Monday, November 22, 2004

"Farewell, my friends, I'm bound for Canaan."

For those of you who read this weblog, particularly if you are more devout a Catholic than I am (it could happen), you must wonder why I bother remaining in the Church. After all, I find enough wrong with what's going on, with the scandals in the news, the priests who act like clowns when celebrating Mass, and like total jerks when they're not, the "conservative" bishops who cover for them, and then...

And then...

Were I not convinced that being a Catholic was the only sure way of getting to heaven, it wouldn't be worth the trouble it takes to get up early on Sunday morning.

I think of that sometimes, when I attend an Orthodox Liturgy at the Russian cathedral downtown. I could kneel there in a corner for hours, close my eyes, and listen to the voices of heaven wash down on me.

I also think of it when I encounter those folks who wear their faith on their sleeve, to the point where you wonder if they wear it anywhere else. Go to the Old Latin Mass on a Sunday morning, and there are a few of them in the crowd. You can tell who they are, by the way they treat strangers.

And yet, there are stories where Christ appears as a stranger. You wonder if He was trying to make a point.

And there are still others who, astonished at the beauty to be found in Truth, that this discovery overshadows the devastation around them, and their devotion to that Truth is overshadowed only by their humility, not to mention the certainty of Christ's promise, that the Holy Spirit would be with His Church until the end of time.

This morning, I learned that one such man was called home last Thursday, after a long illness.

Gerard Serafin (aka Gerard Bugge) lived in suburban Baltimore, and was the author of a website, A Catholic Page for Lovers, and an adjoining weblog, A Catholic Blog for Lovers. Within the text of his online writings, the word "heart" was always highlighted in red.

Few readers knew that Gerard was a laicized priest, who was separated from the clerical state after certain improprieties were alleged. While they were never completely proven, Gerard bore his cross in admirable fashion, and never stopped preaching the Faith within the limits of his new-found situation. Yet those who knew him realized he was wounded by his experience, particularly when those in positions of authority continued to make trouble for him, in ways that do not bear repeating here.

None of this deterred Gerard, who kept his humble place in the procession of the Church, a pilgrim going forward, his eyes on the Cross, facing ahead.

Gerard was in love with the Liturgy, properly and reverently celebrated with the unity and mind of the Church. His pages spoke of the beauty of the Eastern Christian traditions, as well as the ancient heritage of the Roman Rite. With respect to the latter, he called for, and foretold of, a renaissance of tradition in worship. He was also active in promoting inter-faith relations, being a founding member of the Saint Maximus Society, where Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christians would meet for fraternal and spiritual fellowship. They used to meet at his home in Catonsville, outside Baltimore, but in recent years, at Gerard's spiritual home, St Benedict's in Baltimore. He also authored the parish website, where the viewer would be shown an oasis of beauty and truth in worship, with arms that reached out to the poor and desolate - a place ever ancient and ever new, amidst the desert of modernity.

It is from that parish, that Gerard will be buried today. I wish I had known sooner; I would have dropped everything to be there.

And I didn't even know him that well.

We met several years ago, when I moderated a listserv devoted to the traditional Latin Mass. Gerard posted some sort of statement -- I can't remember what -- that was amazingly enough to get him removed from the list. That decision was made by the administrators without consulting me as moderator. They owned a number of other Catholic lists attached to their website, and presumed their ownership as a license to do as they wished with people. My online defense of Gerard caused my list to be closed down, and my removal as moderator. The administrators (who shall remain nameless, which is more dignity than the bums deserve) where unmoved, as were other moderators associated with them. Not to mention my assistant, who couldn't wait to take over my position.

Gerard was shocked by it all, that those who claimed to preach the Truth so ardently, could be so oblivious to living it. I saw all my work going down the drain, but I never regretted defending Gerard; it was the right thing to do, and that was enough.

