In Memory of John Vennari
by Christopher A. Ferrara
April 6, 2017
Back in the 1980s, as my wife Wendy and I were beginning our journey in the Faith together, there would arrive from time to time a newsletter in our mailbox called “Crying in the Wilderness” from a place called Holy Family Monastery in Berlin, NJ. Authored by a “Brother John,” it was a little marvel of clarity and persuasiveness in its presentation and defense of Catholic Tradition in the midst of the tempest-tossed Church of the imaginary post-conciliar “renewal.” That newsletter was my first encounter with Joseph John Vennari, who would, some ten years later, become a beloved friend as well as a colleague in the traditionalist movement which, by then, I had joined.
John was a born teacher of the Faith, whose love for the truth was matched by that wholesome love of life that sets the believing Catholic apart from those who merely languish in what T.S. Eliot called “the sty of contentment.” He exemplified that simplicity of faith Our Lord enjoins upon us, and God richly rewarded him for it: a wonderful, devoted wife and three extraordinary children who adored him.
John knew that the Faith is true, every bit of it, and he embraced the gift of faith joyously and tenaciously as his most precious possession. Because of his faith, John was as happy and fulfilled as a man can be in this vale of tears. God had given him all that he needed, and though he came late to the married state, it was obvious that he and his family had been the beneficiaries of singular blessings.
I have never known a more vibrant personality than John. And it is only natural to wonder why a man so full of faith and life would be called from this world so soon and so suddenly, leaving behind a family to which he could not have been more devoted. But even in death, John was a teacher, who wished us to know (as he told Michael Matt) that “either we believe in Divine Providence or we don’t. I believe in it, and I know that God has known for all eternity that I would be here in this hospital today, ready to die.”
We Catholics accept the revealed truth that “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Not so easy to accept, however, is the reality that our own deaths will put an end to all our plans and expectations at the precise moment that God has ordained from all eternity.
Very soon we will all go the way of my dear friend, John Vennari. May God grant that we end our days with the grace and resignation to the divine will that this exemplary man exhibited as he bore witness to the power of faith to overcome the world. John died having received every assurance the Church can give that eternal happiness will be his. This is the final lesson that John courageously imparted to us all: a lesson on how to die like a Christian.
Surely we can be confident that John will enter into the light of eternal glory, and that he will be interceding for all those he knew and loved in this passing life.