Book Review: ‘God’s Hidden Places’

“God’s Hidden Places,” by Patricia Gallagher

“God’s Hidden Places,” by Patricia Gallagher

By TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder

Published: 12-29-2023 6:06 PM

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I opened “God’s Hidden Places.” The book’s author, the Reverend Patricia Gallagher of Greenfield, bills it as a memoir and more. It’s unconventional, and yet it generally works and moves the reader.

The book is a series of vignettes about Gallagher’s life, along with poems and spiritual/philosophical thoughts. We meet her when she is an outspoken little girl nicknamed Cookie, attending parochial school in New York City and navigating her relationships with God, her family and early boyfriends.

She wants to become a priest, an impossible goal for a Catholic female then or now. She settles for planning to be a nun, only to be told by the convent that she is too young to be accepted as a novice. Instead, she marries and has children whom she adores. Somehow, something is missing in her life, however.

She descends into addiction/alcoholism and is institutionalized several times. When she finally marshals the presence to rescue herself from this life, she decides to become an Episcopal priest. As she studies and grows in religion, she finally admits what she has known in part for years — that she is gay.

Gallagher is frank and eloquent about many challenging experiences in her life. Being a lesbian priest when she was first ordained was unconventional, to say the least.

She reveals that she was in fact let go from one of her church positions when she came out. The bishop made that decision against the will of her congregation.

She clearly was and is an amazing spiritual leader, however. She seems to have an ability to love and empathize with a wide variety of people.

In addition to describing her calling as a priest, Gallagher chronicles her work as a counselor, first for people suffering from addiction and as time went by for individuals on many types of spiritual journeys.

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As her life story and the book go on, she shares her openness to a variety of interpretations of reality. The zest for life and religion that little Cookie exhibited clearly never went away.

Despite its unusual structure (I couldn’t always figure out how Gallagher decided which moments of her life to include), the book reveals a person who has achieved wholeness and who wants to share her generous spirit with the reader. Her enthusiasm is hard to resist.

“When someone asks where I live, I don’t say I live in Florida or Massachusetts,” she concludes. “Heck, no. I just say I live in the field of never ending possibilities! I’ll meet you there!”

“God’s Hidden Places” will be formally launched on Sunday, Jan. 7, at 2 p.m. at the Heartfulness Meditation Center, at the rear of 267 Amherst Road (Route 116) in Sunderland.

Patricia Gallagher will read from the book and talk about writing it. In addition, Peter Demling of Amherst will talk about his recent book, “Spiritual Anatomy.” Refreshments will be served, and singer/songwriters Pat and Tex LaMountain will perform.

Books will be available for sale at the event, and interested guests will be invited to participate in a short meditation session at the end of the afternoon. The LaMountains, who are organizing the event, call it “an explosion of love, joy and conversation.”

“God’s Hidden Places” is also available at the World Eye Bookshop.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning cookbook author and singer known as the Diva of Deliciousness. Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.