Tag Archives: priest

St. Paul of the Cross

October 19, 2017

0 Comments

St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross was born on January 3, 1694, at Ovada, near Genoa, Italy. His birth name was Paolo (Paul) Francesco (Francis) Danei. He was one of sixteen children, and his parents were devout Catholics. His father was a merchant, but he fared badly in business and was unable to send Paul to school.

As a small child whenever he suffered discomfort or cried, his mother would show him a crucifix and reflect with him about the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, and from the beginning of his life he had a great devotion to the Cross. His father would read to him about the lives of the saints. When he was fifteen he heard a sermon that helped him to realize and admit his sins, after which he went to Confession and began a life of strict austerity and prayer, and he afflicted himself with self-mortification like sleeping on the bare floor, sleep deprivation, and self-flagellation.

Paul joined the Venetian army at the age of twenty to fight for the faith and against the Turks in the hope that he would die as a martyr. After one year he came to the realization that military service was not his calling and asked to be discharged, and once his petition was granted, he resumed a life of solitude, prayer, and penance.

In the summer of 1720 he had three visions in which he saw himself clothed in a black religious habit, and in the third vision the Blessed Mother Mary appeared and asked him to found a religious congregation dedicated to the Passion. Paul consulted with his bishop, who was well aware of his holiness, and advised him to move forward. Paul went into seclusion for forty days during which he prayed, ate only bread and water, slept on straw, and wrote the rule of life for his new congregation. Members would take four vows, the usual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but also a special fourth vow to have a deep devotion to the Passion of Jesus, to pray and meditate regularly on his suffering and death on the Cross, and to preach about the Passion.

Passionist Cross

Passionist Cross

Subsequently, Paul and his brother, John, moved to Monte Argentaro, and with two other companions, founded a community, the Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, now commonly known as the Passionists. Paul and his brother were ordained to the priesthood by Pope Benedict XIII at St. Peter’s Vatican Basilica in 1727.

The Passionists embarked on their mission to preach about Jesus’ suffering. They also served the sick and dying with great compassion, brought lapsed Catholics back to the Church, and reconciled sinners through the sacrament of Penance.

Paul’s Rule of Life was given preliminary approval by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741. He was elected the first Superior General in 1747, a positon he held the rest of his life. He traveled widely throughout the Papal States, was a charismatic preacher, generated large crowds, and had a special gift for reconciling sinners. Formal final approval was granted to the Passionist Community by Pope Clement XIV in 1769. Paul subsequently moved to Rome. Under his leadership twelve new communities of men were founded, and in 1771 he founded a cloistered community of Passionist nuns at Corneto.

St. Paul of the Cross became ill in 1772 and died on October 18, 1775, at the age of 80 in Rome, and he was canonized a saint in 1867. He is the patron saint of the Passionist Community. His memorial is not celebrated on his death anniversary like most saints because of the Feast of St. Luke. The universal Church remembers him on October 19, but in the United States, because of the memorial of St. Isaac Jogues and his companions, he is remembered on October 20.

Continue reading...

St. Sharbel Makhlouf, Priest

July 21, 2017

0 Comments

St. Sharbel Makhlouf

St. Sharbel Makhlouf (1828-1898) was born in a small, remote mountain village in northern Lebanon in 1828, and he was baptized in the Maronite Rite, the rite of the Catholic Church based in Lebanon.  Young Sharbel had two uncles that were monks in the Maronite Rite and, inspired by them, he also became a monk.  Later, in 1859 at the age of 31, he was ordained a priest.

For the next fifteen years, from his ordination in 1859 until 1874, Father Sharbel lived in a monastery with other monks.  Then he moved to a hermitage near the monastery where he spent his last twenty-three years as a hermit.

Father Sharbel’s day revolved around daily Mass.  He took great care in his preparation for Mass, particularly with his extended reflection and meditation on Sacred Scripture.  He celebrated the Mass with deep reverence and respect.  Then, after Mass, he offered prayers of thanks and praise for the graces and blessings received.

