Although my testimony to this great man of God and Catholic priest will not compare to the many others who knew him better than I, I felt the need to write this as soon as possible.
My decision to finally take the plunge into the deep waters of Catholicism and attend Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio for my Masters in Theology came in the spring of 2008; it was and is the best decision I have made in the last 10 years (which includes taking my dream job and working for my current Pastor). It was a chance to study with some of the great Catholic minds in the US Church and to be on the campus that many see as a beacon of Catholicism (think the lighting of the beacons from The Return of the King).
I never realized when making this decision that I would come face-to-face with the great man and Catholic priest, known to many as Fr. Mike, so soon after I arrived in Steubenville. After making the four-day trek across the country, I arrived in Steubenville close to the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. And since traveling across the USA had its toils, along with my own sins of impatience while driving, I remember how much I wanted to go to the Sacrament of Confession. Friends at the time suggested that I go to the Friary on campus, ring the bell, and one of the Friars would more than likely come out – never did I realize it would be Fr. Michael Scanlan!
After the initial shock of seeing him in person, and asking him if he was Fr. Michael Scanlan just to be 100% positive, although I had seen pictures and read one of his books, we chatted briefly about my trip across the country to attend Franciscan and to attain the MA in Theology. After this, we both made the Sign of the Cross and entered into the Sacrament of Confession. Although I regularly receive the graces from this sacrament to this day (going again this afternoon once I hear from my confessor), this is one time I will always remember in a way like no other.
All I can say is that it was like being in the presence of an elderly grandfather who is Jesus Christ. That’s it – that’s how I remember him. Simple, humble, understanding my failings, and readily excited to forgive me through his priestly vocation.
Once the sacrament concluded, he walked me out of the Friary, said his good-bye and wished my studies on campus well. I remember him distinctively saying that he would pray for me and pray for my time at Franciscan. I walked to my 4Runner, got in, and a tear fell from my eye, realizing that I just went to Confession with a living saint. I quickly started my 4Runner and drove to my friend’s house and shared that I just met “Fr. Mike” (which is how I remember him introducing himself).
One of the girls said to me jokingly but still serious – did you get a piece of his hair? She said that to me because we both knew someday he would be a saint and that his hair would be a first-class relic (Ha ha!) I replied no – I just wanted to go to Confession.
Although I saw Fr. Mike from time-to-time on campus, he was already retired when I went to Franciscan. When I did see him he was so cordial, joyful, smiling, and eager to talk. The one time I did speak to him was after an intramural football game during my second year. He knew I was playing with the graduate students since my t-shirt had “Old Skool” on the front of it. He asked me – can you keep up with these kids? After we both laughed, he told me to go home and ice down my sore muscles. Again, another experience I will cherish.
I woke up this morning and received the news of his passing, and although I was saddened by the news, I can’t help to think of the great rejoicing that must be occurring in Heaven at this time. It’s my hope that in five years time, the process to begin his Canonization as an official saint of the Catholic Church will begin.
Canonization doesn’t make a person a saint; it only confirms what God has already done with the individual, and nothing is truer than the saintly life of Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, President Emeritus of Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Pray with me this day for Fr. Michael Scanlan – Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.