VATICAN CITY -- In a sitting room where lace doilies top every table, Jesuit Fr. Robert F. Taft's gray sweater and wooden cane add to the impression that he's a refined retired professor.
But then he shared what he believes is the line his former students quote most: "There are two things you do not do alone: liturgy and sex."
The world-renowned liturgical scholar was interviewed Dec. 13 as he prepared to return to the United States after more than 46 years in Rome.
Students and friends share his pithy quotes with relish and his graduate summer school students at the University of Notre Dame even published a collection of them several years ago.
"They're totally spontaneous. It's not like I sit in my room before class thinking, 'What wisecrack can I throw at them today?' It just happens," he said.
Taft, who said he's "on the top of the heap" when it comes to knowledge of the Byzantine liturgy, officially retired as a professor at Rome's Pontifical Oriental Institute in 2002. He is scheduled to move to the Jesuit retirement center in Weston, Mass., just after Christmas and will celebrate his 80th birthday Jan. 9.