Born: 27 September 1889, Raheen, County Limerick
Entered: 07 September 1906, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 15 August 1921, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1924
Died: 28 January 1955, St John’s Hospital, Limerick
Part of the Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare community at the time of death and was on a break at Crescent College, Limerick at the time of death
by 1911 at Stonyhurst England (ANG) studying
by 1913 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 30th Year No 2 1955
Father Michael Meaney
Fr. Michael Meaney died on January 29th, 1955, in St. John's Hospital in his native Limerick, and was buried from the Crescent, where he had been at school and where he had later laboured, in Church and College, for many years. He had gone to Limerick for a short rest, hoping to find relief from a skin affection, but almost at once he took ill, and after a few weeks died. His funeral, one of the largest seen at the Crescent Church, was a remarkable tribute to a man who had spent all his working life in the class-room or the school corridor.
His career in the Society was uneventful. He entered the Noviceship at Tullabeg in 1906, and did his philosophy at Stonyhurst and Louvain. As a scholastic he taught in Mungret and Clongowes, and after his Tertianship he became First Prefect in Mungret for a year, during which he made his solemn profession. Two years as Prefect of Studies in Clongowes followed, and one in the same post in Mungret. In 1928 he went to the Crescent and soon became a full-time worker in the Church, as well as teacher. In 1943 he was transferred to Clongowes where he remained until his death.
Fr. Meaney was exceptionally gifted both as a preacher and teacher, especially the latter. His own standards were high, and he exacted a high standard of work and achievement from his classes. Many boys found his insistence on hard work and accuracy a surprise, and then, for a while, a trial, before they recognised it, as almost all did in the end, as a blessing. He could be severe in his earlier years (and as Prefect of Studies he was probably too severe) and at times it required from him a considerable effort to suffer fools gladly : but, whatever his success in this, he never, even at his mellowest, could abide slovenly work or idleness. This salutary intolerance, added to his energy and extra ordinary clarity of mind, made him the phenomenally successful teacher that he was, and won for him the respect, and, in his later years, the affection of his boys. “I had studied Latin for three years before I came to Fr. Meaney's class”, said one who left school in recent years. “After three weeks with him I began to know what it was about, within four I was becoming good at it, and in less than three months I realised that here was a subject that would never cause me trouble”. Such boys learned more than Latin and English from Fr. Meaney and their mastery of difficulties with him was a lesson for life.
He was a happy, cheerful teacher, too. Although an exceptionally gifted man, he never felt any temptation to think, as he passed from class to class among the boys, that his talents were being left to rust in such work and that he was a martyr, damnatus ad bestias. Such temptations are not unknown but he found his happiness in using all his gifts splendidly in God's service in the colleges.
His literary gifts were seen to advantage in his retreats and sermons. And here also his high standards were evident. Every sermon was perfectly prepared, perfectly learned, and delivered with confidence and conviction. Some felt that occasional sermons suited him best and that his composition and style were above the ordinary congregation : this opinion could perhaps be defended, and it is certainly true that he was characteristically impatient of the criterion of “what the people like”. The best work of the Society was inspired, he thought, by a very different standard. And yet the people did appreciate his sermons greatly and admired him a preacher.
As a confessor he had much success with scrupulous penitents, and his clear, objective, sympathetic direction won him many friends who frequently returned to seek his help and advice outside confession. This, perhaps, is why he seemed to have more and closer friends among lay people than within the Society. They sought him out, but for himself he was a man of such self-reliance and strength of mind that he seldom felt the need of help from others. Yet he was an excellent community man and a splendid companion, especially on the golf-course. Here again his high standards were seen he played an excellent game and abhorred all that was slip-shod. He had no time for those who look on golf merely as an excuse for fresh air and exercise, and who are free and easy about the rules!
In the last years of his life he was called on to endure much more than most people suspected; for he never complained or spoke about himself. Very frequently he went to class after a night of sleepless suffering, and no one was ever the wiser, and his work continued at the same high level. At times it became clear that it would be dangerous for him to teach, and then it needed all the persuasion of Minister and doctor to induce him to take a rest from work. And after each recovery he worked on, sustained by his indefatigable spirit and simple piety, especially his devotion to the Rosary. It was thought he meditated daily on Our Lord's warning of the night when no man can work. But he dreaded too the evening of life when he might not be able to continue his service in the class-room. So, when God called him to his reward after a short illness, his friends saw in this a great mercy. And if any man had earned his rest, he had. May he rest in peace.
