ABBOT LADILAS K. PARKER, O. PRAEM.
By John Janaro
Night has fallen and the cross of the Abbey church nearly touches the
stars of the evening sky. There are only the sounds of a waterfall in the
garden and the soft footsteps of men in white robes entering the church
from either side. The hour is Compline, and the members of the community
of St. Michael's Abbey are gathering to thank the Lord for the blessings
of the day and to ask Him for a restful night. Inside the church, the
silence is penetrated harmoniously by the lifting of voices in song. As
they chant the psalms of the Divine Office, these priests meditate on a
calling which has linked their destiny to the community of this Abbey and
to the Order of Premontre. "" (Ps. 26:12).
This Order takes its character from St. Norbert, its founder, who in the
12th century had a vision of a community of priests living both the prayer
life of monks and the preaching and teaching life of apostles. It is a
life founded on an attitude of continual conversion of heart through
prayer and penance, a conversion that flows forth from each member and
nourishes a genuine and continuous renewal of the entire People of God.
On this night at St. Michael's Abbey, one is struck by the sense of the
timeless value of this commitment; it is constant and at the same time
uniquely relevant to the situations in which it is brought to bear. The
scene could be medieval France, 17th century Austria, or 20th century
Hungary. But instead, by virtue of the call of God and the dedicated
cooperation of a handful of men, the vision of St. Norbert thrives here at
the foot of the Santa Ana mountains in California and stretches forth over
Orange County, Los Angeles, and the whole of the United States of America.
"" (Ps. 101:2). Among
the brethren of St. Michael's, there is one who stands alone in
responsibility; the one who is called- with reverence and affection-Father
Abbot. Father Ladislas K. Parker is a man whose distinctive qualities
shine forth whether he is in the choir, in the refectory, or walking the
Abbey grounds. Fr. Parker radiates sensitivity, devotion, and courage,
embodying the history and destiny of an Abbey that reflects in itself the
drama of the 20th century- the endurance of the Gospel against both the
atheism of the East and the materialism of the West.
"" (Jer. 25:32). The Holy
Spirit would shape Fr. Parker's life so that it would manifest the peace
of Christ in the midst of turmoil. Therefore it was not ironic that his
life should begin in the middle of a war that shook Europe to its
foundations. Ladislas Parker was born in the Empire of Austria-Hungary on
December 19,1915. His father was a farmer and wine grower by trade, but
circumstances had made him-like his entire generation-a soldier in the
army of Emperor Franz Joseph. Ladislas would never know his father, who
was killed in what the people of the day called "the Great War," a victim
of the senselessness of man's rebellion against God and the hatred and
conflicts that are its fruits. Nevertheless, Ladislas did know a peaceful
childhood. Though he was the first and only child, his mother did not
remarry; instead his grandparents came to their farm in West Hungary-very
near the Austrian border. His grandfather, a blacksmith, provided the
family with an income against the day when Ladislas would manage the
vineyard for himself.
His career, it seemed, was determined, but Ladislas began to show signs
very early that the Lord was drawing him to His own vineyard. "" (Jer. 1:9). At age 5, his mother would
take him to church and the young boy would be fascinated by the style and
manner of the preacher. Back at home, Mother would turn the kitchen stool
upside down, like a pulpit, and place little Ladislas inside, where he
would imitate the gestures and expressions of the priest giving a sermon.
Here already was the beginning of Ladislas's deep appreciation of priestly
service. When he grew older, he served at the altar early in the morning
every day, even during the summer. On Sundays his grandfather, prayerbook
and hymnal in hand, would beam with pride as he watched his grandson's
meticulous devotion in assisting the priest.
Ladislas loved to serve Mass, and in retrospect he is convinced that a
longing for the priesthood was subconsciously present in that love, even
while he was a small boy. As he grew, the longing became recognizable to
him, and by the age of eleven he was convinced that he wanted to be a
priest himself, yet he kept this conviction secret-he was, after all,
being prepared to manage a farm. "" (Ps. 119:147).
