At the end of a Care Conference for Adrian that Jim Moeglein and I attended just ten days ago, as it was clear that Adrian was surely near the end of his earthly life (despite many such similar previous certainties over the years!). One of the staff at MLHS said, "How can we best help Fr. Adrian in these last days of his life? Besides keeping him comfortable, how else can we assist him in being at peace as he dies?"
I said, "That is a challenge. I'm sure you're doing fine. He knows that you care for him, and you've been so kind all along. But one of Adrian's consistent images of himself over the years that he's shared with the Crosiers is that he saw himself as a "lone wolf." So I'm not sure."
Then one of the staff said immediately, "But how does that work when one is a member of a religious community like you guys?" And I was startled by the question, but just as sure as its answer: What does a "long wolf" look like amidst a fraternity of life? Adrian. A "lone wolf" amidst a community looks like Adrian. It's the story of his life which I should like to remember with you.
We Crosiers know that Adrian struggled to know his place in our vocation, but he did have a place. We know, too, that this image of the lone wolf helped Adrian make some sense of his experience of his Crosier vocation, but it also carried with it, of course, a sense of the outsider, and in this it was clear that Adrian still felt challenged to be confident in himself, to claim his rightful place, and to be at peace in the life we shared. Even so, this distinctive lone wolf did succeed in serving the Church for decades as a very public priestly figure who year after year stood before students and athletic teams and parishioners and confreres offering what he believed to be true because he was a man of faith--a Crosier of faith.
Interestingly, the three scriptures we heard as selections for this celebration were requested by Adrian in his funeral plan--the words from Ecclesiastes, from the Second Book of Timothy, and from the Gospel of John. Adrian chose these texts specifically for this ritual. And it seems to me, as I've pondered them each in turn, that Adrian in a way has given us a simple narrative of his own life as he heard it expressed in the holy word. It really is a little remarkable.
First, we heard from the Book of Ecclesiastes the human angst of one striving to discern what God asks of us, what God has "appointed for him." And this ancient sage concludes, "We never really ever discover it." This, I think, highlights one of the major themes of Adrian's life. He wanted to know what people expected of him; what the Crosiers expected of him; what God expected of him--and if he could know, he could do it and make everyone happy. But it's not that easy--not for the ancients, not for us, and certainly not for Adrian. And so he knew a lot of angst in his life--and doubt, and the uncomfortable unsurety of not knowing whether he was doing what he was supposed to do and not knowing whether it was ever good enough. Such an answer never came to Adrian as he hoped. And so the "lone wolf" had to carry this angst and this mystery and this nagging and feared disappointment as he sought to know and do exactly what he was supposed to do to be affirmed in serving God in just the right way. He had to do only the best he could without ever hearing the full affirmation he really wanted-- "Yes, that is it. Yes, you've got it."
In the scripture selection of Second Timothy, we then heard of one who, despite all the vagaries of life, did what he could with the gift of his God-given life: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith." And so Adrian did, as well, though never knowing for sure the foe, nor knowing for sure the course or the finish line. But he knew that the Lord stood by him, nonetheless, and this always gave him strength, and this faith in the Lord kept Adrian from the "lion's jaw," as Timothy poetically stated it. Indeed, in his life of never getting to know for sure all that he wished to know, and of feeling very vulnerable in doing things right, it was clearly for Adrian the Lord who kept this "lone wolf" from the jaws of the lion. It was the Lord (and rarely his religious superiors!), in whom Adrian had so much faith, who helped him always to fight the good fight and stay on the course of the race. And this he did wherever he lived and however he served. Adrian did always walk with the Lord; the Lord was the friend in solitary times who was allowed to walk with His beloved wolf with ease and fidelity.
Finally, our selection from the Gospel perhaps lets us hear Adrian himself say in an echo of the disciple Thomas, "Lord, how can we know the way--because we don't know where you are going?" And Jesus' reply to Thomas and to Adrian and to us is the same: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." And I have faith in you! And I will bring you home to be with me. It was this Gospel Lord of promise and love whom Adrian treasured and whom he has now followed to his Father's house.
Doesn't this sum up nicely the course of Adrian's life and service? He knew well doubt, yet he kept living in faith, and now he has gained the reward prepared for him from the foundation of the world.
Yet I would be remiss if I didn't convey one more important element of Adrian's life that was clear as I lived here in Onamia with Adrian over the last decade of his life, namely, that he had a great devotion to his Piotrowski family. When he would speak of you, it was with honor and respect for who you were and what your lives were about--so much so that he often expressed hesitancy in "bothering" you. But he had solid pride in his familial bonds of brotherhood with Jerry and Joyce and Karen. Though he lived much of his life away from you, he felt close to you in the bonds of being Piotrowskis from Foley, that birthright that was ever-after foundational to your connections. You were all honored family to him--and particularly in the friendship and care that Adrian and Joyce were able to share in proximity again over the past decade, he was heartened and sustained by all of your love and care across the miles and the years. God bless you for that.
So now to look back across Adrian's 85 years and his years of Crosier religious life and his ministry as priest is to see one who loved his priesthood and who loved his ministry with the people of God--all the sheep also trying to make their way like him in following the Good Shepherd. Today we honor him and commend him to God for the love he did share with us, and the hope, and the faith. May God rest your soul, dear brother Adrian. Your journey is ended and God's promises are fulfilled. Alleluia!