What Bill wanted above all else in life, his nephew eulogized, was to be a priest.
That he was, longer than most who gathered for his memorial Mass have been on the Earth.
And while Father Bill may have believed in and hoped for Heaven,
Where the highest of church potentates assured us he was,
He knew better than any that a priest doesn’t work in Heaven
— Heaven, as the old polka song goes, where there is no beer.
He operates with the fruits of the Earth and the produce of human hands,
As the Eucharist, beating heart of all priesthood, specifies.
Sacred repast, served with solemn ceremony in gold vessels
Yet a meal all the same, Father knew, a meal taken with friends.
Meals and friends, wine and beef and fellowship abounding;
Bounty of God’s Earth, which Bill honored with appetites,
Manifest in his generous girth and in the magisterial baritone
that lingered over the ancient texts as if he were discovering them.
Appetites worthy of all that the Earth had to give:
For Eucharist and eucharist, for prayer and books;
For knowledge of theology and of hard science;
For knowledge of you, your origins, Your People;
For the company of his own large family of origin;
For the peace he might help bring his uncountable adopted family;
For justice, the sustenance he brought to a homeless camp, a prisoner’s execution;
For the world he so loved that he traveled its length and width
And returned with not wonders but kinship to share,
Bidding the congregation every year as was his custom
To render Happy Easter in Spanish, in Korean, in Farsi, in . . .
The first thing he would do if he were in charge, he once told me,
Is get rid of the pews.
Keep your marble and your Heavenward spires too, for his money.
Give him Christians at table. Breaking bread.
Making room by turns for the hungry priest.
Going away satisfied.