The funeral for Father James Halligan was held on Saturday at St. Raymond's.
I'd never been to St. Raymond's before. What a gorgeous church.
[I had, of course, been past the cemetery a thousand times. You know how if you take the Whitestone Bridge to the Bronx headed for the Hutchinson Parkway, and as soon as you get out of the toll booth you pass that huge white cross on your right? That's St. Raymond's cemetery.]
Like the wake, the funeral was packed. The Mass was concelebrated by maybe thirty priests. When it was over an honor guard of uniformed kids from the high school lined the steps of the church and the sidewalk as the coffin was taken out, and bagpipes played. (Fr. Halligan's family had a lot of cops.)
This was all for a man who. in the eyes of the world, had no success in life. None.
He had rheumatic fever as a child, and his heart was severely damaged. They almost didn't ordain him because of his health.
The year after his ordination he suffered congestive heart failure. He would be in and out of hospitals his whole life.
He really wanted to be an Army chapain. But that was impossible, because of his health.
He never had his own parish, was never a pastor. Because of his health.
He worked all his life for pastors who, though they valued him, must have sometimes considered him a liability, because of his health.
He knew all about the value of humility. He tried to teach me; I still have a lot to learn, obviously.
Father Halligan was a great man, a great priest; he was my saint.
Everyone should have a Father Halligan in his life. If you haven't found yours yet, go out and find him. Today.