On December 7, 8, and 9, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio will lead an Advent Parish Mission at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Church. The mission’s general theme will be “entering more fully into the Advent mysteries with the liturgy,” and Father Fessio will “present and comment on what [he believes] is the most profound book on the Mass ever written: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy.”
The mission marks a rare public appearance for Fessio. Although he is widely quoted in print media and on television — especially when a faithful voice is needed when controversial religious questions arise — events such as his leading the Star Advent mission are unusual.
Father Fessio is best known as the founder and editor of Ignatius Press, widely recognized as the most important Catholic publisher in the English language, and as one of the most important in any language.
Born in Alameda, California in 1941, Fessio’s accomplishments are legendary. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1961 and was ordained in 1972. Prior to his ordination he earned a B.A. and an M.A. from Gonzaga, and an M.A in Theology. In 1975, he earned his doctorate in Theology from the University of Regensburg, West Germany. The subject was The Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and his thesis director was Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI.
In 1976, seeing the imperative to rescue and reanimate Catholic higher education, Fessio, with Father Cornelius Buckley, Professors John Galton, Raymond Dennehy, and others, founded the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. The Institute introduced USF students to classical education as guided by the Ratio Studiorum, a Jesuit document specifying the classics as the primary texts grounding liberal education and developing cultured persons. The difference between the St. Ignatius Institute and the larger, more liberal Jesuit institution was epitomized by the Institute staff’s eagerness to sign the mandatum specified by Ex Corde Ecclesia (From the Heart of the Church) and the refusal by the members of USF’s Department of Theology’s to do so. Since the mandatum was a pledge of fidelity to the teaching of the Church, the refusal amply justified Fessio’s perception of a rottenness in Catholic higher education.
In 1978 Father Fessio founded Ignatius Press with the objective of supporting the teachings of the Church. In addition to publishing works by Catholic authors from all ages, Ignatius took the lead in promoting the works of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI to the English speaking world. Ignatius Press also introduced the English speaking world to the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar, the “theologian of beauty.” In addition to all this, Father Fessio serves as the Chaplain of the Walk for Life West Coast, one of the two largest pro-life events in the country.
Never one to shy away from controversy, in 2014 Fessio published Remaining in the Truth of Christ–a collection of nine essays by Catholic Cardinals and other scholars . The book’s publication, on the eve of the Synod on the Family, did much to preempt the Synod’s hijacking by those intent on repudiating Jesus Christ’s definition of marriage. Fessio and Ignatius Press did not stop there: Remaining in the Truth of Christ was followed by the 2015 publication of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s God or Nothing. God or Nothing provided a timely introduction to the thinking and faith of the African Cardinal at the precise moment he was emerging as one of the most articulate apologists of Catholic teaching on faith and the family, as well as one of the most discerning prophets of the current battle in the Church between those following Christ and those succumbing to “the temptation to yield to the mentality of the secularized world and individualistic West.”
Father Fessio will lead the Star of the Sea Advent Mission on December 7, 8, & 9 at 7:30 PM. For more information, visit www.starparish.com
[update, December 2 9:15pm: the time the retreat begins has been changed to 7:30pm]