Foot fetishes and Holy Thursday (Bishop Morlino 110% vindicated)

Fr Phillip Altavilla of Scranton, PA

Fr Phillip Altavilla of Scranton, PA

First of all, I do not mean to connect a sexual paraphilia with the Holy Week Mass of the Lord’s Supper except for the grave purpose of emphasizing the utter inappropriateness of the former having any presence on the latter.

Christmas morning 1998 in Scranton Pennsylvania, a priest who has recently admitted having a “foot fetish” gave a 13 year old girl alcohol and touched her feet and legs creepily. She now (16 years later) has made a police complaint, and the priest has been charged with molestation.

“I am both angry and demoralized to think that, yet again, a priest has been involved in such inappropriate, immoral and illegal behavior,” the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, said in the statement. “It is particularly distressing that the pastor of our Cathedral Parish, who is known to countless numbers of the faithful and has served in so many positions of trust and responsibility in the Diocese of Scranton, has betrayed that trust in such a manner.”

The victim, who was a member of the St. Patrick’s Parish [in Scranton, PA], told police that the Rev. Altavilla gave her alcohol in the rectory after the midnight service, then offered to drive her home at about 3 a.m. Once in the car, he pulled her legs on his lap and began touching her feet and moving his hands up her legs until the victim attempted to escape, according to the criminal complaint. The priest then apologized and drove the girl home.

Meanwhile, the annual ritual bashing of Bishop Morlino for simply holding local priests to the Church’s liturgical discipline according to which the optional Holy Thursday footwashing rite, which recalls an episode at the Last Supper with Jesus and the 12 Apostles, involves the priest washing the feet of adult males (viri).

Local religion journalist Doug Erickson felt the devilish urge to dress this up as if it were news: “Three years ago, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino issued guidelines that gave priests the option of either using only men or not celebrating the ritual at all. Given the heightened attention to foot-washing last year, some parishioners thought Morlino might re-evaluate his position. This has not happened.”

Subsequently other “progressive” Catholic types bloodthirstily seized on the fake story, for instance Michael Scott Winters of the not-Catholic publication “National Catholic Reporter.” Winters acts as if Bishop Morlino’s directive in favor of the Church’s ordinary liturgical discipline is bizarre and bewildering, asking “Seriously, why would Morlino do this?” Pope Francis (who gave himself dispensation to wash the feet of a diverse array of prison inmates in Rome last year, which he had every right to do) wouldn’t like Bishop Morlino reminding priests of such a thing, Winters imagines: “rubricism, an overwrought concern to follow the rubrics in the liturgy, is a perfect example of the kind of self-referential Church obsessed with small minded rules that the Holy Father has spoken against.” Winters declares that the rite, which was re-introduced to the liturgy in 1955 and according to the Church is entirely optional, is actually essential and should never be omitted, therefore to him “The most disturbing part of Bishop Morlino’s decree was the suggestion that a parish could dispense with the rite entirely.” This seems to be his way of insisting that parishes should disobey Bishop Morlino instead of doing what womenfootwashing-insisting parishes tend to do in our diocese, which is to omit that rite.

If you are inclined to agree with Michael Scott Winters, please re-read the news about Father Altavilla in Scranton and ask yourself whether you consider it appropriate for him to wash the feet of females at Mass. The imagery of female footwashing is has substantially greater potential for conveying something sexually inappropriate–or (in our fallen world) actually being something sexually inappropriate. The spiritual washing from sin that Jesus offers is for everyone, however the apostles were men, this was Jesus’ choice and not arbitrary and it’s not arbitary that those feet to be washed are feet of adult men.

The story of Fr Altavilla of Scranton is perfectly timed to underscore why the wise do not undermine, scorn, mock, or subject to media harassment those bishops who, exercising the prudence which is theirs to exercise, do not give special permission to priests to run their hands over the bare feet and legs of girls and women during Holy Thursday Mass, nor at other times.

Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples ~ Giovanni Agostino da Lodi c. 1500

Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples ~ Giovanni Agostino da Lodi c. 1500

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”

Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

John 13:1-17, New American Bible

New Edgewood College President

Edgewood CollegeIt is not a surprise that Edgewood College chose the internal candidate from among the three finalists identified in their search process: Scott Flanagan, who had formerly been the Executive Vice President. None of the candidates had any appearance of being people oriented toward strengthening Catholic identity, which on a scale of 1 to 10 is maybe about negative 2 at Edgewood College.

