Tuesday, September 18, 2018

PATRICIA TAFEL KIRCHDORFER - Rest in Peace!

PATRICIA KIRCHDORFER FUNERAL HOMILY
Saint Frances of Rome Church
Rev. Ronald Knott
September 15, 2018



Accompanying Jesus and the Twelve were some
women who provided for them out of their means.
Luke 8:1-3

Let me be perfectly honest with you! I am a self-confessed old lady magnet. Now that I have that out of the way, I feel better.

Old ladies latch on to me like white on rice. I know I have never been “cute,” so it must be something else.  Maybe I come across as a pathetic abandoned puppy, a stranded cat, a crippled bird or something of that nature?

It is so bad that I remember telling Archbishop Kelly once, when we were house mates at the Cathedral Rectory, that one of my old lady friends had died that day. His response was immediate. He didn’t bat an eye. He shot back, “I’m not worried! You’ll have another one by 5:00!”

Well he wasn’t far off. A couple of years ago, a few days after the funeral of another old lady friend, Marea Gardner, one of the old ladies of this parish called me. (To protect the guilty, I will not mention her name because I think she’s here right now.) Barely back from cemetery, my phone rang. The voice said, “I hear there’s an opening!”

After today, I have pledged to quit being so charming to old ladies. For the last 35 years, I have been burning up the highways going to nursing homes every week! One case, in particular, comes to mind. When I was pastor of the Cathedral, I was asked to go see an old lady. I was told she was very sick, close to death and had no relatives. (If someone ever tell you that, don’t believe them! It’s a trap!) Well, being new to Louisville, I fell for it - hook, line and sinker. I naively went to see her. She was a wonderful charming old lady, so it did not take her long to sink her hooks into me and once she set the hook, I could not escape. After two or three trips, I knew it was going to be another case of “until death do us part!”

One thing you need to know is, that if you go once, they are like drug addicts. You can’t stop until one of us is dead! Well, in her case, she did not die “soon” as I was led to believe.  I made 525 trips to the nursing home over the next ten years! I thought that woman would never die!

Sometimes, old ladies don’t come onto my radar “one at a time.” Sometimes they “overlap,” in layers, two or three or four deep – as was the case with Patricia Kirchdorfer! Patricia was a friend of Marea Gardiner. I had been taking communion to Marea for a couple of years. At the beginning, Patricia was still driving herself to church.  They lived in the same neighborhood. Well, as fate would have it, Patricia had to quit driving and then it started up! “Me too! Me too! Since you’re going to be in the neighborhood, how about bringing me communion on your way to Marea’s house?” Well, it didn’t take long before the hook was set! I estimate, between her house and the Episcopal Church Home, I made 300-400 communion calls, minimally, in the last few years!  In fact, my car knows the way by itself!

Seriously, however, I am going to miss her. Like several of the others, we had many good laughs and happy moments together! Like Marea Gardner, she had so many life experiences, she was so well read and had traveled, that our visits were never boring! We could talk about a lot more than medications, walkers and hip replacements! She is going to leave a big hole in my life!

As I always try to do, I tried in this homily to come up with something tailored to her. After much thought, I decided to pick readings about some of the women heroes in the Bible and see if her life mirrored theirs in some way.

Our first reading was about the Queen of Sheba and her admiration of King Solomon’s wisdom, as well as his fine taste in furniture, art, jewelry, cuisine, clothes and his well-dressed staff. When she saw it with her own eyes, it says, “It took her breath away.” Patricia always struck me as a woman who felt she had at least a bit of royal blood in her veins – or at least “should” have had some!” She valued her lineage and fine things. Like the Queen of Sheba who came to King Solomon with gifts of spices and precious stones, Patricia not only admired fine things, she liked to share them! (Something typical of her, was the fact that she knew my fellow Irish volunteer down in the islands was going to be visiting here this week and she wanted to make sure there were flowers in his room when he arrived. In fact, she was obsessing about his visit even after her stroke! Sadly, she did not live long enough to implement her wishes, but it was the thought that counts in this case! (He is here with me today.)