The family spoke German, and it seemed wise to his grandparents that
Ladislas go to school in Budapest so that he could learn Hungarian and
thus be more successful in the new post-war Hungarian Republic of which he
was now a citizen. While in Budapest, however, one of his teachers saw in
Ladislas a profound potential for learning, particularly in the areas of
languages, history, and religion. The teacher came home with
Ladislas after that year, and met with his mother and grandparents. He was
able to convince them that Ladislas would be wasting his potential on the
farm, that he belonged in the gymnasium (high school) of the Norbertine
fathers. His grandfather, remembering the diligence and faith of Ladislas
at the altar of God, saw the will of the Holy Spirit in this advice. "We
will find another way to manage the vineyard," he said with resignation,
and Ladislas set out for high school and the discovery of the charism of
St. Norbert, a vision that would correspond to and reveal more fully the
secret hope he held in his own heart.
At high school, Ladislas excelled in studies and proved himself a leader
among his classmates. At the same time he saw a unique quality in the
priests who were his teachers; the devotion they showed for him and his
peers was an inspiration, and reflected an aspect of the priestly ministry
that is particularly Norbertine-working with the youth. "" (Mk. 9:37). Though still young
himself, Ladislas grasped the essential element of this mission; he
realized the importance of youth both for the country and the Church, and
the corresponding importance of forming them correctly-teaching them the
truths of the Gospel and the world that God has created.
Priest and teacher-this was the emerging ambition of young Ladislas. By
his sophomore year in high school he had made up his mind to join the
Order of Premontre, embracing the eight hundred year tradition of St.
Norbert. He told no one of his decision, but soon it was no longer
necessary to reveal his intention, for all who knew him could see that he
was headed in that direction; the students who elected Ladislas student
body president in his senior year fully expected that one day he would sit
on the other side of the classroom desk.
Therefore it surprised no one that, on August 9,1935-the Feast of the
Transfiguration- Ladislas Parker entered the Abbey of St. Michael at
Csorna as a novice. The Abbey at Csorna was almost as old as the Order
itself, having been founded in 1180 and having endured a good deal of
secular interference, suppression, and political upheaval. "The Lord is my
Rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer" (Ps 18:2). At this time the Abbot
was Ladislas's former high school principal, and the novice's career
seemed as though it would follow along the same academic lines as he had
pursued in high school. The Abbot was determined that Ladislas would do
graduate study in German and Latin literature in preparation for teaching
in his old high school.
This direction, however, changed abruptly -- in a way that would prove to
be much more significant than anyone could have imagined at the time. The
Abbot General of the Order in Rome had noted with concern that only one
member of the Csorna Abbey was pursuing theological study in a Roman
university. He indicated that St. Michael's should send at least one more
candidate to Rome. Viewing the intellectual promise of Ladislas, who had
just taken simple vows and completed his philosophy in 1937, the Abbot of
Csorna decided that Ladislas should postpone his advanced studies in
literature and pursue theology at the Gregorian university.
24:35). In theology Ladislas discovered a lifelong love. After his first
year of study he begged the Abbot to allow him to specialize in theology
instead of literature, and the Abbot agreed. Ladislas found himself
exploring the richness of the mysteries of the faith, and in so doing he
also found a new dimension to his vocation. The Norbertine life bas its
basis in community prayer, and its activity should be the fruit of the
contemplation that is fostered by the monastic tradition. Theology
deepened Ladislas's appreciation of his faith, and with this came a thirst
for prayer and union with God. The community life reflected the life of
the whole Church, a life steeped in the offering of Jesus to the Father,
drawing all men to Himself. Thus Ladislas saw his vocation taking root in
the community liturgy and the chanting of the Divine Office; and by solemn
profession in 1939 he was forever linked to his brethren at St. Michael's
Abbey in Csorna. He had already developed a profound sense of the
relationship between his own vocation and the vitality of that bond.
A year later, on August 20, Ladislas K. Parker was ordained priest in the
Abbey of Csorna. He returned to Rome for two more years of study
culminating in his reception of the doctorate of Sacred Theology, , in 1943. He then returned to the Abbey and immediately found
himself in a leadership role, teaching Moral Theology, Metaphysics, and
Ethics, and-within a year-taking on the duties of novice master.
