A Spiritual Diary: Fr Kilian McGowan, C.P.

In his spiritual diary -- excerpts begin here when he is 60 years old -- Fr Kilian recorded insights, goals, dreams, and searching self-appraisal. "Lord, help me to hang in there," he writes. And: "Lord, accept my crumbs; some day I may yet produce a banquet."
January 1976

There is a definite change in my prayer-life at this time... a kind of deepening of the prayer of the heart. Gradually, my prayer is condensed in one phrase: Jesus, love me, heal me, have mercy on me!

I also was given an insight to realize that I'm too aggressive in my praying and doing... almost as if everything depended on me and not on God. I have to let go, to listen more and be more responsive to God's inner direction.

My petitions flow into one great ambition: that my God of Love would give me a loving heart. If a saint I ever become, I want to be my own unique brand. I want to be very human -- full of fun and joy (even mischief at times). Serving people -- especially in healing and listening to their hearts, making them happier, lifting their burdens. My chief self-denial is to be the daily task of being more human. I want to preach the "unsearchable riches of Christ" more by what I am than by what I preach.

December 1976

I had an unusual dream last evening. I dreamed that our Lord came to me as the Good Shepherd gently healing me of the wounds of sin and selfishness in my life. That's unusual for me, for I am rarely conscious of dreaming, especially of the Lord.

Trying to discern the providential action of God in my life, I'm aware of the following insights in my life these past few years:

  1. The key to growth is listening. This insight struck me at Father Vincent Dwyer's workshop and has gradually turned my life around. Since then I have been trying to be more aware of the varied ways that the Lord speaks to me. I believe my reflective listening has deepened considerably.

  2. Listening is truly a healing process. In my relations with others, especially in pastoral care, I have tried to tone down my tendency to talk too much and practice the discipline of listening with compassion and care. I am learning more and more of others' hearts.

  3. Affirmation is the work of love. I have asked the Lord to transform my tendency to judge and be critical into acts of compassionate affirmation of the basic goodness of others with whom I live and work.
January 1977

I know from past experience that I'm quite adept at planning my future with all kinds of idealistic goals, but also that I'm only mediocre in realizing these goals. If I ever kept my resolutions I would have been a saint a long time ago.

So, Lord, with this in mind, I'm still determined to give you the kind of heart you want. I do want it to be undivided in its devotion to you and in your fulfilling your will for me. Please heal me of my selfishness and sensuality and fill me with your spirit. I'm so far from being ready for the Vision of You.

I think I'm in a kind of transition, but I don't know from where to what! It's a kind of dark night of the sense... and somewhat of the spirit too. I think the Lord is drawing me to deeper intimacy with himself, but I'm also conscious of some obstacles to be removed.

I seem to be at a "standstill" stage. My "get-up and go" has gone. I'm dragging along, but deep down I'm at peace. At times like this... when even ordinary duties seem oppressive... it's hard to know whether it's an interior purification, or just the lack of potassium! Lord, give me strength...I can move spiritually only as fast as the Lord permits. Patience is a sharing in the Passion of Jesus and I need much patience now. Lord, help me to hang in there!

July 1977

I have a deeper appreciation of the importance of "good memories." I'm grateful for the good memories I have of my family and friends, of my faith and my apostolate, even of the wholesome human joys of vacation time this summer. I realize how much one's habitual memories affects his/her peace and happiness. My memories of the Lord are so good... and he is so great.

I have no mystic experience of this Divine Love but the awareness is growing. Our habitual image of God is so supremely important. We must know and love him as he is.

December 1977

I believe the Lord wants me to be a "gradualist." No spectacular advances, no extraordinary charisms, but a slow growth in the tendencies I see. I am content at this stage in my life and that's a blessing. Perhaps, even better, I look forward to the years to come, or the days, as the case may be. I do want to finish the work the Lord gave to me, the work within myself, that is. I trust that the Lord in his mercy will restore to me the graces and helps I lost by my selfishness and my sensuality and pride.

I have been trying to give more attention to the men in my community, listening more, slow to disagree, ready to inject humor, and alert to doing little things graciously. Lord, accept my crumbs; some day I may produce a banquet.

Winning a golf game, watching the World Series during "a night of spiritual darkness", pioneering this magazine--these events lead to a moment when Fr Kilian reflects that "the Holy Spirit has finally put my house in order."
April 1983

On Good Friday, while venerating the Cross of Jesus I was deeply moved while approaching and kissing the feet of Jesus. The Lord gave me the courage to promise, with his healing help, never to refuse him anything great or small. Hope I can live up to it.

October 1983

The Lord granted me a neat human gift this October 4th permitting me to beat Flavian at golf at Spring Meadow, NJ We had a shore dinner afterwards and I was happy to pay.

March 1985

My work and study on the Peace Movement for the Spring Compassion has deepened my desire to be a true peacemaker. Let's see where it takes me.

October 1986

In a night of spiritual darkness, the Lord graciously uplifted my human spirit when the Mets won the 7th and final game of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. A tremendous and exciting series this year: Praise the Lord!

July 1986

Today, on the feast of St. Ignatius, that great soldier of Christ, I renew my intentions to love more consciously in the presence of the adorable Trinity. "Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" has become my favorite prayer.

