James Kavanaugh
Memorial website in the memory of your loved one
His legacy
In Celebration of You  

In Celebration of You!

I have tried to imagine my world without you:
Soaring geese in formation mountain peaks
hidden in snow
The splendor of fall along a country road
The whirr of a ring-necked pheasant at midday
The bleating of a horned owl at midnight
And know that none of it would be the same
Without you.
But most of all
I could never replace your smile your eyes
Your gentleness and giving your loyalty and
The memories we’ve filed the secrets we’ve shared.
The love that is forever there despite time or
So today I celebrate your very existence
Thank all of life for your life
Express my deepest gratitude that
Of the millions of people and possibilities
Our lives were destined to be intermingled.
And as I celebrate your being
I want you to know clearly and forever
That my world would never be the same.
Without you.

Laughing Down Lonely Canyons 1984

James Kavanaugh dies at 81  
Former Catholic priest wrote book calling for church reform. He left the priesthood after publishing 'A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church' a national bestseller.
By Dennis McLellan

January 9, 2010 

James Kavanaugh, a former Catholic priest who came to fame in 1967 with his controversial bestseller calling for reform in the church and later wrote bestselling books of poetry and other works has died. He was 81.

Kavanaugh who underwent surgery for an aortic aneurysm in Juli died Dec. 29 in a hospice in Kalamazoo Mich. said his wife Cathy.

Ordained in 1954, Kavanaugh served as a parish priest in Lansing and Flint Michigan and earned a doctorate at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. before the publication of "A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church" in 1967.

The book - which he called for Church reforms on issues such as birth control, divorce, premarital sex, and celibacy for priests - quickly became a national bestseller.

A New York Times reviewer called it "a personal cry of anguish that goes to the heart of the troubles plaguing the Catholic Church."

"I was naive enough to think that 'Modern Priest' would turn things around in the Church and that I could still stay in the priesthood" Kavanaugh told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1984. "I had no idea the book would have the impact it did."

Look magazine purchased the serial rights and Kavanaugh made the rounds of talk shows including Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show." He also was in great demand to speak on college campuses around the country.

The book followed up an article Kavanaugh had written for the Saturday Evening Post's "Speaking Out" page. Written under the pseudonym Father Stephen Nash it was titled "I am a Priest and I Want to Marry."

The article reportedly generated "Speaking Out's" heaviest reader response and the magazine forwarded the missives to Kavanaugh.

"He got so many thousands of letters it filled up half my garage" recalled his brother Dr. Philip Kavanaugh.

The vast majority of the letters were positive he said "the most notable" being one from "Dear Abby" advice columnist Abigail Van Buren.

"She wrote a brief letter saying 'I've received hundreds of thousands of letters but this is the first fan letter I've ever written', " he said.

For both the clergy and the laity Philip Kavanaugh said "Jim was a spiritual permission-giver to question authority and to trust their own instincts and beliefs. It had been suppressed previously in the church."

Kavanaugh left the priesthood several months after his book's publication.

"He resigned formally on the stage at Notre Dame University" where he was delivering a speech to a large audience made up mostly of priests and nuns said Philip Kavanaugh. At one point "he ripped off his collar threw it on the ground stamped on it and said 'I will never wear this again!' "

In a 1985 interview with The LA Times, James Kavanaugh explained that midway through his talk at Notre Dame "I got carried away. . . . The Church had done a lot of damage to people's personal lives and I felt compelled to say so."

In the early '70s Kavanaugh published his first book of poetry the bestselling "There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves."

"I am one of the searchers" he wrote in the prologue. "There are I believe millions of us. We are not unhappy but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life hoping to uncover its ultimate secret."

Kavanaugh's spiritual journey began in Kalamazoo Mich. where he was born Sept. 17 1928.

The fourth of seven sons of an Irish Catholic family he entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Grand Rapids at age 15. (His brother Robert also became a priest and they both left the priesthood within a month of each other).

Kavanaugh published more than two dozen books including works of poetry nonfiction and allegories ("Celebrate the Sun: A Love Story" and "A Village Called Harmony -- A Fable") and two novels ("A Coward for Them All" and "The Celibates").

Kavanaugh who suffered bouts of depression over the years was not a big fan of self-help books.

"I burn all self-help books or tapes in which hyped heroes tell me how easy it is to put one's life together" he wrote in the newsletter of the James Kavanaugh Institute which was launched in the early '80s to promote his inspirational book "Search: A Guide for Those Who Dare to Ask of Life Everything Good and Beautiful" and associated workshops.

"I need those who are still wading through pain who must struggle at times just to hang on," he wrote. "I don't believe in quick fixes and I'm outraged when anyone promises one."

In addition to his wife and brother Philip the twice-divorced Kavanaugh is survived by a stepdaughter Katherine Markel; a stepson from a previous marriage Chris Grove; and brothers Dr. Thomas Kavanaugh and Dr. Daniel Kavanaugh.

