Vale Max Barrett CSsR
Father Barrett was born in 1925 and was ordained a priest in 1950. He was a founding member of the Majellan in Ballarat and was editor from 1978-84, taking the reins for a period from long-serving editor Bill Stinson CSsR. He was also a gifted writer and contributed to The Majellan 70th anniversary book, Celebrating 70 Years of Family with Majellan, where he reminisced fondly about his time as editor.
“The Majellan was disciplined work,” says Fr Barrett. “It was not the run of the mill Redemptorist type of engagement because a Red usually needs the adrenaline pumping to bring the best out of him before a live audience. The Majellan, whether it entailed writing an article or, far more commonly, answering a letter which was often a cri de coeur called for painstaking care: care over expression and care for the individual person.
“A Majellan cover ever fresh in my mind came from Singapore, from my Redemptorist confrere, Fr Paul Pang. The photo was of flower girl dressed for a feast of Our Lady. Even more fascinating than her lovely features was her ‘here-and-now’ expression.
What was she thinking of? Possibly nothing in particular: just a comfortable daydream!
“But what I read into this picture was an expression of faith made by Fr Karl Rahner, one of the dominant figures in theology of the last century. He was contentious, controversial, colossal. Reading Rahner was not for the faint-hearted. But his observation about Mary was something anyone could understand.
“He said: ‘Keep on lighting candles at the May-time altars of our souls. There is no need for us to be nervous, sparing or niggardly when we honour Mary. It is the sign of a true Catholic life and there grows to maturity in our hearts, slowly but genuinely, a personal and tender love of the Blessed Virgin.’
“My other remembered cover was set in a comfortable home gathering. The centre of attention was a grandfather (looking not all that old!) dancing with his grandchild. They waltzed together. They moved in perfect accord because the lovely little one was standing on her grandpa’s shoes. There was a sequel.
“Many years later I was at our North Perth monastery. I was approached by a lady who was the daughter of that male lead, the mother of the child whose feet did not touch the ground. I learnt that at the time of the living room dance, the grandfather already had a troublesome heart condition. But the dance lifted his heart rather than taxed it. I look upon this chance meeting as one of God’s more gentle gifts,” said Fr Barrett.
There was also a musing of a few ‘panicky’ moments that all editors experience. “A recollection has to do with what went into the Majellan pages between the covers; and the mild panic an editor experienced when he realised the dead-line was hovering and he still had to find material for the three empty pages. But all was well, and all manner of thing was well, because of the Majellan X-Factor: St Gerard Majella. Just as St Gerard ‘worked’ for mothers, he also worked for pen-pushers.”
Never were truer words said. RIP Max Barrett CSsR and thank you for your wonderful contribution over many decades.