One of the main tenets of the so-called “American Dream” is that a person can achieve “the perfect life” if they are goal-oriented, hard-working, affable, and have a positive attitude. The Servant of God Frank Parater, whose feast day is today, was a person who seemed to embody those “All-American” qualities. He was patriotic, an active parish and civic volunteer, a talented public speaker, an avid book-lover and writer, and valedictorian of his grammar school, high school, and undergraduate college. When he entered the Boy Scouts, he was initially awkward and gangly, but through hard work and virtue, he became one of the very first Eagle Scouts in this country. In fact, he was the youngest person to be named the director of the Boy Scout Camp. Indeed, Frank was a true athlete and outdoorsman. After many long hours of study, Frank was ultimately accepted to the Pontifical North American College….which is, for seminarians, the equivalent of receiving a Rhodes Scholarship. In virtually all his endeavors, Frank was extremely popular and well-liked.
Most of us have probably encountered such high-achieving people in our lives- the hard-working kids in school who always break the curve, are extracurricular all-stars, and get into top colleges. The people who embody “The American Dream.” Nonetheless, our mainstream culture asserts that in order to perfectly achieve “The American Dream,” we need to direct our virtue, hard-work, and optimism towards worldly success. Unless a high-achiever has a prominent career and a fantastic salary, our culture holds that his or her hard work has been in vain.
Indeed, Frank’s digression from these worldly ideals is part of the reason why we should admire him. Frank believed that being “perfect” should be our goal, but he had a different definition of perfection- a perfection that could only be achieved with God’s grace. To that end, Frank placed serving God above everything else in his life. This “Rule of Life” that Frank drew up for himself in is a testament to his true priorities- it included daily Mass and Holy Communion, praying the rosary and Memorare daily, weekly confession, reading a chapter of Scripture daily, and living with the abiding conviction that "the Sacred Heart never fails those that love Him." The following is an excerpt from his journals where he explains part of his Christ-centered philosophy:
Be a man and then you'll be a good priest. Don't be petty; be large minded. Don't be a bluffer; no man can keep from having his bluff called. Don't boast; an egotist is the worst boast; cultivate humility. 'Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart.' Be frank, but not critical. A word of praise does more good than a sermon on fault finding. Be gentle - 'a gentleman never inflicts pain.' Love the poor…Remember all mean are humans and let your charity be unbounded: but be strict with yourself (not scrupulous) remembering that some day God will judge every action of your life as a merciful Judge. The sunny smile with hearty handshake is the foundation stone of a successful life. (Rule, 1918)
The way that Frank placed God and following His will as the ultimate objective of his life- and ultimately, his death- is truly an inspiration for me. Like Frank, I have been a high-achieving person for all of my life. Unfortunately, I often mix up my priorities and think that my personal and academic achievements will only have significance if I am successful in a worldly sense. In turn, I become very discouraged and negative when I hit a roadblock and don’t see the material results of my hard work and past achievements- I even question whether I am truly following God when things don’t turn out the way I had hoped. Frank too hit a major roadblock when his lifelong effort to become a priest was interrupted by a fatal illness. However, instead of falling into despair and sadness, Frank knew that his suffering could also be a powerful way to love God. This sense of hope and redemption is expressed in a letter that he wrote to his mother:
Pray hard for your boy. The path God has destined me to walk glistens before me like the shimmering path of moonbeams on the water. But how many pitfalls, briars, and thorns have been hidden along that way. Beg God to give me the grace of one thing - 'to do His will perfectly.' That alone is enough. However hard the cross may be, however rough the way, I know it is God's will and I shall have grace to persevere until the end. 'Thy Will be done,' beg the Cor Jesu to give me the grace to make it my motto, the standard of my life. And then whether I die within the year or live to a ripe old age, I shall die happily and willingly, praising the Lord.
Frank’s faith-based perspective of “success” is something I plan to really work on in the upcoming Lenten season. Although they lived in different cultures and time, Frank Parater falls in line with some of my other favorite Saints and holy people- Saint Clare, Saint Francis, and Pope John Paul II. All of the aforementioned people were high-achievers and could have achieved worldly success if they wanted to. Instead, they dedicated their gifts and talents to God and the Church and were consequently “high achievers” in terms of holiness!
On a final note, Frank Parater is an extremely powerful intercessor. Just last week, he granted a very big favor in response to something to which my family and I had been praying. Please, don’t be afraid to ask Frank Parater to intercede on your behalf- I’m sure that he’s always happy to listen to your prayers.
Happy feast day, Frank! I love you!