January 5, 2001
volume 12, no. 5
Father John Hardon, S.J.
Father Hardon will indeed be a hard act to follow

    In an effort to always improve, we have changed the format of the DAILY CATHOLIC. We are in the process of transferring over to frames so you will always be able to immediately access anything in this publication as well as surf other links without ever leaving the safe harbor of this site. And safe harbor is what it is all about. Jesus said in John 10: 10, "I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." He offers safe harbor by instructing us to take up our cross and follow Him daily, assuring us that He will be with us always. He left His Spirit and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth to steer us in the right direction.

    One of those who helped chart this during the last half of this past century was Father John Anthony Hardon, the 86 year-old Jesuit Theologian who became legendary in scholastic circles for his total allegiance to the Church. He wrote countless books and articles, was a lecturer, professor and spiritual director for over half a century, leaving a legacy of Catholicity that rivaled anyone else in the Church today, save for the Pope himself. Father John's goal of leading the faiithful to Heaven was to his devoted Mother, who taught him to kneel before he walked and he never forgot that God was first in his life.

    Father John was born on June 18th, 1914 in Midland, Pennsylvania. When he was just a few months old, his parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio. One day while at work, his father John Sr. noticed a beam of steel dangling over the heads of his coworkers who were eating lunch. He scrambled up the scaffolding, thinking only of their safety. The scaffold gave way and he fell to his death. Johnny was only one year old when his father died. Now he is reunited with his dad some 85 years later.

    Johnny's mother, Anna Hardon, was a Third Order Franciscan, a very devout women. She taught Johnny to kneel before he was able to walk. As she often said, your knees are for kneeling to pray before God. When he was four years old, he went to his first all night vigil at Our Lady of Consolation parish in Carey, Ohio. His mother made a bed for him on the first pew. Anna prayed on her knees throughout the night while Johnny slept. She worked hard to bless with a Catholic school education. From his sixth birthday he could remember going to daily Holy Mass with his mother who worked hard to keep a roof over their head and John on the straight and narrow. Anna worked as a cleaning women in an office building nights and also took in two girl boarders who were Lutheran. Young Johnny asked his mother why the girls didn't have to fast from meat on Fridays. His mother took this as a sign to have the girls request permission from their minister to fast from meat on Fridays. Their Lutheran minister gave them permission and again peace reigned in the Hardon household.

    John was an intelligent boy and the sisters at the Catholic school could see he had a flare for acting. While in sixth grade he put on a one-man show called "Pockets." For one solid hour he kept the audience laughing with his explanations of what he carried in his pockets. John sat next to a girl named Jo, and for the most part through school until college, she remained a pretty constant person in his life. Jo was a very intelligent girl and good competition for John, sharing many of the same interests.

    John attended John Carroll University in Cleveland for four years of college during which he and Jo kept in contact the entire time. As time passed, Jo was making plans for them to marry. But John's mother told him if the reason he was going to marry was so that she would not be alone without anyone to care for her, he was not to be concerned. God would take care of her with His divine grace as He always had. With that, John's decision to enter the Society of Jesus was made. He had only one more hurdle to jump. How to tell Jo? He already had the date set to enter the Order. John and Jo went out to a fine dinner on a Sunday evening. Just after ordering the meal, John told Jo that he was entering the Society of Jesus on the following Wednesday. Jo cried all through the meal. But Jo's loss was the Church's and world's gain!

    At the age of 22 years old, John Anthony Hardon embarked on the road to the priesthood in the Jesuit Order. He studied hard and achieved excellent grades. John was ordained on his 33rd birthday, June 18th, 1947 at West Baden Springs, Indiana. His mother, Anna, was there to see this fulfillment of her prayers and good example.

    When John was 43 years old he wrote his first book which has yet to be published, but ensuing works found their way around the world and inspired and educated millions. Father Hardon was a member of the Society of Jesus for 65 years and an ordained priest for 54 years. He held a Masters degree in Philosophy from Loyola University and a Doctorate in Theology from Gregorian University in Rome. He taught at the Jesuit School of Theology at Loyola University in Chicago and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Catholic Doctrine at St. John's University in New York as well as helped organize and publish the series of catechetical books for youth and adults. A prolific writer, whose works appeared in leading religious and educational periodicals as well as various collections, he authored over 200 books, including the outstanding works The Catholic Catechism, Religions of the World, Protestant Churches of America, Christianity in the Twentieth Century, Theology of Prayer, The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan and recently two question and answer catechisms on the Holy Father's encyclicals The Gospel of Life and The Splendor of Truth. In addition, he was actively involved with a number of organizations, such as the Institute on Religious Life, Marian Catechists, Eternal Life and Inter Mirifica, which publishes his catechetical courses.

    Right up to his dying days, Father Hardon was still giving classes in person and by teleconference. He was actively giving days of recollection and retreats and had just published a book called the Prophet for the Priesthood, the story of the life of Father Gerald Fitzgerald, the founder of the Servants of the Paraclete and the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.

    Father Hardon had been spiritual director to countless souls including the beloved "saint of the gutter" Mother Teresa of Calcutta and taught the Missionaries of Charity around the world. He worked for the Vatican for 33 years, receiving the Papal Medal in 1951, the same year he earned his degree from the vaunted Gregorian University in Rome. He was an advisor to the Second Vatican Council. If anyone knew what should be or shouldn't be in the liturgy in America in these times, it was Father John. We can only pray that more bishops would strive to know more of the Vatican documents in order to curb the abuses today, especially in the liturgy. We urge them to read his works. The bishops missed out greatly by not inviting this holy man to their bi-annual conferences, both as an observer and an advisor.

    We gained these insights about Father John during an interview in the fall of 1999 in preparing his profile for the Top 100 Catholics of the Century. He had been chosen by the readers as 36th on the list, which we, as well as many others, felt was a slight on this holy man whose orthodoxy and loyalty was above reproach. Indeed he should have been higher, much higher on the list. He is higher now, much higher - as in Heaven where as a member of the Church Triumphant he can now intercede all the more for the Church Militant.

    Father John was not a militant man, but a man of love. Yet he was stern in adhering to the Faith in all respects. He was the relentless defender of the Faith who touched so many through his dogmatic, catechetic, and apologetic logic that made it simple for all to understand the Church's teachings. It was at 33, the same age that Our Lord was when He commissioned His apostles and disciples to spread the Word, that Father John began his priestly ministry. Now nearly 54 years later Father John's voice has been stilled, but his spirit, like Christ's, continues in the inspiration Father John left us and the countless fruits that have manifested and will forever grow in the hearts and minds of Catholics everywhere. Though there are many outstanding young priests, religious and lay Catholics in America today, they realize that Father Hardon will indeed be a hard act to follow.

Michael Cain, editor

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January 5, 2001
volume 12, no. 5
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