In all my involvement with the Catholic Church locally over the past 8 years, only once, maybe 4 or 5 years ago, did I ever meet a current Edgewood student at a Catholic event (a St Paul’s event). I may have even run into her a couple of times. When I went there personally to find out about whether it would be possible for me to get an education there that would be supportive of my Catholic faith, after a careful inquiry to the relevant staff and faculty my conclusion was that no, that was not available at Edgewood. Also the place seemed festooned with “glbtq” everything. There was no pro life club. The campus ministry lady found the Catechism of the Catholic Church objectionable. Etc.

I have not stopped praying for Edgewood College of the Sacred Heart (and the other Edgewood schools). I will pray for Scott Flanagan. The leaders of this school must be aware of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Church’s document on Catholic identity in higher education. Do they know there are local Catholics who would like to have the opportunity for Catholic higher education in our community? We would like all the good of the Catholic intellectual, moral and religious tradition to really get shared with our Madison community.

The search committee picked a guy they believe can handle the financial and enrollment aspects of Edgewood. How will Scott Flanagan work to restore the mission of Edgewood as truly a Catholic school for the flowering of a Christian culture in our time and place?

Should I send him my Sinsinawa book? Not necessarily. I have a copy of this book on authentic Catholic education in the Dominican tradition, maybe I’ll send him that with a letter about how Catholic identity of Edgewood is important to us. Anyone else have any comments about your positive hopes for Edgewood College?

Is NCAN a “front group” for LCWR?

I posted yesterday on Sister Donna Quinn, OP and her publicity group NCAN attacking the Little Sisters of the Poor and others suing the government for their religious freedom vis a vis the HHS mandate.

The National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN) is a front group for radical feminism, the sexual revolution and the Culture of Death. It is led by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Donna Quinn who has volunteered as an abortion clinic escort until the 2009 intervention of Cardinal George, and told a 2012 Planned Parenthood gathering, “For those women sitting with us today who have chosen abortion, I believe in your decision. I firmly believe.” Her aversion toward Catholicism, Holy Mass and the male priesthood is such that she fumed in 2011 “I am violated by the continual use of sexism through the use of the word Eucharist,” complaining that in the Sinsinawa community event planning “one of the first items covered is to hire a male priest to lead us in prayer every day… I know I am boycotting this time.” Last year when Bishop Paprocki did an exorcism service during the signing of the IL “same sex marriage” law signing that Sister Donna planned to attend she apparently did not want to be delivered from the forces of hell: “How far do I have to stand at the signing so this man’s magic wand of exorcising won’t touch me?” she wrote to her sisters. You don’t even have to be Catholic to realize there is not much about Sister Donna that resembles what a nun is supposed to be about. The National Coalition of American Nuns claims 2000 members, but it is quite certain that not all of those are religious sisters; the group accepts anyone who wants to be a member regardless if they are a sister or whether they are Catholic.

But are they a “front group” for the larger and more liberal of the two religious sisters’ leader conferences in the US, the LCWR? This is the assertion today of Fr John Zuhlsdorf. He compares NCAN to the Viet Cong, who were terroristic zealots, a front group advancing the cause of Communism in Vietnam. “NCAN says openly what the leaders of the LCWR can’t say openly. Consider NCAN a front group,” Fr Z argues.

LCWR rather famously intentionally avoids all mention of abortion. And they’re interested in universal healthcare but entirely avoid the topic of the HHS mandate. I personally confronted the head “nun on the bus” Sister Simone Campbell on the matter in June of 2012; she would say only “It’s complicated” and wanted to avoid me. LCWR was critiqued for their refusal to bear witness to the Church’s moral teaching on abortion in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2012 Doctrinal Assessment for LCWR. They continue to be silent about the abortion holocaust, and this silence is indeed wrong.

Progressive political alliances are one very significant reason for the silence. But I believe the most operative reason for their silence is first of all because LCWR, and for that matter the Sinsinawa Dominicans, are so divided that they could not declare one way or the other without some members getting vocal that they don’t agree. Within the Sinsinawa Dominicans, Sister Donna’s appears to be a minority opinion about direct abortion, but avoiding this topic is a way of keeping the peace in a group where “follow your conscience!” is the law but the importance of Catholic conscience formation in keeping with the Church is overwhelmingly rejected. Even when the congregation had to publicly rebuke Sr Donna back when Cardinal George called her on her abortion clinic escort activities a few years ago, there were in fact at least one or two sisters piping up internally that they were upset the prioress and council were declaring to the world that (quoting from the public statement) “Sinsinawa women are called to proclaim the Gospel… we support the church’s teaching regarding the dignity of life… we do not engage in activity that witnesses to support abortion” without even taking a vote among members. But these were in the minority. Another Sinsinawa Dominican rightly said at the time to the community’s email list, “If any Sinsinawa Dominican cannot subscribe to that, it is a problem.”

