Father Benoît Lacroix, O.P., passed away on March 2, 2016, after a short bout with pneumonia. He had turned 100 last September, and in 2012 celebrated the 75th anniversary of his profession as a member of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans). He was admired in Quebec and elsewhere for his openness, his learning and his simplicity. In addition to contributing to scholarly journals, he was a well-known voice on Radio Ville-Marie as well as on the CBC French-language networks Radio-Canada and RDI; a regular contributor to the French-language daily Le Devoir; and also an occasional contributor to the French-language liturgical periodical published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Vivre et célébrer (formerly Liturgie, foi et culture).
A popular figure in French-speaking Canada following the Second Vatican Council, he was recognized notably for his writings on spirituality as well as on the popular expressions of religion and religious traditions. Author of more than a dozen books, his most recent, Rumeurs à l'aube ("Rumours at Dawn"), was published by Fides last November. Three of his books were especially popular: La religion de mon père ("My Father's Religion"), La foi de ma mère ("My Mother's Faith"), and La Parole de Dieu à la manière d'ici ("The Word of God for Today"). In addition to being a frequent speaker for those in consecrated life, he offered a special form of outreach to artists and the media. The University of Montreal has a student centre named after him, the Centre étudiant Benoît-Lacroix, founded in 1986 and which is involved in ecumenical pastoral ministry.
Born on September 8, 1915, in Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse, Father Lacroix completed his classical studies at Collège Saint-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, and joined the Dominicans in 1936. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 5, 1941. A respected medieval scholar, he earned his doctorate at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, following which he did post-doctoral studies in Paris at École pratique des hautes études, and then at Harvard University after winning a Guggenheim Fellowship. In addition to teaching at the University of Montreal's Mediaeval Studies Centre from 1945 to 1985, Father Benoît was invited to lecture at universities around the world, including in France, Japan and Rwanda. He considered himself a disciple of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., and sought to promote dialogue between religion and science, popular culture, and other faith traditions.
On the email newsletter of the Archdiocese of Montreal, Archbishop Christian Lépine has posted a letter to the Dominican Provincial Superior, Father André Descôteaux:
"I learned this morning with great sadness of the death of your brother Benoît Lacroix. I offer my most sincere condolences to you and the community of Preachers.... He leaves us many memories of his proverbial trust.... He was able with few words to express a world in images and poetry."
This beloved son of the Church and of Saint Dominic will be greatly missed in Canada. May his legacy continue to bear abundant fruit, and may he receive the reward of eternal life promised by the Merciful Father of Heaven to all good and faithful servants.