Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

August 1, 2015 Column Father De Celles

His Eminence, William Cardinal Baum, Requiescat in Pace. On Thursday July 23, the Catholic Church lost one of her great priests and leaders, Cardinal William Baum (88). Cardinal Baum was the longest serving Cardinal in American history. I was privileged to come to know him over the last 10 years and am honored to have called him my friend.

The Cardinal was born in Dallas in 1926, but moved to Kansas City, Mo., when he was a very young child. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1951, and after serving as a parochial vicar and then college instructor and high school teacher he was sent to Rome in 1956 to earn his Doctorate of Sacred Theology from the Angelicum. During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) he served in Rome as a peritus (theological expert) to his Bishop, Charles Helmsing, during which time he assisted in writing the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism.

In 1967, at the age of 41, he was named Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (Missouri), and in 1974 he was named Archbishop of Washington, DC.  Pope Paul VI elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1976 at the age of 49, and as a cardinal he voted in the 1978 conclaves electing Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, and the 2005 conclave electing Pope Benedict XVI.

In 1980 Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to serve as the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which had supervisory authority over all Catholic schools, universities and seminaries. In 1990 he was transferred to be Prefect of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Church tribunal in charge of internal forum issues especially those related to the Sacrament of Penance, and various absolutions and dispensations reserved to the Pope.

Cardinal Baum suffered from various illnesses as he grew older, so much so that in 2001 he was allowed to resign from his duties as Prefect when he turned 75. He did not retire completely, however, retaining his positions on several very important Vatican “congregations,” particularly the Congregation for Bishops, where he had an important influence on the appointment of new bishops around the world. On his 80th birthday in 2006 he relinquished these responsibilities as well, as required by canon law.

I first met Cardinal Baum in 2005 when one of my best friends, Msgr. Patrick Dempsey, became his Secretary. Over the next 5 years I was privileged to spend quite a bit of time with him at his homes in Rome and Washington, and to travel with him on various trips to assist Msgr. Dempsey in assisting the infirmed Cardinal. I am truly a “nobody” in the ecclesiastic scheme of things, but because of the Cardinal I was able to meet some very interesting people and visit some very interesting places, especially in the Vatican. I was often amused that in his company I was frequently mistakenly addressed as “Monsignor.”

I thank God and the Cardinal for those opportunities, but the greatest privilege was to get to know the Cardinal himself. I don’t want to overstate things, we were not best buddies. But I remember fondly the evenings I was able to sit with him, perhaps in a restaurant in Rome or in his living room watching Fox News, and discuss with great frankness the issues of the world and the Church. It is a sad truth that not every priest and bishop in the Church lives the life he should, but it was always a great encouragement for me to know that such a fundamentally descent, gracious, holy, humble, unambitious, and intelligent man as Cardinal Baum had risen to the highest levels. I can’t tell you how much he helped me in my priestly vocation.

The Church has lost a great priest and leader. We pray for his soul, as he would insist, but I am confident that he is on his way to heaven. May he rest in peace, and soon receive the rich reward the Lord has in store for him.


Planned Parenthood. This last week has brought more revelations of Planned Parenthood’s macabre practices with the bodies of aborted babies, in particular its profiting from selling their organs and tissues. As sickening as the videos have been, the response of some of PP’s supporters has been dumbfounding. They justify the trading in fetal body parts, saying things like, “how can we deny society the benefit derived from the scientific use of these tissues.” It makes me want to vomit. Isn’t this the same defense World War II German doctors used when they experimented on Jews or their cadavers executed in Nazi concentration camps? When will America awake to the horror of abortion, the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood? When will our congressmen and senators vote to stop giving them our tax money?


My Nieces and Her Children. A few weeks back I asked for prayers for my niece and her 3 small children who were in a terrible car accident in California. I thank you for all of your prayers. The most seriously injured, my 8 year old grandniece has several fractured vertebrae in  her neck, but she is at home wearing a neck brace and walking around; no surgery is predicted, thank God. My 6 year old grandnephew is having some nerve complications related to his broken arm, and my niece (their mother) has a slipped disk and other neck-nerve problems. All three are in pain, but are on the mend and the prognoses are good. Thankfully, the third child, the baby, has recovered completely from his minor injuries. Thanks again for your concern, inquiries and prayers.


Praying for the Sick at Mass. For many years it has been our custom at St. Raymond’s that in the Prayer of the Faithful (the “General Intercessions”) at Sunday Mass we pray for the sick of our parish and families. While I greatly appreciate this practice, I have to admit that the inclusion of a long list of names (sometimes over 20) seems to run contrary to the norms that govern the Mass: “The intentions announced should be …composed …in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community” (GIRM 71). In short, the long list makes the petition longer than and not as “general” as the Church intends it to be. I have struggled with this, because I personally like praying for the sick at Mass, but I think I need to simplify things just a bit.

So, I’ve decided to move the long list of the sick to the announcements immediately before Mass. We will also begin to include this list in the Bulletin. During the Prayer of the Faithful we will still mention a very few names, but probably only those of parishioners who are new to the list, and a few rare others I deem pastorally important to include (e.g., if the Pope is sick).

We will begin this new practice in September. In the meantime I welcome your charitable and constructive feedback/observations.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles