Recently a copy of the eulogy for Fr. Raymond Meagher, O.P., delivered by Fr. Ignatius Smith, O.P., in Washington, DC on October 22, 1954 was given to the friars in Pleasantville, NY. Fr. Meagher served as Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph from 1913-1930, and was instrumental in founding Providence College and in building the House of Studies in River Forest, IL, and many other accomplishments. The Province of St. Joseph tripled in size during his years as Provincial.
Very Reverend Raymond Meagher, O.P., S.T.Lr., Ph.D., LL.D.
Died October 19, 1954
Requiescat in Pace
Very Reverend Father Raymond Meagher, O.P.
We gather with heavy hearts and a sense of tremendous loss for the obsequies of the Very Reverend Raymond Meagher, O.P. He died on Tuesday at the age of 81, a Dominican for 65 years and a priest for 59 years. Time does not permit a detailed account of the superb achievements and the wonderful personality that mark him as one of God’s giants in the Order of Preachers and in the Catholic Church in our Republic. However, as much as he would object to it, you would wish me to unfold for you, quickly, the pattern of priestly character he has left for our inspiration.
Nature and God conspired to give to Father Meagher remarkable gifts of mind and heart. His keen intellect, his calm and accurate judgment, his quick and sound reasoning distinguished him from the time of his entrance into the Order of Preachers in 1888 and commanded respect for him at Louvain where he finished his theological studies. His great mind was matched by a heart that throbbed with love for God, love for the Church, love for his Order, love for his family and love for mankind. With his outstanding talents it does not amaze one to find Father Raymond selected by God and his brethren to assume tremendous responsibilities.
His first task, teaching, was most successful, but it was brought to an early close by the decision of his Provincial to give his talents wider range outside the classroom. This decision proved to be correct because in every area of Catholic life to which he was assigned or elected he rendered very distinguished service.
Father Meagher was a preacher of outstanding ability. He was sound, simple and practical in doctrine, perfect in diction, orderly in composition, earnest in presentation, dignified in manner, eloquent in communication and effective in enlightening, persuading and converting.
Father Raymond as pastor in St. Antoninus in Newark, N.J., in St. Dominic’s in Washington, in St. Peter’s in Memphis, in St. Vincent Ferrer’s in New York was most zealous and successful. In these offices his remarkable versatility and his deep apostolic spirit manifested themselves at all times. He was inspiring in his devotion to the children in the parochial schools. He promoted and pioneered in athletic and social activities for teen-agers fifty years ago. He multiplied church devotions. He was especially helpful to the sick and the needy. In all his ministrations he showed a buoyant cheerfulness that made him very approachable and made religion attractive.
In his capacity as superior of the Dominicans in these respective localities he is remembered as a kindly and sympathetic religious gentleman. He was deferential to the older religious and to the infirm. He was sympathetic but firm. He promoted the sociability and religious fellowship so necessary for successful community life. He was dedicated, without ostentation, to regular observance. His example inspired all to selfless and sacrificial service of all God’s people.
Father Meagher was elected Provincial of St. Joseph’s Province in 1913 and occupied that office until 1930. In this position his high appreciation of the mission of the Order of Preachers in the life of the Church Universal was in constant evidence. By him was established the Poor Boys Priesthood Association for the education of young men for the priesthood, mainly in the Dominican Order. His devotion to this cause was both unflagging and successful and the personnel of the Province tripled under his leadership. You who remember his directions recall his constant emphasis on the need of a great army of men in the white habit of St. Dominic, highly educated and apostolic preachers and teachers, whose active life would reflect the traditional contemplative spirit of the Order of Preachers. It was to render such service to the Mystical Body of Christ that he enlarged the horizon of Dominican activity in the United States by his devotion to Providence College and by the construction of the Dominican House of Studies in the suburb of Chicago, Ill. In this work, in the supervision of construction work undertaken in our old parishes, and in erecting new foundations Father Meagher secured, he displayed both great architectural appreciation, financial genius and apostolic zeal.
The new opportunities he secured for Dominican activity and the new foundations he obtained from various Ordinaries revealed his deep devotion to the Order and to the Church. This double devotion of Dominicans to their Order and the Church has been the boast of the Sons of Dominic for seven hundred years. It flowered in the constant and successful efforts of Father Meagher to expand Dominican activities—the Holy Name Society, the Rosary Confraternity and the Third Order of St. Dominic and all Dominican publications. He was in constant contact with the members of the hierarchy, by correspondence and personal visits, offering the services of his subjects in these holy causes. The Bishops knew him, respected his zeal and unselfish devotion to religion, and they favored him in many ways. This zeal was recognized in Rome and is memorialized in the adoption, under him, of a missionary field in China cared for by the Dominican Fathers, Brothers and Sisters of this Province. These are facts to be remembered about this great religious gentleman, through whose example and leadership, through whose knowledge of and cooperation with the hierarchy was given fresh realization of the Dominican tradition “The Order for the Church and not the Church for the Order.”
Another superb and life-long quality in the character and career of Father Meagher was his remarkable ability to make and keep real friends. Persons on every level of society and in every area of life were drawn to him, loved him and in return were the recipients of his friendly attention and generous service. Perhaps this unusual ability was based partly on the variety of his interests and the versatility of his talents. As an outstanding Churchman, in the deepest sense of the term, he was skilled in and at home with discussions of the ecclesiastical sciences, church problems and church policies. Churchmen liked to be in his company. He was interested in and talked intelligently and intelligibly about public affairs, politics, sports, entertainment and was appreciated by the laity who were devoted to these various pursuits of life. He quickly put people at ease and easily won their admiration and affection. His friendships were lasting. He was loyal to, attentive to and grateful for those whom he listed as his devoted friends and they were and are innumerable.
Even in the last few years while comparatively inactive, devoted largely to liturgical interests, a constant sufferer, Father Meagher continued to inspire those who were near him. His grit and courage were an inspiration to his brethren and a source of bewilderment to his physician and nurses. All got to know the deeper holiness and Christlike manliness of this unusual priest. All knew, as the rosary slipped through his feeble fingers, that he was carrying, without complaint or murmur, his cross of pain for Jesus’ sake.
This acceptance of physical pain and mental anguish was the same kind of sanctified submission that had made him so considerate and helpful in the misfortune in others. This Christlike meekness of this vibrant and dynamic priest made him always reverent of authority. When superior, it made him receptive even of the dissenting opinions of others. It enabled him to welcome suggestions from any one, of high or low station in life. It gave him the power to create a democratic atmosphere in every group and to make obedience to law less difficult. It gave him the wisdom and prudence to respect the sacred personality of all human beings, the religious dignity of his brethren and the sovereign eminence of all priests.
We will always cherish the memory of his courage in the administration of justice, his squareness and his frank, straight-forward instructions. We will never forget the charity so evident in his kindly speech, and his sympathetic understanding of human frailty, in his patience with criticism, in his generous forgiveness of injuries done him.
God was good to us in giving to us such a Preacher, Pastor, Provincial, Churchman, Priest, Religious and Friend. Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Dominic will welcome him into their heavenly society. For that we pray. An army of happy souls whom he helped to save will rejoice over his rejoining them. In this his family, always so dear to him, will find consolation. To our prayers for him we add our sympathy and condolence to you his relatives and friends. Father Raymond — as we quote from the word of God — “was beloved of God and men and his memory is in benediction.” Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
October 22, 1954.
IGNATIUS SMITH, O.P.