Photo: Felix Carroll
Father Mark Garrow, MIC, in 2005.
Father Mark Garrow, MIC, 1955-2007
Father Mark Garrow, MIC, celebrating his first Mass as Provincial Superior last fall.
Father Mark, during a hiking trip with seminarians at Catoctin Mountain, in Maryland.
On April 2, 1955, Jesus smiled on a just-born infant to greet his first breath of life, taken in Wilbraham, Mass. On Oct. 19, 2007, at 9:30 a.m. on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., after Mother Mary washed every Rosary with her tears, Jesus smiled again when He took that life back, reborn, this time, into eternal life. The infant had grown into a man. And the man had done well.
At the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, flags flew at half-mast. The steeple bell tolled soberly and continuously. Shrine Receptionist Wendy Flynn struggled to keep up with the phone calls flooding the lines — calls from people who knew the man, who went to school with him, men crying. They were crying for themselves.
Her 'maternal solitude'
When Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC, assumed leadership of the newly named Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province, he wrote a letter to his Marian brothers, dated Nov. 15, 2006. His first words were, "Salve Regina, Mater Misericoridae."
In using the words of the ancient antiphon, Fr. Mark, who died Oct. 19 at the age of 52 following a long illness, highlighted the significance of Mary and Jesus to the Congregation of Marians. No, he wasn't stating the obvious. He was stating the necessary by setting the tone required for a radical response to Jesus' summation of the law: Love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself.
In the letter, Fr. Mark didn't preach to the choir. He went to the heart and soul, the very core, of the Marians' mission: to do all — every thought, desire, word, action, and omission — only with the help of Mary's prayers and her "maternal solitude."
Father Mark emphasized the Blessed Mother's role as "a model for our consecrated life" and urged his brothers "to imitate her in opening ourselves completely to the gift of God's Mercy in Christ." He then invited them "to follow her example in doing all that we can to bring that Mercy to others."
'The honor of a lifetime'
Father Mark lived delivering God's mercy, and he died surrendering to that same mercy, the Ego sum Vita ("I am the Life") that we will only see as He really is when we die.
Father Mark's surrender involved taking up a ferocious cross without complaint and with great humility. He met the staggering suffering caused by tongue cancer straight on, and every caregiver who looked after him in the final months remarked on this great witness.
"It was the honor of a lifetime to take care of Fr. Mark," said Judy Ryan, one of his nurses.
On the outside, Fr. Mark Garrow shouldered his cross as a cooperative motion of his body. On the inside, he lived as a heavenly man who radiated the presence of God as naturally as a flower welcomes the sun: "Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God seeds into God" — Meister Johannes Eckhart.
Someone once said that one of the greatest of our illusions is to imagine that, when we suffer, we suffer badly. Only a heroic person of biblical proportion could be reasonably free from this illusion.
Let me tell you. After having heard from many of the good people who nursed Fr. Mark, we can believe he had no such misconception at all. Though suffering greatly, he knew he was suffering well. In isolation, suffering is hideous. United with Jesus, however, suffering becomes a way to "enlarge our capacity for divine life," as a Carthusian friend once put it.
That was Fr. Mark Garrow: using his disease to serve as one last lesson, perhaps the greatest he ever taught.
Divine Mercy, Natural and Easy
Father Mark served mankind as a bearer of mercy not because he found it difficult. He did it because he found it natural and easy. Just as in his pubic ministry he tended to the spiritual needs of countless people, in his Marian ministry he also answered the call, for example, when his superiors wanted to put his intelligence and judgment to administrative use. Father Mark served the Marians as novice master, local Superior, General Councilor, Superior General, Prefect of Formation, and, for this past year, Provincial Superior.
What kind of guy was Fr. Mark? A favorite story concerns his decision after his term had expired as Marian Superior General, an office he held with great distinction from July 2, 1999 to March 5, 2005.
Here was the Marian Top Dog, the Head Honcho (his great sense of humor would have laughed at these "titles"), with a great say about what his next assignment would be. What did he select? He chose the role of Prefect of Formation at the Marian Seminary in Washington, D.C. In short, he wanted to help young Marians. He wanted a piece of the Congregation's future.
When it came time to move into the Scholasticate, despite his enormous personal library of books, he took the seminary's smallest, least pretentious room. To hear it told, this was a room where you'd expect to find the greenest novice, not the erstwhile Superior General.
