What makes Fr. Veras special? Well, first he writes, and perhaps I’m prejudice for writers but anyone who writes has formulated his thoughts into a coherence. If you know the Catholic magazine, Magnificat, he’s a frequent contributor. In fact if you have the current special Lenten edition, he’s in there. Second, he’s written books. I haven’t read any to endorse them, but here on Amazon you can see his two published works. I’ll now have to buy one and check it out.
Third he brings the community together around the church. One of the first things he did when came was gather together all the reminisces of one of his predecessors, who was the pastor for several decades at St. Rita’s, and put it together into a book. It was a decade’s long look at the life and times at the parish. He organized parish trips and retreats and dinners. The school is thriving and highly ranked. He’s a leader in the regional Communion and Liberation Movement and he’s gotten some of the local high school kids to be a part of it. Fourth he instituted a Lenten series where every Friday night during Lent he brings in a speaker or dramatist or musician which reflects our faith. It’s wonderful and it now makes the newspaper as a major article. Here’s the article for this year’sseries.
The former Swiss Guard for Pope John Paul II now CEO was last week’s speaker and packed the church. He was a great speaker. Tonight is a dramatic monologue of St. Francis of Assisi performed by a professional actor. I know people who come to these Lenten events from out of state. You have to understand, we are a small, humble parish. It takes a special person to entice speakers and musicians to come, and I’m pretty sure he’s not paying them. Here’s a picture of our humble church looking down the nave. It’s a flat roof, flat ceiling with a skylight and mundane stain glass windows that are way up on top where you can’t even see much of them. Fr. Veras has put St. Rita’s on the map.
Fourth, coming to mass is special. People say hello to each other, know each other, welcome each other. I only know people by face, but they say hello to me too. The rosary group, the prayer groups, the charitable events all pull people together around the parish. The musical director is excellent and an opera singer in her other job. Both the children’s choir and the adult choir have plenty of volunteers. For Easter and Christmas we get additional musicians and singers. They did a great Little Drummer Boy rendition with a really good drummer, who was probably ten years old, this past Christmas. I met a person a few years ago and when I said I belonged to St. Rita’s parish he said he heard how something special was happening there. He wondered what and I couldn’t answer him at the time. But it’s been Fr. Veras.
Fifth, and finally the most important to me, Fr. Veras gives the best homilies. At my son’s baptism he gave a wonderful homily connecting the baptism to the Old Testament. Remember, my wife and her family are Jewish, and I know they felt a little uncomfortable. He connected their tradition as it grew into the Christian tradition and made everyone feel at ease. My mother’s cousin, who is an elderly priest and attended the baptism said afterward Fr. Veras was magnificent. Here’s a confession. When I go to mass and it’s not Fr. Veras celebrating, I’m disappointed, especially if I expected him. Besides being insightful on the scripture reading, he connects the readings with life, either his life or someone he encountered or read about. And the central core of his preaching is that through friendship and love and community we encounter Christ. It’s not just that He is present. He is always present, but that through contact with others, through our sacrifice, we encounter Him tangibly. Whether it was someone who saved another during the holocaust or a new born who was saved from an abortion or feeding the destitute at a soup kitchen, you physically encounter Christ.
I know I’m not doing his sermons complete justice. You have to understand that I’ve only returned to the Church these last six years, which completely overlaps Fr. Veras’s tenure. I’ve been a sinner, even an atheist and agnostic. I’m not going to say the transformation was due solely to Fr. Veras. No, there’s a multiplicity of reasons, including reading through the devotion of lots of Catholic bloggers on the internet, some of you who may be reading this now. But Fr. Veras was a most important part of it.
I did find a picture of him on the web. Here he is, a most humble man.
Lord, I thank you for the six years I was blessed to have Fr. Veras as pastor, and may his new assignment be means to enlighten many more people. May his future be bright and may we carry his spirit forward with the transition. In Christ I pray.