Thursday, April 09, 2009

Stanley L. Jaki, RIP

I just found out Fr. Jaki died on Tuesday. This definitely represents the passing of an era. From the Seton Hall obituary:

Rev. Stanley L. Jaki, the world-renowned Hungarian-born author, physicist, philosopher and theologian died April 7 in Madrid, following a heart attack. Known as a leading thinker in areas at the boundary of theology and science, Jaki was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1987. He was cited for delineating "the importance of differences as well as similarities between science and religion, adding significant, balanced enlightenment to the field."

He had traveled to Spain from Rome where he had lectured last week on his latest book at the Renaissance-era Casina (Garden House) of Pope Pius IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which he was an honorary member since 1990. He was 84 years old.

More details of his last days are posted on his Wikipedia entry. As mercurial as Wikipedia is, I'll take the liberty of preserving the relevant paragraph here:

Father Jaki died on April 7, 2009, at about 1:15 PM (MET) in the Intensive Care Unit of the Clinica de la Conception in Madrid (Spain). He was in Spain to visit friends on his way back to the USA, after delivering some lectures in Rome, for the Master in Faith and Science of the Pontificio Ateneo Regina Apostolorum. He died from the consequences of a heart attack he suffered (without realizing it) while still in Rome. When he arrived in Madrid on March 27, 2009, he was brought to the hospital almost immediately . He remained fully conscious for two days, but then was sedated for medical reasons; he died without regaining consciousness. Four of his friends were holding his hands and praying for him.1

I hope he was able to receive Last Rites.

I first met Fr. Jaki when I as an undergraduate hosted a lecture of his in Houston. A detail of that visit that stands out for me is the relish with which he ate the osso bucco he ordered for dinner.

Over the years I attended many of his lectures in NYC and DC, and even hosted a couple of them. He was definitely a decisive intellect: one always knew where he stood on any topic he cared to speak about. He was a voracious reader and a voluminous writer. The Wikipedia page only lists a small fraction of his publications; for the others you'll need to visit the links at the bottom of the entry.

Steve Barr tells me that he posted on the First Things blog on Tuesday. "For many years Fr. Jaki was the only scientist who wrote about science and religion from a Catholic perspective, at least the only one who commanded a wide audience.... Now there are increasing numbers of research scientists who are Catholic and have taken up the pen.... But Fr. Jaki bravely blazed the trail for us. R.I.P."

I haven’t found anything about funeral arrangements (Seton Hall PR Dept is closed for the Triduum, but I left a message and will post any updates here).

Please pray for his eternal repose.

Update (4/10): Holly Wojcik from Seton Hall was kind enough to return my call yesterday evening. Fr. Jaki's funeral was Wednesday in Spain. He will be buried in Hungary at the monastery where his two brothers (also priests) live.


1. The entry for the edit in the article's history page says, "08:15, 8 April 2009 (talk) (6,282 bytes) (About his death. The writer was present at the death.)". The IP address is from Madrid. So these details are consistent with what's written.


Brodie Bortignon said...

Dear Dr. Gage,

I only today discovered that Father Jaki had passed away. I never met him. All I had were his writings, and they were, and still are, crucial to my spiritual and intellectual development. I considered writing a letter to him to tell him how much I appreciated his work, and the profound effect it had on me. To my eternal shame I never penned that letter. It is too late now.

No words or acts on my part could every do justice to Father Jaki. The best I can do is pray for him in my own inept and halting way.

Peace be with you,


Anonymous said...

I'm a little late in wishing you a blessed Easter. Hope all is well with you and your family.

Lawrence Gage said...

Brodie, Fr. Jaki was definitely a giant. Not perfect, but a towering mind. He will be missed.

Jennifer, thank you for your Easter wishes. And to you and your family as well!

Actually you're not late: in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, Easter (like Christmas) is such a big holy day that it's extended to a full eight days, the octave of Easter, that count as a single day. So we're still celebrating until this coming Sunday. (And then there's the Easter season that lasts until the Feast of Pentecost.)

Hope all's well with you as well.


Antonio Giovanni Colombo said...

I can confirm the Wikipedia entry about Father Jaki's death. I wrote it, and I was present when he died. Four people were there: an American lady, a Spanish one, and two Italians (I was one of the two).
The real funeral was in Hungary, on April 29, 2009. I was there as well.
I landed on your page while preparing for an update of the site. I will actually use your pointers to eulogies. If you would like news or have questions, please write me at azc100 (at) gmail (dot) com. Antonio