Thursday, July 1, 2010

Father Stanley Galvon: 25 Years of Priesthood

The following is a light-hearted homily preached on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the 25th anniversary of the ordination of Father Stanley Galvon.

As most of you know, Father Galvon and I are best friends. But our friendship isn’t a result of similar personalities; in fact, you’d have quite a time finding two priests less alike. We have very different temperaments, outlooks and gifts.

A good example of this happened when we were on a camping trip. During the night, I shook him awake and said “Stan, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

He looked up and replied, “I can see millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?” I asked him.

He thought for a minute and said “Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Time wise, it appears to be about a quarter past three. Theologically, it’s evident that the Lord is all powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What do the stars above us tell you?”

I replied, “It tells me that someone has stolen our tent.”

The great apostles Peter and Paul were even less alike than Father Galvon and I. The fisherman and the Pharisee had next to nothing in common besides their Jewish faith. One was educated, the other not. One was impetuous, the other a careful planner. One was drawn to his own people, the other to the world beyond.

Peter boldly answered Christ’s call to leadership, and Paul the Spirit’s call to mission. How much the Church owes individually to the man we call the Prince of the Apostles, and to the Apostle of the Gentiles! There are very good reasons why their massive statues flank the great fa├žade of the Vatican basilica, and stand like pillars at the apse of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

For all that, we’re equally in debt to Peter and Paul for the lesson they taught together—a lesson in mutual respect, a lesson about the Church’s needs for people of different temperaments, outlooks and gifts, not to mention the power of the virtues of charity and humility.

The story of this lesson is told, by Paul himself, in the second chapter of the Galatians. Not surprisingly, he tells it from his own perspective—as Churchill said, “history is written by the victors.” But that quotation is really not fair, since the victors in this contest were you and I, since it led to the spread of the Church beyond its Jewish origins.

Paul is a pretty tough debater, and he describes in no uncertain terms how he stood up to Peter on the issue of requiring converts to follow Jewish laws. His account doesn’t include much face-saving for the first Pope. And yet the very man he convicts of error he calls a “pillar” and an “acknowledged leader.” Paul recognizes the divine origin of Paul’s call, just as he does his own.

Peter comes off a bit better in the version of the controversy found in the Acts of the Apostles. Chapter 15 records his stirring speech announcing the decision not to impose Jewish ways on converts. He neither compromises nor apologizes now that the Lord’s will has been made clear, in part by a council of fellow bishops, in part by Paul’s own aggressive arguments.

Having—in quotation marks—“lost” the battle to Paul, Peter graciously gives him the floor, and heartily supports the mission of Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, where they will convey the decision taken at Jerusalem.

How easily this dispute could have gone off the rails, but for the willingness of Peter and Paul to see the Spirit working in each other! How easily the Church could have been split asunder if Paul had not recognized Peter’s legitimate authority or had Peter not discerned the Spirit speaking through Paul!

As we celebrate this great feast and honour these giants of our faith, and as we rejoice in the 25th anniversary of our pastor and friend Father Stanley Galvon, let us pray for the grace to affirm one another in our proper roles in the Church, lay and priestly. Let us celebrate our differences within the unity of the Body of Christ, and give thanks for the marvelous way God has chosen to continue the apostles’ ministry through the ages.

And of course, on this day of Father Galvon’s priestly jubilee, let us not forget to pray for vocations to the priesthood; let us pray that young men in this parish will let his happiness and contentment encourage them to consider the priesthood as not only a way of service but a path to joy.

I don’t know how many of you realize that Fr. Stan’s background included a stint as archdiocesan vocations director. He did his best to apply the recruiting techniques of the Canadian Forces when he was vocations director, but it didn’t always work.

He was standing at the door of the church one Sunday when he saw a young man of about the right age, so he pulled him aside and said “You need to join the Army of the Lord!”

The fellow replied, “I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Father.”

Father Galvon questioned him, “Then how come I don't see you in church very often?”

The young man whispered back, “I'm in the Secret Service.”

God bless you, Father Stan, and may the Church be blessed with many more priests like you.


  1. I couldn't believe it was true when i read that you went camping...

  2. Fair comment! Anyone who knows me would recognize the story as fabricated as soon as they saw the word "camping." (Although I did go camping fairly often in my younger years--even in Ontario winters, with my Scout troop--once I discovered hotels it was game over.)