A virtual memorial service is online at www.james-kavanaugh.memory-of.com. You are welcomed to visit the site and add your tribute.

Copyright © 2010 The Los Angeles Times

Poet, ex-priest James Kavanaugh dies a searcher  

Obituary »

Poet ex-priest James Kavanaugh spent life searching helping others

By Chris Killian | Special to the Kalamazoo...
Januari 04 2010 7:30AM
OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP — It might have seemed fitting to those who knew him that on Sunday the day the church he once served in as a priest observed the Feast of the Epiphany James Kavanaugh’s family and friends celebrated his lifelong passion for searching.

The Epiphany when the Catholic Church observes the Three Wisemen’s search for the Christ child and his incarnation to the world Kavanaugh — whose writings helped millions who were searching for their own happiness — was remembered at an Irish wake.

James Kavanaugh
An Irishman through and through the wake was true to its traditional form. Pub ballads rang throughout Life Story Funeral Home Betzler in Oshtemo Township and loved ones sipped on red wine and bottles of Guinness stout.

There was nearly perpetual laughter and smiles as those who called him a friend brother wife and father recollected his infectious spirit and one-of-a-kind personality.

“He was always the center of something always drawing people to him” said Susan Kavanaugh a sister-in-law. “And as much as he was always searching he helped people search themselves for a happy God a loving God not a God that was mean and vengeful.”

Kavanaugh died Tuesday of complications from surgery he underwent in 2008. He was 81.

One of seven sons Kavanaugh was born in Kalamazoo in 1928. He left for Grand Rapids at age 14 to attend seminary. After his ordination in 1954 he spent time as a priest in Lansing and Flint where he served for nine years.

While in Flint his writing — which both enlightened some and enraged others — began.
Fifteen of Kavanaugh’s books were displayed in the funeral home including “A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church” the book that was born out of an article he wrote in 1967 for the Saturday Evening Post entitled “I am a Priest and I Want to Marry” which he wrote while still a priest in Flint.

The book in which Kavanaugh explained his frustrations with the Catholic Church’s inflexibility on certain issues and its hierarchical power structure catapulted him to fame.

“Priest” sold millions of copies and spent eight months on the New York Times’ Bestseller list including a time at the No. 1 spot.

Kavanaugh who is affectionately known as “Jamie” “started a revolution in the church” said Phil Kavanaugh one of his brothers. “He gave people permission to follow their own course.”
“People would write to him and say: ‘You saved my life’” said his wife Cathy Kavanaugh who met him after answering an ad he put in the Kalamazoo Gazette in the late 1990s for a personal assistant. “Once you met him you never forgot him. He loved his recognition.”

After leaving the priesthood Kavanaugh found his way to California where he dated Goldie Hawn and Suzanne Somers and cavorted with other celebrities including a stint where he wrote song lyrics for Burt Bacharate Phil Kavanaugh said. He appeared on several talk shows including “The Tonight Show.”

James Kavanaugh as a young priest
In California Kavanaugh’s writing career took off. He published several novels and 12 books of poetry including 1971’s “There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves” which has sold over a million copies.

It was Kavanaugh’s first book of poetry.

In it he wrote: “I am one of the searchers…We searchers are ambitious only for life itself for everything it can provide…we want to love and be loved to live in a relationship that will not prevent our search nor lock us in prison walls.”

CNN’s Larry King once said that Kavanaugh was “America’s best poet” and inspirational speaker and author Wayne Dyer called him “America’s Poet Laureate” according to Kavanaugh’s Web site www.jkavanaugh.com.

Kavanaugh traveled the country and world extensively for pleasure to teach and to read his poetry.

Memories from those he touched appear on his www.lifestorynet.com remembrance page.

“I met Jamie in the mid 70’s in San Francisco California and spent my 18th birthday celebrating with him at a favorite Italian restaurant. When the maitre’d told him he needed a tie to come in Jamie found a pair of scissors in the car went back and cut off the guy's tie. He knew the owners and we waltzed in laughing” reads one.

Another says: “Just recalling the first time I heard one of Jim’s poems. It was part of the script of a ‘Matlock’ episode on TV starring Andy Griffith. The lovely woman who played the daughter read it out loud … and I fell in love with the author’s soul. What a treasure I had found in a most unlikely place! Dr. Kavanaugh’s writings had the ability to free many pieces of my imprisoned heart and I am forever grateful.”

In addition to his prolific writing Kavanaugh was a man of incredible intellect Cathy and many others said. He knew seven languages had an IQ of 180 and earned three doctorate degrees. He learned to speak fluent German in one month.

“I want Kalamazoo to be proud of him” said Katherine Markel Kavanaugh’s stepdaughter. “He tried to save the world the best way he knew how. He saw an injustice and tried to make it right.”

