30 June 2015

Blessed Junipero Serra


Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Blessed Junipero Serra to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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On Wednesday, September 23rd, during his visit to the United States, the Holy Father will celebrate a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., when he will declare the canonization of St. Junipero Serra. Here are some details of his life and ministry, excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.:
In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Asking the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra for vocations to the Sacred Ministry of the Church:
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to lay hands upon men to serve thee as Sacred Ministers in thy Church: Grant that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Church may choose men wisely and in accordance with thy Will for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through Him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

29 June 2015

The First Martyrs of Rome


“It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith....  Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented, like Dirce or the daughters of Danaus, suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize.”

- Pope St. Clement

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of the holy martyrs of Rome: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Holy Apostles Ss. Peter & Paul

Ss. Peter and Paul by Bartolomeo Vivarini


"Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; And even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith."

St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 295

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Ss. Peter and Paul glorified thee by their martyrdom: Grant that thy Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by thy Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City State



Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome

O God, who by the preaching of thy holy apostles Ss. Peter and Paul didst cause the light of thy gospel to shine upon the nations: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having their life and labour in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to thee for so great a gift, by following the example of their zeal and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

28 June 2015

The SCOTUS decision...


With a decision handed to us by a slim majority, the Supreme Court of the United States has imposed a strange thing upon all the states; namely, that marriage licenses must be issued for those in same-sex relationships, and these relationships must be given equal standing with traditional marriage.

Of course, this settles the matter no more than the Roe v. Wade decision settled the issue of legal abortions. It will tear at the fabric of our nation for generations to come, and we Catholics will have to take our place at the front line of battle.

There are some preliminary thoughts about the SCOTUS decision which I have posted elsewhere, but have put together here.

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BY ANY OTHER NAME...

So a man can enter into a legal contract with another man and call it a marriage. A woman can enter into a legal contract with another woman and each state must recognize it. Call it whatever you want. Call it a marriage if you wish. But calling it by that name doesn't make it so.

The Supreme Court ruling has not affected the sacrament of Holy Matrimony one bit. In fact, the state's part in the sacramental marriage of a man and a woman has nothing to do with its sacramental nature. The only reason it is there is for the legal protection of the persons involved, including subsequent children. But that's not what makes it sacramental. It's not what makes it a marriage.

So enter into as many legal contracts as you want, homosexual men. Demand your legal rights, lesbian women. But what you will have is not marriage. It's simply a legal contract which the vast majority of you will probably want to break at some point anyway.

With their recent decisions, some of the Supreme Court justices have shown that they believe words have no meaning other than what they themselves decide such words mean. They have taken the word "marriage" and have applied it to relationships which manifestly are not marriages.

Saying that a cow is a horse doesn't mean you can throw a saddle on it and head off to the Kentucky Derby.

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AGENTS FOR THE STATE?

I think it is inevitable that Catholic priests will have to get out of the business of being agents for the state. After all, it's really for the sake of convenience that a priest signs the "marriage license" after witnessing a sacramental marriage. It simply means that the couple didn't need to take care of the legal part of things by going together down to the courthouse; we make it easier by taking care of the legal formality after the Nuptial Mass. But everyone should understand - signing the license isn't what makes it a marriage. The couple's free consent and exchange of vows before God and His Church accomplishes that.

I'm ready to give up my role as "state's witness" in this regard, and let the state do its own thing. In fact, it might help people come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony if we were to untie it from the "legal contract" aspect of things. Let's face it, all too many people see contracts as being easily broken -- and the state certainly has made it easy when it comes to the legal contract called marriage.

It was fine when the legal contract and the sacramental union were each considered binding, but having these two things hooked together in today's circumstances is rather like driving a car with patched, under-inflated tires on one side, and brand new, perfectly inflated tires on the other. It makes for an uneven ride, and eventually the bad side will cause undue wear on the good side.

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WORDS, WORDS, WORDS...

It's about words again, friends. Over and over the question is asked, "Will churches lose their tax exemption if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages?"

I cannot guess what crazy thing the federal government will try next, but if they try to take tax exemption away from churches, it won't be because of a refusal to perform a same-sex marriage. The government would be asking us to do some that is utterly impossible. It's not a refusal if you're being asked to do something that simply can't be done.

They might as well ask us to turn lead into gold. We're unable to do it.

What'll they do to us? Take away our tax exemption? If they do, it'll be for some reason other than that we're not alchemists.

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A POSTSCRIPT: It’s important to understand that God does not condemn an individual simply because of being a homosexual or lesbian. It is the action which is sinful. Every single one of us has particular sins which are temptations to us, and when we succumb to those temptations we have recourse to the confessional, where we may express our sorrow and repentance, and receive God’s absolution.

Also, not every homosexual or lesbian person is clamoring to enter a legal marriage. Those who are, usually have a political motive and wish to break down traditional values and culture.

There are some faithful Catholics who happen to suffer from this condition who are leading chaste lives, just as there are countless Catholics who are unmarried heterosexual persons, also leading chaste lives. The orientation is less important than the desire to live in accordance with God’s divine Will, with the help of the holy sacraments given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

24 June 2015

An old and familiar voice...


