Minister Provincial’s 1st Visit to New Friary & Ministries

Friar Noel (at left) serves as pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church.

Friar Bob serves as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St. Mary Magdalen Mission.

Over the weekends of January 26-28 and February 2-4, 2019, our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. visited our province’s newest friary, the friars living in community there, as well as their ministry sites (Columbus, GA). Franciscan Martyrs Friary is home to five friars of our province: Fr. Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv. (pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church), Fr. Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv. (pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Parish), Fr. Mark David Skura, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar at St. Anne Catholic Church), Fr. Bob Benko, OFM Conv. (pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St. Mary Magdalen Mission), and Fr. Manny Vasconcelos, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar of St. Anne Catholic Church).
This friary, and our ministries served by the friars living there, are located in the Diocese of Savannah, GA. Fr. James was also able to take the opportunity to visit with another one of our friars living and serving there; Bishop of Savannah, The Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
Besides being a guest of honor at the Diocese’s annual Deimel Legacy Ball at Fort Benning, Fr. James celebrated and preached at the principal liturgies in all three parishes (St. Anne Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and St. Benedict the Moor Parish), as well as the small mission church of St. Mary Magdalen in Buena Vista.
Fr. James also celebrated Mass for the 730 students of St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School to mark the opening of Catholic Schools Week. Parishioners repeatedly expressed their gratitude for the reviving presence of the Franciscan Friars in their local churches.

Please note that Bishop Gregory has invited Fr. Bortolino Maistrello, OFM Conv. of the Basilica of St. Anthony (Padua, Italy) to the Diocese of Savannah to visit with two holy relics of Saint Anthony of Padua, from February 22 – March 3, 2019. One of the stops near the end of the tour is our pastoral ministry at St. Anne Catholic Church, on March 2nd. If you are in the area, our friars welcome and encourage you to visit. Clicko on the insert and follow to the link for more details.

Indian Province Building for the Future

Currently on sabbatical in India, Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv. serves as our Delegate to the Militia of the Immaculata (M.I.). In addition, Friar Jobe is a well respected, published Canon Lawyer and professor of Canon Law. In 2018, he released a 3rd Edition publication of KANONIKA 07 | ” Two Codes in Comparison.” (ebook version).

Friar Jobe (in green) with the Friary Guardian, Fr. Kuriakose Mattahil, OFM Conv. and six of the simply professed students who had just returned from classes. 

As part of my sabbatical, I was invited to Bangalore, India to give lectures and the convocation address (January 28-29, 2019) at the Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Pontifical Athenaeum of Theology, Philosophy and Canon Law. After that, I was blessed to spend time with the friars of our Order’s Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe (India) who are building a new seminary complex in the area of Bangalore. What a joy to see the young and hopeful faces of our friars! They have 22 novices and, this June they expect to begin the new academic year housing the philosophy students in the building under construction in this photo. There will be rooms for 32 simply professed friars and 8 solemnly professed friars as well as guests. Situated on a three-acre property, the friary has room to grow and is well-situated; one kilometer from the long-awaited subway system for Bangalore.

February 2, 2019

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1631 – Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn)

As Franciscan Friars Conventual, the World Day for Consecrated Life is especially dear to us. Our friars profess the vows of poverty, chastity & obedience and since 1997 have looked forward to this special day of prayer, in celebration of all those women and men who profess vows as members of Religious Orders, in Consecrated Life. Pope Saint John Paul II established this World Day for Consecrated Life to coincide with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
Up until the year 1969, the Feast of the Presentation was known as the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, as it is celebrated 40 days after the Birth of Christ. In accordance with an old Jewish custom, a woman was considered unclean and homebound for a time after giving birth. If the child was a male she was considered unclean for seven days and remained home an additional 33, making her time home 40 days. It was twice as long if the child was a female. February 2nd is 40 days after the Birth of Our Lord. It is on the day of His presentation that Mary, who brought Jesus to the Temple along with Joseph, was cleansed. Jesus was presented and Simeon, a hold man in the Temple, met sister death, after holding Jesus in his arms. Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. He knew Jesus was the one to bring salvation to all. “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people, Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Candlemas Day is also a term used for this day. As Jesus is the “Light for Revelation,” the tradition among the faithful of Europe became a celebration of Candlemas where candles became an integral part of various church services. When European immigrants came to the USA in the 1700’s, they brought this tradition with them. The clergy would bless the candles used by the faithful to help them get through the winter season. This time of winter often coincides with the beginning of Lent, although this year, it is a whole month prior. Still the celebration is used to give a time of “Light” in the cold, dark winter, falling between the winter solstice and summer equinox.

