The weekly Catholic newspaper The Wanderer is a family project spanning over a century. Begun in 1867 as a guide to inform German immigrants in Minnesota and the Dakotas on strengthening their Catholic Faith, it has evolved into an international publication with a fierce loyalty to Rome and loyal adherence to Catholic doctrine and discipline. Since the turn of the century the Matt family has headed the publication. For the first time in 1931 it branched out from Der Wanderer to become the English-speaking The Wanderer.
The editor was Joseph Matt, the father of Alphonse J. Matt Sr. and grandfather of the current editor Alphonse J. Matt Jr.. Co-existing with the English edition until 1957 was the German edition whose circulation also reached into Germany. The paper was not afraid to denounce Nazism and Adolf Hitler. They had such an influence that in September 1933 the paper was banned in the fatherland. During World War II, Joseph wrote a series of articles that showed tremendous vision in the longrange geopolitical effects of what he saw both in Germany and the unholy alliance being forged among Communist Russia and Joseph Stalin and America and England. Just as Hitler had banned The Wanderer, Stalin did the same, going so far as to influence Pravda in 1945 to try to convince the U.S. government to suppress The Wanderer. It is something the publication and its editors are no stranger to, for there have been many who have demanded censorship and suppression of this stalwart bastion of the conservative arm of the Church.
A different kind of problem threatened the publication in the sixties. One of Joseph's sons Walter Matt had taken over the newspaper and in 1967, he left over a dispute about the meaning of Vatican II. He saw it not so much as a reform and a renewal for the Church, but as a revolution that threatened to undermine the Church as well. His brother, Alphonse J. Matt Sr. took control, assuring the readers that the real intent of the council was a renewed evangelization of the world for Jesus and which challenged all Catholics with a personal renewal of their Faith.
Two years prior to taking over The Wanderer, Al Sr. had founded the National Wanderer Forum, a yearly assembly drawing people from all over the country for addresses by internationally-known personalities in the Catholic world. He had been born in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 24, 1903 and attended St. Agnes parish elementary school, then St. John's Prep and St. John's University in Collegeville. After graduation he joined his father Joseph at the newspaper in 1926. He was instrumental in founding the English edition and continued publishing it until his death in 1973. Under his guidance, The Wanderer remained firm in the century-old tradition of unswerving fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and to the Holy Father.
After the close of Vatican Council II, when the tides of revolution and dissent swept through the Church, this great tradition - enhanced and strengthened under his leadership - attracted thousands of new readers to The Wanderer. Besides his full-time activities at the newspaper, he was a member of the Third Order Secular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. With his son Alphonse Jr., he was among the co-founders and members of the executive board of the national organization Catholics United for the Faith, as well as a board member of the local St. Thomas More Chapter in St. Paul. He was also a member of Catholic Central Union of America, the St. Peter and St. Clemens Society, plus the Holy Name Society at Nativity parish in St. Paul. He was also associated with the pioneering Catholic Rural Life Conference, Serra, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Catholic Aid Association. In 1971, he received the Cardinal Mindzenty Press Award from the Foundation of the same name.
The elder Alphonse was one of the founders of the annual May Rosary Procession in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis which has taken place since 1948, concluding at the Cathedral of St. Paul on the hill across from the state capitol building. The religious observance was started as a counteraction to the Communist May Day procession which promotes the solidarity of Bolshevik revolutionaries. The idea of a Rosary Procession has caught on throughout the world since then. In many ways Alphonse Matt Sr. was a visionary and a pioneer, coming from firm stock. His life's work for the Lord was completed on March 26, 1973 when he was overcome by a heart attack and died after a 46-year marriage to his wife Loretta that produced six offspring.
One of those offspring, Alphonse J. Matt Jr. became the editor-publisher of The Wanderer following the sudden death of his father. He was born on the Feast of the Assumption in 1931 in St. Paul as well. He attended Nativity Catholic School during the elementary years, serving as an altar boy from fifth through eighth grade. From there it was four years at St. Thomas Military Academy. After prep school he continued his education on the same campus, attending St. Thomas College and then the University of Minnesota while also serving in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve. On June 13, 1953 he and Constance Carroll Angell were married at Holy Spirit Church in St. Paul. Today they have been married 46 years with six children and nine grandchildren. Four of the six are presently employed at The Wanderer.
Al Jr. didn't begin at the paper like many others in his family. He joined The Wanderer in 1965 as business manager and editorial assistant after more than a decade in the business world, including eight years as a process engineer with the 3M Company. Eight years later he ascended to editor and publisher.