I keep a copy of Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua on my desk.  It's old and dog-eared. It has underlinings in it from my college days when I first read it. In fact, I can remember snatching odd moments between classes just to read a few pages and to savour one or another point he was making. Ultimately, this book would be instrumental in my own conversion to the Catholic Church, and some things I wrote on the title page bear that out. The first thing I wrote was, “I, too, am following the steps of Cardinal Newman – I left the Episcopal Church on 12th January 1982.” Beneath that I wrote, “I was made deacon in the Catholic church on Aug. 7, 1983.” Under that, “ordained Priest – Aug. 15, 1983.” And then finally, “ad Jesum per Mariam.

For me, part of the brilliance of Cardinal Newman’s writing is the innocent faith that shines through. I can remember reading passages such as this, and then having a light go on in my mind:

"People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible to imagine, I grant - but how is it difficult to believe? Yet Macaulay thought it so difficult to believe, that he had need of a believer in it of talents as eminent as Sir Thomas More, before he could bring himself to conceive that the Catholics of an enlightened age could resist “the overwhelming force of the argument against it.” “Sir Thomas More,” he says, “is one of the choice specimens of wisdom and virtue; and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test, will stand any test.” But for myself, I cannot indeed prove it, I cannot tell how it is; but I say, “Why should not it be? What's to hinder it? What do I know of substance or matter? just as much as the greatest philosophers, and that is nothing at all;” - so much is this the case, that there is a rising school of philosophy now, which considers phenomena to constitute the whole of our knowledge in physics. The Catholic doctrine leaves phenomena alone. It does not say that the phenomena go; on the contrary, it says that they remain: nor does it say that the same phenomena are in several places at once. It deals with what no one on earth knows any thing about, the material substances themselves. And, in like manner, of that majestic Article of the Anglican as well as of the Catholic Creed, - the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. What do I know of the Essence of the Divine Being? I know that my abstract idea of three is simply incompatible with my idea of one; but when I come to the question of concrete fact, I have no means of proving that there is not a sense in which one and three can equally be predicated of the Incommunicable God."

He writes in the same way about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception:

"Let me take the doctrine which Protestants consider our greatest difficulty, that of the Immaculate Conception. Here I entreat the reader to recollect my main drift, which is this. I have no difficulty in receiving it: if I have no difficulty, why may not another have no difficulty also? why may not a hundred? a thousand? Now I am sure that Catholics in general have not any intellectual difficulty at all on the subject of the Immaculate Conception; and that there is no reason why they should. Priests have no difficulty. You tell me that they ought to have a difficulty - but they have not. Be large-minded enough to believe, that men may reason and feel very differently from yourselves; how is it that men fall, when left to themselves, into such various forms of religion, except that there are various types of mind among them, very distinct from each other? From my testimony then about myself, if you believe it, judge of others also who are Catholics: we do not find the difficulties which you do in the doctrines which we hold; we have no intellectual difficulty in that in particular, which you call a novelty of this day. We priests need not be hypocrites, though we be called upon to believe in the Immaculate Conception. To that large class of minds, who believe in Christianity, after our manner, -in the particular temper, spirit, and light, (whatever word is used,) in which Catholics believe it, - there is no burden at all in holding that the Blessed Virgin was conceived without original sin; indeed, it is a simple fact to say, that Catholics have not come to believe it because it is defined, but it was defined because they believed it."

Every time I make a return visit to the Apologia I find myself nodding in agreement, confirming that my journey took the right path those many years ago.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist


Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant St. John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

22 June 2015

Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, and Mildred and All Holy Nuns of Britain

The parishes and communities of the Pastoral Provision and the Ordinariates celebrating the Anglican Use liturgy were given permission to celebrate certain saints not found on the universal calendar of the Catholic Church.  One of the days set apart for this is June 23rd, when we keep the feast day of Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, Mildred and All Holy Nuns.  I've linked information to the names of these three amazing women, each of whom had great influence on the Church in Britain.  The phrase "All Holy Nuns" includes all the great Religious women throughout the British Isles, known and unknown, who have given witness to Christ.







21 June 2015

St. John Fisher & St. Thomas More


On the morning of 19 May 1935 in St. Peter's Basilica, this Solemn Proclamation was made by Pope Pius XI:

"In honour of the Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after mature deliberation and imploring the divine assistance, by the advice of our Venerable Brethen the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops present in the city, We decree and define as Saints, and inscribe in the Catalogue of the Saints, Blessed John Fisher and Thomas More, and that their memory shall be celebrated in the Universal Church on the anniversaries of their heavenly birth."

Although St. Thomas More was martyred on 1 July, two weeks after St. John Fisher, their respective feast days have been joined together and are celebrated on 22 June.

Almighty and Everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

18 June 2015

A Complete Education: It's Catholic


In an article titled “The Goal of Classical Education is Truth” and published a few months ago in Crisis magazine, author and educator Tom Jay makes an important admission – a confession, really – when he writes, “Yet, one thing we may not do, since we are not a Catholic academy, is link the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty to the One Who is truth, goodness, and beauty. The full reformation and redemption of education in America can only be accomplished through a Catholic academy...”

