Father Lucian Astuto, RIP
The Priestly Fraternity mourns the passing of Father Lucian Astuto, who taught for many years at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary.
Father was long devoted to the cause of Tradition and the Traditional Latin Mass. When Pope St. John Paul II issued the document Quattuor Abhinc Annos in 1984, Father petitioned to offer the Mass at his parish of St. Patrick’s in Omaha. The petition was granted, and once begun, Mass was well attended.
In 1988, after the Holy Father issued the document Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, the Mass gained in popularity even more. By 1994, Fr. Astuto believed he needed assistance in tending to the community, and petitioned the Archbishop for an assistant from the Fraternity.
Fr. Karl Pikus, FSSP, was the first priest assigned to assist in Omaha.
After Fr. Astuto retired in 2001, Fr. James Jackson, FSSP, requested permission for Father to teach at Our Lady of Guadalupe, and in 2002 Fr. Astuto began to oversee the Deacon Practicum for seminarians in their final year of formation. Thereafter he taught the Practicum until the fall of 2013, when the distance from Omaha to Denton became difficult, and he then resigned with much regret. Even after his second retirement, Father was able to visit the seminary periodically.
Father Astuto was given Last Rites on April 12, 2016, by Fr. John Brancich, FSSP, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Omaha, and passed to his eternal reward soon after. On April 16, 2016, his funeral Mass was conducted at St. Cecilia’s Cathedral in Omaha, celebrated by three bishops and attended by hundreds of lay faithful and brother priests.
Father Astuto was a beloved man and respected by all who knew him in the Fraternity. In your kindness, please keep him, and all the souls of the faithful departed priests, in your prayers. What follows is the sermon given by Father Brancich for his funeral, with pictures of Father Astuto’s farewell dinner in 2013 and images from the Solemn Requiem Mass offered for the repose of his soul, in the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary.
Saturday, April 16, 2016. St. Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska
Your Excellencys, Archbishop Lucas, Archbishop Curtiss, Bishop Malone, Brother Priests, Reverend Deacons (and Seminarians), (Reverend Brothers), Reverend Sisters, Dear Family of Father Astuto, Father’s faithful friends and Dear Faithful in Christ.
Some thirteen years ago, I was a deacon sitting in a Pastoral Practices class taught by one Father Lucian Astuto. I, soon to be a priest beginning his work in a parish was being instructed by a priest who had recently retired from his. A priest with years of experience handing on the priestly craft to a man with none — but one eager to soak up the wisdom and lessons from one who had been in the trenches. There were many lessons learned. A few of Father’s lessons, in no particular order.
No Eulogies. The way he even pronounced the word “eulogy” with a long sigh and shake of the head afterward made it clear in our minds that this was something he certainly would not stand for at his own funeral. I intend to respect that lesson today!
Handle the Blessed Sacrament like you really believe It is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. If you want parishioners with a deep Faith, teach them by example. Always try to avoid handling the Blessed Sacrament “cold” that is, without preparing yourself with at least some prayer and washing your hands. Such a privilege a priest has to make Our Lord present on the altar at Mass, and then to feed his flock and bring nourishment to the sick and home-bound. Handle Him like the Infinite Majesty that He is.
Have great love for the sick and home-bound. When a call for a dying person comes in, there is nothing more important than to attend to that person. Unless you are saying Mass, drop whatever you are doing. You may be the difference between Heaven and Hell for that person!
Teach what Our Lord taught about Marriage: marriage is for life, it is between one man and one woman and requires an exclusive faithfulness between them. Who could have predicted just how confused even Catholics would become about these three basic truths a decade later?
Teach the children of your parish the Catholic Faith in a clear, unambiguous way faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church. Protect their innocence by teaching them to love Holy Purity, embrace modesty. Help them not just to accept but to understand and love the Truth about these beautiful and necessary virtues.
Teach your people to prepare for their own death. The Grace of a good death means that a person has Sanctifying Grace on his soul when God calls him home. It means that either the person has kept his soul in the State of Grace, or if he has lost it through Mortal Sin, he has a priest available at his death to absolve him in Confession and restore Sanctifying Grace to his soul. Sanctifying grace is what God will be looking for in us at the pearly gates: our ticket or passport or gate key if you will. It is this Grace of a Good Death that no one can merit or earn for himself. We are totally dependent on God’s mercy and goodness to grant us this Grace of a Good Death. So, it is something that your people should pray for every day.
It would seem that Fr. Astuto must have prayed for the Grace of a Good Death in his life time because he did seem to have it granted: he received all of the “Last Rites” of the Church: Absolution of his sins, Anointing with the Oil of the Sick, Holy Viaticum which is Holy Communion received for the last time as food for the journey to the next life, the Apostolic Pardon from the Pope through the priest. He was strengthened in his last agony with the beautiful Prayers for the Dying, the chanted Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Holy Rosary. And as the student prepared his teacher for death, it all seemed to come full circle. Except for one thing… In the Traditional Rite of Anointing a dying person, called Extreme Unction (which is another name for the Anointing of the Sick), the body is anointed in 11 places, including the palms of the hands. A priest, however, is not anointed on the palms but on the back of the hands, because his hands were anointed forever “according to the order of Melchezidek” at his Ordination. In my haste to give the Sacrament, or perhaps because 99% of the hands I have anointed have been those of laymen and not priests, I anointed my teacher’s palms. Even though his breathing was labored and his communication was limited at that point, I could almost sense him rolling his eyes up to Heaven and with that exasperated sigh saying: 11 years and he still doesn’t get it right.
Full circle, almost – but not quite. And that is why we are here in this Cathedral today, to take care of whatever part of Father’s circle wasn’t quite complete. The Archbishop offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for whatever unfinished business Father might have had: forgotten venial sins, imperfections, attachments, uncompleted sacrifices or penances. We, too, should help complete Father’s circle, through our prayers, having Masses offered, and making sacrifices for Father’s eternal rest. The teacher labored in the vineyard for us as priest of the Catholic Church … we are all his students in some sense. If there is any gap in Father’s circle, let us all work together to complete it for him.
May 10, 2016