Bishop Rhoades delivered the following homily at the Memorial Mass for Bishop D’Arcy on February 3rd, 2014, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.
Bishop D’Arcy died one year ago today, February 3rd, the feast of an early bishop and martyr of the Church, Saint Blase. He died on the feast of a holy bishop whom we remember every year with the popular custom of the blessing of throats. We will have the blessing of throats at the end of Mass today.
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. In these words, Jesus foretells that he will be the grain of wheat that must die to produce fruit. When wheat dies in the ground, mysteriously life is released from its shell and it produces thousands of other grains containing its same nature. Through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, many sons and daughters are born unto God, inheriting eternal life and participating in the divine nature. We receive these fruits in Baptism. Yes, with the death of Christ, much fruit has been produced, indeed the greatest fruit — our redemption and new life.
This mystery of death and life also comes about in the earthly existence of the followers of Christ. For faithful Christians too, being cast into the earth to die brings much spiritual fruit. We can think today of Saint Blase and the fruits of his death as a martyr in the land of Armenia. And, of course, we think today of Bishop D’Arcy. One year ago, like the grain of wheat, he died. We rejoice today at the fruit that has been produced. It is necessary to die in order that our life may bear full fruit, a fruit that goes beyond life, for our life produces its full fruit in God.
This is a Mass of thanksgiving for the gift of a shepherd whose life among us was a beautiful gift. Bishop D’Arcy was a man in love with his ministry to his people. I don’t think I’ve ever met a bishop so in love with his diocese. He loved the clergy, religious, and laity of our diocese. When a bishop is ordained, he receives the episcopal ring, a sign that he is to love the Bride of Christ, the Church. He is configured to Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, and is called to imitate the Bridegroom who gave his life for his Bride.
Pope Francis has told bishops to avoid all ambition. He warned new bishops against spiritual adultery, against being bridegrooms of the Church who are awaiting another bride which is wealthier or more beautiful or more important. The Holy Father spoke of such careerism as a form of cancer. Well, there was not one molecule of this cancer in Bishop D’Arcy. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend was his bride. He had no ambition to go elsewhere. And he loved his bride and gave himself totally for her. In retirement, Bishop D’Arcy continued to serve in many ways, not slowing down until the end: conducting parish missions, offering Masses, celebrating Confirmations, helping at Bishop Luers High School, giving spiritual direction, and helping me in any way he could. What was his motivation? It was simply love. Bishop D’Arcy loved the Lord, loved being His priest and bishop, loved celebrating the sacraments, loved preaching and teaching, and loved helping those in need.
Jesus said in today’s Gospel: Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” This promise gives us much hope and consolation: for John Michael D’Arcy, as priest and bishop, served the Lord wholeheartedly. He did so with joy, with fidelity, and with courage. Bishop D’Arcy was able to do so because he was a man whose life was firmly rooted in faith and prayer. His faith and prayer in the last weeks of his life are a witness that I will never forget, a memory I will always treasure.
The words of Saint Paul to the Romans resound in our hearts today as we remember Bishop D’Arcy: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. We all know and experienced that Bishop D’Arcy did not live for himself. He lived for the Lord and he died for the Lord. He offered his sufferings for us. On February 3rd, 2013, Bishop D’Arcy joined his last breath with that of the last breath of Jesus. He did so with hope, entrusting his soul to the mercy of God. He left us a beautiful example of how to live for the Lord and how to die for the Lord.
Bishop D’Arcy asked us during his last weeks on earth to pray for him, not only as he approached death, but also after his death. We do so today. We gather at this altar to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice for Bishop D’Arcy whose body rests in the crypt below the altar. In the Eucharist, the power of Christ and of his Spirit unites us in a profound way with Bishop D’Arcy and all our deceased brothers and sisters.
We give thanks to the Father for giving Bishop D’Arcy to his Church. May Christ the Good Shepherd welcome him to the Father’s house. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom Bishop D’Arcy was a devoted son, lead him to the joyful liturgy of heaven!