To what is he referring when he writes about the “one thing we may not do”? He refers to the so-called “classical academies” which are popping up as charter schools. And why are these charter schools unable to make the link between the truth which they strive to teach, with the God Who is Truth? It is because charter schools are public schools.

There are parents who are enticed by these public charter schools, and understandably so. After all, they’re free, aren’t they? Well...yes...they are free in the sense that they are paid for by money which has been filtered through the government, with all the attached government restrictions about any mention of God and the Faith.

“But I can teach my kids their religion, and the school can teach them everything else,” is the response of many parents. Of course parents can teach religion to their children – and not only can they, but they should be teaching the Faith to their children – it is a great part of their parental responsibility! No, the bigger issue with a school which must exclude God and the Faith from what is taught, is that it is impossible to teach the full truth without God and the Faith being in the mix.

If you were required to eat food which had most of the vitamins and all the flavor boiled out of it before you ate it, would you think you were receiving a healthy diet? Probably not. If your child is being taught history and literature and the great thoughts of mankind, with all reference to God and to the revealed and living Catholic faith being eliminated, would that be a complete and balanced education? Definitely not. And even with conscientious parents filling in the gaps, it’s a bit like trying to add a missing ingredient after a cake has come out of the oven.

There is a short document with a long name which came out of the Second Vatican Council. It is called Gravissimum educationis and it was promulgated on October 28, 1965 by Pope Paul VI, following approval by the assembled bishops.

It is an important document because it contains the Church’s teaching about education – particularly the essential place of Catholic schools – and it discusses the combined responsibilities of the Church and of parents.

It begins by stating the universal right of everyone to receive an education, and this right is extended to the Faithful in a special way, in that it should be a Christian education. The Council Fathers make it clear that parents are to be recognized as “the primary and principal educators” with the particular responsibility of creating “a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered.” In fact, the document states that “the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.”

The Council Fathers then observe that the family “which has the primary duty of imparting education needs the help of the whole community.” As parents carry out the duty of educating their children, they entrust a share of this work to others who can assist them, and it is made clear that “in a special way, the duty of educating belongs to the Church, not merely because she must be recognized as a human society capable of educating, but especially because she has the responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all men, of communicating the life of Christ to those who believe, and, in her unfailing solicitude, of assisting men to be able to come to the fullness of this life.” In fact, the bishops make it clear that “the Church is bound as a mother to give to these children of hers an education by which their whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ...”

In this sacred duty of the Church to assist parents with the education of their children, the Council Fathers state that “among all educational instruments the school has a special importance.”

The bishops go on to say: “The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.”

When it comes to the education of our precious children, there is no such thing as “free.” There is always a price to be extracted, and that price must not be at the expense of the fullness of Truth. Giving our children a Catholic education in a school which includes daily participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with ready access to a priest for the Sacrament of Confession as well as spiritual counsel, all in a setting in which God is not an external Unmentionable, but rather is the daily Presence which animates all that we do and say, is something that truly is priceless – that is, without price.

17 June 2015

Parables about the Kingdom

This sermon about the Kingdom of God was preached on the Second Sunday after Trinity.


If there is no image, you may go directly to this link.

15 June 2015

St. Richard of Chichester


Richard of Wyche was born in 1197 at Droitwyche, the son of a prosperous yeoman farmer. He and his brother were orphaned at an early age, and an incompetent guardian wasted the inheritance. Richard worked long and hard to restore the family property, and when he had succeeded, he turned it over to his brother and went off to Oxford to become a scholar. He was too poor to afford a gown or a fire in winter, but he did very well at his studies, with Robert Grosseteste among his teachers, and he established what would be a lifelong friendship with his tutor, Edmund Rich (Edmund of Abingdon). He studied canon law at Oxford (and probably also at Paris and Bologna) and, having acquired a doctorate, he became Chancellor of Oxford in 1235.

Meanwhile, his tutor had become Archbishop of Canterbury, and soon asked Richard to become his Chancellor. When the Archbishop rebuked King Henry III for keeping various bishoprics vacant as long as possible (because as long as they were vacant their revenues went to the Crown), Henry forced him into exile, and Richard accompanied him to France and nursed him in his final illness. After the Archbishop's death in 1240, Richard studied at the Dominican house in Orleans, and was ordained priest in 1243.

In 1244 he was elected Bishop of Chichester, but Henry would not recognize the election, locked him out of the bishop's residence, and pocketed the revenues. Richard accepted shelter with a village priest, and spent the next two years walking barefoot through his diocese, preaching to fishermen and farmers, and correcting abuses. He held synods to legislate, and insisted that the sacraments must be administered without payment, and the Liturgy celebrated with reverence and order. The clergy were required to be celibate, to wear clerical dress, and to live in the parishes they were assigned to and carry out their duties in person. The laity were required to attend services on all Sundays and holy days, and to know by heart the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed. After two years, Henry was pressured into recognizing Richard as Bishop, but Richard continued to live as he had before. He caught a fever and died in 1253.

