Wednesday, September 22, 2015, Father John J. McNeill went to meet his friend and guide Jesus. When I heard the news I thought it was just what Father John would have wanted—to make his transition the day that Pope Francis was in the country voicing his support for the LGBT community around the world. Good going John!
Father John was silenced, sanctioned, and finally asked to leave the Jesuit Order by one of the former Popes because of his support for the LGBT community and for living a life of truth and compassion as a gay man with a wonderful supportive and loving partner Charles Chiarelli.
Father John has written many books and counseled many people in and out of the LGBT community. He was my mentor and friend for many years as I worked as an associate pastor at Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and as a hospice chaplain. As one of the founders of an interfaith clergy group for those serving congregations in the Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties I had the pleasure of picking Father John up for our meetings and events when he needed a ride.
To be with him and hear him talk was an amazing thing. It did not matter what topic he was speaking about or even if it was just a causal conversation about life–I was blessed simply by being in his presence. If you have not had the opportunity to read any of his books I recommend them highly. His knowledge of scripture and Christianity was amazing. Two of my favorite books by Father John are Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey and Sex as God Intended.
In memory of Father John I would like to leave you with this poem by Kuan Hsiu, Zen Buddhist monk and master poet who lived from 832-912.
This is for you dear friend…
So, say my way differs from yours,
We both have old men’s hair and beards.
They say words can kill faith.
I like to arrange spring blossoms in a rough old