April 20, 2003

Death of a Good Priest

Msgr Colby Grimes, the priest who officiated at my wedding died on Good Friday. He was 50 years old. I'll never forget the reverence with which he said Mass. He bowed low during the words of consecration and paused a few seconds between each word: "This.....Is.....My....Body". It was arresting and unique and audacious. Flannery O'Connor once said that she had to write stories of grostesqueness because that's the thing the modern reader can grasp. Perhaps Msgr. Grimes felt that he had to say the words with such long pauses in order to allow the reality of the Real Presence to sink in to a congregation who easily loses their way.

One of his dreams was to meet the Pope. It's not easy for a parish priest to meet the pope, but he put his name on the list at the first possible chance and something like seven years later it happened.

When he was in the hospital the first time I sent a get well card and expressed my appreciation for the reverence with which he said Mass. He was not somebody I really wanted to run into for fear of ruining things. First, in the unlikely event he not live up to my image of him. (Heroes are fragile things). Second, and far more likely, that I not live up to mine. Still, I went back once to the old parish after we were married and I ran into him before Mass. He gave me a huge smile, handshake and we chatted.

Journal entry dated June 2000:
....First there was the sad news that Msgr. Grimes, a personal hero (i.e. the person I’d most like to be like) has leukemia. He was not only a bridge to Steph & my wedding, but he promised to ever be there in case of difficulty. One finds comfort to have a personal fire extinguisher behind the glass & the “break glass in case of emergency”. Now he may be on his way to a far better place – heaven.

The Dispatch article:

Grimes was known for his straightforward style and his compassion and selflessness. Even as his body reeled from chemotherapy, he visited sick youngsters at Children's Hospital.

Even when he was sick, or on vacation, Grimes celebrated Mass, she said. Once, she stopped to see him at his home when he was ill and he had set up an altar on his dining-room table.

Earlier Dispatch article.

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