Galles recounts his friends and faith in this debut autobiography.
When Galles sat down to record the events of his life—all 90 years of it, 65 of which he’d spent as a Catholic priest—he started at the very beginning: “Some 90 years ago, God breathed into a tiny portion of this 15 billion year old dust. With his breath I became a living person in my mother’s womb.” From his family history and childhood in Minnesota to his discovery of his vocation for the priesthood and his many decades of service in Rome and the U.S., Galles explores his life’s unexpected turns. After giving a chronological account of his career, Galles presents a series of profiles of the many people he’s met: laypeople and other members of the clergy, Catholics and non-Catholics, and even an old girlfriend or two from before his seminary days. Most of these people are now dead and/or long removed from the author’s life, which allows him to reflect on the extent to which they contributed to his whole gestalt. For his finale, he describes his relationship with Jesus Christ, whose teachings defined and dominated his daily life from a young age. Throughout this oversized work, Galles writes in an even, unhurried prose that meanders and sometimes stalls. The author often composes staccato paragraphs that read as though they are being copied almost directly out of his old journals: “On March 23, 1968 Sr. Mary of the Cross was told that she had multiple sclerosis. On June 22, 1968 Sr. Mary of the Cross gave me a relic of the True Cross of Jesus.” Galles is admittedly writing more for his own project of self-exploration than for a general audience: “Even if no one ever read my autobiography, would the gathering of my life experiences have sufficient value for me, personally, to spend that much time on such a project?” Even so, those curious about the day-to-day life of an American priest in the 20th century may find some items of interest.
A comprehensive, if less than exhilarating, Catholic memoir.