One year ago, I posted a column on our website about Servant of God, Francis J. Parater, an Eagle Scout, who died in 1919 while studying in Rome for the priesthood. I proposed him as a worthy candidate to one day be the patron saint for the Boy Scouts.
This morning, my co-worker, Russell LaPlume, handed me a prayer card for another Eagle Scout, eighteen-year-old Charles Anthony Francis Untz, who died on March 20, 2000, after being hit by a car as he was walking to work.
What you are about to read in this column is a brief account of a life that will leave you saying: “In this day and age? I can’t believe it.” This is how I felt after reading the story of another young man, from Italy, who died of leukemia a couple of years ago at the age of fifteen. Carlo Acutis, a popular youngster with a heart of gold, never missed daily Mass and Rosary from the time of his First Holy Communion. I wrote about him in our February/March Mancipia in 2008. You can also read about him here.
Charles Untz and Francis Parater lived a century apart, the former was from Minnesota, the latter, Virginia. Parater offered his life for the conversion of Virginia to the Catholic Faith. Carlo Acutis offered his life for the Church and the pope. Charles Untz offered his life to Mary, whom he called “My Lady.”
He was born to Steven and Ellen Untz on March 6, 1982 and baptized on April 25. He received his First Holy Communion on May 13, 1990, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. Soon after his First Communion, an eight-year-old Charles was allowed to become an altar boy at St. John Bosco parish in Stamford, Vermont. For the next five years Charles served the altar at that church, while also doing volunteer work mowing the lawns and shoveling snow for the pastor. When his family moved to North Adams, Massachusetts, the generous youngster continued serving Mass and helping out with the lands keeping of the parish church of St. Francis of Assisi. In 1996, the Untz family moved to Andover, Minnesota, where they continued giving their time and service to help out at Epiphany Church, which was about two miles from their small farm.
For all of these years Charles was home schooled by his mother who followed the very successful Seton Home School Study program. So far, you may be thinking, “Well, he is certainly a generous young man, and pious, but what’s so extraordinary about him that would make him stand out above other young men who love to serve Mass, and who are also generous souls?” I’ll introduce my answer to that question with a quote from what Charles wrote on his entrance application for college, after graduating from the Seton program: “I go to Eucharistic Adoration and Mass almost every morning before school. I think that this sets a better mood for the day.”
Charles Anthony Francis Untz was a very quiet young man, not shy, but quiet. He harbored a desire to become a Franciscan priest or brother, but he also had applied for college. There was a girl that he was close friends with, but that is as far as it went. He had actually counseled her in an email to recite the Divine Office daily, which he had done ever since he was eleven. He also gave her this advice concerning the things of this world: “Don’t let yourself get caught up in that never ending cycle. Keep in mind that Heaven is the ultimate goal of life, all other goals and things should be directed in attaining it.” His other friends thought highly of him, and being males, they did at times jibe him about his piety. Someone once heard a friend of his ask him if he ever committed a sin — and he wasn’t talking about a mortal sin. The question alone, even if in jest, tells a lot about Charles’ character.
I could not find out at what age Charles joined the Boy Scouts, but he did advance to the highest rank and he was also awarded with the Order of the Arrow. In attaining the rank of Eagle Scout in 1998, Charles penned these words for the “Ambition and Life Purpose” question: “My life purpose is to do the will of God. I feel he is leading me to become a priest or brother in the Franciscan order. My ambition in life is to become a saint. There is nothing harder to achieve than this, but I will continue to strive for it.”
When it came to farming, Charles had mastered all the skills of the entire operation, and he was good with his hands. And strong hands they were. His father had hung a thick mooring rope, which he had kept from a submarine stint in the Navy, from some beam, and Charles would climb the rope daily for exercise. His mother, who had studied to be a veterinarian, had taught him much about animals. Charles was especially adept at training and riding horses. But he had other skills as well, including carpentry, electronics, and computer technology.
Everyone that knew Charles, including priests who heard his confessions, remarked about his purity. He was always defensive in warding off any word of impropriety or disrespect concerning the opposite sex. Because he was pure, Charles could not help but be chivalrous. The Lady of his heart was the Mother of God. He had designed his own brown scapular with Mary’s holy name written on one of the pieces of cloth with twelve stars circled around it and “My Lady” written on the other.
Here we have a young man who three or four times a week (when he wasn’t working at his part time job) attended morning Mass and Eucharistic adoration, recited the hours of the Divine Office daily, prayed the Rosary daily, and also did all kinds of volunteer work at his parish. A particular project that Charles delighted in was organizing youth retreats. He loved to go on retreats and when he did he would spend the whole night in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. After one of these retreats some people noticed that the face of this young man of prayer seemed to be literally aglow.
Because of all of his work at Epiphany and other parishes Charles got to know many priests. In an article written by Mara Poole, one priest is quoted as saying, “I believe that Charles made me a better priest, because he took the priesthood so seriously. When you looked into his eyes when he was talking with you, you saw such devotion and respect that it made you want to be better than what you were so you could be worthy of that. And every priest who met him said the same thing, he just made you want to be even better.” And another who knew him well proclaims, “I have worked with thousands of souls, and Charles’ was the purest.” In fact, this writer notes that the priests who heard his frequent confessions are convinced that he preserved his baptismal innocence.
