Notes on a Journey - Exclusive Web Only Content!
A Story exclusively published for the Morgan County Citizen Website in conjunction with
Notes on a Journey
Sage Words and Surprising Insights
By Newly Ordained Priest, Fr. Tim Gallagher, his Family and Friends
By Meg Ferrante
One of the joys of being a newspaper features writer is: you get to hear people's life stories. One of the hazards of the job is: people's life stories are long. Rarely boring, but nearly always long.
The exclusive web content below is like the second DVD in the movie pack. "The extras," so to speak. This is the Citizen's attempt to give more space to a fascinating story that deserves to be told at greater length than newsprint (and the average reader) can bear.
Continued from "In the Name of the Father: Life's journey leads to the altar for local man" (Morgan County Citizen, July 2, 2009 edition):
TOP MIRACLE ON A DAY OF MANY MIRACLES
That the fire marshal didn't show up and shut St. James Catholic Church down for overcrowding.
(In close second place, according to St. James Deacon Bert Berding, would have to be the overwhelming number of people who lined up for confession after Mass at Fr. Gallagher's urging.)
TOP THREE QUOTES THAT (SADLY) ENDED UP IN PIECES ON THE PRODUCTION ROOM FLOOR
John Gallagher/Tim's father:
"Pride is an understatement. I'm running the gamut of emotions, mostly joy and elation. Unbelief too, to think that all the things he's done in his life have to come this...."
Becky Gallagher/Tim's mother:
"When he came back from Desert Storm, he was a changed man. He was a in the first wave and it was very, very scary.... He told me, 'I found the Lord.' I don't think he ever lost Him after that."
Fr. Tim Gallagher/newly ordained priest:
"I'm overwhelmed with the generosity and support that I’ve seen at St. James. It's brought out the very best in people. It's evidence of God’s love moving through the people there. It effects me to say that this is bigger than me, not for me or about me. It's about Jesus Christ and his church."
TOP THING FR. GALLAGHER WILL BE HAPPY TO SEE IN PRINT..(EVEN IF JUST ONLINE)
Fr. Gallagher says that if there's one thing he wants to get across about Catholic sacraments (rites like baptism, first communion and in his case, priestly ordination), it's that God is giving us a share of His divine love from heaven, a share of his grace to prepare us to do something we could not do on our own.
"The Holy Spirit comes in to the soul of the man being ordained and it changes his soul, expands his heart with this grace from heaven and now he shares the very priesthood of Jesus," he says.
TOP "NARY A DRY EYE" MOMENT
When a priest is ordained, he is anointed with holy oil on the head and hands. "He is being marked for Christ, marking the penetration of the holy spirit into his very being," Fr. Gallagher says.
It is a Catholic tradition that after anointed, a priest is given a cloth to wipe his hands. The cloth, called a manitergium, is kept to present to the priest's mother.
Fr. Gallagher chose to give the cloth to his mother at the end of his first Mass. He explained that when she dies, he will wrap the cloth around her hands. Then it is believed that when she goes before the Lord, the Lord will say, "I’ve given you a son."
She will then hand the Lord Jesus the cloth and reply, "And I have given you a priest."
WHO KNEW? LOTS OF PEOPLE, ACTUALLY
Fr. Gallagher is clearly floored to see the direction his life's path bent... from Morgan County High to Desert Storm to a career in physical therapy to slowly, grudgingly, answering the call to priesthood.
According to Tim's dad, John, some of his old buddies are a little surprised to see how far he's come, too. But, thinking back on it, some aren't shocked at all. "I just ran into another fellow football player," John says. "He told me, 'I really had a feeling about Tim. He was a real special kid.' "
His family isn't surprised, either. "When it came to his faith, he was always more intense," says his mother.
"His first communion and confirmation, they were really meaningful for him," says his father. "I was just amazed. He took it very seriously -- more so than my other five children, no doubt about it."
Becky says that Tim's grandmother, John's mom, actually predicted it. "She always knew it would be someone in her family. All of that rosary praying paid off. On her deathbed Tim brought a miraculous medal to her. She was so excited about that, Tim being there, her grandson being a priest...."
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: A MUTUAL ADMIRATION
John says Tim is part of a movement of younger priests returning to a more austere way of life and orthodox view of church teaching. They feel society has become too lax in principles. He will be trying to present to an American mentality that wants to pick and choose, wants to do it the easy way. "Those who are open to people like him will be rewarded by knowing him," John says.
Fr. Gallagher returns the compliment. "My Dad was in the seminary to be a priest for awhile. He never asked me or pushed me about priesthood, though it's something that he definitely supports. I always looked up to my father, admired him for it, never thinking I would do it. It was definitely providential."
