Monday, December 18, 2017

Good soldiers caught in the middle: the story of a lay apostle

William C. Peffley, Jr. “Bill,” of Norristown, passed away on Tuesday, January 31, 2017...
The story of an apostolate and the decline and fall of American community life. Yesterday at my parish's monthly coffee hour in the undercroft I was reminded we have a praesidium (local ward) of the Legion of Mary, a lay devotional/pious-works society from 1920s Ireland, part of "Catholic Action." The lady at their info table and I (slightly) knew the Peffley family, fervent Legionaries who run "The Catholic Shop" in Montgomery County's now-decrepit seat, Norristown. (The King of Prussia Mall sucked the life out of that city, turning it into a ghetto.) I was last at the shop in 2011. She told me that patriarch Bill Peffley died about a year ago and the shop is being phased out, to continue online; for one thing, Norristown doesn't really have a Catholic community anymore.

In the '80s Bill and Mary Peffley were the kind of good Catholics who, disappointing to me, went along with the changes at Vatican II, but they did not compromise on our teachings. (Obedience and being laid back about nonessentials are good, and I had few role models for the latter, but liberal church folks, don't force your un-Catholic agenda on me, especially at my most vulnerable, trying to pray or even confess my sins. Follow our teachings and leave me alone, or join another religion. This is why I go to traditional services almost exclusively; it's not religious entertainment or an ego trip.) It's a big church with many callings: some are called to fight for the old ways, like the saintly Archbishop Lefebvre, with public displays of faith; others, like Opus Dei working low-profile, almost undercover, in the big, bad business and political worlds, do very different but equally good work. Good layfolk like the Peffleys and good parish priests like the late Msgr. James Murray who formed me in New Jersey, old soldiers for Christ, were caught in the middle, doing the best they thought they could. Traditional devotions were the only pre-Vatican II practices they were still allowed in church, frustrating to me because as I now understand, by themselves or mixed with services by liberals, they're a poor substitute for a traditional Mass and office.

Anyway, well done, good and faithful servant. There are legions of Bill Peffleys in heaven.