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Brother Joseph's Dream
Faith

The Crossroads at 23rd Street

 

"For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)

 

Errors can be corrected and trends reversed if only our faith and determination does not fail us in our earnest quest for the truth.

Brother Joseph Natale’s Dream:
A Refuge ... “The City of God”

For the good make use of this world in order to enjoy God, whereas the evil want to make use of God in order to enjoy the world.” - Augustine of Hippo, City of God

Joseph A. Natale (1933-1995) was born into a working-class family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1933, but contracted tuberculosis of the bone at age four; which forced him to spend most of the next seventeen years of his life shuttling in and out of hospitals. In 1960, after a brief stint in the private import business, he entered the Saint Vincent Archabbey (Benedictine) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as a lay postulate, but left less than a year later to lay the groundwork for what was to become, years later, the Most Holy Family Monastery (MHFM).

Note: the archivist (Fr. Brian Boosel, OSB) of the Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, is on record as indicating that brother Joseph left the Archabbey before taking his final vows and thus never actually became a Benedictine monk. But, never mind …

Then Abbot Primate Notker Wolf OSB of the Benedictine Confederation of Congregations, in Rome, made it clear that the Confederation cannot forbid anyone to call themselves "Benedictine“, even if they are not a member of the Benedictine Confederation, just so long as the person claims / swears to be following and adhering to "the Rule" of St. Benedict.

In short, though Brother Joseph was un-professed, un-ordained to the priesthood, and without official authorization / recognition from a Benedictine Abbot to start his own congregation (which was customary), those facts didn’t stop Joseph from moving forward and establishing his “self-identified” Order of Saint Benedict.

Note: Of course, Joseph’s claim of being a valid Benedictine Superior is another matter altogether; as receiving “Holy Orders”, being a member of the priesthood, is explicitly a requirement; without exception.

Yet, even if Joseph had undergone / received all the ecclesiastical instructions required for ordination into the priesthood; the Catholic Church does not permit a “cripple”, a handicapped person to become a priest; which is one of the reasons, it is said, Joseph left the St Vincent Archabbey when he did.

With the help of Paul E. Wedekind, and Joseph J. Vennari, they worked together for the intended purpose of providing “traditional Catholics” with a sanctuary, a refuge at which they could come to, alone or with their families, and receive valid “pastoral care” (i.e. the Sacraments and proper ecclesiastic “instruction”).

Though 261 Cross Keys Road, Berlin, New Jersey was the initial address of Joseph’s sanctuary, the refuge, the monastery’s first home; it was not intended to be the “City of God” that he "dreamed" of creating. In 1994, Joseph was given 36 hectare / 90 acres of land in rural New York (Fillmore); which he imagined was to be the “promised land” and on which he would, through donations, build his “City of God” and move his traditional Catholic community.

From the monastery’s inception, in 1967, Joseph persevered; never losing sight of his mission’s goal; a mission that he claimed was given to him through a prophetic “dream”, a vision, from God; whom he claimed to have spoken directly with.

It took years for Joseph to "catch" that dream and create his ark, his sanctuary, his refuge; and through it all he never doubted once that he was “chosen”, by God, to be the monastery’s leader. Joseph truly believed himself to be called on to oversee the “last remnant Catholic Church” and provide for Christ's scattered flock.

Brother Joseph stated in his video:

"... So, we must take it upon ourselves to create a place of refuge, a place where we’ll be Catholic. Where people can come and learn their Faith, to develop in that Faith and have a place to go as a family, as a city of God, a refuge."

"... So as you see people looking, hunting for what they once had ... why should they be denied this? This is the way they want to worship. This is the way they’ve always worshipped. And they want to continue to worship in the same manner. That it was my responsibility also to give it to them, to hold them together, to preserve what they knew to be Catholic and their Faith. When you look into their eyes you saw them crying out. This is a matter of their salvation. And when you see people crying out at a matter of salvation, even by the law of the Church, we cannot turn our backs upon these people. When it’s put down as a matter of salvation we must do everything in our power to preserve the faith and their salvation."

"So, really you have no other course to take. You must bring about … bring the mass to them, give them the mass, give them the Sacraments and the teachings that go with it."

"This is a responsibility and we must uphold that responsibility. We cannot shun it and say “well, no you have to do this” and lose those souls. You cannot lose them. There is room in the Church, there should be room in the Church, as far as the Catholic faith is concerned, even after the changes came about, we cannot say, or the Bishops cannot say, “oh forget about those people”. So I couldn’t see possible, to go along with the trend and the changes, and deny those who were being denied their heritage."

"... The Church right now is fragmented. We must teach Catholics, traditionalist Catholics we may use that terminology, I’d rather use the word Roman Catholic. We must unite. We must, if we do no unite and come together and working for one goal and that goal is the Holy Mother Church, upon this rock I will build my Church, Peter. We must maintain that structure. We must uphold that structure no matter what the cost may be. We must uphold the structure of the Papacy. And we must try to unite the Church not fragment it."

"Now this might sound strange, to some people that I know, we must maintain ourselves within the framework of that Church. And fight with whatever tools the Church allows us to fight with. I’d like to say as far as our day is concerned, as you just said, the darkness that we are in is not coincidence. It’s diabolical. The seed of Satan has been sowed."

Joseph understood the seriousness of the fundamental problems left in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965); as a vast number of the “faithful” refused, and rightly so, to take part in Novus Ordo rites promulgated by the papacy. Christ’s flock began to scatter and, as a result, they “fled” from the Church; feeling disenfranchised due to the magisterium’s “break from tradition” and its adoption of heretical “modernist” positions.

