Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Father Fessio Debacle

I woke up to THIS news today, courtesy of the NOR. I have not been following the doings at Ave Maria University too closely, so I really cannot offer an educated opinion on what has happened. A friend sent me some links to a very traditional forum in which some of the members blame the healing masses for the fiasco. I have learned from similar situations that unless one is an insider it is difficult to know exactly why a person was asked to resign. What strikes me is that it has become another example of divisions between believing Catholics, all of whom should be fighting on the same side.

I grew up in the charismatic movement. My father (RIP), was very active in it. My parents' divorce and my father's eventual rejection of his faith lead me to be wary of the charismatic movement, of healing Masses, of the "slain in the spirit" phenomena. I was drawn to Carmelite sprituality, the Little Way of Saint Therese, the Dark Night of Saint John of the Cross, and the Mansions of Saint Teresa. Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Alphonsus Liguori and Saint Francis de Sales have been my spiritual fathers as well.

As a young person, when I was finding my way and learning everything I could about liturgy and Church history, I would be tormented by liturgical abuses at Mass, and all the changes in the calendar, in the breviary, in the sacramentary. Zeal is part of being young; you want to be perfect and you want everyone else to be perfect, too. Now, I am too busy making sure that certain members of my family do not run through the aisles at Mass and otherwise disrupt the proceedings. Now, I am just grateful to be at anything resembling a valid Mass.

The first year of our marriage my husband and I attended the indult Latin Mass at Saint Boniface Church in Pittsburgh. It was like being in Heaven. We also went to many Byzantine divine liturgies, which were also heavenly. There is no Latin Mass where we presently live; we belong to a quirky country parish in Bellefonte, PA, once graced (or cursed) by the presence of the infamous Talleyrand. Our parish is like a support group for sinners; we all are fallen, but we are all striving to be better. We are helping each other get to heaven. We have Eucharistic and Marian devotions, and are only occasionally afflicted with Glory and Praise.

My father eventually came back to the Church and died a holy death, fortified by the sacraments, surrounded by his family praying, as his younger children sang hymns. I know many fervent individuals who are involved in the charismatic movement, but it is not for me. I see it as a phase similar to adolescence which hopefully people will grow out of. Meanwhile, I pray for the extension of the Latin Mass. Share


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Balanced and spiritually mature as always!

Love and prayers,

Anonymous said...

Before becoming Orthodox, I attended a local (Novus Ordo) Catholic parish for about one year. I couldn't find anyone who seemed interested in living sacramentally or ascetically (not that I live ascetically); church was something you "had to do." And then there was the rest of your life. The Mass reminded me too much of the protestant parish I had come from, just with a big statue of Mary. I never attended a Latin Mass, but I think I would have felt at home there.

Anonymous said...


I love and respect Fr. Fessio and honestly feel this dismissal may be a holy gift for him, tho' certainly not for his students. Those, I will help place under another's mantle in their grief.

Fr. Fessio worked very closely with the very orthodox Fr. John Hardon who was Mother Teresa's spiritual advisor and close friend of JP II. (Fr. Hardon suffered under his own interChurch persecution as well..) Anyway, while I've been dreadfully surprised before, still, I'd be mightily surprised to find that Fr. Fessio's dismissal is for any truly valid reason. He will have options galore, so I won't worry. But indeed, what is going on at Ave Maria? The plans and hopes for this system were so high and so doable..

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Georgette, so much!

Juliana, I would encourage you and anybody to attend a Latin mass whenever possible. They are beautiful!

Yes, Lily, it IS so bizarre that they would not want Father Fessio there. He is a such a great man and as asset to any institution of higher learning. He is a friend of the Pope's, for heaven's sake. It is just so strange. I do not know what to think. As you say, this is probably a gift for dear Father Fessio. But such a loss to the students....

Anonymous said...

Excellent post - I have friends who have matured within the Charismatic movement and are very solid Catholics; I was always more attracted to the contemplative life and was rther dubious about being 'slain in the spirit' and the tongues thing.

Nevertheless, I found it edifying in the '70's to go to prayer meetings when there was no place else to go; me praying quietly and the rest praising God.

I find greater peace at the traditional Mass and traditional devotions however.

This is a beautiful post.

(I hope you are no longer angry with me.)


elena maria vidal said...

Terry, your experience sounds very similar to mine.

And I am not angry with you, I never was. I was just SHOCKED at what you said about Saint Patrick's day! I hope you have repented....

papabear said...

news about Fr. Fessio?

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, papabear!

elena maria vidal said...

OK, papabear, I checked it out. I saw a statement claiming that traditionalists "hate" Father Fessio. What traditionalists hate Father Fessio? I thought the angelqueen people were mad about the "healing Masses" not at Father Fessio.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the Angel Queen people might hate everybody. Period. But I do not think they are a good representation of Traditionalists, either.

I know nothing at all about the real reasons for his dismissal. And I am so saddened about the way this whole thing is turning out. I have given them donations once or twice and had such hopes for the University, that it would be all settled and established by the time my daughter was old enough to attend college. Now it looks like those dreams are crumbling.

BUT one thing that we have to remember is that Tom Monahan (sp?) had such high regard for Fr Fessio that he brought him in from the beginning. This tells me that Monahan's thinking was clear and his intentions were right at the outset. If the healing Mass is really the issue (which I'm not sure that is the whole story) then the bottom line is that Fr Fessio should have been the spiritual director for the University and such skirmishes over the type of Mass said on campus wouldn't even be an issue. If the problems were related to other administration matters, that would be a differnt ball of wax altogether.

elena maria vidal said...

Georgette, I view it as you do. The whole thing is very strange. I just don't understand why some people would accuse traditionalists of "hating" Fr Fessio when even the Angelqueen people were defending Fr Fessio's stance about the liturgical abuses in the Healing Masses.