The just-elected government of the Stigmatine Congregation

This is the new Government of the Stigmatines, for the next 6 years:

Superior General:
Fr. RUBENS SODRÉ MIRANDA (Province of St. Joseph, Brazil)

Vicar General:
Fr. CLAUDIO MONTOLLI (Province of the Sacred Heart, Italy)

Second General Councilor:
Fr. NELTON PEZZINI (Province of the Holy Cross, Brazil)

Third General Councilor:
Fr. DAVID AUGUSTUS KALYOSI (Vice-Province of the Holy Redeemer – South Africa)

May the Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph, and St. Gaspar Bertoni, intercede for all of them for a fruitful government!

And we give thanks to the Government that just finished its 6-years term: Fr. Mauricio Baldessari (Superior General), Fr. Bruno Facciotti (Vicar General), Frs. Tadeu Lima and Abel Maglines (Councillors).


Pope Francis addressed the Stigmatine Fathers, during the Stigmatine General Chapter in Rome (Feb. 1st-15th).

The report below is a copy of the matter by Hannah Brockhaus, for the Catholic News Agency (CNA):

Pray for each other, Pope Francis tells Stigmatine Fathers
Pope Francis on Jan.6, 2018. Credit: Daniel_Ibanez (CNA)

“The life of community, the life of fraternity, is difficult because there are human problems, jealousies, competitiveness, misunderstandings… Fraternity is a grace, and if there is no prayer, this grace does not come,” the Pope said Feb. 10.

You might say that you pray the Divine Office or meditate on the Gospel, but “do you pray for this brother, for the other… for the Superior?”

The sin is not to argue, Francis continued, pointing out that even in good marriages there are fights. The sin comes in the “rancor, the resentment that you keep in your heart, having quarreled.”

Pope Francis spoke to about 40 participants in the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, commonly called “Stigmatine Fathers.” The Pope opted to speak off-the-cuff, so copies of his prepared speech were instead handed out to participants after the audience.

Besides fraternity, Francis also spoke about the “terrorism” of gossip, which he said is like throwing a bomb to destroy another from afar.

To have a good community doesn’t mean everyone has to be close friends, but you must have respect and esteem for one another, and you must pray for one another, he said, inviting those present to make an examination of conscience on this issue.

He also spoke about the wounds of Christ, especially the stigmata, which is found in the name of their order. As St. Bernard said, if you are depressed or if you have sinned, done this or that, “Go and take refuge in the wounds of the Lord,” the Pope said.

“Only the conscience of a ‘wounded’ Church, of a ‘wounded’ Congregation, of a ‘wounded’ soul or heart leads us to knock on the door of mercy in the wounds of the Lord.”

He encouraged them not to be ashamed of their devotion to the wounds of Christ, because it is their path to sanctification, and they are called to teach anyone “plagued” by their sins to find comfort there.

“A ‘wounded’ sinner finds forgiveness, peace and consolation only in the wounds of the Lord, not elsewhere,” he said.

In his prepared speech, Pope Francis invited the Stigmatine Fathers to revive both within themselves and their community the “fire of the Word of God.”

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus announces: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” the Pope said. “Imitating the divine Master, you too are called to bring fire into the world.”

He noted that there is a good, holy kind of fire and a wrong kind, however. The wrong kind he said is that illustrated in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, but sends messengers before him to a village of Samaritans, who did not want to welcome him.

The disciples, James and John, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But in answer to this, Jesus rebukes them. “This is the wrong fire,” the Pope said. “God in the Bible is likened to fire, but it is a fire of love…”

He encouraged them to announce the Gospel with meekness and joy like the founder of the Stigmatine Fathers, St. Gaspare Bertoni. “This is the style of evangelization of Jesus, our Master. He welcomed and approached everyone and conquered people with kindness, mercy, with the penetrating word of Truth,” he said.

“So you missionary disciples, who are evangelizers, can bring people to conversion, to communion with Christ, through the joy of your life and with meekness.”


On Sep. 14, 2017, Bro. Antonio Lopez professed his Perpetual Vows to the Stigmatine Congregation in the Chapel of the Retreat House and Conference Center, in Waltham, MA, in the presence of the Superior Provincial of the Province of the Holy Spouses, Rev. Robert White, CSS.