A well-known prayer written by him reads in part as follows:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

14 June 2015

A word to parents...


A little story with a big message...
Second grade child, worried about receiving Holy Communion: "Father, I didn't go to Mass last Sunday."
Me: "Did you miss Mass on purpose?"
Child: "My Mommy and Daddy didn't want to go."
Me: "Well, it wasn't your fault. You couldn't drive yourself to Mass."
Child (with incredulous look): "Father, I don't even have my own car!"

Moral of the story: Parents, either get yourselves and your family to Mass on Sunday, or else buy a car for your second grader.

13 June 2015

The St. John Paul II Library

At The Atonement Academy we do all we can to surround our students with a setting which is beautiful and unmistakably Catholic. The St. John Paul II Library is open to all students, from Pre-Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. It has several thousand volumes, and also there is internet access to other libraries and centers of learning.

At the entrance to the library there is a large clock, serving as a reminder that the Incarnate God entered into time and history, and inside there are artistic statements of that same truth. It is an inviting place, and a favourite space for our students, from the youngest to the most seasoned. The library encourages the exploration of Truth, and its physical location in the very center of the building reminds us all of the central place Truth and the Word must have in our lives.






Hymns for St. Anthony's Day


Several years ago I wrote two hymn texts in honour of the Patron of our City and our Archdiocese, and they are published here for anyone who would like to use them.


       1.    Praise to God the mighty Father, who didst call Saint Anthony
            from a life of sore temptation to the way of purity.
Humble work and meek obedience marked his holy way of love;
now, his earthly task completed, works his wonders from above.

            2.      Praise to Jesus Christ our Saviour, who didst give Saint Anthony
grace to preach with zeal and boldness, giving truth new charity.
Men, once lost, who heard the Gospel from the lips of Francis' son
came to know God's grace and favour, and the life which Christ had won.

      3.      Praise to God the Holy Spirit, who inspired Saint Anthony
in the way of love and service, calling men to charity,
lifting up the fallen sinner, feeding them with Living Bread,
showing men the way to heaven, there to live with Christ their Head.

           4.      Gracious Doctor and Confessor, holy Priest with golden tongue,
joined with all the saints of heaven, praising God the Three in One;
help us in our earthly journey, keep our thoughts on God most high,
that with thee, Christ's saint and servant, we may live and never die.

Tune: Rustington, by Charles H. H. Parry (1848-1918)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips



            1.      Simple saint and faithful priest,
            at this Eucharistic feast
we recall thy holy face,
and with thee our Lord embrace.
Give us true simplicity:
pray for us, Saint Anthony.

      2.      Word of God thou didst proclaim;
            unto thee God's Spirit came,
bringing faith when thou didst preach,
showing truth when thou didst teach.
May we speak words truthfully:
pray for us Saint Anthony.

            3.      Error flees before God's Light:
            through thy life Christ shineth bright,
showing men the way to peace,
evil's hold from them release.
Free from evil may we be:
pray for us Saint Anthony.

Tune: Bread of Heaven, by William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826-1910)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

12 June 2015

Immaculate Heart of Mary

"Immaculate Heart of Mary"
Oil on canvas, at the lectern,
Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

Following upon the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the commemoration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Here is a prayer for consecrating ourselves to her motherly heart.

O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners; we consecrate ourselves to thy Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life: all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts, and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, and our country. We desire that all that is in us and around us may belong to thee, and may share in the benefits of thy motherly blessing. And that this act of consecration may be truly fruitful and lasting, we renew this day at thy feet the promises of our Baptism and our First Holy Communion.

We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics, who are submissive to all directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and of His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s Day. We pledge ourselves to make the consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all, Holy Communion, an important part of our lives, in so far as we are able to do.

Finally, we promise thee, O glorious Mother of God and loving Mother of men, to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the spreading of devotion to thy Immaculate Heart, in order to hasten and assure, through thy queenly rule, the coming of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of thine adorable Son Jesus Christ, in our own country, and in all the world; as in Heaven, so on earth. Amen.

11 June 2015

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: Grant that the devout homage of our hearts, which we render unto Him; may by thy mercy be deemed a recompense, acceptable in thy sight; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee;
on earth thou art an exile’s rest,
in heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
thou fount of contrite tears:
where’er those living waters flow,
new life to sinners they bestow,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
our trust is all in thee,
for though earth’s night be dark and drear,
thou breathest rest where thou art near,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
when shades of death shall fall,
receive us ‘neath thy gentle care,
and save us from the tempter’s snare,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
lead exiled children home,
where we may ever rest near thee,
in peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart.

10 June 2015

St. Barnabas and an old friend...