In addition to his deep devotion to the Eucharist, Father Sharbel had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and when he is depicted in religious art, he is often shown with an image of Mary near him with the Blessed Mother holding the Christ child in her arms.

In isolation as a hermit, Father Sharbel had to fend off waves of temptations, particularly the attraction of a more comfortable lifestyle with better food, clothes, and furnishings, as well as the constant inclination to put one’s personal desires and preferences first.  With prayer and determination, he resisted worldly desires and adhered to a life of simplicity and material detachment.  Because of his personal holiness, others were drawn to him, which enabled him to give powerful witness to the value of the Eucharist, prayer, Scripture, Marian devotion, poverty, humility, perseverance, service, and submission to God’s will.  Visitors asked Father Sharbel to intercede on their behalf, and a number of remarkable miracles are attributed to him.

Father Sharbel died in 1898, and he was buried in a tomb at the monastery of St. Maron in Annaya, Lebanon.  Because he is so deeply revered by Maronite Catholics, the monastery quickly became a pilgrimage destination.

Pope Paul VI both beatified and canonized Father Sharbel.  His beatification was on December 5, 1965, during the Second Vatican Council, and his canonization was in 1977.  The Maronite Community has named St. Sharbel the Hermit of Lebanon, and Christians everywhere pray through his intercession to make spiritual headway in singular devotion to God.

Save

Save

Continue reading...

‘Confessions of a Priest’: a novel

February 16, 2016

3 Comments

Confessions of a Priest coverA Bloomington, Minnesota, man has written a novel imagining what life might be for today’s priests, but of course it had to be self-published; no book publisher of note would even think of putting its imprint on the story of a priest who hasn’t some evil secret waiting to be discovered.

It isn’t that Father John Krentz, the main character in Jim Koepke’s “Confessions of a Priest,” doesn’t have his flaws. He can be sharp-tongued, impertinent, anti-authoritarian and somewhat narrow-minded. But he’s a good priest, and he grows as a person throughout the story.

All of which makes the novel seem almost pollyannish. That’s okay with Koepke; it’s what he intended.

“It seems as though everyday Catholics are inundated by negative press about Catholic priests,” Koepke told The Catholic Spirit. “I wrote this for people who might like some good news about priests. Our priests are the best of the best, and I hope this offers people some relief.”

Fifty-year-old Father John has a comfortable life serving a parish that’s not as large as it used to be but still doing all right. The story unfolds when his bishop — who takes the brunt of the priest’s vitriolic tongue — disturbs that comfort level, and not just once.

Parish priests will recognize some of the other characters that present challenges and opportunities, including the mean-spirited parish gossip, and the story doesn’t skip issues of the day like clergy sexual abuse, homelessness, addiction and homosexuality.

Koepke calls team-teaching confirmation classes — which he’s done with his wife, Mary, for 26 years — “the most fun thing I do,” and pages of his book could be mistaken for pages of a catechism at times, as Father John draws upon the teachings of the Church to counsel parishioners and deal with what life brings to his rectory door.

This is a fast-paced work with superbly written dialogue. The repartee between the characters is so true to life, you can easily imagine enjoying the give-and-take of the conversations in the rectory.

The main flaw of “Confessions of a Priest” is a cosmetic one, a result of self-publishing I’m afraid. There’s just a lack of professionalism in the book from the front and back covers to the inside pages, with wide leading between the lines and a smattering of typographical errors that unfortunately cheapen a pretty decent story.

Pick it up anyway, either at St. Patrick’s Guild in St. Paul or on amazon.com ($13.95).

Continue reading...

Father Robert Jude, a priest for 65 years

January 15, 2015

0 Comments

Father Robert JudeFather Robert James Jude is being remembered for spreading joy wherever he went over his lengthy priesthood.

