Like Monday's selection Dr. Mark Miravalle, Father Fessio was born in San Francisco. He came into this world on January 10, 1941. Growing up he attended public grammar school until entering the Catholic Jesuit High School of Bellarmine Prep in San Jose in 1954. It was the first time he struggled with his Faith, questioning so many things. He came to the conclusion that either God exists or He doesn't. If He doesn't, then most things aren't worthwhile. But if He does, then this all made perfect sense and the Church was the one constant that held up to all criticism throughout the ages. That grew on young Joseph as a teen and continued during his early college life at the University of Santa Clara, run by the Jesuits where he majored in Civil Engineering.
As he tells it, he owes his vocation to the woman he thought he was going to marry. His career goals had been to be an engineer and his altruistic tendencies leaned toward being a missionary engineer in South America helping others in the spirit of the Peace Corps concept. He reasoned that to be happy he needed three things, one - a good religion and he had come to the conclusion that Catholicism was for him; two - a good job, and since he wasn't working but getting good grades he rationalized that it would translate into a good job after college; and three - a good wife. He had always set the target date of getting married in June of 1961 and as the year grew closer his anxiety to find a good wife did as well. He thought he found one in a young lady named Nancy Hardy. They became close friends and the night he was to propose to her, she informed him she was flattered but that she was going to be a nun. Rather than being crushed, he put a different spin on it, a positive thinking that he exudes today: "She'll be a nun, and I'll be a priest." The experience pointed out that he had been doing it all wrong. He recalls that he was placing emphasis on the fact that he would "do my will first, then God's will." But God placed in his path the one woman who would lead him to becoming a priest. He realized that he needed to "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all good things will be given to you."
It wouldn't be long before another woman would come into his life - the Blessed Virgin Mary and on September 7th, 1961 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate. He continued his major seminary studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington obtaining his Bachelor's in Philosophy in 1966 and followed that up a year later with his Masters in Philosophy also from Gonzaga. He taught Philosophy for a year at Gonzaga and then reassigned to his alma mater Santa Clara where he taught Philosophy until 1969. In 1970 the Order sent him to Lyons in France where he attained his Master's in Theology and was ordained a Priest in the Society of Jesus on June 12, 1972.
After graduation his superiors sent him to study at the University of Regensburg in West Germany. It was here where his orthodoxism intensified under his Thesis Director Father Joseph Ratzinger who was professor of Dogmatic Theology there, the same priest who today as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is considered the second most influential man in the Holy See. Under the cardinal's direction, Father Fessio wrote his dissertation on "The Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar" greatly influencing the rest of his life. Upon receiving his Doctorate in Theology in Germany in 1975, he returned to teaching. This time he was assigned to the Jesuit University of San Francisco where Father taught Systematic and Spiritual Theology.
In 1976, believing strongly in the Ignatian ideal, he founded Saint Ignatius Institute at USF which evolved into Ignatius Press in 1978. A year later he developed the Audio Division of Ignatius Press with Religious Books on Tape. As the decade waned the University edged closer and closer to modernism. Father Fessio was outspoken about loyalty to the Magisterium and adhering to Catholic doctrine, but the liberals won out and he was removed as Director of the USF's St. Ignatius Institute in 1987. It was all part of the modernistic tendencies of the university administrators who, like the ultra-liberal bishop of San Francisco at that time Archbishop John Quinn, did not want any part of orthodoxy for it didn't fit their agenda. Though Father Fessio was no longer in charge of St. Ignatius Institute he still had Ignatius Press which has published nothing but strong orthodox teaching and lists among its authors no less than fourteen of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY recipients. The University, in what they thought would be a crushing blow to Father Fessio, also cut off all ties with Ignatius Press. This meant that the archdiocese was no longer affiliated with Ignatius Press and this turned out to be truly a blessing in disguise.
He became truly a thorn in the side of liberals everywhere. Because he was no longer under the auspices of Quinn, he was able to remain orthodox. In 1998 he became Editor of 30 Days, In the Church and the World, a magazine which was the forerunner for the excellent monthly magazine The Catholic World Report which began in 1991. From this would evolve a decade or so later an excellent Catholic wire service called Catholic World News which we have carried practically from day one. It was introduced to American Catholics to offset the increasingly liberal Catholic News Service, the darling of so many diocesan publications. Father Fessio placed his capable editor of The Catholic World Report Philip F. Lawler in charge of the news service. Whether Phil will continue full time in this position is left to conjecture since he is running for the Senate in Massachusetts in taking on a liberal Catholic icon - Teddy Kennedy. We can only hope and pray the people will be intelligent enough to see the wisdom of voting for Phil over the amoral life-long Democrat Catholic whose ethics and pro-abortion stance are called into question by so many loyal Catholics.
In 1993 Father Fessio received the Fulton J. Sheen Award from St. Joseph Communications. 1995 was a landmark year for Ignatius Press for Father Fessio began no less than three magazines and a movement. He began by publishing Catholic Dossier, a bi-monthly magazine to nourish the mind and the Faith with such excellent Catholic writers contributing as James Hitchcock, Janet Smith, Helen Hull Hitchcock, Gerald Bradley, William Carroll just to name a few in addition to the great thinkers of the Church. Ralph McInerny, the premier Catholic philosopher at Notre Dame University and author of the "Father Dowling Mysteries", was appointed editor.
That same year Father Fessio also published The Catholic Faith, a bi-monthly magazine with Father John Hardon, S.J. (the 36th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY) as editor. This magazine was dedicated to helping parents, teachers, priests, and religious to better know, live and teach the Catholic Faith, examining Doctrine, Christian Morality, Evangelization and Catechesis plus deepening one's spiritual life.
