Funeral Homily for Brother Chris Baker, FSC
Tuesday March 22, 2016- Church of Saint Mary- Tulsa, OK
Thank you for coming today. I know this crowd is a great consolation to Chris’ family, to Brother Richard Merkel, and to the community of Christian Brothers who are here with us. I know they are especially grateful for your many kind and generous offerings of love not only in the time since Chris died but also in the four+ years he was sick.
To Brother Chris’ family, his sisters Julia and Laura and his brother Tim and Stephen and their families, thank you for giving us Chris. What a gift he was to every school in which he taught and to every community in which he lived. To the Christian Brothers, thank you for your continued dedication to the Diocese of Tulsa. Even with the passing of this Lasallian giant, I hope you know that the Lasallian charism is alive and well in the hallways and classrooms of Bishop Kelley High School as it will be for years to come. To Brother Chris’s colleagues, his fellow teachers, your dedication to him over the last four years has been nothing short of inspiring. Your concern and care for him over the last three months has been a beautiful example of the mercy of Christ. Since Brother Chris began hospice care a few months ago, a current or former member of the Bishop Kelley faculty and staff has visited him every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Many of you sat by his bedside, held his hand, and covered him with a blanket. It’s Holy Week and this Thursday evening in Catholic churches all over the world, feet will be washed, symbolizing the first Holy Thursday when Christ himself washed his disciple feet as an act of love. You washed Brother Chris’ feet and you showed him that love.
To the Brother Chris’ former students who are here and to the many current students who came, Brother Chris loved you. You were his life. You were his reason for rising each morning. He loved to meet you, to get to know you, to teach you science, but also to teach you about life. He loved to lecture, to watch as your eyes grew wide when Chemistry was understood for the first time, he loved to spray you in the face with his world famous water bottle. He loved you and by your presence here today, you are saying to him, that you loved him as well. Thank you for coming today.
We come today saddened by the loss of our dear friend, our brother, and our Brother but I hope that we leave her today strengthened by the love of Christ, inspired by the readings we just heard, and determined to carry on the great legacy that Chris has left behind. It seems to me that his life could be divided into four vocations and I’d like to say a word about each.
In his adult life, Brother Chris was a teacher. Inspired by the example of St. John Baptist De La Salle, the patron saint of teachers, the founder of the Christian Brothers and the patron of our school, Brother sought to teach as Christ taught. He was never judgmental, always loving. He was challenging but always moving his students toward knowledge of their subject and towards the love of God. He was a master teacher who, as many of you can attest, believed in every student and knew they could learn. He was a man of science seeing his Catholic faith and scientific knowledge going hand in hand. He knew that science doesn’t disprove God but rather that science, reveals God is all His wonder. Every day he echoed the words of the Lord given to us by the prophet Jeremiah, “Do not say I am too young!” Brother knew, as God knows, that every child is special and capable. He knew God had special words for young people, that “He hides things from the learned and reveals them to little children.” Brother Chris a teacher who patterned his classroom after his patron, De La Salle. Brother Chris was a teacher. Brother Chris was a Christian Brother.
Brother Chris was a Christian Brother for 37 years. His dedication to the Midwest District, to the Brothers with whom he lived, and to the Lasallian colleagues with whom he worked is legendary. He loved being a Brother. It defined him. To the young people who are here today, look at how many lives he touched! Who among you will pick up the mantle and be the next Brother Chris? Who among you follow God’s call to this radical yet joyful way of life. Brother Chris was a teacher. Brother Chris, was a Christian Brother.
Brother Chris was a son and a brother. Brother Chris loved his family. His brothers and sisters who are here today can testify to that. Sometimes we think of the Christian Brothers or of our teachers that they’ve always been that way. They were born as a teacher but it is not so. Brother Chris learned his Catholic faith and found his vocation through his family. Vocations come, first and foremost, from families! Brother Chris was a teacher. Brother Chris was a Christian Brother. Brother Chris is a son and a brother.
Finally, Brother Chris is a baptized Christian. His parents raised him to love God and neighbor as Christ teaches us. Brother was a man of communion, loving those who crossed his path, meeting them where they were and drawing them to Christ. From his baptism, he was a man of faith, of deep faith. That faith was lived out in his vocation as a Brother and a teacher. Thank you God for the faith he had and the faith he shared with us! From his baptismal call, from his closeness to Jesus in the Eucharist, Brother learned well the words of St. Paul, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, not height, nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Brother Chris was a teacher. Brother Chris was a Christian Brother. Brother Chris is a son and a brother. Brother Chris is a baptized Christian.
I think it’s no coincidence that funeral is being celebrated during Holy Week. In a week where we journey with Christ to the Cross on Calvary, we know Chris suffered greatly. Many of you saw it firsthand. You saw his body racked with pain. But in times of pain you also saw joy. You saw hope. You saw love. Fortunately for us, we know how Holy Week ends. We know that without the suffering and death of Good Friday, that there is no Easter. No death, no resurrection.
Today we commend his soul to almighty God. To God who said, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened.” To God who created him, called him to baptism, gave him the blessings of family, called to the beautiful life of a De La Salle Christian Brother and to the great profession of teaching. Heavenly Father, cleanse him of any imperfections, forgive him of his sins, take away any impurities that would hold him back from perfect communion with You. Rest in peace dear Brother. Rest now in the peace of Christ. Amen.
You can watch the entire funeral Mass on BKTV: http://bishopkelley.tv/2016/03/21/brother-chris-baker-mass-memorial/