Monday, January 2, 2012

Fr. Claudio-The Healing Priest

Last Thursday evening I attended a healing Mass, with my cousins at The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Ozone Park, Queens. My cousin, who lives in Brooklyn, asked me to meet her there. She recently received an alarming medical report. What does a Christian do (or any believer for that matter) when they receive a bad medical report? They seek expert medical help (in New York we are fortunate to have excellent doctors) and they also rely on family and faith. Non-believers don't get it but there is nothing more comforting or soothing in times of stress and crisis than the ability to turn to God and the comfort of prayer. Having the gift of faith enables one to draw upon it in a moment's notice. Such a blessing and grace!
Anyhow, I was going to meet my cousin at the Church but when I arrived the Church was locked. The priest was locked out too, though I didn't know he was the priest at the time. When my cousin arrived she recognized him since she had been at a previous healing Mass. Other people arrived and as we all waited on the steps for the Church to be opened, in the cold, I realized that having an obstacle so early in the experience was a good sign. Only a spiritual person would understand that paradox!
As we entered the beautifully decorated Church during the Christmas Octave, on that evening, the comfort of being in that sacred space, surrounded by objects that I find very pleasing, immediately relaxed me and gave me reason to hope. My two cousins that I was with, found peace in that experience too.
Fr. Claudio Antecini, the celebrant, is the newly installed pastor of Visitation Parish in Red Hook, Brooklyn. However, he celebrates a healing Mass at Nativity of the BVM once a month.
During the Mass, he tells his story. He's from Italy originally. God called him as a teenager to give his life to Him. He tells about how he cried upon realizing his call to be a priest and serve God. Fr. Claudio is down-to-earth, unassuming, and gifted. He greeted a family during the Mass that had come from New Jersey to have him pray over their child. He knows how to connect with the people in the pews.
After Mass, he prayed over the people who came forward for prayers. Some people were "slain in the spirit." I felt alittle unsteady after he prayed over me, but I walked back to the pew only to realize my cousin was lying on the floor of the Church, peacefully overwhelmed by the Spirit. It was a night of blessing.
Fr. Claudio explained during the Mass how he was able to raise enough money in one year to take the parish of Visitation out of debt. One year to do that. I can see why. He's a likeable priest and I'm sure people are willing to help his ministry. He asked us to write down prayer petitions which he took with him.
Fr. Claudio has a winning formula. He relies on the Holy Spirit, he gives himself to God completely, he's down-to-earth and he connects with people and gives them hope. After celebrating Mass, he prays individually with each person present, making that personal connection, which is affirming. Perhaps some people experience a healing, in one way or another. Yet everyone leaves the Church feeling better, more hopeful, more confident in a loving, merciful God who wants us to be healed, whole and happy.
Jesus was a healer, a compassionate healer. In my opinion, priests should spend more time cultivating the healer within them and sharing that with God's people. It would definitely help our Church.