Fr. James Francis Wathen died of kidney failure at 4:55 Tuesday morning, November 7, 2006 in Evansville, Indiana at St. Mary's Hospital after losing consciousness for three hours. The day before - November 6th - he celebrated his 74th birthday. With him were his brother John, other family members, Sister Dymphna and friends from St. Paul's Chapel. He died peacefully in a happy death as he had prayed to St. Joseph for.
The last few years he battled lymphatic cancer, first trying holistic treatments and then
going on to radiation. A few weeks ago he had an allergic reaction to one of the treatments
after it was found that he had some new tumors. My sister called me from Pennsylvania on Friday, October 27th after she had heard from her priest that Father Wathen was in his last agony. Calling Father Wathen, whom had been a long-time acquaintance of mine, he confirmed that he had been in the hospital but that he was pulling out of the scare just fine. Father Wathen was in very good spirits, told
me he had high hopes of recovery and gave me what was to be the last bit of advice in my own
Some years back, when Father Wathen stopped flying into the Boston area to say Mass, I remember
whispering a little prayer to God about this priest who had said such a reverent Mass, a dry sense
of humor, a love for souls, a hatred for the ruinous theories in the modern godless schools, a great devotion to the true Faith and Mass and such a pastoral care for those who were blessed by his friendship: "Dear Lord, please let me see Father again before he dies someday."
Little did I realize that God would take my prayer so literally. This spring I received a phone call from my brother Paul who lives in Washington State whom I haven't seen for nine years. He was coming
to Owensboro, Kentucky for work for two weeks. I knew that that is where Father Wathen was from and only an hour from his present residence of Evansville, Indiana. So, I boarded a plane and on a sunny afternoon I arrived in Evansville on May 24th and drove through the city, along the river to
Father Wathen's little apartment on the second floor overlooking the river where I was able to visit with him for two hours before he went off to a doctor's appointment. He was well cared for by the women from his church who came to his home and made his meals. His leg was swollen at the time from a bad reaction to the dye used in cat scans but other than that he looked healthy and happy.
The next day my brother Paul and I took a tour of Owensboro and found the high school where
Father Wathen had taught prior to the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae. We then had dinner at The Moonlight Bar-B-Q (http://www.moonlite.com/), a famous Inn in the town. As we were leaving
the restaurant I mentioned in passing to the hostess that I was visiting a friend who used to teach in Owensboro, Father Wathen. "Father Wathen? That was my teacher," she said. And so he was.
I was able to see Father Wathen one last time the next day when I got caught in the middle of a storm
with three twisters and headed back to Evansville for safety out of the Owensboro area where
I couldn't get back to see my brother one last time because the roads were closed. I told
Father Wathen how I had prayed to see him before his death so I figured his time was near. He laughed
and assured me that he was going to get better. "We will see," I said.
Father Wathen was one of the rare Catholic priests in the United States who never said the Novus Ordo
Missae. He was born and raised in Owensboro,Kentucky, the fifth of ten children. He studied
philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, MD and theology at St. Maur's Seminary in South Union, Kentucky, where he graduated in 1958. He served as a diocese priest in Owensboro, Kentucky as a high school teacher and pastor until 1970 when after reading "Questioning the Validity of the Masses Using the New, All-English Canon" by Patrick Henry Omlor, Athanasius Press
(See also http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/2002Feb/tgs20.htm ) he discerned that the Novus Ordo
was not only a liturgy that conveyed a total departure from the Catholic Faith, but was a Great
Sacrilege. To attend the Novus Ordo was in total defiance of the First Commandment of God
to worship Him Alone because the Novus Ordo was not the true worship due to God but instead
a mockery and false imitation of it. (See "The Great Sacrilege by Fr. James F. Wathen, Tan Books and Publishers Inc.) When asked why the faithful failed to grasp this concept, Father Wathen used
to always reply "Because the people do not realize how evil is the Novus Ordo".
Father Wathen was of the firm belief that the Novus Ordo Missae was the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy
about the "abomination of desolation": "When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand" (St. Matthew 24:15).
