Tony Rossi, Director of Communications                                        

May 1, 2022

The Passing of a Messenger of Joy 

As you may have heard by now, Father John Catoir, the Director of The Christophers from 1978 to

1994, died on April 7th at age 90. As the face and voice of The Christophers for 17 years, we still hear

from people who remember his warmth and insights fondly. When we posted news of his death on our

Facebook page, responses included, “My dad knew him from his time with The Christophers and thought the world of him”—and “What an amazing man who preached the Gospel with his life.” 

Father Catoir was known for his emphasis on joy. During a 2016 interview, he told me, “I remember growing up as a Catholic boy. It was a lot of guilt and sin and hell and worry…There was some anxiety there and a lot of fear. Well, my sermons were always on the upbeat, positive side. I tried to encourage people and lift them up, so that was there from the beginning. But a quote from John Paul II really got me. He said, ‘Christ came to bring joy, joy to people, joy to students, joy to teachers, joy to parents, joy to workers, joy to the whole world, joy to the sick and elderly…Therefore, joy is the keynote message of Christianity and the recurring motif of the gospel. Go therefore and become messengers of joy.’” 

That quote cemented the focus of Father Catoir’s ministry, both at The Christophers and beyond as he founded St. Jude Media Ministry to create short radio spots and online videos. Here is an excerpt from one of those videos, encouraging people to pursue God’s joy: “Try not to let your doubts take over. I’m fully aware that the Lord said, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me’ and that God cannot be reduced to a country gentleman who makes no demands on us. Love is hard. But I believe we’re called above all to open ourselves to His love. This is the challenge of Christianity. Jesus taught us this great lesson on the cross. Accepting the life God has destined for us and living it as courageously as possible is the highest act of worship we can offer to the Father. The Lord God has always loved you, even in your sinfulness. He’s desired to unite Himself with you before you even knew Him. God is with you now…The degree of your participation in God’s interior happiness increases as you gradually open to His love, responding to it with gratitude and joy. 

“It’s not enough just to know theoretically that God is love or that God is present. We should consciously experience His presence and respond to His love with joy. Simple, unforced, uncomplicated joy is the highest prayer. Spiritual joy—I call it Joy with a capital J—it’s really God’s life abiding in you. It is an awareness that lasts. It is something added to any other happiness you might have, anything that you may be feeling at any given moment. Eternal bliss may be a distant goal, but you don’t have to wait until you get to heaven to enjoy your precious life. You can begin right now, in the bright and beautiful promise of eternal happiness.” 

Father Catoir has now gone home to God. The messenger of joy has been reunited with the source of that joy. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.