How did we go from the Presentation to candles to a Groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil?
In addition to bringing the Candlemas tradition with them to the USA, German immigrants had another tradition they brought from Europe, for predicting the weather. The use of nature’s creatures to predict the future weather goes back to Roman times. In Germany, it was common to observe the reaction of a hedgehog emerging from his burrow. In the 1840′s, the German farmers who settled in Pennsylvania attempted to predict the winter weather as they always had, but found there was a shortage of hedgehogs. Groundhogs were plentiful and lived in burrows. Since their reactions to “seeing his own shadow” was the same as with the hedgehog and thusly the US tradition of February 2nd’s Groundhog Day was born.

Prayer of the Faithful for the World Day for Consecrated Life:
For those consecrated to God by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience that they may seek to live their baptismal promises more intensely and have the grace to persevere in their commitment to the Lord and serve with open hearts and willing spirits. We pray to the Lord…

Black Ties & Grey Habits ~ Catholic School’s Week

500 patrons in evening gowns, tuxedos and military dress uniform joined our grey-habited friars for the annual Deimel Legacy Ball at Fort Benning. The friars featured here serve in pastoral ministry at St. Anne Catholic Church (left to right) Fr. Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv. – Pastor, Fr. Mark David Skura, OFM Conv. – Parochial Vicar and Fr. Emanuel “Manny” Vasconcelos, OFM Conv. – Parochial Vicar.

The 14th Annual Deimel Legacy Ball was held on Saturday, January 26, 2019, at the National Infantry Museum. The black tie optional event proceeds support tuition assistance at St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School, the parochial school affiliated with three of our newest pastoral ministries and hosted by  Diocese of Savannah Bishop Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., a friar of our province. The event is supported by the entire Columbus (GA) deanery of the Diocese of Savannah, which includes: Christ the King, Holy Family, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Anne, and St. Benedict the Moor parishes. The celebration of the Catholic Faith, was also attended by Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. and our friars serving in pastoral ministry at St. Anne Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St. Benedict the Moor Parish.

On Sunday, January 27th, Bishop Gregory served as the main celebrant and homilist at St. Anne’s parish Mass – joined by our friars serving in Columbus and Fr. James, who remained in Columbus in order to visit with Fr. Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv., Fr. Mark David Skura, OFM Conv., Fr. Emanuel “Manny” Vasconcelos, OFM Conv. (all in pastoral ministry at St. Anne Catholic Church), Fr. Bob Benko, OFM Conv. (in pastoral ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church) and Fr. Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv. (in pastoral ministry at St. Benedict the Moor Parish).
This visit also afforded Fr. James the opportunity to celebrate the 9:30 a.m. Catholic School’s Week all school (PreK through 12th grade) Mass, on Monday, January 28, 2019, at St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School. Monday was a day devoted to celebration Vocations & Volunteers and also included Primary Grade Students decorating prayer rocks to use to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, Students in grades 3-5 will engaging in a special presentation on Benediction with Friar Manny, Middle School Students enjoying vocationally-themed activities in their Religion classes, High School Students playing lunchtime games that celebrate vocations, and all St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School Volunteers receiving a special treat via email.

Our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. launched “Catholic Schools Week” in Columbus, Georgia, on January 28th, as main celebrant and homilist at Mass for the whole student body (numbering over 700) of St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School. This largest school in the Savannah Diocese enrolls pupils from pre-K through 12th grade.

