By Dr Donna Orsuto
Jesuit Father Michael Paul Gallagher, a generous friend of The Lay Centre, died after a short illness on 6 November, in Dublin.
Over the years, while living in Rome and teaching at the Pontifical Gregorian University, he had celebrated Mass and led retreats for the resident student community of The Lay Centre, taught regularly in our Thursday morning Vincent Pallotti Program, participated in our international program and, above all, always had a discerning word of wisdom at just the right time.
What I admired most in him was that he had, in the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, “a mind alive,” right up to the end. His capacity to combine serious intellectual reflection with a deep spirituality, along with a delightful sense of humour, is a model for us all. I will miss him. We all will miss him.
When I sent him my good wishes on the Feast of St Ignatius this year, he wrote back with an upbeat note and a little piece he had written that morning on St Ignatius. I would like to share that Letter to St Ignatius with you:
On your feast day for 2015 I want to thank you for the lights you have given me down through the years. When I was younger perhaps the key discovery that you passed on to me was to recognize my pendulum of movements or moods, what you called consolation and desolation. Here was a space of ordinary revelation. Linked to this was the golden rule never to make a decision in the dark, but to wait for dawn. This has become a nugget of spiritual wisdom for many people I have known.
A related insight was to see God in all things, at work in the theatre of the ordinary. You insisted that we should reflect back prayerfully on the day we have lived and therefore develop antennae, alert to the invitations of the Good Spirit (and to our receiving them or running away). In this way you encouraged us to be spiritual but not too much so, not withdrawn from the human. You were to be found within the human adventure of each day and indeed within each chapter of history.
A third influence you had on me was your passion for “helping souls.” The school of prayer in your Spiritual Exercises aimed at liberating us to serve Christ’s Kingdom and to give of ourselves to people. I also learned that urgency of mission can take many forms. Look at the diversity of ministry and of personality among us Jesuits!
In later years I began to appreciate more your mystical side. In the Exercises you spoke of God’s “immediate work” as “embracing us in love.” Simply to rest in that love becomes a deeper call as life goes on, just as the love-presence of the Trinity became a source of powerful devotion for you (so often overwhelmed by tears). You probably never saw Rublev’s famous icon. For me the fourth place at that table captures the extraordinary call to enter the flow of love that is our Triune God.
So thank you for having guided my lifelong and changing adventure of freedom in the Lord. Not for nothing did you put freedom first among the gifts you wanted to offer back to God: Take and receive O Lord my freedom.
Happy feast, dear Pilgrim.
Michael Paul SJ
Thank you, Michael Paul for all that you shared with us over the years. My hope and prayer is that you find yourself at that table right now, where you can now enter into that flow of love that is our Trinitarian God, forever.
May you rest in peace. We will remember you this Wednesday evening at our community Eucharist, when we gather around the Table of the Lord.
The Lay Centre extends its sincere condolences to Father Gallagher’s family and close friends. Father Gallagher’s funeral was to be held in Ireland, on 10 November. His burial place will be in the Jesuit plot at the Glasnevin Cemetery.
(Photo taken from the website of the Jesuits in Ireland, www.jesuit.ie)