Shortly before his death, I had opportunity to dialogue with the late Cardinal Avery Dulles (1918-2008). By that time he had already started losing his ability to speak; his mind, however, remained sharp as ever. On Tuesday April 1, 2008, Cardinal Dulles gave his Farewell Address as Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society. The former President of Fordham University, Father Joseph O’Hare, S.J., read the message since the Cardinal was by that time unable to speak. In the following quote, Cardinal Dulles reflects on his physical weakness against the backdrop of God’s sovereign grace. May the Lord give all of us such faith when we reach the final chapter of life.
Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be expected as elements of a full human existence.
Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
1. Robert P. Imbelli, A Visit with Avery Dulles Commonweal, June 1, 2008