RIP Chris Grady

I write with great sadness. Today Chris Grady, my friend and good friend of Pray Tell, was buried.  He gave us many good leads on ecclesial news stories, and he kept us entertained.

From Catholica:

Noel Debian posted this tribute on his Facebook page: “Rest In Peace Chris Grady. So sad to hear the news of your death today [December 9] … Loved by so many of us. Larger than life. Witty. Funny. Intellectually fearsome. Loyal. Generous. Very Catholic in a Pope Francis kind of way. A great loss to the church and for our world….

And Stephen Crittenden wrote: “Our dear friend Chris Grady died in the UK today – warm-hearted, witty, brainy and fun. He was a brilliant mimic, had a prodigious memory, and was unquestionably the greatest purveyor of clerical gossip that I have ever known. It flowed and flowed from him like water from a tap.

He will be deeply missed by many. Heaven will be blessed by his presence.

Behind the sharp wit and caustic commentary was a man of deep faith. Chris Grady was completely and totally committed to the Second Vatican Council, and for him the reformed liturgy was a treasured way of celebrating his belief in the Risen Lord. In his brief and infrequent moments of tender honesty, he spoke movingly of his faith in Christ and his belief in the life to come. (And then he quickly reverted to his more comfortable mode of commentary, gossip, and biting wit.)

No one was a more careful observer of the church scene than Chris.  On March 13, 2013, the day of the election of Pope Francis, many of us were caught off-guard and were struggling to make sense of what sort of change might be underway. His email to me that night was short and simple: “I’m pretty happy.” I trusted Chris’s judgment, and instantly knew that something very good had happened. He was correct!

Rest in peace, Chris Grady.



  1. I was present at Chris Grady’s funeral yesterday in St Mary’s, South Baddesley. The church is an Anglican village church out in the countryside of the heathlands of the New Forest, not far from where Chris lived. There was a good attendance. The service was conducted by the vicar, Rev Richard Elliott. Catholic clergy present were Rev Canon Alan Griffiths, who read the first reading, and Very Rev Peter Williams, one of the VGs of Parramata diocese (Australia), who gave a superb tribute — both of them long-time friends of Chris, both of them well known in the field of liturgy, and both of them well known to readers of this blog. Other tributes were given by Helen McCabe and Felicity James, distinguished Australian journalists and close friends of Chris.

    The readings and hymns included Philippians 3:7-16, Christina Rossetti’s Remember, Jerusalem, Bruno Mars’s Count on Me, Lord of All Hopefulness, and Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven. Prayers of committal were said by Fr Williams at the church gate and the coffin was sprinkled with holy water before the hearse departed.


  2. Chris was born on 4 Feb 1957 and grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. After education by the Christian Brothers, he tried his vocation to the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Manly, but discerned that priesthood was not for him, leaving the seminary in 1979. Nevertheless, “his calling to serve others never wavered”.

    He moved into politics, working for an Australian Labour MP, and later working in Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra. His sharp mind and wit were excellent tools in the corridors of power, and by the time he was in his thirties Chris had become the influential press officer for the Attorney General. He could have made a brilliant career as a political journalist or consultant, but instead returned to his first love, the Church, working alongside a priest in the Sydney suburbs.

    The death of a close friend prompted him to come to England on a 3-month holiday in early 2000. He stayed for 17 yrs, living with Helen and Felicity in London, earning his living by selling ecclesiastical books, vestments and paraphernalia on eBay. Felicity married Andrew Smith, giving birth to two sons, Louis and Rufus, both of whom played a part in the service. In the meantime, Helen returned to Australia. Andrew tragically died in 2009, and Chris vowed to help Felicity raise the boys, moving with them to the New Forest. She described Chris as her partner, though their relationship was not physical (Chris was self-confessedly gay).

    Earlier this year, Chris was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. Although the prognosis was initially good, he was informed only 2 wks before his death on 9 Dec that treatment had not worked. Thus ended the all-too-brief life of a remarkable man whose biting wit, extraordinarily extensive knowledge of things ecclesiastical and enormous network of contacts and friends was unparalleled. We all mourn his passing. May he rest in peace.

