News came out today of the death of Fr. Andrew Greeley at the age of 85 years. The Catholic world has lost a great thinker, writer, and true lover of the Church.
Last August I wrote about one of my summer traditions,
I equate holiday time with a good read. I start with a light book to clear the head. An Andrew Greeley novel is perfect for this. Greeley’s characters, dialogue, and plots offer an entertaining romp through the humanness of church life. His mischievous approach to romance and sexuality has won him many critics who wonder how a priest can know so much about human love. Somehow, I always come away from a Greeley mystery loving my Catholic faith a wee bit more.
Greeley’s novels gloried in our Catholic belief of the sacramentality of life; that God is really and truly present in creation, in the bounties of the earth, and especially in human relationships. His fiction wasn’t preachy, it was entertaining. He gave you a glimpse into the deep theology of love without the dense language of encyclicals or academic treatises.
His characters and plots provided a peek into the clerical world of parishes and diocesan offices. Good priests and bishops, like the mystery solving Blackie Ryan, were worthy heroes. They were the kind of characters you wanted to invite over for dinner and a few glasses of Bushmills. Career climbing, clerical scoundrels were treated with the same disdain that Greeley held for them in real life.
Andrew Greeley was also a renowned sociologist and fierce critic of the church when needed. I was introduced to his columns here in Canada on the pages of the Prairie Messenger. I owe a debt of gratitude to the PM for the first class, liberal writers that graced its columns: Greeley, Joan Chittister, Richard McBrien, Sidney Callahan, Andrew Britz and more.
I am a painfully slow writer and will never be as prolific as Andrew Greeley. I do not have his academic credentials or his courage to say it as it is. Yet, his is one of the voices tucked in a wee corner of my brain when I try to write. It is a light-hearted voice that nudges you to show the humor in the absurd. It is a clear, no nonsense voice that doesn’t pull any punches. And, this is the most important; it is a voice that gains its credibility from a true love of our Catholic faith and the Church.