Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The Last Jesuit
Father Hugh Thwaites SJ has died: pray for him, may he rest in peace.
Quite fitting he should leave this world during the Octave of the Assumption and on the eve of the feast of his beloved Queen and Mother.
Someone once described him as the last of the English Jesuits, some thought of him as a living saint, some of his Jesuit confreres would just roll their eyes at the mention of his name.
He was wonderfully eccentric, I remember a balding friend of mine being told by him to get a scrubbing brush and to vigorously scrub his scalp everyday, my friend thought it was advice to stop hair loss, but just maybe it had something to do with asceticism.
When the English Jesuits became austerely rational and embraced everything modern Fr Hugh in a very Jesuit agere contra way seemed to go to the other extreme. I only met him occasionally but he was an important influence on many mutual friends, he taught people to live by faith. I remember a terrifying experience of being driven by him in a dreadful battered patched car, I think one of the wings and a door were a different colour to the rest, he said it had been given to him a by a drug dealer, when I expressed surprise, he said, "He is not a very wealthy drug dealer but he is repentant".
I am told that his course for converts was basically teaching people to say the Rosary. He would come out with extraordinary statements like, "Creation: I suppose God did it to please Our Lady". Which on one level is pietistic and yet really is deeply profound, it fits into his vision of the absolutely generous God who for the sake of one poor sinner, let alone his Mother, would create a world and pour out grace upon grace upon grace.
He had the extraordinary gift of inviting people people to abandon themselves to God, for some it was a terrifying prospect for others a true invitation to holiness. My thoughts of the Cure D'Ars are I think much coloured by Fr Hugh, both disconcerting figures. In the age of the "new evangelism" Fr Hugh was a wonderful example of the old Ignatian evangelism: he would live his faith, purely and simply and talk to anyone and everyone about God.
I hope that today's Jesuit will remember him fondly and grant him the funeral he would have wanted, in the traditional rite.
see Fr Eamon's reminiscences of him and there is is extract from his war-time memoirs here
from the comments:
The funeral Concelebration Mass of Father Hugh Thwaites SJ will be at Corpus Christi Church, 757 Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth BH 7 6AN on Friday 31 August at 12.00 noon
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