In Tribute to Our Priestly Liturgical Scholars: Fr. William Ashley, STL of Canada

Photos by OC-Travel
One of the finest priests I know is Fr. Bill Ashley of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.  He is a noble son of the Church, born in the city named for the greatest of prophets (cf. Luke 7:28), St. John the Baptist, St. John's Newfoundland, the easternmost outpost of the North American continent.  From the time of his ordination in St. Peter's Basilica in 1977, Fr. Ashley has spent a lifetime promoting good liturgy and the precious patrimony of the Roman Rite both in the Dominion of Canada and the United States.  For years he was my pastor in Canada and I can attest he is one of the finest liturgical scholars I have had the privilege to know.  He is the son of the late Dr. John Ashley, distinguished professor and Latinist from St. John's Newfoundland (who for years was on the National Committee of the Catholic Social Life Conference).  Fr. Ashley learned his Latin from his father who was a gifted linguist and classicist who made sure his four children learned their Latin (Fr. Ashley's brother, a retired lawyer, is seen in the above photo serving his Mass).  

Fr. Ashely received his liturgical formation at the Metropolitan Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Newfoundland.  In those years when he grew up there in the 1950's the community was fortunate to experience a golden age of solemn liturgy with spectacular music and multiple choirs including two Vespers choirs.  There his family would walk to church every Sunday to attend Solemn High Mass and then return every afternoon for Vespers.  His academic formation was at the distinguished Angelicum in Rome, where Archbishop James Carney sent him to study.  There he graduated with honors with a licentiate in the faculty of theology, with a dissertation written under the great Fr. Alfred Wilder, OP (a Catholic convert and graduate of Harvard).  Fr. Ashley, while studying in Rome was privileged to attend Solemn Vespers every Sunday at St. Peter's Basilica.  By God's grace he was ordained in the Chapel of the Choir in the Vatican Basilica by Canadian Cardinal Gagnon, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (a great prelate from Quebec, one of thirteen children).  In 2014 he was knighted by the Magnus Magister of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.    

The presence of Fr. Ashley in Vancouver has been an immense benefit, especially to young priests and young families interested in the EF.  It can also be said few priests have done more to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life while also promoting the vocation of marriage.  Fr. Ashley celebrated the wedding ceremony in 1998 of the great liturgical scholar, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.  Fr. Ashley has also made many converts over the years.  A gifted preacher, he is known for his long sermons, a hallmark that gives the faithful a chance to be immersed in the dogmas of the Faith and conciliar documents, with a perfect dose of the lives of the saints.  Fr. Ashley has a loyal following and I am proud to count myself as one of his biggest fans.  Listening to his sermons and reading his bulletins has proven an immense benefit to my personal formation as I have acquired more teachings and information in the arena of liturgical praxis.  The theory, lesson and skill of sacred liturgy has always been carried out by him with the greatest care and attention to detail, always in complete fidelity to the latest directives of the Apostolic See.  And to top it all off God has blessed him with a jovial spirit and a voice so sublime he could easily have his own radio show.  

Let us hope and pray more priests will be inspired to take up the study of sacred liturgy with all seriousness and eagerness.  In 2018 Fr. Ashely inaugurated an annual Sacred Music Symposium in British Columbia, a lasting legacy in Canada.  I want to thank Fr. Ashley publicly for being faithful to the sacred liturgy as the Church in her wisdom has given it to us.  Every loyal priest who does his job deserves our sincere praise and gratitude for fidelity to the exactness of the coherent whole of the Roman Rite, something so crucial to Catholic identity and priestly spirituality.  Thank you, Fr. Ashley!  You are sorely missed in Aldergrove.  Those were great days, indeed.  I will always remember the honor of serving your Low Mass in the historic Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia just before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 2016.  

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