Brother Josiah Benedict FSC Eulogy
A Eulogy for Br. Benedict by Br. Armin Luistro FSC
Every morning, the Brothers' communities join the prayer of
the Universal Church as we recite this hymn of praise from the Canticle
of Zechariah announcing the birth of John, precursor of the Savior. It
is a beautiful hymn of praise for those standing at the threshold of
redemption-the people of the Old Testament who lived by the love of what
they could not see. This is also our Benedictus today as we lay to rest
the mortal remains of our Brother Benedict who was faithful to his God
in life and in death.
In many ways, we gather today as the real family of John Wenceslaus Edward Lidinsky, Jr., born more than 76 years ago in Chicago from a family of Czech immigrants. Brought up in traditional Catholic values by John, Sr. and Rose, the young John learned religio, mores et cultura through the quiet, shining example of his parents' life more than their words. His father's exemplary Christian life as well as the young John's love for teaching were the two main driving forces of his decision to join the De La Salle Brothers at the Junior Novitiate in Glencoe, Missouri before he turned 14. He spent 8 years in initial formation and studies before beginning his teaching career at Amarillo, Texas (1948-51), then at De La Salle Minneapolis (1951-52), De La Salle Kansas City (1952-57), a short stint at the Brothers' Juniorate in Glencoe, Missouri (1957-58), until he finally joined us here at De La Salle University (September 1958 to January 2004) as a missionary. His ten-year ministry in the Midwest District engaged him as a Mathematics and Spanish teacher, Prefect of Discipline, Guidance Director as well as bus driver and coach. But for more than 45 years he devoted his vocation, his life and his love to De La Salle University -- the longest-serving Brother in this school and community.
Like the precursor John, he was a voice crying out in the wilderness, thick-skinned and fearless as he worked zealously for those entrusted to his care. And for those who had the privilege of being in his class, he was "the potter who -- with deep faith in God and an astonishing love for the people of his adopted country -- dexterously molded, with steady and firm strokes, young Christian leaders... [He was] the modern math teacher gifted with an incredible foresight who, upon first setting foot in the La Salle classrooms in the late fifties, proceeded without much ado to introducing the basics of computer learning. A truly outstanding high school math teacher, he managed... to make normally complicated mathematical concepts somehow comprehensible, making math a much more interesting subject than it otherwise would have been" (Editorial, The Businessman, 7 July 1991). He saw his role in social transformation as one who goes before the Lord to prepare His way even as he now takes pride in many former students "who are... in the forefront of nation-building either as public servants or as business leaders and entrepreneurs" (Editorial, The Businessman, 7 July 1991).
Like the prophet
John, he confronted and disagreed with his students, colleagues and
superiors and gave many unsolicited counsels. He did not mince words --
we were lucky to have him as a friend and we were damned to have him as
an enemy. He loved passionately and worked zealously as though tomorrow
will never come. "Teacher, administrator, fund raiser, counsellor and
friend-the indefatigable Br. Benedict is a man both feared and loved by
the students. As a high school principal, his office was both a chamber
of horrors and a haven for those seeking comfort, guidance and counsel"
(Editorial, The Businessman, 7 July 1991). He engaged everyone into a
discussion especially of those issues which were the loves of his life,
which in his own reckoning were the following, not necessarily in order
of priority: "Teaching, alumni, classical music, reading, writing, the
Macintosh and golf" (BJB, Jubilee Response, 14 May 1994).
But I was not as privileged as many of you who were his former students, close colleagues and community members. I have never lived with him in community, have never been his student and have never been assigned to DLSU. Much of what I knew about him happened only during these past 7 years in my capacity as Provincial through our small encounters some agitated, others mushy. One time he told me straight to my face that he did not vote for me during the elections for Provincial only because "he did not know me then." And, I must confess that the feeling was mutual until today. The past 4 days since I began communicating with Laly Herrera about his condition in Baguio City have opened my eyes and my heart to the very stuff of which Brother Josiah Benedict was made. As I witnessed the many loyal alumni, co-workers and colleagues shedding a tear at the passing away of their friend, his facade crumbled before me and I was gifted with an X-ray vision of this "beautiful American". It suddenly dawned on me that there is so much truth in a former student's description of him as "the terrific grouch who was full of heart; the stern disciplinarian yet tender 'father' " (Editorial, The Businessman, 7 July 1991).
For inside this man's heart of steel, one discovers "the tender compassion of our God." He struggled with tenderness all his life and during those times when he gave in, he was squishy. He would offer little gifts of fruits or chocolates to friends even on ordinary days just so you know he cares. Among the pile of junk email that I get from him, 90% of which are complaints, he would surprise me with one congratulating me for a report I recently made or a homily I delivered and every once in a while he would call me just to ask when I could come to DLSU so we could go out for a drink. He kept memorial cards of all his deceased Brother-friends in his office table. He admitted not wanting to show publicly his emotions when he wrote a response for his Jubilee celebration ten years ago: "A couple of years ago, we had a Burmese Brother studying at De La Salle, who had a blood brother who taped a message to be played at his funeral. I have frequently thought of this technique over the past several years, in anticipation of celebrating this Jubilee. At least I could avoid choking!... I have the damaged heart to begin with and past experience has shown me prone to emotion on occasions like this." (BJB, Jubilee Response, 14 May 1994). Well, today, you need not hide your tears, Brother Ben, for the warmth of God's tender compassion will dry those tears even before they leave your eyelids.
Ten years ago,
during his Golden Jubilee celebration as a Brother, he gave us an
insight into the dynamo that fired him up: "The friendships gained
during my four years as Principal and eight years as Dean have made my
recent years extremely fulfilling, working with alumni, many of whom I
taught, many years ago. Having seen what they have become and what they
have done, for themselves and others, for their loved ones, for God and
country, and for their Alma Mater, has been a "hundred-fold reward" in
this life" (BJB, Jubilee Response, 14 May 1994). This year, he was
really looking forward to his 60th Jubilee celebration as a De La Salle
Brother since he took the habit in 30 August 1944. He was preparing for
his US trip and I gave him permission to also attend the Golden Jubilee
of a Class he taught and coached in Kansas City. Today, we know that
Brother Benedict will receive his hundred-fold reward among his many
former students and friends in heaven. It will be a grand homecoming for
him in heaven. But even those who have been hurt by his strong words
may be comforted with that one final lesson we can learn from the life
of this committed educator, and it is this: that the opposite of love is
not hate nor anger but indifference. For he only fought with those he
loved. And in the end, he would always give in to tenderness for we all
know he is all bark, no bite.
The last time I saw Brother Benedict was during the first day of our District Chapter last December. He was not feeling very well at that time so when I invited him for lunch at Greenhills, he said he would rather drive back to Taft. He called me on my cell phone as soon as he reached his room at DLSU just to tell me he was safe home. He told me that he used to do that with his mom every time he ended a visit to their house to return to the Brothers' community. I was not too comfortable being mushy with him then. But, I remember telling him to sleep well and rest for the afternoon and to take it easy.
Sleep well, Brother Ben, you are safe home! Rest well, Brother Ben, you have been a faithful servant and your work has been accomplished! Take it easy, Brother Ben, for today God's tender compassion has dawned upon you and now you can rest in peace!