Patrick T. Reardon, longtime Chicago writer, out with a new book of poems on faith, family and the death of his brother, raised Catholic in Austin, believes not running “away from the hard stuff” is a “kind of prayer.”
“Lived my whole life in Chicago. Grew up on the West Side,” now living on the North Side in Edgewater.
“I’ve been a writer actually since I got my first byline at the age of, like, 11.”
Went to Catholic school, and “the nuns had us all do these essays” for Father’s Day. “And then, suddenly, they tell me they put mine in for this contest, and I got in the local newspaper.”
Reardon, 67, was the oldest of 14 kids.
“My father wasn’t, like, John Glenn,” the astronaut, “and he wasn’t a big powerful mover or shaker, but he took care” of us.
“Austin at that time was a real blue-collar, Irish neighborhood,” with a lot of cops and other city workers.
“The priests were the intellectuals. . . . I liked church, I liked the gold and the paint and the silver and the smoke and the incense and the flames and all that. And also I realized that the priest was, like, a powerful guy in the neighborhood. He was like the alderman or the committeeman.”
Went to the seminary with thoughts of becoming a priest.
“Part of it was the status thing . . . Part of it was the art thing — to be in church, where it’s just very beautiful . . . And part of it was just a general sense of wanting to do the right thing and to help people.
“I left four years before ordination . . . It was a celibacy thing” — he wanted to get married some day.
Believes that, “absolutely, women, gay people” and married men should be allowed to become priests.
“I really respect women and gay people and anyone else who’s on the margins who stays in the church because they really understand what the church is about . . . You’re there for service.”
Has written books including “Love Never Fails — Spiritual Reflections for Dads of All Ages,” “Woven Lives — One hundred years in the story of the St. Gertrude faith family” and, most recently, “Requiem for David“ (Silver Birch Press, $14), which includes poems he wrote after his brother David’s 2015 suicide.
“We were brothers and never figured out what that meant,” reads part of one poem.
“We are only boys still
though you are ashes in an urn
and I carry years like demons and archangels on my shoulders.
Remember the smell of the incense at Mass?
You are incense now filling my church
with strange aromas.”
David “had a troubled life, and part of my book is looking at why his life was troubled” and wrestling with their upbringing and why they took separate paths and how their now-deceased parents played into all of this.
Reardon’s brother became “adamantly anti-religious and talked about how stupid it was . . . ‘If you couldn’t prove it, it didn’t exist.’ It wasn’t the sort of thing where he wanted to hear my side.”
Reardon remains a churchgoing Catholic.
Even though “faith is rooted in doubt,” it “somehow helped me on my road, and his refusal to believe, not just religious faith but lots of other kinds of faith, was a reason . . . he went down his road, I think.”
The process of therapy and writing poems “has made me even more aware that in order . . . to fully embrace the richness of life, you have to be willing to embrace the pain of life as well as the joys . . . You can’t really get to . . . high joy without knowing deep and bad pain.”
“Writing the poems are a prayer . . . Everything you do in life” in which you’re “trying to be as real and present as you can is a kind of a prayer.”
Like visiting a friend with cancer, rather than just reciting something in your head.
“To not run away from the hard stuff . . . that, to me, is much better as a prayer than saying some formulaic thing in the pews.”
David’s death in some ways made Reardon’s faith deeper because, he says, “I looked deeper at all these questions,” though there are “some angry things” in the book in which he asks God “why didn’t you take care of him when he was alive.”
“I’m not waiting for voices” from the other world.
David “had lots of demons. I’ve had lots of archangels.”
Listen to previous “Face to Faith” podcasts:
- Paylocity founder Steve Sarowitz: Baha’i ‘made sense to me right away,’ July 16, 2017
- Candidate Chris Kennedy: ‘I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work,’ July 9, 2017
- Jail warden Nneka Jones Tapia: ‘I think God is all around us,’ July 2, 2017
- Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera: ‘Let it be God’s will if we lose or win,’ June 25, 2017
- The Mekons’ Sally Timms: ‘Not the kind of atheist who’s down on religion,’ June 18, 2017
- J.B. Pritzker: At times, ‘your faith has to overcome maybe logic,’ June 11, 2017
- Daoud Casewit, American Islamic College president: ‘We’re as American as we are Islamic,’ June 4, 2017
- Public Defender Amy Campanelli: My clients ‘are not evil people,’ May 28, 2017
- James Lovell: ‘We go to heaven when we’re born,’ May 21, 2017
- Michael Magnafichi, one-time ‘rising star’ in Chicago mob: ‘I do say prayers,’ May 14, 2017
- Ald. Ameya Pawar: ‘There’s always the opportunity for redemption,’ May 7, 2017
- Sir the Baptist: ‘I want to be the first hip-hop chaplain,’ April 30, 2017
- Singer Shemekia Copeland: ‘Hell, yeah’ God loves the blues, April 23, 2017