying, and yet all he could do was think of others, wanting to "brother" this young couple in their hour of need - just as he had done his whole life.  At the time of perpetual profession, Marianists take a special vow of Stability.  I often struggle to explain it in words.  But it's one of those things you know when you see it.   For me, that moment with Charlie in the hospital room gives us a glimpse of what Stability means.  Charlie showed us what it means to be a Brother and love others to the very end, quite literally.  

Charlie was an artist, and one of my favorite pieces of his is the crucifixion, painted from the point of view of Jesus gazing from the cross upon his Mother and the Beloved Disciple.  "Woman, behold your son.  Behold your mother."  The phrase so dear to Blessed Chaminade, and the core of Marianist Stability.  As Jesus loved his own to the very end, and made sure that they would be taken care of, so did Charlie. 

In his life, in his dying, and still now, Bro. Charlie teaches us about living as a Marianist. For that, we should give thanks to our God.  

Brother Charlie, may the saints and angels lead you into Paradise.  May the holy martyrs welcome you into the New Jerusalem.  May Mary accompany you to your eternal reward.  May you rest in peace. 


  1. Bob this is simply beautiful. Thank you for capturing the essence of the person we all experienced Charlie as...gentle, loving and ever present. May he rest with the Angels ...he certainly was one.

  2. What a special man. Gabrielle liked him very much and she felt blessed to have him in her life. We are sorry for your loss.

  3. Thank you Bob for your sharing!
    God bless you

  4. It is very nice. Many thanks for sharing. Really Charlie was a wonderful gift from God to us.

  5. It is very nice. Many thanks for sharing. Really Charlie was a wonderful gift from God to us.

  6. This is such a lovely tribute. You have a very nice blog. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.