It is with sadness, but confidence that I entrust here to the mercy of God the soul of Gabriel Altieri, a father figure, a spiritual son and a great friend. After a long fight with cancer, Gabriel passed away in the Lord and the Immaculate yesterday around 2:00 PM. He was a long time friend of the community in Griswold, Connecticut and a faithful son of the Immaculate. Please pray for the repose of his soul and the strength of his family and friends, especially his wife, Ruthy.
It might be a bit ironic to call such an old salt “sweet Gabe.” He had a conversion late in life after many years of “being a hard man,” and he was just as uncompromising in virtue as he had been in the ways of the world. But he was as easily brought to tears by compunction or devotion as he was to fierce zeal in the face of heresy and cowardice.
As a result of his rather colorful, Italianate pronouncements on everything from the beauty of our Lady, to the state of the nation, to food recipes (he was an excellent cook, and a great culinary teacher), as well as his escapades at the Father, Son Encampments (pictured above), we came to know him as “Sir Gabriel.” We threatened many times to put him on camera and start up a channel on Youtube in order for him to deliver his daily address to the world on whatever topic was stuck in his craw. But alas, this never came to pass. We will all have to satisfy ourselves in the retelling of the many tales of “Sir Gabriel.”
But I will remember him most for his loyalty to Christ, the Church and those he loved, and the honest and simple zeal for souls that made him fearless. For his past life, about which he told everyone, he never ceased trying to make amends. Like St. Paul, he came to count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord (Phil 3:8). He was not afraid to die or to talk about death. He knew his destiny and wished to fulfill it. Gabriel was single-minded.
In the last few years we saw him at the friary less and less, and he was greatly missed. While I was in the States recently I made a point of seeing him at home. He was emaciated but cheerful. He was getting ready to go home and that is what he wanted to talk about. It was the last time I saw or spoke to him. I am glad I did not let the opportunity pass me by. Providentially, I was able to offer the Holy Sacrifice for him both shortly before and after his passing.
Lest I be misunderstood I must say that it is very necessary to pray for the repose of Gabe. He was a better man than most of us at the end of his life, but he would have been the last to think that. He was a penitent. And I know he would be very grateful if those who cared about him adhered to doctrine of the Church and practice the spiritual work of mercy called “praying for the dead.” Not that God would allow it, but I think that if Gabriel had the opportunity he would come back and haunt anyone who had the audacity to canonize him. And I would not want to be haunted by Sir Gabriel.
Gabriel was a man’s man and he learned to channel his virility–not repress it, as our culture would have men do–under the patronage of Our Lady. He lived the grace of Marian Chivalry. I am proud to have known him and graced to be able to call him a true Knight of Lepanto.
Just before I press “publish”: I opened an email a moment ago from a friend offering me condolences on the loss of our mutual friend. He writes: “I will miss him, as I’m sure you will also. He’s probably already raising hell in heaven, if that were possible!”