Views may be relatively more mixed about contraceptives. Some Sinsinawa Dominicans do agree with the Church’s moral teaching about that. On the other hand Sister Donna is not the only one who has voiced hostility toward religious freedom rights to refuse to participate in such sins, and at least one Sinsinawa Dominican sister who is a physician has admitted she’s supported women using contraceptives over many years in her medical practice. One Sinsinawa Dominican who appears to hew more closely to Catholic teaching wrote to her sisters in 2012 that she had asked Donna to stop bombarding her inbox with messages about “reproductive rights”: “The congregation has not ever initiated or carried on a conversation on the issue of reproductive rights. We did not chose to speak on that issue at our recent Chapter.” I would imagine this could also be said of LCWR. I doubt they  have a consensus, even secretly, that they believe in contraception and the HHS mandate.

What about leadership? The current Sinsinawa prioress actually organized a drawing to send two “lucky winner” sisters to attend a 2012 Call to Action conference at Sinsinawa congregation expense, so one suspects she is unlikely to be willing to challenge any member over any such issues. This congregation and its leadership experiences itself as being at odds with what they call “the institutional Church.

As for the LCWR, its leadership did include the Holy See’s representative Archbishop Sartain in their national meeting last year, and while some of the very simple requirements of the CDF such as ceasing to distribute the “Systems Thinking Handbook” went un-acted-upon for a long time, I was astounded just now to find that the “Systems Thinking Handbook” now seems to be absent from their website. This is the link where it used to be. I have not seen this noted or remarked upon anywhere, but I think that even though this may seem a small thing it is a  good thing and may very well suggest some good will on the part of LCWR. Sister Janet Mock, executive director of LCWR, in fact replied when I sent her my book A Report on the Sinsinawa Dominicans Today, congratulating me on writing a book about women religious, and said she would read it. While one senior cleric suggested to me that this means “she hasn’t read it yet,” on the other hand my concern and orthodox point of view (and my constructive intentions and attitude of charity) were  clear enough from my cover letter, and so LCWR’s reaction to me gives no reason to be discouraged. The topic of the latest Occasional Papers suggests they haven’t become a completely different organization yet, not remotely, but I am willing to keep praying for LCWR, trusting that the reform team of Archbishops Sartain, Paprocki and Blair are very good men who are very motivated to try to help religious sisters, and wait and see.

Some sisters indeed support abortion rights, usually quietly. Sister Donna is the exception to the rule. But most simply put the issue in parentheses. My impression is actually that most don’t disagree with the Church that abortion kills a person and is wrong. There are quite a few more orthodox groups of sisters that are absolutely devoted to the cause of human life, the Sisters of Life being among the most noteworthy in their pro-life activity. And I think people should also know that even within the Sinsinawa Dominicans it is not absolutely unknown for a pro-life sister to pray outside an abortion clinic, for instance I know of at least one who used to do so in Austin, Texas. But in too many religious congregations, most just don’t stand up for the lives of the unborn in any way. It is a soft abandonment of the truth of the matter rather than a hard rejection of it, even if the effect is the same toleration of noisy publicity groups like NCAN that claim to represent sisters while promoting the whole agenda of the culture of death.

So, back to the question… is NCAN a “front group” for LCWR? My own answer is: there needs to be pressure on LCWR to stand for the truth, but the claim that NCAN is a front group doesn’t follow from the facts I have. NCAN speaks for some portion of those involved in LCWR or its member orders, as well as the many NCAN members who are not sisters and some who are not Catholic. NCAN is arguably a front group for hell. I think it is overreaching to suggest they speak for LCWR. Sinsinawa does not deserve to be off the hook though by any means. Sadly, very sadly, Sr Donna is not hindered or censured in any way when she continues to post all manner of NCAN announcements on the Sinsinawa Dominican congregation email list, SinsinOP, so they have no plausible deniability whatsoever about knowing what she is up to. She continually advocates for her views to other sisters and tries to get them on board with dissident activities. Who will compel them to put their Catholic house in order?

