By Lynn Adams
I am sitting in St. Mark's surrounded by echoes of many voices, just louder than a murmur, swallowed up in the great timbers of the high space. Voices in the distance are as soft as old linen. Voices nearby are cheerful.
Fr. Ralph Carskadden's funeral will begin sometime soon. I came early to get a seat. St. Paul's is the host parish, but our sanctuary is torn up for remodeling. Even if it had been available, Fr. Ralph is so widely loved, we would still need St. Mark's to hold his mourners.
Up near the altar is a processional banner honoring St. Mark, a skinny winged lion with his ribs showing. There is a border of fabric squares, luminous jewels surrounding the lion, whose curled tail is humorous with its tapestry tassel. Though probably based on an ancient image, it is Ralph's take, in loving detail from pointed red tongue to tassel at the other end.
Fr. Ralph made many vestments and altar textiles of surpassing beauty, designed the interiors of churches, formed us in a deep need for liturgy and showed us the way, and helped us fittingly celebrate St. Lucy's day. He radiated the love of God.
He seemed always on his own uniquely grace-filled path as an artist-priest, and was able to give so generously from his spiritual abundance. Remarkable smile. Gentle humor.
I remember, in contrast, deep burning outrage in a letter he wrote to the editor of a Seattle paper. A young girl had disappeared, a child of his parish, St. Clement's, and the police did not show much persistence in pursuing the case. I heard the authorities assumed that she ran away. This assumption would not be made about a white child. No, this happy girl did not run away. I may be mistaken in recalling that her body was found many months later.
I pray for comfort for his partner Steven. I hope that we who knew Fr. Ralph will be able to keep a reservoir of his spirit and continue to be formed by it. Bless God's Holy Name for the life of Ralph, our friend.