Thursday, January 02, 2014

Poetry, a priest and a murder

I do not think I am exaggerating by saying that I read more stores about pastors and priests than just about anybody else I know. I read of new hires, deaths and promotions along with good works and utter depravity. It's 10 stories a day, every day, over the last ten years. When I miss a day, I catchup by reading what I missed. A few years ago I read a story about a Catholic priest who had translated a Japanese woman's story of surviving Hiroshima. He also translated her poetry. I copied one of her translated haikus into a little poetry notebook I keep near my desk.

The atomic museum
the cries in the heart’s ears
the scent of the lily

- Hiroko Takanashi

I was reminded of her poem when I read a story on Facebook about a priest murdered in his rectory. Rev. Eric Freed’s body was found when he missed morning mass.

Mayor Frank Jager identified the victim as the Rev. Eric Freed, whom he called a personal friend and a "tremendous person in this community" since his arrival three years ago. The St. Bernard Parish website featured a cross and the words, "Rest in Peace," above Freed's name.

"He was a really, genuinely warm individual," said professor Stephen Cunha, the chairman of Humboldt University's religious studies department where Freed taught for more than 10 years. "... Kind is the word that comes to mind, sensitive."

I did not take long for a memory to surface. I quickly looked up the name in my index and found the reference to his work. I was stunned.

I do not subscribe to moral equivalence. It is simple. Some priest abuse children while some do not. We cannot paint all priest with the action of one (or some). Some priest bring ugliness into this world while some bring beauty and kindness. Father Jager’s translation of Hiroko Takanashi’s lifework was beautiful and I was made better by finding it. His death is horrifying. 

I do not know why somebody would murder him and I will not speculate on the motive for his murder, though some have, until I hear the facts. It is the least I can do.

Update 1/3/2014

  • Warrant issued for Gary Lee Bullock. Freed killed via blunt force trauma.
  • Gary Lee Bullock arrested in California priest killing. No motive established.