R.I.P. A Great & Faithful Canadian
~ I REJOICE that I knew him; I rejoice more that through him I better know the God he loved and served and proclaimed.
The Rev’d Canon Professor Dr. Robert D. Crouse died the other day, at the age of 80. He was a country church organist, gardener, priest & preacher, beloved prof and counsellor, a serious academic, world-class Dante & Augustine expert, a friend of popes and archbishops.. and of countless students and colleagues, and all the folk in his own Lunenburg County domain. As one former student wrote me, “His sermons had such a formative influence on my spirituality as a King’s student. The Chapel was always full Thursday nights!”
Dr. Crouse was a quiet, witty, cultured, humble and observant man, with a kind & generous heart. In his own mind and heart, he wrestled with the Great Tradition, Christianity, philosophy, and the issues of the day without surrender to the Zeitgeist, living in a past past, or becoming obscure. It felt like that in his quietness, you could hear the laughter of God.
True & Faithful
In this day of declining churches– all too often enslaved to the spirit of the age, and of the latist agitation– Robert Crouse was a faithful man, who maintained his way, his soul, through the troubles and temptations of a turbulent time. Both St. Benedict and St. Augustine were studies of his– men who while the world was ending, saw a new and better time beyond the troubles of the moment. So Benedict founded the monasteries that were to preserve and pass on the faith, and the great things of the classical world; St. Augustine wrestled to see in the fall of Rome and the City of Man, the better things of the City of God that did not pass away. As with the greatest of thinkers & saints down the ages, Robert embodied & wrestled within himself the great matters of our time and of the spirit.
Dr. Crouse’s life was especially written in the lives of people– in the students who took his Dante and music courses; in the many young men he inspired and guided into the priesthood; in the retreats he offered to his brother priests; in the colleagues he taught alongside, advised, and enjoyed; in the parishioners he uplifted year after year by his Summer Crousetown musical concerts, and the beautification of his hometown church St. Mary’s Crousetown; in the faithful teaching and preaching he offered around the world, in Rome, and countless Anglican churches across North America.
The Big Hat
He very very nearly became Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia twice or three times– it would have been a costly sacrifice for him, but a great blessing to our Eastern Canadian Church, which since then has become something of a ruin, haunted by hirelings and zeitgeisters and those who saw in Robert and his friends & students a threat to the New Ways Which Would Make Everything Better™ (a.k.a. chasing people away with socialism, radical change, and watered-down Jesus). So he was a stalwart of the best of the Christian tradition as received in The Book of Common Prayer tradition, the pattern of reading the Bible found there, of non-trendy hymns and of simple excellence in worship, preaching, and faithfulness that instead exalted God and thereby humanity, not the latest thing seeking to drag God to our level.
A Living Voice
He can still speak for himself, through a website developed in the 1990s, which includes a good sample of his thought, sermons, writings and articles. The King’s announcement gives you a sense of how his loss– though he’s been “retired” since 1995– has hit that community of students, professors, and the wider Haligonian & Nova Scotian community.
To understand something of his soul, why not read “Images of Pilgrimage: Retreat Addresses on Paradise and Wilderness in Christian Spirituality“.
To understand why his sermons were avidly listened to & read & posted in various places online, read A Sermon for the Feast of the Eve of the Epiphany – “We Beheld His Glory”.
Finally, In Conclusion
I remember preaching at King’s College Chapel– where a memorial service is being held today, after a wake and vigil– on the feast-day of St. Thomas Aquinas. My knowledge of Thomas, I warned, could be printed legibly on a postage stamp. Still, I made a go of the matter, saying at the end that surely Flannery O’Connor was right, that surely God must love St. Thomas, because it was so easy to love him.
Dr. Crouse was gracious enough to come up afterwards during sherry-time and say, with a twinkle in his eye “Yes, but it would be a very large postage-stamp.”
ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: We praise and magnify thy holy Name for all thy servants who have finished their course and kept the faith; and committing our brother Robert to thy gracious keeping, we pray that we with him, and with all those that are departed In the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, In thy eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Come mourn with me awhile, for a great man has passed our way, and thankful tears attend his going forth from us unto the greater light and brighter shore and endless joy that is the true & final home for our souls and bodies, through the mercy of our God; even God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen. ~
Binks, In Tears
“I glorify God much in the gifts of the man,
but I glorify God much more in the gifts of his grace;
I am glad to have heard the man,
but I am gladder I have heard God in him;
I am happy that I have heard those words,
but thrice happy that in those words
I have heard the Word.”
~ John Donne ~