A Spiritual Dad
Talk to any of the young men Fr. Mark guided as formation director, and they will speak of a "Father" not as the title of a priest but in the role of a dad — a spiritual dad.
Brother Ken Dos Santos, MIC, wrote the following tribute last week, and, he says, "through the grace of God, I was able to read it to Fr. Mark."
How do you say goodbye to someone who has given so selflessly and lovingly of himself to those whom the Father has given him? Does a father forget his son or a son his father? No, a father cannot forget his son, nor can a son his father because there exists between them a loving bond. Perhaps the greatest gift you have given us and continue to give us is this: You have shown us by your example how to be loving fathers to those to whom the Father has entrusted us.
Jesus gave us the model to follow in John 13: "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
You have lived out this model, and we are grateful for your example. You have also shown us how to be a loving son of the Father. ... If we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must heed his words in Matthew 10: "You have received without cost, give without cost."
As the father in the parable of the prodigal son embraces his child in all forgiveness and love, may we embrace those whom the Father has entrusted to us, as you Fr. Mark have continually and consistently done for us. And may we all one day, as sons of the Father know, His loving and forgiving embrace when we enter into His presence in heaven.
May Our Lady, Queen and Mother, receive you tenderly, Fr. Mark, and all of us as she received through her fiat the Word, Our Savior and Lord, and may she lead us as she always does to the loving embrace of the Father. May the Immaculate Conception be our health and our protection.
A Vocation Found in a Dump Truck
How did Fr. Mark envision his own role as a priest? The April-June 1985 issue of the then-titled Marian Helpers Bulletin, now the Marian Helper magazine, contains an article titled "Ordination" by Vincent J. Flynn. The article takes the reader to Dec. 29, 1984, the day of ordination for Mark Garrow and Walter Dziordz at St. Joseph's Church in Pittsfield, Mass.
The newly minted Fr. Mark recalled that his priestly vocation came early:
When I was very young, Mom and Dad used to pray with us at bedtime, and I can remember a couple of times coming into their bedroom unannounced and finding my father praying. So I would quietly retrace my steps. He never talked about it, but I knew it was important to him, and Mom, too, and that made a big impression on me.
When in high school, Mark became interested in history, an enthusiasm that continued throughout his life. Part of his reading list included historical narratives of the lives of missionary saints. These books planted a seed, and he started thinking about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
"[Reading about the saints] fired me up," he said. "I started to pray more, and there was a feeling that I wanted to go out and do the same kind of things. I wanted to do something for God."
The story of how he became a Marian illustrates the role providence plays in life, especially as one shows an awareness of spirituality. After he started thinking of the priesthood, Mark began casually looking at different congregations. He had never heard of the Marians. He wrote to different religious communities, requesting more information. Then one fateful day, the Boy Scouts decided to conduct a paper drive. He found his vocation in the back of a dump truck:
I was loading a stack of papers into the back of a big tractor-trailer. As I lifted it, the bottom half fell out, and the Marian Helpers Bulletin was on the top part of it, with the back page showing. And the back page was a vocation ad. So I grabbed it and wrote to them. The thing that hit me most was that the Marians were the first ones that responded quickly and the first ones to respond with a personal letter.
A Tireless Commitment to Serve Others
One constant in Fr. Mark Garrow's priesthood, as in most priests, was his tireless commitment to serve others. To the day he took his last breath, he served in witness as a witness. At the dawning of his priestly life, service was much on his mind:
In my ministering to other people, I am going to be, for better or worse, one of their contact points for God. So whatever I do or don't do is going to affect their relationship to God in some way. It's a humbling experience, and it scares me. But I remember something Bishop [Leo] O'Neil said to us before we were ordained. He said, "Are you weak enough to be a priest?" That sort of floored me at first. But then I realized what he meant. I have to recognize my weaknesses and realize that I can't be a superpriest. I can't [fix] every problem that comes in. But despite my weakness, despite my inability sometimes to help people, if I just place myself, the best I can, at God's disposal, fruitfulness will come from God, and my weakness serves that purpose. I'm not the source of whatever is going on in the ministry. Even weakness can point to God."
"If I just place myself, the best I can, at God's disposal, fruitfulness will come from God, and my weakness serves that purpose. ... Even weakness can point to God."
When you read these words, spoken after he had been a priest for only the briefest time, and you apply them not just to his ministerial life but especially to the way he humbly embraced suffering in death, you can feel ... something.
