Baggot, P Anthony, 1918-2001, Jesuit priest

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Baggot, P Anthony, 1918-2001, Jesuit priest

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  • Tony Baggot
  • Paddy Baggot
  • Patrick Anthony Baggot

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Dates of existence

21 October 1918-19 March 2001

History

Born: 01 October 1918, Dublin
Entered: 14 September 1936, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1949, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1954, Clongowes Wood College SJ
Died: 19 March 2001, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin

Part of the Gonzaga College, Dublin community at the time of death.

◆ Interfuse

Interfuse No 108 : Special Edition 2001

Obituary

Fr Anthony (Tony) Baggot (1918-2000)

21st Oct. 1918: Born in Dublin
Early education at Dominican College, Cabra and Belvedere College
14th Sept. 1936: Entered the Society at St. Mary's, Emo
15th Sept. 1938: First Vows at St. Mary's, Emo
1938 - 1941: Rathfarnham, studying Arts at UCD
1941 - 1944: Tullabeg - studying Philosophy
1944 - 1946: Belvedere College - Regency
1946 - 1950: Milltown Park - studying Theology
31st July 1949: Ordained at Milltown Park
1950 - 1951: Tertianship at Rathfarnham Castle
1951 - 1953: Emo - Socius to Novice Director
1953 - 1959: Clongowes - Rector
2nd Feb. 1954: Final Vows
1959 - 1962: Rathfarnham - Spiritual Father to Juniors; Assistant Director of Retreat House
1962 - 1969: Leeson St. - Director Sodalities; Editor of Madonna
1969 - 1978: CIR - Superior
1978 - 1983: CIR - Director Marriage Courses,
1983 - 2001: Gonzaga - Director Marriage Courses, Courses in spirituality and relationships.

Tony was admitted to Cherryfield Lodge in July 1999 suffering from prostate cancer. He remained in reasonably good health until three months before his death, when walking became difficult for him. He died peacefully at Cherryfield at 3.30 a.m. on Monday, 19th March, 2001.

Myles O' Reilly preached at Tony's Funeral Mass...

We are all here because we have known Tony Baggot in some capacity - as a friend, a relative, a Jesuit colleague, a counsellor, a participant in one of his retreats or workshops, or a grateful reader of his writings, or a carer from the Jesuit nursing home in Cherryfield. We have all been deeply touched and enriched by his gentle spirit, by his wisdom, compassion and his kindness, We are here because we want to acknowledge our love for him and our gratitude to God for him. We are only a small fraction of the many thousands of people that Tony touched throughout his 64 years as a Jesuit. To Tony all this positive regard for him would be totally mystifying. He placed himself in the lowest seat at the table of the Lord, but we intuitively know that Jesus will place him in the highest seat - “Well done good and faithful servant, come and inherit the kingdom which God has prepared for you since the beginning of the world”.

Tony had a secret weapon that enabled these qualities that endeared him so much to others to shine forth and through him. A prayer that he loved and said everyday and that he said frequently at his weekly Mass with the boys and the teachers here in Gonzaga for the last 15 years of his life, barring the last two when he got sick. It is a prayer he often used during his Retreats and Workshops also. It goes like this:

Lord Jesus I give you my hands to do your work
I give you my feet to go your way
I give you my ears to listen like you I give you my tongue that I may speak your words
I give you my mind that I may think like you I give you my heart that you may love in me
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me So that it is you, Lord Jesus, that may live, love and pray in me.

What we loved in Tony were the qualities of Jesus shining through him - the Beatitudes - poor in spirit, gentle, merciful, a peacemaker etc. There are many eras to Tony's life, an only child born to Patrick and Harriet Baggot. Tony a Belvederian, who as a boy was a splendid pianist and tennis player, joined the Jesuits at the age of 18 and did the usual training. He was ordained in 1950 and only then did his interesting and varied pastoral life begin. He started with two years as Socius to the Novice Master in Emo.

Then, at the age of 32, he was made Rector of Clongowes for 6 years - he was the youngest Rector ever in the history of the Irish Province. One of our Jesuit Gonzaga community remembers at the age of 11 going to Clongowes and Tony was the first Jesuit he shook hands with. Little did he know that he would be the last Jesuit to hold Tony's band before he died last Monday night - on the Feast of St Joseph, patron of the dying.

