I. A Sketch of His Life
A. This morning, we commend to the Lord of life and love a good and faithful priest, Father Casimir Melvin Peterson. We also give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the many gifts of nature and grace which Father Peterson was endowed and for his dedicated priestly ministry in our midst for some seventy years. Let us recall for a moment the many ways he served the Church.
B. Father Peterson was a native of Baltimore – he was baptized at St. Casimir’s Parish, confirmed at Our Lady of Pompei Church, and studied for the priesthood at St. Charles College and St. Mary’s Seminary. Recognizing his many gifts, he was invited to join the Society of St. Sulpice, earned a doctorate in Canon Law, and engaged in the work of priestly formation. When he returned to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, he served in the Metropolitan Tribunal, as a pastor, and as a hospital chaplain. In all those forms of priestly ministry, Father Cas, as he was affectionately known, touched countless souls with the truth and love of Jesus and helped to bring them close to the heart of the Church. We can be sure that when he walked through the doors of eternity many of those whom he served so well through the years were there to greet him.
II. Continued Ministry: The Reparation Society and More
A. The record shows that Father Peterson officially retired in 1988 but in fact Father Peterson was anything but retired or retiring. He has spent the last thirty years of his life engaged in intense priestly activity, He was a very active chaplain for the Ladies of Charity, spiritual director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, and moderator of the Reparation Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Immediately evident in all these works of pastoral charity is his warm and unstinting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Few priests did more than Father Peterson to spread true devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. By word and example, he taught us how Mary leads us to Jesus and how powerful her loving intercession is on our behalf.
It is not hard for us to believe that Our Blessed Lady greeted him affectionately upon his arrival at the gates of heaven.
B. Let us linger for a moment on Father Peterson’s leadership of the Reparation Society. In conversing with him, I could see how near this apostolate was to his heart. He had a deep pastoral love for all those who were a part of this Society of Reparation and he devoted most of his waking hours to promoting this good work. For, I believe, Father Peterson keenly perceived the urgent need of every soul to repent of its sins, both big and small. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen used to say that the error most endemic of our age is this: the denial that sin exists, the denial of the reality of sin and its corrosive effects. Correspondingly, the greatest vice of the age is not the usual suspects; rather, the greatest vice is the sin of presumption, a sin which takes many forms: the denial that my sins are really bad and that they can corrupt me; the denial that my sins offend God in any way or weaken the Church; or the expectation that God will simply overlook our sins without expecting of us any kind of conversion or repentance. In other words, God is merciful but he will not share his mercy with us against our will.
C. For that reason, Father Peterson published newsletters, did radio broadcasts, offered Holy Mass, preached inspiring sermons and gave wonderful talks, lead countless people in the recitation of the Rosary, engaged in spiritual direction, heard innumerable confessions, urged us all to do penance and to repair the damage which our sins have cause in our relationship with God and others. To be sure, Father Peterson did not imagine that you or I could repair that damage our sins cause. Rather, he knew that you and I need prayer and penance so that we can approach God with a humble, contrite heart. For coupled with his keen perception of our need to do reparation for our sins and indeed the sins of all the world – was an even keener perception of the efficacy of God’s mercy and the importance of making use of the channels of divine mercy which the Lord has put at our disposal.
III. Reparation and Reverence
A. Hand-in-hand with the sin of presumption goes a lack of reverence. If we take God’s love for granted, we will see neither our need to repent of our sins, nor will we understand the adoration and reverence which we owe to God. Instead, we will deal with God either as if he were an equal or even an inferior. It would be an understatement to say that Father Peterson was distressed by the lack of reverence he so frequently encountered.
B. One of the ways Father Peterson chose to address this vexing reality was by celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, as we have done today. He celebrated this form of the Mass in the chapel of his home and he often celebrated it here at St. Alphonsus. And he did so as one who was a superb Latinist. He understood the deep meaning of the prayers of the Roman Missal and indeed could converse in Latin as easily as you and I converse in English. Today we honor not only his abilities and his priestly activities but also we acknowledge the inconvenient truths he often pointed out to us. Only humble, contrite, and reverent hearts can spread the Gospel.
A. With you I am grateful to Father Mark Lenoue for celebrating today’s funeral Mass and I extend my sympathy to Father Peterson’s brothers, Leonard and Raymond, as well as to his many nieces, nephews, and friends.
B. We pray today for the happy repose of his priestly soul but may I suggest that Father Peterson, who taught us the importance of reparation and reverence, would want us to continually remember him in our prayers, asking that the share fully in the joys of heaven. May I also suggest that this good and devoted priest would want us to pray each day for an increase in priestly vocations, so that there will be many goodhearted and faithful pastors of souls to lead us all, in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the courts of heaven.
C. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.