Sermon for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost – September 11, 2011 by Msgr. Perez

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

This is not really a very sermony sermon this morning, more of an informative thing for you all. My parents have purchased a house down here in Anaheim, and they have allowed me to move into it. So I have a new address which you will find in the bulletin, and a new phone number. In spite of what the telephone company tells you about, Oh, you’ll be able to keep your old number, when you call them to keep your old number, they go, Oh, I’m sorry, it’s not possible, even though you are in the same area code with the same phone company, so get mad at Ma Bell. But, if you do call my old number for the next month or so, they will refer you to the new one.

Now, you know there’s the old saying, new house, new baby. Well, since that wasn’t terribly possible, I had to settle for new house, new title. And I wanted to explain because, of course, the rumor mill was at its’ usual heightened capacity before I was elevated to Monsignor, and I heard the most outlandish things being circulated before and after. So I thought I would address that topic a little bit today, to kind of tell you all out.

Now, first of all, people were saying, Why didn’t you tell us what the secret was before it happened? We could have done this or we could have done that. Well, there was nothing you could or would have done in reality. But the reality of it is is had I announced it too early — and I didn’t know myself. I only knew two weeks or three weeks before it actually happened. If I had announced it, I guarantee you it would not have happened. And, because of things being the way they are and our precarious situation, I was up for a similar kind of honor, not quite as good as Monsignor, but a similar sort of thing several years ago. And, of course, it was announced beforehand and my former superior found out about it and got hold of friends in Rome and had a Cardinal call somebody to block it the morning it was supposed to happen. That’s just the kind of people sometimes we have to deal with in life. So it couldn’t be announced because it would not have happened. And I think it was important to happen.

First of all, I never went looking for this. I had no idea it was even going to happen. But there is something nice, I think, about having a Monsignor as the pastor of the parish. It used to be that way in almost every parish in the old days. And, as far as we could tell from our earthly point of view, there would be no hope of that happening in our situation. An independent parish faithful to tradition in which the pastor was actually elevated to Monsignor. It just was too beyond the reach of any possible thought. So, I obviously never looked for it.

But the way it transpired was this, and please pay attention. But in case you’re not paying that much attention, which means you have hit 50 — I know from experience, folks. It’s true what they say about the big 5 – 0. Now, what was I saying. (Father laughing) We are having a video made. It was all videoed because you know that outside of the people who were actually there and in our parish, people will say, Oh, that never happened. He decided to call himself Monsignor, like Monsignor Donahue over in Arcadia did at one point, which apparently he did just decide to call himself Monsignor. It is not without precedent, okay? So, the Bishop announcing the elevation, everything, we have videos, I’m going to go to Kinkos and, hopefully, they’ll be able to reduce the Certificate signed by the Bishop down to something that we can distribute and make available to you, so it really will be there.

So the reason why I couldn’t announce it before it happened, I, myself, was informed — I got two emails, one from the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, and one from the Bishop, who came here and presided over the ceremony, that he was flying out here in two weeks to elevate me to Monsignor. So, I said, Wow, what’s this all about? And then we communicated on that.

What this title is, first of all, it is just an honorary title. You don’t have to genuflect and I don’t have a ring to kiss or anything like that. There is no difference from that point of view. It is just that we all have to get used to saying Monsignor instead of Father, including me. Because now people go, Monsignor, Monsignor, and I start looking around for where is Monsignor. Oh, yeah, they must mean me. That’s really the only effective change that that brings with it. It is just an honorary title. People tend to see the Church as kind of a military sort of thing where, Well, now you’ve moved up to Monsignor so you can command all fathers into battle and into the front lines, especially the ones you don’t like, and then withdraw the rest of the troops. (Father laughing) But it has been done and we can’t do that sort of thing. It is just an honorary title and it entitles you to just a few different things to wear and stuff like that, as a sign of the honor.

There are different ways of getting the title, and this is an important part. There are different ways of getting the title Monsignor. They are not all in Wikipedia, as I have discovered. Wikipedia is a little deficient in this area, but, of course, we can always edit that, Wikipedia being what it is. Most Monsignors that are named, the way it happens is the local bishop wants to honor usually an old priest who is retiring or something like that, with the title Monsignor. So he writes to Rome, Rome approves it, and the Pope officially, but really one of the secretaries, approves this and the Pope officially appoints that person an honorary prelate with the title of Monsignor. That’s 99.9% of the Monsignors.

Other ways, though, if you are Vicar General, if the Bishop asks you to be Vicar General of the diocese, you get automatically the title of Monsignor without it coming from Rome. And another way yet, although there are others, is if you are a chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights of Malta. The Grand Master may appoint you Monsignor, he may request your elevation, in fact, do the elevation, and it must be confirmed and blessed by a regular bishop, not one of these Sedevacantists out in left field kind of things, but a real bishop. And that is the way that this came about.

What about the Knights of Malta? And here is where there was some confusion, too. The Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights of Malta, is an order of chivalry. It is not a religious order. People think, Oh, yeah, there’s the Knights of Malta, Order and then there’s the Jesuit Order, and there’s a Franciscan Order, and then there’s mail order, and there’s all these kinds of things, different orders. No, it’s not a religious order. It is something like the Knights of Columbus, but it is much more ancient and revered. The Knights of Malta date back to the crusades, specifically, the year 1050. And they have been in existence since then. So, some of you little ones here will actually live to celebrate, please God, the one-thousandth anniversary of the Knights of Malta, which will be a grand thing. So, they were a crusading order, a very noble and rewarded and awarded and recognized and venerated order of chivalry through the ages.

