REMEMBERING FRANCIS ZAGLAURER
Eulogy by Bro. Michael Laratonda
Good morning. It is an “uneasy privilege” to be here today as we mourn the loss of Bro. Francis…and yet, we also celebrate his transition into the joy and love of God’s heart. Bro. Francis knew many people, and he went by many names:
to his family (and Frank to some)…
I will refer to him in all these ways since his names echo so many sides of him.
I am not here today to list all of the ministries Francis was involved in; each of us (from various parts of the country) knows those facts in whatever ways we lived/ worked/played alongside Francis. Rather I would like to focus on his own wishes when asked how he wanted to be remembered. He said: “Tell them ‘He loved life to the fullest -- and he loved the Church…even with her limitations and weaknesses’”
Ziggy’s love of life, I think, began in a very reserved way…at least in the first years of my knowing him. He was very quiet, almost painfully shy, unobtrusive, an introvert (at an almost extreme level), soft-spoken, and often lacking in self-confidence. Yet, as time went on, he began to grow in self-confidence (sometimes in fits and starts), especially as he began to work in ministry…whether it was as a teacher…librarian…musician…religious educator…liturgist…chaplain to the elderly…prayer leader…and a man who eventually would take on great responsibilities for the Archdiocese of New York.
I’m not sure Francis fully realized his own giftedness…because underneath he was deeply sensitive…uncertain, at times, of his effectiveness…and sometimes given to self-doubt. And yet he accomplished so much for so many…in all of his areas of ministry…whether in New York, Texas, Chicago, New York again, California, and back to New York again.
Part of his accomplishments were because Francis was such a perfectionist (sometimes in “maddening” ways for some working with him). When he and I were chaplains with elders in a nursing facility in Oakland, California, his sense of liturgy could have us cutting out numerous butterflies (in many rainbow colors) to create the backdrop for an Easter Sunday liturgy. And wearied at 1:00 in the morning, I’d try to tell him that the Risen Christ would be very pleased if we stopped at 100 butterflies…and he’d just roll his eyes (with a lift of one or both eyebrows) as if to say to me: “What is your problem?” For him, it had to be really beautiful…so only more butterflies would do!
His love of music was also in evidence in his sense of how liturgy “should be done”. He could become “near-General-like” when the elders in the Senior Center would not sing very much…and he’d ask me, “Why aren’t they singing?”…and I’d have to whisper, “Zig…most of them can’t hear anymore…”
Those of us who loved him, however, understood that Ziggy’s perfectionism – along with several wonderful eccentricities—often revealed that he did love life to the fullest. Everything needed to be enjoyed – and if it meant 200 butterflies to express the joy of the Resurrection – that was the way it was going to be (and “let’s all sing, okay?”)…
His enjoyment of life also underscored his love of food. Those of us here who may have ever experienced sharing a meal with Francis must know what I mean – “eating”was one thing, but “dining” was quite another. Simply put, he dined with great zest. And as with the surfer who is always in search of the “perfect wave,” I am convinced that one of Ziggy’s life goals was to find the “perfect strawberry shortcake” (and you didn’t even have to have the biscuit…the strawberries would be fine…) but “extra whipped cream, please…and be sure that it’s real”…
As befits human nature (and as with probably all of us here today), Ziggy/Francis could be a man of contradictions:
But beneath the many facets of Francis resided his ultimate focus in life: his love of people. Frankie always spoke of his mother and father with great affection and love, warmth and care. He loved his relationship with his brother Dave and sister-in-law Nancy. He thrilled at the unfolding lives of his nephew David and his niece Laura. And he was deeply excited about becoming a grand-uncle to Louisa. His loyalty to his friends was a given; it was extraordinary (he and I did not always agree on some key life issues, yet he always accepted me).
