A World Grown One Soul Poorer

Father O'ReillyWorking in non-profit as I do, I meet a lot of truly amazing people.  (I meet a lot of assholes, too, but it’s a better than average ratio.)  Some of these amazing people are members of the clergy.  (So are some of the assholes, but again, it’s a good ratio.  But enough about assholes.)

One of the best of the best passed away last Friday.  I worked with Father O’Reilly for about a year on a capital campaign to raise funds out at Saint David Catholic Church in Davie, and, like everybody else who came into contact with this giant of a man, was thoroughly bowled over by his wit, charm, passion, and sheer competence in everything he addressed.

There’s a statue of his head and shoulders in the new building for which we raised the money with one of his oft-uttered refrains: “Don’t tell me it can’t be done.”  That sums him up.   He also liked, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You can’t win, you get all covered with shit, and besides, the pig likes it.”  (He’d say that after hearing a very stupid  argument.)  Also, “Why have a dog when you do all the barking yourself?”  “Irish Diplomacy: the art of telling a man to go to hell in such a way that he looks forward to the journey.”  (That’s Guido’s favorite.)

It was an honor both to know him, and to know he knew me.

Nobody lives forever, of course, so we content ourselves to be grateful for the time Father O’Reilly devoted to the thousands of souls fortunate enough to have shared his sphere of influence in the brief time allotted to him.

I’m not a Believer of any stripe myself, so it does me no good to imagine the heavenly reward he richly deserves.  Best I can do is keep him alive in my own thoughts and deeds, and hope that others do as well.

Thank you for your service, Father.

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2 Responses to A World Grown One Soul Poorer

  1. Whack-a-mole says:

    Fr O’Reilly was the kind of person that you were glad was in the community, whether you had dealings with him or not. He gave you hope in the goodness of people — some people, anyway — and a positive reinforcement for a general belief in human kindness, wisdom, and ethical behavior.

  2. Private Partz says:

    I was around when Father O’Reilly arrived in Davie — a young Catholic priest in a redneck outpost where the KKK proudly flew a flag and fired guns in the air just for fun. Father was a country lad himself, and found himself a small cottage with a pen where he could keep a horse. One evening he returned home and found the horse’s tail cut off. He knew just where to go, so he set off, the mutilated tail in hand. He marched into the store where the Klan guys hung out and tossed the tail on a table.

    “I don’t care what you think of me, my church, or my parish,” he told them, his Irish brogue in full display. “And I don’t give a damn what you try to DO to me. But if you fuck with my horse again, I’ll bloody kill every one of you.”

    Nobody said a word, and they never bothered him again.

    Father was six and a half feet tall and feared nothing. But it was more than that. Even these creeps recognized a genuine soul who they didn’t need to make an enemy out of. And so everybody went their separate ways, if not happily, then at least peacefully.

    I’ll miss the man, I will.

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