It is incredible what the Lord can do with a fervent “Yes.”
This thought came to mind as I heard the news of the death of the president emeritus of my alma mater. Fr. Michael Scanlan died this morning at 85 years old and the legacy he leaves behind is beautiful. I try not to canonize people too early and so I will say that Fr. Mike was an imperfect man, like many others. Yet his “Yes” to the Lord has changed the lives of many.
That is what I would like to spend a few minutes reflecting on right now. The Lord has a unique mission for each of us and accepting that mission will transform many lives. Fr. Mike reformed the Franciscan University of Steubenville from struggling local party college to a renowned pillar of orthodoxy. It was not on his own, of course, because he needed like minded people to work with him in this mission. As the president, however, he was at the forefront of changing the insignificant college into something that people would travel across the country to attend.
My heart changed in college. It was through the classes, ministries, and communal life that I experienced a profound deepening in my faith. My grandpa would frequently ask me if I chose this college simply because it was far from home. He would ask why I didn’t attend Catholic colleges far closer. Unless he went there, I don’t think I could explain to my grandpa the uniqueness of this college and how it helped reform my own heart. Fr. Mike’s “Yes” to Jesus Christ made this possible. There were many other yeses by many other people, but the “Yes” of Fr. Mike helped bring about change in the lives of many. When I consider all of the students who attended this college or all of the people impacted by the summer conferences, I thank the Lord for the gift and witness of Fr. Michael Scanlan.
In honesty, I’m biased. I believe I went to one of the most ardently Catholic colleges in the nation and in the world. It is a not a perfect place, but it is a place where the Lord is moving and working. In Heaven, I look forward to seeing how the Lord used this little college to change the Church in America and the global Church. And I look forward to seeing how God specifically used this one friar to change many hearts. I hope that is what Fr. Mike is experiencing right now–the vision of what his “Yes” to the Lord has done for the Bride of Christ, His Church.
This, however, is not something reserved for presidents of universities, priests, or the elderly. This mission is something Christ calls all of us to live. Right now, the tangible results don’t matter so much. To the Lord, what matters is that we are faithful. We will not be able to see what the Lord has done with our “Yes” on this side of eternity. But it is incredibly important that we still say “Yes.” We cannot possibly see the full impact of that little “Yes,” but we must trust that God will generously multiply it.
I am thankful for the gifts that Franciscan University and Fr. Mike have been in my life. Fr. Mike wasn’t really interested in being the president of a college. Yet he responded wholeheartedly when the Lord placed on his heart the question, “What if I want you to be president?” The Lord’s plan for us may be very different from the plans we have for ourselves. Let us say “Yes” anyway and see what the Lord does with it.
Rest in peace, Fr. Mike. May flights of angels lead you on your way.