A Letter to Fr. Joseph
Fr. C. John McCloskey, III, S.T.D.
January 1, 2030
Dear Father Joseph,
Thanks so much for the invitation to be an integral part of your ordination at the Cathedral and to preach at your Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Thomas More Church. I was overjoyed to be at both events. Since I have known you from your teen-age years when I started to give you spiritual direction and our continuing friendship through your college years and early professional life, you can imagine what a moving moment it was for me to clothe you with your chasuble and con-celebrate with you, a new priest of Christ and his Church. No other higher calling is imaginable.
One of the great saints of the last century, recently proclaimed doctor of the Church, once insisted that every priest should leave behind at least several priestly vocations to take his place. Happily, through God's grace, several dozen directly or indirectly have followed in my small wake. As you know, I will leave off my formal pastoral duties with the parish on my 77th birthday coming up in October. Knowing that you are continuing in "the long black line" is a great consolation for me. Priests, of course, never retire, as long as they can pray, hear confessions, and celebrate Holy Mass and happily, I am able to. My mantra through my fifty years of priesthood of "prayer, diet, exercise, and sleep" has stood me in good stead, so perhaps I have a decade or two still left in God's service given, these last few decades of improvement in medical technology. As it turns out, those few years in prison and the torture were wonderful for my spiritual life and did not leave me incapacitated at all, not like the confessors of the twentieth century.
I thought I would take a few minutes of your time to give you an overview of the developments in the Church since the last Great Jubilee of the year 2000. After all, as you are only 25, barely of canonical age, so you don't have much memory of the events leading up to our present vigorous and healthy state of the Church in the Regional States of North America. No doubt you had some excellent professors of Church History at the seminary, who paid special attention to what in its time was known as the post-conciliar period after the great Second Vatican Council. (I was delighted to see you had six courses in Church History in the seminary. Lots of the problems of the 50-year period after the close of the Council could have been avoided particularly in the West, had they been seen in the perspective of the history of the Church, with its ups and downs, and saints and sinners. Yes, Ecclesia semper reformanda! We have been in post conciliar times, after all, ever since the Council of Jerusalem in the year 50, but no matter.) The post-conciliar period was the era of the first 45 or so years of my formation as a lay Catholic and later the first twenty years of priesthood.
With the perspective of 30 years, many of the elements of this era appear both tragic and comic, other elements simply like a nightmare. You know I have written through the years many articles about that generally unfortunate period in our country and in the Church when so many souls were lost, such confusion was sown, so much that took many decades to build was destroyed so rapidly. No need to say more here. You have probably studied some excerpts from books by the great European philosophers Maritain and von Hildebrand, and such insightful North American authors as Hitchcock, Kelly, McInerney, Wrenn, and Baker, and Roche who explained succinctly what can in retrospect be seen clearly as, at least a distortion of the teachings of that great Council and in some instances betrayal and purposeful misinterpretation.
Nothing new here of course. In your studies of the Councils of the Church, you saw that many of the Councils historically were called to answer some crisis and carried on their deliberations in very difficult circumstances. Yet the challenges they were called to address often lasted several decades before their conciliar teachings were put into effect. It is not surprising that the Church has the longest view of any institution because of its supernatural nature. As the expression goes "Roma patiens quia aeterna." No need to translate for you, I know, since all seminarians now take six years of Latin in addition to a full year of Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. We will convert those Moslems yet!
To meet the post-conciliar confusion came that unexpected supernatural intervention in 1978 in the election as Supreme Pontiff of John Paul the Great. I was in my first year of seminary studies in Rome when he was elected and I heard those words from his lips in Saint Peter's Square, Non Abbiate Paura (Do not fear). (Okay, I know you know Italian too. Hope you get a chance to use it doing some graduate studies in Rome at Santa Croce but first get your hands dirty with some ...
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