Brother Patrick Magee fms

Received the Breath of Life
26 December 1924

Called to Accept the Marist Brotherhood
26 July 1943

Was Commended to God
7 January 2005

Mass of Christian Burial
10 January 2005
Saint Benedict's Church
Bronx, New York

Marist Brothers Cemetery
Esopus, New York

Eulogy delivered by
Brother Richard Carey fms
during the Mass of Christian Burial

There is a clear mental image of Pat that has stayed with me since he died and I desperately searched for the words my heart wanted to express.  As all else failed, the verse from the Irish song “When Irish Eyes are Smiling, the Whole World Smiles With You” kept replaying itself in my head.  For surely it was not only his smile I loved to see when I was with him but how it moved into his eyes and made me fell all would be ok even if just for the length of our conversation.  Tonight it is hard to find the smiles through our tears but even in this time of great sadness, I can picture his eyes and know all will be ok and that makes me smile. 

How did he manage is his simple, humble way to make us love him so much?  Why did the day seem richer after spending time with him?  What did he find during his 80 years of life which made us want to be around him to take a piece of him with us?

I certainly haven’t known him as long as many of you and can’t share any juniorate or novitiate stories with you without them being things I learned in my Marist history classes!  But judging from the clockwork nature of his prayer life, he would have been a Novice Masters dream and his fellow novices worst nightmare.  His regularity, constancy and commitment to the Eucharist and prayer were admirable and enviable. Without intending to, he touched my sense of Irish guilt knowing how scattered my prayer life is.  It was obvious throughout his life that his faith nurtured his spirit and brought him a wonderful sense of peaceful contentment.  It was easy to get a glimpse of the face of God by being around him.  Countless times I would find him in his office or sitting out in the main lobby, office book open, praying.   When he left Chicago, the President of the Fathers Club wanted to see me.  I figured it was going to be his resignation since Pat did so much work for them and I didn’t have anyone who could fill his shoes.  Much to my surprise, he had one simple request.  They just wanted a Brother to come to their meetings to lead them in prayer like Br. Pat had done.  Some times you just don’t see what’s right in front of you.

If there ever was a person who embodied the Marist virtues of humility and simplicity it was Pat.  His room, office and even his daily routine were always neat and orderly with everything in its place.  At times I wondered if he wore the same black pants, white shirt and black clip-on tie every day.  I am sure the teachers who had their desks in a row, blinds at the same height and the kids sitting up straight in their seats got his best evaluations.  Of course, psychology has identified some of these behaviors as obsessive/compulsive but how could you not appreciate them in him.  He was the ideal person to have at the cocktail hour.  He was wonderful company, an attentive listener and when everyone else went to dinner or out for the evening, he was always the last one to leave to make sure the place was cleaned up before he left.    

When I went to Chicago in ’99, one of my first priorities was to ask, soon to be followed with pleading, begging crawling, or whatever was necessary to get him to stay.  He was talking about going back to NY and I selfishly couldn’t imagine what life would be like if he left.  It’s not that I wanted him to do anything I just needed his presence, for there was no way for me to replace it.  His was the name you heard from all parts of the Marist community, about how beloved he was and how he embodied all that was good about our lives as Brothers.  In fact, I always thought that what Bing Crosby was to the image of the priest, Pat would be people’s image of a Brother.  The silver hair, lively eyes, gentle smile along with the office book and rosary could have made him a star. Instead, he integrated his life as a Brother with his work as a teacher, counselor, administrator, province leader and aged gracefully.  He was everyone’s grandfather as he found a way to express a genuine care and interest in what you were doing. During my visits with him in NY these past few years he knew everything that was going on in Chicago, sometimes it felt like he knew more than I did.  His Christmas card this year simply said “Congratulations”, that was enough.  No wonder we wanted to give him so many awards.  Whether it was his honorary doctorate from Marist College, the Laetare Award from Marist, Chicago or being one of the Legends of the Mount, he represented us. 

One of the things about Pat which always drove me nuts was his inability to say anything bad about anyone or anything.  This was most noticeable in his writing where if it could be said in a paragraph he would write a page.   When I would ask him about how an event went the night before, knowing full well it didn’t go well, he would always start with ‘it was good’ and work his way up from there.  I viewed it as my solemn duty to figure out a way to get him to say something negative.  Unfortunately in the Magee vocabulary of superlatives - good, better, best, it never happened and I was left to be content knowing that if he used the word good, it really wasn’t. 

Of course all that went out the window when it came to his true love, ND football.  It is certainly a passion we both shared and spent many an hour watching.  I am not sure if their demise these past years didn’t have some influence on his diminishing health.  I remember watching the USC game with him a year or so ago when they were thoroughly embarrassed and his commentary would have ruined all the good things I have said about him tonight.  Visits to South Bend always included a stop at the Grotto to ask for Our Lady’s intercession.  In recent years, I’m sure he invoked one of Champagnat’s phrases, that if this doesn’t work out, it’s all Mary’s fault.  A word of advice to their new coach, Charlie Weiss, if they don’t start winning soon, when they hit the line ‘shake down the thunder from the sky’ during the fight song, it’s going to get a lot louder with Pat up there!

So Patrick, we wish you well on your journey home. I hear heaven is very clean so I hope you’re not dusting God’s office.  You lived a full life as a loyal and faithful servant.   You have left a large hole in our hearts but we are grateful you created it.  You would be proud to know you have taught us well.  In our sadness and tears, there will be a time to smile again.  For we know you are watching us, eyes aglow, waiting for us to see the world as you did.