Remembering Andrew Greeley (by Mike Hout)

StTeresaI was awestruck when I met Andrew Greeley in my second year as an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. My mom was devoted to Father Greeley’s columns in the Catholic press. Through my high school years, my father (a convert) was struggling with the reforms of Vatican II. To every query or qualm my mother intoned “Father Greeley says ….” and then paraphrased the latest column. My wife’s father read the columns aloud to her mother as she cooked after church. The tableau repeated in millions of Catholic homes.

Andy became my sociological godfather. He taught me that the quantitative sociologist’s work is not done when the statistics are correct; the work is not done until we figure out what they mean and communicate that meaning to our readers. I am sure my other mentors gave me that message, too, but Andy persisted until I got it. Our collaboration evolved as I got up to speed.

Speed was one of Andy’s many assets. He complained in the 1980s because FedEx only delivered once a day. He imagined Dropbox in the early 1990s. He had a NORC programmer devise a directory on the mainframe. Only he and I knew the password; we left files there for one another. He had near total recall of the thousands of books he read. He could quote two year old books verbatim. Waiting for a city bus on a Lisbon streetcorner in 2000, he gave a five minute lecture about the surrounding neighborhood. My wife asked “Where did you learn all that?” Andy relied, “I had a really thorough tour from {he named a priest but I forget the name} when we visited here in 1968.” Imagine how much more sense the world makes when you can recall all you have learned about it.

Andy was indispensable in a fight. He could reason both sides and anticipate others’ arguments before they made them. But he was even better after the fight when it was time to shake hands and make up. He loved reconciliation. He famously made peace with Cardinal Bernardin and Eugene Kennedy. He also had dozens of other, less visible handshakes and kisses on cheeks (he avoided hugs though he accepted them from nieces and other privileged women).

He practiced the sacramental imagination with even more fervor than he wrote about it. The walls of his Chicago, Tucson, and Grand Beach homes were crammed with paintings, photos, plaques, and pennants celebrating the people, places, and prayers he loved. He fought the University of California Press to get Bernini’s “St. Theresa in Ecstasy” on the cover of Catholic Imagination. He railed against the 1990s vogue dessert “chocolate decadence,” declaring “Chocolate is not decadent. There will be chocolate and raspberries in heaven!” I trust he is enjoying some now.

-Mike Hout

University of California, Berkeley

New York University (starting July 2013)

One thought on “Remembering Andrew Greeley (by Mike Hout)

  1. Mike ,

    Thank you for the words about Fr. Greeley and about chocolate. A question: Are there any recent sociological studies using the analogical imagination perspective?