Saying Farewell to a Friend of God, Fr. Frank Wagner
It is not everyday that we are blessed with the opportunity to meet someone who is truly a living reflection of all that Jesus Christ is and challenges us to be. Yet, those of us who had the great privilege of knowing Fr. Frank Wagner can say just that. For he was an extraordinary example of what it means to walk with God.
A true friend is someone who wants the best for you and challenges you to achieve it. Fr. Frank was exactly that. One of the first encounters I had with Fr. Frank was when my wife and I were newly-married and attending Sunday Mass. We were always challenged by his preaching. Sitting front and center week after week it seemed that his eyes were focused on us the majority of the time. This made us nervous, until we finally met in person after Mass one Sunday shaking his hand as we exited the church. He said to us: “What do you all do here?” To which we answered “Nothing.” Immediately he issued us a challenge to service, which was the catalyst in our then consumeristic approach to our Catholic faith. It’s safe to say that our lives have never been the same.
He was never shy about proclaiming the Gospel, in fact he sought always to challenge people to live boldly their faith, something he himself modeled in his own life. Through his vulnerability, transparency, and openness I came to the realization for the first time in my life that priests are people. Fr. Frank was never afraid to put his own broken humanity in plain view, admitting that he too was a sinner just like every one of us. Seeing him brought to tears after sharing from his heart was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had.
A Chance to Say Goodbye
As if he knew the time was coming we received a surprise visit from Fr. Frank on Christmas day. He had never been to our house, but invited himself over and we were more than happy to have him. I’m thankful now that we were able to see him one last time before he was called home to Heaven.
Love is a sacrifice and Fr. Frank was a man whose life bears witness to this eternal truth. In all things he sought to be that sacrifice of love, giving his life in the service of God’s people. His priesthood was a gift to the world and I am certain that through the selfless gift of himself God was able to touch the hearts of countless people.
Death is never happy, especially when it happens to someone we know and love. Yet, although it is sad for we who are left behind, to acknowledge that we won’t have them around to spend our lives with, we can with great certainty believe that a man such as he will continue to do the great work he spent his entire life doing even from Heaven. The fact that we are made for Heaven is something that he never failed to get across in his talks and homilies.
“For us, death is a feast day, a cause for rejoicing.”
~ St. Maximillian Kolbe (Treece, A Man for Others, pg.49)
I find joy in the fact that a man who each and every day brought the presence of Jesus Christ into the world through his own radiant joy, is now leaping for joy in the presence of God and his family of saints. Fr. Frank, may the legacy of your long and fruitful life be nothing less than the salvation of all of we whose lives you touched. Pray for us!