RIP, Fr. Pat Malone: “Nothing seems to stop the force of compassion”


I read today of the death of Fr. Pat Malone, S.J.—a man my own age, lost to leukemia.

His obituary tells of a life well-lived, one that touched so many, especially workers at Ground Zero in the weeks after 9/11.

He maintained a blog. Shortly after Easter, probably knowing that his life was drawing to a close, he had this to say:

Here’s one: nothing seems to stop the force of compassion.  In a world long drenched in inequity and soreness, it stays.  It stays with a ferocious resiliency.  Nothing is able to keep it down.  There is no weariness or bloodshed or sorrow that can come close to destroy it.  The reverse is true:  the more ridiculous it is to show acts of compassion, the more it endures.  It is abundantly wasteful, being thrown about sometimes in futile or harsh settings.  It refuses to fade away even when brutality and greed get their way in the world.  They have not and can not extinguish the force of compassion.

Another tenacious grace:  hope.  It is far more than wishing for better tomorrows.  It is having gracious awareness of what is going on right now.  It is seeing this life as a bewildering tapestry of miracles, and not doubting that this is the way it will continue.  This sort of hope breeds patience.  We do not expect a particular outcome.  We find it more reasonable and easy to to know that whatever is ahead is completely unknown.  But what is next will be sparkled with hints of the extraordinary gift just be a part of God’s fabric.

This sort of hope allows us greater permission to acknowledge when the present has darkness or awkwardness.  Having this deep hope allows us to better settle into the messiness and frayed parts of our lives, remembering it has all, and will be all, weaved into a sacred journey.  It does not remove from us any torment or confusion.   It helps us know what to do: surrender the troubles of our lives to this God who seeks closeness.

These graces that abide hover about as I move forward with rehab.  I continue to mend in a place that makes it obvious I am in good hands.  There is the slow work that comes with any recovery, yet simple joy is never too far.  It happens, after five weeks inside, of getting outside and feeling a gentle breeze for the first time.  Or holding a fork again.  Or walking (wobbly) about in this strengthening place.  Like your ongoing prayers, each of these small signs gives me a to chance to offer a hearty “alleluia”.

May we be open to these abiding graces.  May the one who gives us passage–the gate–guide us tenaciously to base our lives on the things that cannot die.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him… 


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