The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“How he wished to go”: priest dies while celebrating mass

From the AP in Florida:

A Catholic priest reportedly died during morning Mass at a church near Tampa.
The website for the St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico says Monsignor John Scully died Friday while consecrating a holy ceremony. Scully had been a priest for 62 years.
A cause of death was not immediately released.

The church’s website says Scully was originally from the northeast but spent the majority of his time in the Tampa area ministering in a variety of areas.

The bishop of Tampa/St. Pete, Robert Lynch, had this to say on his blog:

Scully-John-Francis-Msgr-200x250.jpgI have just received word that Monsignor John Scully, a priest for sixty-two years of this diocese (and St. Augustine for twenty years prior to our formation) died this morning while concelebrating the morning Mass at St. Stephen’s parish in Valrico. The exact moment of his death occurred during the Institution prayers of the Mass or the “consecration” of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. It was precisely how he wished to go and would have scripted it had we any power over the time of our death. Monsignor Scully did so many things during his sixty-two years of priesthood, started parishes (St. Catherine’s, Largo and St. Michael’s, Clearwater (both named after his own mother and father) to name but two, schools and institutions…


..Suffice it to say for the moment, one had to have a stone heart not to appreciate his zeal, energy, and desire for souls. As our Diocesan Director for the Propagation of the Faith for many years, Monsignor Scully’s ministry took him to remote parts of the globe, baptizing and confirming, absolving and marrying. He gave his ministry not just to the people of the parishes to which he was assigned but to the world as well. As I digest the news, it is almost like a giant oak has fallen and a huge space has been revealed – one that will not be easy to fill, even though he has been retired for about ten years. When I would suggest to him that he had done enough, he would look at me as if I didn’t get it and tell me in effect, “heaven can wait.” It did until this morning and, John, rest there now in the peace you earned, reunited with your beloved mother, Catherine, and father, Michael and other members of your family. We are all a little better for knowing you.


UPDATE: The local Tampa newspaper has more reaction, and remembrances from those who knew him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

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posted October 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Touching story, but something very troubling:
“It did until this morning and, John, rest there now in the peace you earned.”
This is pure heresy. Salvation (heaven) can never be earned, it is a precious gift purchased with the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, period. If it could be earned, then Christ died for nothing, and the Crucifixion was not a Holy Sacrifice, but a murder.
This is not just a matter of pure theology. How many lapsed Catholics, or practicing ones for that matter, will doubt their salvation, or fail to devote attention to the things of God, because, in their own estimation, they do not measure up to this saintly priest? This is dangerous stuff.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at, but the catechism teaches that we do, indeed, “earn” our way into heaven, by the works we do here on earth, and the faith which we hold in our hearts:
The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul -a destiny which can be different for some and for others.591
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification592 or immediately,593-or immediate and everlasting damnation.594
At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.595
Dcn. G.

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posted October 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

“Heaven can never be earned…” You’re right, but we can earn banishment from Heaven. Our Salvation is assured if we cooperate with the grace given to us by God through Jesus Christ. If we don’t want to go to heaven, we won’t. So, I think you could say that someone earned heaven and be correct.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ” James 2:14

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Mark from PA

posted October 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm

What a wonderful priest. May he rest in peace with our resurrected Lord.

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Vince Brandolini

posted October 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Ben, I understand your point… but a poor analogy if I may. A father promises a child a trip to Disneyland if he gets good grades. He does. Did the kid ‘earn’ the trip in this sense: Is the father now indebted to his kid because he did something for his Dad and justice demands he be repaid? Of course not. The kid is obligated to do his best in school, whether his Dad rewards him or not.
But this doesn’t change the fact that the only reason the child goes to Disneyworld is that he did what his Dad asked of him, and Father always keeps his promises.
The good and faithful servant can not put his Master in debt. His Master does that Himself when he binds Himself with His own promise.

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posted October 24, 2010 at 2:12 am

Heaven can’t be earned. Salvation is a free gift. What we do with the gift of salvation earns our position in Heaven. Christ died not only to redeem us, but to show us how to love. How many people have you loved into the Kingdom of God?