We need to continue praying for LCWR’s cooperation with the reforms the Holy See has called for. Truth and charity are needed. As for the Sinsinawa Dominicans, I have wanted very much to inspire priests to have the heart of Fr Mazzuchelli, their holy founder, toward the sisters he founded.

Some friends have proposed a novena for the conversion of Sister Donna. I am thinking of what we should do, and I am thinking maybe a Pentecost novena to the Holy Spirit not only for her but for all the sisters. And for ourselves. We need truth in charity and charity in truth or else we do not good. Come, Holy Spirit.

[Update: Fr Z repeats his view in a second post on the topic, in which he appreciates a worthwhile NC Register article by Ann Carey. Fr Z says: "Reminder: I think the ultra-looney NCAN, pro-abortion, contraception, women’s ordination, etc., is doing and saying openly what the LCWR would like to be doing and saying, but can’t.  NCAN serves as a front group for the LCWR." Here is my comment which Fr Z did not let through moderation on his blog:

LCWR is a divided group infected by relativism, that won’t stand for important Catholic principles essentially because there is intense internal disagreement as well as compromising political alliances, but the truth is NCAN speaks for their “mad” wing, not for them all. Ann Carey knows this. I want to see LCWR and its member orders and the sisters themselves deeply reformed, not labeled and despised by identification with the most extreme and least Catholic among them. I’m praying for their true good and the mercy of God toward them. I wrote a book on the problems in Sister Donna’s order and I’ve prayed for priests to have the heart of their holy founder Father Mazzuchelli toward them and want their salvation.]

[Second Update: I sent Ann Carey an email; I excerpt from her response: "Yes, I think it is too sweeping a statement to say that the NCAN is a front group for LCWR.  I think the women involved in NCAN are too self-centered to front for anyone.... That said, I think criticism of the LCWR is valid when directed at the corporate stands the group takes that are contrary to Church doctrine." Certainly!]

Sister Donna Quinn attacks the Little Sisters of the Poor and Notre Dame University


Pictured in screenshot of pro-contraception petition: Sister Donna Quinn, O.P.

Notorious Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Donna Quinn is attacking faithful Catholic organizations such as the Little Sisters of the Poor who are suing the government to secure their religious freedom not to have to insure for contraceptives, some of them abortifacient. The Sinsinawa Dominican congregation is very well aware, and, as has been the norm throughout Sister Donna’s long career of anti-Catholic activism, they are letting her do whatever she pleases. I contacted the Sinsinawa Dominican prioress yesterday for comment and assuring her of my prayers, she has not replied.

This article by a fellow “pro choice” activist appeared in the liberal Religion Dispatches Friday:

“NCAN is dismayed that the Little Sisters of the Poor, the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act. Spurred on by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops these organizations are attempting to hold hostage all women by refusing insurance to them for contraceptives,” said the 2,000-member group in a statement.

“This has gotten out of hand,” Sister Donna Quinn, head of NCAN, told RD. “It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.”

Let me explain. Donna Quinn’s central ideology is 60s and 70s era radical feminism. She is radically intolerant of a wide array of Catholic beliefs and practices, while noisily exploiting being a “nun” in order to attack the Church. Among fellow sisters she is an activist continually trying to radicalize them. This corruption and inversion of the mission of a religious sister seems to be her persona and career.

On this foundation the unabashed irrationality of her ideas flourishes. If someone else won’t pay to make a woman’s sexual activity more convenient to her, that equals “holding a woman hostage.” Even though the woman could have obtained birth control herself (it’s not expensive), or could have even opted to live the Church’s moral teachings, as more and more younger couples are discovering really help their marriage and family life. True freedom is freedom to do what is right and good. It is sin that is bondage. Jesus ransoms us from that hostage situation.

In my book A Report on the Sinsinawa Dominicans Today, published last fall, I related the story of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa welcoming and covering for Sister Donna Quinn’s aggressive activism against Catholic beliefs. I sent the prioress, Sister Mary Ellen Gevelinger, 10 or 12 copies of my book.

Sister Donna Quinn (click for an extensive biography), most famous for having been an abortion clinic escort for some years until the intervention of Cardinal George in 2009, has continued her aggressive activism against Catholic beliefs and morality.