Death feels like defeat. We cry. The bereaved, in their inconsolability, make us feel as if the battle has been lost. The gloom is infectious. We begin to ruminate and brood. Death wins out in the end, and our life, that "morning flower" is "cut down an withered in an hour." That is what death is like without God.
Faith, however, transforms the experience and reality of death. It doesn't do this through magic or wishful thinking. All the outward religious practices in the world can't give death a battle. Only faith can, if we see faith as an interior assumption of love and nothing more, really, than the capacity to experience our lives (would it be redundant to say, "our spiritual lives"?) as they are and not as we wish them to be.
With love, the crushing attachment of grief combines with the limitless detachment of faith. We can then let go and even rejoice, as we do now in memory and honor of Fr. Mark Garrow, who, truly, has gone to his Eternal Reward.
This was Fr. Mark's concept of the priesthood: an exercise in humble service, achieved mainly through the acceptance and utilization of his weakness.
'I have nothing that I can really claim as my own'
What makes the loss of Fr. Mark so visceral to the entire Marian family is how much he was a part of the lives with whom he lived and the places he took residence. For instance, he once talked about his early days on Eden Hill, and what they meant to his formation:
I interned here at the Marian Helpers Center. I used to answer mission letters and some of the counseling mail, and I came to realize that I owe a lot of people I may never know face to face, the people who are part of the Association of Marian Helpers.
You can't help but be touched when somebody sends in a letter, let's say, Mrs. Jane Doe, who's in her 70s and can't afford a donation, but sends you [one] anyway and says, "This is for the education of a future priest." You suddenly realize you owe them an awful lot: a big debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they have been willing to make so that you can be a priest! Everything I have, every opportunity I ever had for education, has come through our [Marian Helpers]. ... In a very real way, they become a part of whatever I accomplish, because it was through their sacrifices, their prayers, their donations that I was able to become a priest and am now able to continue as a priest.
It brings back a quote I heard once from a monk: "There are no property owners in the household of God." And what he meant by that was that God has shown us charity and given us everything, and we never merited it, so we, in turn, have to share that with others. In that sense, I see myself as a steward. I have nothing that I can really claim as my own because everything came from others. So they have a claim on everything I own — not only what I own materially, but my ministry and my time as well. ...[T]hey [even] have a claim on my priesthood, and whenever I go to the Eucharist, I bring them with me."
The Eucharist was a favorite topic of Fr. Mark:
When I'm trying to help someone, I can bring them to the Eucharist. I can bring all my other involvement to the salvation of the Eucharist. Somehow it can all become a part of that, given to God in a way I couldn't do. I can always rest assured, knowing that in the Eucharist I have brought whatever I've dealt with, whomever I've shared with. I can bring them all into the Eucharist and know that in some way, God is working in their lives. I may not be able to touch base with somebody, but I know that just being able to celebrate the Eucharist and bring them into it, that I can do that for them. So everything ... gets its real meaning for me in the Eucharist.
In the wake of Fr. Mark's passing, all who knew and loved him can take solace in the fact that he has, again, gone to the Eucharist, this time in the most actual way imaginable, and — again — he has taken us with him. Father Mark is not only in Eternity on this day, but so are we. You can be sure that even (and especially) in death, he took us along for the ride.
'Total surrender to God's will'
Father Mark touched countless lives with his goodness. Father Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Marian Director of Evangelization and Development, knew Fr. Mark as well as anybody.
He was a gentle heart, very insightful and possessing a deep understanding of human relations. He cared for people with a genuine love. People in formation especially had a deep respect and love for him. He was also a conscientious and faithful priest, often a source of consolation and encouragement for both members of the community and the laity.
Father Kaz noted Fr. Mark's "deep love for the Church. He understood its history. He was an avid reader. He was always well informed about world situations as well as any news that would come from Rome." He was also an indefatigable worker, Fr. Kaz said:
He worked tirelessly for the good of the community, congregation wide, with a genuine love for different cultures and languages. For example, although he missed the United States when he was elected Superior General and lived in Rome, he quickly adjusted to the new environment, appreciating its unique charm.
He had a special love for Mary, the Immaculate Conception. While still in the womb, he received extraordinary grace, as he was in danger of dying. Mary placed a special role in his life. He also had a great devotion to the Eucharist.
