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Homily: Memorial Mass for Father Beavers
August 4, 2020
by Deacon Doug Vlchek
Today is the Feast of St. John Vianney: a man born and raised on a farm; the priest who came to be known as the Curé d’Ars—Ars, a tiny town in the rural country of France; a priest who transformed the lives of most everyone he met; the man who is now the patron Saint of parish priests.
So, it’s fitting that, today, we are here to celebrate this Memorial Mass for another man who was born and raised on a farm—a farm in a small town in a rural part of Wyoming; a man who became a priest who transformed the lives of most everyone he met–our parish priest: Father Carl Beavers. And, on this feast of St. John Vianney, I’m pretty sure that, if Fr. Beavers were here, he would certainly remind us that we have a stained glass-window of St. John Vianney back in our Eucharistic Chapel!
Fr. Beavers was the best preacher I’ve ever known. And I know that’s true for many of you as well, because you’ve told me that. What’s very important for all of you to know is that those Readings we just heard were chosen by Fr. Beavers, himself. It’s important that you know he chose them because I believe Fr. Beavers is still preaching to us, here, today. He’s preaching to us through those Readings he chose. Let me explain:
That 1st Reading we heard was from the Book of the Prophet Micah. By the way, Micah, like St. John Vianney, and like Carl Beavers, was born and raised on a farm in an obscure, small village. Micah came onto the scene right before the more famous prophet, Isaiah.
Last Friday, at Fr. Beavers’ funeral in Powell, I heard a story about Fr. Beavers from Fr. Ray Rodriguez. It was something like this: Fr. Ray had Fr. Beavers as his high school religion teacher. Later, Fr. Beavers was a mentor to Fr. Ray as he entered the seminary and became a priest. Fr. Ray said that, as he was struggling in his 1st year of priesthood, he once told Fr. Beavers he “was disheartened and misunderstood, that he just didn’t know what to do”. Fr. Beavers told him, “Ray, I always know what to do. We just need to do what God requires of us: ‘Do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly before the Lord’.”
My friends, I saw that Scripture Passage so many times on the wall by Fr. Beavers’ desk when he was pastor here: the last sentence of that 1st Reading from Micah. And THIS is one of the things that Fr. Beavers is preaching to us, loud and clear, this morning: “Here is what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly before the Lord.”
Then, we have that 2nd Reading from St. Paul to the Romans. Sorry St. Paul, but when I hear these words, I hear them coming from the mind and heart and lips of Fr. Beavers. I can see him right now, leaning on this ambo, and saying: “It seems to me…in fact, I’m convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Can’t just see him? Can’t you just hear him? He’s saying/he’s preaching to us: “I’m thinking, if God is for us, who can be against us? God just loves us. That’s it. Nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God.” I can hear him!
Fr. Beavers continues to preach to us.
And then the Gospel: That Reading we hear every year on Holy Thursday: John telling us about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples before the Last Supper.
We hear: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from the Father and was going to the Father, got up from the table, took off His outer robe, and tied a towel around Himself.”
I know that Fr. Beavers believed that he, himself, also ‘had come from the Father and was going back to his Father’.
But Fr. Beavers knew, and also told us many times on Holy Thursday, that “this awareness, that we ‘have come from the Father and will return to the Father’, this awareness is just fundamental to being a Catholic. And that we must always remember that this is a kind of ‘North Star’ which should be an orientation for our entire lives.” (those are his words, not mine)
I had the privilege of being next to Fr. Beavers for Holy Thursday (as his deacon) for my 1st five years here in Jackson. He loved that Mass.
Every year when he washed the feet of women and men as they sat in chairs in front of this altar, something different, something special was happening. I don’t know that I can even put it into words, but every year some of those women and men had tears in their eyes as he poured water over their feet and dried them with the towel. He touched them to their deepest spiritual core.
And, I know he loved that Holy Thursday Mass because it gave him a chance to preach about one of the central messages of our faith: that we are to serve one another—that we are to follow that model of Jesus—that model of selfless service.
But Fr. Beavers loved that Holy Thursday Mass for another reason as well: Scripture scholars and theologians tell us that this Gospel we just read is also about the beginning of the Catholic priesthood. It’s about Jesus instituting his apostles into their role as ordained Catholic priests. And Father Beavers loved being a priest.
When I asked him once why he became a priest, he answered simply: “The Eucharist.” He said: “Doug, I wanted to be able to serve people in the most important way that there is: I wanted to be able to say those words of consecration, have God change that bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood, and then give Him to the people. No priest, no Eucharist. I’m a priest because I wanted to be able to give folks the Eucharist.”
You know, I had the amazing privilege of standing two or three feet away from Fr. Beavers hundreds of times when he was celebrating Mass. Something I noticed (I’m not sure how many of you saw this) was: as he raised his hands during the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer the fingers on his right hand would twitch—over and over again, at EVERY Mass, from the 1st time I served with him in 2002 until the last Mass I served with him just a few months ago, this would happen.
I never asked him about that—about his fingers twitching; it was always just his right hand, and I never saw that happen at any other time: just during the Eucharistic Prayer. But in the past couple of days as I pondered so many things about this holy man, I think I might know what was happening: I think it was his anticipation as to what was about to occur: that that bread and that wine was actually going to become Jesus! And it was that he was going to be able to give Jesus to us all! I think that anticipation—that excitement—was just coursing through his veins, through his entire body, and that I was seeing the physical manifestation of that! He almost couldn’t contain himself!