A priest of the Archdiocese of
St. Paul and Minneapolis for 65 years, Father Jude died Dec. 20, 2014. He was 92.

Born March 24, 1922, in Maple Lake, the son of Paul and Margaret (Riordan) Jude, he attended Nazareth Hall and the St. Paul Seminary and was ordained a priest June 4, 1949, by Bishop James J. Byrne in the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Father Jude served as associate pastor at St. Joseph in Redwing,
St. Bridget and St. Stephen in Minneapolis, Holy Trinity in
St. Louis Park, St. Mary in Tracy and St. Peter in Delano..

He was chaplain at Red Wing Training School and at the Franciscan Sisters Regional Center in St. Paul, and briefly as administrator at St. George in Long Lake.

He served as pastor at St. Canice in Kilkenny and St. Luke in Clearwater. He retired from active ministry in 1990, but assisted in sacramental ministry at his home parish, St. Timothy in Maple Lake, in retirement.

Father John Meyer, St. Timothy pastor, described Father Jude as “always upbeat” and someone who “made everyone’s day better.”

Family member Anna Maria Jude concurred.

“He had amazing joy,” she said. “When he spoke he was so affirming and charitable. He changed the mood everywhere he went — it was just a natural thing for him.

“You knew about the love of God just by being with Father Jude,” she added.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 5 at St. Timothy in Maple Lake, where Father Jude had presided at his first Mass in 1949.

He has preceded in death by his parents and brothers John (“Jack”) and Clifton. He is survived by many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews and cousins.

Interment was in the St. Timothy Cemetery.

Continue reading...

Father Charles Froehle, seminary rector and pastor

January 15, 2015

0 Comments

Father Charles Froehle COLORFather Charles L. Froehle was a role model for the scores of priests ordained from the St. Paul Seminary over the 25 years he served there as professor, dean and rector.

A priest of the Archdiocese of
St. Paul and Minneapolis for 51 years, he died Jan. 6. He was 77.

Father Charles Lachowitzer, moderator of the curia and vicar general of the archdiocese, was one of those formed at the seminary during Father Froehle’s tenure as rector. He told The Catholic Spirit about a few of the things he remembered most about Father Froehle.

“Liturgies. He was a great homilist and modeled a prayerful style of celebrating the Mass,” Father Lachowitzer noted. “It was such a significant part of our seminary formation to do Sundays well, and he certainly modeled that.

“He gave us all an inspiring example of what it means to be a good ‘pastor’ as well as a good priest,” he added. “In so many ways, Father Froehle acted as the pastor of the seminary. He was accessible, thoughtful, caring and pragmatic when dealing with a myriad of seminarian and faculty concerns.”

Charles Leo Froehle was born in St. Cloud April 20, 1937, the son of Leo and Catherine Froehle.

Raised in St. Paul, he attended Nazareth Hall, the minor seminary, and the St. Paul Seminary before being ordained a priest Feb. 2, 1963, at the Cathedral of St. Paul by Archbishop Leo Byrne.

He served as associate pastor at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis for two years before beginning studies in Rome in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council.

He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in theology from the Angelicum and returned to the
St. Paul Seminary where he served as professor of sacramental theology, and later as dean of studies and vice rector.

In 1980 he was appointed rector of the St. Paul Seminary.

As rector Father Froehle was one of the major architects of the seminary’s affiliation with the University of St. Thomas, which provided financial security for the seminary in exchange for seminary land, which the growing university needed.

In 1994 Father Froehle was named pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Buffalo, and later pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis. He retired from active ministry in 2012.

Father Froehle is survived by his brother John and sisters Margaret Cournoyer and Jean Froehle, along with many nieces and nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, great grandnieces and great grandnephews.

Mass of Christian Burial was Jan. 13 at
St. Mary’s Chapel at the St. Paul Seminary, 2260 Summit Ave.,
St. Paul.

Interment was at Resurrection Cemetery.

Continue reading...