Follow some photos of this event:


[L-R] Mrs. Ruthie George-Vandewater, Bro. Antonio Lopez and Mrs. Page Vandewater
Bro. Antonio Lopez with the Superior Provincial Rev. Robert White, CSS


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

July 22, 2016
In Celebration of the New Feast
of St. Mary Magdalene!

Dear Stigmatine Laity,

On this date, July 22nd, 2016, for the first time, the Liturgical commemoration in this Year of Mercy, of St. Mary Magdalene has been raised to the level of a liturgical “feast’.  This converted sinner was the fist one to be informed by the Lord Himself that He had risen unto the remission of our sins [Rm 4:25], and that she was to communicate that Good News with the Church – of which she was a privileged member, due to her unique presence as part of the “Christological Constellation” of New Testament saints, drawn ever toward the center of gravity, the Merciful Redeemer.  She was personally chosen for a Mission of Mercy and Hope by the Lord Himself – as He had first risen in her heart by her conversion and informed her before anyone else.

And once again, this is a date vitally meaningful for me personally – as, on this date 60 years ago, I celebrated my First Solemn Mass at St Anthony’s Church in North Woburn MA. My own vocation and that of several of my  contemporaries – [3 of us of those years who served  as altar boys there are still serving as active priests!] – were one of the visible results, it seems to me, – of the challenging priestly ministry of some wonderful parish priests assigned there over the late war  years  of the 1940’s, of our growing up there in that parish. [Hoping that I am not “over-doing it” in observing personal memories and anniversaries, the Stigmatine priesthood has been a great gift to me!  My only reason for my many observances of all these anniversaries is a request for your continuing kind prayers for me!].

As these wonderful memories succeed one another, I am reminded of the Stigmatine Vocation in itself.  As I am reminded of my first coming to the community – and the gradual understanding taught to me of the inspiring  elements  of  St. Gaspar Bertoni’s wonderful ideal of the merciful  Apostolic Mission for the Assistance service] of Bishops.  As we all strive to appreciate more this great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, I have been much inspired in recent months by a yet unpublished biography of St. Gaspar, a thoroughly researched document, now awaiting publication in Italy, written by a renowned Professor Ruggero Simonato – he is not a Stigmatine but one much inspired by St. Gaspar!  His work is entitled:  With Meekness and Joy – A Profile of Gaspar Bertoni. A Man of Counsel. In this voluminous manuscript, Professor Simonato offers well over 10 pages dedicated to the theme: ’Along the Challenging Path of a Common Life: (the writing of) the Constitutions’ by St. Gaspar.

Professor Simonato points out that for anyone reading the Original Constitutions of St. Gaspar, it would immediately become evident  that this work is truly a tight web of sublime citations, an analytical mosaic of inspiration,  summarizing the  teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Alphonsus Liguori. From Stigmatine sources we know that Fr. Bertoni wrote these 315 Constitutions during the last phase of his life, culminating a lived a community experience of nearly 25 years of Stigmatine life together with his companions. This small booklet bears much study and prayer for us, as it is a compendium of a life of atrocious physical suffering and his undying hope in Gods healing mercy.

In his rather  long life of 76 years – 37 years of which were  in the Stigmatine community – for so much of this time,  he was a quiet inspiration behind a wide  variety  of competent   apostolates – beginning with teaching school, preparing the way for the word of God in the hearts of the many poor student who came  – also in preparing future priests and religious – assisting the bishops through a very broad, but qualified ministry of the Word of God, these early were much dedicated  in  inspiring children toward their responsible presence in the future Church. Among these, was a young John Lenotti [the future second Superior General of the Stigmatines    – trained personally and with much loving care, by his Founder.  Jesus’ words’ and his challenging words found now in the Stigmatine Coat of Arms are Euntes Docete in the Last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, this is Jesus’ Apostolic Missionary Discourse after His Resurrectiongo forth and communicate God’s word!  All of this was geared toward drawing in one’s own life a portrait of Jesus Christ.

