Father Mike was born in Far Rockaway, New York on December 1, 1931 to Vincent M. Scanlan and Marjorie O'Keefe Scanlan. Given a strong Catholic upbringing he matriculated to Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts where he received his bachelor's degree at the age of 22. After graduating with a Law Degree from Harvard Law School in 1956, he served as Staff Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force as well as gaining admittance to the New York Bar Association. In addition he took graduate studies in Political Science at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and higher education administration studies at Boston University.
In 1957 the call to the priesthood beckoned him and he turned his back on his worldly ambitions to embrace life as a Franciscan Third Order Regular at St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Seven years later he was ordained a priest in 1964. He was immediately assigned as acting dean of the College of Steubenville plus the additional duties of lecturer in Theology from 1964 to 1966. The next three years he was promoted to Dean and Director of the General Honors Program until his superiors appointed him Rector-President of St. Francis Major Seminary in Loretto in 1969.
He remained at St. Francis until October 5,1974 when he was installed and invested as President of the College of Steubenville. It was here that he would not only make his mark and dedicate his life, but would make a stand for a loyal Catholic curriculum that would reverberate throughout the higher institutions of America. In other words, he set the benchmark for the new wave of commitment to Catholicism which was badly needed in the face of campus unrest and the liberal, modernistic tendencies that had infiltrated Catholic colleges from sea to shining sea. He spearheaded a spiritual revolution that would lead the College of Steubenville out of the moral chaos of the sixties and seventies and back from the brink of bankruptcy to financial stability and a doctrinal stability that would echo all the way to the halls of the Vatican.
It has been a long, steady process The name was changed from the College of Steubenville to Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1985. Realizing the importance of spirituality and a total Catholicity to the education experience, he slowly but surely instilled a strong presence of Jesus Christ on campus centered around the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which all students even today are strongly urged to attend daily. Today this small, but powerful institution has become world-renown for its devotion to Our Lord as the Way, the Truth and the Life and for its total fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church complemented by its commitment to excellence in education. This combination of orthodox education and dynamic faith development annually draws over 2,000 students from all 50 states and nearly 40 foreign countries.
Through his guidance and leadership, Franciscan University provides students with a well-balanced liberal arts education, integrating academics, Catholic spirituality and worship with athletics, a healthy social life and the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The University offers thirty undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs which promote critical thinking, clear moral reasoning, and the pursuit of intellectual excellence within a context of responsible academic freedom. He placed a special emphasis on participation rather than spectatorship with many students involved in intramural sports to develop their physical and intellectual skills. He also emphasized an importance of small groups to support and pray with one another while fostering communication, maturity and leadership skills among groups no less than five and no more than twenty-five in dorms and houses on and off campus. Father Scanlan has always believed in the well-rounded person rooted in Faith and responsibility and throughout his 25-year tenure as President in Steubenville he has nurtured countless souls with his sincerity, piousness, and drive.
The fruits have truly manifested themselves. In 1990 the respected National Catholic Register included the University among the twelve best Catholic institutions of higher learning, and the renowned Templeton Foundation named Franciscan University to the Honor Roll for Character Building Colleges each year from 1995 on. It also selected the Steubenville institution for Honor Rolls for Education in a Free Society in 1997-1998. The latter is an honor saluting America's academic best. Other honors have come to the University and Father Michael as well. He was the recipient of the Holy Father's Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 1990, the Founder's Award from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars three years later, and the Protector Award from the Pro-Life Action League in 1995. He received the Sacrae Theologiae Magister in 1997, the highest honor bestowed by the Franciscan Order. Only four other Third Order Regular friars have ever been bestowed this honor which is an academic degree beyond the doctorate earned by demonstrating competency in the field of Theology. In 1998 Bishop John J. Myers and the Diocese of Peoria honored Father Scanlan with the John Lancaster Spalding Award for his exceptional contribution to the Roman Catholic Church in the field of education. This year he was inducted into the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame for his contributions to the region. Also this year, at the Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference, Bishop Sam Jacobs of the Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana awarded Father Michael the Shepherd's Award in recognition for a quarter of a century of leadership as Pastor and President of Franciscan University. You can check out the University's web site at www.franuniv.edu
In addition Father Mike is active in other ministries that consume time, energy and total dedication to Catholic causes. This includes his participation on "The Choices We Face", as well as being a popular speaker in demand for national and international conferences plus leading pilgrimages throughout the world. One of his more visible ministries is FIRE, a Catholic alliance that stands for Faith, Intercession, Repentance and Evangelization of which he serves as President. He is also a member of the Board for the Christian Film Television Commission, the National Committee for the Catholic Campaign for America, the Advisory Board for the Institute on Religious Life and a member of the Board of Directors for Ralph Martin's Renewal Ministries. He has also published several articles in religious periodicals over the years and written sixteen books and booklets. His most popular, all published by Franciscan University Press are "Appointment with God" released in 1987, "Rosary Companion" in 1993, "What Does God Want?" three years later in 1996, "Let the Fire Fall", an updated autobiography published in 1997 and his most recent "The Holy Spirit: Holy Desire" issued last year. He also published "The Truth About Trouble" in 1989 out of Servant Books Publishing. These are just a few which also include "Deliverance from Evil Spirits," "Inner Healing," "The San Damiano Cross: An Explanation" and "Titles of Jesus."
