The 'Boston 58'

A lesson in being 'not nasty'

On the second Wednesday of Lent at Saint Augustine Church in Andover, Massachusetts, Father Alfred Ellis offered up a special intention at the early morning Mass. "Let us pray for those who have strayed from the faith, that they may be reconciled with the church and with God," he asked. Concern about people’s faith is, of course, what you’d expect from a priest. In those early days of Lent, Ellis gently reminded us of the ways of worshiping reverently, for example, the proper positioning of hands when receiving the Eucharist and the importance of offering the sign of peace only to people nearby. (No handshaking in the aisles or waiving to friends in back pews allowed.)

I relate this not to show how extraordinary Ellis is, although he is, but to show how ordinary he is, as pastor and preacher. Shy and soft-spoken, he preaches about love and forgiveness, respect for life, and the merits of a life lived in pursuit of holiness. I could say the same about the other Augustinian friars in our town, north of Boston, and many others who wear the collar. Yet this is no ordinary time for Catholicism in America. Last December, in what we parishioners know to have been a spiritual struggle for him, Ellis, along with fifty-seven other priests in the Boston archdiocese, signed a letter calling on Cardinal Bernard Law to resign.

According to some, signing that letter means that Ellis is unfaithful and...

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About the Author

William Bole is a journalist and co-author, with Bob Abernethy, of The Life of Meaning: Reflections on Faith, Doubt, and Repairing the World.