These were times of relative freedom for the Church in Hungary. Of course,
a hideous threat had darkened the face of Europe, and war had descended
once again upon her people. Hungary was allied with the vicious regime of
Adolph Hitler during the war, but for political rather than ideological
reasons. Meanwhile the Germans themselves did not gain real power in
Hungary, and the Church was spared from the worst of the Nazi brutalities.
Nevertheless the Church and the Gospel needed strong defenders and
courageous apostles, and Fr. Parker was keenly aware of the challenge this
presented to the teaching apostolate. It was a Norbertine tradition to
educate men for the work of evangelization, and Fr. Parker and his Abbey
made this their goal. Already in Hungary, graduates of Csorna's
educational formation were displaying the light of truth in a variety of
services to the Church both inside and outside of the Order. Fr. Parker
remembers in particular one diocesan pastor-educated at the Abbey in the
early part of the century-who was noteworthy for his effectiveness,
steadfastness, and zeal. Joseph Mindzenty's qualities would soon bring
him to the episcopate and the College of Cardinals, and would also prepare
him for the trials that lay ahead, trials that neither he nor Fr. Parker
could have anticipated.
"" (Ps. 142:3).
In 1945, however, the first hint of these approaching trials was
perceptible only to the most discerning of men. The victorious Red Army
and its Hungarian partisans swept through the country, presenting
themselves as liberators and agents of reconciliation and social peace. An
announcement preceded them: "Priests and policemen stay in your place, we
need you!" From 1945-1947 the victorious Communists formed a coalition
government with other political movements, and it appeared as though the
Church would be left alone, perhaps even treated with respect.
Fr. Parker, however, had observed the behavior of Communists in other
countries where they had gained power, and he was convinced that the
"olive branch" was nothing more than a clever ploy to buy time while the
Communists consolidated their control. He also knew that it was essential
to the Communist consolidation to capture the minds and hearts of the
youth, and therefore it would only be a matter of time before the
Norbertines and all other teaching orders would be crushed by the secular
power. He thus began to conceive in his own mind, and to discuss with
several others, a plan for a center outside the country where the Order of
Premontre could be sustained and increased until the day when the
Communist occupation of Hungary had ended and the Norbertines could return
to effective work inside the country.
Fr. Parker's realism sprang from his understanding that the motivating
forces behind Communism were completely opposed to the Good News of Jesus
Christ. In its atheism Communism is anti-God, and in its materialism it is
anti-man. Fr. Parker knew that the Communist ideology attacked the very
fundamentals of Christianity-the loving call of a personal God and the
dignity of the human person who receives that call, his spiritual nature,
and his destiny to partake of the Divine life. He was convinced that the
initial gestures of conciliation and tolerance would give way to
persecution. "" (Sir. 11:33).
In 1948 things began to change abruptly: opposition political parties were
outlawed and Cardinal Mindzenty was arrested. Workers were herded into
"party seminars" where they were indoctrinated in the philosophy of
Feuerbach and Hegel-God was presented as the product of man's imagination,
the projection of his own fears and ambitions. God Himself had been proven
a myth, the party said, by the findings of modern science.
In response to such teaching, Fr. Parker prepared a series of sermons
dealing with two fundamental questions: "Is there a God?" and "Do we have
an immortal soul?". He was determined to expound the teaching of theology,
philosophy, and true science on the evolution of man: that the spiritual
element in man constitutes the fullness of his dignity, and could not
possibly have "evolved" from the material. Man is utterly distinct from
the rest of material creation in his origin and in his end. On
Septuagesima Sunday, 1950, Fr. Parker gave the first of these sermons at
11:00 Mass in the Abbey church. Not all of his audience was sympathetic,
however, and when one of his anecdotes was misinterpreted as an attack
against Stalin, he was reported to the local police. Fr. Parker was called
in for questioning and warned not to "jeopardize" good relations between
Church and State. He was now a marked man.
