October 29, 2009 // Uncategorized

Praying with the saints, poor souls in purgatory, in November

The month for the deceased
When people die in your family, you become very aware of November as a gift. It could be called the month of the Communion of Saints. On Nov. 1, the feast of All Saints, I will be at St. Joseph Church, Bluffton, to pray for and solemnly install Father Francis Chukwuma, JCL, as pastor. So, November will start with a spring-like quality. A new beginning. A day when we try to understand what is sanctity and what is true holiness. A day given to all those ordinary saints not canonized, but in heaven in God’s house praying for us. On Monday, Nov. 2, I will drive to the Catholic Cemetery in order to celebrate the Mass for the commemoration of All Souls. This is the great Catholic tradition of praying for those who have died, but because of the weakness and imperfection we all have, we are not yet ready, not pure enough, for the vision of God. This is a holy teaching. This place of preparation is a place of God’s merciful love.

I got a delight recently to read about Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan, and well known as a preacher and retreat master. He had a serious accident in recent years, and his health is not the best. He humbly said he was looking forward to purgatory, because he grew up in New Jersey; therefore, he had already understood something about purgatory.

At the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame, they place a book in the sanctuary this month. If you are part of the Notre Dame family, and even if you are not, you sign names of your beloved dead and they will be prayed for. I believe our two cathedrals do that, and it is a great tradition.

The Communion of Saints
What a wonderful thing that our loved ones who have died are praying for us; and we can pray for them, and help them through the period of purgation to the everlasting joy of being in God’s presence and seeing him as St. Paul promised — face to face.

Speaking of saints
After a delightful day with our priests, I drove to Little Flower Parish to speak on their patron saint. Several years ago, a large crowd, over two days and all night, wound around the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Located on 5th Avenue, near the great centers of high-fashion and commerce. This beautiful cathedral, built by immigrants, the place of the final Mass of Christian Burial for Babe Ruth and Vince Lombardi and so many others, presented a remarkable scene. Part of the remains of St. Therese, who died before she reached her 25th birthday, brought people from everywhere. Why? It is simple. This young woman, one of three women to be declared a doctor of the church, showed ordinary people the road to sanctity. Here are her own words. She learned in prayer that she had to strip herself of more dramatic “vocations.” Although she was a Carmelite given totally to God, she wrote:

“I feel within me other vocations. I feel the vocation of the warrior, the priest, the apostle, the doctor, the martyr.”

She turned then to the Scriptures, to St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, the Hymn of Charity.

“I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places … in a word, that it was eternal.”
“Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love … my vocation, at last I have found it, my vocation is Love! … In the heart of the church, my mother, I shall be Love … thus I shall be everything …”

She has another message for modern men and women, because although from her earliest years she had a profound experience of God’s love, it was taken from her in her late years. In addition to enormous physical suffering, there was a great sense of the loss of God’s presence. Of this dark period, she wrote, “I am assailed by the worst temptations of atheism.” Joseph Ratzinger, in his book “Introduction to Christianity” recalls all this. Now Pope Benedict XVI, he has always expressed a keen sense of the difficulties, which the culture presents to modern man in the life of faith.

I enjoyed this evening at this historic parish and also some Irish chili beforehand with Father Neil Ryan, CSC, who served as a missionary in Uganda, and still has a missionary heart at Little Flower. I was also pleased to visit briefly with my old friend, Father José Martelli, CSC.

A day with our priests
A delightful day at Sacred Heart, Warsaw, with our priests. In the morning, presentations by some of our still new, but excellent, department heads: Jim Tighe, director of the Office of Catechesis and Mark Myers, Ph.D., superintendent of schools. Joe Ryan, our financial officer, and I presented some important new controls for parish finances. We are intent in drawing the parish finance councils into stronger and more effective oversight of all parish finances, as the church requires in the Code of Canon Law. Indeed, we are extending their responsibility. With the help of Cindy Black, I presented the core of what constitutes a strong and effective parish ministry to young people.

Of special interest was a brief presentation by Brian MacMichael, director of our Office of Worship. You realize that there is a new translation being made of the Roman Missal. It has been many years in the preparation. A new translation will be very enriching, more sound to the Latin text, and also retaining some of the more majestic and theologically sound expressions of the original Latin. The translation made in the late ‘60s was hasty; and in this diocese, we will cooperate 100 percent and so will our priests; and the result will be better worship. Brian gave us a brief, but excellent catechesis on all this.

An important correction
As we approach the blessed day of ordination, a correction is in order. In this newspaper two weeks ago, the good news that the Little Flower Holy Hour will be returned to our newly restored MacDougal Chapel, now under the patronage of St. Mother Theodore Guérin. It indicated that this Holy Hour started when there were no seminarians in this diocese. We have never had a time in the last 30-40 years and more, when there has never been a candidate in the vocation. That is simply not true. Now, there have been years when we had no ordination; but thank God, in his grace, we have never had a time when there were no candidates for the priesthood. The smallest number of candidates during my 24 years, as best I recall, was nine.
Indeed, even now as we look ahead, there is one year down the road where there are no scheduled ordinations. However, thanks to the grace of God; the prayers of the Little Flower group and many others; and the hard work of Father Bernie Galic; his assistant, Mary Szymczak; and most of all, our parish priests; we have always had candidates for the priesthood. Counting the two now ready for ordination, we have 18 in the seminary. It is not yet what it needs to be; but humbly, we thank God for each candidate. Vocations, as Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out in his beautiful book “Jesus of Nazareth” come from prayer. So with all my heart, I thank all who continue praying. But we need this correction — the Lord has never left us without candidates for the priesthood and I am sure he never will. But the responsibility for prayer and seeking out candidates rests on all of us.

St. Charles School
It was a joy, with the help of Msgr. John Suelzer and Father Tony Steinacker, to bless the new kindergarten at St. Charles Parish, Fort Wayne. This extraordinary parish has had only two pastors since its foundation in 1957. There is nothing in the world like visiting children in kindergarten and learning how well catechized they are. A full church at Mass, and then the blessing, and a delightful lunch turned a rainy day into one of joy.
I am grateful that the Irish overcame the Eagles in a close struggle. When BC wins, I usually get the business when I go home for summer vacation. Then on Sunday, a joy to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. So many people from throughout the country.

I had cousins from Philadelphia who visited, along with other old friends, and two worthy priests: Father Jim Canniff and Father Charlie Murphy, helping Father Mike Heintz at St. Matthew’s, attending two games and staying until the ordination.

Now come the Yankees and the Phillies. I will be rooting for the National League team, but I am afraid it is the Yankees’ year. A very powerful team.
See you all next week.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.