Even when her activities didn’t make it into the newspapers, Donna Quinn was close to the action of an array of immoral political initiatives. In 2012 she spoke at a Planned Parenthood event in California. In November 2013 Donna emailed to her congregation’s email discussion list, “Next week I will attend the signing of the Equal Marriage Law having been invited by those who have worked for the last five years to make Illinois the 16th State to sign on.” Springfield, IL’s Bishop Paprocki celebrated an exorcism service at the same time as the ceremony. “How far do I have to stand at the signing so this man’s magic wand of exorcising won’t touch me ?” Sister Donna mocked in her email nastily complaining about Paprocki and his defense of marriage as between one man and one woman. Her next email invited her sisters: “Governor Quinn has granted invitations to the signing of the Marriage Equality Bill of Illinois to be signed at UIC on Wednesday – November 20 – at 3 P.M. Let me know by Monday Nov. 18 [here was her email address] so that I might get an invitation for you to attend….Donna Quinn”

Some sectors of Catholic religious life are thriving and giving much hope for the future. The story noted in this article, unfortunately, is a sign of the grotesque ill health of some other sectors, the leaders of which show little to no openness to healing, and are even very closed to dialogue. The Body of Christ suffers.

Father Mazzuchelli and the New Evangelization article in the Catholic Herald

I’ve really neglected my blog, my energies are quite limited and I have been working and doing some other good things. I do want to get back to blogging. But for the record I have written an article which appears in this week’s Madison Catholic Herald. It also appears on the newspaper website at the link below.

Father Mazzuchelli and the New Evangelization: frontier missionary priest’s memoirs provide inspiration for us today

Guest column
Written by Elizabeth Durack  
Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014 — 12:00 AM

Anyone who has read with interest the recent articles in these pages on the life of Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P. would do no better than to read his fascinating and edifying Memoirs.

Several readers have met at the Cathedral Parish in Madison weekly to discuss what inspiration we find for the New Evangelization from Father Mazzuchelli’s writing. I share these gleanings.

A frontier adventure

This 1844 book is a frontier adventure with bears and wolves which, like every account of the life of a saint, is also high adventure in the Faith.

The Christian life is always a hero’s mission. Semper et ubique (always and everywhere) the odds seem wildly against our hero (Jesus, His priest, or any of His faithful disciples); something is wrong if parish life becomes simply routine.

From the time he arrived at his first assignment on Mackinac Island as a new priest, aged 22, the missionary Father Mazzuchelli countered anti-Catholic teaching by engaging in public disputation good-naturedly and with compelling presentation of truths of the Faith.

Winning converts

It won Catholics back and made converts. Kind, genuine, and ready to lend a hand, the priest also formed warm ecumenical friendships that lessened prejudices about Catholicism.

He had a Dominican confidence in the power of [the] Holy Preaching and was adamant about not dumbing down the Faith he proposed.

Writing in the third person, Father Mazzuchelli says: “[W]ithout reference to [the Indians’] ignorance or their knowledge he only announces the spotless, unalterable Faith in which he himself has been instructed and which all the Catholics of the world have believed from Apostolic times.”

He didn’t make it overly difficult to convert: “the Catholic method” required “only the giving up of vices and the will to believe in those doctrines which independently of mere reason, are learned without arguments or disputations, and even without books, but simply by hearing, as says Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, X, 17, ‘the Faith cometh by hearing.’”

Father Mazzuchelli tells many moving stories of pioneer folk and Indian converts as edifying Christian examples and witnesses to the Mercy of God in the sacraments.

Sacrament of Confession

He writes, “Guided by the dictates of conscience, the Indians recognize Confession as the most natural effect of a true repentance.”

Back then it was universally understood that confession of all grave sins precedes reception of Holy Communion. The beneficial promotion of frequent Communion since 1903 couldn’t change the fact that we objectively need to be in a state of grace to benefit from the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but at some point people’s understanding and practice radically broke down and much has been lost as a result. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is key for saving souls, then and now.

Evangelizing among the poor

Evangelical poverty was essential to his personal credibility as well as his easily-contented adaptability to rough conditions among those to whom he ministered, who were almost all very poor.

“There is no doubt,” he wrote, “that the Christian religion was propagated primarily in the midst of poverty . . . rarely were the rich among the first to submit to the doctrine of a God-made-man for us, born in a lowly manger.”

My friendships with Madison’s homeless suggest this has not changed, but how well are we evangelizing the poor?