Each year when I celebrate Mass on St. Barnabas' Day, my thoughts always return to St. Barnabas Episcopal Parish in Warwick, Rhode Island, where I served as a curate many years ago. This was the parish to which we came when JoAnn and I returned from England with our (then) two children. Fr. Howard Olsen was the rector, and had been for nearly twenty-five years. Fr. Olsen was one of the last of a now non-existent breed of Anglican rector: extremely hard-working, 1928 Prayer Book religion, active in the wider community, known and respected by almost everyone.

I learned a lot from him. I can honestly say that I loved him as a second father. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when he expressed his desire that I be his successor at St. Barnabas. I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was to tell him that I couldn't accept the position because I was leaving to become a Catholic. I remember that morning, because he turned away and cried. Fr. Olsen never cried, and I felt terrible that my decision had affected him in that way.

 It was difficult between us for a while. But we managed to maintain our friendship, and he came to San Antonio for my priestly ordination. In fact, he read one of the lessons at the ordination Mass in San Fernando Cathedral. He started the tradition of visiting us once a year, and always told me how proud he was to see what was happening here.

 He died some years ago, and it was my turn to weep. I really miss him. But every year on St. Barnabas' Day I pray for him, and give thanks to God for a good friend and mentor. Much of what I know about being a pastor, I learned from him.

St. Barnabas the Encourager


From "The Church's Year of Grace," by Pius Parsch:

Strictly speaking, Barnabas was not an apostle, but the title has been bestowed upon him since very early times. His first name was Joseph; Barnabas (etymology: "son of consolation") was a surname. He belonged to the tribe of Levi. He was a Hellenist, that is, a Jew who lived outside of Palestine and spoke the Greek tongue. Born in Cyprus, he embraced the faith soon after the death of Christ, becoming a member of the original Jerusalem community. His first noteworthy deed was to sell his belongings and place the money at the feet of the apostles.

It is to his lasting credit that he befriended the neo-convert Paul and introduced him to the apostles when everyone was still distrusting the former persecutor. More noteworthy still was his service to the universal Church by being the first to recognize Paul's potential for the cause of Christ; it was Barnabas who brought him from Tarsus to teach at Antioch. The first missionary journey (about 45-48 A.D.) the two made together, and Barnabas seems to have been the leader, at least at the beginning (Acts 13-14). Barnabas' appearance must have been dignified and impressive, otherwise the inhabitants of Lystra would not have regarded him as Jupiter.

He was present with Paul at the Council of Jerusalem (ca. 50). While they were preparing for the second missionary journey, there arose a difference of opinion regarding Mark; as a result each continued his labors separately. Barnabas went to Cyprus with Mark and thereafter is not referred to again in the Acts of the Apostles or in any other authentic source. From a remark in one of Paul's letters we know that he lived from the work of his own hands (1 Cor. 9:5-6). The time and place of his death have not been recorded. It is claimed that his body was found at Salamina in 488 A.D. His name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass since ancient times.


Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of thy faithful servant St. Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well being of thy Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

08 June 2015

St. Columba of Iona


St. Columba, or Columkill, apostle of the Picts, was of illustrious Irish descent. He was brought up in the company of many saints at the school of St. Finian of Clonard. Being an ordained priest, and having founded many churches in Ireland, he went to Scotland with twelve companions, and there converted many of the northern Picts to the faith of Christ. He founded the monastery of Iona which became the nursery of saints and apostles. He also evangelized the northern English. He died on June 9, 597 at the foot of the altar at Iona while blessing his people, and was buried, like St. Brigid, beside St. Patrick at Downpatrick in Ulster.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Columba, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

06 June 2015

Solemnity of Corpus Christi


On Sunday, June 7th, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi -- the time when we give special thanks to Almighty God for the gift of the Sacrament of His Most Holy Body and Blood.

The Mass schedule is as follows:

7:30 a.m. - Low Mass

9:00 a.m. - Sung Mass followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

11:00 a.m. - Sung Mass with Procession to the outdoor Shrine for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, returning to the High Altar for Benediction in Latin.

6:00 p.m. - Sung Mass (Ordinary Form in Latin)

04 June 2015

The Atonement Academy Men's Schola

The Men's Schola at The Atonement Academy provides chant at our daily Masses, and other music suited to their combination of voices. The formation of the Schola took place some years ago and it came into being through the efforts of the students themselves. There was a growing interest in the traditional chant of the Church, and some of the young men in our Upper School got together on their own time to learn and to practice. What began with an earlier generation of students has been passed on from year to year. All the original members have long since graduated, but they handed things on to successive generations of students. Each year, with the graduation of our seniors, room is made for others to join, and a place in the Schola is seen as a coveted prize.

We won't hear this particular Schola again, because some of these young men are graduating this year. But there are others eager to join, and it's always a joy to hear what a new generation brings!






If there is no image, you may go directly to the links here and here.

03 June 2015

School's out...


Today was the last day of school at The Atonement Academy. All that's left now is the Eighth Grade graduation, the Seniors' Mass and Banquet, and their Commencement ceremony.

It's been a wonderful year, and much of the summer will be spent preparing for the new academic year. We'll see further progress on our 117,000 sq. ft. addition to the school facility, and maybe even get in a few days' break.