During Lent of 1950, Fr. Parker was invited to give a retreat in a parish
near the Austrian border. The secret police followed him and, after
listening to his first talk in which he defended the immortality of the
soul, they rounded him up and sent him back to the Abbey. His speeches,
they said, were "undemocratic." The pastor protested interference in
Church affairs, but to no avail.
"" (Mt. 10:23).
Abbot Eugene Simonffy told Fr. Parker at this time to devote himself
exclusively to the teaching work, but it was only a matter of time before
this too would become unsafe. In June of 1950, 34 priests from the
teaching orders were arrested; they were eventually released but the
Communists had crafted a new condition in Church-State "relations"-only
those priests already involved in parish work would be allowed to continue
to function as priests. The schools were to be closed, and their staffs
dispersed; priest-teachers would be assigned to the labor force where they
could be "productive." The Communists were now unmasked-religion was to be
relegated to the past and the souls of the young- through the
schools-would henceforth belong to them!
Fr. Parker had prepared himself for this moment. He and the other seminary
professors at the Abbey of St. Michael in Csorna now could no longer even
serve as priests in the country. It was time to put his plan into action.
The teachers and their novices would escape from Hungary and go to an
English speaking country where they would serve God in community life and
learn the English language. When the crisis had passed, they would return
to Csorna and start an English speaking college there. Exile would be 5 or
6 years at the most; Fr. Parker could not imagine that the world would
permit the Communists to terrorize his country for any length of
time-eventually the free world would join forces and "roll back" the Iron
Curtain. With this plan and with confidence in God, Fr. Parker approached
"Because of the danger of the proposal I cannot command you to do it, but
you have my blessing." With these words Abbot Eugene laid his hand upon
his novice master and several associates who were with him. It was the
last guidance-and the last blessing- that they would ever receive from
Armed with their confidence that the escape attempt was indeed God's will,
they went among their confreres seeking fellow travelers. Seven of the
seminary professors, including Fr. Parker, were determined to risk the
journey. None of the novices, however, were willing to go at this time;
many had close family ties in Hungary and opted to hope for better times.
Others were determined to observe the fate of the first band of escapees,
and then follow. Still others already found themselves detained by the
police; for them it was too late for escape. The community-in-exile would
have to begin without novices, and as events unfolded it became apparent
that those who had hoped to follow would be unable to do so.
The company complete, the seven priests planned their escape, selecting a
particularly difficult stretch of terrain in the hopes that no one would
expect an escape through such a route. On the night of July 11th, the
Feast of St. Norbert, the Abbey received word that the police were to
arrive the next morning to close them down and disperse the community.
12:7). The moment had come. At midnight, the seven split into two groups
and headed for the border. No doubt St. Norbert and St. Michael were with
The way was littered with patrols, guards, and police. If caught they
would no doubt be suspected of being spies, and would face lengthy
interrogation, imprisonment, and perhaps torture. Yet the priests moved
on, confident that God is more powerful than armies, and more subtle than
the watchful eyes of evil men. "" (Ex. 9:13). They made their way across the fields, hiding in
farmhouses while detachments of the border patrol marched by. The priests
passed through a dense forest, and approached the border. Here they
encountered a mine field and the Lord guided their feet. After this they
cut through a barbed-wire fence, all the while combing the horizon for
searchlights, listening for dogs or footsteps.
Between the fugitives and Austria there remained a sixty foot wide river
and guards stationed in hidden places. The Lord stopped short of parting
the waters for them, but He saw them across the river; they found a
passage where the water came up only to their chins and thus they were
able to walk slowly and silently across, stripped and holding their
clothes above their heads. No one saw them. "" (Ps. 18:36).
Only later did they discover that the guards had just returned from ten
days of harvest and-being tired from their strenuous work-were sleeping
quite soundly in the place where the seven crossed the border. A few weeks
later a group of Cistercians were captured in that same area by a
well-rested and more alert patrol. Austria did not, however, represent the
end of danger for Fr. Parker and his confreres. They were in the Soviet
occupied zone, about fifty miles from American controlled territory. Here
one of their contacts, a local pastor, arranged for a pickup truck.
Huddled and concealed in the back, they rode the final miles to freedom.