Vocation News

Our Lady of the Angels Province Vocation Director, Fr. Russell Governale, OFM Conv. presented a “Vocation Talk” at our pastoral ministry of Our Lady of Mercy Church (Winston-Salem, NC), on January 23, 2019. He was joined by Sr. Maria (Peaches) Dela Paz, OSF, of the Sisters of  St. Francis of Philadelphia. They spoke to the grade school student, as well as to grades 6-8, the Edge Program, Grades 7-8, and the Youth Ministry Program grades 9-11.
Friar Russell professed his Simple Vows in 1979, his Solemn Vows in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1988. Since then he has served in several pastoral and formation ministries, as well as a pilgrimage leader for the Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. Since 2014, he has served as the Our Lady of the Angels Province Vocation Director.
Sister Peaches is a second-year novice. Before entering the sisters, she worked as an academic advisor at a community college in Tacoma, WA. After graduating from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, NJ, Sister spent two years teaching high school on the Pacific islands of Micronesia through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. This experience was a stepping stone in her discernment journey. She is spending 6 weeks Our Lady of Mercy Church, where she will be planning a reflection series for the Outreach committee and Vocations awareness events, while working with the youth group.

For more information on Vocations,
please visit: 

World Day for Consecrated Life 2019

February 2nd is the World Day for Consecrated Life. It will be celebrated in parish churches on the weekend of February 2-3, 2019 and is a great weekend to share our way of life and to invite all of the faithful to pray for vocations while encouraging those in discernment to consider a vocation to Consecrated Life with our Order. Through our ministries and vocation events, we friars will attempt to focus in on this topic at weekend Liturgies, in the classroom and at our other ministry sites. We share Vocation Stories, encourage visits our province YouTube channel and Facebook , as well as the shared North American Province Vocation WebsiteNovitiate WebsitePostulancy Facebook page.
Our Province Vocation Director, Fr. Russell Governale, OFM Conv. is thrilled to visit several of our different ministries where he has been invited to give talks on vocations, including Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church (Winston-Salem, NC) the “Panamá in the Capital” at The Catholic University of America (Washington DC), the Duke Catholic Center (Durham, NC), and leading a pilgrimage for our students from St. Francis High School (Athol Springs, NY).

Thank you all for helping to foster vocations to our way of life. We ask for your prayers for them men who have begun application, and those considering application, to the Order for next July. We pray that Our Lady of the Angels and St. Francis of Assisi will intercede for us, so that more men will be drawn to serve Jesus with us.


Ministry Highlight

On August 2, 2018 a vast majority of the working friars of the Province began serving new ministries. Included among them were Fr. Romuald Meogrossi, OFM Conv. (pictured left – Part Time Parochial Vicar), Fr. George Sabol, OFM Conv. (Part Time Parochial Vicar), Fr. John Ruffo, OFM Conv. (pictured right – Parochial Vicar) and Fr. Timothy Dore, OFM Conv. (pictured center – Pastor) who serve in the Baltimore MD parishes of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Church, St. Michael the Archangel Church and the Church of the Annunciation. These three parishes make up one of many Pastorates in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Friar Rom, Friar George, Friar John and Friar Tim live in one friary along with Fr. Edward Ouma Owino, OFM Conv., a friar from Kenya who provides sacramental assistance in the Pastorate while here in America to further his studies. These friars serve all three parish communities, including celebrating 13 weekend Masses.

Fr. Tim presents the following update: “We are into our sixth month of ministry since changes made by the last Chapter. This “Pastorate” including St. Michael the Archangel, Annunciation, and St. Clement had been challenging, but certainly a new and exciting ministerial opportunity for our province and our friars, especially as we have greatly expanded our apostolic presence within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. It is good to be here!

