I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still running.
“What are you looking at, Jack?”
“I’m trying to understand the spiritual responsiveness of the audience to the playlist we put together.”
It wasn’t what I was expecting, but as I pondered his words, they made sense. We were standing together at a U2 concert, on the floor, taking everything in. The majesty of the music, the greatness of the crowd, the feel in the air of anticipation mixed with satisfaction— and Jack Heaslip was looking over the arena, seeing what most of us could not see, attentive to something that most of us would never even imagine looking for.
That was my first introduction to a very good man, and over years I had several opportunities to see him again. Sometimes at a U2 concert, but then other times in other places. Not flashy, never interested in drawing attention to himself, but a deep man, someone with an unusually rich heart.
And he died on Saturday.
Since the boys of U2 were in school in Dublin, Jack was their friend. A chaplain to them in their adolescence, he became their on-the-road Gandalf, their wise man— praying with them, reading the Bible with them, listening to them as they grew from boys to men, from kids messing around with their guitars to the most important rock band in history.
I remember trying to take in the meaning of his life. Who are you? What is it you do? Again, he never ever made himself the center of the conversation; by disposition and commitment he served his friends, these men he watched grow up over the course of 30 years. It amazed me to learn that he made it his regular practice to pray before each concert, literally walking in and around every venue, pleading with God to come down from heaven. When I began to understand that, I then began to make sense of the uncanny feeling I always had at a U2 concert, i.e. that I had been part of something sacramental, that heaven in fact had come to earth for a brief, shining moment.
And then this too. Given my interest in vocation, in forming the eyes to see the meaning of our lives and labor, one of the very best windows into that reality comes from Jack. Several years ago, at the beginning of a concert tour, Bono asked him to come pray for the work ahead. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t grand; it was simply a friend asking a friend to pray— and someone recorded it, and it can be found on YouTube. I don’t know of anything like it. We might imagine the importance of praying for the well-known ones, the boys in the band, but Jack prays for everyone and everything. For those who drive trucks, the caterers, and those who lay cable, and for the cable itself! Hearing him made me think of the words of the prophet Zechariah, who says that when the day of the Lord comes, “even the cooking pots will be called ‘holy to the Lord.’” Yes, and the cable too, even the cable.
So rest in peace, Jack Heaslip. The world is richer because of your life. We’ve had better songs to sing, and had them for longer than we would have, I’m sure. By the millions the world over, we have sung the songs of Zion, night by night for years and years, mostly unaware— which is the way it should be —that you were praying for us, hoping that we would have ears to hear. We tried… so thank you, thank you very, very much.
Requiescat in pace— you’ve found what you were looking for.
(Photo from a U2 concert in Pittsburgh several years ago; it seemed as if the whole city was there.)