During his almost 35-year tenure with The Wanderer, the journal has been in the eye of the hurricane of revolt and dissension within the Catholic Church following the close of the Second Vatican Council. The revision of the rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ordered by Pope Paul VI after Vatican II created serious divisions among Catholics, and while The Wanderer expressed serious reservations about the extent and character of the "reforms," the editors insisted upon the right of Pope Paul VI to effect such changes. The Wanderer's defense of the legitimacy of these radical changes in the Sacred Liturgy cost it dearly in terms of a decline in its readership. But that has risen as more become informed as to the truths being spread by The Wanderer. For subscription information and a preview of each weekly issue, go to www.thewandererpress.com.
To this day, The Wanderer believes, as does the editorial staff of the DAILY CATHOLIC, that had the reforms in the Liturgy been followed precisely and loyally instead of being used as the pretext for a flood of illicit innovations, experiments, and outright sacrilege, divisions among Catholics about the Liturgy would be minimal. Because The Wanderer placed responsibility for the chaos in the Liturgy on the bishops, that publication, along with Mother Angelica's EWTN and other orthodox publications and programs, have accrued enemies who accuse them of "bishop bashing" - a canard that persists today.
Beginning with the years following Pope Paul VI's issuance of the landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, Alphonse Matt Jr., as editor and publisher of The Wanderer, has continually and forcefully defended Catholic teaching and discipline against the onslaught of critics whether within or without the Church. As a member of the Catholic "loyal opposition," he has served as a delegate to numerous national Catholic conventions organized by the Americanist-Modernist element within the Church and with the complicity of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Among the meetings he attended were the ill-fated Consultation on a National Pastoral Council and the infamous Call To Action meeting of 1976.
With the new millennium just months away, The Wanderer is in good position to advance into its third consecutive century of publishing. Already Al's son Joseph, now 44, is being groomed to eventually take control serving presently as Vice President overseeing administration along with Al's oldest daughter Julie who works in editorial. Other aspects of the publication are well covered by his other two daughters Monica in circulation and Anne in the advertising department. In fact, only two of the six children are not involved with the publication. That would be Bridget, the second youngest child, and Christopher, the youngest.
Despite the hurdles along the way, The Wanderer has continued to uphold the flame of truth. From the seeds of the early year editions in the nineteenth century, when the journal's greatest concern was the "Americanizing" tendency within the Church promoted by certain powerful elements, to today when "Americanizing" tendencies continue from the Modernist front, the The Wanderer has never waivered in opposition to these tendencies.
It seems The Wanderer has always been on the threshold of innovation and invocation while fearlessly steering right into the eye of the storm knowing the Pillars of Eucharistic Devotion and Devotion to the Immaculate Heart were always nearby as long as the staff of The Wanderer stayed with the Barque of Peter..
Alphonse J. Matt Jr., in reminiscing over the years, notes one significant and hopeful development within the apostolate of the Catholic press. At the beginning of his tenure as editor, The Wanderer occupied a rather lonely field in its advocacy and defense of the Catholic Church and the Papacy. Now that field is crowded with dozens of sound Catholic newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and web publications and he appreciates the company. So do Jesus, His Blessed Mother Mary, and Christ's Vicar on earth Pope John Paul II.
We know that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Jesus, because it alone has the marks of the true Church. By the marks of the Church is meant certain clear signs by which all men can recognize it as the true Church founded by Jesus Christ.
It is important that we know which is the Church established by Christ, in order that we may obey it, as God commands. Then shall we also be certain what to believe and do in order to be saved. We must distinguish between the True Church from false churches, because today there are many imitations of the Church founded by Christ.
The chief marks of the Church are four. Today we concentrate on the first mark - ONE.
Christ intended His Church to be One; therefore the True Church must be One. Its members must united in doctrine, in worship, and in government.
Christ said: "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3: 24).
He also proclaimed: "There shall be one fold and one shepherd" (John 10: 16).
Our Lord also confirmed the necessary oneness of His flock with these words in John 17: 11: "Holy Father, keep in Thy name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one even as We are One."
All other Christian churches lack essential unity: they are not one! They differ in doctrine, in worship, in government. There are hundreds of Christian denominations, each different from the rest. They cannot agree, and keep dividing and subdividing year by year. Their only similarity appears to be their opposition to the Catholic Church. Such churches are multiplying. The arise, but in a short time they pass away, to give place to other and more numerous denominations.
