At the moment there are nearly forty American men and women who have begun the path toward official sainthood in the Catholic Church under the title “Servant of God.” Some of the more famous are Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker co-founder, and Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists. They include men and women, lay and religious, from all walks of life. (Two of them, Father Augustus Tolton and Julia Greeley, were former slaves.)
There’s a good chance that Francis Joseph (Frank) Parater was the only Eagle Scout among them. A seminarian for the Diocese of Richmond studying at the North American College, Parater died at age twenty-two of rheumatic fever in Rome. The cause for his canonization was opened in 2001 by Richmond’s Bishop Walter Sullivan. A young man of great holiness, Parater has been compared to the likes of Saints Aloysius Gonzaga and John Berchmans (to both of whom he had a strong devotion).
After Parater’s death, the following document was found in his belongings. It’s worth a read in full:
To be read only in the event of my death at Rome.
- I have nothing to leave or to give away save my life, and I have already consecrated it to the Sacred Heart to dispose of it as He wills. I have offered everything I have – everything – for the conversion of the non-Catholics of Virginia. This is what I live for, and, should I die, what I die for.
- Death does not sadden me; rather it is the most welcome, the most beautiful event of life. Death is God’s messenger who comes to tell us that our noviceship is over and to welcome us to the true life.
- I do not write this out of melancholy or morbid sentimentality – for I love my life here, I love the College, the men, and Rome itself. But I have longed to die and be buried close to the saints. I dare not ask God to take me to Himself for fear of appearing so ungrateful for the gift of life or as if I wanted to avoid the graver responsibilities of living. At any rate, perhaps never again will I have less to answer for, perhaps never will I be more ready to meet my Creator, my God and my All.
Since I was a child I have wanted to die for the love of God and for my fellowman. I do not know whether I shall ever receive such a grace; but if I do live, it will be for the same end. Every act of my life here is offered for God, that the Church may spread and prosper in Virginia. I have always desired to be only a little child, that I might enter the kingdom of God. When the day of resurrection comes, I want to remain as a child and that it be allowed to me to follow St. John Berchmans, St. Aloysius and St. Stanislaus as their servant and friend. Do we serve God less worthily in Heaven by prayer than we do on earth by our activity? No, surely it is not selfish to want to be with Him Who has loved us so much.
And there I will not be leaving those who are dear to me; I will always be close to them, and I will be able to help them much more that I could here on earth. I shall be able to be of more use to my diocese in Heaven than I could ever be on earth.
If it is God’s holy will, I shall go back to Him on Good Friday 1920, and I shall never leave Him again. But not my will, Father, but Thine be done!
Rome, December 5, 1919.
Servant of God Frank Parater, pray for us!
(*The above drawing of Frank Parater is by Pat McNamara.)