Robert F. Griffin, C.S.C.
Edited by J. Robert Baker and Dennis Wm. Moran
Fr. Robert Griffin, C.S.C. (1925–1999), was a beloved member of the Notre Dame community. With his cocker spaniel, Darby O’Gill, he was instantly recognizable on campus. He was well known for his priestly work counseling students as university chaplain for thirty years, his summer ministry to the homeless and parishioners in New York City, and his weekly columns in the student newspaper, The Observer, in which he invited the campus community to reflect with him on the challenges and joys of being Catholic in a time of enormous social and religious change.
This collection draws together essays that Griffin wrote for Notre Dame Magazine between 1972 and 1994. In them, he considers many of the challenges that beset church and campus, such as the laicization of priests, premarital sex, the erosion of institutional authority, intolerance toward gay people, and failure of fidelity to the teachings of the church. Griffin also ruminates on the distress that human beings experience in the ordinariness of their lives—the difficulty of communication in families, grief over the loss of family and friends, the agonies of isolation, and the need for forgiveness. Griffin’s shrewd insights still ring true for people today. His efforts to temper the winds of institutional rules, cultural change, and personal suffering reveal a mind keenly attuned to the need for understanding human limitations and to the presence of grace in times of change. Griffin quotes from the works of literary modernists, such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway, whose novels and short stories he loved; in these allusions and in his own reflections and experiences, Griffin bridges the spiritual and the secular and offers hope for reconciliation and comfort.
“Father Griffin’s essays were widely read, on campus and off, when he wrote them, and they will doubtless continue to appeal to a large audience of people interested in Notre Dame—students, parents of students, alumni, and particularly alumni who attended between 1972 and 1994. For all of their social and cultural commentary, all of their observation of local color on campus or in Times Square, all of their wisecracking, all of their literary references, and yes, all of their occasional sentimentality, these essays are finally autobiographical fragments strewn in the wake of a significant spiritual journey, which, in the Quaker phrase, ‘speaks to our condition.’”— Michael O. Garvey, University of Notre Dame
“In his lyrical and humble voice, Father Griffin reported from the world of the young and the lost. It was all fodder for his heart—faith, doubt, longing, Notre Dame’s mystique, and the church’s mystery. The shining essays of The Pocket-Size God are proof of Griffin’s literary gifts, and will evoke for readers a time when they contended with the big questions. Griffin was a treasure, and so is this beautifully written book.” — Kathryn Schwille, retired editor at The Charlotte Observer
“Griff was generous, wise, anxious, often difficult to appreciate, but in this symphony of stories we hear his voice—full of hope, suspicious of power, free of double-talk. If you’d listen, he’d tell you the truth as he saw it. You can hear his kindness to students, friends, and the street people of New York, where he served as a parish priest during the summer. As a writer, he could sum up a tangled situation with insights so sharp you might smile, or wince. That kind of grace is a gift.” — Carole Walton, radio host, “An Hour of Stories,” WSND-FM
“These essays by Fr. Griffin are a wonderful example of incarnational theology. God’s locus of activity is found in human experience, and Fr. Griffin’s reflections on God’s actions and love present in the everydayness of life, whether on the campus of Notre Dame or among the poor and marginal in New York City, permeate every page. We are reminded that God loves each of us as we are and that God desires we grow to love each other with that same grace and compassion.” — Barbara Budde, retired diocesan director of social concerns for the Diocese of Austin
“‘Waiting for the Lord has been the story of my life,’ [Fr. Griffin] said, opening the final essay he wrote for this magazine . . . five years before his death in 1999 at age 74. In those many preceding essays and throughout a lifetime grappling with the comings and goings of God, the beloved priest shared his search with his many readers . . ., the lonesome and disenfranchised (as a wounded pastor who knew too well their dark nights), and generations of students faithfully and hungrily trying to reconcile the tenets of belief as they met the realities of life head on.” — Notre Dame Magazine
“The pieces take up his vocation at Notre Dame, his pastoral work at parishes in New York City, the problems endured by his family and friends, his attempts to parent children not his own and the Church’s effort to evolve at the reforms of Vatican II and the upheavals in American life in the late 20th century. His also discusses larger social issues that he struggled with, including sexuality, declining attendance at Mass, poverty, and intolerance.” — NDWorks
“This is a wonderful collection of essays by the loved and respected Notre Dame Chaplain Fr. Robert Griffin (1925-1999). . . . Griffin is both a wonderful stylist and a brave writer. He addresses painful and complex topics—Catholic anti-Semitism, his brother’s mental illness, the suicide of a gay student—without succumbing to sentimentality. . . . This book extends the ministry of his priesthood and is recommended for all libraries.” — Catholic Library World