The Death of a Saint

By James W. Adams

The “Sweet Singer of Israel” forever established the tone which should characterize the mourning of Christians for departed children of God when he said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalms 116:15). What is “precious” to the Lord, we should never allow to become inconsolable grief to us. It would be less than human not to mourn the passing of those whom we love, but our faith should enable us to turn our pain into joy arid our tears into laughter. Hence it is that I type this article with tears in my eyes, yet with joy in my heart.

A saint has died. A little before midnight of July 13, the Lord’s day, the noble spirit of Antonino Buta of Messina, Sicily, Italy, silently took its departure to be with Christ. Brother Buta had preached that day, after a period of two weeks during which he had suffered a severe spell with his heart. He was visiting, accompanied by Sister Buta, an ailing brother and his wife when he had another heart seizure. He was taken to the hospital but died within a short period of time.

I was privileged to know Brother Buta personally having spent some time with him and Sister Buta when they visited the United States several years ago. In March of this year in the company of Brother Foy Vinson of Dallas, Texas (Allen), I spent twelve days with him, almost constantly, in Rome, Lavinio, and Messina, Italy. Three of these days were spent in the Buta’s home in Messina. At that time, I was told by those who knew him best that his physical condition was extremely bad, but I did not expect death to come so soon to him. He is survived by his wife Cettina and three lovely daughters: Lydia (20), Deborah (13), and Claudia (9).

Antonino Buta was an unusual man. He was well educated having spent seven years in the University of Rome acquiring a degree in Philosophy and Letters, equivalent to a doctor’s degree from an American University. He was an accomplished musician even to the point of composing his own music which I have heard him play beautifully on the piano. He lacked only one year of being a medical doctor. He was converted very early in the efforts of our brethren in Italy after World War II by Cline Paden, At the time, he was the editor of a paper in Rome and an atheist. He detested Catholicism and all for which it stood, I suppose even before he became a Christian and certainly afterwards. He was one of the most capable Italian preachers in the whole of Italy and often defended the truth in debate. In addition to his work in Messina during the past twenty-five years as a preacher, he also edited a religious journal called, Risveglio (Awake), with much learning and ability. While I was in Italy in March, he received the news that he had been elected to the Academia Tibernina, an honorary society under the auspices of the Italian government whose membership consisted of the leading men of arts and letters throughout Italy, artists, sculptors, writers, etc, For the past twenty-three years, Brother Buta has been supported by the Pruett and Lobit Church in Baytown, Texas-longer than any man has been supported by any church in Italy.

It is heart breaking to report that because of Brother Buta’s opposition to liberal trends in the Italian work, he was anathematized, lied upon, and otherwise maltreated by American missionaries and other liberals in the Italian work. This almost broke his heart. In his last hours, I am told he kept saying that Earl Edwards, titular head of the so-called “Florence Bible School,” was “killing him.” May the “Lord reward these people according to their works.”

I loved Antonino Buta. He was a good man and a faithful Christian. In my judgment, he was probably too trusting and was victimized by liberals without conscience. However, one of the last things he said to me in March was that he saw that he was going to have to fight so-called “brethren” as distasteful as such was to him. He realized that he could not hold his peace and win the battle for truth. Sad it is that he did not live to carry out his resolution. I shall carry with me as long as I live the pleasant memory of this good man. May the Lord bless his memory and multiply the fruits of his labors.

Brother Buta’s passing poses some serious problems relative to the progress of truth in Italy and the erection of barriers against the encroachment of destructive liberalism, but there are other men who.will stand in the breach. One of these is Alessandro (Sandro) Corazza of the Via Sanio Church in Rome, another is Rodolfo Berdini of Rome and preacher for the church in Aprilia. Brother Berdini conducted the funeral services for Brother Buta. It is worthy of note that, despite Buta’s many years of service to the Lord in Italy, not a single liberal preacher, American or Italian, dignified (?) his funeral service with his presence. Prejudice, thy name is the liberal brethren, God help us! The following is a short memorial article written by Sandro Corazza which is supposed to be published in an issue of Risveglio soon.

In Memory of Nino

“Antonino Buta, Editor of Risveglio and evangelist for the Messina congregation, fell asleep in the Lord just before midnight of Sunday, July 13, 1975, overcome by illness.

“Nino will be missed by many, but especially by his wife and his three young daughters. He will also be missed by the Messina brethren whom he had loved and for whose spiritual interests he had tenderly cared for twenty-five years. They will remember him with happiness in those times when his heart was warm and exultant because ‘the church had rest and was edified.’ They will remember him with sadness when they recall those things in the Lord’s work which caused him to be downcast-things that caused the work not to proceed well and him to be filled with anxiety. For twenty centuries, these have been the ups and downs of anyone trying to do ‘the work of an evangelist:’ of anyone who has ‘chosen rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;’ of anyone who does not expect many blessings from the Lord here, rather many troubles and bitterness, and offers all to Him with devotion because he knows that the promise of the Lord is everlasting life;’ of anyone who very often must fight alone and for others while very seldom and by very few persons being only partially appreciated.

“With his degree in Letters and Philosophy; he chose not the comfortable and secure life of a college professor or some other lucrative profession but the life of hardship of one who spends his life telling `how great things the Lord has done for thee, and hath compassion on thee.’ Evangelist for twenty-five years, from the beginning of the church in Italy in modern times, he ‘lived on the gospel.’ I suppose he is the first evangelist of the church in Italy to ‘die in the Lord.’ His career ends honorably. Tonino died on the battlefield, on the Lord’s day, after having preached his last sermon.

“The death of a preacher is the beginning of very serious problems for those who remain. There is no pension for his wife, no benefits which automatically accrue to her, only memories. There are remembrances and regrets. Yes, Tonino leaves memories and regrets, but also three orphan daughters and a widow ‘in their affliction.’

“If there is dignity among brethren; if there is love ‘not in word, neither in tongue;’ there must be also down here some reward for those who have ‘fought a good fight.’ Let us take part with our warmth and generosity in the work of soothing the affliction of his own dear ones, deprived of their only source of maintenance. In this life, Tonino did his good in silence. Many know this perfectly. In these moments it would be a sad thing, indeed, if we manifest any lack of feeling.”

The good brethren that compose the church at Pruett and Lobit in Baytown, Texas, are now seeking to determine just what they can do to help the Buta family financially through this period of adjustment. If any church or individual desires to make a contribution to this end, contact the elders of that church concerning how this might be done. This is not an appeal; it is simply a suggestion and is done without the knowledge of the Baytown congregation.

Truth Magazine XIX: 42, pp. 662-663
September 4, 1975