Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Priest Faithful to the Order of St. Augustine

Last night, the Memorial Mass for our dear Father Jim Galligan, OSA, was held in a packed church.  Father Michael DiGregorio, OSA,  the Assistant General for the Order of St. Augustine, was the celebrant and homilist.  Father explained how Father Galligan had, some years ago,  asked him to be the homilist at his funeral , but at the time of Father's death, circumstances required his presence in Rome and he was unable to fulfill his friend's request.  He summed this up to his late friend's ability to come up with wonderful ideas with not always a practical way to carry them out.

"When I last visited him a few weeks before he died, he reminded me again of his request and I told him if he did his part, it would happen, meaning he would have to appeal to a Higher Power."

Father's homily was a touching look back at the various stages of Father Galligan's ministry, from a busy parish priest and school principal who was constantly on the move to a pastor who sought to bring Christ to Cambodian refugees whose language he never learned ( "I speak the language of the heart, and that's all that matters" he said) to a contemplative living in a monastery in Nova Scotia.  In his final parish assignment in Philadelphia, Father continued to live the life of a contemplative and never left the church property, except for doctor's visits.  He began Eucharistic Adoration and daily confessions at St. Rita's and made himself available for spiritual direction and guidance to anyone who sought his help, at any time.

Father was an extraordinarily holy man.  He was a strong proponent of Adoration and Confession, calling them the two crutches he used to get through life.  I reminded him of this the last time I saw him, and in a voice he could barely muster the strength to emit, he said softly: "You'll need them to get you into Heaven."

He was very close to one of his parishioners and after Father retired from active ministry, his friend would often share stories about his priest friend with me.  For instance, one Christmas Day when the gentleman visited Father in his room, the priest beckoned him to join him for tea and toast.  "We're going to fast," he explained, "to offer reparation for all those who have forgotten that this day is about the Lord."

Father didn't just talk about Adoration and Confession. He walked the walk, too.  He could always be found in either the chapel or the confessional and though he didn't mince words or advice, his only interest was in bringing souls back into the fold.

I brought Rebecca with me last night and she recalled that there were two Fathers - at Rosary and Benediction, he was appropriately serious and reverent and afterward, he was smiling and kind and loved to embrace the children.  We remembered one little girl who was not more than 2 who called him "Fadder Jim" and how his heart would just melt when she greeted him.

The last few years as you know, I was a bit negligent in going out to visit Father, though I wrote to him.  I mistakenly believed that because he was so holy, he had no need of my friendship and because his time was so often in demand, I thought I was being helpful by not bothering him.  When I visited him a few weeks before he died, I saw how wrong I was.  I know that Father has forgiven me.  After receiving his blessing for the last time, I kissed the top of his head and departed, stopping once to glance back at him.  Even in his weakened state, he smiled at me and I knew everything was ok.

The following prayer by St. Augustine was read at the conclusion of the homily, and I agree that it sums up how Father gave his life to Jesus Christ through his ministry.  As the homilist said, though every stage of his ministry was markedly different from the last, Father was always open to God's will, always available to his people, even until the very end of his life.

Lord Jesus, Let Me Know Myself (Domine Iesu, Noverim me)
Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know Thee,
And desire nothing save only Thee.
Let me hate myself and love Thee.
Let me do everything for the sake of Thee.
Let me humble myself and exalt Thee.
Let me think of nothing except Thee.
Let me die to myself and live in Thee.
Let me accept whatever happens as from Thee.
Let me banish self and follow Thee,
And ever desire to follow Thee.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in Thee,
That I may deserve to be defended by Thee.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear Thee,
And let me be among those who are chosen by Thee.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in Thee.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of Thee.
Let me cling to nothing save only to Thee,
And let me be poor because of Thee.
Look upon me, that I may love Thee.
Call me that I may see Thee,
And for ever enjoy Thee. Amen.


  1. He sounds like a good man. I'm sure he's with our Lord now.

    On a side subject, I realized as I was reading that I have no idea what an order of St Agustine is about. There are so many orders and except for the famous ones like the Franciscans or the Marians I have no idea what distiguishes them apart. How many are there? Is there a website that explains them all? It would be nice to have a little list or cheat sheet to turn to when one of them comes up. If you don't know, perhaps one of your readers can educate me.

  2. Manny, I'm sure you have Augustinians in New York. In fact, I know you do because Father was stationed in both the Bronx and on Staten Island during his long ministry. The Augustinians consider their order the first monastic order, even though most people think of St. Benedict as the founder of monastic life. There are Augustinian nuns as well, and we met many of them in Italy this past Fall. I guess you could google them to find out more. There are even Third Order Augustinians.

  3. Yes, I'm sure we do. I guess my comment was more geared toward understanding all the spectrum of orders. Apparently there are so many. I'll search around. Thanks.

  4. Here you go for those also interested. I found what I was looking for. It's a list of all the orders linked to a definition. If I counted correctly there are 120 different religious orders listed, many of which I had never heard of. I booked marked the link.


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