Fr. Peter Carota would be the first to gently correct me for canonizing him, for he could preach the saints’ descriptions of the terrible moment of judgment (double for priests) as well as the subsequent pains of purgatory for most of the elect.
Thus, I don’t want to answer to God for diverting any of his readers from the supreme spiritual work of mercy, namely, praying for the faithful departed.
But Fr. Carota was just that: faithful. So, for the upbuilding of the Church, I must describe more of this man to you. Many of you knew him to be an intractable champion of orthodoxy and tradition, but I want to highlight some lesser-known virtues of this priest of God who brought truth and light during a time of darkness.
First, Fr. Carota wasn’t just a “champion of the right,” or a “mighty whitey” priest of traditionalism. When I first walked into his low Mass on a hot weekday in a poor segment of Phoenix, I could not believe my eyes: I saw from 50 to 100 Mexicans listening to him preach in Spanish. This was a Thursday afternoon, not a Sunday morning! Many priests today talk about social justice, but still want the finest parish. Fr. Carota spent his very last years bringing the fullness of Jesus Christ and His Church to the poor by day, and you readers by night. The Mexicans (with or without papers) responded in droves to his charity and his truth.
Fr. Carota was unafraid to point out that bad leadership in the Church would lose many souls, but he never doubted the very words of the living Son of God: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.”—Matthew 16:18. He loved the Church. He believed in Her. I personally believe he died for Her, perhaps to pave a smoother path for younger, more arrogant traditional priests like myself—that we may begin to live not only truth—but holiness and humbleness and love.
You see, I met Fr. Carota two years ago when we were both wandering the desert in semi-exile from our respective dioceses (literally the Sedona desert, as seen in the above picture.) That very day I took the above picture, he convinced me of the power of forgiveness. Oh yes, many people had told me in one cerebral way or another that I needed to forgive the priests that had rejected me. But Fr. Carota quickly gained a two-fold authority in my life:
1) He had been hurt by brother priests in similar circumstances but the difference is that he had actually forgiven them. So, when he told me that I must forgive, it was not an academic exercise. He had lived it.
2) He did not abandon me when others did, so it cost him something to walk the heat of the Black Canyon, helping a younger brother priest who was spiritually starving.
So, for me, Fr. Carota’s authority was not his website, but the weight of charity and priestly-loyalty. In some sense, Fr. Carota saved my priesthood in the desert when others left me to silently wander. I hope I do not write for his website to be harsh about tradition. One reason I write for his website is because truth and charity have met in Fr. Peter Carota. He walked the desert with only the manna from heaven. May he now enjoy the Promised Land, where Christ has promised to wipe away every tear (Apocalypse 21:4.)
It was a Thursday morning this year, 26 May 2016, when I last texted Fr. Carota that I had offered my Corpus Christ Mass for him. Five hours later he texted me: “I love you.” At first, I thought this was the delirium of his bodily demise. Of course, with all the scandals these days, perhaps I shouldn’t even share that text with you, but I realized that “to the pure, all things are pure,” (Titus 1:15). The reason I include that text in this post is because it was the last text I ever got from Fr. Carota. “I love you” was a fitting last text from the very priest who may have saved my priesthood. Truth and charity met in this man who also showed thousands of his readers how to live non-compromise to God, but compromise to our daily human wills when faced with the option of sacrificial, fraternal love.
There is no flowery terminology to say this next sentence: Fr. Peter Carota starved to death today. This past year, I would frequently check in with him, and it was always the same story without any complaint: He could not eat. His body simply could not assimilate food. The saints often live a redemptive suffering that is reflective of the century in which they live and die. Did he die “with” the 3 million children who starve to death every year in the world? Or was his physical starvation a reflection and reparation for the spiritual starvation of Catholics and non-Christians across the globe? I don’t know. Perhaps it was a just a long, painful death in reparation for his own sins. This is why the Mass I offer in honor of Our Lady tomorrow will be for the repose of the soul of Fr. Peter Carota, and I ask you to join your prayers to mine. I will lift up all your prayers on the patten of the offertory tomorrow.
But if comparison to the lives of the saints means anything, then this priest of God finished the course; he kept the faith and he died on a Friday like His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the only high priest. May He rest in Mary’s arms the next day, a Saturday of Our Lady whom he loved as purely as any man I’ve met.
—Fr. David Nix