Thank you to all the administrators, faculty, and staff for all the great work done, and special gratitude to our faithful school families with whom we share the privilege and responsibility of conforming young lives to the image of Christ.

02 June 2015

St. Charles Lwanga & Companions


Charles was one of twenty-two Ugandan martyrs who converted from paganism. He was baptized November 1885, a year before his death, and became a moral leader. He was the chief of the royal pages under the king, Mwanga, and was considered the strongest athlete of the court. Mwanga was a wicked and immoral king, and very violent. Charles was a catechist, and instructed the young men who were serving in the king's court in the Catholic Faith and he baptized them. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and faithful.

Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. He convinced the king that if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?

When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, even cheerful. He was to be executed by being burned to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly to death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, "Kotanda! (O my God!)." He was burned to death by Mwanga's order on June 3, 1886. The other young men were martyred in various ways, and together they were canonized by the Church.

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the blessed martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and his Companions, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

01 June 2015

Ss. Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs

St. Marcellinus and St. Peter the Exorcist were martyred during the Diocletian persecution in about the year 304. The early church held them in very high honor, and evidence of that is the great basilica which the Emperor Constantine built over their tombs, and their names are included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

Pope St. Damasus, who was born at about the same time as the two saints were martyred, says that he heard the story of these two martyrs from their executioner who had become a Christian after their deaths. Marcellinus was a priest, and Peter was an exorcist. Peter had been put into prison at Rome by the judge Serenus, simply for confessing the Christian faith. During his imprisonment Peter set free Paulina, the daughter of Artemius, the keeper of the prison, from an evil spirit which tormented her. Upon this, Artemius and his wife and all their house, with their neighbors who had run together to see the strange thing, were converted to Jesus Christ. Peter was set free by the jailer, and he brought all the new converts to Marcellinus the priest, who baptized them all.

When the judge Serenus heard of it, he called Peter and Marcellinus before him, and demanded that they deny Christ. They both refused to deny their faith, so they were separated, and Marcellinus the priest was treated in a particularly cruel way. He was beaten and stripped of his clothing, and was shut up in a completely dark cell which had broken glass strewn all over the floor. The slightest movement caused his flesh to be sliced open. Peter was in a nearby cell, and they comforted one another by loudly proclaiming their faith. When it was obvious they wouldn't deny Christ, they were brought out of their cells and were beheaded. Their bodies were taken far outside the city and thrown deep in a dark forest so they would never be found. As it happened, a Christian woman did find their bodies, and she had them brought back and buried their bodies in the catacombs. Their tombs became a place of pilgrimage for the early Christians, who were inspired by their faithful witness even to death.

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of thy holy martyrs St. Marcellinus and St. Peter: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example, and be aided by their intercession; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

31 May 2015

St. Justin Martyr


St. Justin Martyr was an apologist, and was one of the most important Christian writers of the second century. He was a Greek and was born in Palestine. From the time of his childhood he loved to study, and by the time he was a young man he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a serious student of philosophy and examined the teaching of all the great philosophers, looking for ultimate truth. He was disappointed in his search, because he found they could go only a certain distance, but ultimately each philosophy contained a faulty kind of wisdom, and each one contained error. One day he met a very old man who was a stranger to him. This old man opened the scriptures to Justin, and explained the Christian faith. Justin understood this as the truth he had been looking for – he saw that it completed all of the partial truths had had been studying up until that time. After that encounter he constantly studied the Scriptures, and he lived the Christian faith. Having come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Justin devoted himself completely to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.

Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defenses of the Christian faith. He even presented these Apologies to the Roman Senate, in an attempt to stop the persecution of the Church. Some were convinced, and for a while the persecutions stopped. But eventually there were those in power who wanted to crush the Church because of their own wicked ways of living. Justin was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and he was questioned about the doctrine of the Christians. Justin gave a complete defense of the Christian faith, but Rusticus himself lived a cruel and wicked life, so he didn’t want to hear it. He made Justin choose whether he would sacrifice to the gods or suffer a cruel scourging. Justin answered that he had always wanted to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ, because he knew it would bring him to heaven. The prefect sentenced Justin to death. He was horribly scourged, and then beheaded – this man who sought the truth and found it in Christ, became a great martyr for the faith.

Almighty and Everlasting God, who didst find thy martyr St. Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and didst reveal to him the sublime wisdom of thine eternal Word: Grant that all who seek thee, or a deeper knowledge of thee, may find and be found by thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Most Holy Trinity


It is the foundational belief of every Christian that God is a Trinity of Persons. In fact, that is the very definition of Christianity. It comes to us from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...” [St. Matthew 28:18-20].

The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation and the capstone of our faith. It is the guardian of orthodoxy in the Church; it is the essence of effective preaching; it is the guarantor of proper teaching. In fact, the ancient Church accorded so much importance to a correct understanding of the Trinity that the bishops met together to define the Holy Trinity even before they addressed the issue of which books would be included in the New Testament. It is so foundational that we can honestly say that all errors – all heresies – result from the neglect or misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

So what does it actually teach us about God?

