July 8, 2018
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
St. Junipero Serra, Pray for Us
Last week at the 11.00 AM Mass I told the parishioners that for this week’s column I would write on two topics, Saint Junipero Serra whose feast is kept on July 1st, and our young parishioner who recently went home to God, Nico Vigliotti. I do so now.
It was nearly 43 years ago, on September 14, 1975, that the first native born citizen of the United States was numbered among the saints, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. During his apostolic visit to the United States of America in September 2015, Pope Francis canonized St. Junipero Serra, the Father of California. It was the first and only canonization to take place on the soil of the United States of America. St. Junipero Serra is the only saint whose statue is found on the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC. Who was this remarkable man?
California is rightly known as one of the most beautiful and productive lands in all the world. Its luscious fruits and wine, olives and ranches have made it world renowned. But it was not always so. At one time before the great work of evangelization there were no roads, no gardens, no fields of grain, no orchards, no vineyards, no olive groves, no permanent settlements. There were no ranches, no dairies, no stables. Its inhabitants lived in grass huts and lived on rodents and grasshoppers. Such was California before the grace of the redemption and the Cross of Christ was planted there.
But into this desperate world there came the brown robe who was all but 5’2” and who walked with a limp. He had journeyed thousands of miles from Vera Cruz in Mexico to the Bay which he named in honor of the founder of his order, San Francisco. St. Junipero Serra was a son of St. Francis and he was among the bravest of men who ever lived. No heart ever burned greater than his in his love for the native people of California. He came to teach them, correct them, protect them, and love them with a love they had never known before, the love of Christ the Redeemer. He came to bring them the sacraments and save their souls for Christ.
His goal was to create a golden trail of missions from south to north, from San Diego to San Francisco. Each mission would be 20 miles from the other – approximately a day’s walk. He chose the lushest areas to found the missions, to teach the natives agriculture and husbandry. Soon they abandoned their diet of rodents and grasshoppers and dined on citrus and every other fruit, the rich oil of the queen of fruits, the olive, and drank the fruit of the vine. But above all they were fed with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Junipero wished to create a united people in this new land, for he had no notion of race. While on the East coast of North America the Protestant colonists were enslaving and killing the Native peoples whom they called Indians, St. Junipero wrote to the Vice Roy of Mexico, begging him to send Spanish men north and to take wives among the Indian women. St. Junipero built the great missions of California, still visited today with their vineyards and adobe chapels. The world has never known the likes of St. Junipero Serra again.
NICOLAS SEBASTIAN VIGLIOTTI: On Sunday April 15, 2018, the Third Sunday of Easter, a young man of only 21 years died of a rare genetic disorder. So rare -in fact- that it does not yet have an official medical name but is called Chromosome 14 Deletion. He is well known to so many of us, for he attended the Jericho School District while living in Muttontown, before his moving to Glen Cove, the city from which his family comes. He was confirmed at St. Paul’s, although too sick to come to the Church, he received the sacrament at home. His name is Nicolas Sebastian Vigliotti, always known affectionately as Nico. Indeed, he was proud of that name, having come into the world at the Holy Time of Christmas in 1996 it was only natural that he would bear in this world and for all eternity, the name of the Holy Bishop of Myra Saint Nicholas, the patron of children, and giver of gifts. Nico came into this world at the time of Christmas and went home to God at the Holy Time of Easter.
On the day of his death, a spontaneous Vigil of Prayer and Candlelight simply blossomed in Glen Cove, as so many of Nico’s family and friends flocked to the Church (St. Rocco’s); for every Church is the House of God and Gate of Heaven. His Funeral Mass was offered at St. Rocco on Thursday April 19th. The Church was overflowing as was the wake.
For you see this young man who was not even expected to live one day taught us the true meaning of life which I wrote of two weeks ago. His illness did not make him bitter; it did not harden his heart and soul. Rather it made him more compassionate, loving and selfless. He never gave up; he never surrendered; he never raised the white flag. In fact, Nico was an aspiring musician and even wrote a song about his struggle with illness entitled I Can Wait for Heaven. All the physicians who treated him – and they were many – were amazed that he survived infancy. God had a plan for him. It was to teach us how to live. And as Nico lived like Our Lord, so did he die as Our Lord enduring his suffering – his own Cross-with peace and serenity.
Perhaps God sent me to St. Paul’s so that I could meet Nico. I used to bring him Holy Communion at home and loved to be in his room which was adorned with so many pictures and statues of Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother and the saints. I will never forget that there were two images of his holy patron, St. Nicholas – one a statue – and the other an icon. (Of course, being a true and wonderful young man, there were also countless pictures of different athletes from so many sports; those I cannot identify as easily as the saints, as you probably realize. The only photo I have of an athlete is our own dear parishioner, Mr. John Schmitt)). I wrote that God allowed me to meet him, as God allowed so many others to meet him. We are all blessed to have known him and I will hold Nico as an inspiration and intercessor in my priesthood.
We, as a parish, extend our most sincere sympathy to Nico’s parents, his brothers, his grandparents, his family and friends. May Our Blessed Mother, whom he loved in such a tender and manly way, take his hand and lead him to see the Face of Her Divine Son.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda