Yesterday I learned of the passing of Father Leo Clifford. I knew him only through television, listening to him almost every day reflecting on a variety of topics ranging from loneliness and joy to lost opportunities.
He always wore his Franciscan habit as he delivered his reflection, standing or sitting against a background of a well-groomed garden, or a lakeshore, or a peaceful countryside. His manner of speaking communicated a sense of peace, of a person at peace with himself, at peace with the world, and at peace with God.
Each reflection lasted four or five minutes. The quality varied from one day to the next, but my recollection is that every reflection was a real gem, and offered inspiration or consolation as needed.
Father Clifford spoke from the heart. It was a heart filled with faith in God and love for his listeners and viewers. Hardly a day passed but he referred to God’s love for each human person. He always referred to that love as so tolerant, so unconditional, and so unquestioning as to be almost unbelievable.
He spoke in many ways as the Master spoke. He always had some story from daily life, or some incident from his own experience which pictured the idea he was trying to communicate. He was easy to understand. He was not a conceptual theologian, but like the Lord himself he was a theologian of imagery.
Father Clifford lived as a true son of Saint Francis, with 65 years of priesthood in the Order of Friars Minor. I feel we have suffered a great loss with his passing, but I am grateful that I came to know him, and to learn from him through the wonder of television.
Even though Father Clifford has passed from us, his legacy remains, not just in our memory but also available to us in electronic form. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology we still have it in our power to be entertained, guided and inspired by the faith, wit and wisdom of this gentle man of God.