Jackie Kennedy's Letters To Irish Priest Reveal Struggle With Faith After JFK's Assassination

Jackie Kennedy lived through her husband's gruesome assassination before her eyes -- a horrifying experience that later caused her to question her faith, as expressed in private letters she sent to a priest.

The upcoming auctioning of personal letters she wrote to a priest in Ireland offers the world an intimate glimpse into one of the biggest icons of the 20th century. In the letters, which will be auctioned off by Sheppard's Irish Auction House in June, she describes her marriage, life as First Lady and her struggle with faith after John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

In one letter dated January 1964, Kennedy describes feeling “bitter against God” and struggling to find comfort in her faith.

“I have to think there is a God – or I have no hope of finding Jack again. God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see Him.”

Kennedy's 14-year correspondence with Fr. Joseph Leonard began before her marriage and continued until Leonard's death in 1964. She met him while on a trip to Dublin where Leonard was teaching at Vincentian seminary All Hallows College, and they only ever met in person one more time afterward.

Her letters to the priest over the years included ample discussions of faith and God, reflecting her life-long commitment to the Catholic faith. In one letter she writes:

"I suddenly realized this Christmas when my sister and I decided -- after not going to church for a year -- that we desperately wanted to change and get close to God again -- that it must have been your little prayers that worked -- all the way across the ocean."

After the death of a stillborn daughter, Arabella, Kennedy wrote to Leonard, saying, "Don't think I would ever be bitter at God." She said she could "see so many good things that come out of this -- how sadness shared brings married people closer together."

Kennedy, born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, was raised in a Catholic family, though her parents divorced when she was 10 years old. Kennedy died in 1994 and received full Catholic rites at her funeral where she was buried in Arlington National Cemetery beside President Kennedy.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Kennedy's second marriage went against Catholic doctrine.



American President's Religious Denominations