Fr. Paul Murray Visits Chesterton Academy

Chesterton Academy hosted Fr. Paul Murray, OP on September 21, 2009. He swept into the building with his long stride and in his bright white habit. Once in the room, he was greeted by Dale Ahlquist, John DeJak, and other staff members. After a bit of an introduction, he began taking questions from the students. They asked about his vocation, which he received in Lourdes, France. They asked about his favorite Saint, which is St. Catherine of Siena. Many students later remarked about how he spoke of St. Catherine as if he knew her and that they were great friends. Father even read one of his poems to us, “The Second Youngest,” a poem about growing up with seven siblings and, with the beautiful wonder of a child, believing that his father was a god.

Then Father began to speak about the gifts he has experienced by sharing in the Priesthood of Christ. He told the story of a prisoner, Christopher, on death row in South Africa. After two days in oppressive heat, and a series of providential events, Father was finally able to visit Christopher on a number of occasions. The first time they spoke there were many guards surrounding them, writing down everything they said. By the last visit, there was just one guard who sat behind Christopher. He wrote nothing of their conversation. Instead the guard wept while they spoke. Christopher was later put to death, but had written a letter to Father before he died.

Another story had to do with Michael, a drug addict, Celia, a woman who confessed to him at a bus stop, and another woman who was an artist who was dying. Father spoke about the golden chain that he is able to experience through the priesthood. Celia had written to Michael, and Michael had written to the woman who was dying. Each, in their wounded-ness, had been a great help to the other.

At the end of his time, Father spoke of Mother Teresa. Father told us that Mother begged for his prayers more than anyone else. She was utterly humble. He also told a story about Mother attempting to open houses in China. A man asked her, in a “big business” sort of way, “Who are you going to target in China?” Mother, without missing a beat said, “I want to meet anyone who no one else wants to meet.” Mother’s words, through Fr. Murray, struck us all in the heart. There was an audible intake of breath in the room. Mother Teresa, through Fr. Murray who shares in the Priesthood of Christ, had spoken to us. In that moment, we met the Communion of Saints anew.

Fr. Murray then had to leave as quickly as he had come. He swept out of the room with his long stride, in his bright white habit and none of us will ever forget our time with him.

There was a certain calm joy in the room and the students mentioned how it felt as if Father were speaking to each of them individually.

Later, Fr. Murray commented on how he was nervous to speak to the students. He nearly never has the opportunity to speak to teenagers. He was so impressed with the attentiveness of the students. He was impressed with the questions from the students. And he was so grateful that the stories he had shared made an impression on the students, only extending the golden chain that he has the great joy of experiencing through the priesthood.

--Alyssa Bormes, Chesterton Academy Faculty

About Father Murray Paul Murray O.P. is an Irish Dominican, a poet, and a professor in Rome at the University of St. Thomas, the Angelicum. He is the author of several books which have been published in Ireland, England, and the United States including I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta -- A Secret Revealed; The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness; A Journey with Jonah; These Black Stars; The Spirituality of Bewilderment; T.S. Eliot and Mysticism: The Secret History of "Four Quartets"; and four collections of poetry.

Emily de Rotstein