Letter-Stories In Honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Part 5.



He was a young athlete powerfully built and everyone knew who he was from the proud ensign on his blazer. Now a look of amazement was on his face for he was listening to a proposition a moneylender was making to a priest. The scene was in a cafe in the heart of Brisbane. The moneylender told the priest he would give him fifty pounds if he stopped paying a weekly debt on a widow’s home in Kennigo Street, Valley, Brisbane. It was the time of the great depression and the moneylender knew the widow’s house would fall into his hands like a ripe plum if she was unable to pay the weekly “redeeming money.” The priest was the helper of the widow for she was out of work and had three children. It was extraordinary that the moneylender knew who was the obstacle to his seizure of the home. The priest thought of the saying that some people knew the smell of money.
The priest and athlete both felt the cold hand of evil. The priest said the suggestion was unspeakably low and he could hardly believe anyone living in a land of plenty could be so degraded as to make such a request especially to a priest. He was not only angry but felt ill at the proposition. They left the cafe and went to the widow’s home. They were invited to enter. The athlete was delighted to see the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in the dining room. He said he had his own Shrine in his home in England and would like to say the Rosary some evening with them. Some nights later he did so and the mother announced a petition to Our Lady for “Help to save the home.” The action of the athlete and the low scheming of the moneylender hardened the mind of the priest and urged him to obtain greater help for the widow. She kept her home and her three sons eventually obtained good positions of employment. They realised the great sacrifice of their mother and her grim battle to keep for them their cherished possession. Ideals of sacrifice and prayer to the Mother of Christ formed part of their daily lives. The English visitor wrote often to the boys because sacrifice for children by a good mother appeals to all fine people everywhere and he was fine. His name was Jim O”Sullivan, Captain of the English Rugby League football team then touring Australia. He said he could not blot out of his mind the evil plea of the moneylender. It made him shudder. When he thought of the proposition made to a Catholic Priest, images of fallen angels and of evil powers almost obsessed his mind. Its vileness was something essentially foreign to his way of life. It made him draw nearer in his devotions to the Mother of Christ.


He came around to the priest after the devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour had been completed. He was vexed and contentious. He said he was a non-Catholic but had been coming to the Novena in honour of Our Lady because he liked anything devotional. He was a lay-preacher. For him the Bible was the holy book of God. Every night he read some chapters. The priest realised that behind the bluster the young man was worried so he invited him to his presbytery. The number of biblical quotations the young man could recite was astounding. He told the priest that white doves were mentioned in the Bible 198 times and small donkeys 130 times. The priest had an open mind on these figures for he was unable to check their truth. He searched through his books for confirmation but to no avail.
However, he had to assert his position and state the attitude of the Catholic Church to the Bible, so he set out to prove that numbers did not matter much and that the truth and beauty of Catholic Doctrine was better by far than the dry dust of the Reformation. He informed the young, man that white doves and small donkeys in the Bible synchronised with great events. From his Bible he read aloud Chapter VII of the Book of Genesis. It was the story of the Dove and the ending of the Deluge. “And Noah sent forth a dove out of the ark and she came back to him in the evening carrying a bough of an olive tree with green leaves in her mouth.” He also read out how at Christ’s baptism the white dove was immortally glorified. Luke in his gospel tells us that whilst John the Baptist in humility poured water from the River Jordan on the head of Christ, “the Holy Ghost descended in bodily shape as a dove upon him and a Voice came from heaven saying “Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.””
From the old Testament the priest read the story of Balaam and his donkey which had always been a favourite story around the campfires of Israel. Balaam was a pagan soothsayer and the Moabites, a tribe hostile to the Jews, besought him to curse the Jews. After promises of gold and silver Balaam consented but was prevented by an angel who obstructed his donkey from going near the Jewish camps. Balaam beat his donkey but God spoke through the mouth of the little animal “What have I done to thee,” it said, “Why strikest thou me.” The Lord opened the eyes of Balaam and he saw an angel with drawn sword forbidding him to continue. He became afraid and blessed the Jews crying out “How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel. A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel.”
In the New Testament he read aloud of many little donkeys and the gentle patter of their feet was always connected with some great event. They sounded on the cobble stones of Nazareth when at the decree of Augustus, the Roman Emperor, the Divine Mother with her unborn babe went from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the first Christmas night.
Their muffled sound was heard over the long sandy journey from Nazareth to Egypt as the Divine Family hurried away from the wrath of Herod who wished to kill the new born King of Kings in the massacre of the Innocents. Again the small donkey had a real moment of triumph when he carried the Divine Victim of Calvary on his last journey into Jerusalem. It was the first of our Palm Sundays.

A Catholic poet has put into verse the triumphal entry:—

I may be the tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will,
With monstrous head and sickening cry,
And ears like errant wings.
Fools! For I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet,
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

The shout was “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

The priest told the young man that anyone could count the white doves and small donkeys of the Bible but to what advantage?
To count the references to the Mother of Christ was of doctrinal use but there was need for something or someone to decide which ones were true. An authority was necessary to accept or reject. The first great truth which the new Testament taught was the Divinity of Christ. From it flowed the pre-eminent place that the Mother of Christ held in the Redemption. It was of small consequence to count doves or donkeys. What did matter was that Christ was God and Mary was His Divine Mother. The priest told the non-Catholic young man to memorize the great Magnificat of the Mother of Christ.

“My soul doth magnify the Lord
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God, My Saviour,
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid
For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,
Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation unto generation to them that fear Him.
He hath shown might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble
He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.”

It took twelve months of thought, argument and meditation before the young man fully appreciated and accepted the Catholic Church. At a parish church in Brisbane on Christmas Day, 1960, he received his First Holy Communion. He says he will not argue again about such topics as the exact number of white doves and small donkeys of the Bible. Now he has a Faith by which he lives and which he knows to be heavenly.