Both Friar Santo Cricchio, OFM Conv. (currently in continuing studies through a GI Bill) and Friar Chris Dudek, OFM Conv. (assigned to serve as Deacon for another Baltimore Pastorate, alongside Fr. Dennis Grumsey, OFM Conv – Pastor and Fr. Andrew Santamauro, OFM Conv. – Parochial Vicar) have been frequent visitors and assistants with our many weekend Masses. Friars Romuald, George, John, Edward and I are extremely grateful to them for their fantastic fraternal support, especially with their great help with the very thriving Spanish ministry at St. Michael which included the Dec 12th – 5:00 am celebration of mariachis and Mañanitas for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Most Reverend William Edward Lori, S.T.D., the Archbishop of Baltimore and Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. the Our Lady of the Angels Province Vicar Provincial celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Church of the Annunciation, on October 20, 2018. Our Lady of the Angels Province friars who served there in pastoral ministry, including Fr. Carl Zdancewicz, OFM Conv. (now Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church, in Winston-Salem, NC) and Fr. Vincent Gluc, OFM Conv. (now Parochial Vicar of St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church, in Jonesboro, GA) also joined in the festivities.


Note: Our province has 23 friars in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Maryland (13 in the Baltimore City area), including another pastorate of three more parishes, administration – instruction – chaplaincy in area high schools, legal counsel for a Catholic service organization, farm outreach, shrine ministry and social justice.

Ecumenical Christmas Reflection

In Preparation for the
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – January 18-25, 2019

Bl. John Duns Scotus and St. Paul VI have a little remembered but powerful relationship that has a bearing on the Franciscan emphasis on the Incarnation as the most important doctrine. In addition, Fr. Ed retrieves the ecumenical intention of our new St. Paul VI in a Franciscan register. Fr. Ed discovered a “jewel,” a scotistic focused ecumenical project that never quite made it out of the starting gate after the Council.

December 14, 2018

Bl. John Duns Scotus and Pope Saint Paul VI

Is the Catholic Church of Pope Paul VI and Vatican II long gone? Is there anything worth retrieving or recalibrating? Was Vatican II a de-figuration and derangement of the Catholic Church or was the Council a re-figuration and “irreplaceable?” A half century after the Council, these questions evoke a panoply of competing answers, but, if the truth be told, we expect our world to stay intact even as we recognize that the pace of our culture is fast. Vatican II inaugurated high expectations for change and renewal in the Catholic Church that would retrieve philosophical and theological riches and recalibrate them. Lumen Gentium is the dogmatic constitution on the Church, and, Gaudium et Spes is the pastoral constitution on the Church. Together, they are the driving engine to “rebuild the Church.” LG 1: “The Church is a kind of sacrament of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind, that is, she is a sign and an instrument of such union and unity.” GS 3: The Council set out to provide proof of its solidarity with the entire human family and respect and love for that family by engaging in conversation with the whole People of God about the flood of new problems in the world and sharing insight with the Church. Prayer, education, and willingness to stretch without breaking are presupposed for reform and renewal which are constant in the Church.

This essay highlights the distinctiveness of the official fraternal greetings between Michael Ramsey, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and Paul VI in their joint declaration on March 24, 1966 (AAS, 58, 1966, p. 287). They were in the vanguard of mutual recognition of the problem of being Christian in an age when the standard language of the modern age will not work to convince the world about religion. Their declaration thanked God for the action of the Holy Spirit in creating a new atmosphere of Christian fellowship between the Roman Catholic Church and Churches of the Anglican Communion. Based upon charity, they sought to remove the causes of conflict and to re-establish unity, to leave in the hands of the God of mercy all that in the past has been opposed to this precept of charity. Serious dialogue founded on the Gospels and ancient common traditions may lead to unity in truth. Undeterred by serious obstacles in the way of a restoration of complete communion of faith and sacramental life, they promoted responsible contacts where the members strive in common to find solutions for all the great problems. Only by the grace of God would efforts for progress towards unity also strengthen peace in the world, the peace that only God can give. The declaration is high energy.