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is transcendent over the universe. It teaches us that God is in all things; it does not teach us that all things are God, which is incorrect and a heresy. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that although God is accessible to all, He is above all and beyond all. He is not some kind of “higher self,” nor is he a “deeper consciousness.” He is not an oracle or a disembodied ghostly spirit. God stands above the universe, even as He pervades it. He exercises His own judgment. He has the right to do as He pleases. The doctrine of the Trinity reveals how God could create the universe, and yet be able to speak and make Himself known within it.

In order for God to create the universe, He must be conscious. Certainly an unconscious being could not undertake a deliberate act. Consciousness requires the ability to contrast between “me” and “not me.” Before the creation of the universe, there was nothing that was not God; therefore a god who is simply one person could never achieve consciousness. Such a god would not be able to create the universe, and could not make himself known nor speak within it.

We can understand something of this idea of “consciousness” in our own human relationships, because we are aware of ourselves through our relationships with others. Our own self-consciousness begins in our relationship with our parents, and the consciousness we have about ourselves develops within the various relationships we have – including our relationship with God. This is why, in those rare cases of feral children – children who have been abandoned and raised in the wild by animals – they have the consciousness of animals. They are, of course, human in that they have souls, but their consciousness is stunted because they have not been able to have a normal relationship with other human beings.

This truth is found supremely in the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and it shows something of the fact that we are created in God’s image. The three Persons have a relationship of love, forming the “consciousness” of God; indeed, this love is because of the three united states of consciousness. The Persons of the Trinity are completely One in substance, essence, and will, but each Person in the Trinity perceives the others as both “me” and “not me.” This is why we say the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Holy Spirit – and yet, all are God, in a relationship of unity and love. This unity and love means that God is eternally self-conscious and so is capable of deliberate acts.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals the divine relationship within the Godhead, when we hear Jesus, one Person of the Trinity, calling Himself the Son of another Person of the Trinity, whom He termed His Father, and the third Person, whom He called the Holy Spirit. In this way, He revealed that the relationship among the three Divine Persons is one of perfect love, of mutual submission, and of a unity of will.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals why God saves us and sustains us and to brings us into His glory. As the three Persons live in a relationship of love, so God wants to bring us into that same relationship of love. And because of that, even though we are made by God, God has infinitely more interest in us than a potter has in the pots he makes. God is not satisfied with displaying the good pots and discarding the defective ones; rather, He keeps them all, because God loves us all. God has a paternal interest in us that goes far beyond the physical making of us. He actually works to save us from the fate of being mere things. God wants to perfect us, so that we can live with Him in His glory. Our destiny is not to exist in some obscure corner as an object, but to live in an eternal fellowship with God, sharing in His divine relationship of love.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals how God can be transcendent and eternal, and yet how He can enter into time and space in the Person of Jesus Christ. It explains how God can relate to us personally, on our own terms, but without abdicating the operation of the universe.

The doctrine of the Trinity explains how God can be transcendent and eternal, and yet dwell within us and empower us. It explains how God can be in all things, but not of any one thing; it explains why we find God within us, when at the same time He is above us and beyond us. It explains how the Church can be a human institution, and yet at the same time divine; how it can carry out God’s divine Will, even as it demonstrates our imperfections.

The doctrine of the Trinity explains how a priest can fruitfully celebrate the sacraments and preach the Word in spite of his personal sinfulness, a reminder that God communicates His wisdom through foolish men.

Try as we might to fully understand and explain, the reality of the Trinity is imperfectly expressed in any and all human terms. For example, we sometimes hear from the “politically correct” a reference to the Trinity as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” but that does not describe the essence of the Trinity as it is revealed by Jesus, the incarnate God. Those terms tell us what God does, but it does not tell us who He is. To ascribe only one function to a particular Person of the Trinity leads to heresy.

We can ask, who is the Creator? Is it the Father who spoke the eternal Word, or is it the Word through whom all things were made, or is it the Spirit who moved upon the waters? The answer is: all three. We cannot divide God.

We can ask, who is the Redeemer? Is it the Father who sent the Son, or is it the Son who died and rose again, or is it the Spirit who gives us faith and repentance? The answer is: all three. We cannot divide God.

We can ask, who is the Sustainer? Is it the Father who supplies our needs, or is it the Son who advocates our cause, or is it the Spirit who dwells within us? The answer is: all three. We cannot divide God.

Why should the Creator take an interest in His creation? Why does the Redeemer save us? Why should the Sustainer preserve us beyond mere physical existence? This faulty human formula invented by those who wish to avoid the traditional terms because they judge words such as “Father” and “Son” as being not inclusive, does nothing other than reveal some of the functions of God. It does not describe His divine nature, or His divine motivation, or His eternal plan. It does not reveal God’s love, nor does it explain whether or why God transforms us into whom He intends us to be. In fact, the more people try to be “politically correct” when referring to God, the more their efforts remain “this-worldly,” with no hope for anything beyond the here-and-now.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to proclaim that God is the Father of Mary’s baby; and that God is that baby, the Son of Mary; and that God is the Spirit who conceived that baby in Mary’s virgin womb. Those are facts of history, and in those facts we find that God is love.