When it came to providing a description of the ‘content’ of the Apostolic Mission, Professor Simonato notes [Foot=note # 1177] that there have been two opinions: that of Fr. Marani who saw in his time the need  to emphasize more the preaching of Parish Missions –  while  Fr. Lenotti [the first Novice Master after St. Gaspar himself], in his discourses to future  Stigmatines,  broadened the range of the Apostolic Mission in the light of St. Gaspar’s own use of a phrase taken verbally from the Formula of St. Ignatius of Loyola: Quodcumque Verbi Dei Ministerium .. quocumque in diocese et mundo [“any ministry of the word of God whatsoever,  and anywhere in the diocese and world”].

Professor Simonato’s summary of all this is his view that in the final analysis, Fr. Gaspar’s Original Constitutions were meant to provide the spiritual substance of St. Gaspar’s modus vivendi, way of life, in the following an evangelical Model – rather than being a juridical booklet that was specify its activities in a fixed manner. St. Gaspar emphasized the on-going interior spiritual formation and conversion typical of a committed Follower of Jesus Christ, ever open, docile and “abandoned” to the most abundant inspirations of the Holy Spirit. In St. Gaspar’s Original Constitutions, in this booklet was drawn out for the adherents the main points involved in this manner of living, its “spirituality’.

In the Stigmatine document for this month (enclosed), I will offer my own much studied  reflections on St. Gaspar’s development of the “Apostolic Mission” in the Introductory section – followed by a fresh approach of the same [in Italian] offered by Fr. Bruno Facciotti, present Vicar General of the Stigmatines. Let us pray for and with one another – through the intercession of St. Gaspar Bertoni – and of St. Mary Magdalene – for our deeper commitment to the Mercy of God in our own acceptance of God’s will.

Sincerely yours in the Mercy of God,

Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


Compendium Rude – study by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Compendium Rude – study by Rev. Bruno Facciotti, CSS (in Italian)


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

June 29, 2016
Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul, Apostles

Dear Sigmatine Laity,

Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul, Apostles

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

With the coming of the month July, there is a great sense of gratitude in my heart for 60 years as a Stigmatine Priest, which I celebrate on July 1st – remembering ordination day, of long ago in Rome on July 1, 1956.

Far more importantly, though, July is the month that St. Gaspar Bertoni began his own Spiritual Diary.  As a record of his earlier life and thoughts, his parish sermons make known to us those first years of his priesthood [he was ordained September 20, 1800] – whereas his Diary manifests to us his extraordinary graces inspiring his thoughts and ideals for that time just prior to his foundation of the Stigmatines, which happened 200 hundred years ago this coming November 4th [1816]. His diary covers those years [1808-1813] immediately preceding his coming to found the Stigmatine Congregation.


His Spiritual Diary opens with these thoughts:

2nd JULY 1808

[2.]           Feast of the Sacred Heart. During Mass, at Consecration, at Communion and throughout the whole thanksgiving time, many tears of compunction and affection. In particular, during Communion, I felt for a moment as if my spirit was snatched away from all creatures, at the service [1] of its Creator.

[The Commentary of the Stigmatine historian, the late Fr. Joseph Stofella, follows];

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was introduced in 1765 and quickly adopted in Venice and in the Venetian Republic. In 1808 it was celebrated on the 2nd of July because on its established day, namely Friday 24th of June, the liturgical calendar required the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. On this July 2nd, the Church was within the Octave of the Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul.  On July 2nd, there was also observed the Feast of the Visitation of Mary Most Holy to St. Elizabeth.

All of this in no way lessens our interest in the fact that, in his entry on this Feast of the Sacred Heart, we have the first indication of some characteristic mystical gifts which God was going to grant to Fr Bertoni[2].  If we may say, here one sees what theologians call Piety as a gift of the Spirit[3]. Hence, the many tears of compunction and affection.  Compunction is intended here as a blend of spiritual illumination and a consequent feeling of one’s own inadequacy in front of the divine. What stands out here is that gift of the spirit snatched away from all creatures, at the service [obsequium] of its Creator. To this experience, Father Gaspar had contributed also by his own spiritual attitude[4].

