Germain Grisez had ‘a lively sense of Providence,’ long-time friend says

Germain Grisez. Courtesy of Mt. St. Mary's University.
Germain Grisez. Courtesy of Mt. St. Mary's University.

.- A longtime friend of distinguished theologian Germain Grisez will celebrate the scholar’s funeral Tuesday, at St. Anthony Shrine Roman Catholic Church in Emmitsburg, Md. Grisez died Feb. 1, at the age of 88.

Grisez was professor emeritus at the Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, and the author of dozens of books and articles. He was widely regarded as an astute and original ethicist and moral theologian, and a vocal defender of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

Father Peter Ryan, SJ, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, met Grisez after his brother, Bill Ryan, was taught by the scholar at Georgetown University. The men developed a friendship while Fr. Ryan was studying theology in Rome, and the friendship became a relationship of scholarly collaboration.  

 “The Lord saw fit to give me many years of friendship and close collaboration with Germain,” Ryan said. “It’s been a real blessing.”

When their friendship began, Grisez asked Ryan to review draft chapters of "Living a Christian Life," the second volume of his landmark work of moral theology, “The Way of the Lord Jesus,” which includes three printed volumes.  The volumes also appear on Grisez’s website along with hundreds of pages of a fourth volume and many of his other works.  

After the second volume was published, Ryan continued to collaborate with Grisez; the pair published articles together and consulted with one another regularly about individual projects.  

In fact, Ryan told CNA that he will continue to work on a theology text—a book on eschatology—that he and Grisez began together. “It will be very much inspired by his thought,” Ryan said.

Ryan said that Grisez’s scholarship was rooted in his deep spirituality.

“He was very interested in having us see that morality is not about extrinsically ‘laying down the law,’ but is rather the implication of loving persons, wanting all that is good for persons, desiring their true fulfillment,” he told CNA.

For Grisez, morality is best understood as “striving for what is truly good for you and others,” Ryan said. “It’s beautiful to live that way—and not always easy!”

Ryan told CNA that Grisez wrote a good deal about personal vocation--that idea that “God has a unique, unfolding plan for everyone’s life.” Following the Lord’s plan means “always seeking God’s Kingdom first, or living out what Grisez calls ‘evangelical life.’”

For motivation to live that way in the face of difficulties, Ryan cited Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
 
“I think Germain really tried to live that,” he said.

Ryan said his “mentor and collaborator,” was “a remarkable man, a very firm believer. He had a strong and unswervingly orthodox faith, which he defended with great lucidity. And he was loyal.  He loved his family and was a faithful friend.”

“I think he had a lively sense of Providence.’

He also, said Ryan, loved to work.

“He was a workhorse. He was 20 years older than me, and he would be working as if he were 20 years younger. I would think, ‘if he can do it, I should be doing it.’”

Ryan said the witness of Grisez’s life helped him know how to preach at his friend’s funeral.

“He was very concerned that we need to be prepared for death, and to live with confidence that the Lord really will destroy sin and death, and that we will be able to live with Him in great joy.  He knew that the definitive Kingdom that God is preparing is real and very much worth devoting one's entire life to,” he said.

Ryan also told CNA that he would not be starting from a blank slate as he prepared the funeral homily.  Grisez, Ryan said, had some “thoughts sketched out about what it would be good to talk about—and he was thorough!”

Tags: Theology, Catholic News, Germain Grisez, Fr. Peter Ryan