Christmas 1986

Tried during Christmas to visit those who have few friends left because of age or infirmity. No big deal, but probably better than before. Why did it take me so long get a little wisdom.

Again I thank the patient God for bringing me this far as imperfect as it is.

I see more clearly that the things that upset me are more the view that I place on reality than reality itself. I wish I could be more in tune with things as they are and not just as I see them.

I asked the Infant Savior to heal me and give me the great gift of a compassionate heart. I do believe that this desire is now my predominant one. The Lord has abundantly blessed me: an abundance of love from family and friends, the challenges I need to keep me alive, enough achievements modest as they are, an almost too-secure life, the knowledge that I'll have interesting things to do as long as I last, an ability to comfort and affirm others -- all the treasures of my Passionist vocation. Above all, the tender mercy of the Lord and protection of his Mother Mary.

I am a very rich man!

Advent 1988

Just finished reflectively reviewing the past year. It was a year that saw the loss of loved ones: my sister Jane, cousins Joe Domareki and Dotsy Bender, friends like Ray O'Brien and Noreen and Steve Kristofak, and some members of the Confraternity. And only yesterday I heard that Charlie Lund, typesetter at Colby and McGowan, died suddenly on Thanksgiving afternoon.

We hold time so falteringly and loosely in our hands and it slips so easily from our grasp. One must touch, use, and hold it with reverence and cherish the gift of it.

My Advent prayer has been very simple: "Come, Lord Jesus." I'm sure he came, but my emotions didn't know it.

Trinity Sunday 1989

On this feast day of the Holy Three I simply pray: "My Lord and my God, be my God and my All!" That is all I ask and that is all I hope for...even as I realize that is EVERYTHING!

May the consciousness of your presence grow every day....and every hour of my life.

June 15, 1989

Here we are on June 15th, the birthday of Flavian Dougherty (here today) and Gerard Anthony. We were talking about advancing age and remaining years...

I want to do what I hope to do forever -- to praise and adore and glorify the goodness and mercy of the Lord...and to do this thankfully and joyfully in the days that remain of this life of mine. I pray to the Blessed Mother, Mary, already thus wonderfully occupied, to teach me how to do this.

Advent 1989

I want to study the pattern of the Holy Spirit on this day when I am exactly 74 and a half years of age. I think the Holy Spirit has finally put my house in order -- even though I gave him a rough time for so many years -- I now feel at one with his/her guiding lights...

A "heart filled with peace and gratitude" coexists with the yearning "to be a truly loving person".

June 1, 1990

It has been a very eventful year filled with an unusual variety of events: from a high on my golden jubilee celebration on September 30, 1989 to a low, low on the death of my dearest friend Flavian Dougherty on February 12th, 1990 -- a miniature ecstasy and agony! And other key events like the 43rd Provincial Chapter in the second week of May of this year.

There has been delight and pleasure on the surface of my spirit, as well as sorrow and darkness above and below.

I do believe that my life now and my spiritual thrust is centered on the Lord and his glory. I yearn now, more than ever, to praise and adore his greatness and to bless and thank him for his mercy, his gifts and his goodness. That, I imagine, is the chief thrust of our heavenly endeavor, and now seems the proper time to get into the swing of it!

I glory in his goodness. I lean on his mercy. I trust in his Providence. I love his love, especially as evidenced in his Passion and Death. I want to delve into and taste more deeply his mysteries.

And I depend, as always, on our Blessed Mother to fashion me in the image of her well-beloved Son, Jesus.

For all that has been, Lord, thanks!
For all that will be --Yes!
And make me a loving person.
June 1, 1991

On this event of my 76th birthday, my heart praises the Lord for his mercies to me: with special gratitude for life -- for my parents and my family -- my teachers in the faith -- my call to the Christian and Passionist life -- the forgiveness of my sins -- the years and time to grow in charity and maturity -- the opportunity to become more attached to the Lord and his will and less enslaved by my own inordinate desires. And, I guess, to thank God for graciously handling me with velvet gloves...and all that I have received through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, my refuge and my way to God.

November 30, 1993

"Come, Lord Jesus, all I ask for is a loving and compassionate heart -- especially for the crucified of today. I ask with a grateful and peaceful spirit, at the thought of another opportunity to relive the mysteries of Jesus Christ.."

November 1994

Fr Kilian with a young family memberDespite my current medical problems, I enter this new liturgical year with a heart filled with peace and gratitude for the past mercies of the kind and gracious Lord. My prayer is the same as last year on this new beginning: "Come Lord Jesus, grant me a compassionate and loving heart --especially for the crucified of today. In the days that remain, use me as you will for the glory of our Father."

December 1994

This year I presume to beg for the very heart of the Savior with which to glorify the Father and compassionate those in need (bodily, material, spiritual) in prayer, speech and deed.

As I slowly approach my 80th year on earth, this is my one great desire -- to offer the Adorable Trinity this one gift -- after they have shared this treasure with me. I seek nothing less or else than this!

I refuse to consider my sins any more as I wish to consider the Greatness of God and not be distracted by my own predictable weaknesses.

Feast of St. Kilian: July 8, 1998

I hope I may achieve at death what I have not always achieved in life, to be a truly loving person.

My spirit I surrender completely to my most loving and merciful Lord Jesus in heartfelt gratitude for a most blessed and happy life, praying that I may be one with the Lord in his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

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