Fr. Malachy began life as Joseph Edward Marrion, Jr. on 20 March, 1926 in Winthrop, Massachusetts; his father was of English-Portugese descent and his mother was Irish-American. After High School, he enlisted in the Army in 1944 and served in Europe, honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of sergeant. In his youth he had studied keyborad and sacred music, especially Gregorian Chant. Music would remain a life-long interest and he held firm and unambiguous opinions on the execution of chant in the liturgy. During his years in the monastery he experimented writing liturgical music for the Mass in English after Vatican II.
Like so many Catholics of his generation, he was drawn to consecrated life and entered the Abbey of Our Lady of the Valley, Rhode Island, in 1948. He was given the religious name Malachy, one of the first Irish Cistercians, a bishop, friend of St. Bernard and saint of the Order. Soon after, in 1950, when that monastery burnt to the ground, Frater Malachy was sent to the foundation at Berryville, Virginia, Holy Cross Abbey. St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, was already being built to replace Our Lady of the Valley and it was a great sacrifice for Frater Malachy to abandon Massachusetts and his dreams of moving into the handsome new buildings at Spencer in order to establish Cistercian life in Virginia. Throughout his life, St. Jospeh’s Abbey would remain his paradigm of a monastic plant and lifestyle.
He professed his solemn vows at Holy Cross in 1954 and was ordained priest five months later. In those early years he served the community as sacristan, organist and taught Moral Theology to the junior professed choir monks preparing for ordinatioon. He had a hand in conceiving some of the early vestments used at the Abbey. He was always interested in books and the applied arts and sought outlets for these interests.
When some of the monks were sent to Rome to pursue further studies to provide a qualified theology faculty for future clerics (a practice soon to be abandoned in the Order), Fr. Malachy took the initiative to ask to study at the Catholic University of America and lived at nearby Capuchin College. In later years, he’d say that he’d never met a Capuchin he didn’t like. After applying himself to the academic life for many years, he earned his doctorate in spirituality in 1975 from the theology faculty at CUA. Upon his return to the life at Holy Cross, he wrote and contributed many articles to the grass roots publications of the Order. His main focus of study was St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries and an on-going investigation of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae.
He spent some of his middle years at St. Joseph’s Abbey and later in the Archdioceses of Boston. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he returned to Holy Cross Abbey in 1994 and helped with the bakery work and occasionally filled in as chaplain for our sisters in Crozet, Virginia. In these years he experienced the crippling effect of arthritis, especially in hands and gave up organ playing. More and more, his life became more solitary and he spoke of a desire for a more simplified monastic life.
His later years were marked by hospitalizations, physical therapy and difficulty walking. This January he was rushed to Winchester Medical Center where he was treated for pneumonia and then transferred to Heritage Hall in Front Royal, Virginia. At Heritage Hall, he was given a regimen of physical therapy to help his walking and treatment for his other ailments. When it became clear that he could no longer function without supervision, he was accepted as a resident at Heritage Hall. He suddenly, and rapidly, declined 6 February and was sent for care at Warren Memorial Hospital; Abbot Robert Barnes was at Fr. Malachy’s beside as he died, having administered anointing and absolution.
Fr. Malachy’s Mass and Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, 14 February at 2:00 PM.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Holy Cross Abbey.