Selected Text from the November 2016 issue of The Catholic Islander
The Magazine of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
Most Rev. Herbert Bevard - PUBLISHER
Father John Matthew Fewel -EDITOR
Sarah Jane von Haack - MANAGING EDITOR
Brother James Petrait, OSFS - WEBMASTER
Msgr. Michael Kosak - PROOFREADING, Advantage Editing
Deacon Emith Fludd- CIRCULATION
Jenny Bis - GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Scroll below for the text from the following articles from the November 2016 issue of The Catholic Islander:
From the Editor's Desk: We Go Forth to Meet the Lord - from page 4
Cover story: All Souls in Special Need of Prayer This Month - from page 13
Journey of Faith: Deacon Vincent Coliani - from page 14
Reflection: We Have the Power - from page 15
Special Report: Cardinal Sarah Emphasizes Importance of Silence - Ad Orientum Celebration - from page 19
From the Editor's Desk By Father John Matthew Fewel
We Go Forth to Meet the Lord
When the disciples followed the Lord out beyond Jerusalem to Bethany on that final day of his time on earth after the resurrection, perhaps they sensed that something most important was about to happen. There was certainly no expectation that Jesus was about to ascend before their eyes into heaven — for so many of Jesus’ plans and astounding miracles unfolded before the bewilderment, wonder and utter surprise of His infant Church. As they stood there, straining and searching the sky after He had risen out of their sight, an angel appeared there and told them that Jesus would return in just the same way as he had gone. For 2,000 years the pilgrim church on earth has hoped in great expectation to see Our Lord’s long awaited return from the eastern sky into which he ascended.
The center of our belief and activity on earth, Holy Mass over these many centuries has been the expression of this hope. This for centuries was shown in no insignificant manner by the way in which the priest together with the people, faced in the same direction: looking toward the second coming of Jesus — wonderfully prefigured in the way that he comes down upon the altar in the Blessed Eucharist at every Holy Mass.
For a period of years, and only in recent history, has the tradition and practice of facing together in the same direction been abandoned. In the last several decades, it has been replaced by priest and congregation facing each other, as in a dialogue or meeting. This new posture, though it is all many of us have ever known, has never captured nor conveyed, as in former centuries, the focus of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass upon the passion, death, resurrection and, especially, upon the glorious return of Jesus who left us with the command: “Watch, and pray.”
Robert Cardinal Sarah, who heads for the Holy Father an important group that is concerned with the Mass and its most fitting expressions of Catholic belief and worship, has recommended that wherever it is possible, the priest and the people ought to once again face together — going, as it were, to meet the Lord. Just as the disciples searched the sky for him at Bethany, and as the Church at the sacred liturgy has done throughout the ages.
The Cardinal points out that it isn't the compass point or the direction eastward, that is important. It is Christ, the crucifix, the tabernacle, and most importantly the place upon which Jesus comes down from heaven onto the altar at the words of consecration, which is for us the “east.”
Our bishop, the most reverend Herbert Bevard, desires that catechesis, or instruction on these important matters, begin to take place in our diocese in the coming months.
As we approach the holy season of Advent, our understanding of the sacred mysteries will grow, with opportunities in the churches of our diocese, to see and to experience Holy Mass and this most sacred and holy expression of tradition. Many and great spiritual benefits are certain to follow for the spreading of our Faith. Please look for more information about this in upcoming issues of The Catholic Islander, and see on page 19 of this issue, some thoughts from Cardinal Sarah on silence and ad orientem worship.
Cover Story - Al Souls in Special Need of Prayer This Month
by Father John Matthew Fewel
Locked away in prisons today are to be found almost every kind of person imaginable: political, criminal, the guilty, and the innocent. Through misfortune, carelessness, or a simple lapse in judgement, an otherwise good and law abiding citizen can wind up in the penitentiary, as easily it seems, as those guilty of true crime. Indeed, it can happen that some hapless individual may wind up incarcerated in the criminal justice system. Confined together in the same detention facilities with what society may call hardened criminals, or those who have no thought of reform nor regret of any crime of which they are guilty. The repentant guilty, and, unfortunately, persons innocent of the crime with which they have been accused, tried, and convicted.
A tragedy of human punitive justice is the ruination of many who are convicted and sentenced to serve time, regardless of their personal guilt or innocence. They enter prison hoping for exoneration, or with the potential to rehabilitate. But over time are lost countless souls who in the constant companionship of criminals, gangs, and corruption, break down. Corrupted by life inside, they lose whatever resolve to do good they may have had and wind up knowing only hopelessness and despair and may become, as it were, “hardened” in crime.
Not many of us expect to find ourselves before a judge accused of a crime. Some of us for one reason or another do wind up on trial. Yet, to come before a judge who will decided our innocence or guilt; our freedom or confinement; or our life or our death is not a position in which anyone would choose to be.
