A memoir, an autobiography, a therapeutic experience or a theological treatise? The description of “Get Off the Cross, Someone Else Needs The Wood” does not matter to its author, Father Ken Deasy, who will be signing and discussing the book during the Nov. 13 “Meet the Author’s Day” at Rancho Palos Verdes’ Mary & Joseph Retreat Center.
The message he wants to convey in his self-published (2004) volume --- especially to baby-boomers like him --- is that “the truth will set you free, but it’s hard, and that faith is different than religion."Father Deasy is one of several local Catholic authors to be featured at the event. Others include Religious Sister of Charity Edith Prendergast (“Grace Abounds”), Father Jim Clarke (“Creating Rituals”), Herb Kaighan (“12 Steps to a Spiritual Awakening”) and Deacons Eric Stolz and Vince Tomkovicz (“Ascend”).
“Get Off the Cross,” in Father Deasy’s words, is a blunt narrative of the life of a white kid born to a submissive mother and a father whose alcoholism took him to the tomb. He takes the reader back and forth on a therapeutic/theological journey starting when he was six years old as he observed and feared his father’s double personality: abusive at home and devout and committed in Church.
Throughout the journey, the reader is able to learn bits and pieces of the Catholic Church seen through the eyes of an unconventional diocesan priest who admits that, even as a Catholic seminarian and in his early years in the priesthood, he was not always sure that what he had to offer “was worthwhile because I wasn’t about Church business,” although in his early adulthood he learned to master marketing and fundraising skills.
Parishioners at inner-city St. Agatha Church, where Father Deasy served 10 years as pastor, are witnesses of these “gifts.”“One of the best priests we have ever had, excelente, excelente,” said Juan Rincon, a parishioner for 30 years. The outgoing six-foot-tall priest “brought life in abundance” to the parish, Rincon said, in a time when its demographics were changing to house mostly low-income immigrant Latino families.
“We will make this house a home,” was the church’s theme.When he became a pastor at the inner-city church in the mid-1990s after working as an associate pastor in more affluent areas, Father Deasy started realizing that many people had faith, yet not religion.“For us,” he noted, “we have religion, but I’m not sure if we know what faith is. People may know about sacraments, but how does that make me a sacrament? How does that make me, an inner-person, more loving?”
Ordained in 1987 after a few years with the Capuchin Franciscans, Father Deasy said he has learned throughout the years that Catholicism is being able to still have a sense of wonder --- “to be able to say, ‘That is a lamb of God, and that other person is a lamb of God!’”“But if you don’t see it in yourself, how are you going to see it in others?” he questioned. “Instead we’re told, ‘look at the priest, look at the Pope, and look at the buildings.’“I know the food chain,” he smiled, “but I’m part of the chain.”Comparing the priesthood to marriage, Father Deasy said Catholic faith is learning to forgive, and not believing “it’s all about you,” but instead believing it’s about “giving, not getting and not stopping at the cross, but moving on looking for resurrection.”
His answer to the question why he wrote the book: “I can’t ignore the fact that it has been through my experiences with Her [Roman Catholic Church], i.e. my worshipping, serving and celebrating with the mere people of God and Her sacraments, that I have grown to feel beloved.