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Father Muench Says...

Remembering my friend, Msgr. Riani

May 29, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

My friend, Father Peter Riani, died recently after an extended illness. Today, I would like to share with you some of my memories of the time I spent with this extraordinary priest.

I had many opportunities to have time to be with Father Peter. There were the quiet days, when we just wanted to get away. There were several memorable trips that I took with him and others to places in parts of this world – places I never would have gone on my own. I also remember the countless hours we spent on the ski slopes. Each were such great and enjoyable times.

I often sought Father Peter’s input and advice for things I was doing – a homily or a program or a column. Father Peter was such a brilliant theologian; he had a wonderful ability to put complicated ideas into more understandable language for me. Personally, he was an excellent advisor and teacher. He helped me better understand Sacred Scripture and the message of the Catholic Church – the story of Jesus. Father Peter loved Jesus. His understanding of who Jesus is and why Jesus came among us continues to be truly transformative for me. Father Peter was important to me; he would often read over and comment on my writings.

I continue to remember well on a ski day seeking Father Peter’s advice and help about a program or a particular idea as we rode up the ski lift to the top of the hill. Did I remember to tell you that Father Peter was a very good skier? I would learn more about skiing while following him down the ski slope.

On another personal note, Father Peter was a constant source of support for me. He often encouraged me in all of my endeavors. He would offer his praise to things I wrote. For this I am eternally grateful. I thank God for placing Father Peter into my life.

How else should I characterize Father Peter Riani? He introduced me to the writings and teachings of Pierre Teihard de Chardin. He loved movies and loved to discuss them afterwards.

I talked him into learning how to play golf. He loved the camp on Lake Champlain. He loved to swim. He formed friendships quickly and kept them long. He was a good musician, a masterful homilist, a powerful writer, and a great and holy priest.

Father Peter loved to travel. I was so very fortunate to tag along on several of his trips. Father Peter got me to China and Tibet, to Kenya and Tanzania, to Juneau, Alaska and Glacier Bay, to New Zealand and Australia. I remember driving through the Maritimes and traveling up to the Magdalen Islands. We took a riverboat cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam and another in Southern France. We took a house for a couple of weeks near Lucca, Italy. That gave us an opportunity to drive through most of Tuscany. And there were others.

As I reminisce on those wonderful trips, I think of so many incidents that happened along the way – some wonderfully impressive, like the evening in Juneau when we had supper with Bishop Michael Kenny, and that hot air expedition in Africa that ended with a terrific outdoor breakfast. So, again, I thank God for the presence of Father Peter in my life. All of these wonderful experiences with him have been mine.

I close today with a prayer for my friend, Father Peter Riani:

Lord God, you chose our brother, Peter Riani, to serve your people as a priest and to share the joys and burdens of their lives. Look with mercy on him and give him the reward of his labors, the fullness of life promised to those who preach your holy Gospel. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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