James Kavanaugh, former priest and author of best-  

Breaking News Obituary » 

By Aaron Dome | Special to the Kalamazoo Ga...
December 31 2009 11:50PM

KALAMAZOO — James Kavanaugh whose best-selling critique of the Catholic church and subsequent books of poetry touched the lives of millions died Dec. 29. He was 81.

The cause of death was complications from surgery Kavanaugh underwent earlier last year said Katherine Markel his stepdaughter.

Kavanaugh attended school in Kalamazoo and at the age of 14 went to seminary in Grand Rapids. After serving as a priest in Flint he rose to fame after he wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post in 1967 entitled “I am a Priest and I Want to Marry.”

The article written under a pseudonym drew criticism and accolades. Kavanaugh later wrote a best-selling book under his own name “A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church.” The book sold millions and landed the No. 1 position on the New York Times best-seller list.

Before his literary success Kavanaugh was an ordained priest and actively ministered for nine years in Flint. During his years in Flint Kavanaugh found a benefactor to sponsor him on an extended trip to further his studies in Germany where his liberal ideas rattled his teacher Joseph Ratzinger who is now Pope Benedict XVI Markel said.

His personal experience counseling couples along with frustration with the Catholic church’s inflexibility on issues such as birth control and divorce led to Kavanaugh’s drafting his first article.

In the book Kavanaugh gives first-hand accounts of counseling couples who have multiple children and cannot afford any more. He wrote in the book that he felt extreme frustration and confusion about being forced to give advice that was in accordance with the church but that he felt was not in people’s best interest.

“He was brave for doing that” said JoAnn Betz of Kalamazoo who read Kavanaugh’s books and once met him at a book signing at Gilmore’s department store in downtown Kalamazoo. “Clearly with his background he was raised to be a priest. He was brave to break out of that.”

Kavanaugh wrote the book after departing Michigan for stays in California and Mexico. He spent many years living in California among other places. After publishing “Priest” Kavanaugh rejected traditional book offers from publishers choosing to write poetry instead.

Turned down by many publishing houses Kavanaugh pressed on and his initial book of poetry “There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves” ended up selling more than 1 million copies.

Kavanaugh spent the ensuing years writing poetry and reading his works. A constant nomad Kavanaugh traveled around the country and the world.

Along with more than a dozen volumes of poetry Kavanaugh published two novels: “A Coward for Them All” and “The Celibates” which drew from his experiences in the priesthood.

Shortly before the death of his mother Kavanaugh moved to Chicago in 1992 and shortly thereafter to Kalamazoo to be near his family. In Kalamazoo Kavanaugh met his future wife Cathy Markel.

Kavanaugh is survived by his wife his step-daughter Katherine Markel and three brothers: Philip Kavanaugh Thomas (Susan) Kavanaugh and Daniel (Bonnie) Kavanaugh; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by 3 brothers: Frank Kavanaugh John Kavanaugh and the Rev. Robert Kavanaugh.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Life Story Funeral Betzler 6080 Stadium Drive. A reception will follow.

Books by James Kavanaugh  

Books by James Kavanaugh

"There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves"- The poetry of this work has made it a classic that will last forever. 

"A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church"-Originally printed in 1967 this work led to many reforms in the Catholic Church. Dr. Carl Rodgers said "It is one of the most moving human documents I have ever read! In an earlier day the author would have been burned at the stake."

"Will You Be My Friend?"-James Kavanaugh writes "Friendship is freedom is flowing is rare...It trusts understands grows explores...It does not exhaust or cling expect or demand. It is- and that is enough"

"Laughing Down Lonely Canyons"- Every well balanced person had to have spent some time walking through their own lonely canyon. This book is for those there now or who can still remember their walk yet refuse to abandon their dreams.

"From Loneliness To Love"-In James Kavanaugh's own words "To move from loneliness to love means to take a risk to create the kind of personal environment & support we need."

"Search: A Guide For Those Who Dare Ask Of Life Everything That Is Good And Beautiful"-James Kavanaugh provides 12 proven principles to move from self doubt to self love. This is a great book for those traveling down the path that tend to feel alone from time to time.

"A Lifetime Isn't Long Enough To Love You"-This a book to share with someone you love. No one conveys the passion of true soul love the way James Kavanaugh does. From this book "So much of life is spent trying to prove something...Meibe if I loved you more I wouldn't have to prove anything!"

"The Crooked Angel"-James Kavanaugh's only children's story tells of two angels "with crooked little wings" who escape from isolation and sadness through friendship and laughter.

Additional Books by James Kavanaugh-

  Walk Easy on the Earth
A Village Called Harmony-A Fable
Celebrate The Sun: A Love Story
Tears and Laughter Of A Man's Soul
Quiet Water
Mystic Fire
America I Love You But Not Like I Used To
And On The Sixth Day God Made Man...Honest!


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