You may have read on our homepage : Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., died this morning at age ninety.
I was not privileged to know him well, but I will not forget visiting him with Nathaniel this fall at Fordham. He could not talk, but his eyes were as bright as ever, especially as we told him stories of friends and the magazine, and asked him for his prayers. He never gave up his vocation as a theologian: On the shelf over his desk, there in the Jesuit nursing home, was the Greek New Testament, and Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Essential Documents of Vatican II, and a handful of other books indispensable to a scholar and servant of the Church.
In the Public Square this summer (June/July 2008), Father Neuhaus sums up the essence of Cardinal Dulles’ life and work. It is certainly fitting that the column that month leads with the title “Lives Lived Greatly”:
Of the many theologians I have known, very few are Dulles’ equal in the mastery of the entire Christian theological Âtradition. And always, he demonstrates that he is mastered by that tradition. He is unabashedly the servant of a truth not of his own devising. This is, I am sure, not unrelated to his having entered the Church in his maturity. For him, the Catholic Church is a gift Âdiscovered, embraced, and willingly served, not an inherited burden. He senses no need to establish an identity apart from the gift given. The author and anchor of the tradition he would serve is Jesus Christ. Dulles writes: “The true content of Christian tradition is nothing other than Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Although few will achieve the ecclesiastical honor or intellectual renown of Cardinal Dulles, the core of his identity was fidelity and service to Christ. To be mastered by that tradition , mastered by Christ. The words of another Jesuit aptly describe the end of Dulles’ life: . . . The just man justices; / Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces; / Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is / Christ . . .