COUNSELOR'S CORNER: Summary of a Life Well Lived

By Fred Cavaiani

This past week a man I respected died, Fr. Malcolm Maloney OFM Cap. He was an Irish priest with great compassion for everyone. He was a man of simplicity, prayer and love for all. He was a Capuchin-Franciscan priest. I had belonged to the same Religious Order many years ago. In my first year of training, Malcolm would visit our monastery up in Baraga, Michigan. He was a young priest then and I was a young novice. He was then Chaplain at Marquette State Prison where some of the most serious offenders in the State reside as guests of the state. I remember Malcolm's Irish wit as he told the story of the prisoner who had escaped. The Warden was concerned and called the heads of the various departments to find out if they knew anything about how this happened. When he came to Malcolm, the head of the Chaplain's department, he said, "Fr. Malcolm, do you know anything about this in any way?" Malcolm said with a straight face, "Not really, but a week ago he came to me and asked me to bless a St. Christopher medal." (St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers.) That was Malcolm, witty, warm and wise. Over the past fifty years I had seen him at many gatherings. Each time I was impressed by his warmth, wit and wisdom. He was a funny, loving and holy priest. I have never forgotten him.

At the funeral for this man of wisdom, there were many of us with graying hair, wrinkled skin and happy memories. Funerals are also celebrations of long friendships, past influences and celebrating lives lived well. Malcolm lived a life full of love toward other people. To know him was to feel loved and accepted and respected. What a legacy to leave people. As we all shared stories about Malcolm Maloney OFM Cap. there was this feeling of knowing someone who was very close to God in the midst of every struggle in life that came his way. Humor, prayer and compassion summed up this wonderful Irishman from Southfield, Michigan.

Humor, prayer and compassion are a great legacy to leave behind. These three qualities are connected to each other. Humor is also a part of humility--to be able to never take yourself too seriously and to never consider yourself above anyone else. He did this well. Prayer means an ability to become quiet and silent before God for a good period of time each day of life. It challenges a person to go deeper and listen more attentively to God, others and ourselves. Compassion is the ability to empathize and care about other people wherever they may be in life. It is that ability to care and listen without judgment or attempting to change someone but just to love that person as they are and have warmth and concern for their pain and journey in life. In this compassion we influence one another for the better. Malcolm's humor (humility), prayer and compassion had a tremendous impact on my life. Though I am no longer a Capuchin-Franciscan priest, knowing someone like Malcolm Maloney has helped me appreciate what are the values in life that are most important.

Each of us know people who have had positive influences on our lives. We have attended their funerals and were challenged to look at our own personal lives in a deeper manner. Their lives had an influence on our lives. Their lives and deaths have passed on to us what is most important about how to live life.

Funerals are opportunities to reflect deeper on our present life and learn from the deceased how to better live the rest of our lives. We all discover and experience Summaries of Well-Lived Lives. We all experience Legacies of Lives that have a powerful impact on us. The struggle for all of us is to incorporate into our own personal lives what those who have gone before us have taught us. Maybe every funeral we attend should be followed by an hour of silence so as to learn from this person's life what to improve in our own lives. Thanks, Malcolm, for what you have taught me. I will listen carefully.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, Aug 2, 2011