John Clarke L'Heureux (October 26, 1934 – April 22, 2019) was an American author. L'Heureux was the author of such works of fiction as The Miracle, Having Everything, The Shrine at Altamira, Comedians, An Honorable Profession, and A Woman Run Mad. A former Jesuit priest (he left the order in 1971) and contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly, he taught at Georgetown, Tufts, Harvard, and was a professor of English at Stanford University since 1973.
John Clarke L'Heureux was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on 26 October 1934; his parents were Wilfred and Mildred L'Heureux. After two years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, he entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) at the age of nineteen and began his path to ordination as a priest in 1956. During these years, he published several books of poetry and a journal, Picnic in Babylon: A Jesuit Priest's Journal, 1963- 1967 (1967), which chronicled his final years of seminary study. The latter part of L'Heureux's life as a Jesuit coincided with the upheaval the Roman Catholic Church experienced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which was convened to "open the church's windows" more widely to the complicated aspirations of the modern world. The turbulence that accompanied engagement with the world proved to be both exhilarating and disruptive for an entire generation of priests and nuns. L'Heureux's career as a priest, which included time as a graduate student in English at Harvard and a stint as a staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly, was fairly conventional for an unconventional time.
L'Heureux left the priesthood and was laicized in 1971; that year he also married Joan Polston, the dedicatee of most of his subsequent books. He wrote in Picnic in Babylon, "I became a Jesuit, paradoxically, on the grounds of coldest reason: I felt God wanted me to, I could, and therefore I should. So I did." He explained some of the reasons behind his leaving the priesthood to The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) in an article published on 11 May 1990 to coincide with the release of his short-story collection Comedians.
L'Heureux published three collections of poetry before he began to write fiction. His poem "from St. Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Jesuits: His Autobiography [with directions for reading]" (in No Place for Hiding, 1971) bridged verse and narrative prose. L'Heureux said later in an unpublished interview that he "never looked back. It became more satisfying to explore consciousnesses different from one's own." His short fiction began appearing in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Esquire, and several literary journals, and has been included in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories.
- Seelye, Katharine Q. (April 25, 2019). "John L'Heureux, Whose Novels Wrestled With Faith, Dies at 84". nytimes.com. Archived from the original on 2019-04-26. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
- "John L'Heureux". Grove Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
- Writers Directory. Springer. 2016-03-05. p. 745. ISBN 9781349036509.
- "John L'Heureux | Department of English". english.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
- KARAGUEUZIAN, DIKRAN. Conversations with John L'Heureux. University of Chicago Press.