Rest in peace good and faithful servants...

Dear Peter Gomes passed from this life to life-everlasting in the Lord yesterday - and the world of moderate, respectful, wise and passionate Christianity with a compassionate conscience lost an important heart, soul and voice. In an Op-Ed article for the New York Times in 1992 he wrote:  Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert.  (His obituary in the Times is worth reading @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/us/02gomes.html.)

Over the years, I learned a lot about living into the promise of compassionate Christianity as an organic alternative to the fundamentalism of both Protestant and Catholic alike.  What's more, he showed America that when the Spirit takes hold of your soul, old bigotries and fears can be overcome.  Not easily - and not all at once - but in profoundly important ways - and his life was a model when he came "out" as a Christian who was also gay. 

His death called to mind the passing of another good and faithful servant, this time from the  Roman tradition, who was also another voice of God's compassion in a sometimes shrill and harsh environment:  Father Matthew Kelty.  He was Thomas Merton's confessor at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky - who also "came out" as a gay man late in his life - in order to live with integrity and depth.  His writings about Merton's complicated relationship with Roman Catholicism - and Merton's quest for a deeper monasticism - have been helpful to many.  (Check out his obituary @ http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/4278/“the_gift_of_gay”:_father_matthew_kelty,_confessor_to_thomas_merton,_dies_at_96/)

Both men remind me, too, of the "Saint of September 11th" - Father Mychal Judge - one of my spiritual guides in the second half of my life.  Fr. Mychal, too, was a gay man - a Franciscan in NYC - who not only was chaplain to the rough and macho guys of the NYC Fire Department but a pioneer in HIV/AIDS hospice in a time when the virus was called "gay cancer" and "God's answer to fags."  One story tells how on that horrible day, Fr. Mychal got the call to head down to the Twin Towers because of the terrorist attacks, so he hurried home to get into his Franciscan robe - and add some spray to his hair because he wanted to look sharp.

Sadly, he died that same day bringing comfort and last rites to his flock.  (Check out his story @ http://saintmychaljudge.blogspot.com/)  

I give thanks to God for each of these men who in their courage and compassion have shown the world something of the true face of the Living God. I give thanks to God, too, that they were able to "come out" and share the fullness of their beauty and truth with the world.  We all have been blessed by their presence.  So rest in peace good and faithful servants...

Comments

Black Pete said…
A tremendous post, James. Says it all...
RJ said…
Thank, my man.

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