Paul VI made a further step in July that same year in his letter about the Oxford Franciscan, John Duns Scotus (d.1308). The Council had set the stage in Unitatis Redintegratio, the Decree on Ecumenism with the intention of the restoration of unity among all the baptized. Principles, practices, historical accountability, a reminder that a “hierarchy of truths” exists, and the duty to “impose no burden beyond what is indispensable“ (Acts 15:28) radiated a new tone to overcoming the clashes and divergences that openly contradict the will of Christ to proclaim the good news to all. The Council expanded with the contributions of Protestant scholars to engage the solvent of confessional Christianity in modernity.

In his letter, Alma Parens, (July 1966), Paul VI took a remedial retrievalist stance. He knew that Duns Scotus had not been afforded the kind of respect and study fitting to defend his metaphysics and theology. Alma Parens mentions the plea in Aeterni Patris by Leo XIII about the study of philosophy to revive scholasticism especially that of St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1905, St. Pius X added a refinement with St. Bonaventure as “the second leader of Scholasticism.” In Alma Parens, Paul VI wrote: “it is universally recognized that John Duns Scotus surpassed the Seraphic Doctor” (St. Bonaventure), a view that may have competitors. What is at stake from Leo XIII to Paul VI is the common critique of the primacy of reason’s universality in modernity rather than linking reason and faith.

Paul VI was prescient to bring forward a relatively unknown and misunderstood Franciscan Mariologist, Duns Scotus, as a light for the implementation of Vatican II and future ecumenical movement in Great Britain. Amplifying Alma Parens, Peter Damian Fehlner, a contemporary Franciscan constructive theologian in his own right, takes the position that the valid insights of moderns as Kant are already present in the thought of Duns Scotus, a point for further development.

In a Lutheran Protestant register, Kierkegaard (d.1855), the father of existentialism, offered a critique of modernity obliquely along the concerns of Archbishop Ramsey and Paul VI’s scotistic lines. Modern thought is motivated by curiosity. Kierkegaard’s hyperbolic discourse in comparison to Duns Scotus include the will, the individual, love and forgiveness in an existential register. Duns Scotus argues for the primacy of the will and its self-determination which is oriented towards the good and love, hence, the primacy of love. In his anatomy of modernity, Kierkegaard’s relentless criticism of the primacy of reason over faith which took hold in Danish culture in Kantian and Hegelian forms leads to a de-creation or the loss of understanding that he thought is dangerous to faith. To Kierkegaard, Kant and Hegel have different objective points of view but these great thinkers leave massive footprints with valid points not to be dismissed. Paul VI was well versed in the Kantian and Hegelian inspired historical reality and the consequences that take a turn, for example with the nihilism of Nietzsche and his epigones. Nihilism plays out as if we killed God and have forgotten that we killed him with the result that God has no longer any social or existential purpose and we have failed to be cognizant of our crime. Since we have displaced and replaced God, the only answer is to choose the self as the architect of meaning.

Archbishop Ramsey and Paul VI were not strangers to this Kantian deformation of the will and Hegelian “web.” To them, God is love and that love is inscrutable. Only the grace of God in collaboration will bring God’s disciples nearer. Paul VI carried the primacy of the will and primacy of love further with a scotistic understanding of the will as radically ordered and intuitive, far removed from the willfulness in modern philosophy. Unfortunately, Duns Scotus on the primacy of the will is underdeveloped in academia and pastoral practice. A half century ago, this overarching backdrop ignited the conviction from Paul VI that “the teachings of Duns Scotus could perhaps provide the golden framework for this serious dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as well as other Christian communities of Great Britain.” He recalibrated the doctrine of Duns Scotus as commonly taught in the schools in Great Britain and brought to flower on the fertile soil where he was born and now brings glory to Great Britain by his universal genius and practical wisdom. Duns Scotus was a constructive theologian centering on the Franciscan determinative attitude that “true love is a practical thing” (Ordinatio, prol, n. 303, Vat ed. I, p. 200). “Duns Scotus Oxford,” a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, names him the “one who most sways my spirits to peace.” Hopkins does not substitute poetry for religion as Shelley and the Romantics did but has a retrievalist stance. Unlike the Romantic take, God is not dead, nor is the God of Christianity inconsequential, or moribund at best. Clearly, Paul VI joins Hopkins with a common conviction about Duns Scotus.

