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)
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.
- A perpetual vow to pray the 3rd Luminous mystery daily (this would be in addition to any such prayers already made).
- 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.