Our second reading is about a Macedonian woman by the name of Lydia. Lydia was a strong business woman with deep faith and a generous heart. She was not into the local gods of the area where she lived but had begun studying the one God of the Jews. She and some of the local women used to meet at the riverside and pray. It was there she met Paul and Silas who told her about Jesus, which led her to become the first convert to Christianity in Greece. Becoming a believer, and wanting to share her new faith in Jesus, Lydia and her entire household were baptized. After her baptism, she begged the apostles to stay in her house several weeks so that they could be further instructed in the faith. There in her large house, she began the first Christian church on Greek soil.

Our gospel reading tells about some women “groupies” who followed Jesus and his disciples and “provided for them out of their means,” just like Lydia did for Paul and Silas.

This gospel reminds me of a little story I read in one of William Barclay’s biblical commentaries. I have changed it slightly to make the characters more “catholic.” It is the story of an old shoemaker who once wanted to be a priest, but it never worked out for him. At some point, he befriended a young seminarian. When his young friend was about to be ordained, the old shoemaker asked him for a favor. He asked if he could always make his shoes so that he could feel the priest standing in his shoes when he stood at the altar, at which he could never stand himself.

This story was the inspiration of a gospel hymn entitled “Someone Made the Shoes That Jesus Wore,” which makes the point that not everyone of Jesus’ followers was an apostle, but there were many who helped from the background - people like the holy women mentioned in today’s gospel.  Today, like then, many of the greatest servants of the gospel are the unseen people who work behind the scenes, but who are nonetheless essential to the mission of the church.

When I think back over my life as a priest, this truth hits me between the eyes. I could not have gone to the seminary unless there were hundreds of generous “little old ladies” who dropped dollar bills into the collection baskets of our parishes from 1959-1970. I could not have made it through the seminary without the help of many cooks, janitors, secretaries and teachers who got up early and went to bed late to make it possible for me to study and pray.

Even today, there are hundreds of anonymous helpers who made it possible for me to do ministry in the seminary, mission projects in the Caribbean and who keep places like Maryhurst, Saint Meinrad and Saint Frances of Rome going.  It is not lost on me that people like me often get the credit, because we are in very public positions, for the good works of many who work anonymously behind the scenes. In truth, we do it together!

This is what I will remember most about Patricia Kirchdorfer. She is one of those wonderful behind-the-scenes women in the Bible, down through the ages and into or own day, who do so much for their children, spouses, neighbors, friends, parishes and make the ministry of others possible “out of their means.”

She shared herself and what she had out of gratitude to God for all the blessings she had received in her life: her family, her Julliard music background in the harp, her work with Bishop Sheen in New York, her travels and especially her friends. 

I know you, her family, is grieving today, but after you have a good cry and some time has passed, I hope you will join me in being happy for her. I am happy that Patricia lived long and well. I am happy she died a believer. I am happy she only had to go through a small bit of pain and suffering. I am happy she was well-cared for and had the best medical care.

Thank you for sharing her with me. I am happy that I was allowed to be her friend, personal chaplain and part-time weekly entertainment! She would always proclaim with delight when I came into the room, “For goodness sake!” I would always kiss her on the forehead when I came in. I brought her copies of my blog printed out. At the end of the visit, I gave her communion and ended with reading the “Learning Christ Prayer” that we both were introduced to by Marea Gardner. Before I left, I would kiss her on the forehead again. She would thank me profusely, telling me how much my visits meant to her. I would wink and say, “Well, after all, I am the assistant savior of the world!” Then we would both howl with laughter as I vanished around the corner!   

In her honor, as well as Marea Gardner’s honor, let’s say the “Learning Christ” prayer together.

Now, before any of you old ladies get any bright ideas, don’t even think about it! After this funeral, I am changing my phone number!







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