In August, theology professor Brennan Hill released his latest book, Eight Spiritual Heroes: Their Search for God. He dedicated the book to his brother-in-law, Michael Lynch, a 33-year-old fireman in New York City’s theater district who was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
Who are your heroes? “Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Daniel Berrigan, Edith Stein, Martin Luther King Jr., Pierre Tielhard de Chardin and Oscar Romero.”
What makes them heroes? “They are standouts in society because of the way they led people in religious or spiritual ways. A lot were persecuted because society didn’t like what they had to say.”
It’s a different approach for a theology book. Why this way?“I decided to do it on people’s lives, or what I call biographical theology—how they lived rather than their thoughts. I read their biographies and their writings to see how their lives developed and what events changed them. All were influenced by their parents, and all often had seemingly insignificant events that affected them deeply.”
You dedicated the book to your brother-in-law who was a different kind of hero. What happened to him? “He was working the morning shift on September 11 when they got the call. All 15 guys who went out were killed. I talked to some other firemen who saw him that day, and they told me he just finished saving people from an elevator with the Jaws of Life and went back inside when the building fell. He was a great guy—6-foot-5, good athlete, college educated. We held a funeral, then two months later they found his body.”