A while back, just a few years from turning 70, he announced his retirement but the overwhelming reaction was: "tell us it isn't true." After prayer and inspiration from the Holy Spirit, he reconsidered. After all, he can't say no to God! Of course this was great news for all connected with Franciscan University for there is none better to continue at the helm of this outstanding institution than Father Michael Scanlan in leading many of tomorrow's movers and shakers in the Church into the new millennium and beyond.
Pretty heavy words. Words many of us don't want to hear or see. After all, as some say, God is a loving God, He would never condemn anyone to hell. And so, the notion of sin is downplayed, responsibility is sidestepped. To even mention them is seen as foolish or as a means of intimidating people to follow someone.
But again, Christ said: "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5: 26-29).
A resurrection of judgment? If God is so loving as not to judge, what is this judgment? If there are no consequences for doing evil, why even have a judgment?
Many today have differing views of hell. Most of us grew up with visions of hell. A literal fire burning us for eternity. But many today feel there is nothing to this; that it's akin to telling children that if they don't do good that the boogey man will get them. Others feel that hell is simply oblivion, that is nothingness; that they will be alone with themselves for eternity (admittedly, not a pleasant thought or existence).
Yet this has never been the Church's teaching. Not only do we have Christ's words on the existence and nature of hell we also have the early Church Father's writings on it. "...the Fathers clearly asserted the eternity of the pains of hell. Ignatius of Antioch, Justin, Ireneus, and Hippolytus are explicit. We read in St. Ignatius that anyone who corrupts the faith of a Christian believer 'will go into inextinguishable fire.' (Letter to the Ephesians; 16,1) According to Ireneus, "the pains of those who do not believe the Word of God and contemn his coming and revert to their former way of life are increased, not only temporally but eternally.'' (Adversus Haereses [Against Heresies]; IV, 28,2)
Origen then came on the scene. He had been misled by Platonic philosophy, especially regarding the pre-existence of souls. He therefore held the theory that all the angels, except perhaps satan, and mankind would finally return to God after suffering their lot of punishment.
The fact is there is no way of waiving or weakening the words which the Lord has told us He will pronounce at the last judgment: "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels." In this way he showed plainly that it is an eternal fire in which the devil and his angels are to burn." (The Catholic Catechism by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.; Part One: Doctrines of the Faith - VIII. Human Destiny; The Catholic Tradition)
So to think that hell doesn't exist, or is simply an inconvenience would be foolish indeed.
Imagine, if you will, a person so obstinate, that he refuses to attend a party they were invited to. Let's say the invitation states that you had to wear a specific thing, but they refused to wear it so they couldn't enter. Far fetched? "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth' " (Matthew 22: 11-13).
The person here had no excuse, no reason why he was not dressed appropriately. He chose not to dress for the banquet.
But what of hell, is it really a place of eternal fire and brimstone? Is it a place of lonely desolation? The Church doesn't have a picture of hell, except to say that it's a lace of eternal torment. But we may have clues. Here, we go into the realm of speculation.
God's love has often been described as a fire. When we love something or someone, isn't like a fire within ourselves? Don't we 'burn' to be with them or possess it? When we cannot possess what or who we love, are we not in torment? And if we do, doesn't that 'fire' warm and console us?
Christ said, "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:49-50).
The fire was the fire of God, His love. His 'baptism' was His passion and death on the cross to let that love fire the earth. He commands us to love the Lord with our whole heart, soul and mind. To separate from us that which separates us from loving God. This is what was meant by " And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off". Not to literally cut if off, but to figuratively cut it off. To deny oneself, to die to oneself in order to follow Him. What of those who essentially say "I cannot or will not deny myself, cut off my hand, etc."? Is the fire of God's love with them or do they burn with a love of themselves?
