The Glory of God is man fully alive."-St Ireneaus
Requiescat in Pace Father Darin Didier
Father John (Jack) Lombardi who is at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes wrote this piece about 5 years ago as a memorial to his young friend and fellow priest Father Darin Didier. Father Darin died at age 33, at 3:33 pm, 3 months after his ordination. He got to say Mass, to celebrate the Consecration of the Holy and Blessed Sacrament. Now he resides in heaven with Jesus, and can intercede not only for those who knew him on this earth, but for all of us who are still here. We can know him spiritually, and it is not that difficult. You see, he is alter Christus for us in death, as he was in life, long before he ever became a priest.
May this summation of his life inspire us to follow the path to holiness that he followed, so that we may arrive at the foot of the Cross as he did.
In Memoriam-Fr Darin Didier Sept 27, 1972-September 6 2005
He was a wonderful, wonderful man. He lived his priesthood only three months on Earth-but he's now living it in Heaven for eternity." Thus said Fr Michael Roache (Mt St Mary's Seminary history professor). He always wanted to be a priest. From grade school on thru, that was his calling, Fr Roache added.
His Dad just said :"He taught me to surrender--by his sickness. It doesn't mean giving up, it means surrendering. It makes life easier."
Another pilgrim of Mary's Mountain said upon hearing of Father's death: "He got to be a priest. That's all he really wanted. Now we got a really good priest and friend in Heaven." Amen! Fr Ryan, my traveling companion to Fr. Didier's funeral said on the way there: "I'm praying for him and I'm also praying to him." Ditto the amen.
Holy man-we're all looking for one. Someone to enlighten us. To help us--to guide us. Someone true, noble, Christ-like.
You may study philosophy to find a holy person, or go to India and elsewhere--the quest seems endless. Holy men may be rare, but I've often found, they're disguised. I found a holy man here on Mary's Mountain.
This weekend when we remember 9/11, we also remember a really fine man, a priest of God and Soldier of Christ. Some memories and meditations…
Fr Darin Didier died this past week after a couple-year struggle with leukemia. Known variously around these mountains as "Darin," "Deacon Darin, "Fr Didier," "Fr Darin," and "Deacon Darin Didier of Dakota," which was a favorite of this priest-"QD-Quadruple D"-this was a man-of-God who studied here at Mt St Mary's Seminary for five years and was ordained in Fargo N. Dakota in May. He was beloved by many people of the Grotto, Mt St Mary's Seminary and University, St Mary's Church in Fairfield, Pa, where he served as deacon, and many other nearby places of Spirit. The Mystical Body's outpouring of love, prayer and affection at his passing more fully into Eternal Life is like a lot of life: bittersweet. Bitter because we all miss a dear friend, a holy priest, a beautiful, exemplary example of Christly discipleship; and because we think of Father's loving and ever-faithful parents, Len and Bonnie, and sister Darcy, and their loss: what more difficult thing in life is there for a parent to bury their child? But also the experience may be somewhat sweet-because we think of, and thank the Gift Giver-God Who gave Fr Darin to us; we think of a life well lived; of a priesthood persevered in, and the Light of Jesus and love of Mary which shone thru Fr Darin.
The last time I talked to him on earth (three weeks ago on the phone) he said had to cancel his celebrating of a wedding Mass, that he struggled thru a Sunday Mass (almost fainting), and more often was praying in a reclining chair before the Blessed Sacrament. His voice sounded faint, without his usual steam and vigor, but his words, the content of his soul were, well, Darin-like-filled with love of God and conformability of being a priest: prayer, Mass, sacrifice, being a vessel. C.S. Lewis wrote: -God whispers through pleasurable experiences. He speaks through the conscience of man and shouts thru pain. Suffering is God's trumpet….God was "instant messaging" to us thru Fr Darin-and others-do you hear Him?
After Deacon Darin became Father Darin I was searching for a new "nick-name" to replace the "QD" I had become accustomed to; and, after our heartfelt conversation, it manifested: Daring Darrin Didier of Dakota. He was that--daring. And so should we be with our faith and Crosses. He dared to run the good race-physically and metaphysically. Deacon-Fr Darin once ran a marathon (26 miles plus) and when he trained, he did just that. He entered a crowd of some 4,000and took 80th place. He was determined and daring.