I first made my acquaintance with Father Wathen in 1997 when I read his book The Great Sacrilege.
I wrote him a letter detailing all of my questions and was happily surprised to receive a phone
call in reply to my letter. Father said he was coming to Boston that month to say Mass in Sharon,
MA and said he would make time to come and see me in person and answer my questions. Living
in Quincy, MA with my family, he made good on his word and not only came to our home personally and answered all of my questions but took also the time to hear my general confession. Such was the pastoral care that I learned over time that Father Wathen took for all souls God placed in his path. He flew all over the United States to offer the Traditional Latin Mass which he said was our birthright as Catholics based on the Papal Encyclical by Pope St. Pius V, Quo Primum.
Father Wathen was accused by some of being a racist because of comments he made in his
book Who Shall Ascend. Those of us who knew him knew that souls came first to Father Wathen,
whatever the color. Any ideas other than that he had about race were easily stocked up to his
biased southern upbringing and cultural values and had nothing to do with the teachings of the Catholic Faith.
For awhile Father Wathen was on a radio show in the Boston area which gave many people exposure
to the errors of the Novus Ordo and the Masonic errors found in the modernist version of the new Catechism of The Catholic Church. Father Wathen was a member of the Order of St. John, which
in the early 1970's he came to believe was the only canonical answer to legally say the traditional
Latin Mass. As the years went on though, Father Wathen modified his views and came to believe that Catholics could receive the traditional Sacraments from any priest properly ordained in the traditional
Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. Some people accused the O.S.J. of being masonic and in defense
of his order, Father Wathen wrote the book Is the Order of St. John Masonic (Tan Books). He had a few banterings with Father Anthony Cekada over the Order of St. John which you may read in Light on the O.S.J. by Father Cekada and More Light on the O.S.J. by Father James Wathen. I found these two works very hard to follow personally, and in the end concluded that it really didn't matter whether the O.S.J. was a legitimate Catholic Order or not because Father Wathen was a truly ordained diocesan priest
prior to Vatican II and because of Quo Primum had every right to say the traditional Mass as
every other Catholic priest I knew in his same situation.
Father Wathen was not a sedevacantist, a position I personally came to embrace in my later years
as a traditional Catholic. Father Wathen was known to hold the view that canon law stated that
we can't judge the Pope. While sedevacantists such as Bishop Robert McKenna would tell
lay people that this is not an issue of judging a Pope. Instead, the man in Rome isn't even Pope or can't even possibly be Pope because he is putting out a false liturgy, false sacraments and catechisms and canon law full of error. Because of Papal Infallibility there is no way possible that these men in Rome can be Popes. In other words, there is no Pope to be judged. Sedevacantist arguements can be found at http://www.cmri.org/ and http://www.traditionalmass.org/ as well as in these two books
that describe how Vatican II was highjacked by a modernist "robber council": Tumultuous Times
by Father Francisco and Dominic Radecki ( http://www.miqcenter.com/books/1-tumultuous.shtml ) and The Robber Church by Patrick Henry Omlor (http://www.miqcenter.com/books/0-problems.shtml ).
You may read Father Wathen's defense against sedevacantism in his book Who Shall Ascend?
which describes his view of what has happened during and since the Vatican II council.
We thank Father Wathen for his great example of holding onto what was rightfully ours and what
was wrongfully stolen from us as Catholics under the excuse and lie of "updating" the church- the ancient traditional liturgy of the western rite. May God bless you, Father Wathen, and may He deliver you into eternal Happiness.
For more information on defense of the Mass the following books are highly recommended:
Cardinals Ottaviani, Bacci
- THE PERMANENT INSTRUCTION OF THE ALTA VENDITA
- PROBLEMS WITH THE NEW MASS
Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy
- PROBLEMS WITH THE NEW SACRAMENTS
Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy
- PROBLEMS WITH THE PRAYERS OF THE MODERN MASS
Rev. Anthony Cekada
- WELCOME TO THE TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS
Rev. Anthony Cekada
- TRADITIONALISTS, INFALLIBILITY AND THE POPES
Rev. Anthony Cekada.