Friday, February 3, 2012

Fr. Eric Lies, OSB - Requiem in Pacem

Today's post is in memory of a wonderful man who taught me a lot about a lot. His sweet, gentle demeanor along with his love of life and letters are what I will remember about him the most. Fr. Eric passed away Monday at the age of 92. His health had been failing in the past few years, but until last year I always got a Christmas card from him.

You may be familiar with Fr. Eric's calligraphy. Many of his religious pieces are sold through Abbey Press and many other sites selling religious works. He studied Roman letters with Father Edward Catich, and his Roman letterforms were quite beautiful.

Father Eric was a monk and priest at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. I met him through calligraphy, and St. Meinrad's beautiful campus hosted many exhibits of his works, as well as those of Fr. Donald Walpole - an artist friend of his who passed just the day before at age 94. Fr. Walpole's brother was my parish priest growing up, and the stained glass windows in my church were designed and created by Fr. Donald. It was a fun little coincidence in my friendship with Fr. Eric.

Every visit my friends and I made to St. Meinrad and Abbey Press included a visit with Father Eric. Sometimes we shared lunch, sometimes a walk around the grounds, and once we were treated to the lyrical sounds of chanting in the chapel. Fr. Eric was a former director of Abbey Press and knew my recently deceased former boss, publisher of Automobile Quarterly, who at one time was art director there and often asked me about Fr. Eric. It is a small world. And I wonder if the two have met in heaven yet.

Once, friends from Kentuckiana and the Evansville region got together with Father Eric's help to have a calligraphy workshop retreat at St. Meinrad. Fr. Eric taught a session, I taught a session, several others also taught sessions, and it brought many good people together who otherwise might never have met. Last Spring I was in a workshop in Memphis with beautiful Travis, a transplant to Arkansas whom I remembered fondly from the Evansville guild. This connection to the Evansville guild also led to my taking workshops from the 'Queen of Calligraphy' Sheila Waters, whom the Evansville guild had contracted with to teach there. (She broke her wrist at one of the workshops and we feared it might end her calligraphic career, but she is indomitable.) The calligraphy field is full of such connections that make us feel almost like a family.

Father Eric was very prolific. When I once lamented that I worked at my dining room table and had to clear projects away each night, he taught me that it is important to have a dedicated space for art. In his case it was only a small table in his tiny quarters - but it was a place where he didn't have to clear away what he was working on each night, but could keep his tools and current project out for work when he had time. His days were quite full with development office work, traveling to many churches to fill in when priests were needed, prayer and more. His calligraphy time was limited, just as mine was as a young mother then. He taught me to flourish, he taught me how to drop color into water-drawn letters to get magic. Of course, when he dropped colors into his Roman letters it was sheer heaven. And speaking of heaven, I picture Father Eric in heaven now lettering for the angels with one of their own quill feathers...taken from the left wing, of course!

I found these images of a few of Father Eric's pieces online.

Requiem in Pacem, old Friend.


  1. I've heard you talk so often about Father Eric, and reading this is very touching. Thank you for sharing. Also, thank you for finding some of his calligraphy for us to see and enjoy.
    The world needs more gentle souls like Father Eric.

  2. This was a lovely read. Father Eric sounds like a wonderful person, and I love the piece he wrote about turning hearts and ankles: it makes me think he must have had a great sense of humour. I also enjoyed your description of your calligraphy "web", calligraphy does seem to bring people together from far and wide.

  3. Thanks, Donna! Thanks, CaroW. Actually, calligraphy is how I met Donna Hacker (above comment). It truly is a wonderful connection.

  4. What a beautiful tribute Jan. We are very blessed to have such friendships through the art we love.

  5. Father Eric sounds like he was a wonderful man. You have some beautiful memories of him. Thank you for sharing his life with us. I love his calligraphy pieces that you showed also. I'm wondering, could you please tell me the author of the very last quote about prayer? I would appreciate it.
    Linda E.

  6. A heartwarming tribute! Thank you.

  7. Thanks, Toni, Linda and Jody! Linda, the quote about prayer was from a friend of Fr. Eric's, Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer, OSB. (The OSB means Order of St. Benedict. They were Benedictine monks.)

  8. Oh, Jan, thank you for this. I did not know. Trips to St. Meinrad to see his calligraphy exhibits were always so wonderful. The setting so peaceful. When I was editor of the Kentuckiana guild newsletter, Fr. Eric sent me many pieces of his work in case I needed something to fill the pages. So kind and generous. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Thanks, Pat. I had forgotten that he did the masthead for our newsletter too.

  10. This was a lovely way to honor your mentor and friend. It sounds as though he instilled a love of lettering to many.

    1. Thanks, Jane. Yes, Fr. Eric was a fine promoter of our art.

  11. I love this picture of Father Eric..such a kind face..Unfortunately, I never had the honor of meeting him in person. I"knew" him through my sister Janet Lorence who is a calligrapher who lives in New Harmony Indiana, and who worked with, and knew Father Eric. She always had such nice things to say about him. I had always intended to come visit Father Eric and my sister at the Archabbey, as I also love the Benedictine order/ spirituality. He was a great calligrapher! I have a wonderful piece of his, and also have a special place in my heart for him- we were born on the same day ( not year) and he prayed every day for a LONG time for me when I was going through a very difficult time. His spirit lives on through his work. I admire anyone who can do calligraphy!!! It is most difficult to do takes practice practice practice!!! Thank you for this nice tribute to Father Eric..and yes, I am sure that he is Heaven with the angels