Father Arne Panula, a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei, passed away on July 19, 2017 after several months’ battle with cancer. Fr. Arne was a humble servant of Christ and a beloved friend of Professor Hadley Arkes. In a memoir entitled, “What Fr. Arne Shaped” for The Catholic Thing, Prof. Arkes recounts Fr. Arne’s final days and reflects on their unique and storied friendship.
Some excerpts from the piece:
“His drawing me into the Church became the subject of comic legend. I told the story seven years ago when he had presided over my baptism. It was October 2009 – the day of the Red Mass in Washington held to mark the opening of the courts of justice…Following the Mass, my wife and I were on the way to the luncheon, to catch up with the Scalias. We encountered Fr. Arne on the way – a lovely surprise, for I hadn’t seen him since I’d met him years earlier at the Opus Dei house in New York. But instead of giving me the “big hello” he offered a friendly chiding: ‘You,’ he said, ‘are the most notable figure standing for so long now at the threshold of the Church – but not coming across. What has been holding you back?’ I was caught off guard, and in mild desperation, I dipped into the Bert Lahr repertoire from The Wizard of Oz: ‘C-c-c-courage,’ I said, recalling the Cowardly Lion. ‘That’s what put the ‘Ape’ in Apricot, and that’s what I haven’t got.'”
“Whew, I thought: I finessed that one. About a week later I joined a friend, newly arrived, who was attending noon Mass with Fr. Arne. Fr. wasn’t expecting me, which made the next move all the more remarkable. He said in his homily that ‘the one thing connecting these two readings together today is. . .c-c-c-courage.’ All right, I had to concede, the point was made, and it was time to stop wavering.”
“He died Wednesday evening; I had seen him in the morning. I made it back to his room that night to kneel at his bedside, kiss him on his shoulder and cheek, and pray again. His face had changed: No longer swollen, he looked himself, and looked peaceful. He had his familiar smile, which seemed to say that he was glad to see you and eager as ever to hear what you had to tell him.”
We invite you to read the entire piece here, to reflect on the beautiful life of Fr. Arne.