He was focused: some medical professionals thought he couldn't make it this far, or at least to last Spring, to priestly ordination. I recall sitting in my car at the Grotto just after having breakfast with him, and talking about his illness, his pursuit of healing thru some natural medicines, about his hopes and his Path. He never looked so good: radiant and strong! With the onset of his sickness, as some perhaps would, he could have left the seminary, and spent his last year and days traveling, "living a high life" of pleasures and self-fulfillment--giving up on God and His Pursuit. He could have become depressed. But, no, he chose to stay on the Path to the Priesthood, to sacrifice, to become more One with Christ thru the Gift of Priestly Orders. If he would have chosen more chemotherapy this would have put him out of the seminary. Instead he chose to allow God's mysterious and sovereign Will to carve his path for him-like the Virgin Mary whom he preciously loved, he made his own life his "Fiat"-"be it done" (Lk. 1:38)-a surrender. He stayed put, studied, prayed, fulfilled his academic, pastoral and seminary requirements-and he did make it to the priesthood. All boys and young men considering priesthood should emulate him-one way or another. One soul said it so well, so simply: "He's an example."
"Real Men Love Jesus": I just saw that bumper sticker on a pickup truck. Fr Darin was a man of God-tough and tender at the same time, just like St Joseph, like every man should be. Fr Darin was an athletic runner-lean and thin and strong in earlier days: he ran the good race. He was an excellent basketball player too: I played with him many times, and not only could he leap and run well, but also shoot and score. He was a human and, as St Irenaeus said-he became a Glory of God.
Real Men Love Mary and Prayer: Fr Didier was, above all, a man of spirituality and frequent conversation with God and the Virgin. I often saw him carrying a Rosary and walking briskly around Mary's Grotto-praying! He would run and pray, and sit in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. He made his life a prayer, an offering and continual communion with God and Mary…How can you pray more like this man?
Spiritual Beauty: One person said about his Mass of Thanksgiving at the Grotto: "He looked beautiful." That's a simple and elegant description of a beautiful man-he emitted a spiritual radiance. When he came for that Mass he arrived and just about immediately began giving blessings-for about an hour before the Mass: he was rugged, determined. Then he heard confessions after Mass!…He was already living his priestly life in service for God's people: do you-even with your sufferings, like the Lord and Fr Darin?
Fr Peter Ryan, my traveling buddy to Dakota described how vigilant and tireless Deacon Darin was in his seminary studies-no one else has been like him, Fr, Peter said. Obviously, Deacon/Father Darin wanted to know his Faith to love and spread it more!...Do you?
Victim Soul: This is one spiritual description I think of regarding Fr Darin. He was young (barely thirty-three, the Lord's age when He died), kinda' like a lamb, without blemish-did he ever sin? I sometimes thought-he was idealistic, innocent and un-intoxicated with much of life like others: and God allowed him suffering and an "early death" Why? I believe God allowed him to take on other's sufferings-into and upon his earthly, athletic and innocent-like body and soul-to heroically absorb and become a co-vicar of Christ in atoning the world. The saints were like and that and so was this saintly man. So: offer up and help Jesus!
At the Quinn's house in Thurmont (Steve Quinn and Fr Darin were "running buddies") we enjoyed dinners, energetic kids, prayer together, and even a beer! Ditto for times at the Shubring's. There we watched the Green Bay Packers go to defeat in a playoff game last Fall. I was a little upset (I'm a Lombardi-get it?!). But Deacon Darin took it in stride-with detachment. Other things were more important. Afterwards he invited me to the Seminary chapel to pray a Rosary with some other seminarians. Stay focused-God first!
"NaturalPreaching": We all loved to hear him preach. He frequently came to the Grotto weekday Masses. He loved explaining the Faith, and he never used a text! He knew what he was talking about. His faith was synonymous with his life and his life was identical to his Faith. He was a transparent Image of Christ-by his preaching and sanctifying…We need do the same-and, like St Francis of Assisi says: 'Use words when necessary."
">Be Brave: "He was not afraid to preach the Gospel." That's what one man said of him. Whether it was about the unique-singularity of Christ's Bride, the Holy Catholic Church, or about moral, family or spiritual issues many find difficult to accept in these relativistic times, Deacon/Fr Darin would preach them-with compassion:. He was on a mission-are you?
Words to Live by: I may never forget our luxurious lunch in our shed. A year ago Deacon Darin and I were eating a Grotto meal off a card table-some soup and sandwiches amidst oil cans and work tools. I got up the bravery to ask him about his disease and prognosis and he was equally brave in responding--and realistically idealistic. He then said: "I pray that God allow me to make it to priesthood, if it be His Will, but if not, then to help people in Heaven. Whatever His Will is, it's a win-win situation." …Gain that same attitude and courage!
