Ecce, Sacerdos Magnus

This photo was most likely taken shortly after my ordination to the diaconate – so probably in the first half of 2007.

A great priest passed from this life mid-afternoon today, November 29, 2018, here in Birmingham, Alabama: Fr. Lambert Greenan, O.P., age 101 upon death and having been a priest on this earth for 78 years.

Fr. Lambert, né Lawrence, was born on January 11, 1917 in Northern Ireland. He came from a devout family and both he and one of his brothers entered the Dominicans and were ordained priests. (His brother, Fr. Clement, died a few years ago, if memory serves.) He had other siblings but I don’t remember much about them. Fr. Lambert excelled in his studies and was ordained at age 23 — they would have had to obtain a dispensation to ordain him so young at that time, though it was not an uncommon occurrence.

Fr. Lambert was a canon lawyer and taught canon law at the Angelicum University in Rome for many years. He was also the founder of the English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano — the daily newspaper of the Holy See. In fact, he told many impressive stories from that chapter of his personal history, and how he, as editor, had the task of upholding Church teaching during the turbulent 1960s, when some were trying insidiously to air erroneous teachings through media. Fr. Lambert was a stalwart priest, a real legend. He was what the Italians call a “uomo di Chiesa” — a churchman in the fullest sense.

There are several stories of his that I recall him telling, but I feel that it is not my place to share them all in this makeshift obituary. I am sure the Sister Servants, at whose convent he lived and ministered for over 20 years, will publish a fine obituary in his honor soon enough. And given how well-known and beloved Fr. Lambert was — after all, he taught many priests and priests who would become bishops over the years, and was very experienced in Rome — there will surely be other and far more eloquent tributes published about him.

Fr. Lambert was extraordinarily kind and encouraging to me, and although I did not get to see him as often as I would like in recent years, our brief encounters were always edifying. I will greatly miss him and am profoundly grateful to God to have known him and to have counted him among my friends. I know that he would be appalled at any suggestion that he might already be in heaven so soon after his death: he would want us to pray for him, and I will. I am reminded of the recent cautionary tale that I posted in this regard. He did receive the last sacraments and he was well cared-for not only by the Sisters but also by local medical professionals and friends. The Bishop was at his side shortly before he died. He surely had a good death. But let us pray for him — as he would want. Tomorrow I will offer Mass for him.

Fr. Lambert died on a Thursday — a day especially important to priests, for Christ instituted the priesthood on a Thursday. He is a priest forever. May he soon enter into the heavenly liturgy and enjoy the perfect vision of God. May we not forget to pray for him and all of our beloved dead — and may we some day be reunited in eternal joy.

May Fr. Lambert Greenan, O.P. rest in peace. Amen.

Tu es sacerdos in æternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech

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