St. John of the Cross teaches that “the soul cannot receive the light of divine union unless it first rejects affection for creatures”.  He also teaches that “every soul who wishes to climb the mountain of the Lord in order to make of himself an altar for the offering of pure love, of praise and service [ossequio], should have already fulfilled three conditions. The first is that it rejects from itself all affections and desires which are foreign to God. The second is that it should purify itself from the consequences of those affections which still remain by continually denying them and doing penance. The third condition is that it should change habits: only then the Lord himself will clothe it anew. Through such divine favor, the soul will finally be free from the old tastes and desires of the earthly man and will receive a new knowledge of God[5].

Fr. Bertoni had admired the detachment from all created things in the patron Saint of his priesthood, namely Saint Ignatius of Loyola – and certainly for the reason of imitating him. He had copied the following extract from his Life: “Ignatius’ heart was entirely detached from all created things which he loved only in God, while loving God in them. He used to say that:

… these are the true attitudes of those who leave the world for Christ: to forget as much as possible the things of the earth in order to better keep in mind those of heaven[6]

Fr. Bertoni’s entire Journal is permeated by this spirit of total detachment.


Another very important entry made during this month of July is this following text, from the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, July 31, 1808:

30th JULY 1808

[17.]         For the examination of conscience one should choose a Saint of the same vocation as a mirror. In this way, one finds matter for confession every day. Whatever falls short of that Saint’s perfection is faulty.

“It is worthwhile to consider the method of Fr Bertoni in his daily Examination of Conscience. It is not surprising that during these examinations he sometimes was given remarkable gifts and graces. We have an example on 27 October 1808 when he wrote:

In the first point of the Midday Examen, i.e. the thanksgiving, while prostrated on the floor in the sight of Heaven, I felt a deep sense of the divine presence with love and self-offering

This maxim of Fr. Gaspar provides an insight into what should be every examen of conscience for one called to perfection.

Fr. Bertoni had chosen St Ignatius of Loyola as a model for his priestly vocation. He will tell us expressly in this JOURNAL on 15 Sept. The first biographer, Fr Giacobbe, wrote that Fr Bertoni admired and studied much the works and virtues of St Ignatius, and had reproduced them very faithfully. [7]  In fact, Fr Gaspar studied the Life of St Ignatius directly of at least four authors, i.e. Fr John Peter Maffei, Fr Peter Ribadeneira, Fr Daniel Bartoli and Fr Francis Mariani. Of the handwritten extracts from the four authors which we possess, several could be part of this Journal. They reveal not only admiration for the Saint, but also his endeavor to imitate him.

The original idea of modeling his life on that of a Saint could have come to Fr. Bertoni (after his boyhood practice of imitating Saint Aloysius Gonzaga), from the Imitation of Christ where he read: Look at the living examples of the Holy Fathers [8].  He found inspiration also in Fr. L. Scupoli’s Spiritual Combat:

… Compare your works with those of the Saints and other servants of God. In comparison with theirs, you will know that your best and greatest works are of very low quality and worth.  If you then compare them with those of Christ… (I am not talking on the side of his divinity, but purely as they have been humanly performed with sincerity and pure love)… you will see that yours are insignificant…  [9]

The Imitation of Christ and the classic of Scupoli appear as the first teachers of Fr. Bertoni.  We shall have a further proof in this “Journal.”

[18.]        To seek God alone. To see God in all things.  This is to make oneself superior to all human things.


To commemorate these important texts, I submit for your reflection a rather lengthy meditation on St. Gaspar’s sources for the founding of the Stigmatines.  As we approach the actual date in  this second centenary year of the founding of  the community honoring the Sacred Stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ, please pray with us as we seek to  renew St. Gaspar’ Missionary and Apostolic Spirit in the hearts of us all.

Respectfully submitted in St. Gaspar Bertoni,

Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS  
Acting Spiritual Director


Attached documents:

  • The Influence of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Ignatius Loyola in St. Gaspar Bertoni’s Charism: Missionarii Apostolici in OBSEQUIUM Episcoporum Abandonment to God, Availability to the Church. Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS, in the Solemn Feast of St. Gaspar Bertoni, 2016;
  • La Formula “In Obsequium” nel Linguagio di San Tommaso – Pe. Joseph Henchey, CSS, 1992.


