“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5: 13-16)

Fr. Robert F. Taft, SJ, a beloved teacher of many, including me, and who passed away yesterday, was both these things: both “salt” and “light.” By the “salt” of his particular genius, he brought alive the “flavor” of otherwise-dead historical facts, – sometimes even to the point of disturbing the more sensitive palates, unaccustomed to his dose of “salt.” Because Father Taft said it like it was, according to his meticulous and honest research.

For this powerful witness, for being the honest scholar he was, – for being himself, – he was often criticized and maligned. But he could never “be hid,” like “a city set on a hill.” Like many Church-scholars, he suffered under and for the burdens of his knowledge, which both enlightened and disturbed the “status quaestionis” of the Church’s past and present issues. Be that as it may, I want to thank God for Fr. Taft’s courage, to bear witness to what he learned, in his unapologetic martyrdom. Thank You, God, for giving us Fr. Taft. And thank you, Fr. Taft, for letting God offer you to us, as the salt and light we so need in our today.


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