John Kavanaugh, R.I.P.

America mourns the passing of our beloved colleague and friend, John Kavanaugh, S.J., who died on November 5  following a long illness. Fr. Kavanaugh was a distinguished scholar, prolific author and dedicated Jesuit priest. He was a contributor to our pages for more than forty years and had been a regular America columnist since 1993. America’s readers treasured his insightful analysis, his gentle wisdom and his Irish wit. He will be greatly missed. R.I.P.

Here are some of our favorite columns by Father Kavanaugh. We invite you to share your own below.


"Relish the Banquet," December 31, 2010

"Dear Senator McCain," September 22, 2008

"Dear Senator Obama," August 18, 2008

"A Personalist Lent," February 19, 2007

"Beyond Morality," April 17, 2006

"The Ocean of Life," January 31, 2005

"Last Words," January 21, 2002

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5 years 2 months ago
A great loss...he was the writer who "turned me on" to "America" in the 90's with his weekly Word reflections.  I hope that the editorial staff can cull the archives and list some more of his columns.  
5 years 2 months ago
Father Kavanaugh embodied all the best qualities of the Society of Jesus.  He had a tremendous influence on my life and many other students at Saint Louis University who had the privilege of knowing him and learning from him.  He will be dearly missed.  Rest in peace John Kavanaugh. 
5 years 2 months ago
Thank you for bringing us the wisdom of John Kavanaugh, S.J. all these years.  May his work and words, his timeless and relevant message, live on in the pages of America, as his is a message that deserves repeating. His life, labors and example are defined by an intellect, grace, compassion and conviction born of humble faithfulness. 

It is difficult to choose a word to describe the events that pertain to the final leg of John's earthly journey. It seems to be such an error, such a blindness, to think about death.  No indeed, his passing from this world and his joyful entrance to Heaven has everything to do with he is not dead to us. His wisdom, example and deep faith live on in the students he taught so well, those who embraced the words and wisdom he wrote, and those who he knew and loved. He was, even in suffering, intensely alive, aware and engaged. His final argument for the dignity of the human person was the way in which he faced and conquered his own suffering. The faith and clarity he had that he was in the hands of God-it was his parting gift to us.

We will continue to see his gentle smile when we look at the world as he saw it.
We will continue to hear his song when we listen to the whisper of God that he heard.
We will continue to feel the love that he exuded when we open ourselves to the force of God's love that he felt with such a profound certainty.

Thanks be to Fr. John Kavanaugh and thank you to all his Jesuit brothers. As a parent raising four children is this ever-changing, often confusing world, I have found no better argument for the existence of God and his grace than in the wisdom and example of the Society of Jesus.  AMDG
5 years 2 months ago
So what friend of Fr. Kavanaugh will gather his many columns into an anthology? Perhaps one has already been done and I am unaware. His brief essays were always so strong that it would be good to have a volume to refer to and read now and again.
5 years 2 months ago
Last spring I had a very special opportunity to meet Father Kavanaugh and have a wonderful conversation with him.  His writing and his work and his personality have inspired me and strengthened me.  Like the other posts here, I agree there was something very special about him.  Rest in Peace, John Kavanaugh, and pray for me and for all our government leaders.
5 years 2 months ago
A great loss to all of us who so enjoyed Fr. Kavanaugh's columns. May his noble soul rest in the peace which he so richly deserved.
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 2 months ago
I value my hour's meeting once with Fr Kavanaugh as well as the columns he wrote at America and his excellent book, Who Counts as Persons?  A keen, open, and balanced mind, an open heart, a no-nonsense approach to issues of life and love, and a genuine friend of Jesus, he will be missed and not easily replaced. But it was time for him to move on to his Friend. I hope his friends, readers and admirers follow his example and do likewise.
5 years 2 months ago

Would that you had included his April 9, 2007 article from America Magazine - Ethics Notebook: "After Life 'I believe in...the resurrection of the body.'" for John F. Kavanaugh's thoughts "very close to the promise of Easter."


5 years 2 months ago
As one who was blessed by John's insight and wisdom, and as one whose adult faith development was so enriched by John's teachings, I wholeheartedly agree with Peggy McAuliffe Hannick that hopefully someone will produce an anthology of his writing. 

I never ceased to be amazed by the depth of his thinking and his words always delivered eloquently, yet simply.  He could cut to the core of truth in every issue he pondered.

I will greatly miss him as a friend, teacher, and spiritual advisor. Having left St. Louis, now 14 yrs. ago, I eagerly awaited his views presented in America.  I deeply mourn his passing even as I embrace my faith in the resurrection.  
5 years 2 months ago
Father Kavananaugh's columns were thoughtful, well-reasoned spiritual and moral guides. I clipped and saved several over the years and shared them with my colleagues in the Journey to Justice Ministry in our parish. May he rest in peace in the Light of God's face, as one Eucharistic Prayer so beautifully puts it.
Elizabeth Hillmann
5 years 2 months ago
Many years ago Fr. Kavanaugh wrote a column in which he posed a question about the advisability of bringing events, as they were happening,  before the public in kinetic images. Would the disturbing ones, for example, be too much to bombard people with? (My words. I can't quote his.) I often recalled that essay and found it a very appropriate question. Because it was possible, he pointed out, was it necessarily a good thing?
john fitzmorris
5 years 1 month ago
I have been out of the loop becaues of cataract surgery and missed the e-mail announcing Fr. Kavanaugh's death. Many years ago during an education seminar I had the privilege to sit-in on session that he moderated. What a powerful moment to hear him name the Gospel of Consumerism as a counter-gospel. I sat awestruck, literally feeling my entire life change under me. I have not been the same since. America Magazine, the Jesuits and America have lost a pwerful witness to the Gospel
Ann Naffziger
5 years 1 month ago
I had Fr. Kavanaugh as a professor and mentor for several years at St. Louis University. Seventeen years out of college now, I still consider him as one of the two most profound influences on my spiritual, theological, and philosophical life. Although he would probably humbly deny such titles, I consider him a modern day prophet and saint. I was sad to learn of his death, but I clearly remember hearing him share some of his beautiful images of heaven. I have no doubt that he is rejoicing in eternal life now.
Jenny De Castro
4 years 6 months ago
RIP John Kavanaugh. we will miss you... He maybe gone but works, teachings, memories and works will be remembered and stays forever.


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