President Emeritus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, passed away on Jan. 7, 2017. According to the university, “His leadership as president transformed Franciscan University from a struggling regional college into a world-renowned leader in Catholic higher education and helped to inspire a restoration of faithful Catholic education in the United States and the world.” Father Scanlan played an influential role in the lives of Sister Ann Shields, Ralph Martin, and Peter Herbeck. He also helped lead FIRE Rallies around the world and served on the Renewal Ministries’ Board of Trustees.
The video of the Memorial Mass for Father Michael Scanlan at the Franciscan University of Steubenville is now available online. You can watch it by clicking here.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon him. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
“We know the Way. The Way is Jesus. We just don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow!” When I was a senior at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2009, Father Michael Scanlan preached this simple message at a daily mass. The words are almost comical at face value, and yet in them I found deep peace and consolation that I didn’t need to have my entire life planned out the day after graduation, because Christ was by my side on the journey. This was one of many little moments Father Michael led me to a deeper encounter with Jesus. What struck me the most about him was the passion and sincerity with which he preached. He was the kind of preacher who could make you laugh in one moment, and in the next pierce your heart with deep conviction. After hearing him, you knew that Jesus was real, that He loved you, and that there was no greater joy than to lay down your life to follow Him. Here is a fantastic video that highlights his gift for prophetic preaching. Feel free to pause reading at this time and binge-watch Father Scanlan homilies as time allows!
His preaching was no doubt the fruit of a deep and intimate prayer life. He would not take any appointments until he got his ‘marching orders’ from the Lord for the day. We can all learn a lesson from that mindset! To Fr. Mike, Jesus was accessible and approachable, and the Holy Spirit was imminently available with limitless grace and power. Because of this, he had a courageous confidence that the Lord would act when called upon in faith. The example that comes to mind is from Father Scanlan’s book Let the Fire Fall, which I read the summer before I started at Franciscan University. In it he told a story of being asked to pray for the healing of woman’s deafness. He had never prayed such a bold prayer before, and he wasn’t sure what to do. But, he remembered that Jesus healed a deaf man by sticking his fingers in the man’s ears (see Mark 7:33). So, that’s exactly what he did, and somewhat to his surprise, the prayer worked and the woman’s deafness was healed! In his life, he consistently demonstrated the power of expectant faith and emptying one’s self to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
I continued to cross paths with Father Michael at daily mass, confession, and several retreats. There was not one defining moment in which he changed my life. Yet, the cumulative effect of his witness has stuck with me all these years as a shining example of what it means to follow Jesus with joyful abandon, holding nothing back. Each person’s life creates a ripple effect that either advances the Kingdom of God or detracts from it. So, let’s trace the ripple effect that Fr. Michael had in my own life. If Father Scanlan had not helped to turn a failing party college into a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy and vibrancy, then Franciscan University would not even exist much less have a youth outreach program. Without the university’s youth conferences, I would not have had my initial conversion at the Steubenville South conference in Louisiana in 2002. Without that conference, I also would have known about, much less considered attending Franciscan University of Steubenville. (Leaving Texas is considered a mortal sin in some circles.) If I hadn’t attended FUS, I would never have met my wife Lexie, moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, had our two beautiful children, Emma and Isaac, and certainly would not be writing this blog post for i.d.9:16. The fact that i.d.9:16 is the young adult outreach of Renewal Ministries, whose founders have partnered in ministry with Father Scanlan for 40 years, is also not lost on me. The ripple effect has come full circle and intersected with many other ripples of holy men and women who have guided me along the way. I am only one of the countless lives Father Scanlan has helped to shape, and I am forever grateful for his life and ministry.
I pray that today we would all realize the wonders the Holy Spirit can do through us when we, like Father Scanlan, constantly look to the Lord in daily prayer for our marching orders, and have expectant faith in God’s power and providence in our lives. If we ‘drop our nets’ and ‘go all-in’ for the Lord without counting the cost, the ripple effects of our own lives can also spread the Kingdom of God and make Jesus known and loved – one task, one day, one soul a time.