Moreover, Paul VI’s Marian approach is substantively in agreement with Hopkins that Duns Scotus is “the rarest veined unraveler, be it rival Italy [Thomas] or Greece [Aristotle], who fired France for Mary without spot [Immaculate Conception].” Hopkins’ retrievalist stance is open, flexible, and accepts the problem of being Christian that Michael Ramsey and Paul VI identified, i.e., the standard language of the modern age will not work. Hopkins and other retrievalists from Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov, in an Orthodox stance, Gabriel Marcel, Le Monde Cassé, in a Catholic existentialist stance, and Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, in a post Calvinist Protestant stance, respond to the question: can Christianity survive? They are stepping up to answer the modern gap between religion and literature and the need for transcendence that no longer seems satisfiable by forms of Christianity. Such a gap was not there for Dante whose Divine Comedy is not retrievalist but faithful to Catholic doctrine even as he, in Cyril O’Regan’s view, is a theological adventurer. O’Regan means that Dante was using his theological imagination to deal with things that are not excluded by tradition, a genius in stretching Catholic doctrine without breaking, which Vatican II set out to inaugurate anew.

A caveat is fitting here that has to do with the perception of the relation between metaphysics and experience, which Duns Scotus does not separate from each other. Metaphysics is the study of what is, being, as opposed to what is changing, or coming to be, or becoming. Christian metaphysics is prior to personal experience in the assessment of truth. In Fides et Ratio, John Paul II confirms this interrelationship of metaphysics and experience. However, he had difficulty with personalist phenomenology as a substitute for metaphysics. From what I remember listening to Michael Ramsey in Oxford in 1983, he was especially attuned to ‘what is’ and ‘what is changing’ in the culture. Similarly, Paul VI’s broad scholarly synthesis was due to a lasting friendship with Jacques Maritain. They understood the arguments from modern and medieval critics of scholasticism who criticized the syntheses of St. Thomas and Bl. Duns Scotus for assigning priority to metaphysics over experience. The critics saw such a synthesis as static and meaningless. What was taking hold were systems assigning the priority to becoming, what is coming to be, what is experienced. The worry for Paul VI was that this shift no longer made tradition, but future novelty, the criterion of theological truth and vitality. The Holy Father worried about the genuine hermeneutic of reform and adaptation in continuity with tradition.

Thirty years later, in Fides et Ratio, John Paul II would diagnose with a phenomenological register and inimitable defense of metaphysics in the intellectual life of the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI followed suit in his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia in 2005. By pointing to a key theological problem of our times, the correct interpretation of Vatican II, Benedict is in line with Paul VI in his own response to an aspect of Hegelian substitution of becoming for the being of metaphysics. All three Popes worried about an incorrect and dangerous approach vs. a genuine hermeneutic of reform and adaptation in continuity with tradition. Another way to put it is in the context of a parasitic scheme, one that feeds on Catholic doctrine but de-figures it, then re-figures it in all kinds of ways that can be a massive violation of Christianity.

Leading with Alma Parens, Paul VI’s genial diagnostic-symptomatic analysis of modernity is incomparable to a reaction formation. The entire Second Vatican Ecumenical Council diagnosed deformations and called out practices that were imbued with an excessive asceticism and/or inhibiting growth. Duns Scotus assists in the rebooting of the ecumenical movement by the Council. Michael Ramsey and Paul VI wanted nothing less than serious dialogue founded on the Gospels and on ancient traditions, which they hoped may lead to the unity in truth for which Christ prayed. The scholar, Paul VI, was confident that Duns Scotus provided the golden framework for launching serious dialogue. The will, according to Duns Scotus, is the power to self-determine and is not moved by something other than itself. The power to initiate is essentially free and object of the will is love. The will is distinct from and more excellent than knowledge that is moved by its object, truth.

