Timothy Murphy’s Return to the Faith

TimothyMurphyTimothy Murphy left the the Catholic Church his junior year of college, in part because he saw the faith as incompatible with is homosexuality, and only began his journey back many years later after receiving a fateful call from an old friend just as he had loaded his double-barreled shotgun and was preparing to kill himself. Murphy’s beautiful poetry has appeared often in our pages, so we were delighted to read a profile of the man that recently appeared in Inforum.com, a Fargo news outlet:

Leaving the church his junior year of college wasn’t difficult, he said. As a homosexual, he’d felt alienated for some time.

His entire family – mother, father and siblings – drifted away, as well.

At 22, Murphy met his longtime literary partner, Alan Sullivan, then 24, and the two joined forces as poet and editor/translator.

Together, they pursued everything from Tibetan meditation and Zen Buddhism to Daoism and Confucianism.

“We were spiritual seekers, but we never looked to the Catholic Church because of their position on gays.”

After his conversion, Murphy became what he calls “a nut-job, evangelistic Catholic revert.”

It was a spiritual change his partner would later share, for similar reasons.

[. . .]

One day, he read an email from the same friend who’d pulled him from the brink – a former atheist who’d once convinced Murphy to join him but now was trying to convert him back to Christianity.

“I was responding in my usual defensive fashion when – bam! – I was blown out of my chair.

“And I heard this huge voice saying, ‘My son, my son, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ” Murphy said, adding with a laugh, “Which proves that the only time God spoke to me out loud, he used the King James English.”

Murphy rushed to his keyboard, “typing as though by dictation” the quatrain that became part of his still-unpublished work, “Requited.”

The Lord of Hosts exists. I’ve heard his mighty angels sing.

When I toppled from his ramparts I heard their anthems ring.

I heard their wings beat round me in the centuries I fell,

and God means for me to sing my way from hell.

Two days later, he walked into Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church in south Fargo and was received by a young pastor, the Rev. Robert Pecotte.

“He took one look at me and gave me the sacrament for the sick,” Murphy said. “I was shaking like a leaf from detoxing.”

After three weeks of confessing sins and receiving forgiveness, Murphy was admitted to full communion with the Catholic Church. He attended daily Mass for the next six years, having missed the previous 35.

His conversion is reflected in his double-volume book, “Mortal Stakes and Faint Thunder,” which includes as its first poem a suicide letter but ends on a high, hopeful note.

Read the rest about his amazing spiritual journey here. Murphy is an important voice among formal poets writing today, and we’ve been delighted to publish many of his poems (such as “Cathedral of the Prarie,” which unfortunately is the only one that we have available online). Knowing his moving life story will just make reading his work all the sweeter.