Fr. Joseph A. Galdon: A Homily by Fr. Stein



Homily delivered by Rev. Thomas A. Steinbugler, S.J. during Fr. Galdon's Funeral Mass
date posted: 2010-03-23 09:30:29

Rev. Joseph A. Galdon, S.J, Funeral Mass, March 18, 2010, Church of the Gesu
Homily delivered by Rev. Thomas A. Steibugler, S.J.

Preparing these remarks has been a labor of Love, a labor bringing together the love of so many people for Fr. Galdon--the wake Masses, the Necrological Service last evening, Facebook, the Ateneo Website, the Province Website, and so many letters from his Galdon Girls, many from Prayer Days with Coeds.

Since I have followed so closely in his footsteps thru the years, thinking about JAG has been like looking at a mirror, with most of the smiles on his side, the tears on mine. Let's see if we can bring some of those smiles out on our side. For our gathering this morning is truly a celebration of the Resurrection.. We bade goodbye to Joe over the past years, today we proclaim his good deeds, and we celebrate his victory march over suffering and death.

Why not begin with a poem, Gerard Manley Hopkins' sonnet honoring Alfonsus Rodriguez, our Jesuit brother?

Alfonsus was canonized in 1887. One the first year anniversary of that event, the Rector asked Hopkins' to write a poem. He was not happy with that assignment, and when he sent the first draft to his closest friend, Robert Bridges, he sniffed that the sonnet aims at being intelligible. You can judge about that.....

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.
(Laybrother of the Society of Jesus)

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

We have heard about Joe's accomplishments for the last several days; his headline years included his doctorate from Columbia, years of marvelous teaching, Dean of the College, Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, Rector of the Jesuit Residence Community, 18 years as Editor of Philippine Studies, five books published, the Mustard Seed Column in the Chronicle, five years heading the Admission and Aid Office. More than enough to forge his glorious day.

But what about those back-pages in Joe's life, Those years and years by of world without event, little-noted nor long remembered? What can they tell us about our dear departed friend?

Joe was 17 when he crossed the Hudson to enter St. Andrew on Hudson. One of four brothers, three of whom became priests. His parents were George Galdon and Mary Wasko, which tells us a lot about his Slavic parents, prayers at home, Catholic Grade School, no doubt an altar-boy. It is easy to surmise that his baptismal promises were polished regularly. At the age of reason, 6-7, he consciously started a journey towards God which he sustained for 74 years.We take that for granted, of course, but those who have made that same journey well know the cost involved, the faith revived again and again, faithfulness thru post-modernity. Not always smooth sailing, there.

Fr. Jim O'Donnell and I first met Joe in 1944, when he was a Junior in Regis. 'Twas a small school, and we all knew each other. Joe was Editor of the Yearbook, a member of the prestigious Virgil Academy, which meant 10,000 lines of Latin poetry mastered on the Bayonne Bus. (It was 6 years later when I finally accomplished the same.) Probably the head of his class. Although no one ever called Joe an athletic jock, he used to come early to play half-court basketball before school started, mainly with the younger students.... who were smaller !

Fr. Jim and I entered St. Andrew ourselves, 2 years later, just in time to watch Joe take First Vows our very first morning ... vows which shaped his life and which he still observed, until Monday morning. He became a lordly Junior, with a Baretta to wear during meals, and a new, clean cassock... compared to the dead men's clothes we were wearing! Latin galore, Greek coming out your ears, and the glories of English Literature. Finally, with awe, we watched him ride around the circle three times and head for the Philippines... two months short of four years after entering. Bayonne was in tears...

I met him again, his Philosophy in Cebu over, as a teacher in our H.S. Rather, I was a novice teacher while he was Prefect of Discipline. Easy to say, but how did this teacher-par-excellance feel when asked to stop teaching and focus on discipline and all the mundane matters of administration. We can only say that he was available, something we will see again and again in the life of Joseph Available Galdon. And, when I was asked to take the job after him, to my lasting shame I said NO, because I knew I could not do it as well as he did.

His next minor headline came in Theology. Joe was an illustrious member of the Fire Crew. We lived far out in the countryside. We had two fire engines--I presume to reduce the premiums of the fire insurance on our 90 year old building! Not only was Fr.Galdon illustrious, he was the Chief. They could leave any class when the gong rang, stay away as long as the liked, always have merienda on their return, and swizzle beer. No wonder every fire cowered into submission when Bob Hope rode up, in his flashy duds and gleaming smile.

Illustrados indeed!

Fr. Galdon returned to Manila in 1965, after 19 years as a Jesuit. Those were not headline years, but in them God, who, with trickling increment, Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more, was forging the man we came to know and love in the next 30 years.

On Tuesday evening Fr. O'Donnell summed Joe up as versatile. I will say the same thing with another word, available. Although he loved teaching in the Juniorate, he readily agreed to become Dean during the years of Yankee go home, and the Down from the Hill movement. Dozens of demonstrations, a strike, a book-burning... not an easy assignment, I can tell you, for I was his Asst. Dean. We worked for five years to bring coeds into the College! He headed the English Dept. when it had some serious internal problems. He sacrificed some of his own scholarship to edit Philippine Studies for 18 years, fostering the scholarship of others. Somehow, five books were published, and a weekly column in the Chronicle. His weekend seminars, known as Prayer Days for Coeds, changed the lives of hundreds; the last few days have shown that. One Jesuit told me at breakfast yesterday that for four years of College, he adjusted his Monday schedule to attend Joe's noon Mass, constantly crowded. All done with a certain grace and dignity.

In all, he was a very human being. He liked a glass of wine, some of his remars could be naughty -- his criterion for a good restaurant was "pretty waitresses in short skirts". He smoked a pipe, and in my travelling years I tried to keep him supplied with his favorite tobacco, Borkum Riff. Unfortunately, when that ran out, he would steal cigarettes from my room, and puff away on my Marlboros!

But he was a faithful man, true to his Baptismal promises, his Jesuit vows, his missionary vocation, his Ordination promises to be faithful to the Gospels, to preach what he believed, to practice what he preached. Easy enough to take all of that for granted. But really, we should stand in awe.

It can be said that Jesus went out to save us wearing only the shirt on his back, and even that was taken away from him. He saved us by being faithful and human, Joseph A. Galdon also served, and 'saved' us with his humanity, and in the end, even that was taken away from him. But I checked with the Infirmary yesterday, with one of his long-term care-givers, to whom we owe so much. He never once complained.

Today we give thanks and rejoice:
-
- For 75 years he followed his Lord and Savior
- For 64 years, he follow Ignatius as a Jesuit
- for 60 years he remained true to his dream for the Philippines and its beautiful people
whom he loved so much.

- Joe Galdon…….. the faithful one
The available Jesuit
A grace-filled human being
A Man for all Seasons

He used to end each PDC weekend with that wonderful saying of Dag Hammeskold:

" For all that is past, THANK YOU; for all that is future, YES.

As we return to our Mass in his honor, can we say that together, for him and for us:

"For all that is past, THANK YOU; for all that is future, YES.

Well, I don't think that is loud enough. Can we say it again?

Ah now we are getting there. Just one more time!!

So, I think he heard us. We have his attention. And so, with smiling hearts, we bid him farewell with words so dear and familiar:

"Good night, sweet Prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

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