◆ The Clongownian, 1955
Father Michael Meaney SJ
On January 29th Father Michael Meaney died in Limerick, where he bad gone for a short rest and change of air. By his death we lost one of the most remarkable teachers ever to stand in a Clongowes class-room, or indeed anywhere else.
His teaching career began in Mungret, and in 1915 he came as a scholastic to Clongowes, where he remained until 1919. He returned as Prefect of Studies for the years 1925-1927, and his third period here lasted from 1943 until his death,
Those who knew Father Meaney in his younger years will remember him as a teacher of extraordinary ability, but they will recall too a man who could be severe, and at times very severe. And if it is true that the large majority of those who studied under his ferule were most' grateful to him at examination times and in later life, even they in their mature years might be surprised at the great affection he inspired in his boys during the later period of his life. It was not that the passing years had taught him to suffer fools gladly - at all times that required on his part a heroic effort; it was not that he had lost his salutary intolerance of slip-shod work or any form of idleness; but his interests and affections had developed and broadened until they embraced completely the whole boy, and went far be yond the embryonic latinist or English scholar. Everything that concerned his pupils became of importance to him ; his ready laugh was heard more frequently on the galleries as well as in the class-room, and one had but to listen to him discuss the progress of some slower scholar, or meet him, blue with cold, returning from a Rugby match and hear his detailed commentary on the play afterwards, to realise how broad and deep his sympathies and affections were.
His success as a teacher was exceptional, and exceptional too the range of subjects he taught throughout the years. In one of his first classes in Clongowes a boy won the Medal for French in Junior Grade, in one of his last, another took first place in Latin and a scholarship in the University En rance; and in the intervening years he had taught English, History, Geography and Mathematics with like success. And this success was not limited to his cleverer pupils, who invariably acquitted themselves brilliantly; whole classes achieved extraord inarily high marks and occasionally classes whose ability was notoriously mediocre sur prised themselves and most others after a year or two with him. Nor was this suc cess confined to examinations : one had but to meet his boys to see that they had learned from him a real appreciation of the subjects he taught. But he imparted too something more important than this appreciation - the self-confidence that comes from difficulties faced and conquered and the sense of achievement and satisfaction that inevitably follows hard, honest work.
With his powerful mind, sharp and analytic, he had no time for catchwords and cant; and his vigorous character could not abide slovenliness or slip-shod work, or accept promise as a substitute for perform ance. “Catchwords and cant, slovenliness and sloppy work”_-how his slightly rasp ing voice would declaim the litany of what lie thought were the besetting evils of modern Irish life! And if any teacher sent out his boys well-armoured to meet them, it was he.
Towards the end of his life his health steadily grew worse. The broad athletic frame was as strong as ever, but the attacks of asthma from which he suffered becaine more frequent and painful. In class he was frequently seized with bouts of coughing that went on until it seemed that he must collapse. Physical effort became most difficult and the journey by stairs and galleries to the class-rooms and back was for him a via dolorosa that he steadfastly refused to shorten. “Poor Father Meaney!” a boy would say, as he came upon him, breathless and with bowed head, pausing to rest before the effort of the stairs that lead to the Serpentine.
Poor Father Meaney it is sad to think that the brave, hearty laugh is stilled, difficult to realise that his full, clear, accurate mind, so long at the service of his boys, is at rest. And how he merited that rest, and the contemplation of the Truth he loved and served so faithfully!
◆ The Crescent : Limerick Jesuit Centenary Record 1859-1959
Bonum Certamen ... A Biographical Index of Former Members of the Limerick Jesuit Commnnity
Father Michael Meaney (1889-1955)
Born at Raheen, Ballysheedy, Co Limerick and educated at Sacred Heart College, entered the Society in 1906. He pursued his higher studies in England, Louvain and Milltown Park. On the completion of his studies, he was appointed prefect at Mungret College and the following year prefect of studies at Clongowes. In 1928 he was appointed to Crescent College where he remained fifteen years. During his stay in Limerick, Crescent College was in the process of renewing, with ever increasing success, its prestige of the olden days. Father Meaney contributed to this success in no small way by his devotion to duty as an efficient teacher. At the same time, he earned for himself the reputation of a priest unselfishly devoted to the administration of the sacraments and preaching. By the early 1940's, he had begun to suffer much from asthma and was transferred to Clongowes. At Clongowes his teaching hours had to be shortened but during those years he continued to get brilliant results from his classes, especially in Latin. He died in Limerick after a brief illness during the vacation, on 29 January, 1955.