Joseph’s Most Holy Family Monastery, his refuge / sanctuary for traditional Catholics, in Berlin, New Jersey, sponsored annual conferences, monthly retreats and provided for its parishioners a Tridentine Mass on Sundays; which drew in on average between two and three hundred people. Needless to say, the monastery flourished, gaining support and notoriety; though there were those that proclaimed that the monastery was rapidly becoming a beachhead for right-wing extremism.

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, Brother Joseph fervently denounced both the Second Vatican Council and the new Mass, and by the mid-seventies his community had broken off entirely from the institutional Church to become, some say, the first independent traditionalist Order of Saint Benedict in America.

Over the subsequent years that followed, a number of Church officials, including then bishop of the Camden, New Jersey, diocese, James T. McHugh, attempted to discuss the possibility of working out some sort of rapprochement, but Brother Joseph consistently refused to respond to their calls for discussion; as, in Joseph's opinion, there was nothing to discuss. We can speculate that, as far as Joseph was concerned ... one simply does not try an negotiate matters of dogma nor associate with manifest heretics.

Brother Joseph had proclaimed to a number of persons that he was chosen to be a witness to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But, the reality of that claim proved inaccurate and/or was simply not meant to be. Joseph was having health issues and was undergoing “Chelation Therapy” in an effort to clean toxins from his bloodstream when he died suddenly on November 11, 1995.

As John Vennari had abandoned Joseph and the monastery in 1994 to follow after Father Nicholas Gruner; there was no one officially in line to take charge and carry on with the work of the MHFM.

As there were only two or three lay brothers left, residing at the monastery in Berlin, NJ, a decision had to be taken as to who would take charge of the monastery. If not ... the MHFM was doomed to disappear along with Brother Joseph. From out of the ranks Frederick “Michael” Dimond (Brother Michael), 22 years old, stepped forward, shortly after Joseph Natale’s death; and though the “how” and the “why” of what transpired is not clear and never has been explained, this un-professed, and un-ordained lay brother proclaimed himself to be the monastery’s new Superior.

Without a doubt, Brother Michael did what he truly believed was necessary and in the best interest of the Berlin, NJ, monastery. For the next year he fervently tried to carry on the work of Brother Joseph; organizing the annual conference, monthly retreats and providing their congregation / parishioners with the Tridentine Mass on Sundays, just as Joseph had done.

But, Brother Michael was not at all a “Joseph Natale”. He didn’t have the same prophetic “visions” nor did he claim to have; and thus he naively overrode a standing order of Joseph which denied, refused Richard Ibrayni from presenting his controversial “Second Coming of Christ” sermon to the community’s parishioners.

Brother Joseph was far more prophetic than he’d imagined. He was absolutely, correct … “the seeds of Satan have been sown” … even within his own monastery.

The parishioners upon hearing the Richard Ibrayni’s controversial and explosive sermon on “The Second Coming of Christ” were shocked and did not like it at all. They, afterwards, grouped together and complained directly to Father Ashley demanding that he place a lawsuit down against them (MHFM) and try and take the monastery away from Brother Michael; which Father William Ashley did.

Father Ashley’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of his parishioners, accused Brother Michael and the MHFM of perpetuating fraud against the parish in an attempt to, for lack of a better word, “steal’ their money, their donations. He claimed that the MHFM had coerced the congregation into believing that the Berlin, NJ, Benedictine monastery was in communion with the Roman Catholic Church; which is why they had willingly donated to the monastery; but in reality, Richard’s sermon made it clear that the MHFM was definitely NOT in communion with the current Church in Rome.

Father Ashley, through the courts, managed to “freeze” all of the MHFM’s bank accounts, denying Brother Michael access to the funds that were needed to run the monastery. Yet, unknown to Father Ashley, Brother Joseph had not placed all the monastery’s revenue into its bank accounts. At the time of the lawsuit there was, at minimum, 250,000+ dollars sitting upstairs at the monastery in a suitcase.

It was then that Brother Michael took the suitcase and informed the remaining residence of the Belin, New Jersey, monastery that they were all to leave with him to the Fillmore, New York, property; where the Most Holy Family Monastery is located today.

It has been rumored that Brother Michael had been able to close out one of the MHFM’s bank accounts immediately after Joseph’s death; and, if true, then that undoubtedly added a “healthy” sum to the 250,000 dollars stashed away in the suitcase.

Brother Michael used those funds in order to retain a highly reputable law firm to represent himself and the MHFM. A tremendous amount of money was spent in the process; but to no avail.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon whose side you've chosen ... Father Ashley was victorious, winning the case, and Brother Michael lost the Berlin, NJ, monastery.

Yet, the biggest loser in all of this was Brother Joseph as his “dream” of creating a "City of God" on the 36 hectare in Fillmore, New York, died and was buried along with him.

20+ years have passed since Brother Michael lost Joseph’s Berlin, NJ, monastery; and as a result, he has willfully abandoned Joseph’s professed wishes of ensuring and providing a physical sanctuary, a physical refuge, a physical “City of God” for traditional Catholics to come to and receive “pastoral care”.

That bold betrayal has netted him far more than the 30 pieces of silver that Judas was offered. The MHFM today, in Fillmore, NY, is now a lucrative “business of religion” and, sadly, has little or nothing to do with the vision associated with Brother Joseph’s “dream”.


- Pax Tecum

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