Homily on the occasion of the Requiem Mass at Holy Spirit Seminary Chapel, September 3rd, for Fr Ziggy Kruczek CSMA by the President of CTI Fr David Willis OP
We gather at this Eucharist to farewell Fr Zdzislaw - Ziggy - Cruczek CSMA, who passed away on 1st August this year at Doha, the capital of Qatar, situated on the coast of the Persian Gulf, a country far from both his homeland Poland, and his mission field, PNG.
Some background for Fr Ziggy and CTI: by the end of 2009 CTI had lost all its Church History lecturers. Fr Tulio Cordero CM, had been elected provincial of the Vincentian Central American Province, and Fr Anthony Arthur MSC was no longer free to come to Bomana from Australia. Fr Valerian Fernandez, CTI’s dean at the time, contacted Fr Ziggy, who had been lecturing in Church History at both Good Shepherd Seminary and St Charles Borromeo Seminary to inquire if he was available to lecture in Church History at CTI. Fr Ziggy agreed and thus began his link with CTI which continued till his death. He was scheduled to be with us this term.
Death, in a sense, is natural. The Catechismof the Catholic Church makes this point: “Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life.” ( CCC 1006) Indeed, the certainty that we will die, the Catechism goes on to say, “helps us to realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfilment.” Fr Ziggy was blessed in this regard. He had recently told Fr Zenon that he had at last completed all the major tasks that had been asked of him.
But then theCatechism takes us into deep waters. “Even though human nature is mortal, God had destined humans not to die.... [Death] entered the world as a consequence of sin.”
Death was not part of God’s plan, as The Book of Wisdom states:
for God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.
Death is the enemy, “the last enemy to be destroyed,” according to St Paul (1 Cor 15:26)
Did St Francis of Assisi get it wrong therefore, when, aware of his own approaching death, he added a verse to his poem, Canticle of the Sun, praising the Lord for Sister Death “from whose embrace no one can escape”? Brother sun, sister moon, yes, but how could he address our last enemy as a beloved family member?
The Catechism helps us with this dilemma when it says that “The obedience of Jesus [as he underwent suffering and death] has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.” (CCC 1009).
Death for the Christian, ever remaining “the last enemy to be destroyed”, has, in the words of the Catechism” a positive meaning”, (CCC, 1010). We see this expressed in our Mass theme today, taken from St Paul: “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is the blessing; there is the positive meaning of death: If to live is Christ, “to die is gain.”
Faith in Jesus Christ, which includes turning away from sin, the desire to be with Christ and to see God, for St Paul and St Francis overcame death, more precisely, overcame the fear of death. Death remains, and it remains the last enemy but the Christian can grasp the truth of St Paul’s words: “death where is your victory, where is your sting?”(1 Cor 15:55).
The Catechism , spelling out the positive meaning of death, says that death is “a step towards him [Christ] and an entrance into everlasting life” (CCC 1020), and that “in death, God calls man to himself.” (CCC 1010) St Francis called death his sister because it is ‘a step towards Christ, an entrance into eternal life, and in death we hear God’s call to us.
Fr Ziggy faithfully lived out his priestly and religious obligations expressed partly in his activities as a lecturer and the many projects he undertook. To mention some of these since his ordination 41 years ago: authoring 160 articles, writing many review articles, publishing eight books, serving as a seminary rector, parish priest, novice master and local superior. All this, and he had time for people. I lived with him at V H for long enough to know that. He was always cheerful - good company and part of the community.
The last prayers of the Church for Fr Ziggy included words of pardon and absolution; he was also ‘sealed ...with a strengthening anointing’ and given Christ “in viaticum as nourishment for the journey”.
The Church’s last prayers are also ones of assurance:
Go forth Christian soul, from this world....May your home be with God in Zion....May you return to [your Creator] who formed you from the dust of the earth...May you see your redeemer face to face...(Order of Christian Funerals, Prayer of Commendation).
Farewell Fr Ziggy; we thank the Lord for you and what you have given to us in your generosity of heart, and we pray that the Lord in his mercy pardons your failings and sends his angels, with St Michael the Archangel at the head, to whom you had a special devotion, to lead you into paradise. Eternal rest grant to Fr Ziggy O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
Fr David Willis OP
President Catholic Theological Institute 3 September, 2014