Two years ago when the new young pastor of St. Anthony di Padua Church in Fitchburg Massachusetts was forced out of the parish by a letter writing campaign by some individuals in the parish  that somehow convinced the Bishop to move the young priest despite the lack of any wrongdoing I wrote a list of who the biggest losers were.  this was number 7:

St. Anthony’s School: Our Elementary School will be trading a young dynamic priest, who was the chaplain of the Fitchburg Fire Department.  A priest from the video game, email and cell phone era for a priest in his 60’s. Boy that’s going to be a draw for young families choosing between the catholic schools in the area. And hey, if parents if you have a choice between enrolling your kid in a Catholic school where the parish is divided or a school where it is not, where are you going to go?

Well less than a month after the parish insisted that they were not closing the school, merely trimming some of the grades, the inevitable is taking place:

Saint Anthony School will close after the end of this school year, Rev. Leo-Paul LeBlanc said Tuesday.

Citing decreased enrollment, LeBlanc said the elementary and middle school will not reopen next fall after 66 years educating members of the city’s Catholic community.

“The numbers of enrolled students simply cannot support the financial responsibilities that would be necessary to operate and provide a quality education we have prided ourselves on for our students,” LeBlanc wrote in a letter sent to parents on Tuesday.

Amazingly the article at the Sentinal and Enterprise has absolutly no mention of the turmoil that turned a school that five years ago had waiting lists and was raising funds for an expansion into one where parents don’t want to send their kids and to put it off to fewer nuns and rising costs is disengunious at best.  The parish has shot itself in the foot and in so doing has thrown away the hard work of our father and grandfathers who had a lot less that us but managed to build a parish and a school for their kids.

I urge most strongly that the parish adpot a Spiritual Plan of Action at once either the one I suggested or another ASAP before the next shoe falls.

Two years ago in July after over 50 years I left St. Anthony Di Padua Parish in Fitchburg Massachusetts for a different parish.  This was not lightly done, my parents were married there, I and all my brothers and sisters were baptized there, we all went to the parish school, we all received our first communion there, I was married there, my sons went to the school and I am a charter member of the Knights of Columbus council there and I retain that membership along with membership of the Madonna Della Cava society at that parish.

Last night I attended a meeting of the Madonna Della Cava society to plan this years festival and at the meeting found out that hot on the heels of the news that our Parish School was dropping grades 4-8 and replacing them with preschool, St. Anthony’s was about to get their 4th pastor since 2014.  In short, the turmoil that caused me to leave the parish continues unabated.

I wrote about the causes of these nonsensical self inflicted wounds in June of 2015 but rather than rehash the past it it time to answer the only question on the floor that matters:  What can be done to end it?

I have heard various secular suggestions about fundraising and attempt to attract people and while I have no objection to these plans nor would I discourage any of them I think we are forgetting that the root of of why people join a church.

It’s not secular, there are plenty of secular clubs with active social calendars and many private schools with excellent programs to educate the young.

No the solution is spiritual, it’s a matter of faith, people join a parish to deepen their faith and grow close to Christ and send their kids to a Catholic school to increase their faith and provide a moral center.  St. Anthony’s wants to attract faithful Catholics back to the parish they need a solution based on faith because the battle that is being lost in the parish is a spiritual one and unless that spiritual enemy is checked they are lost.  What’s needed is a spiritual plan of action!

Fortunately Jesus provides one in scripture:

When they came to the crowd a man approached, knelt down before him, and said, “Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water.  I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.”  Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and from that hour the boy was cured.

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”

He said to them, Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.  But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” (Emphasis Mine)

Matthew 17:14-21

So prayer and fasting is the answer, but what prayer and what fasting?

Lucky for us Catholics there is an obvious choice for a prayer to counter the works of the Devil, the Rosary.  Furthermore there is an obvious decade to offer provided to us by St. John Paul II the 3rd Luminous mystery The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven.  For what is the function of a Catholic Church or a Catholic School but to proclaim the Kingdom to those who attend?

As for fasting there is another obvious choice provided via one of the parish patriots the Madonna Della Cava.  There is a traditional devotion usually done at age 13 where one make a vow to abstain from meat on Wednesday’s for life in honor of the Madonna Della Cava.  It’s been practiced in my family dating back to at least the 19th century.  My mother took the vow at age 13 (1937) and kept it through her life, Both of my sons took the vow at 13 and while I was decades late to join I am in my 13th year of this weekly fast from meat in honor of La Madonna Della Cava.