In Alma Parens, Paul VI uses the metaphor of the black cloud of atheism which hangs darky over our age and looked to Duns Scotus as a ‘light” by which we are able to understand the object of our experiences and what is trans-experiential and trans-conceptual in them. A black cloud is understandable since he knew of the collective madness and horror of the World Wars and Auschwitz. “The most beautiful ideal of perfection of St. Francis of Assisi and the ardor of the Seraphic Spirit is imbedded in the work of Duns Scotus and inflame it most obviously by holding virtue of greater value than learning. Teaching the pre-eminence of love over knowledge, the universal primacy of Christ, who was the greatest of God’s works, the magnifier of the Holy Trinity and Redeemer of the human race, King in both the natural and supernatural orders, with the Queen of the world, Mary Immaculate, standing beside him, resplendent in her untarnished beauty, Duns Scotus develops to its full height each point of revealed Gospel truth: those St. John the Evangelist and St. Paul understood to be preeminent in the divine plan of salvation.” For academics in particular, Paul VI was advocating study of Duns Scotus’ Trinitarian thought, Christology, Mariology, and ecclesiology. Towards a more pastoral end, he hoped, along with Michael Ramsey in his Anglican way, that Duns Scotus emphasis on true love as practical would be far more than nostalgia and be able to cultivate an open ecumenical field ripe for harvest for the Anglican and Catholic Churches and beyond to the Christian Churches in England. That implied a stance that was more than Anglican and Catholic retrieving and cultivating a respect of the Reformers post Lutheran and post Calvinist theology.

Every age has crises. The thirteenth century Church had a harmony between religion and literature that was exemplified in Dante. He used his imagination to stretch Catholic doctrine without breaking. Dante included the iconic experience of St. Francis of Assisi as he prayed before the crucifix: “rebuild my Church” which set a movement in motion that was developed by his theologian disciples, St. Bonaventure and Bl. John Duns Scotus and others. To some interpreters, Athens had destroyed Assisi, but Lumen Gentium at Vatican II makes the case for the opposite. St. Bonaventure and Bl. Duns Scotus are typical of the Franciscan tradition in theology and Catholic theology in particular. St. Bonaventure gives absolute primacy to the Word Incarnate which in modern times is considered typical of the Franciscan tradition in theology and basis for the theory and practice of the mystery of the Church as body of Christ and participation in the fellowship of the divine Persons. It is worth re-reading the precise text even if his style may seem to be long gone to the modern reader. In the Proemium, q.1, to his Commentary on the First Book of Sentences of Peter Lombard, St. Bonaventure gives his understanding of theology as christo-centric. “But the subject, about which all questions resolved in this book turn as on a center and so form an integral whole, is Christ, in so far as this subject (the whole Christ) comprises the divine and human natures, or the created and uncreated, as treated in the first two books….”

Many are surprised to learn that Duns Scotus is critical of this Bonaventurian formula, not because it contains nothing of truth, but because it is imprecise and misleading. The precise medieval text is the Prologue to the Ordinatio, p. III, qq. 1-3 (n.174) Duns Scotus writes: the adequate object (or center) of theology is not Christ, but something common (univocal) to the Word, about whom articles (of the Creed) primarily pertain, and to the Father and Holy Spirit, with whom the remaining theological truths deal.” Given the density of this text, it may not come as a surprise that Paul VI chose the Subtle Doctor also known as a Marian Doctor to explicate the thickness of his convictions about how to implement the ecumenical thrust of Vatican II. It is plausible that he sought to beatify Duns Scotus who had been marginalized for complex reasons. John Paul II, the philosopher Pope, beatified him in 1993.

I end this first part on Paul VI and Duns Scotus with a genial plea for understanding the axiom: potuit, decuit, fecit (it is possible, it is fitting, therefore it is) that his disciples attributed to him. In substance the axiom is Duns Scotus for its structure expresses an argument of fittingness which is often misunderstood as a kind of fallacious illation. The criticism is that the axiom is an attempt in theology to do the impossible task of deducing certainty from mere plausibility. [See R. Rossini, Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2008), 76 fn 16]. In brief, the potuit is for the academic theologian to resolve the intelligibility of any mystery; the decuit, its fittingness and the relevance of the saints; and finally, the fecit, its development to date, the historical path traversed, and readiness for definition.

