Priest, pastor, theologian, professor, spiritual director, brother, friend.

Msgr. Francis X. Meehan was all these things to the parishioners of SS. Simon and Jude in West Chester, to the hundreds of seminarians he taught at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary; to the readers of his column in these pages for 25 years; and to all those who knew and loved him, especially his brother priests. {{more}}

Msgr. Meehan died last Thursday at the age of 74 after a few years of declining health. Never was his keen mind or spirit dimmed, but always united with the Lord. Like so many priests, whether in or out of the classroom, he always delivered an insightful message with compassion and encouragement.

At the time of crisis in which the Archdiocese of Philadelphia finds itself today, the theme of Msgr. Meehan’s column from May 2009 brings again his pastoral comfort to Catholics from across the years.

“My reflection has to do with a certain darkness, a loss of a once-available spiritual consolation. In prayer, at one point, God is so close, palpable. Later, suddenly, a slippage: no feeling, little sense, little consolation – only faith, trust, mercy! God, where are you? Where has the good time gone? Why so quickly lost?”

He then recalls the Catholic tradition of darkness or desolation in prayer, written about by such saintly men and women as St. John of the Cross and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Always a spiritual and prophetic guide in these pages, Msgr. Meehan called that darkness a spanine gift because through that Dark Night God was calling us to a more purified love in closer union with Him.

Prophetic words are hard to bear. But today they are no less poignant. The hurts and discouragements palpable in the Church are calling us closer to God in what is perhaps the beginning of purification and renewal. This perhaps is the necessary stage of what popes present and recently past have termed the new evangelization.

We walk through this communal Dark Night as “our Christian faith holds on – hope-filled, trust-filled, in darkness and in light,” Msgr. Meehan wrote. “God is present in seeming absence. God remains present to us in mercy and love, in good times and in bad!”

Thank you Msgr. Francis Meehan, for your ministry over the years and your words that continue to teach and lead us to our Lord. May your soul through the mercy of God rest in peace.