His love of people was intimately tied in with his love of God…Jesus…and Mary…as a person, as a religious, as a Marist Brother, and as a minister (in whatever arena). For a Marist Brother, the primary call is to make Jesus known and loved…and his desire was to reach out to teach others about Jesus (and the importance of Mary). Why? Because they were both so deeply dedicated to Love and Loving. I believe Ziggy tried to do this…no matter who it was: children; senior elders; adults in faith formation. He tried to stay faithful to Jesus…even when he could become disturbed by the weaknesses and failings of the Church.
In all of this, Ziggy always tried to come back to the stance of Loving…to love the way Jesus and Mary did…with openness, with a listening heart, with compassion.
If there were one most salient virtue in Ziggy, which I believe embodied the love of God (as fleshed out in Zig), it was forgiveness. His greatest gift to others, I think, was his forgiving nature. I don’t think I have ever known anyone who would forgive an insult, a criticism, a hurtful word or action, a deep wound of rejection, the way he would. I sometimes asked him, “How can you be so understanding?”…and he would simply shrug his shoulders and raise an eyebrow and say, “Wellllllll…”…and he would let the person back into his life.
At the same time, he wasn’t a pushover…or a doormat…and would try to be honest about the hurt…even as he allowed forgiveness and reconciliation to occur. In this he was magnanimous. And though his “physical heart” eventually would begin to weaken – and would take him from us much too early – his deepest and fullest heart (that which gave love to so many and received love from so many) was a heart so filled with a passion for life…that it allowed his passionate heart to love others as fully and as well as possible (and so always welcome people back, again and again).
With his capacity for forgiveness came its “twin”…Francis’s heart was so intertwined with the heart of Jesus (especially the Jesus we meet in Luke) that, as we see and hear Jesus move in His “healing ministry”, we can also see Francis walking in those healing footsteps as well: whether comforting a 6th-grader who had difficulties with studies; whether attempting to reach out to areas in need of good CCD programs for children or Christian formation for adults; whether holding the hand of a dying person in a nursing facility; whether listening to a hurting friend or acquaintance on the phone at midnight; whether welcoming a “lost friend” back into his embrace…Ziggy was always “right there”…always desiring to see healing happen.
And so, this morning, as we heard the Gospel reading, Jesus invites his disciples to Himself by the shore, sometime after the Resurrection. And today, we believe, we trust, we know…that Francis is welcomed into the healing/loving embrace of Jesus. And it is the Resurrection for Francis…and how fitting that it is taking place at the water’s edge/on the shore (one of Zig’s great loves)…and that it involves a meal (bread and fish cooking on the warmth of a fire)…with Jesus welcoming Francis home (and inviting him to bring all he has caught with him. Is it possible that Francis has caught each of us…in his net of love??? And now Francis brings us with him to Jesus…as they dine together at the shore. How fitting and right that it is one of Zig’s favorite meals -- for, as Jesus says: “Come…and have breakfast”………
A sky of cerulean blue
and rose madder
A beautiful closing of
My legs are tired as I
A Loving Tribute
Francis Louis Zaglauer 1944-2005 There is a deep dark chasm within me.
Silent. Cold The long vigil is over and you are gone from this earth. Tenderly and slowly
Memories of joy and celebration fill the abyss full
Of laughter and dance and streamers waving,
Of blue skies, starry nights, and walks along the beach.
Along with the hot dusty streets of Laredo,
Sunsets and barbecues at Lake Casa Blanca,
Austin, with a blue vast sky and wildflowers in spring,
The fog tip-toeing (like your cats) into Oakland,
The sounds and lights of your beloved New York, New York And other destinations traveled North and South
East and West across the globe and back.
And Esopus, a favorite with
The Marist Retreat Center along the Hudson River
With rocks and trees awaiting all the seasons
While the cold ground tightly wraps your body
Within the arms of other holy monks.
There is room for your poems
And your songs and lyrics written long ago,
Piano keys, too.
And finally room for prayers and dreams and
And liturgies created to praise and to thank,
Your great love for holy vows and promises kept
In a life lived in faith, hope, and love
With quiet good deeds
And a burning love for God
Mary and Champagnat
Among Marist Brothers, family, and friends.
August 8, 2005