The seven joined together in Vienna to praise God for their deliverance,
and set off for Rome. Meanwhile St. Michael's Abbey was taken over by the
government and its buildings were turned into a headquarters for the local
soviet. The remaining Norbertines were dispersed and most had to take
their priesthood underground. Abbot Eugene died in 1954 exiled from his
flock by the world, but united to them in Christ Jesus.
Fr. Parker and his confreres were all that truly remained of St. Michael's
Abbey as a visible corporate entity. This reality further fueled their
determination to continue the Abbey's work on American soil. They had a
special responsibility to their brethren in Hungary, as well as the entire
suffering Church in Eastern Europe. God had granted them their freedom for
a purpose, and in carrying out this purpose they-like their confreres
behind the Iron Curtain-would be called upon to carry the Cross of Jesus
Christ. "" (Mt. 10:39).
With their goal thus before them, the fathers set out for America,
borrowing $3000.00 to pay for their passage. They arrived in New York in
1952 with nothing but their clothes and their faith that all things are
possible with God. The priests of St. Norbert's Abbey in DuPere, Wisconsin
welcomed their exiled brethren with open arms. For a time, Fr. Parker
taught moral theology at the Abbey seminary but he soon realized that his
mission required him to seek another type of experience.
As the task of the seven became clear, Fr. Parker understood more fully
why God had willed him to be a theologian. Realizing that their return to
Hungary might not come as soon as they had initially expected, Fr. Parker
saw that it was necessary for the Abbey to flourish anew in America. He
was the only one of the seven with a doctorate in theology, which gave him
the preparation he needed to establish a priestly formation and education
program. What he now needed was more experience in pastoral ministry, so
that he might develop the qualities necessary to lead a community
effectively on a long-term basis. "" (1 Tim.
DuPere Abbey staffed a number of parishes in Montana, and Fr. Parker
requested a position as a parish priest. The Abbot was determined to send
him to a parish with a whole group of priests including several
Norbertines, when suddenly one of Montana's small rural parishes found
itself without its pastor, who had suffered a serious injury and faced six
months in the hospital. Considering the needs of the people, and the
ability and courage of Fr. Parker, the Abbot sent him to fill in for this
parish . . . alone.
On a train crossing the midwestern United States, Fr. Parker struggled to
translate his first sermon into English with the assistance of a
German-English dictionary. Soon he arrived at his desolate parish; there
was not even a housekeeper in the rectory.
"" (Ps. 69:3). For the next
several months Fr. Parker endured an intense loneliness and a longing for
the community life to which he was called. Separated from his brothers and
thousands of miles from the land of his home, struggling with a new
language and a new way of life, Fr. Parker would often stare out across
the vast stretch of the plains and feel as though the sky was pressing him
down against the ground. During this period of isolation he shared in the
sufferings of his Norbertine brothers in Hungary whose own vocations to
community life could no longer be followed. Together they formed one great
communion of suffering, drawing close to the Heart of the Jesus who kept
vigil alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Fr. Parker held fast to his faith in Christ, and his situation improved.
He could, after all, still be a priest, and serve the people in his care.
Soon the pastor was on his feet again, and Fr. Parker was able to move on
to a parish with a group of priests. Here he kept contact with the other
six members of St. Michael's who were scattered about from Wisconsin to
France. They had all learned that distance did not sever the deep bonds
that united them, nor keep their minds from the goal that they hoped to
achieve. Saving the money that they earned in parish work, they built a
financial base for their project of re-establishing a religious house so
that they would be prepared when the right circumstances and location
These circumstances, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, began to take
shape in 1957 when Cardinal McIntyre, archbishop of Los Angeles, invited
all seven priests to teach at Mater Dei High School. The priests rejoiced
at their reunion and at their opportunity to be involved once again in the
specifically Norbertine apostolate of teaching the youth. During the next
few years they searched the environs of Southern California for an
appropriate and available piece of land.
"" (Ps. 18:19). The area east of
Los Angeles, toward the mountains, was at that time quite peaceful and
quite undeveloped, and one day Fr. Parker happened upon a man who ran a
small store and beer stand, and who owned 160 acres of land at the foot of
Saddleback Mountain. He agreed to sell 34 acres and the priests, with
their own finances and some generous donations, purchased the property,
mortgaged it, and used the bank money to put up the first two buildings.