After Clongowes Tony went back again to formation work, to being spiritual father to the young Jesuit Juniors in Rathfarnham for 3 years, and also to being a retreat director at the retreat house there. Then, in 1962, he was appointed as Editor of the Madonna, which came on in leaps and bounds under his control. That was where I first met Tony through his writings in the Madonna. I used to marvel, as a novice and a Junior, at his ability to weave passages from novelists like Graham Greene and Morris West into his articles and show how all that is, is Holy, and that God is the deepest inside of us.

Then, in 1969, Tony went to NCIR from where he became director of the Jesuit pre-marriage course for 17 years. He became a legend in his own time in his work. On some of his courses he had over 100 couples, and had no difficulty in filling the Milltown Park hall for a public lecture on marriage. During this time he wrote 3 books on marriage that were best sellers in their day, “To have and to hold”, “You and your marriage” and “Enjoy a happy marriage”.

Tony was a great listener and was particularly sensitive to women. He was an intuitive feeling type, as in the Myers Briggs personality definition, rather than a rational thinker. He learned from experience more than from principles. I am currently chaplain to a group of young married couples that meet every fortnight to help one another grow in their marriage. Only last month one of them read “To have and to hold”, and was enthralled by it, and wants it to be one of the prescribed books for the group. During these 17 years Tony gradually got into counselling, and helped hundreds, if not thousands, of couples.

One of those couples who met Tony 38 years ago, and who are here today, went to Tony with a dilemma – The mother of the Bride to be, who was not too keen to let her daughter go, said her daughter was too young and wasn't ready to get married etc. Tony paused for a while then broke into a grin. “Why don't you go to the maternity boutique in Leeson Street, and buy a maternity dress and hang it up in your wardrobe - that will surely help her to let go!!!”

Tony came to Gonzaga here in 1983 and continued his marriage work for 3 more years. After that he became a full time therapeutic counsellor and ran courses on spirituality and relationships in Tabor House, Chrysalis Conference Centre, and in the Dominican centre in Sion Hill. He became very interested in healing early childhood wounds and pioneered some splendid work in this area, which is still carried on in Chrysalis today.

He never charged any money for his work but he received so many donations that he refused to take a state pension – “Others might need it more than me”, he would say. All this wonderful productivity and creativity came from Tony's depths and from his spirituality. Some quotations from Tony's writings will give us an idea of what resonated with Tony.

Inevitably we live in the presence of holy mystery, a presence we cannot escape, for we are immersed in it. In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness, I can see what we call God in all these things."

I said to the cherry tree, “Tell me of God”, and the cherry tree blossomed. That is more eloquent than any definition of God for me.

When I address God I do not address one who is outside. God is the deepest inside of everything, myself included, and the goal of personal growth is the birth of God in the soul. Life itself is the primary sacrament. Religious faith is human life seen as a disclosure of God.

What is called losing the faith is often not so, but a search for a deeper one.

God speaks from the depths of the heart, not the top of the head.

The movement of God, or the movement, which is God, activates me, flows through me.

Rather than governing from without, God is enlivening from within.

This one work has to do - Let all God's glory through (G M Hopkins)

Spiritual life is the flowering cosmic energy and Jesus, as the high point of God's presence, released a new spiritual power - the Christ power. That presence which radiated from his physical body in Palestine is to radiate through his mystical body in the world now.

He was one who, precisely by being human in the fullest degree, was God's existence in the world -- His divinity or godly quality was not something different from his humanity but was his humanity at its highest point. The Ignatian description for Tony's spiritual journey during these fruitful years would be that he lived the grace of the Second Week. That is, working and labouring with Christ in bringing about his kingdom in the world. But little did he know that, like his master, Jesus, his last few years would be a sharing in the sufferings of Christ before he entered into his glory.

Tony gave his last retreat almost three years ago. From then on his health went slowly into decline. The slow onslaught of what turned out to be cancer of the bone began. Tony lost all his physical energy, he lost all taste for things he liked - gardening, reading and writing. His memory was deteriorating, too. He could no longer do his counselling. He loved being a priest and felt he understood it more richly than ever. He cried with frustration at the loss of not being able to minister any more.

The black dog of depression set in with bouts of scrupulosity. He felt so guilty at occupying a room in Cherryfield at such expense. Surely he wasn't sick enough. He was, like Christ on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. He felt so empty. The days were so long - nothing to do - nothing to live for – he couldn't pray, read, think.