So for those looking to do something about the state of affairs at St. Anthony’s Parish I humbly offer the following suggestions in the form of a Vow to Our Lady.

  1.  A perpetual vow to pray the 3rd Luminous mystery daily (this would be in addition to any such prayers already made).
  2.  A perpetual vow to abstain from meat on Wednesdays in honor of La Madonna Della Cava.

Both of these vows should be made for the intention of St. Anthony’s Parish that God may bless it and preserve it.

These would be individual vows for parishioners to make, they could be declared publicly or made privately as for a public collective effort I would suggest that at the end of every mass celebrated at the Parish the following prayer be offered:

Oh God of mercy, as we reach out to those seeking you, send your Holy Spirit on this parish to renew us in faith.  Help us to spread the good news of the Gospel by loving words and caring deeds so that those who have drifted away may be drawn to your church and follow the way of your son Jesus, who is the Way the Truth and the Light.  We make our prayer through Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

A Catholic Church and a Catholic School should be all about the power of faith in God and the necessity of prayer to him.   I submit and suggest this is an excellent opportunity to actively follow the path Christ himself as suggested and have faith in that path.

We just have to have the will to do so.

I commented on my Priest’s Sermon for the feast of Christ the King as the finest sermon I heard in years. It turns out Fr. Bruso had his full notes available and was kind enough to provide them to me. So for your enjoyment and commentary, I present Fr. Bruso’s sermon for the feast of Christ the King.

The feasts of the Church’s year have been in place for centuries. The Christmas-Epiphany cycle and the Easter-Pentecost cycle have been celebrated from the earliest years of Christianity. Of course, the feasts of saints are always augmenting the Church calendar, but they are generally not major feasts for the Sunday cycle. The last major liturgical celebration, the Feast of Corpus Christi, was added to the calendar almost a thousand years ago.

Except, of course, for the feast we celebrate today – the Feast of Christ the King. The feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1927 in direct response to the growth of Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany and Communism in Russia. All three of these ideologies, whether from the right – Fascism and Nazism – or the left – Communism, are united in their underlying philosophy, called Statism. The assumption that the State determines what is right and what is wrong is the ultimate response to freedom in any dictatorship.
Continue reading “The Full Christ the King Sermon”

In response to my post concerning my neighbor the Jehovah’s Witness Lisa Graas wrote an interesting post:

For two millenia, the Catholic Church has named countless saints. These are people we know to be in Heaven. It is important to note, though, that the Church has never once named any individual to be in Hell. There is a reason for that. God saves whom He will.

The saints are people who lived lives of heroic virtue. DaTechGuy’s neighbor demonstrated an act of virtue. He did something that was ‘saintly’. Is he going to Hell because he is a Jehovah Witness? I have no idea. Having said that, I also don’t know if Attila the Hun is in Hell. I do know that St. Augustine is in Heaven. I know that St. Ambrose is in Heaven. I know that St. Jerome is in Heaven. St. Maria Goretti, the Martyrs of Cordoba, St. Joan of Arc, and St. Gemma Galgani are all in heaven ….and so on, and so on, and so on. They were all Catholic. Even Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was Catholic.

That’s what we know for sure.

That is certainly true, it is also true by definition a Saint is a person who is in fact in heaven. There are a large amount of saints that we have never heard of or may never hear of.

She is also quite correct in the doctrinal errors of the Witnesses. I have regularly debated these errors with them when they come to the door and I let them in as I do with all the Millerite religions.

One must remember however that one of the requirement for Mortal Sin is an understanding of the sin, there is a difference between not knowing the truth and denying it. There is also the question of Baptism of intent as I wrote before:

The final method of baptism is called Baptism of desire and is explained here:

1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”62 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. emphasis mine

Thus a Muslim, a Hindu a Jew or a person of any denomination who does not know the Gospel of Christ or a native of Tahiti before the time of Captain Cook would all qualify assuming that they, seek the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it so in the eyes of the Catholic church anyone who does this IS a considered a baptized member of the church (although not in full communion with the Catholic Church).

Many non Catholics and non Christians are offended by this (as are some Catholics) then again some are offended by the teachings on adultery or on celibacy or holy communion or whatever. The church doesn’t change its doctrine based on feelings or polling..

Thus my friend across the street (assuming his Baptism is not considered valid) may in fact qualify as Baptized via this method.

