Homily at the Funeral Mass for Charlie Malatesta, O.P.
by Dennis Woerter, O.P.
Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43; Luke 24:13-16, 28-35
In 1997, when we had a spate of deaths in the Province, Ed Ruane said to a few of us at St. Dominic Priory in St. Louis that when members of a certain generation in the Province died, one could sense immediately that something was missing. That something was gone.
I think this is the sense we have today, as we gather to remember Charlie Malatesta. A founding member of the Province. My mentor. My model. One of my best friends.
Perhaps, though, this is not the time for me to get selfish. For I think many of us gathered here today can say the same things about Charlie. His commitment to every aspect of our life can certainly stand as a model for each of us.
In today's gospel, the disciples go out to preach and proclaim how Jesus was made know to them in the breaking of the bread.
We certainly know that this is not the only post-resurrection account. Jesus was made known to the disciples in many different ways. And they went out to preach that Jesus. They accepted the commission to be sent out. And to preach.
As we hear in the Acts of the Apostles, "He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead."
Charlie embraced this gospel mandated commissioning so fully, that it permeated throughout his entire life. His entire being.
We Dominicans have ideals. Ideals we strive for. Ideals we strive for but never quite reach. But we do have our models and our mentors. People we strive to be like. People whom, for us, live our life "ideally."
For Charlie, his commitment to our life is unquestioned.
He so loved to preach. He fondly recalled his days on the mission bands he served on. An avid reader, he was eager to discuss a new idea. Or to send a magazine article along to someone. His preaching remained fresh. His preaching remained strong. His preaching remained filled with conviction. And reflected his love for the Word of God.
He so loved to teach. He would say those if you wanted to close a school send him there. For everywhere he taught is now closed. He remained close to several former students ("the girls" as he called them) until the day lie died. In fact, there is a woman at St. Dominic in Denver who fondly remembers Charlie as her teacher. His curiosity and his willingness to share his life with others served as a witness to all those who encountered him.
He was committed to prayer. As we heard last night, the Divine Office was his favorite prayer. And praying it with his brothers gave him energy and filled him with life. When he was incapacitated, lie lamented the fact that he could not join his brothers in prayer.
He loved the Dominican family. He worked with or for members of every branch of our family. Promoter of the Laity. Chaplain to the Sisters at Sinsinawa. Retreats and missions to nuns. Brother and friend to countless friars. Every single member of the Dominican family was held in Charlie's heart. He Just loved the Order. Even while talking about, in his words, "the fools and the faults" of the Order, he had a gleam in his eye.
He dearly loved his family and his friends. A picture of his sister, Mary, always hung in his room. He spoke fondly of Mary and his cousins and friends from around the country. I know Mary's letters and phone calls gave him much joy and comfort.
But, probably, what gave him the most energy was the community. I don't think lie could have done without it. He loved just being with the brothers and the sisters. And lie had a tremendous sense of what it is that makes community work. It is not just being around. Not just being available. But being an active participant in the community. By just watching Charlie operate, I could tell that he believed that in order for community to work, one must actively engage in it. One must be a preacher. One must be willing to learn. One must be a teacher. One must conscientious to prayer. One must love the Order.
This Charlie did. With a humility and a humor that was admired by many people. And we are here to remember this. Charlie was faithful to the life he professed. He was faithful to the gospel he preached. And he was faithful to the Gospel command to go out and preach.
Charlie was commissioned to preach to the people. Not just with words. But with his life.
We believe, however, that upon death, our life is changed, not ended. Our lives continue in another way. We Dominicans fondly remember those who have gone before us. Today, we fondly remember Charlie Malatesta.
As I left his room on Sunday morning, Charlie said what were to be his last words to me, "That's the way it is."
We are here to remember: That's the way it is.
We are here to celebrate what Charlie has given to us: That's the way It is.
We are here to rejoice in the fact that the life Charlie modeled for Lis will continue on: That's the way it is.
That is what we believe. That's the way it is.
We have been commissioned to preach to the people. This work will go on. That's the way it is.
Charlie believed that this work. Our work. Cannot be done alone. He loved LIS. He loved being with us. And he knew that, together, we are stronger preachers. Stronger disciples. Stronger ministers of the word. Stronger Dominicans.
This is what we take from this place today: A stronger commitment to our way of life. For we remember today Charlie Malatesta -- someone who showed us that way. And we continue to embrace that.
Sent out to preach.
That's the way it is.