In a sequel, I will explain Bl. Duns Scotus medieval vocabulary with the help of the contemporary English of Bl. John Henry Newman. Moreover, Peter Damian Fehlner on the thought of these two theologians from Oxford suggests more than happenstance that might have a bearing on the future of Catholic theology. Duns Scotus replies to the desire every person has to know what is most knowable, being as being and its properties. God is not the first subject of metaphysics. The so-called proof of God’s existence is based on an entrance within the heart or self, as it was for St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure, and Bl. Newman. For Bl. Duns Scotus, to enter the heart means to enter into the self by integrating metaphysics and human experience in the light of the mystery of the Incarnation. What is my relationship to perfect love willing to suffer and in order to suffer must become Incarnate? Paul VI knew that Duns Scotus’ vocabulary is long gone but what is worth retrieving and recalibrating is subject to complex factors that he and Archbishop Michael Ramsey began to navigate. Their joint declaration included matters of practical difficulty felt on either side, which did not deter their prophetic register.

Paul VI discovered Duns Scotus and recommended his thought to searchers. I think we would all agree that the high energy of the joint declaration and Alma Parens are massively underdetermined today. At the same time, are there any doubts about what may have been in the mind of Archbishop Ramsey and the joint declaration, and in the mind of Saint Paul VI? Vatican II is “irreplaceable.”


This photo is the property of Friar Ed and was taken at Notre Dame by a junior professor in photography.

Franciscan Friars Conventual – Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Edward Ondrako, OFM Conv. is a Research Fellow at the Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure (Rome, Italy) and a Visiting Scholar at the McGrath Institute for Church Life (MICL), of the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN). He is a distinguished author including his latest work: “Rebuild My Church”: Peter Damian Fehlner’s Appropriation and Development of the Ecclesiollgy and Mariology of Vatican II.
In May of 2017,  Friar Ed successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in the field of History of Christianity, at the University of Notre Dame and was awarded a PhD in Theology added to his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Humanities/Humanistic Studies from Syracuse University, Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.), Humanities/Humanistic Studies from Syracuse University, Master of Arts (M.A.), Theology/Theological Studies from St. Bonaventure University, Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) from State University of New York at Albany, and a Master of Theology from St. Anthony of the Hudson Theological Seminary.
(Please note that the photo was taken at Notre Dame by a junior professor in photography and is the personal property of Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.)

Novitiate News

The Novitiate Class of 2018-2019: Friar Matt, Friar Joe, Friar Raad, Friar Peter, Friar Kyle and Friar Antonio

Over a year ago, on October 19, 2017 our friars of the Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Custody (The Greyfriars of Great Britain/Ireland) welcomed Kyle Banks (of England), and Peter Flynn (of Ireland) into the postulancy program. After spending last year in the community at The Friary, Oxford, joining in with the life of the friars and deepening their understanding of religious life in preparation for the Novitiate and being vested in the habit of our Order, Friar Kyle Banks, OFM Conv. and Friar Peter Flynn, OFM Conv. have joined three Novices of our province, Friar Antonio Moualeu, OFM Conv., Friar Raad Eshoo, OFM Conv & Friar Joseph Krondon, OFM Conv., and Friar Matthew Bradley, OFM Conv. of St. Bonaventure Province, at the Novitiate of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscan Friars Conventual) for the USA, East Canada, Great Britain & Ireland, Australia, located in Arroyo Grande, California.

Read more about the Novices of St. Francis of Assisi Friary, Arroyo Grande, CA

For more information on becoming a Franciscan Friar Conventual with our province,
please email our Province Vocation Director – Fr. Russell Governale, OFM Conv. at or call 718-510-5822.
Our Lady of the Angels Province – Vocation Office
223 Bedford Avenue #306
Brooklyn, NY 11211