The morning of March 20, 2000, was as typical as any. Mrs. Untz was tutoring her son Bryant, and Charles was in his office doing some school work before going to his nine o’clock job across the street at the turkey farm. When he came out of his room his mother noticed something unusual about his countenance, and, as she rose to say “goodbye, I love you” and wish him a good day “with the turkeys,” as she was wont to do, she found herself unable to say what she always said. Charles went out the door and his mother went back to her tutoring.
A short time later Mrs. Untz heard sirens coming up the road. In her own words this is what happened:
“We heard emergency sirens and they seemed to stop at our house. I went to our front door to look out and all I saw was an empty ditch. However, I know now that Charles was there, the car that hit him, the emergency vehicles and the bystanders. I went back upstairs and Bryant and I prayed for those in the accident. And then continued the schoolwork.
“A police officer came to our door and asked if we had seen anything. She said there had been an accident and wondered if we had seen anything. She wasn’t supposed to go door to door, but something had told her to come to my door. Charles hadn’t any ID on him. I ran across the street to the turkey farm in hope that he was there. Charles had already been transported. I started to pray Hail Marys. His employer met me on the driveway and said Charles hadn’t checked in for work. I asked him to double check while I ran back home. The police offered to call a priest, and I asked them to call Epiphany Catholic Church and request a priest to come to the hospital. I left Bryant at home and the officer drove me to the hospital.
“When we got to the hospital, the doctors didn’t want to let us in, but I saw a foot and a hand and said I was 90% sure it was Charles. Then I asked if they had found a Benedictine crucifix and brown scapular, which they handed me. It was Charles’. As I watched, Charles was struggling for breath as one on a crucifix does. However, all I felt was calm acceptance, there was no mad dash to storm heaven for a miracle. I asked the officer to bring Bryant to the hospital for me and to contact the grandparents, and I called my husband. All I got was his answering machine. I hated to leave that kind of message, but I did. I kept calling back in hopes I would catch him before he heard the message.
“Fr. Tom Wilson arrived. I knelt by Charles’ bed as Fr. Tom administered last rites. Charles had not regained consciousness since he was hit.
“As we waited for word from the doctors, I reminisced with Fr. Tom about Charles and I remember saying that I knew he was a gift from God, that he was God’s and that he was only on loan to me.
“Steve and Bryant arrived. Charles died with all of his family and Fr. Tom around him. We said our good byes.”
All during the time of the wake and funeral, as guests came and went offering their condolences, Mrs. Untz kept wondering why she couldn’t say “I love you” to her son as he left the house that morning. A man named Daniel stopped by. He said that he was driving by shortly after the accident. Pulling over, he found the EMT’s treating the driver of the car that hit Charles. Then he found Charles lying face down in a ditch. He turned the victim over and held his hand until the EMT’s came. He said that he had to stop by and tell the family, parent to parent, that their son had not been alone. Then he said that as he was holding Charles’ hand he sensed something that he immediately knew had to be the presence of God. The policewoman, who had come to the house after the ambulance took Charles away, also stopped by the farm. She, too, wanted the family to know that she felt God’s presence as she touched their son’s hand in the ambulance. She testified that after that experience her life could never be the same.
Even though she felt a certain peace, and was resigned to God’s will, Ellen Untz could not shake the question that so heavily troubled her. Why could she not speak to her son as he left that morning? The answer to that question finally came:
“One day one of my friends offhandedly mentioned to me she saw Charles at Mass on the Monday he died. I told her he didn’t go that day, since because of the farm chores we only go on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to the 6:30 am. Monday the Mass is at 8:20 am. I passed it off as she made an error, but continued to pray about it. Then it dawned on me. I contacted her to grill her for information. How did she know it was that Monday, March 20? Then she shared her incredible story. She was lector for that Mass. She always prepares for reading by asking the Saint of the Day to help. Monday, March 20, 2000 was unusual because St. Joseph’s Feast Day was moved from March 19th to March 20th because it had fallen on Sunday. She looked up as she was reading the scripture and she saw Charles engrossed in the word, totally intent, and immersed. I had my answer. Charles had been given the gift of bilocation. If I had spoken to him, I would have robbed him of this miraculous gift. And it doesn’t stop here. With the timing of the accident, He would have received Jesus in the Eucharist at Epiphany [Church], then been in heaven with Jesus and Mary, brought there by Saint Joseph her spouse. Charles never was there by the side of the road. He was at Epiphany, then in heaven. Only the empty shell was hit by the car.”
One day, a short time after Charles death, his mother was looking for something in his room. She came across an envelope addressed to “Mary.” Opening it she found a card, a Mother’s Day card, from Charles to “My Lady.”
This is a brief story of the mortal life of Charles Anthony Francis Untz. His everlasting and eternal life began March 20 eight years ago as the Church was celebrating the feast of Saint Joseph. Father Constantine Belisarius, a Melkite priest and counselor at the Seton Home Study School in Front Royal, Virginia, has taken up the cause of Charles. He is currently writing the story of his life under the title My Lady’s Knight.