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Boston College Prof. Harvey Egan, Jesuit Priest and "Master of the Spiritual Masters," Retires

Boston College Professor of Systematic and Mystical Theology Rev. Harvey D. Egan, SJ, who marked his 50th year in the Society of Jesus last year, is retiring after 36 years at BC.

Rev. Harvey Egan, S.J. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

He recently authored Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition, drawing upon his decades of reading and teaching the Christian mystics. Mystics, explains Fr. Egan, “are called in a special way to listen to God’s whispers, to amplify not only what it means to be baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and to having the Trinity living in them—but also what is deepest in the human spirit. They are God’s fools, troubadours—-the great explorers, thinkers, artists and poets of the interior life whose ‘learned ignorance’ articulates the art of loving God, neighbor, self, the Church, and the world.”

The book has been praised by fellow Jesuit and best-selling author James Martin, SJ, who wrote, “This is one of the finest books I have ever read on Christian mysticism. Father Egan, a master of the spiritual masters, brings to bear a lifetime of experience and erudition to a topic that can seem far removed from our daily lives, but is in fact at its heart: the way we relate to God.”

Fr. Egan's book examines figures such as Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Walter Hilton, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Edith Stein, Karl Rahner, Bernard Lonergan, Thomas Merton and Mother Teresa, among many others. “One does not have to ‘turn East’ to find extraordinary examples of meditation and contemplation,” says Fr. Egan.

Educated as an engineer, Fr. Egan first became interested in mystics in 1959 when he read Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross. His interest deepened upon entering the Jesuits, where he was exposed to what he calls “the profound spirituality and mysticism” of St. Ignatius. “I read as many of the Christian mystics as I could during my studies and eventually went to Germany to write a dissertation on St. Ignatius under the direction of Karl Rahner, S.J.,” he added.

Though his teaching career has been dedicated to the mystics, Fr. Egan is quick to note that love—not mysticism—is the essence of Christian perfection.

Fr. Egan, an amateur photographer whose images of campus have appeared on various BC websites, plans to stay active in retirement. He is involved with students on thesis work and is contemplating writing another book and some articles.

I have good memories of the quality of my undergraduate and graduate students. A special gift to Jesuits (and to their universities) is the opportunity not only to teach students, but also to be of priestly service to them: their marriages, baptisms, anointing of the sick, and the like --to be involved not only in their academic life but also in their spiritual-liturgical lives,” he said.

(May 2011)

Listen to an interview with Fr. Egan courtesy of the Boston College Libraries.

--Kathleen Sullivan, Office of News & Public Affairs,