A FAMILY AFFAIR (all 58 of 'em)
Throughout the Mass and afterwards, several people remarked how much like a wedding the ordination and celebration of first Mass is. A Catholic man can choose one or the other sacrament, but (unless his wife dies) not both.
In some ways, it is nothing like a wedding, mainly because it is so out of the ordinary and because the Catholic man runs the show himself. You don't do that at your own wedding.
In any case, it was like a wedding in that Fr. Gallagher had 58 family members in attendance at, 57 from his dad's side and his Baptist grandmother from his mom's side.
Many in the family played a big role in the day's events. His dad sang as the cantor, his uncle played the guitar, several aunts and uncles were in the choir. His nephew was an altar server, his cousin who is a seminarian in Pittsburgh about to depart for Rome was an altar server, his brother read the readings and his three sisters brought the gifts of bread and wine to the altar. Oh, and not to be outdone, scads of his nieces and nephews ran around the church and reception keeping things festive.
FR. GALLAGHER on his ORDINATION:
The day before his first Mass, Tim Gallagher became Fr. Timothy Joseph Gallagher with the laying of hands by the Bishop and many fellow priests and with his laying himself down on the floor of the Cathedral, signifying that he was laying his whole life down for Jesus.
"Jesus came to offer sacrifice," Fr. Gallagher says. "Ultimately his own." It is a priest's job to take to the world the saving action that Jesus brought about.
This is how Fr. Gallagher explains the promises he made during the sacramental ceremony:
Promise of celibacy. “I renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom just like Jesus himself did. This makes a priest more free to carry out God’s will, to give his heart more fully to the church. It's a new way of loving in our world and how we will love in heaven, love in a celibate way. There's no marriage in heaven. We begin to see that now here on earth, through the love of a priest."
Promise of obedience. "The Bishop is a representative of the Pope and the Pope is a representative of Christ on earth. So when you obey the Bishop, you're obeying Christ. That’s carrying out
Promise of simplicity. "Jesus chose to be poor. The priest takes on simplicity of life. We live in a material world with plenty to distract us from the word of God." Fr. Gallagher plans to model his priesthood after St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests and recently named by Pope Benedict for The Year of the Priest as the patron saint of all priests. Vianney studied with Franciscans and ultimately became a parish priest, living a simple and humble life in example to his congregation.
EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD PRIEST JOKE...
For all his seriousness, Fr. Brett Brannan, the Vice Rector of Mount St. Mary's where Tim went to seminary, had multiple hilarious stories to tell in his homily (sermon). This one (paraphrased below) brought the house down:
Two priests go out hunting the first day of pheasant season. They spot some farm land and decide to go ask the farmer if he will let them hunt on his land.
"You stay here with the guns while I go ask," says Fr. Tim.
"Ok," says Fr. Jim.
A dandy farmer in shiny overalls answers the door and Fr. Tim says, "Sir, we noticed your land and wondered if you would allow us to hunt here?"
The farmer says, "Sure, no problem, Father. Be my guest. I have plenty of pheasant. Hunt all you like."
"Oh, you're so kind," Fr. Tim says. "Is there anything I can do for you in return?"
"Well," he thinks, "I've got this 20 year old mare that's real sick and about to die. She's like family though, I just can't bring myself to put her down. I'd appreciate if you could shoot her for me."
This was more than Fr. Tim bargained for, but an acceptable request in the face of such fine hunting land.
On the way back to the pickup, he thinks to himself, "I'm going to play a trick on Fr. Jim."
He walks over to Fr. Jim and says, "I can't believe it. That old cuss won't let us hunt his land. He told us to get out and never come back. You know what? I'm so angry, I'm gonna shoot his horse."
Fr. Tim pulls out his gun and shoots the farmer's horse.
From behind him he hears several blasts from Fr. Jim's gun and a shout:
"I got two of his cows, let's get outta here!"
...AND A GOOD JOKE BY A PRIEST
When Fr. Gallagher was little Tim, being raised in a household with two different faiths, he was sometimes confused about the Sunday plans. One morning, with the whole family bustling around, he asked his mother, "So Mom, are we going to go to the Catholic church today or that Batholic church you go to?"
As his first Mass was ending, Fr. Gallagher was sure to thank everyone for their generosity, thank them for coming and thank them especially for their patience with the length of the Mass, which was two hours long. "Remember," he says, "in eternity, the Mass never ends. We're helping you get used to that today."
Published Tuesday, July 7, 2009