Keats, Baseball and Surviving the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis

March 29, 2014

0 Comments

image

The English poet John Keats expressed the idea of negative capability in a letter to his brother in 1817. He described it as the capacity for accepting uncertainty and the possibility that certain questions might never be resolved. The great writers, according to Keats, are those with the greatest negative capability. He credited Shakespeare with the greatest talent in this regard, and thought that the dynamic tension created by perpetual uncertainty made for the most interesting characters and depth in story.

I came across this term while watching a baseball documentary called “The Tenth Inning”that addressed the steroid scandal from a few years ago.  In the documentary, writer George Will says “Now we live in a sports age and a baseball age, where nothing’s more valuable than negative capability because if we’re just in a rush, if we can’t wait to see Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, or whoever it is, as right or wrong, then we’re missing the complexity of these people and the difficulty of the age that they’re living in.”

What does this have to do with the Catholic faith or anything to do with this blog?

Well, we are in a scandal of our own locally. A much darker and serious issue than baseball and steroids. Living through it can be a full time chore and the idea of negative capability intrigues me. I have to admit my cycles of anger, frustration, despair and a few “What were they thinking!” moments as I read, along with everyone else, the accounts reported by certain radio stations and other media outlets.  Working for the church does not make me immune to or “in the know” on anything, in fact, working for the church seems to make every news report of a fallen priest or a seemingly poor decision feel like a personal affront to my faith and work.

So how do you hang onto your faith when your church is in crisis?

I have been trying to tap into that Negative Capability.  It is a strange name and since I am not a literary intellect, I’ve never read Keats or studied Shakespeare and I am surprised at how I am drawn to this odd literary term.  But it seems to describe a way I aproach my faith life.  In my early stages of (re)conversion to the Church, I hungered for knowledge and devoured books.  Knowledge of the one I loved, the one I sought – so much like Song of Songs.

On my bed night after night I sought him

            Whom my soul loves; SOS 3:1

But in wanting to know God – in wanting to know Christ, I wanted to understand and figure out the complexities and abserdities of a virgin giving birth, the irrational math of the trinity and  duality of transubstantiation.  In my desire for knowledge, I couldn’t rest in faith.  I wanted proof. I wanted answers. In my struggles I could only hope for Divine Grace to step in. I needed to learn to rest in that negative capability and enjoy the tension of this amazing church that isn’t about either/or – but lives in the and/also of a faith based on a Man who is also the Son of God who really is present in the Mass.

Crisis of Faith

In regards to our current clergy abuse crisis, I have also had to yield to this negative capability in a darker way. I have to rest in questions that may never be resolved. I have been sickened by the reports. The victims are tragic and the deeds and actions of a few priest are abominable. It is very easy to paint a black and white picture of the people involved, but the personalities are as complex as are the times in which they live.  We are called to see everyone through the eye that God sees us. Through the fullness of who they are.

In all of this we are called to pray for the victims, but also the perpetrators. We are called to love our good priests and also the fallen. We must love the whistel blowers, the reporters, and the angry Catholics who have left the church.  Only in this strange church filled with the hard teaching are we called to forgive and love and carry on. (all while protecting the inocent and sin no more)

Only in this lovely faith called the Catholic Church could we celebrate the Friday that Christ was crucified and call it Good.

Continue reading...

One remarkable missionary

June 11, 2012

0 Comments

Unforgettable Monsignor Greg Schaffer

After presiding at the early-evening Mass, the big, white-haired American priest walked toward the big doorway at the side of the 400-year-old Church of San Lucas Church, greeting his people along the way.

It was a lot like watching John Paul II in action.

He’d shake hands.

When he’d stop to talk with someone he’d put a hand on their shoulder.

He’d wave with an open-handed gesture to make a point.

That was the Monsignor Gregory T. Schaffer I saw pastoring some 15 years ago in San Lucas Toliman in the Central Highlands of Guatemala.