Being a student during the turbulent years of our Church, when seminaries underwent various experimentations, he held close to the heart of the Church and remained faithful, not wishing to follow the path of experimentation in theology or liturgy.
'He noticed the comical elements of life'
Father Mark was a wonderful storyteller, Fr. Kaz said, and his yarns often produced heartfelt laughter, "since he noticed the comical elements of life."
"Above all," Fr. Kaz noted, "he led a quiet prayer life. He would pray through music, which he loved. He stayed close to his friends, and they could rely on him. Anyone who asked for his assistance, he would not count the costs. He would accomplish it."
Moreover, he was approachable. "People could come to him, no matter what the problem," Fr. Kaz remembered. "He would encourage them and offer solutions, and toward the end of his life he bore his sufferings with patience and openness to God's will. He was very peaceful, and that's how his life ended, with total surrender to God's will.
"He would not complain, even though the pain at times was substantial. He would quietly ask for assistance. Doctors have called [the Marians] expressing deep love and condolences. He touched their hearts. He was able to touch the hearts that he met with a gentleness of spirit, attentive presence, and true care for others. While he himself was sick, he would ask 'How are you? How is your family?', showing that selfless offer of himself. He was a true witness, a true brother, and a great and faithful priest."
'I guess you don't forget anyone who saves your life'
Father Mark not only proved a spiritual lifesaver but a actual one as well. In the early 1980s, a group of Marians made their annual trip to the beach.
Brother Ken Galisa, MIC, who served as Fr. Mark's personal secretary, picks up the tale from there: "I got caught in the undertow. I was drowning. I felt like I had half the Atlantic in my lungs. [Father] Mark and [Brother] Fred [Wells] could see I was going under. They swam out and saved me just as I was losing consciousness. I was sitting with Fr. Mark on Wednesday [Oct. 17] and I asked him if he remembered that. I said, 'Isn't it ironic that you saved my life and I cannot save yours.' He held my hand until he fell asleep."
"He was always looking out for everybody," Br. Ken continued. "I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. The first thing out of his mouth always was 'How are you doing?' " He loved books. His room looked like the New York Public Library."
Brother Ken then reflected on the end of Fr. Mark's life: "We saw that he was in great pain. He bore the cross incredibly. It was so humbling. He would take it in stride. I can see him in all the young seminarians. They are very serious about their formation. They are very serious about their studies. I think Fr. Mark had a lot to do with developing those qualities in them. He was a good friend to me, and he was always a gentleman. I guess you don't forget anyone who saves your life. He'll always be in our hearts."
'Guru' and 'Gads'
Arthur Dutil, director of maintenance and facilities at Eden Hill, is a former Marian Brother. As Br. Arthur, he served as Director of the Minor Seminary when Fr. Mark enrolled as a student the age of 14. Arthur met Fr. Mark when Fr. Mark was in eighth grade. His parents took him to Eden Hill as a possible candidate for the Minor Seminary.
"He was accepted as a freshman and spent all four years here," Arthur said, "attending school at the nearby Sacred Heart Fathers Minor Seminary. From the beginning, it was obvious his parents formed him into a devout young man, devoted to Christ and Our Lady. He had leadership qualities. He was spiritual and wholesome. He was also a very studious person. He loved to study and read books, so much so that there were times on some weekends that I would have to tell him that he wasn't allowed to read books," Arthur said with a laugh.
Arthur followed Fr. Mark's progress throughout his life.
"It didn't surprise me when he was elected Superior General. The same qualities he brought here as a freshman he carried with him throughout his life." Those leadership qualities led to Mark's nickname in high school, Arthur said. He was called "Guru" — a play on "Garrow" but also, in Eastern spirituality, a revered teacher, especially one who conveys wisdom and insight.
Doctor Kevin Kulik, a classmate in the Minor Seminary with Mark, recalled another nickname: "Gads." The moniker was based on the fact that Fr. Mark would never say, "Oh, God," like the other young men. He would say, "Oh, Gads."
'There was never a doubt for him'
Father Mark's older brother, Bruce Garrow from Vermont, said that they were the only siblings in the family descended from a bloodline of French-Italian and Irish.
Of Fr. Mark's vocation, Bruce said, "There was never a doubt for him. He felt he had a calling. He was a very gentle, kind guy, but he also had a brilliant mind, which helped him to be a good leader." In the past few months, Bruce said, "Mark handled his illness with total grace and courageousness. The disease took him one piece at a time, but he always handled it with graciousness. He was in a great deal of pain, but in talking to him, you would never know it."
