Father Gerald was close to my husbands’ family and I am so blessed to have had a husband who grew up influenced by Father Gerald !
Father Gerald Fitzgerald graduated from Weymouth High School (MA) in 1912. At the same time my husbands’ Aunt May graduated from the same school. Aunt May remained a single lady and became a school teacher, taking care of her parents in the big old white farmhouse on Broad St., as they were wont to do in those days.
Her friend, Gerald, felt the heart song from God soon after high school and eventually became a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
He was a frequent visitor at the home on Broad St. in the 1930’s and on … as Aunt May’s brother Al, and his new wife Mildred moved into the family homestead which was now made into two apartments for their growing family of boys. Old Gramma Sheehy lived there too. I feel proud that her name was Mary Sheehy, same as mine. My husband was one of those four boys who benefitted so … from knowing Father … who visited often.
“Father Fitzgerald left the Congregation of Holy Cross only because of a Divine touch of the Holy Spirit that had inspired in his priestly heart the seed of a specific and new charism in the life of the Church.” Charles A. Schleck, C.S.C. Titular Archbishop of Africa Adjunct Secretary Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples” Forward to the book:
Father John A. Hardon ‘A Prophet For the Priesthood’
This book, by Father Hardon, was written about Father Gerald Fitzgerald, precious family friend.
On With The Story
One night, as a newly ordained diocesan priest, Father Gerald sat alone at the kitchen table in a rectory in Brighton, MA. A knock at the door interrupted his supper. A lone beggar stood on the snow covered wooden porch. Father brought him into the warm kitchen and sat him down. The man said, plaintively, that he just needed a bit to eat and some help with something. There was something about him …
Father brought him a steaming bowl of beef stew which had been left simmering on the stove, and, took the mans’ threadbare coat off to dry the wet snow off. The anxious expression slowly faded as the man talked. “”I am a priest” he finally said.
Father Gerald could scarcely take it in. A priest? In such dire straits? His generous heart went out to the man as he let him talk. Sadness came over the face of the priest as he told the story of his outcast from the parish in which he had served. He told of his addiction to alcohol and other misdeeds. His shivering thin form quieted, and, every once in a while a little smile tugged at his mouth.
It was the rehabilitation of this priest, aided and abetted by the generous heart of Father Gerald that planted the seed of his own true vocation within the vineyard of God.
I am not here to present the story of the life of Father Gerald Fitzgerald, as Father John Hardon has done so, and, masterfully … in his book. I just wish to present some of Father Gerald’s words, which I truly consider to be ‘Songs of Songs’ to Priests.
Words From his Talks During his new life’s work: Rehabilitation of Priests Who Were in Trouble.
“Holy Priests sanctify their people. Unholy priests, except for a miracle of grace, turn people away from God. It is true that no soul in all the world will be lost without its own deliberate and consummate folly. Yet, for the soul in a parish where there is a saintly priest, his chances are multiplied a thousand fold.
“Young people who fall under the influence of a holy priest are strengthened to meet the temptations and dangers of the world for all their life. God, after His own self … after His own incarnate self … has no more powerful means of saving souls than His priests. As a matter of fact, He counts upon His priests to give His sacramental Self to the Mystical Body.”
“When we sanctify priests, when we put them back and make them what they ought to be, we are making the most vital contribution to the salvation of man and thus to the glory of God that can be made on earth.”
“Faith is what led us into the most sublime of our possessions, our priesthood. It was our faith, especially in the real Presence and faith in what it meant to be a priest … to be in that sublime relationship to the Son of God … ”
“The most difficult cases we shall ever deal with in our apostolate will not be priests who are sinners but priests who have lost the faith.” As later events were to prove, the most intractable persons to cope with, and they can be very learned, are men who had once believed in the Real Presence, and therefore in the priesthood, but lost faith in the Eucharist and therefore lost their sense of identity as priests.”
Speaking in 1955: ” The social and psychological sciences are conspiring to reduce man to a mere robot, and his actions to the product of heredity, environment and education. On these premises, Christianity becomes a myth and the function of sacraments and the priesthood a fraud.” Father Harden adds about this quote: “What Father Gerald saw here was the modern residue of what in the sixteenth century invaded the Western world as Calvinism.”
“The shadow of the Cross lies over every life. It can’t be otherwise because only by the Cross can we be redeemed. And the Cross is terribly hard unless we love the Corpus on it.”
“The Blessed Sacrament is for us the Corpus on the Cross. It is for us. It is for Mother and Father, brother and sister, and Bridegroom and Bride. It is All. Here is all the tenderness of the Eternal Father. Here is the source of that little mysterious throbbing of you heart which means that you are living.”
Another Little Family Story
One day Cousin Ed and Aunt Marian, who lived next door to my husbands’ family, were visited by Father Gerald. Ed, a brother of Al, my Dad in law had built a big house and it was filled with happy children. All the cousins grew up together knowing Father Gerald.
Young Cousin Ed was in the Navy. It was during the Korean war. He was aboard a ship nearing the coast of China.
Coffee was being served in Aunt Marians big kitchen. Several of the family were seated around the table with Father Gerald when suddenly a worried look came over his face.
“Marian” said Father Gerald, “you had better pray a lot for Ed today”
Nothing more was heard about this until Cousin Ed came home.
On that day, on which Father Gerald looked worried and asked for prayers for Ed, in the kitchen in Weymouth, Ed tells a story of a harrowing event.
On that day, at that time, it was announced that a torpedo was approaching their ship. They did what they could … zig zagging … and listening to the watch. Ed could actually “see” the torpedo approaching in the water. It went by the side of the ship, on which deck Ed was standing. He said that as it went by, the ship rocked as though it were going to sink, but the torpedo missed them. Nobody seemed to have had time to go down below or make any preparations … as it happened so fast. Ed said he could hear its’ propellers.
He wasn’t surprised when they told him about Father Geralds’ premonition.
My Thank You
Thank you, Father Gerald, for all you did for the Sheehy boys and girls. Just knowing you as a friend helped to prepare them spiritually to live through ‘now’ … it has helped me just to hear about it, and, I was thrilled to hear of Father Hardon’s book. Please pray for us all from your bright place near the face of God.
I am sorry for all the hardship you went through as you tried to help priests who, way back then, were getting lost. Via Caeli, the Paracletes, Your island! All taken away from you by those who thought you were mistaken or perhaps ‘rigid’ !! It brings a tear. My husband really loved you dearly. He spoke often of you. Thanks to all those in the Church who appreciated him and thought and spoke so beautifully about him.
Thank you, Aunt May. You took care of your parents. You taught school. And you helped Father Gerald financially as much as you could. Pray for us!
To Learn More About Father Gerald Fitzgerald: ‘A Prophet For the Priesthood ‘ Father John Hardon, S..J. Available from ‘Amazon’