The reality of life is that the end of life is the same for everyone in every case: death, judgement, heaven or hell. Death comes without discrimination: to the good as well as the wicked. It is unavoidable.
In the painting, St. Michael the Archangel is shown separating good souls from bad; sending some to eternal dungeons reserved for the eternally damned; and some for the purification of what remains in them which is incompatible with God's holiness, justice, and purity. Most happily of all — those who have been absolved of their sins, have done much penance in their lives and truly lived an impeccable Gospel life — for immediate entrance into eternal happiness and beatitude with God. Almighty, all-just, all-merciful God judges without delay, mistake, or error, unlike the human justice system.
To the eternal flames are cosigned only those who have shunned the great mercy of God: the devil and his angels, and all who have turned away from salvation from sin which comes from God. To the refining crucible of purgatory are sent all souls guilty of those sins not deserving eternal death.
In this month of November, we the living, who are on our way to this certain judgement of our lives, especially remember to pray for the holy dead. Though we cannot see beyond the grave into eternity, in hope of their eternal justification, we offer holy Masses for dead loved ones, friends, and, enemies. We pray for the souls in purgatory.
Though pardoned and absolved, innocent of any sin that would destroy the life of Grace in the soul — they cannot yet bear the vision of God, being imperfect and still polluted with venial, sinful, attraction. Our prayers on their behalf help to pardon and to perfect them. Anything we offer up in this life, or sacrifice we make for the holy souls in purgatory patiently bearing with toil and labor; insult or mistreatment; lovingly serving the poor and the sick; willingly and eagerly giving our money and efforts to the work of the Church; have merit far beyond our ability to calculate. It's a joyful reality in our worldly parlance a bargain that sacrifice and penance in this world, and holy Masses offered for the dead, can bring relief to the suffering and the pains of purgatory for the poor souls there — and even an end to those pains.
That is why Jesus taught us that we should make friends while on the way to the judge with our adversary. He meant: Do every good imaginable in this present life, that its immense value may wipe away every stain of sin in the next.
Journey of Faith: Deacon Vincent Coliani
By Paul McAvoy
Deacon Vincent Colianni of Holy Cross Church on St. Croix combines compassion and faith with insight and a precise approach in his ministry work. It’s a way of thinking he has honed over many years of practicing law, both in the United States and in the Virgin Islands, and his study of the Scripture yields thoughtful homilies. Deacon Vince’s work and ministry have come together in his service to the people of Holy Cross and the Diocese.
“I was born into an Italian-American family in Pennsylvania,” he said. “I grew up attending Mass regularly, and served as an altar boy.” The Catholic faith was an important part of Vince’s life, both throughout his childhood and into his early adulthood. He married and was active in his parish in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, when his first marriage ended in divorce Vince found his faith shaken. “I was disillusioned,” he said, “So I began to explore other types of spirituality.” These efforts proved hollow as he could not find the same sort of nourishment in the different spiritual traditions he tried. At this time Vince had been an attorney for a while, and took a chance at a transfer within the Department of Justice to the Virgin Islands to work as an assistant U.S. Attorney. While on St. Croix he met his wife, Francesca, who also was of Italian descent. They slowly began going back to Church together, and through friendships with local priests Vince saw that the Catholic faith was calling him back. He received an annulment and married Francesca.
Living on St. Croix, Vince had some very good influences on his faith. “There was a young priest there, Father Al Bradley, we became friendly with him and he’s the one who suggested that I consider becoming a deacon,” Vince remembered. “Bishop Elliot Thomas was someone I also knew when I first went to the Virgin Islands, but he was a pharmacist then in the late sixties. He later became a priest and then the Bishop, and I was very much impressed by his religious influence on me.” Bishop Thomas even recommended a monastery in Pennsylvania where Vince went on retreat, and enjoyed the experience.
Despite a brief return to northeast United States in the 1970s, Vince has called St. Croix his home for more than 40 years. He came back and went into private law practice, which he continues today with his son. Over the years, he has lent his legal expertise to the diocese and Catholic schools as a way of giving back to the church. But his main ministry has been the Deaconate, where he’s focused on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the parishioners of Holy Cross through preaching and assisting at the liturgy.
“I always find that in preparing for homilies the person who benefits most from them is myself — because I need to study and learn so much, and I then digest it to share it with others,” Vince said. He points to the strength of the Catholic Church on St. Croix in the diversity of the residents - a true reflection of the universality of the Church. “It’s almost a world view,” he said, “because we have people from St. Croix, people from down island, people from Europe, people from the states, parishioners from the Philippines ... it’s a great mix of Catholics.”
In looking back on his faith journey, Vince feels that getting involved has been critical to deepening his relationship with God and growing in his faith. “I believe that our relationship with God, our personal relationship with Jesus, is incomplete unless we share it with other people,” Deacon Vince said. “That’s part of the unity of Catholicism. I think sharing and participating is an important part of Catholic thinking.”
