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  • Writer's pictureFr. Vili Lehtoranta

Charity for the Dead

Dear faithful,

Thank you to all of you who answered the fundraiser call for the Sisters. I said Mass in thanksgiving to all our fundraiser benefactors on October 9, the feast of St. John Leonardi. I like this saint very much, because he founded a religious society, the Clerics Regular of the Mother of God, which greatly resembles our own Salesian Sacerdotal Society at St. Gertrude the Great. It was an order of secular priests who were working to sanctify the souls of regular parishioners in the post-Reformation Italy. St. John Leonardi was so much opposed by the people of his home city, Lucca, which was not very receptible to his preaching of the reform of life, that he needed to escape to Rome and live in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. While in Rome, he also did spiritual advising for the Oblates of St. Frances, and took care of Saint Philip’s cat.

You can also promote the Sisters and their fundraiser by sharing this newsletter. You can always find the latest edition at and the online version of it at which is easy to share on social media. My own, the Sisters’, and all the other websites and channels associated with us can be easily found at the Oblate Sisters’ Linktree page at which also always links the latest newsletter.

On our website there’s displayed in Latin the three slogans of our Oblate group: Charity, Reparation, and Devotion. October is very much a month of devotions, and we at St. Gertrude’s have our daily Rosary devotions. This practice goes back to 1868, when Pope Pius IX indulgenced October devotions. In 1870, after the loss of the Papal States, he declared St. Joseph to be the patron of the Universal Church, and established the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Pope Leo XIII extended the October devotions, i.e. five decades of the Rosary with the Litany of Loreto, to be said in every parish from the first day of October until the second day of November, All Souls day. The intention was to pray for the normalization of relations between the Holy See and the kingdom of Italy after the conquest of the Papal States. Leo XIII also published the October Prayer to St. Joseph and decreed that it should be prayed throughout the Universal Church during October devotions.

The Lateran Pact of 1929 between the Holy See and Italy normalized their relations, and though this brought an end to the obligation to hold the October devotions, the custom continued. Father Cekada used to tease Bishop Dolan after school days in October by showing him an old map of Papal States, and after pointing out some area of it asking: “Did you get this part back today? Or this one? Or that one?” But that’s the idea of devotion: we worship God because we love Him, not because we have to.

With the October Devotions is recited also the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though its exact origin lies in obscurity, it probably dates from the 12th century. It was probably originally adopted for public recitation in the shrine of Loreto, the Italian town where the original house of the Holy Family was transported from Nazareth, for which it is also called the Litany of Loreto. The first proof of its public recitation is from 1558 in the shrine of Loreto, and it was sung there every Saturday. The shrine attracted pilgrims from all over Europe, and many of them took the litany they heard with them, and it was started in their home churches, too.

When St. Pius V made his reform of the Roman Breviary and the Missal, he also reformed the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. In his reform he abrogated all prior offices and prayers attached to it, including the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The priests of Loreto, in fear of losing the litany they loved so much, therefore drew up a new text. In this “scriptural” version of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her invocations were based solely to titles found in Sacred Scripture. The old and the new texts existed side by side for a while, but the new version lost favor in popular devotion, the older text being the preferred one. Manuals for pilgrims to Loreto omitted the new version and continued printing only the older one. The “scriptural” version continued to be printed separately, though it grew less and less popular. Finally, in 1587, when Pope Sixtus V gave formal approval to the older form, and recommended the practice of the recitation of the Litany as being salutary for both the clergy and the laity. I include the scriptural litany with the October newsletter and it is also available on my website.

At SGG, our October Fatima Rosary procession for peace had a record attendance of 132 faithful. That and our annual Forty Hours devotion are our acts of reparation to Christ for peace, which only Christ, the Prince of Peace, can give. November is the month of the Holy Souls, All Souls day being November 2. I will include in the October Newsletter the Litany for the Faithful Departed. It is a perfect daily devotion for the month of November.

October 26 was the 50th anniversary of the death of Father Leo Franklin McNamara (1887-1973), or “Father Mac,” as he was affectionally called by his faithful. He born in Custer, Nebraska, ordained in 1913, and from 1928 until his death he worked as a parish priest at St. Adrian’s, a church near Marquette Park, in the city’s south-west side in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Father McNamara was very devoted to St. Maximina, a heroic widow from Kosovo, feast day May 5. She perished under Emperor Diocletian, and Father was introduced to her when he received her relics in his church, and from then on promoted devotion to her. Since Father McNamara had nothing to do with the Novus Ordo Mass, he encouraged the faithful Catholics to recite the Mass of St. John as proposed by Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey. He left specific instruction that the Novus Ordo Mass would not be said at his funeral. So Cardinal John Cody arranged a Novus Ordo service without the body, which instead was taken directly to Michigan to a private burial site his family had previously purchased.

In some of the Eastern liturgies, when a priest is buried, there is a nice prayer for the repose of his soul:

Let us pray. Peace be with us. Pray for our brother, the priest, the son of our faith, who has departed out of this world, that God who approved of him, and took him away in the true faith, may guide him to the haven of all the righteous, so that when He shall awaken and raise up all who sleep in the dust, and when the righteous and just shall attain a good end, He may call him; that He may exalt him to His own Right Hand, write his name in the Book of Life, number him with His Elect, and mingle him, through the grace of Christ, with the assembly of those who praise Him, and with all the just and righteous, who were approved before Him for ever and ever. Amen.

On casting earth into the grave in the form of a cross, the people then cry out three times: “Give rest to the soul of this Thy servant in the place where the righteous dwell.”

As the world needs peace, its people need rest. The acts of reparation, which Bishop Dolan wanted the Sisters to do, seek rest for the living and the dead. The Church has a whole treasury of devotions, with which you can join them.

Yours in the Charity of Christ and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart,

Fr. Vili Lehtoranta

Read the October Newsletter in PDF

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