In that same breakthrough year he began publishing the monthly Homiletic & Pastoral Review edited by Father Ken Baker which provided priests with top, orthodox homilies for Sunday and holy days and represented the first such publication in pastoral ministry.
Growing more and more appalled by the abuses in the liturgy and keeping in constant contact with his good friend Cardinal Ratzinger, he realized an organization needed to be founded to stop the watering down of the liturgy and to alert the faithful as to what the Vatican truly wanted. Thus co-founded Adoremus, a society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. Thus Adoremus began. For more on this and Ignatius Press, see www.ignatius.com.
Just as he complimented St. Ignatius Institute with an audio division in 1979, so also nearly two decades later he turned his ear to a new medium to reach Catholics throughout the United States. Taking a clue from the Holy Father who lamented that Catholics had not fully used the medium of mass media as it should and could be used, he began making plans to fulfill the Pope's request. Hoping to reach as many Catholics as possible he turned to the Catechism as the rallying point, stating that, "Basically the key here is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is our norm. That should unite all Catholics, whether they are liberal, conservative or in between." This led to Catholic Family Radio which became a reality with the help of Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Conv. - tomorrow's recipient of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY honor; Thomas Monaghan (the 38th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY), who founded Domino's Pizza and recently the Ave Maria Institute which includes the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and John V. Saeman, founder of Medallion Enterprises. These co-founders were able to purchase, with the assistance of other notable investors such as Peter Lynch of Fidelity Investments and David Weyrich, former owner of Martin Outdoor/Martin Media, a network of seven AM radio stations in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles (Orange County), Milwaukee, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and Philadelphia. They have since expanded to Portland (Maine), Providence, San Francisco, Springfield (Massachusetts) with more stations on the horizon.
They needed a strong President and CEO to run the network who was also a devoted Catholic who truly understood the ins and outs of the radio industry. They found their perfect pick in John Lynch, formerly of Chicago who was also the former President of Noble Broadcast Group and Vice Chairman of Jacor Communications. Lynch, whose 28 year-old son John Lynch Jr. is a standout defensive back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has some background in the NFL trenches as well, having played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixties. He wasn't afraid to tackle the monumental task at hand. After airing Gregorian chants and tapes of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, he sought out unique characters who were both easy to listen to and respected and carried weight in regard Catholicity to increase listenership and prompt a more immediacy to tuning in. Last year Father Fessio reached out to the Spanish market as well, founding Radio Guadalupe with Spanish Catholic Radio which can be heard by the fast-growing and important Hispanic demographic audience. To find out more about Catholic Family Radio, go to www.catholicfamilyradio.com
Probably no one in the United States was happier than Father Fessio with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' overwhelming 223-31 vote this week to require theologians and administrators of Catholic institutions to adhere to the teachings of the Church and the guidelines, based on Pope John Paul II's Ex Corde Ecclesia. The vote, which should receive immediate Vatican approval, requires theologians to receive a mandate from the local bishop to teach at Catholic colleges and mandates that a university president should be a practicing Catholic, and that a majority of faculty and board members, where possible, should also be Catholic and live their Faith without dissent. The pendulum is truly swinging back toward the orthodox side and Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. has played an important role in helping effect the change back to a new respect for the Teachings and Traditions of the Church.
As we have emphasized in the last few installments, the "Heroic Act of Charity" leaves us perfectly free to pray for those souls in whom we are most interested; the application of prayers for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is subject to the disposition of the adorable Will of God. This Heroic Act does not oblige under pain of mortal sin and can at any time be revoked. It may be made without using any particular formula; it suffices to have the intention and to make it from the heart.
In summation, the Heroic Act does not subject us to the direful consequences of having to undergo a long Purgatory ourselves; on the contrary, it allows us to rely with more assured confidence on the Mercy of God in our regard. We are rewarded for our cooperation in the Mystical Body of Christ by doing our part to help it function as God wills.
We might also consider that we, too, when we are called before God, might find ourselves escorted to Purgatory, knowing that unless we are remembered on earth by the Church Militant, our sufferings are without relief for the period consigned to us by the Almighty. And would we not, in that moment, desire with all of our soul, that someone would make this Heroic Act of Charity on our behalf that we might, as members of the Church Suffering, be freed from suffering and enter into Eternal Bliss? What we do for the least of our brothers, God shall do for us.
The Basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls was consecrated in the year 390 by Pope Saint Siricus, the same pontiff who instituted the title "Pope" or "Papa" in Greek meaning "Father" which is also an anagram of the words "Petri Apostoli Potestatem Accipiens". Constantine had originally laid out the plans for the Basilica of St. Paul with a five-aisle scheme. St. Paul's fell into disrepair but was restored by Pope Saint Leo the Great around 450, resembling Constantine's basilica on Vatican Hill. The Benedictines were placed in charge of the Basilica in the 700's and have been there ever since. Over the years many frescoes, mosaics and marble masterpieces were added. In 1823 a violent fire damaged much of St. Paul's but it was restored by Pope Pius IX and reconsecrated in 1854, the same year he proclaimed the infallible dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Today the arcade consists of 146 white granite columns. The golden mosaics high on the exterior are by the Italian artist Vespignani and depict Christ giving His blessing flanked by St. Peter and St. Paul. Below that is the Lamb of God on the hill between Jerusalem and Bethlehem where four rivers pour forth and represent the Apostles, quenching the thirst of the flock which symbolizes mankind. Below that are the four standing figures of the Apostles. Like St. Peter's Basilica, the layout is configured to a Latin Cross with five aisles supported by 80 tall columns. Above the aisles are large mozaic portraits on medallions representing all 264 pontiffs from Peter to John Paul II.