All of this doesn’t change what I have said over and over: There is only one reason to be a Christian in general and/or a Catholic in particular. Because it is true and on that note there is no compromise, there is no equivocation.

This is an excellent opportunity to bring up my pastor’s excellent message from the Jan 16th bulletin on the subject:

Dear Friends,
John the Baptist makes a claim about Jesus which every Christian must affirm: “Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.” Jesus is categorically different from any other great religious teacher because He claims for Himself Divinity, to be the fully divine incarnation of God on earth. Either He is delusional or we have to take Him at His word.

There is no middle ground. We cannot say He was mistaken in His core beliefs about who He was while at the same time assert that He is a great teacher. You can’t have it both ways.

There is a very important difference between saying all religions should be respected and all religions are the same. As Catholic Christians, we insist on complete freedom of conscience and religious freedom for all. That is not the same thing as saying all religion is the same. All religions have the same rights, but as Christians, we must assert that Jesus Christ is the unique Savior of the entire human race. In a world of intellectual relativity, where nothing is fact and all is opinion, that seems to be the height of arrogance. But there is also such a thing as Truth. Truth cannot be imposed or forced on anyone. We are called to be witnesses to the truth with love. We are called to affirm our faith in Jesus Christ and to make Him known.

It is the duty of every Catholic in particular and every Christian in general to proclaim the gospel of Christ. As St. Francis of Assisi said:

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words

Works for me.

About once a month Fr. Bob decides to have a seat and Deacon Sal gives the homely at St. Anthony of Padua. Today was that day and he reflected on the Gospel and an interesting question from it.

The full Gospel is here but the relevant part are verses 2 and 3

When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Deacon Sal talked about how all his life he has been one to ask questions. So the question came to him: “Since John baptized Jesus and saw the Glory of God, why did he need to send his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one to come?”

Sal’s idea was that John’s sent his disciples not for the sake of himself but for their benefit so that they would come to believe.

I’m not so sure myself, I think it is entirely consistent with Biblical precedent, Catholic tradition, and reality for even people who have seen to doubt.

Consider the children of Israel, they saw the plagues, they saw the Red Sea Parted, they saw God come through for them over and over again and what was the result? They doubted and rebelled over and over again.

And of course over and over again they repented and God forgave them. The cycle of faith, falling, repentance and forgiveness is not only repeated but is prophesied.

Consider Peter: He saw a miracle at his first meeting with Christ, He saw Christ walk on water and then lost faith and started to sink himself. After seeing everything that happened he denied Christ three times yet became the leader of the Apostles.

And during the time of persecution as tradition tells us Peter was fleeting and only turning back when he encountered Christ, asking “Domine Quo Vardis?” (Lord where are you going?) and getting the reply “Eo Romam iterum crucifigi.” (I go to Rome to be crucified once again.) Rising, failing and trying again, Peter was in the same boat as the rest of us.

As her diary tells us even Mother Theresa had her doubts on occasion, yet she continued to work through them and even in death reminded the world of the difference between fame and faith.

And of course it reflects the Sacrament of Confession, we fall, we repent, we are forgiven and we rise again.

And so we are back to John the Baptist. John after spending a lifetime serving God and preaching repentance finds himself in jail and destined for death. This is his lowest point, how strange would it be for him to despair (Remember Christ himself asked for the cup to be taken from him if possible). If a disciple like Peter who was with Christ every day could still have doubts, how odd would it be for John to have the same particularly at his lowest point?

And this is where verse 11 comes into play:

Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Why is this true? It’s true because the least in the Kingdom of Heaven has completed the trial of life, they have completed the race and stand before the glory of God.

Our atheistic friends would love to make our doubts define us but for centuries some of the most educated and greatest minds man has seen went through the same circular process only to arrive back home to faith.

John the Baptist was simply doing what we all should, when faced with doubt asking Christ for reassurance. May we always follow his example.

Two more videos from last Sunday’s festival. The first is the procession about to enter the Church:

There was already a pretty packed church at this point.

The final video is of the closing song in Italian at the end of the Rosary and the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It should not be forgotten that for all the food and pastry and music this is a religious devotion.

The funds raised that you see pinned to the banner were enough to seed us for next year’s festival. Hope to see you there.

The Roma Band of Boston played at the Madonna Della Cava festival last Sunday. We talked to the band before the festivities began:

If you are looking for an Italian band for an event (And you should be) The Roma Band should be high on the list.