Chicago priest, Andrew Greeley, passed away last week at age 85 – five years are a debilitating accident. Eugene Kennedy, an inactive priest and friend of WEORC, paid Andrew a touching farewell in the weekend’s Chicago Tribune.
My brother Andrew
A friendship often tested, left to languish, and then
June 02, 2013|By Eugene Cullen Kennedy
Andrew Greeley, who was so deeply involved in the things of time, broke free of its shackles last week to enter fully the eternity whose boundaries he had broken, as easily as a champion miler does the tape, on almost every day of his long and remarkable life.
I knew Andrew for half a century and, thinking of his quick smile and his twinkling eyes, I recall him telling me once that he expected heaven to be a homecoming, the scene of a family reunion whose joy is not threatened, as it is so often in time, by the certainty that its magic and mystery will end with sundown.
That is why, of all his titles and degrees, he preferred that of priest and, through the many talents with which he was gifted, he saw his first calling as a minister to the needy and brokenhearted all around him. If that sometimes led him into places and into people's lives in unexpected and sometimes uncalled for interventions, he always entered with the heart of a priest who, in the words Pope John XXIII used to explain why he convened Vatican Council II, wanted "to make the human sojourn on Earth less sad."
It is no surprise that he wrote a series of mystery novels featuring a hero based on his own musings about himself, Father Blackie Ryan. These were really glints from his preoccupation with and absorption in mystery with a capital M. That, as he understood from the Catholic tradition, is, far more than religious practices or even creedal statements, the core of real religion.
That mystery includes the things some people think incompatible with the existence of God, the storms that strike haphazardly, the deaths of the innocent, the losses that pile up in the lives of good people, the heartbreak that is often found in the heart of the greatest of love stories. Andrew drew on these themes even in the novels that Graham Greene would have classified as "entertainments." These notions emerged as the fruit of the contemplation of the world to which, in quieter and deeper times, he immersed himself unself-consciously. Unlike many Christians, and even unlike many priests, he strove to practice what he preached every day.
We called each other friends and counted on each other but our friendship had been tested by times in which we drifted apart but could still hear each other's voices. Irish brothers have a way of falling out and then finding each other again. In our case, the cause of the falling out is complex and now irrelevant. The finding of our friendship again was the important thing and it was all his doing.
When I had cancer surgery and was sitting quietly, sorting out the situation with my wife at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Andrew came through the door to bring me his blessing, to cheer us up, and, in less than the time it takes to tell about it, to restore our friendship. As he said to me later with a smile, "Reconciliation is supposed to work that way." But he was the architect of the renewal of our friendship for, as he also said to me later, "I wasn't sure if you would throw me out of the hospital room."
Remember him as you will, as novelist, professor, or even as a general agitator for the good and challenger of the bad, for all these are masks he wore at one time or another. I will remember him as a friend who bridged the gap of estrangement, who made our friendship whole again and did it by fully entering the mystery, even as he hails us now to join him at the family reunion he foresaw at the end of time.