Fr. Eric O'Brien, OFM & Serra, Music and the Indians
At baptism something new is given to us, like a seed in the ground of our humanity, or the presence of someone we love in our heart, or the word of a teacher that enters our ear only to transform our understanding. This new presence in us—it is the Kingdom of God—has a life of its own. As the Gospel says, it germinates, sprouts, and grows without our “knowing how it happened.” (Mk 4, 26) Finally, it multiplies, produces a harvest, and what began as a small seed nourishes the lives of thousands. This life in us is Christ, as Paul says in the first reading, Christ is revealed in our mortal flesh. (II Cor. 4, 11) Indeed, so great is His power in us that He orders “…everything to your benefit, so that the grace bestowed in abundance may bring greater glory to God because they who give thanks are many.” (II Cor. 4, 15)
God specially loved “Uncle Paul” or Eric as we have come to call him. In him the mystery of Christ dwelt in much of its depth—and it was a mystery both to Eric and to us, as his classmate Fr. Felipe hinted to us. We know however that Eric’s life was a share in the mystery of Christ’s life and death because we found ourselves nourished; we who give thanks are many.
Eric’s life, if you look at it from the viewpoint of his work, can be divided into various segments. He was born July 23, 1912, in Pomona, California, a place as he used to tell his students, “…where no one dies with his boots on.” Although he later described himself with “an intelligence never more than average,” his academic grades at St. Anthony Seminary, San Luis Rey, and Santa Barbara Mission tell a different story: Always 9.5 or 10, and he was accomplished in German, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, and Greek.