BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFM
(Greg is in Jerusalem for a month on behalf of the Monastery of the Holy Land.)
The story of the friars always has surprises. On May 28 in Jerusalem, I met a young Israeli lawyer, Zaki Sahlia, who occasionally has done services for the Custody of the Holy Land, for an early evening drink. We had previously met on a visit to the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., when he was there assisting the Holy Land Foundation, with Father Peter Vasco, OFM. A Facebook message to Zaki, who works in Jerusalem through the week, but lives in Tel Aviv, resulted in our meeting in the rooftop bar at the Notre Dame Hotel, owned by the Vatican and run by the Legionnaires of Christ, where many of our pilgrim groups stay. (It has a great view of Jerusalem, and points east, including the Mount of Olives.) Zaki and I talked about a lot of things. He is Catholic, an Israeli citizen, whose family is Palestinian. He loves the friars, and is eager to support their mission with some projects of his own.
But the surprise came when we spoke about a friar whom he remembered from his childhood, at the parish in Haifa (Giaffa, as it’s listed in the Italian of the Custodial directory), St. Antony of Padua. The friar-priest was Father Malachy Brogan, from St. John the Baptist Province.
Father Malachy was apparently greatly loved there. Zaki recalled his kindness, and told me there’s a memorial to him there. I was able to share a story about Malachy with Zaki—again, one of those surprises which Franciscan life offers.
In addition to being Assistant Pastor at St. Anthony’s from 1995-2004, Malachy served as a retreat director and pilgrimage guide. He is buried in the friars’ cemetery at the Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, where he was stationed when he died.
Last year on the eve of Aug. 4 at Evening Prayer, I perked up when the necrology entry for Malachy’s anniversary was read—I’m always interested to hear about SJB friars who’ve worked for the Holy Land. But what surprised me—and has stuck with me—was one memory of Malachy in and among the usual dry listing of assignments.
Malachy is remembered among the friars for a saying he used frequently: "I want what God wants." That evening, this simple line affected me profoundly. You can’t get to the heart of what faith, prayer, Christian life, are all about: I want what God wants.
In the days and weeks afterward, Malachy’s mantra became a prayer: God, show me what you want, and help me to want it. The prayer has stayed with me, and become a part of my spirituality.
This week, at a rooftop bar overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, in a shared moment of recollection about a dedicated Franciscan, it all came together!
(Greg is posting photos from his travels on the Monastery’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/franciscanmonastery/.)