These churches, founded by human beings after Christ's Ascension, differ in even the essentials of faith. In trying to accommodate themselves to the changing conditions of the times, they have made changes in doctrine, with no authorization from the Founder of Christianity.
Outside the Catholic Church there is generally no recognition of authority in spiritual matters. No organization has been blessed with infallibility except the Catholic Church. In fact no other church even attempts to claim infallibility. In religion non-Catholic churches recognize no spiritual authority except their own judgment; and this, as we all know, can easily lead to error. Non-Catholic churches vary in practice as well as in doctrine. In worship they are guided more by sentiment and personal conviction than by truths given to the world by Jesus Christ, Son of God.
Realizing the great handicap of disunity, efforts have been made by various groups of churches to organize. General councils and conferences of different bodies such as the Lutheran Synod or Southern Baptist Convention have been held; but there is no vital result for unity. This is of course because, though agreement may be general concerning matters such as social work, beneficient societies, and the like, no agreement can be found in the essentials of faith and doctrine. This is the result of free interpretation of the Bible, and the repudiation of Peter's successor, the Vicar of Christ.
Neither do non-Catholic denominations have unity in organization or government. The recognize no superior authority vested in one who is vicar of Jesus Christ. They call themselves Christian, but reject the authority conferred by the Son of God on the Pope, the direct successor of St. Peter. Some recognize the temporal ruler as their spiritual head; others have ministers whom they call bishops, deacons, or elders. The majority reject such titles.
On the other hand the Catholic Church is one because all its members, according to the will of Christ, profess the same faith, have the same sacrifice and sacraments, and are united under one and the same visible head, the Sovereign Pontiff of Rome. They have unity in doctrine, worship, and government. They have "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." There has never been any other society, religion, or government whose members are so closely united. "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3: 24).
There are nearly one billion Catholics united in doctrine. This unity is evident and admitted by all. All Catholics today hold the same faith that Catholics in the past held. The same Gospel of peace that Jesus preached in Judea, the same that St. Peter preached in Antioch and Rome, the same that St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and the Ephesians, the same that apostles of all nations have been preaching for nearly 2000 years is preached today and taught in the Catholic Church throughout the world, from January to December 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for as Paul says in Hebrews 13: 8, "Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today, and the same forever."
The Catholic Church is one in worship. All members make use of the same Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and receive the same sacraments. Although rites vary, the essentials of worship laid down by Christ form the foundation of all. Certain ceremonies have been appointed by the Church, to show more clearly in outward form the spiritual significance of whatever act is being done, and to increase the devotion of those who are present or take part in the religious acts. The ritual varies in various places, certain ancient rituals from the early days of the Church being preserved and, since Vatican II, the Mass said in the vernacular. But in general the Roman ritual, the one followed by the diocese of Rome, is the one followed. The change of ritual or language does not change the substance of the religious act, which is preserved in its entirety.
Finally, all Catholics are united in government. Everywhere the faithful obey their pastors, the pastors obey the bishops, and the bishops obey the Pope. The Catholic Church is truly "one fold and one Shepherd," its unity standing out unequalled in all history.
He was appointed to the faculty of the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago in the fall of 1953 and a few years made Director of the Theology Department there. In 1958 he returned to Rome to assist the General Curia of the Mercedarian Order at their General House for three years, then was named Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University where he had taught in Santiago. On March 21, 1964 Pope Paul VI made him the Titular Bishop of Benevento and Auxiliary Bishop of Concepcion and he was installed three months later on June 7 back in Chile. He returned to Rome to participate in the third and fourth sessions of the Second Vatican Council and then strongly enforced the reforms as the Council set down, making sure aberrations that infiltrated other dioceses around the world in the aftermath of Vatican II did not take root in Concepcion. He was chosen Secretary General of the Chilean Bishops Conference in 1970 and four years later Pope John Paul II named him Archishop of Antofagasta on March 25, 1974.
After sixteen years as chief shepherd of the flock in Antofagasta, the Holy Father promoted him to Archbishop of Santiago, his home town on March 30, 1990. Four years later he was honored in the Consistory of November 26, 1994 when he was elevated to the cardinalate, receiving the titular church of St. Mary della Scala and placed on the membership roster of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture. In 1998 he became ill and, because of declining health and the fact he couldn't devote full time to his flock, resigned his position as Archbishop of Chile's largest see since the task was taking its toll and he felt a younger man could be more effective. The Pope accepted his resignation on April 24, 1998. Though he still has eight years left of eligibility in the Sacred Conclave, he has basically suspended all duties while resting at his residence at Simon Bolivar 2843 in Santiago.