St. Michael's Priory was born.
Fr. Parker and his confreres were now ready to plunge into the task of
forming priests for America's faithful. They had long been impressed by
the quality of Catholicism in America-its uncomplicated sincerity and its
intimacy; American lay people always expressed a deep and devoted-almost
familial-love for the priests and nuns who educated them in their youth.
The Hungarian priests hoped to recreate that atmosphere in their priory
and cultivate the same kind of relationship with their seminarians and
students. In 1961 Fr. Parker went to the senior classes at Mater Dei and
spoke about the call and the charism of St. Norbert. Immediately he had
four men for his novitiate. In 1962 the Junior Seminary opened and 29
young men from the diocesan school system signed on. As the Second Vatican
Council approached, the fathers had high hopes; they did not expect the
test that God had planned for them, and for the whole Church.
After the close of the Council, Fr. Parker adopted an attitude that
effectively summed up its authentic program: "To hold steadfast to all
that was good in the old and not to shy away either from that which is
new." The reforms in religious life, including the establishment of a more
consultative process of decision making, were embraced at St. Michael's
according to the mind of the Church. Consultation meant more meetings for
the superior, but it also meant that orders would be better understood and
more zealously carried out. Such an approach would contribute to a greater
sense of community solidarity without undermining the posture of obedience
which in its deepest sense reflects the obedience of Christ.
"" (Jn. 9:37). The
priests of St. Michael's knew the value of unity in their own lives, and
therefore they appreciated its necessity for the Church as a whole.
Faithful to the spirit of St. Norbert as well as the sense of the
Universal Church, the priory was determined to follow the teaching and
direction of the Pope. Thus they did not fall victim to the curious and
frightening malaise that seemed to seize hold of so many in the Church in
the late 1960's. Some religious orders and congregations, under the
pretext of reform, disregarded many of the traditions that were integral
to the identity of their way of life. The end of the decade brought a
crisis in religious life. Change without discernment had brought confusion
to both young and old about the nature of a vocation that they had
previously taken for granted. St. Michael's had remained steadfast, yet
the disturbance of mind had crept in among the seminarians, and by 1967
they had lost all of the juniors and all of the candidates. The priory had
shrunk to its original seven founders. "" (Lk 18:8)?
Fr. Parker reflects that this was the only time he was tempted to doubt
whether their enterprise-the task and the goal that had sustained them
throughout their period of exile-would truly succeed. But these were men
who had faced adversity in the past and who had witnessed the power of the
Holy Spirit; they gathered together-anxious but not afraid-and invoked
"the big fighter St. Michael the Archangel, who knows the wiles of the
On the Feast of St. Michael, 1967, in the midst of a crisis of spirit that
threatened to wreck the goal for which they had strived so long and hard,
the fathers of St. Michael's priory in Orange, California conceived a
fresh approach in their appeal for vocations. They presented St.
Michael's as an institution specifically dedicated to the mind of the
Church, the authentic and perennial sense of the vocation to religious
life, a structured community prayer life, and an intellectual formation
patterned after St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Michael's priory
proclaimed a special union with "the Vicar of Christ in his opposition to
false interpretations of renewal."
"" (2 Cor. 4:8). It was a
daring step, and the priory was soon the object of criticism from
influential and vocal sources. Fr. Parker knew, however, that this
criticism was rooted in infidelity and presented much less of a threat to
the existence and flourishing of St. Michael's than would have resulted
from the failure of the fathers to seize the moment and light a lamp for
the truth of Christ.
And flourish they did! Candidates began appearing at the doorstep of St.
