Saturday, December 15, 2018

Abbot Aidan Shea, O.S.B., 1930-2018

This morning, I drove across town to the Requiem Mass for Abbot Aidan Shea, O.S.B. The St. Anselm's gymnasium was well-filled. Mostly of course, it was filled by laity, largely connected with the school as students and alumni, their parents, and often enough the children or grandchildren of alumni. (Abbot Aidan had officiated at the weddings of some of those children's parents or grandparents.) There were plenty of clergy: the monks of the abbey of course; a bishop, a secular priest or two, a Franciscan, some nuns, and a couple of men who by their hats must have been in Orthodox or Uniate orders. Abbot Aidan was a Benedictine for sixty years less eight days. He had served as abbot of St. Anselm's for sixteen years ending in 2006. For all I know, his titular abbacy of Tewkesbury Abbey may have continued until his death.

One of the two eulogists was a former student. He was not a child, having first encountered the then Brother Aidan as his third-form Latin teacher in the late 1950s. Most of the eulogy had to do with Fr. Aidan as friend, but he touched on other aspects: the priest, the homilist, the lover of animals. Among many most interesting things, he said that in sixth-form Latin he was "shutting down" from boredom with Virgil. Father Aidan considered the case, and set him to reading Juvenal, which was "sarcastic, rude, vulgar, right up my alley." His studies then went on smoothly.

I gather that Abbot Aidan was a remarkable teacher. My own acquaintance with him was slight. John Jay Chapman quotes an "old and very fussy" scholar at Oxford as saying of William James, "But he certainly has the face of a sage." Abbot Aidan had that, and the presence of a wise and holy man. The abbey has a brief,  readable notice on its website

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