Father of Liturgy, Spirituality and the Arts


One year ago today, Father Larry Madden, probably one of the most beloved priests at our parish church, departed to meet his Maker, taking everyone by surprise. When he didn’t show up to serve at Mass, a search revealed him sitting peacefully in a chair in his room, with a book in his lap. It’s probably one of the top three best ways to depart this earth, but it was a shock for everyone else. At age 78, he was still energetic, youthful, and sharp as a tack.

Father Madden taught theology at Georgetown University and was priest and pastor at nearby Holy Trinity Church during an especially boisterous period of disagreement over [as yet unresolved] issues about the Catholic church’s teachings on women, homosexuality, and liturgical language. With the help of his sense of humor, sensitivity, and wisdom—and perhaps his Jesuit training—he managed to keep conversations going and minds open and moving along the road toward that hoped-for mutual understanding. His homilies (sometimes with the participation of hand-puppet Mr. Blue) were remarkable in conveying messages of multi-level significance that reached listeners of all ages. At Holy Trinity he married hundreds of couples, baptized countless babies, and in times of trouble and joy was both an attentive listener and a thoughtful counselor. He presided at my mother-in-law’s funeral (and, my husband said, “I was hoping he’d be around long enough to do mine.”).

In 1981, Father Madden was chosen to lead the new Georgetown Center for Liturgy, Spirituality and the Arts, established to explore the intersections of these realms. It was an ideal setting for his intense interest in the arts as both a path to and instrument of spirituality. A primary concern of his supervision of renovations of the parish’s aging facilities was in creating the environment to facilitate such connections. As a parishioner I can testify that his after-Mass Adult Ed lectures on symbol and ritual were passionate and profound (at Woodstock College he was co-creator of the documentary film “Ritual Makers”), yet his fascinating observations were inevitably interspersed with funny good old Irish storytelling.

And besides all this, he sailed (including a race from California to Hawaii), sang with enthusiasm, and played piano (once, so the story goes, with Tony Bennett). I can’t sing “Lights of the City” without hearing Larry Madden’s Irish tenor leading the congregation.

Now he’s playing piano for the angels. How we miss him.

Yahrzeit3Father Larry Madden


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