Another example of great people I have known.
At St. Monica’s Parish, in San Francisco, as a layman I met many wonderful people. One of them was Mr. Savant.
Mr Savant was a Genovese who married a very Catholic woman of Irish decent. Bernard, his son was a great singer but earned his living as a purchasing agent; and the other son taught for many years a the Dominican College ( now “university”) in San Rafael.
Well, Mr Savant was active in our Parish and instrumental in the founding of our local chapter of the Italian Catholic Federation.
As you remember, that great organization was founded by an Italian business man, Luigi Providenza, and Father Bandini, at the Church of The Immaculate Conception, in San Francisco in 1924. They did it to serve the spritual needs of the many Italians who settled in California. They were largely in small towns like Gilroy , Martinez, and Hollister. The local priest was never of Italian descent and, thus, not “trustworthy”. As a result very few Paisani went to Mass and the Faith was rapidly diminishing. It was estimated that only 8 % of the Italians in California attended Mass.
As you remember: the Italian Catholic Federation was designed to attract Italians as a Family organization — with many feasts etc. etc. A part of the dues went to bring and Italian priest here to give Missions in the various parts of California where Italians lived.
Today, about 50% of the Italians in California are good Catholics due to the apostolic work of the Federation.
I probably have told you this befor, but I would like to recount one of the incidents he told me because it shows how real is the promise of salvation which we have received and how much the Mother of Jesus is at work bringing her Children to Heaven.
Mr. Savant was a salesman and made enough money to devote a large part of his time to the ICF. He was one of the laymen who would take turns accompanying the Italian-speaking priest on his preaching tour to help with the preparations.
Sometime in the fifties, after the War he was accompanying a Missionary preaching at one of the small towns of the Mother Lode country. He would arrange for the publicity and make the announcements at the Masses of the parish for several Sundays before the Mission, then he and the Italian priest would visit every Italian family in the area.
Thus they would go out to the farms and seek out any Italians. During the War many of the Italians in small towns had encountered suspicion like the Japanese did, and they were closely watched by the US government. As a result some hid their nationality by chainging their name.
They came to a farmhouse and knocked on the door and when the woman of the house answered they told her they were looking for Italians. There was a non-Italian name on the mailbox and she assured them that there were no such persons there. As they were about to leave they heard a voice from deep in the house say “Chi ce?” They told the lady of the house that that was Italian. Ths lady explained that it was the aged mother of her husband and that she was very sick.
They asked if they could speak to her and found that this aged woman of almost niney years of age had immigrated to Caifornia with her husbad when she was 18 years old. They had settled on that remote farm and from that day she never left the place. Her entire life was careing for her family. She never learned English –she never went to town – never attended Mass – had not received ANY Sacrament. The only thing she had was her rosary which she constantly recited; her only prayer and solace.
Well, the priest heard her confession and gave her the last rites. They came back the next day to bring her Communion (the first since she was married).
The very next day she died.
Imagine, the Blessed Virgin made sure she received the consolation of the Sacraments before leaving this life. What a reward for her patient devotion!!
Why should we ever get discouraged with such a loving Mother to help us?
Another experience that he told me was an event that took place on one of his excursions to the Los Angeles area.
The Mission, in the 60’s of the last Century, was being offered at a Church in the older part of Los Angeles. As part of the prayer for the conversion of the parishoners, they passed a night vigil of Adoration beore the Blessed Sacrament in which the people attending the Mission participated .
Mr. Savant was spending the night in the Church to make certain that the Blessed Sacrament would not be left ungaurded. Sure enough, around 2 in the morning, eveyone had left so that he was alone in the Church. So, Mr. Savant left his place and went to the Altar Rail to kneel and pray.
As he was praying in the empty Church he began to hear the slap of sandals slowly coming up the aisle. He did not pay much attention until the footsteps stopped behind him.
He turned around and there saw an old Indian woman. Dressed as an Indian with sandals on her feet. She was staring reverenly at the Blessed Sacrament. He turned back to his devotians and not hearing anything for awhile turned around, again, to see what the Indian woman was doing.
There was no one there!!
She had vanished.
It is well known, that the poor souls in purgatory can spend part of their time in a Church. He was convinced that is what he had seen.
Speaking of phantoms there is another true story involving the ICF.
This time it was the founder: Luigi Providenza, who had the experieince. He was helping at a Mission to be held at the Cathederal Church of Monterey. At that time the Cathedral was the ancient Presedio chapel of Monterey, California.
It is a very ancient Indian Spanish Church built like all the Missions of the Californias, with adobe .
The Rectory was the residence not only of the Pastor but also of the Bishop when he was in the area. At that time, the Diocese of Montery extended across California to include what is now the Diocese of Fresno.
In the Bishops’s absence, Luigi and the Mission Priest were staying with the Pastor in the Rectory of the Cathedral.
Luigi was assighed a room on the top floor.
During the night,aroud 12, he was wakened by a noise in the hall. He rose and opened the door and, to his amazement, saw and elerly priest, dreassed ina cassock pacing down the hall. He turned at the end and paced slowly back and disappeared into the wall at the end of the hall.
Naturally, Mr. Providenza was astonished and he hurridly woke up the Pastor to tell that he had seen a phantom priest.
The Pastor showed no surprise. It was a phenomeon that had been taking place for several years. They had done everyting imaginable to exorcise the phantom. The Bishop had blessed the house and read the prayers of exorcism — all to no avail.
They even knew who it was. It was the phantom of the last Pastor of the Cathedral.
Some time after Mr. Providenza had this remarkable experieince, the Bishop was going through the records of the late Pastor. He found a notebook. Every priest carries a notebook to record the Masses he promises to say. Whether he recives a stipend or not he is responsible to say the Mass for the agreed intention.
The previous Pastor had been sick in the hospital and did not expect to die. When a parishoner came to visit and asked for a Mass for a particular intention, he noted it in the book. When he said the Mass he was supposed to note the date or otherwide indicate that the promise had been honored.
The Bishop noted that there were around 14 Masses that had been promised but not said because the Pastor died unexpectely.
The Bishop passed the Masses among is priests who said the promised Masses.
The spector never came back again.
It is vitally important for us to realize that the phenomenon of Purgatory is very real.
The Baptized Christian who believes in Christ and does His Will, is promised salvation. However, very few people are ready at death to love the Creator with His own love — that is to live the Divine Life offered to him. Most people have to go through a period of healing to prepare them to be totally Children of God.
The Church prays for the souls in Purgatory and offers sacrifices because when you pray for someone you are performing an act of kindness for someone who, because of their helplessness, cannot return the kindness at that time. This unselfish act is the essence of Divine Love which aids the healing and perfection of the soul.
We should always remember to pray for the deceased we know, but also for those we do not know personally. As a matter of fact, the month of November, each year, is the Month of the Poor Souls. During that month we are reminded to offer prayer and sacrifice for all the Souls in Purgatory Rev FPF