A Reflection: We Have the Power
by Father Kevin McDonald, C.Ss.R
I think you will agree, our world could use a heavy dose of social harmony. There are reports of Shiite Muslims clashing with the Sunni Muslims, African tribes engaging in ethnic conflicts, and dictatorial governments targeting anything and anyone that might threaten their authority. The list goes on and on. Perhaps it is time to relearn the lessons of the first book ever written, a book of fatherly advice to a son, written 4,500 years ago in Egypt. The father, named Ptah-hotep, wanted to impress upon his son the importance of showing respect for authority (Ptah-hotep was, after all, an advisor to the pharaoh), but also to honor the people around him by being “brightfaced,” generous and humble. In other words, he wanted his son to learn how to make people feel comfortable and appreciated.
In a recent book by Pulitzer Prize winner Sarah Kaufman entitled. The Art of Grace, she sees the social problems that affected people back in 25th century BC Egypt as comparable to today. Namely, young people finding it difficult to obey their parents or teachers, greediness and bad manners, and leaders prone to absolutism. She quotes Ptah- hotep who said that “Kindness is man’s memorial,” and that in the eyes of posterity, “the mild has a greater claim than the harsh.” And, for current and future leaders: “If thou be powerful, make thyself to be honoured for knowledge and for gentleness.” Ptah-hotep calls on husbands to pamper their wives with liniments, fine clothes and loving attention. He calls on leaders to be patient with subordinates and to allow them to vent without interruption. This first book was an exhaustive attempt to set things right with a plea for understanding, composure and care.
Kaufman says, with practice, such social grace as Ptah-hotep outlined is a skill we can all develop. Grace has nothing to do with looks or sophistication, but everything to do with compassion and courage. Grace speaks of smooth, efficient motion and attentiveness. People who move well tend to be the people you want to be around. Their ease makes the people around them comfortable. We are drawn to their company. A graceful person is content with silence and tends to avoid what is loud and intrusive and offending to the eye. A grace-filled person puts others at ease.
This ease of movement that Sarah Kaufman writes about has a spiritual component. In Christian theology grace is defined as the love and mercy given to us by God; freely, totally unexpected, and undeserved. It can take the form of divine favor, love, mercy, and a share in the divine life of God. St. Maximilian Kolbe, for example, when he offered to take the place of another prisoner sentenced to death in Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp during World War II, was acting in a grace filled manner. According to the camp janitor, each time his prison door was opened by one of the guards, Kolbe was either kneeling in the center of the cell or standing quietly facing the person who opened the door. He continuously led the other prisoners in prayers and songs. His humility and courage were not only graceful in the most challenging of circumstances, but his holiness and ease made the other prisoners more willing to accept their adversity in a calm manner as well.
As an addendum to the Maximilian Kolbe story, he received an extraordinary grace when he was 12 years old. He had prayed to the Blessed Mother and asked what was to become of him in his life? I’ll let St. Maximilian explain it in his own words: “The Blessed Mother came to me in a vision holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”
Grace is an attribute of God that is most active in the salvation of sinners. This is good news, as we are all sinners. As it says in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Because of the action of the Holy Spirit, we are all in a position to be conduits of grace, first for ourselves and then for the betterment of others. The world is in need of an infusion of grace. We may think that there is little we can do to affect the miseries that inflict the world, but I disagree. Our prayers and sacrifices are more powerful than we would dare to imagine. Combined with our attentiveness to the social graces that make our circle of life more noble, our openness to the graces bestowed upon us by God have the power to extend bypass any boundary. It all begins with us. A simple act of kindness and grace can transform the world.
Cardinal Sarah Emphasizes Importance of Silence
Ad Orientum Celebration
On October 4, 2016, in an interview with a French newspaper, Cardinal Robert Sarah emphasized the importance of silence in encountering God and renewed his call for the ad orientem celebration of the Mass. Discussing his new book — La Force du silence (The Strength of Silence) — the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said that the “truly urgent thing” is “to rediscover the sense of God. Now the Father allows Himself to be approached only in silence.”
“We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism,” he continued. “We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power. For the sake of titles, professional or ecclesiastical duties, we accept vile compromises. But all that passes away like smoke.”
Renewing his invitation to priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem, accompanied by catechesis, he said:
This way of doing things promotes silence. Indeed, there is less of a temptation for the celebrant to monopolize the conversation. Facing the Lord, he is less tempted to become a professor who gives a lecture during the whole Mass, reducing the altar to a podium centered no longer on the cross but on the microphone! The priest must remember that he is only an instrument in Christ’s hands, that he must be quiet in order to make room for the Word, and that our human words are ridiculous compared to the one Eternal Word.
I am convinced that priests do not use the same tone of voice when they celebrate facing East. We are so much less tempted to take ourselves for actors, as Pope Francis says!
SOURCE: Cardinal Robert Sarah on "The Strength of Silence" and the Dictatorship of Noise (Catholic World Report)
The Catholic Islander / November 2016 / www.catholicislander.com