“I really love the liturgies here,” he told me as we spoke outside the ancient church in the town 5,000 feet above sea level. “It’s informal, but simple and beautiful.”

Back in 1997, the man his parishioners called “Padre Gregorio” had been their pastor for 34 years already. He’d go on to minister to the people of San Lucas for another 14 years before coming back to Minnesota. A terrible skin cancer finally took him May 24 at the age of 78.

If he’s not a candidate for sainthood, none of us are.

 One busy missionary

Although he’d been born in St. Paul and trained at the St. Paul Seminary, in 1960 young Gregory Schaffer was ordained a priest of the new Diocese of New Ulm, the nation’s most rural diocese, one that was carved out of the southwestern portion of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

He had only been a priest for three years when he took the assignment to go to Guatemala as a missionary.

A number of dioceses in the United States had taken to heart Pope Paul VI’s suggestion that relatively vocation-rich countries share their priests with countries where vocations were few. (It’s why our own archdiocese continues to have a presence in Ciudad Guyana in Venezuela, where the pastor is also named Gregory Schaffer. It’s not a coincidence.)

The year was 1963 when Father Schaffer began to minister in Guatemala.

By the time I got there in 1997 the Church of San Lucas had accomplished much and had more projects underway than the busiest suburban parish you can name.

  • Next to the church was a library/dining hall.
  • Attached was the parish center, where coffee beans raised by 170 families were bagged before being sent for sale in the United States.
  • Across the courtyard was the parish medical clinic.
  • A few blocks away was the dental clinic and eye clinic, which was being expanded to be a full-service clinic with 60 beds.
  • Up one hillside a parish crew was putting in a water tank, the first step in building a new “colonia” or neighborhood for 56 families. The construction crew built 16 new homes a year and always had three under construction.
  • There were parish apprentice programs for the needed trades, for carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians and mechanics.
  • At the south end of town the parish had an experimental farm.
  • Drawing international attention was a parish tree reforestation project.
  • Of course there was a parish pre-school and grade-school.
  • And all the sacramental prep programs.

Weekday mornings I watched Monsignor Schaffer lean against a wall in the dining hall and simply observe as the male Guatemalan leaders of the parish – the project managers for all those programs – planned the day’s work, updated one another to learn when the skills of their crews would be needed, and told Padre Gregorio where they could use some help from the volunteers he was always hosting.

Each afternoon he’d listen in again as the women of the parish met to discuss the programs they were working on.

After 34 years of organizing and building up indigenous leaders from among the Mayans, the pastor didn’t need to say much at these meetings.

When he did the talking was when he was in front of groups – lots from Minnesota – who came down to volunteer at San Lucas. Marker in hand he’d explain the socio-political situation of the place they’d come to, writing on a white board to explain what he taught as “the process of poverty” that his parishioners were living.

 A teacher at heart

Two volcanoes dominate the geography of this town of 25,000 on the shore of Lake Atitlan, and a volcano was the priest’s favorite image to use to explain Guatemala to outsiders.

He’d draw the familiar triangular form, then add a line across it fairly near the top.

“The top of the volcano is small, held up by a great big body,” he’d start out.

“The country is run by 18 to 22 extended families, people who live the good life, and 94 percent of the land in Guatemala is in the hands of 7 percent of the population.”

Monsignor Schaffer would draw another line somewhere around the center of his volcano, explaining that was the military and the middle class.

“The bottom of the volcano, the base holding it up, is the 84 percent of the population that are people living in the process of poverty.”

The lectures to his guests explained that industrialized economies needed raw material, cheap labor and markets to sell their goods and services, and that was how the poorest Guatemalans were being used.

At the base of the volcano, he explained:

  • 54% are unemployed.
  • 84% who do work make less than the daily requirement to provide for their families.
  • 70% are illiterate.
  • 46% lack access to health care.
  • 51% of all children die before the age of five.

