See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Halloween ghost story...




















Let the dead bury their dead.
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Shown above is an "ex-voto" painting commemorating the suicide of a local priest a few years ago - I painted the panel a few days after he committed suicide - and after having just learned that the priest's superiors had known about his history,  teen molestation accusations - and did nothing.  It is one of my favorite paintings ever.
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I don't know if my tale qualifies as a real ghost story, but what happened to me as I finished the painting was kind of creepy.  I knew the priest who had hanged himself.  He had been accused of murdering a funeral director and his assistant back in 2002.  The alleged motive was to silence the funeral director who was believed to have threatened to expose the priest's involvement in homosexual acts with adolescent boys.  The priest committed suicide but left a note claiming his innocence of the murders.  The exposure of his  homosexual involvement with teen boys may have been motive enough for the priest to take his own life.
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What kind of priest was he?
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The man was a good priest. Perhaps a bit doctrinaire, dogmatic and therefore rigid in his pastoral approach however. He loved being a priest.  He loved the cassock, wore it everywhere, and in the winter, he wore a cloak with golden frogs clasping it. He loved traditional trappings:  The hats and beanies and cape-lets and elaborate baroque vestments and man-lace.  He was orthodox in his spirituality, deeply devoted to Our Lady, and scrupulously faithful to the Roman rite - he was a Novus Ordo priest to be sure, yet totally traditional. Father also happened to be an impassioned homilist as well as moralist. I suspect he would have loved Savonarola. None of that is bad or wrong of course, although his zeal tended to alienate many - he came on pretty strong.
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When I first met him, he was wearing his winter cape, I thought he was kind of a fruitcake. After I got to know him, I still held that opinion, although I could see he was sincere and wanted to be a holy priest, and eventually I found him rather like-able. He had a good sense of humor, but there was something there that told me he craved affirmation, respect, and deep down, he just wanted to be liked. Human respect was very important to him - despite the fact he had so many critics amongst his congregation. Could it be that human respect became motive enough to murder someone who might have exposed his secret life, revelations which would ruin his orthodox facade? Maybe.  Father also loved guns and hunting, and he tended to be rather militant when it came to heretics and liberals - but was he capable of murder?  Personally, I think he could have been found guilty on all counts - but not necessarily damned.
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The ghost.
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As I finished adding the details to the painting, I considered adding some things to suggest his sexuality near the rosary in the snow,  as if they had fallen from his pockets.  Just as I began to paint the items in I felt a hand grasp my shoulder, as if to hold me back from proceeding.  A chill ran down my back and I sensed an interior warning to stop.  I turned quickly to see if anyone was behind me, but I was completely alone.  
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The next day at work I told a co-worker what had happened.  This man had great respect for the priest and could hardly believe the accusations against him, much less his suicide.  In fact, not a day or two after his death, my friend's mother had a dream of a priest coming towards her in church with a message for her son, "Tell him I'm okay."  It turns out my friend's mother had never met the priest nor had she heard of his suicide at that point.
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I no longer know what to think regarding the case, but I will continue to pray for the priest and the murder victims just the same.

7 comments:

  1. Terry,

    First, that story is superb. So long as we believe in the Communion of Saints, we must be open to the chance a deceased person wishes to make contact. I received one just this morning, indirectly.

    Second, that paiting is equally superb. Is there any way I can purchase a copy (or the original) from you?

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  2. Terry, how would you explain the skeletal bishop who sprinkles ashes (?) on the grave? Your story gives life to your painting. Thanks!
    Please continue to pray for us (priests).

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  3. Digi - Thanks! I sent you an email.

    Fr. Gary - The title, "Let the dead bury their dead" is the explanation. The unfortunate priest's superiors - bishop - knew there were problems associated with this priest but he was still ordained. I do not believe they knew of the sexual activity until after the fact however. Nevertheless the skeletal bishop represents the bishops who did know about scandalous affairs elsewhere, and did nothing; hence the title, "let the dead bury their dead". I know, it's kind of harsh.

    But I do pray for priests, living and deceased. We are all human.

    Pray for me too. Thanks.

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  4. michael r.6:24 PM

    I've seen this before, perhaps on one of our other blogs. It's a great painting, though the story is creepy and terribly sad. I've known of religous who have taken their own lives. It's hard to comprehend. I guess the best we can hope for is that Father was completely mentally unsound, and we trust in the mercy of God.

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  5. Terry, this horrible story has touched my life in several ways by people who knew this priest and were absolutely crushed by all of this; I believe the Evil One was very active here.

    Thank you for posting the painting (very moving) and the story.

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  6. Terry, your painting is amazing. I'm glad the hand kept you from painting the objects in the picture--they would have made the picture difficult to view.

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  7. Michael - I do believe something was off with the priest - it is very sad.

    Father - yes the evil one was at work.

    Tara - I actually think my angel held me back - not the priest - my angel did not want me to sin through calumny.

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