Even though this was his inner state most of the time, he was always so gracious with the nurses, never failed to be aware of any act of kindness and always quick to thank them. Thank you for your care' he used to say and they grew to love him. They could see that there was something special about Tony, a childlike transparency, a constant sincere gratitude, a freedom from pretence, an honesty of feeling whether positive or negative, never a sharp or nasty word - always gentle. Their acts of kindness were his experience of God during those last dark years, as also were the visits of his friends that he so much appreciated.

Last September a change came about in Tony - a peace came into his soul and it came from saying over and over again this simple prayer every night in the dark of the chapel for half an hour. There was more surrender and humble simplicity in this prayer than in the previous one. Through this prayer he found the peace and the capacity to accept what was happening to him.

I place my hands in yours. I place my will in yours, Lord
I place my will in yours. I place my days in yours, Lord
I place my days in yours. I place my thoughts in yours, Lord
I place my thoughts in yours. I place my heart in yours, Lord
I place my heart in yours. I place my hands in yours, Lord I place my hands in yours.

Angela Ashwin

Whenever his friends would visit him in Cherryfield he would always be glad to give them his blessing before they left. He would always say with a sign of the Cross on the forehead - May Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit guard you and guide you on your way'. One day, close to his death, I was with him, and was about to leave, but Tony wasn't offering his blessing. “Aren't you going to give me your blessing?” He looked confused. The words wouldn't come to him. And then, after a pause, he said “My suffering is my prayer for you”. We can be sure that his sufferings were offered for all of us, not just me.

All he had left to give were his sufferings and his gratitude. Like his saviour on the cross, on Monday night, surrounded by a few friends Tony's work was finished. With Him he could say “It is finished. Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit”. “Lord Jesus receive my soul”. A few hours before he died, Tony's eyes came back from their unconscious glazed state, and focusing, looked intently across to the far window as if he was seeing somebody, he smiled and sank back into his glazed look again. Blessed are those who die in the Lord. Happy indeed, the Spirit says. Now they can rest forever after their work, since their good deeds go with them. (Apoc. 14.13) We surely have an advocate in heaven in Tony Baggott.

◆ The Gonzaga Record 2001

Obituary

Tony Baggot SJ

The Community and College gladly mourn Fr. Tony Baggot SJ, who died peace fully after a long illness on the 19th March, the feast of St. Joseph: gladly, because he richly deserves to be with his Lord; mourn, because we have lost a truly gentle man, who brought peace, comfort and solace to so many of us and others over a long life. Tony's main work throughout his 64 years of Jesuit life was in relationship counselling, especially marriage and personal development counselling. Through his pre-marriage courses, which he directed for 17 years, he let Christ touch many thousands of lives and relieved so many from wrongful perceptions of God; Tony's love and care modelled God's love for them.

Tony came to Gonzaga in 1983 to continue his very extensive counselling prac tice. He joined in with the College pastoral programme by helping with the daily Morning Mass, the sacrament of Reconciliation and other liturgical celebrations, especially at Christmas and Easter and Graduation. His stately figure roamed the grounds, engaged many in conversation, pointing out God's gesture to us in the environment; Tony contributed to beautifying the environment by his work on the rockery beside the tennis courts and the flowerbed at the house. Tony's knowledge of the trees, their provenance and characteristics, was amazing, but only to those who did not appreciate his integration of the whole of creation with God's caring provision for all our needs, body, mind and spirit.

Tony's touchstone prayer reveals the man and the spirit he would have us live by:

Lord Jesus I give you my hands to do your work
I give you my feet to go your way
I give you my ears to listen like you
I give you my tongue that I may speak your words
I give you my mind that I may think like you
I give you my heart that you may love in me
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me
So that it is you, Lord Jesus, that may live, love and pray in me.
(From Fr. Myles O'Reilly's homily)

Tony's Funeral Mass in the college was attended by his cousins, a goodly number of his Jesuit confreres, and a not surprisingly large number of friends and acquain tances. The occasion was graced by an excellent homily by Fr. Myles O'Reilly SJ and the Senior Choir, under the baton of Mr. Potts and organist Mr. Murphy. Fr. Rector and the Community would like to thank all who participated in celebrat ing Tony's life and who have conveyed their sympathies.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Fr John A Dunne SJ

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-

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Baggot, P Anthony, 1918-2001, Jesuit priest

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