    A recent characteristic photo of Chris will be found at

  3. Chris had a great love of Rome and an encyclopedic knowledge of Roman churches. Being in Rome with him many times was a great joy. When we saw Pope Francis for the first time in the flesh a few years ago, Chris was so overcome with joy that he was cried. It was a wonderful experience because it spoke of the hope Chris had for the future of the Church. He loved walking up the Aventine to San Anselmo for vespers on a Sunday night, for him it was always a highlight of his trips to Rome. One could write a book about travelling to Rome with Chris, so many of the experiences were so absurd that I fear it might be branded fiction. Anybody who has spent time with him in Rome will understand what I mean. Peter’s homily is an excellent reflection of the friend and brother we have lost. RIP Chris.

  4. Thank you Paul for all of this information.

    Like many others, I knew Chris for about 20 years through my friendship with Peter Scagnelli (losing both in a year leaves me sad). Chris was a great guy and as you and others note, always colorful and a source of things clerical and ecclesiastical. He was taken from us way too early and I pray in the hands of a loving God.

    I was surprised he was buried C of E. Perhaps there was a reason.

    1. Just to clarify, Chris was not buried as an Anglican, though the service was held in an Anglican church and presided over by an Anglican vicar. It was not a Mass, but the two Catholic clergymen present, Peter and Alan, used the final commendation from the Catholic funeral rite. I think the reason for the church is that it was the nearest geographically to the beautiful but remote location where Chris lived, and that a previous pastor of the nearest RC parish had been “difficult” (the present one is fine). Chris had strong ecumenical links, so it was fitting that the service should bring together people from different denominations in a service which was not recognizably from any particular tradition.

  5. One small thing that I forgot to mention: instead of a prayer card, those present at the funeral were each given a small seed packet with “PLANT THESE SEEDS AND GROW HAPPY MEMORIES” printed on the front and “ANGEL & DOVE” on the back.

  6. I want to add my support for all that Paul Inwood has written here. I and many others have lost a great friend.

    I celebrated Mass for and with him in his home on Advent Sunday and anointed him and gave him the Apostolic Blessing. It was a privilege to do so.

    Chris, may you rest in peace.


  7. I didn’t know Chris well but enjoyed every conversation with him. He had written with great optimism, earlier in the year, to say that the prognosis was good. How very sad that it was not. He could be sarcastic but could also reveal a gentle, funny soul, passionate about the liturgy and a Church that he loved.

    Eternal rest.

  8. Amen, and thank you to all who have shared memories of Chris. A special thank you to Paul for sharing the details of the funeral. Chris was dear to me, and I miss him already. As many here have said, he had a sharp wit and a big heart and he made us laugh more times than I can count. I will always treasure our last exchange of messages in which he spoke of his impending death and we said our goodbyes in the hope that we shall meet again one day. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

  9. In his last note to me Chris wrote that he would give my best wishes to Peter and Dominic, both of whom along with Chris were superb dealers of ecclesiastical books and bric a brac on eBay.

    As a book dealer Chris was skillful at finding obscure books mentioned in works like “Liturgy And Worship”, “Anglican Missals and Their Canons”, and the like. His offering of the much sought after “The Oxford Supplementary Missal” was a most impressive coup.

    For many years I’d been bugging folks in Italy for the Ordo Exsequiarum of the OF to no avail. Chris managed to find me a nice copy and would only take money for postage. ( A tip: The Roman and Dominican uses of the OE can now be found on line for those who are not fussy like me.)

    A cherished memory is my meeting with Chris on a July Saturday morning at S. Peter’s near the Pieta. Get there at seven am when the joint opens up is how he put it. He apologized for being a few minutes late, but I said it gave me more time to admire the Pieta. We went around the basilica and ended up in the Borgo at his favorite cafe. I’ll make an abrupt finem scribendi now.

    Ave atque Vale!

  10. I was Chris’s god son and loved him dearly we shared a lot of happy memories together
    May he rest in peace

    1. Noel and Chris’s dear friends and Rufus his godson. All I read here is true. An excellent mind and even better friend. I still struggle at the losing of him and all that happened when being with him. I think we all do. His care for Felicity and the boys was remarkable. Any eye for detail, and always full of hope, irreverent…. If I get to the other side I am sure he will be on the quay to welcome. Is that not something worth waiting for?

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