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posted October 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I guess I’m re-arguing the Reformation here, and there probably not much point in that. No use causing division. Obedience to Christ and the good works we were predestined to are the fruit of the true Christian life. Just let no one think they get into Heaven on their own merit is basically what I was saying. Case in point: my late aunt, nominally Catholic, who, when I asked her why she thought she was going to heaven, said, “because I’m basically a good person.” Fortunately (I hope), I was able to explain the Scriptures to her on that point before she died. But I have even had some people add to that “basically good” rationale stuff like, “it’s not like I murdered anybody.”

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posted October 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Perhaps instead of saying “earned” the Bishop could have have said “deserved”. Of course, only God knows what we deserve in the end.

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posted October 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
This did bring up a question in my mind, and I’m not sure what the procedure was in this case. From the Q & A:

A particular case is when the subject of the medical emergency is the priest himself. If a priest is unable to continue celebrating a Mass due to a sudden illness, then another priest may continue the Mass from the interruption point. This includes the case in which a priest only managed to consecrate the species of bread; the replacement priest continues the Mass from the consecration of the chalice.

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posted October 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I think you misunderstood the Bishop’s point, it was the “rest” (from his work) he earned, not heaven.
And God bless his soul.

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posted October 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

what about ephesians 2:4-10? Paul states clearly that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, it is not our own doing, our own work. catholics are good pelagians, we think that we are saved by being good and keep the 10 cc; so much for our evangelization

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Roberto M.

posted October 25, 2010 at 11:57 am

For Benevolus: read the Epistle of James, specifically 2:14 to 2:26.

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posted October 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Requiescat in pace.

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Your Namechristopher

posted October 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm

i recommend to Plavo to not keep the ten commandments
and to not practice charity and then see if GOD’S graces
will fall upon him.

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posted October 25, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Plavo is the kind of evangelicals I work with. They are the ONLY ones who know how to read and interpret the Bible. Most of them are birth control using biblical Neanderthals.

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posted October 26, 2010 at 12:51 am

To Plavo,
You said, “catholics are good pelagians”…for your info catholics are not because we also believe that we can’t earn salvation but only the Blood of Jesus Christ alone however with the grace of faith (free of charge) that we MUST have cooperate in order to be save.
According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3, ” NO ONE can say “Jesus is LORD” except by the Holy Spirit.” (MEANING: they are Christians, so they must have had faith-comments below).
Matthew 7:21: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
How much more plainer can it be? Talk is cheap. Put your action where you faith is, then you can be called sons and daughters of God (Romans 2:13, James 1:22-25, 1 John 3:18,23).
Mr. Plavo you have to clearly differentiate between these:
1.) “Works done before faith/legal debt of works” (Rom 4:4,Gal. 2:16, Gal 3:8; Rom. 1:17, Rom. 3:22, Rom 3:28) AND…
2.) “Works done IN faith through love” that CONTRIBUTE to our Salvation as mentioned by the Bible in : (Matthew 16:27; 2 Cor 5:10; Romans 2:13; Rom 13:8 -10;Hebrews 12:14; Lk. 13:24; Heb. 4:11; 1 Cor 15:58 ;Heb 6:10, Col 3:23-24;Luke 10:27-29;Luke 6:46-49;Matthew 7:18-20;Rev 20:12; Matthew 16:27;Matthew 21:28-31;Matthew 25:44-46;Matthew 7:21;James 2:15-24;James 5:20;Matthew 19:21-23; Gal 6:7; Rev 2:23)

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Glenn Dallaire

posted October 26, 2010 at 3:17 am

This story reminds me of St Charbel Makhlouf who while at the Elevation of the Host during Mass suffered an apoplectic stroke from which he later died on Christmas Eve, 1898. His confreres literally had to pry the eucharist from his hand. Not surprisingly, he was known for his extraordinary devotion to the Eucharist. After a miraculous light appeared for 45 consecutive nights over his tomb, the ecclesiastical authorities gave the superior of the monastery permission to exhume his holy remains, which were found to be completely incorrupt, and they remained so for 67 years until his beautification in 1965.
The Miracles of the website has a nice article about him.
-Glenn Dallaire

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A.A. Cunningham

posted October 26, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Obviously your evangelization has been highly subjective. Perhaps no one has ever read you the following whilst picking and choosing from Scripture. One must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.” Philippians 2:`12
“For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” St. Jerome

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