He was the best bicycle rider in Queensland. His great asset was the perfect co-ordination between his will and muscles to start quickly at the sound of the starting pistol. He came of a large Catholic family of Wooloowin, Brisbane. Two of his sisters entered the congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. He married a Catholic girl of Brisbane. When war broke out he joined the R.A.A.F. and received his initial training as a fighter pilot in Australia. He took to flying with great enthusiasm and was regarded as one of the most promising of the trainees. His judge of distance and height greatly needed by a fighter pilot was phenomenal. He was shipped to Canada with a hundred young airmen on the Empire Air Training Scheme. He obtained all his diplomas and was kept in Canada to train others, but he wanted to go to England to be in the battle zone. A few days before he was due to depart he told his Commanding Officer he could no longer fly. He did not know what was wrong, but he knew that if he continued he would wreck his plane. The R.A.A.F. medico told him to go slow and not to fly for a week. He felt worse and refused to go into the air. He was sent to England, but still knew that something was wrong. He was court-martialled and faced the charge and stigma of cowardice. He was disrated and given menial jobs to do on the planes. He was sent out of England and in New Zealand he wrote and told his wife he was peeling potatoes for the mess.

His wife was broken-hearted for she knew how high had been his ambitions for flying. She sent him a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and it was to Our Lady that he turned. He said he was going to die, but asked for her prayers to die with courage. He was discouraged for he could not give even an explanation of his disabilities. He ate and slept well but he began to drag his right foot. He was sent back to Australia and was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment for cowardice. Medical Officers said his health was excellent. He came to Brisbane dishonoured and his sole friends were his wife and his own people. He prayed to Our Lady for courage to bear the indignity and disgrace of being branded a coward. Numerous Specialists examined him but to no avail. A young doctor at New Farm, Brisbane, diagnosed his case as cancer of the spinal vertebrae. Two bones were almost chalk.
He was hospitalised at Rosemount, Brisbane, and began to bend. Prayer came easily to his heart and mind for Our Lady had given him the courage he had asked for. It was pitiable to see the curved body, now almost in a circle, of the erstwhile great athlete. He was happy and in peace. His wife realized the great drama of his life and his long bitter fight against unknown sickness. She was always sitting by his bedside. The R.A.A.F. Authorities “squashed” all past verdicts and reinstated him to full honours. He died and was given a full R.A.A.F. funeral. His wife considered her husband not only a great airman, but also a great saint. She continued to pray before her shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at her family home but longed for a greater field of sacrifice, so she joined a sisterhood which labours in India. She received the Missionary Cross from His Grace Archbishop Duhig at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane. At present she is working on an Indian Leper Station. She trained as a nurse at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Brisbane.


Their home was in County Tipperary, Ireland. Everybody knew that both boys-Kieran and Ned, entered the Redemptorist Order because their mother loved the devotion of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, and the Fathers constantly fostered that holy devotion. She often said that the only time she was free of worldly cares was when the Rosary was being said before her shrine. She grew flowers solely to decorate it. The children grew to love Our Lady. “The young plant will grow straight when staked correctly,” she said, and so she helped to stake their minds towards the Mother of Christ. The father was the mighty man of the district, the County blacksmith, and his name was Tim.

Both boys joined the Monastery together. Before they left home the mother impressed on Kieran the elder, the necessity of always helping Ned. They came to Australia. Kieran, who became a lay brother, was eventually sent to the Redemptorist Monastery, Brisbane, where he laboured during the last twenty years of his life. Those who visited the Monastery on the hill often saw the tall gaunt figure of Brother Kieran doing the menial work of the house. His soutane was always well-patched but immaculately clean. His boots seemed always to be old, but were always well-mended by his industrious hands. He gave the impression that meditation embraced most of his living hours, and he never spoke unless someone spoke to him. He once told a friend that he liked to do menial jobs in the kitchen, like peeling potatoes.
The days of his life passed in an uneventful way. He became sick and a renowned doctor, who was friendly with the monks, told the Superior that Brother Kieran had cancer and would live only a short time. The Brother refused to go to bed or neglect his duties. The Doctor said that the Brother reminded him of the Old Testament prophet Ezechiel, on account of his holy appearance and great voice. He seemed to be waiting for the chariot to fly him on heavenly wings to God he so loyally served, and to the Mother of Christ who now helped him in his mortal sickness. Brother Kieran suffered great pain but refused all pain-relieving drugs. His agony was depicted on his ashen face. The day before he died he stayed in bed for weakness stopped him from answering the bell of the Monastery, whilst it pealed out the morning Angelus. He was asked if he wished to see his brother.

“Oh no, he said, “leave Ned alone, he’s busy.” Ned happened now to be the Most Reverend Edmond Gleeson, D.D., C.S.S.R., Bishop of Maitland. He had become a Redemptorist priest and had been appointed by the Holy See to the Bishopric of Maitland, New South Wales. Brother Kieran died and His Lordship remarked when told of his brother’s death, that it seemed that Kieran had an “express ticket to heaven, made out by prayer, mortification and love of Christ’s Mother.” That same afternoon His Lordship drove to the cemetery outside Newcastle (known as Sandgate cemetery) and there knelt in prayer at a grave whose inscription bore the words “Sacred to the memory of Brother Timothy.” Brother Timothy was his own father who, on the mother’s death, had followed the boys to Australia, and had become a lay brother also in the Redemptorist Order. His Lordship died in 1956 and at his panegyric the preacher told a truth which threw into relief the whole life of the Bishop, by saying that the Bishop had always walked through life with Christ as his companion. Our Lady had gathered to God’s throne three more of her very own.