OME INTERVIEWS are excellent while others are execrable. I’m happy to report that Jim Graves has posted an absolutely brilliant CWR interview—very well done.
Here are some excerpts:
Catholic World Report : You count among your friends Mother Angelica.
Bishop Gracida : Yes. In fact, if you read Raymond Arroyo’s biography on Mother Angelica, you’ll see that he refers to me as the “Savior of EWTN.” After her highly publicized dispute with Roger Cardinal Mahony, he led an effort to get the bishops to deny her the right to call EWTN a Catholic network. I was able to save EWTN by using parliamentary procedure and his resolution was voted down.
Catholic World Report : You have an interest in the North American martyrs.
Bishop Gracida : Yes, I was fascinated by them. I remember reading The Last of the Mohicans as a teenager, and developing a special interest in the Jesuit martyrs. Years later, when I entered the Benedictine monastery, I had to propose three names to my archabbot, one of which he’d pick to be my religious name for the rest of my life. The first I chose was the Jesuit martyr René Goupil (d. 1642). To my great pleasure, the name was approved.
Catholic World Report : You joined the largest Benedictine Abbey in the United States, the Monastery of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. What made you want to be a monk?
Bishop Gracida : I had attended the University of Houston after the war and earned a degree in architecture. I began working as an architect, but something kept gnawing in me as I asked myself: is this what I want to do with the rest of my life? One day, while I was looking out the window of my office, I saw a frail old woman pushing a grocery cart. I had the urge to help here, but because of my work situation, I was unable to. God used that incident to get me to consider joining the monastery. I had also heard a talk by a Benedictine monk that impressed me, so I decided to check it out.
St. Vincent’s was originally founded to help German immigrants, and when I arrived at the monastery in 1951, there were still a few German monks alive. During meals, some of our table reading was in German. When I entered the community, I found I loved the liturgy. I loved polyphony, I loved Gregorian chant. I loved the Benedictine way of life, the prayer life and the intellectual life. There was lots of studying and reading. I began teaching religion to freshmen at the community’s St. Vincent College. I’d still be there, if the archabbot hadn’t forced me out.
Bishop Gracida : Yes. I had been serving in the Diocese of Miami a few years, and Bishop Coleman Carroll, the ordinary, told me to get a passport, so I could accompany him to Rome. We went for the coronation of Pope Paul VI. I was stunned to have been singled out for this honor. I found Paul VI to be a gentle, humble man who really took a personal interest in you. He made me an auxiliary bishop after I returned home.
In 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, heard about a program with which I was involved with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He invited me to come to Poland to speak to him about it. I went to Krakow, but our visit was cut short when Pope John Paul I died unexpectedly. He had to go to Rome for the conclave that elected him pope. In the time we did have together, he was fascinated that I was an airman during World War II. He asked me hundreds of questions. We became friends. I have a cherished place for him in my heart.
Please go read the FULL INTERVIEW.
Samples of Bishop Gracida’s book are HERE.