Father Paul Lucey died May 3 at the Campion Center, a Jesuit community in Weston, Mass. He was 98 years old. Father Lucey came from a widely religious family; two brothers were also priests. When his younger sister died in his later years, he conducted her funeral mass from his wheelchair.
He was a deep listener — especially when giving sessions in spiritual direction to others — yet not one to talk of his own life. Monastic training was spartan, including three years in musical Lenox, Mass., where he was allowed to attend only one Tanglewood concert each summer.
Like many Jesuit priests, Father Lucey was an academic, and he began in philosophy. With the sudden national hunger for scientists during World War II, he was told he needed to switch fields and teach math and physics. This required agility and an abrupt redirection of his Jesuit mind — he did not know math and physics. Eventually (perhaps with relief) he returned to philosophy.
But redirection became a kind of life theme, sometimes controversially. When he was rector of the Weston College, a theological seminary in woodsy remoteness, he rejected tradition and insisted on moving the students into Cambridge. It was the opposite of fleeing to the suburbs; he wanted his men to lead less isolated, more integrative, more realistic lives. This included dwelling among women.
He was beloved and renowned for the formal spiritual direction he gave. Traditionally, this had been a forum for reviewing sins and personal problems. Father Lucey saw the interaction differently — another redirection. It became a chance to pay attention together: to a thought, a voice, a moment of God’s presence that might have gone otherwise unrecognized. It shifted the focus utterly.
He did have less lofty interests. He enjoyed touring The Big Dig, and read about Whitey Bulger — remarking to a friend that he thought there had to be something salvageable in the gangster's bones.
In his last months, though he had not been one to talk of his life, Father Lucey spoke often of the fact that he welcomed his death. The very private man was forthcoming about his future.
Did you know Father Lucey? Share your memories in the comments section.
This segment aired on August 12, 2014.