From David Mills of First Things, this sad news:
Father Edward Oakes, S.J., distinguished theologian, gifted writer and teacher, generous ecumenist, and our friend, has died, of pancreatic cancer, at 8:00 this morning.
Mills provides some biographical information courtesy of the Academy of Catholic Theology, “of which Father Oakes was president”:
Father Oakes entered the Society of Jesus in 1966, and was ordained a priest in 1979. He received his doctorate in theology from Union Theological Seminary in 1987. He taught at New York University, Regis University, and Mundelein Seminary, where he was deeply loved and valued by his colleagues, students, and indeed everyone on the staff as well.
He was a major contributor to the ecumenical magazine First Things on theological and scientific topics, and a longtime close friend of Father Richard John Neuhaus. For close to two decades he was an influential member of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. He was a founding member of the Academy of Catholic Theology and was elected president of the Academy in May 2013.
A deeply cultured man, Father Oakes enlivened everything of which he was a part by his penetrating intelligence and warm, friendly spirit. He was an esteemed translator of the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. He was the author and editor of important works such as Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar.
To say that Father Oakes will be sorely missed is a profound understatement. Let us pray for his soul as he enters into the infinitely loving communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as an adopted son in Jesus Christ!
I did not know Fr. Oakes personally, but have read with great profit many of his essays over the years (here is a listing of some of his writings). This past summer, I e-mailed Fr. Oakes and invited him to participate in the CWR Symposium on “Vatican II, Salvation, and the Unsaved”. He replied:
Thank you very much for your kind invitation. Unfortunately, I have recently been diagnosed with cancer; so I must regretfully decline. The attached circular letter to my fellow Mo Prov. Jesuits will explain the details. …
Please keep me in your prayers. I am now reading the fine biography of Augustus Tolton from Ignatius Press, so don’t forget to ask for his intercession!
In his letter to his fellow Jesuits, Fr. Oakes reiterated his request for prayers for the intercession of Fr. Tolton:
How about we all pray for the intercession of Fr. Augustus Tolton? His cause is now being promoted by the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was the first African-American priest in the United States, and much abused by the racism of his day, to such an extent he had to forsake the Archdiocese of Chicago for Quincy, Illinois. (I like the irony that his cause is now being promoted by his erstwhile nemesis!) But he never lost his faith in God, or his zeal for souls, or his love for the Church – and he never lost his love for his people, whether they loved him or despised him. Terar dum prosim indeed: “Let me be worn out, so long as I can serve.”
Please consider saying a prayer for the respose of the soul of Fr. Oakes, a great scholar, teacher, writer, and Jesuit. May God grant him mercy and eternal memory!
[Note: The photo of Fr. Oakes above is from a video of a lecture he gave in 2012 on Vatican II for the Lumen Christi Institute.]