Smallest Room, Biggest Heart
Like many Marians, Br. Ron McBride, MIC, expressed a sense of peace at knowing Fr. Mark is at peace. Brother Ron, along with Br. Jason Lewis and Br. Andy Davy, formed Fr. Mark's first novitiate class.
"He was a very warm, unassuming, and humble man," Br. Ron recalled before bringing up the "smallest room" story.
"After serving as Superior General," Br. Ron said, "Fr. Mark chose to serve in the Washington, D.C. house as Novice Master and House Superior, and he insisted on taking the smallest room in the house. He had us convert the big room that was for him into a chapel for the novices. We really understood: Here was a humble man. And he would do the dishes with us, do everything with us.
"We would all come to him with any problems we had," Br. Ron said, "and he would never let you leave the conversation without making you feel better. You always had the impression that he cared more about you than he did about himself. When he would ask how you were doing, he really wanted to know. To the very end, you could see in his eyes his care and love for you. If he felt the need to caution you about your thinking, he could gently guide you onto the right path."
Brother Ron observed that Fr. Mark loved movies. He also was a history buff — world history, American history, Marian history, and scriptural history. He added that Fr. Mark had a reputation as a "great homilist, able to make you understand the Gospel in a way that it became pertinent to your life."
'Fr. Mark offered himself up as an oblation to God'
Father Michael Callea, MIC, mentioned the significance of Oct. 19 in Church history, something that would not have been lost on the history buff that Fr. Mark was. "It's not insignificant that he died on the Feast of the North American Martyrs, which is such an important date for the Church in the New World.
"Father Mark was the first Provincial of our newly united provinces [the former St. Stanislaus Kosta and St. Casimir provinces, which were combined to form the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province based in Stockbridge at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy]. We recognized that he was a man of extraordinary talents and virtue.
"Just as God the Father consecrated the first beginnings of faith in North America by the martyrdom of Saints John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues," Fr. Michael said, "there is a way of seeing that as we begin a new chapter in Marian history, these beginnings are consecrated by the white martyrdom of Fr. Mark Garrow, an act of oblation in the sense that Fr. Mark offered himself up as an oblation to God."
'For Christians, death is not a sad moment'
"If you look at the writings of John de Brebeuf in today's liturgy, he talks of his desire to be a martyr for God and to live for his glory," Fr. Michael said. "Father Mark, at the very beginning of his illness, said he accepted this. He made it clear that he believed that God had brought this illness about for his own good and the good of the Congregation. The faith with which Fr. Mark accepted his own purpose in God's plan is an inspiration to the rest of us. It also points the way each of us is called, as in Christian baptism, to die with Christ in order to live with Him.
"Father Mark did not resist the Providence of God in his life. He accepted it with faith, hope and charity. He bore it heroically and with tremendous courage and fortitude, and in so doing, he set forth a pattern for each of us, no matter how we're called ultimately to give ourselves to God in this world and at the end of our lives."
As for the finality of death, Fr. Michael noted that for Christians, "death is not a sad moment. It is a moment of fulfillment and completion, and therefore, a victory in union with Christ's victory. Yes, we have sorrow, because we will miss Fr. Mark and the beautiful example he gave to us in all that he was as a person. But by drawing near to Christ, he draws ever nearer to us who live in Christ. And we look forward with sure hope for the reunion we will all enjoy not only with Fr. Mark, but with all who have been called to the glory of Christ, which is everybody."
Asked what he thought gave Fr. Mark the most reward and fulfillment in his many roles in the Congregation, Fr. Michael said, "Of all the tasks he did for the Marians throughout his religious life, he was the happiest working with the novices and training men for the priesthood."
The Very Rev. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC, succeeded Fr. Mark as Superior General. On July 7 of this year, with Fr. Mark in the midst of his lethal bout with cancer, Fr. Jan sent him the following letter:
Dear Fr. Mark:
Greetings in Christ! Numerous Marians throughout the world have been asking that I convey to you on their behalf, our great affection for you and our spiritual closeness to you during this difficult time of trial for you. I willingly do this from the heart, since I think of you and pray for you everyday. Many of our confreres remember you because you have touched their lives, especially in your capacity as Superior General from 1999-2005. Please know that your witness, throughout your religious life but especially now during your time of suffering, is cherished and appreciated. The difficult path that the Lord has set out for you is one that you must walk alone. However, know that we are united in spirit with you, and with all the Marians and associates who are assisting you on this path. You are not forgotten; rather, we feel especially close to you now.
