Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rest in Peace, Andrew Greeley...

...priest, author, sociologist, complainer.

Catholic priest, Father Andrew Greeley, died May 29 at the age of 85.  I don't have an extensive Greeley library, but his fiction and nonfiction works have given me much food for thought.  Father Greeley was a prolific author.  An extensive list of his books can be found here.

Surprisingly, one paperback that did not make the book list was Complaints Against God, a collection of essays, or "complaints," about issues ranging from Beethoven's Missa Solemnis to the End of Summer, and the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  The complaints, as a whole, address God with the understanding that God is omnipotent, and that there may be reasons for God's actions that are beyond our understanding.  In this sense, these complaints remind me of the Psalms.  

Psalm 10 begins "Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, and hide yourself in time of trouble?"  Father Greeley's complaint number 20 tells God, " simply have to do something about your Church.  It's in an awful mess." 

In Psalm 10, the Psalmist ends with a recognition of God's justice and mercy: 
"The LORD is King for ever and ever; *
the ungodly shall perish from his land.
18 The LORD will hear the desire of the humble; *
you will strengthen their heart and your ears shall hear;
19 To give justice to the orphan and oppressed, *
so that mere mortals may strike terror no more."
Father Greeley also, after naming his concerns about the Church, the folly of its members and leadership, and the speed of change after Pope John XXIII's reign, calls upon God to keep his promise to be with his people:

"Your Son, when he was here among us, promised us that he would be with his Church for all the days, even until the end of the world...might I respectfully suggest that now would be a singularly appropriate time for him to manifest himself in as spectacular way as possible that he intends to keep his promise."
The complaints are not so much gripes against God as they are a plea for God to remain with us, despite conditions that are beyond our understanding.  Father Greeley shows that puzzlement and doubt are natural when we encounter God in the midst of all that is wrong (and right) in our world.  But even though our natural inclination is to doubt, living in faith requires that we choose to recognize God's presence in our lives.

I hope you got your answers, Father Greeley.

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