Father Beavers just loved giving us the Eucharist. He loved God. He loved us. May he never stop preaching to us through our memories of his words—of his life.
Fr. Beavers touched and was loved by people from our parish. Fr. Beavers touched and was loved by people throughout Wyoming. And Fr. Beavers touched and was loved by people from all over the United States. And, Fr. Beavers just loved Wyoming.
3 days before he died Fr. Beavers said this to Mary Kay Turner and Sharon Marx:
“I served on the land trust in Teton County and they wanted me to say something. They took a picture out on Spring Creek. And, what I said is, honestly, a statement about Wyoming for me. I said, ‘There is a place up on Spring Creek where you can see both Sleeping Indian and the Grand Tetons. The first thing is, in order to have this place, to absorb it, you have to be like that Indian, and sleep on it. Just let it surround you. You have to rest with it. You can’t just come in here in a frenetic energy and conquer it. You just have to have it rest with you’.”
On the afternoon of Thursday, July 23rd, with his dog, Cooler, at his side, Father Carl Beavers laid down to ‘rest’ in his beloved Wyoming.
You know, one of the sad effects of this world we’re living in right now with this pandemic is that we just can’t do what we would normally be able to do when this Mass is over: gather together to reminisce, to tell each other our stories of Fr. Beavers. So, what I’d like to do, right now, is share a few words I’ve heard from a bunch of you:
- Carol Colglazier: “One time I asked him what he would have done if he had not become a priest. He told me a doctor. He would have made such a good one. So, my words to describe Fr. Beavers are: compassionate, listener, brilliant and good bed-side manner.”
- Bill Maloney: “Inspiration”
- Tamra Hendrickson: “Complicated”
- Katsey Long: “Visionary, friend, spiritual father, poet, deep thinker, great conversationalist and sense of humor, trustworthy, challenging, complicated, fun, especially on a road trip. Relationships were the most important to him whether it was to the land, people or God, Wyoming. A man’s man, through and through.”
- Bill Best: “Universal: in that he could interact well with people of all walks of life, and could develop strong friendships with everyone.”
- Stuart Palmer: “He could bring people to the table with divergent ideas to form mutual consensus. Independent and tireless; loved and projected his faith; outdoorsman and hunter; born and bred Wyomingite; strong advocate for youth and adult faith formation; saw the need for good mentors for youth; practical and compassionate; thrifty.”
- Becky Cloetta: “What was it in him that led our extremely shy 6 year old daughter to tug on his vestments in the entryway to ask him if he knew if she would ever meet her Guardian Angel? I think it was her childlike unspoiled ability to see Holiness. He spoke of this encounter almost every time I saw him years later. I saw in him so much love for everyone.”
- Ann Carruth: “I always felt comfortable discussing church and politics with Father Beavers, even though we often did not agree. He said this innumerable times through the years: ‘Oh, Annie, Annie, not in our lifetime’!”
- Pat Vlchek: “He once told me: don’t let them take the fun out of it!”
- Joe Izzo: “Relentless, meaningful, Catholic, faith, dialog”
- Karen Walker: “He loved food, and he loved to cook, but most of all he loved people!”
- Mo Ellingson: “Connector”
- Mary Martin: “I recall Fr. Beavers eyebrows moving upward, his eyes twinkling, and I knew to expect a wise comment.”
- Dan Carter: “Reverent, gracious, meticulous. Absit invidious (may any ill will be absent from my words).”
- Zita Izzo: “What he many times said to me when I was struggling with some religious issues: ‘It’s a matter of faith’.”
- Jeff and Cathy Parrot: “Non-judgmental, steady, connection, open, kind”
- Allie Parrot: “Father Beavers was the priest that taught my parents everything they know about faith. My mom grew up with him; and my dad took 18 years, but became Catholic after being a part of Father Beaver’s church. I would say that he was: Magnetic, a priest who made the Gospel for everyone, a rock (consistent, strong, solid).”
- Carol Parker: “He told me once: ‘The greatest expression of a human life is to live it in service of others’.”
- Lori Tillemans: “Faith in action.”
- Cecilia Bellinghiere: “Respectful, patient, kind.”
- Heather Hunter: “Disciple, Wisdom, Strength, Motivation, WYOMING!”
- Carol Parker: “The last words he said to me when we were talking about COVID-19: ‘Just stay in the state of Grace’.”
- Mary Kay Turner: “He was truly Wyoming’s Padre: driving thousands of miles to respond to requests for his prayers and presence at baptisms, weddings, or funerals, because he always had inspired words of comfort and hope for everyone who knew him.”
- Ken Mahood: “A second Father and spiritual guide. The Holy Spirit flowed out from him like a roaring river that inevitably flowed through you when you were with him.”
- Jim Wallace and others: one word: “Canonization”
Well, that’s way above my pay-grade: discussing whether Fr. Beavers should become a canonized Saint of our Church. But there is one thing I do know: one of the reasons we do have those canonized Saints is so that we can model our lives after them. And, my friends, this man, this priest, this friend IS someone each of us should think about modeling our lives after.
Not too long ago, Fr. Beavers told Fr. Ray to be sure to give all of us a message after he had passed away. And, I now pass on this message from Fr. Beavers on to all of you: “I did my part. Now you go and do yours.”