I will always treasure the opportunity we had recently to pray together at the Shrine in Lourdes. We were united in spirit with our Immaculate Mother and with our soon-to-be beatified Founder, Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski, along with all the Marians who have gone before us. Thank you, Fr. Mark, for your great witness, and for the love you have shown. We continue to pray for your complete healing and recovery. Your gift of self is bearing great fruit for the Congregation. Please be assured of our prayers and love for you always.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Very Rev. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC
'The Rosary is an important prayer for me.'
The many efforts Fr. Mark helped spearhead during his term as Superior General include helping the Marian Congregation stabilize its presence in Cameroon and increase its presence in Rwanda, Brazil, and Ukraine. He also further fostered the collaboration between the Marians and the laity — particularly through the growth of the Association of Marian Helpers in the United States, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, England, Portugal, Brazil, and Latvia.
"I was really impressed by how the lay people who are working with us are continuing to grow in their own professional abilities and their spiritual sensibilities, and how devoted they are to working with our community in its many ministries," Fr. Mark said in an interview two years ago.
His six years in Rome not only served to inspire Marians worldwide, it also further deepened Fr. Mark's own faith in God and his own fervor to spread the Marian message of hope through The Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate.
"It's a torn world, and I think we Marians offer an antidote," Fr. Mark said. "We are called to point to the wonderful destiny that God holds out and invites all people to be a part of."
In that interview, Fr. Mark noted that when he was a baby in the womb, his mother dedicated him to the Immaculate Conception. Now, as a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Mark said how it was vital to his spiritual wellbeing to have a daily encounter, through prayer, with Our Lady.
How did he pray? He shared his experiences:
The Rosary is an important prayer for me. I pray it every day. I also enjoy very much when the liturgical life of the Church has feasts and commemorations for Our Lady. Those are important moments for me to take extra time to venerate Our Lady as well as to meditate on her life and to see her assistance in living the life of the Gospel.
I think mostly that my private prayer is done spontaneously throughout the day. Usually they are brief prayers. I speak naturally to My Lady and just ask her to pray with me and for me. They are prayers that come from the heart. They usually reflect my needs, my struggles, or my concerns or joys at any particular moment during my day.
A lot of times, too, I like to take the Gospel and reflect on those passages where Our Lady is present — like at the Annunciation or like at the visitation of the Gospel of Luke. I like to read those passages slowly. I take a great deal of nourishment, spiritually, from praying on those quietly and saying over, with My Lady, her response at the Magnificat.
'Little us — fragile, imperfect us'
To eulogize any man asks of any man the impossible, for how does one capture the fullness of someone else's life? For a writer, it's impossible. For God, though, all things are possible, and it is Our Lady and her Son, The Divine Mercy, who alone can properly acclaim the sum total of a person's life. They do it through us, little us — fragile, imperfect us — who, in conscious fidelity, serve as their arms and legs, their human heart and soul. They, and not I, write these words.
God does not leave us alone at a time of bereavement. He walks with us, as He always does. It's just that our sense of loss opens the heart and heightens our awareness. God is no closer than ever. We, however, are closer to him.
For God does not give gifts, nor did he ever give one, so that man might keep it arid and take satisfaction in it; but all were given — all He ever gave on earth or in heaven — that he might give this one more: Himself. ...
Therefore, I say we must learn to look through every gift and every event to God, and never be content with the thing itself. There is no stopping place in this life — no, nor was there ever one for any man, no matter how far along his way he had gone. This above all, then: Be ready for the gifts of God and always for [His] new ones. — Meister Eckhart
And so we, the Marian family, "look through" this event to see God. We will not be content with death itself. We give humble thanks that we were, however imperfectly, "ready" for the gift of Fr. Mark Garrow. We try, as best we can, to be ready for God's new one ...
... just like Fr. Mark.
Felix Carroll contributed many of the personal reflections from Marians of the Immaculate Conception found in this article. The author expresses his deepest thanks.
If you would like to make a special donation in honor of Fr. Mark, please make the donation for our Marian Seminarians.