They still exist, but their purpose now isn’t so much to bear arms in the Name of Our Lord, but it is to promote the faith and defend the faith, and to disseminate the faith of our fathers. So, it exists in that capacity. What’s important then, is it is not a religious order. It is an order of chivalry, something like the Knights of Columbus. Now, the reason why I am mentioning that is because what took place here upon my elevation to that of Monsignor was that I had to promise to recognize the Bishop — now, a real Bishop, Bishop Joseph Mar Thomas of the Diocese of Bathery, who is the Spiritual Director of the Knights of Malta. The Knights of Malta have Bishops as their Spiritual Directors. He is the go-between between the Holy See and us. Now, when I promised to recognize him as the spiritual authority, it is the spiritual authority within the Knights of Malta. 

You know, priests have for centuries served as military chaplains. And when you are a military chaplain, you promise to recognize the chain of command. It doesn’t compromise your faith, and outside of the military it has no force and no effect whatsoever. So, while I did that, let’s just imagine that the Knights of Malta went nuts and they said, Well, you have to say the new Mass now, or something like that to do with the parish. Well, I’d just resign, I’d just say, Okay, I’m not a Knight of Malta anymore. Good-bye. And that’s the end of the effectiveness of that promise to recognize him as the spiritual head of the Knights of Malta.

So I recognize him not as the ultimate word in faith and morals for everything, only the Magisterium holds that position. But within the Knights of Malta, I recognize he has the last word because he’s the Bishop of the Knights of Malta. So, rest assured, it has no effect other than having a Monsignor as the head of the parish. It has no other effect on us.

And there were people — now mind you, I am properly insulted. You can tell. Some person or persons actually phoned Fr. Smith to see if they could continue coming to this parish. Like I said, I was properly insulted but I got over it, sort of. But, you now, the funny thing is, when you think about it, you go, So, this person is calling

Fr. Smith, who was ordained a Novus Ordo priest and he is very nice. Don’t get me wrong. Fr. Smith is very nice. But, you are going to call Fr. Smith about my orthodoxy? Really? (Father laughing) Sorry, but, like I said, I have nothing against Fr. Smith. He is very nice. But the notion that somebody would do that is kind of nuts, not to mention insulting. Glad you agree. (Father laughing) Anyway, because they were afraid that somehow we had been taken over by a foreign power. And it is nothing of the sort. So I just wanted to put that one to rest.

What I think it will result in for the parish, is I would like — I can’t imagine that there aren’t many, many men here who wouldn’t love to be members of this fraternal order of chivalry, and we would like to start a group here with the idea of promoting the faith. And, if you have an AK47 and want to go to Jerusalem, that’s okay, too. It is certainly in the tradition. That’s an updated version of a sword, because swords are probably so passé

in combat these days. No, but mostly it’s going to be just about the faith, we’ll have occasional meetings about how to promote the faith in our community and every-day life, and that’s it.

Oh, I have to tell you a little bit more about the order. If you want to look at them as branches of the Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, there are different branches. This particular one was the mainline branch, but what happened was by some quirk of fate you could read about on the internet, the protection of this branch of the order had fallen under the responsibility of the czars of Russia near 300 years ago. Well, the czars of Russia aren’t Catholic, they are Orthodox. And what had happened in more recent years, it got even worse than that. It had become ecumenical, and there is one branch, at least, that is still ecumenical. Whereas, this one decided the best thing to do would be to attempt to come back to Rome and to get away from the sponsorship of the Orthodox and make it fully Catholic again. So this they did. Rome was contacted, and they were put under the Syro-Malankara Rite. So the first Bishop to arrange their coming back to Rome was not the Bishop who was here, but his boss, who is effectively the Pope of the Syro-Malankara Rite. They call him the Catholicos.

Now, the Catholicos, by orders of Rome, appointed the Bishop who came here a couple of weeks ago. They put him in charge of re-doing things with Rome. Now, this began in 2002, so it has been going on for nine years, the process. In July of this year, the final agreement was reached and signed with Rome and the Official’s Grand Master and so forth of the Knights of Malta. And everything was regularized with Rome, fully in communion with the Roman Church once again, and away from the Orthodox. Of course, that had to happen. I had been asked to be their Chaplain in this time of uncertainty, but I waited until that document was signed and they would no longer have the specter of being schismatic in order to accept the role as one of their Chaplains.

So, I guess that is as much as I can say about it. I hope I have laid to rest the questions that people have, especially about the right to the title and this kind of thing. But if there are any questions about that, you show them the video and the certificate and I really don’t see that they can have any more questions.

By the way, the idea to do this came from the Bishop. The current Grand Master had only been Grand Master since 2002, nine years. But it was one of the little fine-print things which actually I knew about, but didn’t bother mentioning, that the order could appoint Monsignors. Well, the Bishop, after visiting Rome in January of this year to finalize all the details of reintegrating the order under the auspices of Rome, happened to be told that he could through the Knights of Malta, that Monsignors could be appointed. So, he came up with it and informed me and the Grand Master, and then that happened.

I pray for your indulgence in this matter, and I ask for your prayers. I am still getting used to it, as they say. But that will come with time. And I think in the end it is a good thing for our parish, it is a very good thing, because — I haven’t heard of it hitting the fan yet as far as that goes, but you know, I think when the local bishop is fully aware of what might happen there, there could be at least some fireworks, contained to his office I would hope. So we need to pray against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

God’s blessing on everybody here, and thank you, again, for your prayers.

 One last little announcement is, because I do have the funeral on Wednesday in Lancaster, I am going to stay up there for a couple of days. So, if you are trying to get hold of me, you won’t be able to, because I won’t have internet or anything like that up there. So call Father Stephen or Father Sretenovic if you happen to need a priest.

 In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.