Prognosis for the future

The great Dominican’s diagnosis of the religious problems he witnessed included a sadly accurate prognosis for the future.

In the religiously pluralistic frontier environment, hostilities could only be avoided by “the indifferentism which is a culpable abandonment of every Christian truth.”

This increasing religious indifferentism was accompanied also by a rising skepticism which he saw as dangerous to religious freedom: “Woe to that country if the mass of its people shall ever become unbelievers! Then will it lose that protection which makes it now so free to act, and enslaved by general corruption, its ruin and disintegration, humanly speaking, will be irreparable.”

On the other hand, says the indomitable missionary, “where unbelief reigns, there assuredly has he a motive to extend the Kingdom of God.”

Memoirs re-published

Read for yourself: I re-published the 1915 translation of Father Mazzuchelli’s book last year under the title Memoirs of a Frontier Missionary Priest. My goal was to make it inexpensive (I don’t make a penny) and help it find new readers. It’s available on for around $6.50.


Elizabeth Durack is a member of the Cathedral Parish in Madison. She blogs at

Father Mazzuchelli for the New Evangelization

SamuelMazuchelli Bocc

Stained glass window at the O’Connor Center

I have good news from the Cathedral Parish that we can have a parish book group meet at Holy Redeemer Church to read Venerable Fr Samuel Mazzuchelli’s Memoirs beginning in January, which will be an ideal way to observe the 150th anniversary of this great priest’s death, which falls on February 23rd of 2014. I am hopeful that a lot of grace may come from this study, which is oriented toward the New Evangelization. It is a parish program but I certainly would welcome people from outside the Cathedral Parish participating. If you are interested, watch the Cathedral Parish bulletin or website, or email me.

Our lay organization the Father Mazzuchelli Society has published an attractive new edition of Fr Mazzuchelli’s Memoirs at the lowest price ever, under the title Memoirs of a Frontier Missionary Priest. It is around $6 on Amazon–I don’t make a penny. This book is excellent, too little known, and deserves to be more widely read. It’s exceptionally inspiring and thought provoking for the New Evangelization especially in our lands where Father Mazzuchelli lived his mission. It is spiritual reading and frontier adventure all in one. THIS WOULD MAKE AN IDEAL CHRISTMAS GIFT and especially so for a priest or seminarian!

This entirely positive and evangelical trajectory is where I am really headed with promoting the legacy of Father Mazzuchelli. Our edition of the memoirs has nothing negative about the Sisters. The Report on the Sinsinawa Dominicans Today is a reform document, so it is more or less about understanding some of what is awry and what we are saying “no” to. And it is a cry from the depths of brokenness, an expression of the need for the Holy Spirit. The trajectory we need is really about what we are saying “yes” to and what we have to do with the good that Jesus wants to do for all people.

Here are some of my most recent thoughts regarding evangelization. Our city, our diocese is full of broken and hurting people. Jesus is the only healer of the deep woundedness of every person. I have been thinking and praying about evangelization, about my own experience as a former progressive of a typical Madison type, and I feel that the new evangelization needs the evangelization-minded faithful to be formed in a deep sympathy toward those we seek to evangelize and have a message and mission of healing.

We’re not the healers. Jesus is. We’re wounded people too. I am not going to get all Henri Nouwen (I haven’t read that book). But we have to be credible and attractive as His friends, witnesses to Him. Many know quite well that they are wounded and suffering but do not understand the whole nature of that or how they could be healed.

Some of you know my favorite Saint is John of the Cross–whose feast day is coming up in mid December. He’s the Church’s preeminent teacher of mystical theology, and someone who profoundly understood people, spiritually and psychologically. Imagery of the wound of love, cauterized and transformed by God is central to his teaching. God’s love and the very woundedness of the soul is in a way the reason for God uniting Himself with us–as in the Exsultet, “o happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam that merited for us so great a redeemer.” There is a greater good. There is good news!

The woundedness of the people in Madison cries out for Jesus and first of all we need to listen to their hurt, and then help people to recognize it can be healed only by God. We also need to care about people’s other problems, including the problem of material poverty (and selfishness) which for instance is one reason why people are afraid of marrying and having a family. Through my own experience I believe this approach of pity, mercy, sympathy with people’s deep interior suffering is something really essential for evangelizing the liberals. They’re looking for healing and love and solutions in all the wrong places. We in fact have the answer.