[1] Website [‘A Tribute to St. Gaspar Bertoni’ – – seção ‘Life & Spirituality’ – ‘A Trinitarian Charism of Hope’] Note: For the first time in this document, St. Gaspar uses the word ossequio [cf. obsequium, in: Rm 12:1, ff.] – one of Fr. Bertoni’s favorite words. Cf. ‘Published Studies’ under St. Gaspar Bertoni’s Trinitarian Charism of Hope,   on this Web-site.

[2]   Website Note [‘A Tribute to St. Gaspar Bertoni’ – – seção ‘Writings & Works – Memoriale Privato]:  Fr. Stofella notes that the Sacred Heart is also near Fr. Bertoni’s final entry in his Journal [cf. June 26, 1813].  He also noted a mystical grace,  his ecstasy regarding the Sacred Heart [on May 30, 1812]. For Fr. Bertoni, his devotion to the Sacred Heart often served as his vehicle for the presentation of his integral understanding of the Paschal Mystery – both its sorrowful aspects as well as its glorious dimensions. A few days after his May 30th, 1812 ecstasy, he  spoke on the Sacred Heart – emphasizing the wound in the side  retained in Christ’s Risen Body [cf. MssB 1755-1778] [cf. J. Henchey, ‘Una Speranza Missionaria formata ed expressa  nelle sue divozioni e nel suo servizio ecclesiale’, in: Symposium BertonianumVerona: Edizioni Stimmgraf 1990, pp.143-160. This idea is found:

  • in his parish sermons [cf. MssB ## 464; 475; 490;494; 517; 1300; 1305; 1308; 1312; 1314; 1315; 1317; 1318; 1322; 1759; 1771, , ff.;
  • in his Letters: MssB 9510; 9689; 9707;
  • in his preaching to priests and seminarians: MssB ## 2632; 2635; 2637; 2647. It is found often in Fr. Gaspar’s Meditations on Primum Regum, based on St. Gregory the Great: MssB ## 4899; 4957; 4984; 4991; 4999; 5094 and 9707 – among other texts.

The integral theme of the Paschal is found from his earliest written documents: his parish sermons up through his last letters to Fr. Bragato [cf. the same website, under ‘Life & Spirituality’ –  Stimmate Integre].

[3] Cf. Fr. Nello Dalle Vedove, Un Modello di S. Abbandono,   pp. 53, 186.

[4] Website (as quoted above) Note: there is offered a reflection on the Ignatian spirituality contained in the word obsequium – cf.  this web-site, Studies on St. Gaspar’s Compendium Rude.

[5] John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel.  C. 4, 1; c. 5, 7.  Roma 1940: Ed. Opere, pp.17, 24, f.

[6] Mariani, Life…  Book 4, c. 2, pp. 337.

[7] Summarium Additionale Document 36, p. 456.

[8] Imitation of Christ,   Book I, c. 18.

[9] Spiritual Combat, c. 32.


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

Corpus Domini 2016

Dear Sigmatine Laity,

With the wonderful celebrations of Easter, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday behind us now for another year, this day’s Feast summarizes and perpetuates – re-presents – all our celebrations – making the Paschal Mystery of Christ sacramentally renewed every day.  In so many ways, our lives, too, are meant to be Liturgical or “Eucharistic”:

  • Life is an Offertory made to the Mercy of God [Rm12:1]
  • Christ Consecrated Himself – and us – to come into this world [Jn 10:36; 17:19];
  • Christ is a Holy Communion with His Father and Us [cf. Jn 14:10].

When the Stigmatine historians write about St. Gaspar Bertoni and his spirituality, they note his very strong Christological dimension – as well as his Trinitarian perspective. This then seems to be unified under his Eucharistic devotion. It would suffice to read St. Gaspar’s own spiritual diary[1] to bear this out.

The late Fr. Cornelio Fabro, CSS [†May 4, 1995] clarified  another dimension, that is the educative  reality of years of suffering in his life that brought him closer to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This seems to have been for him a lived fulfillment of the Merciful High Priest in service of His Father: … Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered… [Heb 5:8].

St. Gaspar seemed to live this dictum quite well in his own decades-long experience with atrocious pain. Much of his priestly life [53 years] was offered in suffering. Confined for the most part “between his bed and arm chair”, he accepted his discomfort as the “School of God”.

