October 17, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Possible U.S. saints: Seminarian Frank Parater

John F. Fink(Twenty-first in a series of columns)

The Diocese of Richmond, Va., introduced the cause for sainthood of Frank Parater mainly because of a “last will” he left “to be opened only in the case of my death.” He was a 22-year-old seminarian at the North American College in Rome when he died of rheumatic fever on Feb. 7, 1920.

He dated his will on Dec. 5, 1919, when he was in perfect health, but apparently with a strong prescience that he would die soon. He had begun studies at the seminary only 10 days earlier.

A classmate discovered his will and took it to the rector. It was translated and published in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. Pope Benedict XV requested a copy, as did his successor, Pope Pius XI.

In his will, Parater mentioned three saints who also died young: John Berchmans, at 22; Aloysius Gonzaga, at 23; and Stanislaus Kostka, at 18.

For space reasons, here is an excerpt of what he wrote:

“I have nothing to leave or give but my life, and this I have consecrated to the Sacred Heart to be used as he wills. I have offered my all for the conversions to God of non-Catholics in Virginia. This is what I live for and, in case of death, what I die for.

“Death is not unpleasant to me, but the most beautiful and welcome event of my life. Death is the messenger of God come to tell us that our novitiate is ended and to welcome us to the real life.

“Melancholic or morbid sentimentality is not the cause of my writing this, for I love life here, the college, the men, and Rome itself. But I have desired to die and be buried with the saints. I dare not ask God to take me lest I should be ungrateful or be trying to shirk the higher responsibilities of life; but I shall never have less to answer for—perhaps never to be better ready to meet my Maker, my God, my All.

“Since I was a child, I have desired to die for the love of God and for my fellow man. Whether or not I shall receive that favor I know not. . . .

“I have always desired to be only a little child, that I may enter the Kingdom of God. In the general resurrection, I wish to always be a boy and to be permitted to accompany Saints John Berchmans, Aloysius and Stanislaus as their servant and friend. Do we serve God and man less worthily by our prayers in heaven than by our actions on earth? Surely it is not selfish to desire to be with him who has loved us so well.

“I shall not leave my dear ones. I will always be near them and be able to help them more than I can here below. I shall be of more service to my diocese in heaven than I could ever be on Earth.

“If it is God’s will, I will join him on Good Friday, 1920, and never leave him more—but not my will, Father, but thine be done!”†

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