Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Good Priest and Brother of a Saint

After his noon Mass, Fr. Ray Devlin and I sat before the gigantic outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother at Our Lady of Peace church in Santa Clara. But, before and during the interview one person after another came to Father Ray for advice, a blessing or to give a gift. After speaking with Fr. Ray, each left with a smile.

Q. How and why did you become a priest?
A. My brother was a great priest, and I was imitating him. I recognized what he was doing. The key of vocation is others follow Christ, and you follow them. If you read his life then you’re going to get a great inspiration.
Your relatives, your mother and your grandparents, they all have an influence on you. Family brings vocations-that where they come from. The whole family was a religious family.
Q. Can you give us an example?
A. I don’t have one example. It was his whole life. You don’t do anything for one example. You do it for a life that’s truly dedicated. You saw that he was a happy person. That’s the key! People have vocations when they see young Jesuits and older Jesuits who are happy warriors. My brother said, "Always be a happy warrior."
As you can see I’m very docile [interviewer laughs]. But, for example, Dr. Bradley who knew my brother in Vietnam- after he came back he joined the Jesuits. He had a vocation, but he made up his mind after he saw what Fr. Joe was doing in the orient.
Q. What was your toughest experience in the priesthood?
A. That you serve God, save your soul, and help other. A priest didn’t join to become a star golf player or a great coach. He came to help people save their souls. To help people, also, go to God. That’s what my brother did. The joy of life is serving God through others. That’s the definition of a friend, too. A friend is one God gives us to show his love to us. That what He does through you. You do it through the ones you teach and coach. Show them the love of God that they will come to love God, too. That’s what a Buddhist over in Vietnam said, too. He said he came to learn Christ through Fr. Joe. And that’s what a priest is supposed to do. We come to learn Christ.
Q. Can you tell us anything that was particularly difficult for you?
A. Everything is difficult [we both laugh]! It was never easy-ever. That’s the proof of your vocation. It’s never easy whether you’re in studies, teaching or coaching. It’s always hard. That’s why Christ says take up your cross daily. To be a priest is to choice a difficult life. You’re not choosing something easy. That’s why you choose it-because it’s difficult.
You knew it would be difficult from the word go. Fr. Joe pointed out what a difficult life it would be. So, did my father. But, as my brother said that will be the proof of your vocation-to overcome all the difficulties. If you can persist and persevere that’s the proof-otherwise you quit.
One can mention some little event, but that doesn’t mean anything. That’s very insignificant. I remember a little ad that said if you want a very difficult life, and you may be killed, become a volunteer to go to Antarctica. They had a million volunteers because it would be very, very difficult.
Q. You say it’s very difficult, but you seem very happy. Can you tell us about that?
A. It’s because you’re overcoming your difficulties. It’s just like running a hurdle race. You have ten obstacles in the way. You come close to the obstacle, but by coming very close you become the best hurdler. So, you overcome the hurdles and don’t let the hurdles overcome you. That’s what the successful life is all about. Even though you trip and fall on some hurdles, you get up and keep running. You win the race because you don’t quit. That was typical of Fr. Joe.
Q. Even though there‘s suffering, the joy comes from overcoming difficulties?
A. No, the joy is helping others who are less fortunate than you. The joy is in helping others; if your going to pay attention to every little suffering you have you’re going to become a prude. I don’t take Prosac! Too many Americans are on drugs because they can’t take a little pain. Joe took a lot of pain. Don’t get tied up in little things like difficulties-those are expected. The big inspiration is the people you serve -to see how grateful they are. The ones you did help they are all very grateful. They are eternally grateful. But, a priest isn’t doing it for reputation. Fr. Joe couldn’t care less. He didn’t care if he was honored or dishonored. No matter what happens you do it. You’re not just doing it for people you’re doing it for God. You do it no matter what it is-no matter how difficult-because you’re doing it for God. That’s why we put the book together-to see the greatness of Fr. Joe. So, he can be an inspiration to others.
Q. You were born in San Francisco on October 7, 1924. Can you tell us about growing up in San Francisco?
A. I was born in a house so I could be near my mother [we both laugh]. It’s all in the book.
Q. Tell us a little bit, anyway.
A. There’s nothing to tell. I went to the same schools that Joe went to-St. Paul’s and St. Ignatius. San Francisco was a normal city in those times. No one locked their door. Everyone locks their door today. Everyone knew one another at that time. It was a family city. And people worked hard for their living.
Q. Tell us a little about coaching at Bellermine Catholic High school in San Jose from 1965 to 1975?
It’s better not to put too much of a stress on sports. If you put a stress on sport people read too much into it. I was ordained in 1955 and coached at St. Ignatius in Utah. We had a few vocations to the priesthood there. Then, I went to Bellermine where I enjoyed coaching football, basketball, cross-country and track. But, the big inspiration was going overseas and helping my brother.
Q. Tell us about Fr. Joe and the book?
A. Fr. Joe at the age of fifty-three was looking for a more difficult life. A life where he could directly help the poor because that is where he found his greatest consolation. He started helping Mexican migrants in Utah because he found out that a few had died of starvation. He went out of his way from then on to help the poor immigrants up in Utah. That started him to go up there. He would open the refrigerator in that Mexican home-no food, nothing. Then, he would go home to the rectory and have everything. So, that’s how he realized we should be helping the poor more. That was the key.
He searched around the world to find where he could help the people who were truly poor. A government official named Mr. Dan in Vietnam wrote an invitation to Fr. Joe. That’s a chapter in the book -by the way. They said come here and see what we have. We have war. We have communism trying to take over. We have the sick, the dying and the refugees. So, in Utah he got the invitation and permission to go. The Jesuits told him you pay your own way. People contributed to him from this country. And he became a tremendous success with the refugees. In doing it he suffered a lot! If he had realized how bad it was over there he probably would never have gone. But, once he realized how bad it was -and he was there- he couldn’t leave. He wouldn’t leave the people.
Finally, when he did escape from Vietnam- he escaped the day the communist took over. The communist tried to kill him a few times. That’s a chapter in the book, too. They came in a few times to assassinate him, but they were resisted by the Vietnamese soldiers. Some of them died defending him.
That part is written up by a major who was there-who lived in San Jose, by the way. The book is from Fr. Joe's letters, writings (a lot of it was published), from those who knew him and from my own experiences. I went there fourteen times and lived over there for a month. Other people wrote about Joe. They had him eating rats, but he didn’t eat rats. The food wasn’t any good. What they did have. His food was very meager to say the least. When you read the book you’ll get the inspiration. You’ll see why I’m not saying too much.

(Anyone wishing to get CHA can write to: Nenagh Books, P. O. Box 425, California 94549-0425)

For Free preview or to order Fred Martinez's Hidden Axis go to:



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