When dark times come to us and our loved ones, we can find much comfort in the example of St. Gaspar and ask for his help in humble prayer. The late Stigmatine, Fr. Ignazio Bonetti [†March 10, 1998] wrote a very fine synopsis of the Founder’s spirituality[2], based perhaps on the idea of Cardinal Newman’s Grammar of Assent.  We offer this fundamental picture of our Founder’s spirit for our approaching Solemnity of St. Gaspar, this June 12, 2016. The best devotion is “imitation.”

God bless you all – let us continue to pray for each other.

Respectfully yours in St. Gaspar,

Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director

Appendix I:
Edited by Rev. Ignazio Bonetti, CSS – 1993.
Original title: La Grammatica di Don Gaspare Bertoni.
English translation by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS – 2005 [with latter revision in 2014].

Appendix II:
With a commentary by Fr. Giuseppe Stofella, CSS – 1962.
Original title: Memoriale Privato di Don Gaspare Bertoni.
English translation by Rev. Giancarlo Mittempergher – 1992.

Appendix III:
Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS – 2008.



[1] Memoriale Privato di Don Gaspare Bertoni [Spiritual Journal of St. Gaspar Bertoni].

[2] La Grammatica di Don Gaspare Bertoni [St. Gaspar Bertoni: Some Rudiments of his Spiritual Writings].


Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Homily in the anticipated commemoration of his
60th Anniversary of Ordination to the Holy Priesthood
[Rome, July 1, 1956]

Mundelein Seminary
May 4, 2016

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ.  I thought I would comment tonight on the Communion Antiphons.  “I have chosen you from the world,” says the Lord, “and appointed you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last, alleluia.”


And I want to say there’s really nothing to getting old.  It just takes a while. Sometimes you know they call these the “Golden Years”.  Well, that may be for our hard-working doctors and dentists but for us who are doing this to a task, ‘rusty’ might be a better metaphor.

You know this is that time of life when everything hurts and nothing works. I once thought of a prayer for an old professor, “Oh Lord, may I be judged on the many brilliant students I had – more than on my boring lectures.”

Many modern adaptations appear of Aesop’s Fables, animals talking to human beings to give them a lesson.  One of these you may remember is in Kafka, his Metamorphosis.  It’s a very ugly passage where he compares animals to people.  But Alexander Solzhenitsyn had a wonderful idea in Cancer Ward and his old goat that I’ll tell you about the end.

The great American humorist, W.C. Fields, tells the story of the King of Beasts was renowned for his speed and his power.  But he wanted also to be remembered as well for being crafty, being smart.  So he circled behind two hunters and found their camp and enjoyed himself on their baloney sandwiches.  [They really seemed like horseradish mustard!]  Then he went to the top of the mountain and he roared, “I am the King of Beasts and I am crafty too.”  The hunters, of course, heard this and came and killed the lion.  So what is the moral of this?  If you’re full of baloney, keep your mouth shut.

Anyway, I also remember George Burns who had a number of wonderful lines.  He says, “You know it’s really great to be 90.  You get a standing ovation for standing.”

Well, my great hero is Father Charles Meyer, formerly a member of this Faculty! When I entered the seminary for a 10-year hitch, he was already ordained a priest.  So he’s 71 years a priest now this year.

Well, I want to tell you, in the long years of studying Saint Thomas Aquinas, it’s a very rewarding enterprise.  And I wondered if somebody someday with more brains than I had could write a tract on the Eucharist and the priesthood.  Saint John Paul II never tired of bringing these together as they were instituted together on the first Holy Thursday.  And just think of the humble material element of the Eucharist which will contain the sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth.  It could start out as old sour grapes and dry bread but God’s holy word of consecration transforms that into a real presence.

What is a material element of the priesthood?  It’s a man who has been tried and proven and sometimes offering only sour grapes and old dried bread.  But in the words of consecration, he is endowed with a marvelous life-giving, forgiving, capacity.  In the theology of Saint Thomas, I was always amazed at Italian wine.  In it is a deep interior passivity, of capacity to be consecrated.  Well, so do we.  And the other part of this comparison is: Italian wine gets better with time!  And I really think that’s what happens.

