Bernard Christopher McCabe, O.P.
Cooperator Brother, Jubilarian
Born: November 13, 1916
Professed: July 10, 1937
Died: October 5, 2004
In the provincial office file of Brother Chris (as he was known to all), opposite each of his assignments, to say what he had done there, is written “Brother’s Duty”. In a way, that simple phrase sums up his life as a Dominican: wherever he was in the Province, he “did what Brothers do,” meaning anything that needed to be done around the house or for the community or the parish. In a deeper sense, it meant that Chris managed to be a kind of “universal brother,” reminding all of us, whatever our position was, that we are first and foremost brothers living in community.
While he was at St. Gertrude’s in Cincinnati, Brother Chris had a particular, and mutual, affection for the novices. One of them at the time, Fr. Kurt Pritzl, OP, now the Dean of the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, preached the homily at Chris’s funeral, which was held on October 8, 2004, at the Mohun Chapel in Columbus, in the presence of a large number of friars (including novices), sisters, family members, and friends. Here is some of what the preacher had to say:
“…Chris always told me that he wanted to be buried in our cemetery in Somerset. He also told me that whenever a new provincial would arrive in New York, he would exact a promise from him that he would be brought back to Somerset in the end. I always told Chris in reply, to get him going, that we were going to bury him wherever he dropped and that it would be un-Dominican to spend a penny to ship his bag of bones across the province.
“There are many Dominicans who have shown me what genuine Dominican commitment and service is all about—the real life kind—and Chris is right there at the top of the list. This is not to say that Brother Chris was an exemplar in the conventional, pious or romanticized sense. I remember once talking to Chris about someone who Chris thought had badly treated him. I told him, ‘Chris, you have to forgive him at some point.’ Chris replied, ‘Oh, I forgave him a long time ago. That doesn’t mean I have to like him.’ Chris was not happy, at first, when he was transferred to New York from Cincinnati in early 1988. On that occasion, after a colorful rendition about his unhappiness about the transfer, he talked about obedience as his vow in a way that every Dominican has to understand.
“We pray today that Chris swiftly be led up the mountain where the tears are wiped away, and where the feast of rich juicy food and pure choice wines will be served…. I can see Chris talking up all those many saints whose statues he had in this life. I can see him rummaging around for the bottle of choice wine labeled ‘scotch’.
“In the gospel Jesus praises his Father for the revelation kept from the wise and the learned but given to the childlike. As the whole of this chapter of Matthew’s gospel makes clear, this revelation is first and foremost the REVELATION OF A PERSON, not that of dogmas or theologies, which follow. It is the revelation of Christ, who so longs to enter into our lives and have us follow him. He says, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.’
“Brother Christopher McCabe, in and through his Dominican vocation, accepted Christ’s personal invitation to him. And he shared it with others. He communicated Christ through his unique personality and through his virtues and even through his foibles. He lived out and shared with so many, for so many years of service, the revelation of Jesus in an authentic and personal way.
“May he now share the person of Christ and of his Father and his Spirit with all the saints in eternity.”
At the Mass of Christian Burial, Rev. Carleton P. Jones, O.P., was celebrant and Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P., was the homilist. Burial followed in the Dominican Friars’ cemetery at St. Joseph Church in Somerset, OH.