On this day on which Andrew Greeley is laid to rest, I'm reading Eugene Kennedy's moving tribute to him in last Sunday's Chicago Tribune. The heart of the matter for Kennedy, who was, in typical Irish fashion, both an ardent friend and a scrappy pugilist in his long connection to Greeley:
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.
As I pray for Andrew Greeley's every heartfelt longing to be fulfilled now in the loving arms of God, I'll try to remember to pray, too, for some of my fellow Catholics (and see here, if you're not concerned about upchucking your breakfast as you read) who are willing to use his death as an occasion to make snarky comments about his novels and about the gays, matters that mysteriously link in some Catholics' fevered imaginations. And perhaps readers of this blog will remember to pray for me, too, since, God save me, I have never successfully tamed the pugilistic spice that my own modicum of Irish blood brings to my largely Anglo (and milquetoast) gene pool, for weal or woe.