Charles Dickens was only half right.  He said, “These are the best of times and these are the worst of times.”  These are the best times.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And as we sang all the way through Easter: Haec est dies quam vere fecit Dominus – laetemur et exultemus in ipsa!  – This is the day the Lord has made!!  Let us rejoice and exult in it!] I wanted to impress you with my Latin, (??).  How’s that?

Anyway, Saint Thomas will tell us again: these are the best of times for that which God wants to accomplish in us.  So it’s the best of a possible world for the present divine purposes, no matter how terrible it is.  How we worry about elections.  This is the best time because God can create a universe out of nothing.  So Saint Thomas said, “These are the best of times for what God wants to do on earth.”


I’d like to say like a short word about my own Stigmatine Charism.  You know, I’m only ordained 60 years, but I promise not to take a year at a time!  I’ll talk of Mercy.  My Founder [St. Gaspar Bertoni] was a diocesan priest of Verona, Italy Fr. Gaspar Bertoni.  He came from a broken home, so he developed the old Franciscan feast of the Espousals, of Mary and Joseph. It’s a beautiful family festival we celebrate every January 23rd, indicating a real commitment to the Church, the Spouse of Christ.

He was also a priest for 53 years, 41 of which he was an invalid.  And from this he developed his great devotion to the five wounds of our lord.  So the well-known Icon of Mercy, the suffered five wounds of Good Friday redeem us.  And the glorious wounds of Easter Sunday in his risen body become the Source of His   sending us.  As the Father sent me, I now send you.  [Jn 20] So the Pierced One is a great drawing card for mystics like Augustine and many, many others.

A new era has come.  A birth of the new Eve in blood and water indicating a new life has come.  If you look at the icon carefully, the springtime of the blood ritual is in harmony with the autumn celebration of the harvest at the water gate.  What does this mean?  All of human life, spring and fall, is enveloped in God’s mercy.

The Tabernacle of the Trinity, which the Roman soldier opened with his lance, has opened to us the treasures of the Trinity.  Augustine saw here the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.  The new catechism speaks about the open wounds mean Christ’s open heart.  The heavens were opened and the scriptures were opened.  Let us not harden our hearts and close them out.

In the five wounds, there is a shifting theological model, which is very interesting.  The wounds of the hand and feet, [remembered by Luke the doctor??], are called “satisfaction and meritorious redemption”.  But all that was inflicted on the body of Christ after his death:  his pierced side, his burial, the terrible desecration of his dead body [which we see almost every night on the news] all of these are included under causal exemplarity with resurrection and ascension.  A new creation has opened up, a new beginning!

So the great dogma of the stigmata would be redemption.  We are redeemed.  Thank God for its grandiose blessings and as Gregory the Great [if he was indeed the author of Hoy Saturday’s Exultet said, (O felix culpa – quae meruit talem et tantum Redemptorem!): O Happy Fault which merited such and so great a redeemer!  Paradoxically, what a wonderful thing that it because of sin there is merited in God’s Mercy such a Redeemer such redemption.

This mystery is an enrichment to moral theology.  If Christ has risen let your thoughts be above.  It’s also an inspiration to spirituality.  One of the things we all lack is a sense of totality.  Like the ancient Shema Yisrael, the basic dogma is one God.  The basic morality, love him and his – and the basic spirituality, totally.

The new catechism speaks about the scriptures being opened with Christ’s wounds and Christ’s side being pierced.  This is the season we celebrate the Ascension into heaven.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He’ll come again in glory and all will see him [we read in the Apocalypse 1:7] – even those have pierced him – in faith, we will see him in contemplation and – God willing – in our studies.  We will see this Son of God pierced through.  Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” 

This reminds us of that old American spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified the Lord?”  We were.  We caused it and we were redeemed there.  So to look on him – means to study him, to experience him.  And in the words of Dei Verbum [# 8]: faith can grow through contemplation, study, magisterium and experience.”  The Acts of the Apostles sing of this joyful assembly.  They return to Jerusalem with great joy.  They were continually in the temple blessing God, worshiping the immolated lamb in Thanksgiving, a model of the Church in the Celestial Sanctuary.