“A volcano is an explosive situation,” Monsignor Schaffer explained. “It may not be erupting now, but it certainly has the potential to erupt.”

 Literacy and land

The priest tapped fund-raising sources in New Ulm, in the Twin Cities and elsewhere to address the issues parishioners brought to him. When he’d have groups of Norte Americanos come down, it wasn’t just to be lectured to but to work side-by-side on projects with Guatemalans. His idea was to put volunteers into situations where they can appreciate the gifts of the people of this developing country.

He took pride in the fact that the people of the parish did all the decision-making, did the hiring and firing, set the salaries, planned and managed the projects.

He was justifiably proud, too, that the literacy rate in his parish was 85%.

“I can tell we’re making progress,” he said, “because the newspapers sell out every day.”

He humbly acknowledged, “We’ve met a lot of felt needs,” but claimed that the parish had made its greatest contribution in helping the people get the one thing they want most: land.

“The greatest request is one I hear on a daily basis: Help us get land,” Monsignor Schaffer said. “The people want to be farmers. They want to work the land with a hoe and a machete, and they are very good at it.

“We’ve been able to help 3,000 families get about three acres of land apiece. They plant corn and beans on two acres and then coffee on the other as a cash crop.”

 Reaping what he sowed

Monsignor Schaffer, however, planted a few things himself.

One was a missionary spirit in his namesake nephew, Father Gregory J. Schaffer, a priest of the archdiocese who is pastor of Jesucristo Resuscitado parish, the mission of the archdiocese in San Felix, Venezuela. Visits to his uncle’s mission in Guatemala played no small part in the younger priests’ own vocation. Between college and the seminary younger Greg spent two years volunteering at San Lucas and visited the mission about a dozen times.

He’s been a missionary himself in Venezuela now for 15 years.

Monsignor Schaffer also planted concern for the people of another culture and country in the hearts not just of Catholics in the New Ulm Diocese but with the thousands – many college students – who visited and worked at San Lucas Toliman at his invitation.

Finally, what Monsignor Schaffer planted were some invaluable gifts in the people he served for those 48 years: Confidence. A sense of self-worth, so every person in town knew they were created in the image and likeness of God. And hope. Hope that there is a way out of living in the process of poverty.

Sainthood credentials?

*     *     *

After a funeral Mass in New Ulm’s Cathedral and another here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Monsignor Schaffer’s body was flown to Guatemala for a final funeral Mass and burial in the cemetery at San Lucas Toliman.

 Learn more about the Diocese of New Ulm’s mission in Guatemala at http://www.dnu.org/service/sanlucas.html.

Continue reading...

Lino Rulli: Take-aways that could be out-takes

September 19, 2011

0 Comments

"Sinner" is available online at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

  • “I trust in God’s plan, but I’m always afraid I’m going to screw it up.”
  • “Faith and a neurotic personality don’t always mix well.”
  • “I liked the rhythm of monastic life. I liked the structure of prayer and work. I really liked being a part of a community that prayed together, ate together, drank together. It was like a clean frat house.”
  • “Mother Teresa once said that in order to be a saint you have to seriously want to be one. So I try, feebly, to be a saint. Frankly, the sinner in me doesn’t think it sounds like much fun.”
  • “Just a quick note to priests hearing confessions: If confessions start at 5:00 p.m., any chance you could get there a few minutes early, before the line forms? . . . There’s nothing worse than standing in line, waiting for the priest to arrive, and having him show up, stare at each of the people in line, and then go in. Kind of ruins the whole anonymity thing.”
Read a review.
Continue reading...

