Remembering Father Feeney

During the long years (1942-1978) in which I was privileged to associate with Father Feeney on a daily basis, I kept a record of statements he would make from time to time, in his sermons or lectures, or in ordinary conversation that struck me at that moment as proceeding from a deep mystical realization or apprehension. I felt an irresistible impulse to record these sayings that same day.

There was a supernatural quality and intensity that I clearly felt at the time, but which, after the passage of years, I now find impossible to reproduce convincingly as evidence. Some of these statements were original thoughts of Father, and some were traditional maxims or well-known quotes from famous saints or Doctors of the Church. I recorded them because, in my judgment, they manifested a deep and significant insight into the spiritual life of his great soul.

I have selected twelve of these sayings to share with our readers. In a few cases I will add special comments but, on the whole, it shall be left to the reader to deal with them as we do with a fragment from some ancient sage. The truths are simple and childlike, but it was the spiritual intensity with which they were uttered that made so many of us who were his disciples change our lives because of them. It is by such truths that saints are made; it is by such truths that we will be judged.

  1. We are not made for this world.What fools we are when we think otherwise!
  2. We should mean what we say when we pray.
  3. God created the world for the saints and, above all, for Mary.
  4. We contemplate with love and admiration two great attributes of women — virginity and motherhood. We feel sad that one value must be sacrificed for the other.What joy! what triumph! that both meet everlastingly in Mary. After Mary, virginal life becomes fruitful.
  5. We have only one business on earth: to become saints. What a pity if we miss out!
  6. There is no true charity other than to help people save their souls.
  7. When I pray: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me now and in my last agony, I cannot believe that Jesus and Mary come in their glorified bodies, but Joseph as a detached soul. (Father believed that St. Joseph is also in heaven, body and soul. Some saints believed and preached the same, e.g., St. Bernadine of Siena and St. Francis de Sales. However, Father did not preach that as a dogma because the Church has not defined it. In his characteristic humorous way he would say, “Take it de Feeney definita,” punning on the traditional theological note, de fide definita.)
  8. “God cannot be outdone in generosity.” In Heaven we shall see how true that is. (Father was quoting a favorite maxim of M. Martin, the father of St. Thérèse. He used to apply that maxim especially to children who die unbaptized — he had a baby brother who was such — yet he never allowed this very legitimate, but sentimental, consideration to dictate his theology on the necessity of baptism. The Church has never allowed that unbaptized children can attain the Beatific Vision. There must be a merciful way by which God takes care of these children, but He has not revealed it to us, and we must believe that there is an infinite difference between baptized and unbaptized persons.)
  9. “No one who prays sincerely for salvation will be lost,” because God, whose arm cannot be shortened, will supply all that is needed. (Father was here quoting Saint Augustine. Again, we must wait for eternity to find out how it is done.)
  10. Heaven will prove to be full of surprises, but no surprise will prove false any word of God.
  11. When we speak to the saints, the saints hear us. (It takes faith to believe that we can actually talk to the saints! The truth of that is in the article we profess in the Creed: “The communion of saints.” When faith in the communion of saints becomes weak, very few people pray to the saints.)
  12. We are one, and nothing and nobody will ever divide us! (Father was here speaking about our order, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Crusade of Saint Benedict Center. He made this statement with strong emphasis as if he sensed forces working for this end, so I noted the exact day on which he said it—the Feast of the Purification, February 2, 1971. He proceeded to elaborate on the great edification we could be, and the multitude of souls we could help to save, if we stayed loyal to the doctrine which, in turn, would guarantee unity and charity among ourselves.)


This article was originally published in 1992, in From the Housetops magazine.