Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stephen Wiest

Stephen Wiest was many things. 

He was a bluesman and harmonica virtuoso (see this video for a nice example of his harp blowing-he is on the second of the three songs in the video, starting at about the 3 minute mark).  He played with Lil Rev, and many others.  He was an invaluable part of the Milwaukee music scene.  And he brought his musical ear, his musical sense, to bear in his ministry.

He was a scholar, whose mastery of ancient Greek combined with his rare grasp of the gospel led him to his doctoral studies at Marquette University, culminating in a PhD in Biblical studies with his voluminous dissertation on the Stephen section of Acts, a masterpiece of christological typology.  For a few short years it was notable that there was precisely one priest on the entire Marquette campus who could be counted on to be dressed in his collar (even soutaned) and to have the ability to see through, rather than buy into, higher criticism.  Exactly one, and it wasn't one of the Jesuits.  It was Stephen Wiest.  And Marquette was blessed to have him.  The terms of his fellowship there allowed him to teach the required introductory theology course to many undergraduates, young Marquette students who got to read much scripture, along with Ratzinger, Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, and many other writers, and sit at the feet of a skilled teacher of the gospel.

He was a husband, a father, and a godfather.  His widow and daughters today are strong Christian women, whose lives bear witness to his influence.

He was also a great preacher, a highly skilled father confessor, and a uniquely qualified university campus pastor, so much so that his LC-MS district overlords were incapable of appreciating him (so incapable that I almost can't blame them, except that I must blame them for their treatment of him and of the ministry of the gospel in the UWM community). 

He was a consummate intellectual, and a consummate friend.  A great combination. For among other things it led to late night conversations (also mid-morning, and late afternoon) on not only cultural issues, and churchly topics, but also his thoughts on Homer's Greek, or Luther's writings, or Augustine's career, or the Oxford Movement, and always on the current mass pericope. 

Why do I have these things on my mind, and why bring them up here today? Why not? Besides, perhaps it is partly because, midway upon the journey of my life, I find myself in a dusky wood, and such a situation brings one to reflect on the good and bad that has come to pass.  Besides that, however, a friend gave me permission to publish here a photo of his, which includes Fr. Wiest. Pictures of him seem so rare. At least to me. In those days I did not own a camera; it was before the facebook age; it was before the cell phone age; it predated the Internet age. (I know that some of these things existed, but you get my meaning.) So I cherish the few mementos I find, of Fr. Wiest's life, and of the period when mine intersected with his. We will let the family behind the baptismal font in the photo remain anonymous to everyone who does not already know them. The taller man in the collar is Father Wiest, his good wife in front of him.  It was prior to his beard days.  Either way, it brings back many memories.  Big thank you to my friend who gave me the use of the picture.  And thank you Stephen, for your continuing influence.  I should assure the reader that Fr. Wiest was an influence also on men who have actually been successful in life.  I am the quirk, the exception, which might simply prove the rule.


Rev. Shane R. Cota said...

I have a few photos from my ordination that I'll post for you some time. Thanks for this. I can resonate with much of what you've written.

Faye said...

Thank you for this. My husband and I miss him very much too. RIP Stephen Wiest, passed away on this day 10 years ago. I think he may have heard "Well done, my good and faithful servant" upon his arrival. What a legacy he leaves for those he touched.

Magic Brook said...

OMG - Steve Wiest passed away. Steve and I had a band in Milwaukee a long time ago. He was not then the man he became, apparently - He WAS absolutely a virtuoso harmonica player, even back then. I was the guitar player. Great band - we worked almost constantly. sorry to hear of Steve's departure. And also, I'm glad that he found something powerful to do with his life.


magic brook, or as I was known then, "down on the frets"

Mark Hardwick said...

Wow. Was listening to some blues and I recalled Steve and looked him up and found this blog. I assume it's the same guy who I walked along with while he delivered Milwaukee Sentinals back in the mid 60's. He had a bandolier of different keyed blues harps (Marine Band) and would play while we delivered papers in Shorewood. He taught me the basics and some Paul Butterfield riffs. Just good memories from my childhood and sorry to learn of his passing. Thx Steve for introducing to John Mayal, Butterfield and others.

Mark Dankof said...

Stephen and I were great friends at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago in the early 80s. I am also a traditional Lutheran. I cannot add a thing to your wonderful article, except to note that he is sorely missed. Romans 8:31-39.