Archive for the ‘John Leary’ Tag

Feast of John Leary (August 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of Boston, Massachusetts

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN TIMOTHY LEARY (FEBRUARY 22, 1958-AUGUST 31, 1982)

U.S. Roman Catholic Social Activist and Advocate for the Marginalized

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All his spiritual efforts, and there were many, were not however primarily focused on himself, on his own righteousness, on his own salvation, etc.  His life was intensely ordered toward others.  The prayers, the choices, the daily Masses and Communions, the repentance, the study, the retreats, etc., had one aim, namely to make possible the deeds of Christ-like love, mercy, service and kindness here and now, in the particular concrete moment.  John believed he could not genuinely serve people except by loving them in the way God revealed they should be served in the person of Jesus.

Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, on John Leary, September 4, 1982

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John had a sensitivity, an awareness of the pain of others that was relentless.  Compassion for others had become the dominant experience of his life.

–Sister Evelyn Ronan on John Leary; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 375

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The difference with John was that he discovered that life had no purpose, no meaning, no direction, and no focus apart from the purpose and focus on God….He became in his short life the complete and total man for others, and those who knew him and loved him testify to the face of Christ that shone in and through him.

–The Reverend Peter Gomes on John Leary; quoted in All Saints (1997), 376

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This feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).  Ellsberg’s assigned date is August 31, but, given that I have reserved that date for St. Nicodemus, a Biblical figure, I transfer Leary’s feast to August 30.

John Timothy Leary, born into a New England Roman Catholic working class family with Irish roots on February 22, 1958, spent his 24 years well.  He, inspired by Thomas Merton (1915-1968) and Dorothy Day (1897-1980), took his Catholicism seriously.  Leary was a pacifist–a member of Pax Christi.  He also affiliated with the Catholic Worker Movement.  Leary’s eulogist, Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, described our saint as a “Magna Cum Laude Harvard Graduate” and “Summa Cum Laude Catholic Worker.”  Leary, committed to the “seamless garment” doctrine of life, protested against the death penalty, abortion, and the military draft.  He allowed street people to live in his apartment.  Leary worked with the elderly, the homeless, and the incarcerated.  The major in religious studies (Harvard University Class of 1980) attended Mass daily, usually at Our Lady of the Annunciation Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral, Boston, Massachusetts.  Leary also read the Bible, prayed the rosary, and attended retreats at a Trappist monastery.

Leary, who enjoyed running, died in Boston on August 31, 1982.  That afternoon he was running from work to his room at the Catholic Worker house when he had a heart attack.

What might Leary have done for God and many of his fellow human beings–especially vulnerable ones–had he lived longer?

The answers to that question occupy the realm of the counterfactual, but the holy example of his life can and should inspire us to use our time wisely, to the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE AND JAN HUS, REFORMERS OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 726

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