Therefore: let us watch our thoughts and tongues and not speak of them as the enemy or mock them or be angry… that is regarding them politically rather than humanly and from a supernatural perspective as people who need Jesus, who need to be in relationship with God, who need prayer and the Sacraments and the Church. How can we be more ready for the mission to the people of Madison? How can we be formed? How should we reach out and propose the good news?

I am looking forward to joining with other Catholics in reading Fr Mazzuchelli’s memoirs together and coming into a kind of dialogue with him about the Catholic mission in our own day.

During and after finishing my huge and spiritually difficult book project, basically I was exhausted, spent. That is why there has not been much on this blog. I have every intention of getting back to Laetificat Blog, and I thank you readers. Happy Advent to you all. :-)

Missa Cantata (High Mass) at Holy Redeemer this Sunday

Just a brief note: after quite a while with no music at the 7am Mass, we’ve got the Schola Cantorum in gear again. Though we’re definitely still learning to sing together perfectly, this Sunday October 6th the 7am Traditional Latin Mass at Holy Redeemer Church will be a sung Mass with Gregorian Chant. Young Ben Yanke is our choir director, learning on-the-job and doing fine!

Announcement tomorrow

Please forgive me if you have been checking here and found nothing new for a long while! Laetificat blog has a low level of postings for the last few months, because I’ve been working on another project that has been taking all of my time and energy. The Madison Catholic Herald newspaper interviewed me and other Wisconsin bloggers for a recent article, “Catholic bloggers: a new kind of missionary” which you may be interested in if you have not seen it. The journalist did a fine job.

I intend to “go live” with the major New Evangelization project I have been working on, tomorrow, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. The URL for the new project is As I post this, it is still hidden behind a password, and that will get removed tomorrow.

I ask prayers right now for mercy, charity, the unity of the Holy Catholic Church and the return of Catholics who have left the Faith to be the fruits of the Father Mazzuchelli Society and its initiatives. It is God Himself who can bring this about, and we His children need to respond with ever greater fidelity to His grace.

THANK YOU from the homeschooling family you helped!

The mother of the family you helped to purchase books for the upcoming school year, wants me to thank everyone “SO MUCH” on their behalf. Unfortunately I do not have contact information to contact everyone who helped individually to thank them. About two thirds of the books were purchased, and some people also purchased gift cards! This is particularly thanks to good Father Z who posted my plea for the generous readers of his blog.

She has asked me to take down the book list because now they are ordering the remainder of the books they need themselves, to be ready for school to start.

If you still want to help, it is still possible to purchase an Amazon gift card for the family, which will help them. “Every little bit helps,” this mom says. Go here to do so.

Dale Ahlquist lecture on GK Chesterton July 14 in Waunakee


Dale Ahlquist is well known as president of the American Chesterton Society and host of the EWTN television program The Apostle of Common Sense, which is about the great 20th century Catholic writer GK Chesterton. He’ll be visiting the area in mid July and Madison’s excellent “Classical education” Catholic school St Ambrose Academy will be sponsoring a talk by Ahlquist which a devoted Chesterton fan has asked me to inform you of.  This event is of course free and open to all. You can view a PDF poster advertising the event at this link. The following is the text from the poster:

“G.K. Chesterton on Education”

Sunday, July 14, 2013
2:00 p.m.
St. John the Baptist Parish
209 South Street
Waunakee, WI 53597

G.K. Chesterton is of the most quoted writers in the English language, yet one of the least studied. He foresaw and wrote about the issues we struggle with today: social injustice, the culture of death, the decline of the arts, assaults on religion, and attacks on the family and on the dignity of the human person. Chesterton was the greatest English writer of the 20th century was because he was also the greatest thinker of the 20th century. He is responsible for many conversions and was influential in the lives of many prominent Catholics in the 20th century. In this free public event, Dale Ahlquist will present “G.K. Chesterton on Education,” providing the wit and wisdom of Chesterton on how to educate and to avoid giving in to the fads and fashions that afflict modern education. For more information, contact Laura Karlen at (608) 445-2064 or [email protected]

St Ambrose Academy is a small and vibrant school which educates grades 6-12 with a classical curriculum, but also contributes amazingly much to the wider Catholic community. Their motto is “Teach ‘em to think.” The proof is in their amazing graduates, many of whom I have met. St Ambrose actively hopes to be able to add the elementary grades in the future, and are in search of a larger and suitable building that would make that possible.

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