God is in the details

phillips1So often I read a story about some newsmaker and am disappointed when there's no information about the individual's religious life. I've come to expect that any detail about where, say, heroic pilot Chesley Sullenberger goes to church or doesn't go to church will be difficult to find -- much less any in-depth discussion about what religious or philosophical values may or may not motivate the person. Saturday's The New York Times included a lengthy page one feature on Captain Richard Phillips, the man taken hostage by Somali pirates last week. The headline was promising: A Placid Man on Land, Caught in a Drama at Sea. I read it to find details about Phillips' religious life. Here is a sample paragraph:

But at home, friends and relatives said, Captain Phillips, 53, is a consummate regular guy who worships Boston sports teams, particularly the Celtics, shoots hoops at the Y.M.C.A., plays golf with retirees and faithfully picks up muffins for Sunday brunch with his family. When he is away, plying dangerous ocean waters as a merchant ship captain, the image his neighbors here remember is of him placidly riding his lawnmower.

I was pretty sure at this point in the story that Phillips must not be religious. Surely if the man worships God it would get mentioned somewhere near his worship of Boston sports teams. There is so much detail about the man's life -- how he is viewed by neighbors, former classmates, family members and friends -- and not a single word about anything religious. We learn about his upbringing, his charity, his regular life, his family, his love of music. No stone, seemingly, is left unturned.

So I was a bit surprised to read this report the next day from the Associated Press' John Curran:

Always a sacred day in the Catholic faith, Easter Sunday took on special significance this time at the church where hostage sea captain Richard Phillips normally worships.

In a 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Church, the Rev. Charles Danielson urged his flock to pray for the safe return of the 53-year-old sea captain being held by Somali pirates for a fifth day.

Drawing a parallel between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Phillips' predicament, the church pastor told about 170 congregants that just as Christ triumphed over evil after being crucified, Phillips was attempting to triumph over the evil of his captors.

"Evil and death and sin do not have the final say," Danielson said. "That is the essential message of Easter. Love and life, goodness and life, they always are the true realities. The world of terror and war and greed, the world of pirates and criminals large and small who prey on individuals, whole nations and regions of the world, they are the ones on the wrong side of history."

This AP story is great but what absolutely shocked me was that The Times piece was reported on by five reporters and yet the story giving us all the details about Phillips' life back home didn't include anything about his church home? How does that happen?

Anyway, Curran includes details about how Danielson prayed with Phillips' wife Andrea at the family home. A fellow parishioner is quoted and we also get some details about how the town is handling the saga. It's a fairly brief story but it shows that it's not that difficult to include religious information when filing stories about a newsbreaker.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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