Fr. Matt was a friend for about 45 years. He was a complicated guy, as you might glean from various obituaries. But I want to take this post to thank him publicly for the gift he gave me.
As a recovering alcoholic who worked his program faithfully and fully and who met God in the midst of that struggle, he had this way of constantly demanding that same honesty of others and challenging them to risk, to reach into areas that were “scary” for them as he put it. When I was in my late twenties he did me the favor of pushing me that way. Sometimes I went unwillingly, but he was a relentless and demanding advisor.
I told him in my letter that I truly believe that if he hadn’t forced me to look at myself and take certain leaps of faith as a person, then I would never have had many of the relationships I have enjoyed, I suspect that I would have been too timid to pack up and go off by myself on a sabbatical year, and would have had nothing very interesting to say about risking or love of God or neighbor. So those six books of mine would never have been written.
I’m grateful to him for his example of introspection, unflinching honesty and dedication to the task of opening himself to God’s grace. I’m grateful for prodding and encouraging me on my own journey to see things I would have missed and to go places I would never have thought of going.
He faced his impending death exactly as I would have expected: with the serenity, courage and wisdom of someone who has struggled for decades to be open to the Lord and to the divine will. His last words to me were “Pray for me.” So now I’m asking him publicly to pray for me.