Friday, November 03, 2006

Herman Mueller, SVD

In Memoriam
Fr. Herman Mueller, SVD
1920-2000 (Nov 1)
The Feast of All Saints Day is a public holiday in the Philippines and traditionally considered as the the day to visit the departed in the cemeteries pray for the souls of their souls. This makes
the whole of November as the month of praying for the eternal repose of the departed.

It is also the 6th death anniversary of Fr. Herman Mueller, SVD who had taught Scripture courses and biblical languages at the Divine Word Seminary from 1978 until his death in Nov 1, 2000. Fr. Mueller was from West Germany (Trier diocese) and held a doctorate (SSD) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. At one time, he was the only one in the country holding such a prestigious doctorate.

I remember vividly how he died. The day before, that was lunch time, he was complaining of chest pains. Although we we were only three at table because it was semestral brea, the scholastic who happens to be a nurse was around. He took Fr. Herman's blood pressure and advised him to rest. After arranging how we were going to celebrate the privileged three masses for the dead on All Souls Day (Nov 2), he went up to his room. That was the last time we saw him alive.

In the morning of Nov 1 (2000), after coming back from All Saints Day mass in one of the convents of sisters, I was surprised to see the driver still waiting for Fr. Mueller to celebrate a mass at 6:00 am in the convent assigned to him. I suddenly felt something was not right. Fr. Mueller, typical of a German, was never late in any of his appointment. In fact, he was always 30 minutes early, praying inside the chapel while waiting for the driver to pick him up for his mass.

I went around to look for him, first in the chapel and finally in his room. The room was locked. After knocking at this door a couple of times, I called up his neighbor, Fr. Titus Mananzan, to accompany me to force open the door to his room.

There, in a kneeling position, with a prayer book in his hand, Fr. Herman Mueller was "gathered to his ancestors".

Later, our physician who lived near the seminary explained that Fr. Mueller had a cardiac arrest and succumbed around midnight.

Fr. Mueller was a devoted teacher. It was a "miracle" for us students when he would be absent in class. He had taught almost all the Scripture subjects offered in the seminary. He was proud to point out that among his students was this or that bishop.

He left an important legacy, a three volume commentary on Sunday Readings (years ABC) including Simbang Gabi. Although published between 1983-1985, the books' analysis and insights are still valid and relevant. Thus these books are now classic tools for preachers.

Here's an excerpt from what Fr. Mueller said of the Feast of All Saints' Day.

The Feast of All the Saints is our feast. We are celebrating all the “small” saints whose name we do not know. Originally, the Church was paying tribute to all the martyrs whose names were unknown and because of this were not canonized. More and more saints who did not make big headlines but are believed to be in heaven are invoked. They serve to encourage the faithful. As St. Augustine says, “Potuerunt hi, potuerunt hae, cur non et ego” [freely translated, “If all these smaller saints in heaven could make it, why not I”].

In Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelation [First Reading], the number of those sealed by God from Israel (144,000) and from all nations (countless) may mean that God saves an infinite number of people (see also 1 Tim 2:4 and 1 Thes 5:9). This Feast then attests to the universality of salvation.

I, too, can become a saint!

God does not only want us to become a saint. He has also given us what it takes to become a saint: He has made us his sons and daughters (1 Jn 3:2). In a concrete way, the Gospel points us the way to sainthood—the Sermon on the Mount, in particular, the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:1-12).

H. Mueller, Speak, Lord! Scriptural Notes and Thoughts for Homilies Year A (Manila: Divine Word Publications, 1983), pp. 426-428, slightly edited by RCF.

Speak, Lord! (3 vols) is available at Logos Publications, Catholic Trade Manila.

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