The ascension of Christ does not mean inaccessibility.  There is a perennial closeness, an ongoing presence of the Lord.  And, in a new manner, this Mystery is now inviting each of us; while we cannot be transubstantiated, we need to be transformed and conformed more to the image of the wounded Christ.

So what we celebrate in every Liturgy is a Liturgy of Life.  All of life is an offertory in Romans 12:1.  “Make of your body an oblation to the merciful God.  It’s a consecration. The Father consecrated me and sent me into the world.  It’s a holy communion.  I and the Father are one.”  It is a Holy CommunionThe Father is in Me and I in the Father … may they be one in us!

The great high priest has already risen, ascended into the celestial sanctuary.  There he is presently and forever celebrating an eternal Thanksgiving as the Immolated Lamb, for the Father’s infinite mercy.  The time of the feast of the Ascension through Pentecost is a challenge liturgically for all of us to participate in the life-long procession heading faithfully toward that celestial sanctuary.  Ascension to Pentecost is one more liturgical challenge to persevere.  The qualities of those who are in this procession to the heavenly temple, need a facility in God’s word, a confidence in his praise, fidelity and perseverance all along the way.


And this leads me back to the Solzhenitsyn’s old goat.  The image appears in his Cancer Ward – While he had to wait for his train he went to the zoo and he saw a beautiful doe there, a deer like we see every day.  And that reminded him of the one nurse in the state hospital of Russia, who was always so kind to him.  And then he saw an old goat standing on a rock, without moving, and he thinks out loud and says to himself, “That’s what you need to get through life.  So it is, to become an old goat it just takes a while!

So Christian perseverance is not getting through it.  It’s not Stoic acceptance.  It’s Christian participation in the mystery and life of Jesus Christ.  Where the great Kierkegaard praised so beautifully by John Paul II in Fides et Ratio [# 76, for those keeping score!]  Praised by John Paul somehow we have to make Christ present to his people, in a contemporary manner.

The great appeal of the church has always been that anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And the Parable of the Sower of the Seed, as for the part of the rich soil that is the people with the noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest, through their perseverance.  In the conclusion of Romans, “Everything that was written long ago, in the scriptures, was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples that scriptures gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God.”  [Rm 15:4]

Your perseverance will win you your lives [Lk 21:1 – I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail…! [Lk 22:32] – Barnabas [son of encouragement]… urged them to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion… he was filled with the Holy Spirit… [Ac 11:23] – … Paul encouraged the followers … [Ac 18:23] – You will need perseverance if you are to do God’s will and gain what he has promised…we are the sort of people who keep faith until our souls are healed… [Heb 10:36]



The teachings Saint Thomas tell us that perseverance is three realities:

  1. The first one is the grace of final perseverance.  This was a theme in the Council of Trent. Only God can give that, first grace and last grace and every grace in between is a grace.

The great Saint Alphonsus Liguori struggled his entire life with celibacy and he prayed every day that he would get the grace of final perseverance, so in that he’s a great model for all believers in praying for this grace of fidelity.

  1. Secondly, perseverance is a quality of every virtue. If you don’t stick to it and don’t repeat the lessons, you cannot learn.  Some whiz kids used to get to the material the night before the exam and the material  hardly made any impact on their minds and much less on their hearts or their lives.  Stick-to-itiveness is something that’s asked of all of us each day.  I remember it now as one of the great gifts of my formation years to have had as my professor, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, and he used to have a great routine before the exams.  [I’m a little late for this exhortation, but anyway, maybe next year.] He would say, “Look, you’ve got to read this book!  Go down into the library.  Pick this book up, put it on your head, rub it next to your heart and if the temptation comes to read it, give in!”  So that was his regular pep talk.

And finally perseverance is a special virtue to remain faithful in the priesthood, and in all vocations, as best we can.  That this is certainly a Grace of God, and in this wonderful Mundelein community we pray: Mary most faithful, pray for us.

Thank you for listening!



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Father Henchey’s Homily in the anticipated commemoration of his 60th Anniversary of Ordination to the Holy Priesthood – Mundelein Seminary – May 4, 2016