Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner: Sanctifying the Intellect

On June 8th and 9th of this year, Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, FI, will have his lifetime of theological work honored by a large number of scholars in a symposium, entitled:  Sursum ActioSymposium in Honor of Peter Damian Mary Fehlner, FI.  The event will be conducted at Notre Dame University.  Please click here for more information about the speakers and venue.

Father Peter is a native of Dolgeville, New York. He was ordained in Rome in 1957, and received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Seraphicum in Rome in 1959. For over 40 years he has taught dogmatic theology in various seminaries and university faculties. He has written and lectured extensively, especially on things Marian and Franciscan, in North America and Europe; for five years, he was editor of the magazine Miles Immaculatae founded by Saint Maximilian Kolbe and has been featured on EWTN. He was a past member of the general council of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and was the first rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin where he continues to reside and work.

Most recently Fr. Peter has been accorded the prestigious Cardinal John J. Wright Award of the Mariological Society of America for his outstanding contributions to Mariology.  Past honorees include, Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., William G. Most, Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., and Luigi Gambero.

At the symposium, I will be reading a minor paper entitled: “‘In the Counsels of the Immaculate’: Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner’s Contribution to the Renewal of Franciscan Immaculatism.”

In 1985, when I was investigating the possibility of joining our observance of the Franciscan Conventual tradition (in the light of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Marian consecration), I was given a copy of one of his essays on the contribution of St. Maximilian to the Franciscan tradition and its relation to St. Francis: “Mary in the Franciscan Tradition: ‘The Virgin Made Church.'” That essay and a meeting with him in Rome right before I visited our mother house were determinative for me.  I have always remembered this satement of his:

It is not so much a question of what place Mary has in our lives, as what place we occupy in hers that is the starting point of any discussion. Only when the correct starting point from which to begin any study of the distinctive relations between Mary and our Order has clearly been identified, do we find ourselves in a position to assess the claims and implications of the Militia Movement within the Order.

At the time when our particular observance was in question, Fr. Peter provided the intellectual defense and the Franciscan-Marian metaphysics for St. Maximilian’s establishment of the City of the Immaculate, and the reason why this contribution to the Order was a true and permanently valid gift from the Immaculate.  Fr. Peter’s own personal commitment to this ideal has been an inspiration for many of us.

I can never be grateful enough to Fr. Peter, who through the years has been a source of inspiration, strength and enlightenment to me to persevere in this Franciscan vocation.  I know he has influenced and inspired many other friars, priests, religious and laypeople.  I am very thankful that the importance of his work is being acknowledged in this way.  Hopefully, it will inspire others to learn from this great Marian scholar.


10 thoughts on “Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner: Sanctifying the Intellect

  1. Ave Maria!

    Congratulations Father Peter! May you continue to inspire generations to come, through our Immaculate Mother and her most Precious Son.

  2. Congratulations to Fr. Fehlner, a great Mariologist and Franciscan scholar, who has richly deserved the Cardinal John J. Wright Award by the Mariological Society of America. I remain indebted to Fr. Fehlner for his scholarly assistance in providing translations of various works of St.Thomas Aquinas, and other Dominican and Franciscan writers who treated doctrinal issues between the Catholic Church and separated Eastern Christians that were incorporated in my books on the Byzantine Greek Schism.

  3. “It is not so much a question of what place Mary has in our lives, as what place we occupy in hers that is the starting point of any discussion.”

    Father Angelo, could you give a simple explanation on Father Peter’s statement; particularly the tail end of it?
    Is he referring to individuals Consecration themselves to Her? Or is there a deeper meaning in his statement?

    My heartfelt thanks to the Franciscan s of the Immaculate for introducing me to the Immaculate Conception. 🙂


      • Hmmm….so it is about consecrating oneself to the Immaculate (Marian Vow)? Total abandonment? Trustful surrender? Following the movements of the Holy Spirit (our Lady’s Spouse) from within to know Her plan?

        The very reason I joined the Franciscans of the Immaculate many years ago.

        Thank you, Father. (Totally missed the true meaning of Father Peter’s message yesterday by focusing on the first sentence.)


  4. “It is not so much a question of what place Mary has in our lives, as what place we occupy in hers that is the starting point of any discussion.”

    Yesterday I copied/pasted only a fragment of Father Peter’s statement; a declaration that was clearly intended for members of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. I was focusing on just the first sentence, because it seemed to me to apply to all men and women. At first the sentence made little sense….(because I did take the entire insert out of context).

    I had been tossing this sentence around in my head….’turned it inside out’ as they say. “There had to be more to the mother/child relationship….”. Then my special needs son gave me my answer during one of his seizures……it then dawned on me…..

    A mother’s love is by its nature sacrificial. We mothers love (should be loving) to the martyrdom of our hearts! No child’s love for his/her mother could ever compare, in the same way that our love for the Immaculate can never compare to the love She has for us, Her children.

    I realize that my ‘revelation’ has nothing to do with what Father Peter was saying to the members of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, but if we truly understood all that our Heavenly Mother does for love of us we would all desire joining Her militia!!! 🙂

    Mother’s Day is only weeks away….love our Lady and make Her loved! (St. Pio)

    God bless!

    Ave Maria!

  5. So happy that Fr. Peter is being honored for his Mariological teaching. I know that our family – especially myself and my husband – have been truly honored to know Fr. Peter and have benefited greatly from his formation during his time at Our Lady of Guadalupe Friary in CT – even from the early days when he was at the temporary friary in Baltic, CT. Fr. Peter always took time to thoroughly answer our questions in our earliest days of formation, expounding on ideals mentioned in his homilies or talks and drawing us closer to Our Lady.

    On top of his great scholarly wisdom, he exemplifies many of the virtues of Our Lady…especially Her profound humility. He often comes to my mind when St. Maximilian’s ideal of “Transubstantiation into the Immaculate” is considered…He is a beautiful example of the Marian principles he teaches! Congratulations, Father Peter! May God grant you many more years of loving witness to the Immaculate!

  6. Thank-you, Fr. Angelo for bringing this wonderful news to us. Certainly Fr. Peter’s wisdom and sound intellect has helped many stay on the right path in living out one’s discipleship to Christ with Our Lady as our exemplar.

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