The Cross: Upon hearing of Father Darin's death a pilgrim reflected-- "I was scared at first by him. Most people who get seriously sick become resigned to it. But Darin desired to carry his cross"…Do you? Let us thank God for such a holy example and, ourselves, become the same!
The Funeral: There were a hundred and fifty people at the Wake service Friday night and various people reminisced about this holy man: one said he was an excellent student, another an beautiful friend and another a sincere priest-how holistically-holy can you get? Perhaps that's why "QD" was so loved, respected-he became a priest for all people Fr. Ryan said he was without guile-and wasn't satisfied with a "b-grade" on a test-so he said: "What can we do to fix this?" (!) While I was in the Cathedral chapel praying, just before Mass, someone came in. I didn't look (this time). After finishing my prayers I then looked over: it was Bishop Samuel Aquila (fellow Italian), kneeling before Jesus in the Bl. Sacrament, his head buried in his wrenching hands, eyes closed, in a kinda' like "Agony in the Garden" scene as he was preparing for Fr Darin's funeral Mass. As I left and made noise he never winced or looked over: he kept praying. He lost a priest, a brother-and was mourning--or was it, he gained in intercessor in Heaven and was communing mystically?
The next day 750 people gathered at the beautiful Mass on Sat. Morning. There were young men in cassocks and lace-surplices; lots of candles, incense and bells; a choir loft with beautiful ethereal music wafting thru the Light-filled Cathedra; rivers of tears--even from priests and grown men-people of all ages, professions and backgrounds met at Jesus' Altar for Fr Darin. Just before the Mass Fr Darin's beautiful father, Len, said: When Darin became a priest he became part of your family (a priest's), and we did too. So, don't forget we're all part of one family, come back and visit us." He then gave me a big bear hug-after all he is a Minnesotan-a Viking-Catholic! Fr Darin's friend, Fr Peter, preached a most stunning homily-the funeral Mass was the most beautiful one I've ever been to. Fr Peter said the cross on Fr Darin's coffin was an image-crucifix of Christ. He said Fr Darin, thru all his joys and sorrows, himself became an image, an icon-window of Christ. Jesus visited us thru Fr Didier. I hope you saw Him pass by…thru this beautiful holy man, this Son of Mary's Mountain. Fr Peter choked up while describing Fr. Darin's actual death: it was 3.33 pm (The Divine Mercy Hour), it was the third month of Fr Darin's priesthood, and he was basically the same age as when Jesus died. In a Church crammed with hundreds of humans, silence and awe reigned.
At the end the traditional funeral hymn "In Paradisum" was sung in Latin-English, and the song for priests' funerals was also sung, "Salve Regina" (Hail Holy Queen)-as Fr Darrin's earthly body was carried form the church to the hearse. In Dakota it was a sunny and sad day at the same time.
Upon leaving the funeral and rushing to catch our flight back East, I met Fr. Mouwen, a classmate of Fr. Darin. This bright young soul and padre emitted a joy amidst the sadness, and said that Fr Darin "visited" him a dream: Fr. Mouwen said "Darin" appeared as in Heaven, and there was total joy on the Eve of the Blessed Virgin's Birthday, and, further, that "Darin' was on a chariot, riding around in ecstasy, saying something like: This is fun! However reticent I am to believe individual's spiritual experiences, this one seemed believable! A moment later I met permanent Deacon. I was rushing but he wasn't. He said, with our hands gentlemanly clasped: "When I bowed to kiss Fr Darin's coffin tos ay goodbye, I smelled an odor. It was the odor of sanctity…This is part of God's Plan…I've seen a lot of this over my 25 yrs as a deacon, but this was different." He hugged me and I teared up-again.
Use your sickness-I never heard Fr Darin complain. Rather: he offered up all sorrows-accepting his illness for God's glory, for other souls, and his own path of Salvation. Will you do the same? Become Holy-right where you are God is calling you to sanctify your life, work, home and environment in a way similar to, and different, than Fr Darin: don't fail! Pray for and support priests: Fr. Peter said in the funeral homily that Fr Darin inspired priests, esp. amidst the loss of the dignity of, and esteem for the priesthood in these tough times, and Fr Darin's witness was for priests to be proud and become holy …Focus-on your vocation- like Fr Darin concentrated on his-even despite--no--amidst, obstacles, cling to the calling God has for you…Remember, as Fr Peter said, perhaps the best way to remember and love Fr Darin: become holy yourself, "training for Heaven" and become an icon-window of Jesus so all can see Him thru you, just as we saw Jesus the High Priest thru Fr Darin!