Most popular stories of May 2011

June 1, 2011

0 Comments

Archbishop OKs 18 priest assignments for archdiocese 0 comment(s) | 1221 view(s)

2011 Priest Ordinations 0 comment(s) | 789 view(s)

2011 Graduate Profiles 0 comment(s) | 707 view(s)

Many pastors will soon spring into new parish assignments 0 comment(s) | 518 view(s)

Eleven priests get parish assignments 0 comment(s) | 506 view(s)

Marriage amendment moves forward in Senate; Catholic bishops testify in favor 3 comment(s) | 490 view(s)

Seven men ordained transitional deacons 0 comment(s) | 453 view(s)

Preparing for the new Roman Missal 0 comment(s) | 403 view(s)

Continue reading...

Builder of first church in St. Paul had no easy life

July 27, 2010

0 Comments

Galtier biography cover

“Lucien Galtier — Pioneer Priest,”

by Marianne Luban

Minnesota history buffs, and especially Minnesota Catholic history enthusiasts, will appreciate the research that author Marianne Luban has gathered for this first biography of the priest who built the very first log church in St. Paul.

A street, a school, a plaza, an apartment tower and a handful of other entities in the Minnesota capital bear the name Galtier and pay homage to the interesting French missionary who saw a promising future for a bend in the Mississippi River and had the wisdom to force the former Pig’s Eye Landing to be renamed after the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

Father Lucien Galtier’s letters are the major source for this story, along with the letters of the pioneer bishops and priests who established the church in the Upper Midwest and historical records of the dioceses in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Luban does an excellent job of getting across this tale of hardship and suffering, and her research gives new insight into the iconic figure whose name lives on long after his death in 1866 at the age of 54.

The French missionaries arrived in the New World zealous to convert the “barbarian” native people to Christianity, and they suffered greatly in their efforts. Luban helps us see Galtier as a somewhat different missionary:

“Galtier clearly did not view himself as an expendable sacrifice to the cause. He was a man who knew his own worth and became troubled when he thought his talents were being wasted. He did not shrink from his duty, as he saw it, but preferred to do it with a modicum of dignity. Comfort, of course, was out of the question, but the sheer deprivation Galtier face year after year seemed to him in aid of nothing but the breaking of the spirit.”

A complex man

The bulk of Galtier’s letters, then, are complaints to his bishop — nagging, whining and demanding. But Luban helps us see another side of the missionary through other sources.  The priest is said to have had a remarkable personality and power — “the face of a Caesar and the heart of a Madonna” — a strong, rich singing voice. And he was a workaholic.

We learn that although Father Lucien was sent to Minnesota to convert the Indians, he struggled with the Sioux language, and found that he preferred ministering to those who were already committed Catholics. Sent to build a church in Keokuk, Iowa, he took over an old house, “covered part of the back room, made a door, placed a small window, laid out a wood floor and plastered a little,” he wrote to Bishop Mathias Loras in Dubuque, but as was his want, he added:

“I don’t want to be all the time a plasterer, a carpenter, a cook, and others, but only a priest, a holy priest, and a priest a little more involved than in Keokuk.”

As interesting as the reading is and as informative as it is about the pioneer church in the mid-19th century, the material has the potential to be a much more.

What if…

First, the work needed a stronger editor and proofreader. There is a bad typo that moves an action inexplicably from 1843 to 1943. Also, no professional editor would have allowed an author to acknowledge that she asked an astrologer to come up with a personality profile of her subject.

No editor worth his or her salt would have allowed the text to go off on so many tangents.

Time after time Galtier’s biography wanders, sidetracked by anecdotes about other priests of the era. A good example is the tale about the  priest who shot one of the early bishops of Winona, MN. It’s as if in her research the author came across some juicy tidbit and couldn’t resist putting it in the book that was ostensibly a biography of just one priest.

Second, this really is good material — great research — but I couldn’t help but wonder how much impact it might have if done in another literary genre. Rather than the biography of one priest, the captivating stories of the lives of several priests who served the Upper Midwest in pioneer times would make an interesting and very readable historical novel.

Because Galtier wrote no autobiography, Luban has been led to make assumptions about him. That’s fodder more for a work of fiction, not biography. Second use of the material? — bz

Continue reading...