US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Chicago Catholics gather to remember Father Andrew Greeley

By Catherine O'Connell-Cahill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

In the company of a cardinal, two bishops, about 50 of his brother priests, an Illinois Supreme Court justice, seminary rectors past and present, renowned academics, journalists, and a church packed with the laypeople he so esteemed and defended throughout his life, Father Andrew Greeley was laid to rest on June 5, 2013 at Christ the King Parish in Chicago, where he first served after his ordination in 1954. (He appears, in fact, as a young priest in a mural of parishioners on the wall of the church.) Greeley was, said eulogist Father David Tracy, a “happy warrior,” smiting injustice and pomposity wherever he spotted it. Tracy, one of Greeley’s fellow professors at the University of Chicago, declared Greeley “the best interpreter of the Catholic way of life since G.K. Chesterton.”

Homilist Father John Cusick spoke of Greeley’s conviction that “ordinary human experience is the dwelling place of the divine.” Of the outspoken positions Greeley often took in his decades of newspaper columns and public appearances, Cusick said, “He believed in courage and he had the freedom to pursue it. So many of the things the rest of us thought, Andy said. The Catholic Church lost an honest voice. Doesn’t it behoove all of us to be that voice?”

Cusick noted that Greeley had died on the feast of St. Joan of Arc, who was condemned by her church and burnt at the stake, but who 500 years later was canonized. “Well, Greels, you beat the stake,” he said.  “Cardinal George,” he concluded, “might I ask you to give consideration to opening the process to examine the saintliness of Andrew Moran Greeley?”

But Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George had the last word, just before he offered the final commendation and incensed Greeley’s body. He spoke of how Greeley and he often attended the opera together, and how he learned that Greeley’s favorite opera was Verdi’s La Traviata. One day, George asked Greeley why he loved La Traviata best. “He didn’t hesitate at all,” George recalled, “and he said, ‘It’s the most Catholic of all the operas, because in the end everyone is forgiven.’ “