Chuck Colson Has Died: Rest in the Peace of the Lord Whom You Served Courageously
What I prefer to call myself is a "Catholic by Choice". If I were not raised a Catholic I would have become one. I love the Church. I left Bible College and joined a monastery. After almost two years, I realized I was not called to the monastic life.
I read an article in a magazine about the wonderful work happening at the then College of Steubenville. I needed to finish my College education. So, I wrote to Fr. Michael Scanlan, the author. That led to more letters, a visit and a friendship. I became a transfer student to the then "College of Steubenville" right after he took over the Presidency and had the privilege of being a part of the first chapters of the inspiring story which is still being written all these years later.
After I had graduated from the College - and later graduated from Law School at the nearby University of Pittsburgh - I practiced law and participated in the early work of rebuilding Steubenville. After a few years of law practice, I was drawn more deeply into the work of rebuilding that dynamically Catholic College preparing leaders for the Church and the world.
I became the Dean of Students at the College, leaving the private practice of law. I served as a major administrator, General Counsel and finally became the first Dean of Evangelism. In my heart I was then - and I still am - a Catholic Evangelist with a heart for the genuine unity of the One Church of Christ.
Among my tasks as a Dean - during what I called in a chapter of that first book the "classical revival at a Catholic College" - I was to asked to reach out to the great Evangelical Protestant leaders on behalf of Fr. Michael and the College. Our goal was to build an alliance of Christians who would stand together for life, family and freedom. Of course, Chuck Colson was right at the top of the list, along with Dr. James Dobson.
Chuck Colson responded immediately. I brought him to the Steubenville campus to receive the Poverello Award, named after the "little poor man", St.Francis of Assisi. That began a friendship which lasted for years. I visited with him in those early days at Prison Fellowship. We forged what I hope helped to foster what is now, decades later, the warm relationship between what I still call "evangelical" Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, making common cause together.
Chuck writing that forward to Evangelical Catholics back then took a lot of courage. I made a claim which got some people quite upset - at least back then. Chuck and I were both pilloried, he for endorsing the claim and me for writing the book. He had much more at risk. He was already considered one of the great evangelical Protestant Christian leaders of the twentieth century.
I remember one particular conversation at a lunch we shared together. After we had discussed many things - a young man learning from an older Christian leader - we spoke of the mission we faced together in an increasingly secularized West. I was amazed at the depth and clarity of his vision. I knew then that Chuck was a "catholic" thinker. The many years of his fruitful service to the Lord have borne that out.
He was an intelligent Christian with a great love for the two thousand year history of the whole Christian Church. His faith has been forged in the furnace of his own life's struggles. His study led him to fall in love with Church history and to long for the unity of the divided Church of Christ. He understood the vital role the Church is called to serve in the heart of the world and knew we cannot - we must not- retreat from the culture.
Chuck Colson's faith was strong. It drew people into its safe harbor. I still remember thinking back then, "Maybe someday I can become a "Catholic" Chuck Colson". What I meant was having the ability he had of explaining the ancient faith in the contemporary age in a way that made it relevant to the culture. That was Chuck Colson's greatest gift.
He was one of our greatest contemporary Christian apologists,engaging the culture with the truths informed by faith. He was also one of the greatest defenders of the fundamental right to life and of marriage and the family and society founded upon it. Finally, he was an apostle of Christian unity who took the prayer of Jesus to heart, "May They Be One" (John 17:21).
Over the years, I hoped that Chuck would 'come home" to full communion with the Catholic Church. Not because I did not think he was a wonderful Christian leader, but because I loved him in the Lord and want him to find what I have found after coming home to the Catholic Church. Now I know that when we are together in the Lord's embrace, we will both be in the fullness of communion to which the Church points.
Chuck's life's work in Prison fellowship, the Colson Institute and so many other endeavors, most recently the Manhattan Declaration, were all fruit borne from the same strong tree which grounded him, the Tree of the Cross of the Savior whom he loves. He was a classical, dynamically orthodox Christian leader, an historic figure whowas been chosen by God to help lead the recovery of Western Culture.
I received these words from Robby George several days ago: "It is with a heavy, but hopeful heart that I share with you that it appears our friend, brother, and founder will soon be home with the Lord. Chuck's condition took a decided turn yesterday, and the doctors advised Patty and the family to gather by his bedside."
"As you know, Chuck underwent surgery more than two weeks ago to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain. And while we had seen some hopeful signs for Chuck's recovery-including his ability to talk happily with Patty and the kids--it seems that God may be calling him home."
I asked the readers of Catholic Online to pray with me for Chuck Colson, his wife Patty and his children. I said then that whatever the Lord's plan was for his dear servant, one thing I knew - the work of this giant among Christian apologists and apostle of Christian unity was only just beginning.
He will now assist in that work from his participation in the heavenly communion of Trinitarian love through his intercession. His example and his lasting legacy will inspire new leaders who continue his vital work. Well done good and faithful servant.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Chuck Colson, Prison fellowship, Manhattan Project, Colson Institute, Robert George, Ecumenism, unity, Deacon Keith Fournier
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