Archbishop Hurley: A friend who made us better

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By FR. STEVEN MOORE

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way.”

In his telling of the Emmaus story, part of what Saint Luke relates is the passion enkindled in two disciples as the result of an encounter with the resurrected Christ who was able to show them new possibilities for their life. In that hope born of new possibilities, passion is born.

Passion and hope and new possibilities lift people up and help them see in themselves capabilities they never new they possessed, and from that personal achievement they never thought possible for themselves.

That encounter on the road to Emmaus shows what can happen when individuals encounter someone who can inspire them to something greater. Archbishop Hurley accomplished many great achievements during his ministry, from homeless shelters to meals to shut-ins to a ministry over vast areas of Alaska. Those things could not have happened without his leadership, but none of them could have happened without the help and work of the many people he brought into his work.

Archbishop Hurley had a gift for involving others in the things that he was passionate about, to engender in others that same zeal and to see, that in common purpose, each of us have possibilities we never knew we possessed.

It is rare to have a friend or a leader who can engender in others such confidence and purpose. But he was that friend to so many of us here today and that friendship was such a gracious gift from God. The passion he shared with others was born from his deep faith in God, his prayer life and his active living out of that faith. His faith was a durable and practical faith, born of his Irish American (and dare I say San Francisco Irish American) Catholic heritage. In his own way it was a simple faith, not uninformed or unsophisticated, but a simple faith, a belief in the goodness of God, a belief in the goodness of others, a belief that God’s mercy and forgiveness can change lives, a belief that doing good works is good for the soul. All of that was lived with a deep and invincible joy.

In the 45 years I have known him, I cannot say I ever knew him to be unhappy. I saw plenty of other moods … but never unhappiness. One of the few times I ever saw archbishop have an emotional moment in public was at his sister’s funeral. At the end, he said the three things which sustained him in life were the three F’s: Faith, Family and Friends.

As much as faith, his family was a touchstone for his life. Any of us who have families know that families can, a times, be a bit untidy. But one thing was certain with Frank, he loved his family. He talked of you (and told stories) constantly. It was not an abstract love but very real and personal, though, I am sure he would never say it that way directly. He loved each of you and was incredibly, incredibly loyal to his family.

Very early, his ministry took him from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and then to Alaska. Giving him to the wider church was a sacrifice from your family. All of you and Frank had to work a little harder at family but your love for him is as evident as his love for you. Though it was a bit of a family sacrifice for you it was a huge gift to us, to the church and to the people of Alaska. For that gift we are ever in debt to the Hurley family and we are so thankful that you shared him with us.

Archbishop Hurley possessed what could only be called a gift for friendship. He could talk to anybody and had that rare gift of being present to others in a way that invited friendship. He loved a party and he loved having people around him. Some of you know that on occasion Frank liked to argue with his friends. In fact, the more one argued with him the stronger the friendship came to be. I always found that a bit curious and it was only recently that Archbishop Roger Schwietz let me in on a secret understanding that made things much clearer; namely, that arguing is the way that the Irish express affection for one another.

He could be very spontaneous with his friends. He loved to have people around and many times, after some event or another, he would invite people back to his house for a nightcap. As I look around this room I see many faces that I saw at those gatherings. You know who you are! The talk would inevitably turn to the event just finished; who was there and what was happening in their lives, who was new and interesting at the event; and, of course being Irish, eventually it would be who was not at the event that perhaps should have been. I think that today, tonight I will miss that the most.

One cannot speak of Archbishop Hurley and his friends without mentioning one friend above all others, though she herself would never see it that way. The word “secretary” does not do justice to who she was and all she did for Archbishop Hurley. For more than 50 years Joann White kept Archbishop Hurley organized, on time and on task, which was no easy job. Through happy times and difficult she faithfully served. Joann, in a very real way, all that you did made it possible for all of us to have the friendship and the attention of Archbishop Hurley. You did that every day in your life and you did it with unfailing kindness and courtesy. For all you have done for all of us and for Archbishop we can only say, thank you. Thank you so very much.

One of the things that Archbishop Hurley was passionate about was writing, good writing. One evening I was at his house and he had laying out three copies of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” This both surprised me completely and didn’t strike me as the least out of the ordinary. On inquiry I found out that he was looking at three different translations and trying to work something out between translations. I had two different responses to that. The first was a question, to myself, “When have you ever done that with say, the Gospel of Luke?” The second was, “He doesn’t need all three copies of Canterbury Tales.” So before the evening was complete, to use a phrase from my college days, I liberated one of the copies.

At the end of the Nun Priests tale there is a fable about the dangers of flattery. There are all sorts of talking animals and what not, but part of what Chaucer was getting at is that not only did flattery get us to do things we possibly ought not do, flattery also keeps us from seeing ourselves as who we are and leads to a certain type of self-deception. The fable ends with a conversation between the fox and chanticleer. And so, from the edition of Chaucer that I stole from Archbishop Hurley, I would like to read the last few lines of that fable:

 

Never again, for all your flattering lies,

You’ll coax a song to make me blink my eyes;

And as for those who blink when they should look,

God blot them from his everlasting Book!

“Nay, rather, said the fox his plagues be flung

On all who chatter that should hold their tongue.

Lo, such it is not to be on your guard

Against the flatterers of the world, or yard.

And, if you think my story is absurd,

A foolish trifle of a beast and bird,

A fable of a fox, a cock, a hen,

Take hold upon the moral, gentlemen.

St. Paul, himself a saint of great discerning,

Said that all things are written for our learning;

So take the wheat and let the chaff lie still,

And, Gracious God, if it should be thy will,

Make us all good men.

And bring us to his heavenly bliss.

Amen.

Editor’s note: The writer, Fr. Steven Moore, served for more than 20 years as Archbishop Hurley’s general vicar. This column is adapted from the homily he gave at Archbishop Hurley’s funeral.

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