Gerard got over it. I took a bit longer. It soured my experience with e-mail lists, until the weblog phenomenon came about, and I found my place on the bandwidth again. Thankfully, he had found a place in the new medium as well, and was a rallying point for those of us in the Catholic blogosphere, setting up the directory which I highlight on my site to this day as "St Blog's Parish." Where many around him saw devastation in the sanctuary, Gerard found a springtime in the house of his Mother Church, and his love affair with Her was to be seen with every entry.

But what is most telling about the man, in the depth of his heart, is the final entry on his weblog.

"[F]or those concerned about my physical condition lately... I will be seeing my main doctor this Thursday, God willing. Let's hope for the best."

Gerard managed to keep his appointment that day, if not the one most of us expected.

As this is written, one can imagine the chant that might echo within the sacred walls of the Church, as he is carried to rest.

"In paradisum deducant te angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem."

"May the Angels lead you into paradise;
Upon your arrival may the Martyrs welcome you,
and lead you into the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of angels welcome you,
and, with poor Lazarus of old, may you have eternal rest."


The young fogey said...

My epilogue for Gerard is on my blog, both today (23rd November) and the 18th November. We disagreed and fought about Vatican II and Malachi Martin but AFAIK on major credal and moral issues, and on the apostolic ministry/attempted ordination of women, he was sound as a pound which is why in the end he gets my respect. -

Anonymous said...

From Jeff of St. Mary's:

An eloquently written post for a man whom I regret not discovering until he had died.

I think the viciousness of many "traditionalists" is a symptom of the breakdown of the hierarchy. When authority fails one, the natural tendency is to take that authority unto oneself. After all, no one is defending Truth; one picks up the sword out of necessity and bands together with like-minded others for protection against the Spirit of the Age.

The problem is, one gets used to it and there is no Holy Spirit guiding one's claque; one confuses Tradition with tradition and even with one's taste, and conflates Truth with one's deductions and one gets driven on the shoals.

There are a few of us "traditionalists" who love the Novus Ordo and the Second Vatican Council, too. And fondly remember strangers with black hats.

Jeff Kantor

Katasha Smart said...

Wow, it is with great sadness, years later that I find that a great man has been called to his heavenly home. I am deeply saddened.

I met him years ago as a co-worker. Somehow, we immediately hit it off. The office was all buzzed about our relationship. Him being an older outlandish (so they saw him as) caucasian man and me a young black woman. We would go on breaks together and talk for hours and get in trouble at work. We would talk about his religion, my religion, my family and he came to love my mother even though he never met her. He was a joy to talk to and was always so misunderstood.

I understood him. He was a wealth of knowledge. He understood things to a degree and depth that other people did not or just didnt want to see or accept.

He stood for what he believed in and that was what I loved about him. He never waivered and was shunned, kicked off of pages, and all things that people who tell the absolute truth and walk the path of the righteous are forced to contend with.

He was a gifted man with an extraordinary sense of humor. One of his favorite movies that was mine also was "The Princess Bride" we used to talk about and laugh and always say phrases from that movie. It is hilarious and we howled while at work about it and the scenes.

My last time seeing him was at his home in Catonsville. We lost contact after that. Life (as they say) got in the way.

Today, I came across an old email of his. I sent a message hoping that he would return the message and was send a msg saying that email no longer existed.

I was hoping that still he was ok, but then I started searching the internet and found that he had gone home. I knew his health was failing, but he never stopped living life. He was a trooper and someone for anyone to live their life by.

I was really hoping that his smiling face, true quick wit, incredible sense of humor and vast knowlede of many subject was still here on earth. You know they say, when a person leaves, they take with them an entire library of information. I am sure that Gerard took with him at least 3-4.

Rest in Peace Gerard. I am glad to have met your acquaintance, to have held many in depth conversations with you and know that you and God are sitting there blogging together.

Love, Katasha S.

Anonymous said...

can anyone tell me why did Gerry seek to be laicized ? knowing him during my seminary years at redemptorist seminary he had a deep love for the faith and for his religious order.

David L Alexander said...


That information will not be disclosed here. Identify yourself to me privately via e-mail.