Michael's Priory from all over the country; "refugees" from congregations
or diocesan seminaries who were convinced that God was calling them to
something that these institutions were failing to provide. Because of the
courageous initiative of the fathers-the culmination of a lifetime of
faithfulness to the Gospel in the midst of all manner of hostility,
adversity, and confusion-God granted a special charism to the community of
St. Michael, linking its very identity to the authentic revitalization of
religious life. Men all over America who were drawn to life in the spirit
of the evangelical counsels and according to the mission and ministry of
St. Norbert were called by God to make a lifelong commitment to this
religious community, transforming it into a model of renewed religious
Each year there were four or five new novices. Candidates took their
theology in Rome, and soon there were new priests added to the community.
Its apostolates expanded to a full residence high school, a summer camp
attended each year by hundreds of boys aged 6-12, the staffing of the
Hungarian-German parish of St. Steven in Los Angeles, and other assistance
work in the dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles.
In 1984, with a community six times the size of the one that invoked St.
Michael the Archangel on that pivotal day in 1967, the Abbot General of
the Order of Premontre and Pope John Paul II approved the conferral of
Abbey status on the community of St. Michael Fr. Parker stepped forward
to be invested as Abbot on September 20th. It had been thirty years since
the community of St. Michael had had a leader whom they could call "Father
Abbot." It had been a long struggle, a struggle that passed through the
greatest evils of the present age, but also bore witness to the greatest
good-the power of a God who is ever-faithful to His people.
Fr. Parker is not content to rest with this victory. He realizes that the
Abbey stands for authentic religious life and fidelity to the Church, as
well as being a monument to the millions whose voices have been silenced
in Hungary and all over the world by an ideology and a persecution that is
perhaps more virulent now than it was thirty-six years ago.
Nevertheless he faces the future with great hope, hope for America and for
the Church. "" (Heb. 11:1). Communism, because it opposes God, is
doomed to failure if only the good people of the world will allow
themselves to be God's instruments, proclaiming the Gospel as man's hope,
and as the summit of his dignity. Fr. Parker has seen his own national
identity submerged in the artificial and manipulative program of the
totalitarian state that holds the Hungarian people hostage; therefore he
has a profound recognition of the spirit of the American people who have
welcomed him, and he appreciates the depth of the values that should
underlie true loyalty to the American nation and how necessary these
values are to the defense of human dignity. "The Cross and the flag will
be forever the most effective antagonist against the Hammer and the
Sickle," he is fond of saying.
"" (Deut. 32:52). As for the
Church, Fr. Parker sees great signs of its renewal already in his own
Abbey. He ultimately hopes that St. Michael's Abbey will be able to expand
its work to other parts of America, and perhaps even to international
missionary activity. St. Norbert-born rich, made poor for the Gospel, and
serving the Church all over Europe in his time-is a symbol of a truly
universalist spirit, a spirit that Fr. Parker believes can make an
important contribution to bridging the gaps between the First, Second, and
Third Worlds. In time God will bring great flourishing to His Church; Fr.
Parker notes that the highest period of the Catholic Reformation initiated
by the Council of Trent did not take place until one hundred years after
the close of that Council. The renewal of the Church will take time and
sacrifice, but it will come in all its fullness.
When Fr. Parker was blessed as Abbot, he chose as his motto "Succisa
Virescit," referring to "that which was cut off"-namely the Abbey of St.
Michael in Hungary- flourishing and growing anew as the Abbey of St.
Michael in California. In this way he has himself recognized the
connection between his own personal vocation and a particular religious
community. Abbot Parker is a witness to the totality of commitment to
religious life, in that his personal history is linked in a profoundly
intimate and interior fashion to the Abbey that has received his
consecration and service. His call to the priesthood was not only priestly
but specifically Norbertine, and developed with the specific components of
priest, teacher, and member of a prayer community. After his ordination,
his priesthood was linked to the Order by his obedience to his superiors
but also by the fact that his vocation was shaped by the needs of the
Abbey, first as theologian and novice master, then as a leader of an exile
community, then as pioneer of the new priory, creator of its particular
identity and coordinator of its independence, and finally as the first
head of the fully established Abbey in its new location. Abbot Parker's
life is formed and shaped by the destiny of St. Michael's Abbey, and his
own experience, in turn, has left an enduring mark upon its life-the mark
of faithfulness, vision, hope, and courage.
This is Chapter Five of the book, "Fishers of Men," published in 1986 by