No matter what creed or nationality, we are all joined together in the very great loss of Father Chris… the “Gentle Giant of Fredericktown.”
He was not the tallest man in the room if measured in feet, but being measured by feet is not the measure of a man.
Father Chris could only be measured by the size of his caring and compassionate heart. In that measure, Chris’s heart was as big as the whole Fredericktown valley.
You did not have to be a Catholic to love Father Chris, or to be loved by him. He loved people unconditionally; he loved his church and he loved you.
You all have your own story; an encounter as a neighbor, as a friend, as a patient in a hospital, or as a member of Holy Trinity Church or as a fellow member of the clergy.
My story happened in early May, this year, when Father Chris arrived at the top of the Fredericktown hill to discuss the pending dedication service of the new white steel cross. As he walked to the crest of the hill, he was suddenly silent, as though stunned, as he stood beside the cross and surveyed the beautiful Fredericktown valley for the first time.
The view was being absorbed more by his heart than by his eyes. He stood silent looking out at the beauty of Holy Trinity Church. This valley was his assigned piece of earth and sky. These people were his assigned people. This was where he ministered every day to anyone who came with their tears.
For a brief moment it was all so arresting. Finally Chris broke the silence and said, “I cannot believe how beautiful it is.” He was speaking from his heart.
In that moment, it was as if Father Chris wished to spread his arms out across the valley and pray once again for all the needs of so many hurting people…his people… his ministry. You.
From the vantage of the hill top he wished to bless you all. At that special moment, Father Chris stated he would return frequently to the hill top to pray for the church and each of you. We said a prayer together.
Father Chris had a motto of his ministry and you were in it:
“I do not ask your very all
I only ask a part;
Bring me when the dancers leave the hall
Your aching heart.
Give other friends your smiling face,
The laughter of your years,
I come to ask a greater grace ~
Bring me your tears.”
During this time of great loss, my prayer is that when you look at the cross on top the Fredericktown hill, you will think of the life and times of Father Chris. He loved you. The Croake Station gates to the cross will be open for anyone who wishes to stand where Father Chris stood and prayed.
There is room at the cross for you.