Nov. 16, 1937 - Nov. 8, 2010
What does one say at the passing of a dear friend, mentor, and godly priest like Fr Eugene Beau Davis, SSC? While I've only known him for the past five months since my arrival at St. Mary's, I've spent practically every day with him, until two days ago, at his passing. He was the sort of friend one first meets and feels like one's known for a lifetime. Almost immediately he opened himself completely to me, allowing me to do the same with him. Oh, how he loved his long-time parish home of St Mary's!
When I got here, he was already declining in health. But he taught me quite a lot: pastoral advice, liturgics, how to make fun of literally everything (because if one can't laugh in the ministry, one will waste his time in anger and tears!). And he loved to point out the irony in situations! Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it's not. As I'm writing this, I'm recalling how my daughter was born roughly two weeks ago at 9:03 pm. She was to be his goddaughter (and his first godchild to outlive him). And two days ago, Father Beau died at 9:03 pm. (Yes, the doctor called it at 9:01, but he wasn't in the room like I was when his heart beat its last.)
What Father Beau's biography doesn't come close to showing (how can words do justice?) is the complete selfless love he had for anyone who was truly in need. He saw through mere griping, spoiled sports, and laziness, of course, but to those who were in need, he would've given his life. And in a strange way, he quite literally did. He died just shy of his seventy-third birthday. Though he died of multiple organ failure, his real turn for the worst came when he contracted in the hospital an active staph strain. He was a carrier due to his work as a physician's assistant before his ordination. But he wasn't just any old PA. He devoted a large part of his life working with terminally ill AIDS patients, many of whom when he preached (and most importantly, lived!) the gospel so convincingly, were converted to Christ. This is why I mentioned that my daughter would have been his only godchild to outlive him.
Father Beau, while being priested late in his life, was certainly the priest's priest. And the deacon's. He was the epitome of pastoral graciousness while continually pointing people to salvation. He was a liturgical genius. He was one that would regularly read the New Liturgical Movement, but didn't have the technological abilities to blog himself. It was a shame that he was too ill to spend time learning how, for I imagine that Fr Davis' Liturgical Notes would have quickly become the American counterpart to Fr Hunwicke's.
Father Beau has been through the battles of Anglicanism in America, both on the national (and international) level, and at St Mary's, on the local level. He's prayed for unity with the Holy See since he was about fifteen (when he came to St Mary's and back when corporate unity wasn't a pipe dream). He, like the other greats, wisely fled the condoned heresy within the Episcopal Church, but also believed that the Continuum groups weren't a permanent home. His form of Anglicanism was merely an adjective to his Catholicism. And it wasn't the 'lower case' kind either. When Anglicanorum Coetibus was announced, and finally after all this long while Anglicans were given a chance for corporate unity, he, like so many others, wept with tears of joy.
So what does one say at the death of a dear friend, mentor, and godly priest like Fr Eugene Beau Davis? I'm not sure, but I know what he'd say to us. Something like, "Oh, stop sobbing for me. I'm in purgatory on my way to meet Our Lord. Pray for me instead. And go on about your work reconciling people to God and to each other."
St Thomas of Canterbury, pray for him. Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for him. Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for him. May we never forget (and forget to pray for!) Father Beau "Patrimony" Davis.
+Requiscat In Pace+