A man for whom faith and family were not just important, but everything: such a man was George “Pat” Morse, who died on June 19 at the age of 96. He was for many years the associate editor of this magazine and author of a “Reflections” column that was widely read and influential.
I have three memories of him. I remember him saying, “The faith, Robert, the faith; we must defend the faith, for the children…” He spent the last 30 years of his life on an international project called The Precis of the Catholic Faith, compiling official Church teaching on different subjects into separate categories in 13 useful volumes. And I remember him saying, “The bishops, Robert, the bishops; we need strong bishops; we must support the bishops.” And so he encouraged me to encourage the bishops to be strong. But most of all, I remember how he held Margaret’s hand. Margaret was his wife. They were married for 74 years (married in 1939 at age 22, they had actually met 7 years earlier, when they were 15; they were high school sweethearts). He treated Margaret with tender respect. Into their 90s, sitting or walking together, they would hold hands.
And that is why the words of his eldest daughter — he was the father of seven: Sr. Teresita “Mary Beth,” Robert, Dennis, Kathy, Kevin, Terence and Michael, as well as a grandfather and greatgrandfather many times over — ring so true to me. She said Pat was a true “knight in shining armor.”
After his funeral, Sr. Teresita, who now works in religious education in the Archdiocese of New York, said: “My favorite image of Dad has always been Knight, like one of the Knights of King Arthur. When Dad was 11 and 12 years old, he was notorious for skipping school. You can imagine the good Sisters’ ideas of what he was doing in the streets of Milwaukee, but the truth is that often he was in his own home. His mother had died when he was 2 and his father was working 10-hour shifts in the railroad round house. So the house was empty, and Dad would go up to his room and read his beloved books: The Iliad and The Odyssey, Beowolf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and, most loved of all, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
“Like the Knights he read about, Dad was always defending the right. He didn’t so much see things the way they were but saw how much better they could be — and that was always his call: to make them better. Dad was always honoring the quest.
“Every Knight had his Beautiful Lady for whom he would give up his life. Dad certainly had his! Dad’s ‘Lady’ gave him the foundation on which to build his life, and like every true Knight, he did great things in her name and truly laid down his life for her.
“The Knight fought for the weak and the poor, and Dad did that — like helping to save from years in prison, a penniless young man who had no one to help him. Or like helping widows to find their way through the legal system. The Knight fought to protect the Kingdom, and Dad fought in many arenas for the kingdoms he believed in — as a soldier, as a government official, as a lawyer, as a private citizen, but above all as the head of his family.
“In the lean years when money was scarce, Dad put each one of his 7 children through Catholic grade school and high school because he believed the greatest gift he could give was Catholic education. Pennies were counted. Daily sacrifices were made. Priorities were clear.
“St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says: ‘Put on the armor of God, clothe yourself with the breastplate of righteousness, hold the shield of faith and the sword of the Holy Spirit.’ This was what Dad lived by, and the greatest legacy he has left to all of us.”
Pat’s son Kevin Morse also recalled: “Every day, after dinner, we would all file out of the kitchen, down the hall, and into Mom and Dad’s bedroom, where we would kneel around the bed and say the rosary. Protests and objections fell on deaf ears. Even finishing homework would have to wait.”
Kevin continued: “Everyone who knew George Patrick Morse knew that his true passion in life was devotion and commitment to the Catholic Church and the true presence of Christ in the Mass. Everyone here is familiar, in one way or another, with his tireless efforts in support of the Church.
“For me, however, Dad’s legacy is not limited to an appreciation for all of the work that he did during his lifetime. For me, the living legacy of Dad’s life is sitting here, all around us. The faith and commitment to something greater than himself was instilled in his children and in his grandchildren and continues to be demonstrated in the lives of the generations that follow him. It is in this way that Dad will continue to live on in our lives and in the lives of those we touch. Who could ask for more than that?
“I would like to conclude with a prayer from our Sunday services that makes me think of Dad whenever I hear it:
“O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in Thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.”