Fr. Paul, on one of his assignments to our house in England happened to be with us for the Triduum. So we decided we’d have the services in our chapel.
At the Holy Thursday liturgy, when he got up to give the homily, he just said, "It’s an awesome thing to be a priest," and started to cry. Through his tears he said, "and the only thing I can do is wash your feet."
Then he went straight into the foot washing.
At the end of the liturgy he apologized for crying, and we told him, "That’s probably the best homily you ever gave in your life. Nobody will ever forget it."
— Helen Hodson
On Fr. Paul’s first visit to MH England, he had obviously surmised that we needed some plastic on our windows. Strong winds blew in from the sea, and our windows consisted only of a single pane of glass. The house was quite cool.
So on his second visit, he came in carrying a big roll of fine, clear plastic weighing about 150 pounds. He had brought it all the way from Canada; I think he had begged it. For someone to have carried it from so far, in the airport, on the train, and so forth! That’s a lot of weight.
We did need that plastic. And he did an expert job of framing it for winter storm windows for the whole house.
We—he—also built a green house. I helped—it was a good experience working with him, but he did most of the work.
A few weeks ago, when I was visiting him, he said, "I’m sorry I didn’t let you do much on that green house, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I never knew what I would do next."
Twenty-five years later the green house still stands, testifying to his skill.
— Charlie Cavanaugh
Fr. Paul was my first spiritual director at Madonna House, and most of the time I was with him I spent sobbing. One day, I went to confession to him. He had just gotten back from a time in our house in Paris.
After I finished, he said, "Most of what you said is false guilt and scrupulosity, but for the little bit of sin in it, I forgive you."
Then he got up, walked across the room, and brought back a little box. In it were two pieces of chocolate, the last ones in a box from Paris. He said, "For your penance, eat these two pieces of chocolate."
— Catherine Lynch
Fr. Paul certainly exemplified the line of the Little Mandate: "Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbor’s feet."
On Saturday mornings in Combermere, he attended the meeting of the laymen. He would sit there saying nothing, but we felt bonded to him.
He was also very flexible. When I worked at the farm, I sometimes went to confession to him on a tractor.
— Mike Fagan
Here’s just one instance of Fr. Paul being in the right place for the wrong reason. He came to the house in England to work on the house (bringing another roll of plastic).
We were all suffering at the time, for different reasons. He took each of us on, listening to us whenever we needed it. Then when he was back in Combermere, he phoned each of us every week and gave us however much time we each needed. He didn’t have a lot of words to give us—just a lot of love.
— Patrick Stewart
When I was growing up, my family was close to Madonna House. Staff were in and out of our house, and when I was a teenager, I felt free to talk to Fr. Paul.
Once when I was seventeen, I said to him, "I’m so bad."
He picked up a mirror, held it up to my face, and asked me, "Who do you see?"
I said, "Me."
He said, "No. You’re looking at Christ."
I didn’t know what he was talking about till I grew up.
— a neighbor
When I was a young staff worker in the carpentry department, I made a big mistake. This created a lot of anxiety for me, because I was a perfectionist.
Fr. Paul "just happened" to come along at the right time. He said, "Don’t worry. If you make a mistake, find a way to cover it up. And if you can’t find a way to do that, glorify it."
— Fr. David Linder
In this last while, Fr. Paul would come to Sunday Mass in a wheel chair sitting up front with the other concelebrating priests.
When you were the reader, after finishing the reading, you’d walk by him, and he’d always say, from the depths of his heart, "Thank you." It was so beautiful; I was so moved by that.
So when I heard that he died, and since then, in my heart is a great "thank you" to Fr. Paul. I am so grateful for his humility, his prayerfulness, and the depths of his being that he gave us.
— Julie Coxe
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