A Hero has returned to the Lord- Remembering Bishop Remi De Roo
One of my heroes has gone home to the loving embrace of God. Bishop Remi De Roo was the last Second Vatican Council Father who attended all four council sessions. I met him in 2012 while working at a week-long liturgical music institute for young musicians and their adult mentors.
Let me tell you, the Grace of God was with this man. When I shook his hand and greeted him with " your excellency," he stopped me from genuflecting and said, "My mother called me Remi, so please do the same." And from that moment on, my eyes became fixed on this man and his wisdom.
My heart lit on fire as he guided our groups through the council documents, explaining their context and mystery. The reality is that the largest assembly of bishops in world history voted nearly unanimously on these documents, with less than 1% dissenting on any one of them. That alone tells you that the Holy Spirit graced the world during the Church in that Time.
During Lent of 2019, Remi and his dearest friend and colleague, Pearl Gervais, led our St. Pius X Parish in a mission weekend centering on the Spirit of Vatican II. Those who attended learned a lot about the Council, the focus of its sessions, the wisdom of the documents, and key phrases that we use today that clue us into our participation in God's Kingdom.
As our Church grapples with the increase in clericalism, scandal, and hypocritical posturing on what it truly means to be Church and Disciples of Jesus, I think upon all the wisdom Remi imparted on those who knew him. The wonderful expression of the Local Church is what he appreciated, what he felt the Council restored to us. Pope Francis is asking us to do just that through the Synod on Synodality.
Yesterday's Gospel hits different now. While I was listening yesterday, I came to focus on Simeon. Being a man of righteousness and devoutness, Simeon had a deal with God. Their conversation/prayer might have gone like this:
Simeon: Lord, please bring your Kingdome to this world.
God: Simeon, I am.
Simeon: I greatly wish to meet your salvation.
God: You Will.
Simeon: I Will?!
God: Yes, you will live until you meet the Son of Man and embrace the Messiah.
Simeon: How long with that be?
God: As long as you remain a good and faithful servant.
As Simeon held Jesus during the Jewish Dedication ceremony, he realized that Jesus was the Messiah. When that realization happened, Simeon could finally fulfill his deal with God.
I think there are some parallels between Remi and the Synod on Synodality.
Remi spent his life trying to bring people the realization of Vatican II. His central ideology was that the Church belongs to the people of God. Thats you and I. That's not his thought; it's the declaration of the council documents. We raise prophets and Priests and anoint them as the chosen ones of God's ministry. If the Hierarchy fell apart and was destroyed, with no priest left on earth, you and I and up to twelve others can anoint someone priest, bishop, or Pope.
Thats our power as the baptized; I finally understand that learning from Remi. He wanted us to realize that our Church is a circle, not a pyramid. The Pope and Bishops do not stand on top, they stand among us, and that needs to be embodied in our Church now more than ever! His whole life, he's been waiting for us to take leadership of our Church; this synod on Synodality is genuinely a way for us to do that. Maybe that is why now, after 97 years, Remi can fully rest in the Lord.
I also learned that during the post-communion prayer on the second Sunday of Ordinary Time, those words evoke the true power of our Mass, "By our participation in these sacraments, the work of salvation is accomplished." In an intensely real way, our participation in Mass saves the world. I'm not talking in simply a spiritual sense; the actual saving of Earth from near misses from asteroids, nuclear war, and worse pandemics than COVID-19 might be due to our participation in Mass.
Between Remi and Pearl, I understood that God doesn't simply call only Men to the priesthood. Still, the Church denies the greatest preachers and ministers from shepherding congregations. Married men and women, single men and women, are all called, but the Church itself does not recognize that.
Maybe as this synod on Synodality shapes the Church for the Third Millenium, we can finally listen to the Holy Spirit's plan. Conversing around the most central parts of our Catholic identity will reveal what the Church is learning to accomplish. My faith in this process gives me hope in this ancient Church for a future with hope.
Remi De Roo's legacy lives on in all who knew him. May his Spirit spread across eternity and inspire us to move forward in the love of Jesus Christ.
I am incredibly blessed to have known him. I am blessed that he bestowed his apostolic blessings on my children, and I'm sad to know he is gone but simultaneously, I rejoice in his return to the God he loves so much.