Now, what occurs when that person dies and comes before the Lord? Are they going to be able to talk their way out of it? No. Instead, they will be consumed with the fire of God's love, they will, at that point, be immersed in the love of God and 'burn' with the love of God. However, from their own choice, they will not be dressed appropriately, they will have refused to die to themselves to live for Him. Rather, they will see and admit that they have, instead, died to Him to live for themselves. Having sought the glory of men, they rejected the glory of God.
"I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" (John 5: 41-44).
So, enflamed with this fire, they enter into hell since God loves them too much to force them to live eternally with He whom they have rejected. And now 'burning' with this love, they are separated from God. And this fire burns without consuming, it torments without end. But to those who have entered into Heaven, this same fire warms and consoles.
But what of those in Purgatory? St. Paul said it best. "For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
We either have faith and love of God, or we don't. No other foundation will do. Based on that faith, we live our lives, struggling against sin, denying ourselves, etc. The person who has set a foundation on himself has doomed himself, but the person who has set his foundation on Christ builds on that faith, that foundation. The 'fire' of God's love reveals how well he has lived his life. Has he followed the Lord perfectly? Is what he has built made of gold, silver, or precious stones? Or has he lived it imperfectly, building with wood, straw or hay? These will be burned up, we will admit how unworthy we are to enter into Heaven. But our faith is what keeps us. We 'suffer' as through fire - as our weakness and imperfections are 'burned' up in His love.
So, we see how God's love 'burns' some in eternal torment. We see how it 'purifies' some in Purgatory and how it warms and brightens those in Heaven. All from the fire of God's love.
As St. Francis writes: "See, then, you who are blind, deceived by your enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, our fallen nature loves to commit sin and hates to serve God; this is because vice and sin come from the heart of man, as the Gospel says. You have no good in this world and nothing to look forward to in the next. You imagine that you will enjoy the worthless pleasures of this life indefinitely, but you are wrong. The day and the hour will come, the day and the hour for which you have no thought and of which you have no knowledge whatever. First sickness, then death, draws near..." (Letter to all the Faithful)
Or as Christ said it very simply: "he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10: 38-39).
Pax Christi, Pat
The souls in Purgatory suffer from a great longing to be united to God, and from other great pains. Their chief pain is the deprivation of the Beatific Vision, the vision of God in the glory of heaven. This temporary deprivation is a most severe punishment, because the poor souls already have a full knowledge of what they are missing.
"As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for You, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?" (Psalm 41:2,3).
The general tradition of the Church is that they also suffer acutely in other ways. Saint Augustine believes that the sufferings of the poor souls are greater than the sufferings of all the martyrs. Saint Thomas believes the least pain there is greater than the greatest on earth.
The greatness and the duration of a soul's sufferings in Purgatory vary according to the gravity of the sins committed. One who has lived a long life of sin, but is saved from hell only by a deathbed repentance, will stay in the purging fires of Purgatory longer, and suffer there more intensely than a child, who has committed only the venial sins of an ordinary child.
That some souls stay long in Purgatory is implied by the fact that the Church puts no limit to the offering of Masses for the dead; some foundtions have been going on for centuries, offered for the repose of certain souls. St. Augustine believes that those stay longest in purgatory who have loved the goods of earth more. Some saints have held that certain holy souls in purgatory suffer no pain except their exclusion from the vision of God. Practiallly all are agreed that in purgatory the souls suffer most in those things in which they sinned most; as the "Imitation of Christ" says: "In what things a man hath most sinned, in those things shall he be most grievously tormented."
The poor souls, however, have much to console them. They are certain of salvation and the love of God. They are free from temptation; they cannot commit the slightest sin, even of impatience.
They have no worry, anxiety, or distress of mind, for they are sure of deliverance. They are comforted by the prayers of the angels and saints, and of the people on earth.
All the souls in Purgatory will go to Heaven some day; they will stay in purgatory only as long as they have not atoned for all their sins.
The poor souls cannot help themselves, for their time for meriting was ended at their death. They cannot therefore merit anything to satisfy for their sins.
This is why we who can still merit by our good works should give some of them as suffrage for the poor souls, so that they may soon be delivered from their prison. We have the special obligation of helping with our prayers and sacrifices the souls of our dead relatives, friends, and benefactors.
Although they cannot merit anything for themselves, the poor souls intercede for us with their prayers to God.
Thus if we help them they repay us by their intercession. No one who has a devotion to the holy souls in Purgatory has ever asked for their intercession in vain.
How can we then help the holy souls suffering the temporary torments of Purgatory during their cleansing process? In tomorrow's issue we will delve into those ways.