Perhaps after all the philosophy, and after all the formulae, and after all the wondering about how three can be one, and one can be three, perhaps this best explains the Holy Trinity: God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves us, and adopts us, and makes us His witnesses in this world. And why? So that we can know Him, and be in a relationship of love with Him, and live with Him eternally in Heaven.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

29 May 2015

Our fine young men...

At the Academy students' Mass on Friday morning all the Eighth Grade boys vested and processed. They have been serving regularly at Mass, some of them for many years. Although most of them will be staying with us for their high school years, some will be going elsewhere, and we wanted them at the altar all together one last time as Eighth Graders. Here's a picture taken afterwards in the courtyard.


26 May 2015

St. Augustine, Apostle to the English


At the end of the sixth century it looked like St. Augustine had found his place in life. He was the respected prior of St. Andrew’s monastery in Rome, and everyone thought he would spend his life there, instructing, governing, and settling into a satisfying and sedentary life.

But the pope had other ideas. The pope been a young monk under Augustine; now that young monk was Pope Gregory, known to history as St. Gregory the Great. We all know the story of how Gregory had seen some fair-skinned people being sold as slaves, and when he asked about them, he was told they were Angles. “Not Angles, but angels!” he had responded, and he decided he needed to send missionaries to their people to bring them the knowledge of the Gospel. England had once known the faith, but the Angles and the Saxons had conquered the land, and had driven the Christians out. Now the time had come to re-evangelize, and Gregory chose Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected and dangerous trip to England. Augustine and his monks had the task of finding what few Christians there were to bring them back into the fullness of the Church, and also to convince their warring conquerors to become Christians themselves.

Every step of the way Augustine and his monks heard the horrid stories of the cruelty and barbarity of the Anglo-Saxons. By the time they had reached France the stories became so frightening that the monks turned back to Rome. Gregory had heard encouraging news that England was far more ready for Christianity than the stories would indicate, including the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to a Christian princess, Bertha. He sent Augustine and the monks on their way again, fortified with his belief that now was the time for evangelization.

King Ethelbert was a good king and he was curious about his wife’s religion. So he went to hear what the missionaries had to say after they landed in England. But he was just as afraid of them as they were of him! He was afraid that these missionaries would use magic on them, so he held the meeting in the open air. But he listened to what they had to say about Christianity. The king was baptized in 597, and unlike other kings who forced all subjects to be baptized as soon as they were converted, Ethelbert left religion to be a free choice. Nonetheless, the following year many of his subjects were baptized.

Augustine was consecrated bishop for the English and more missionaries arrived from Rome to help with the new task. Augustine had to be very careful because although the English had embraced the new religion, they still respected the old pagan ways. St. Gregory the Great was very wise, and he urged Augustine not simply to destroy the things of the old pagan religion, but to consecrate the pagan temples for Christian worship and pagan festivals were transformed into feast days of martyrs. Canterbury itself was built on the site of an ancient church which had been built during the earlier days of Christianity.

St. Augustine was in England for only eight years before he died in 605, but he planted the seeds for the growth of the Christian faith in what had been a dark pagan land.

O God, who by the preaching and miracles of St. Augustine of Canterbury hast caused the light of the true faith to shine forth among the peoples of England; grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that are gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth, and that we may dwell together in peace according to thy will; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

25 May 2015

St. Philip Neri


If we had to choose the one saint who always had a funny story to tell, or a harmless practical joke to play, it would be St. Philip Neri, who lived in the 16th century. His sense of humor was for a reason – he said there were plenty of gloomy saints – he wanted to use laughter and good-natured fun as a way of growing closer to God.

Philip’s life wasn’t always easy. His father was a financial failure, and when he was a young man of eighteen, Philip was sent to work with an older cousin who was a successful businessman. During this time, Philip found a favorite place to pray up in the fissure of a mountain that had been turned into a chapel. We don't know anything specific about his conversion but during these hours of prayer he decided to leave worldly success behind and dedicate his life to God.

After thanking his cousin, he went to Rome in 1533 where he was the live-in tutor of the sons of a fellow Florentine. He studied philosophy and theology, but he really wanted to live a life of prayer. During one of his times of prayer, he felt as though a globe of light had entered into him. This experience gave him so much energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking to others about God, everyone from beggars to bankers.

In 1548 Philip formed a kind of confraternity with other laymen to minister to pilgrims who came to Rome without food or shelter. The spiritual director of the confraternity convinced Philip that he could do even more work as a priest, so after completing his studies, Philip was ordained in 1551.

At his new home, the church of San Girolamo, he learned to love to hear confessions. Young men especially found in him the wisdom and direction they needed to grow spiritually. But Philip began to realize that these young men also needed guidance during their daily lives. So Philip began to ask the young men to come by in the early afternoon when they would discuss spiritual readings and then stay for prayer in the evening. The numbers of the men who attended these meetings grew rapidly. In order to handle the growth, Philip and a fellow priest Buonsignore Cacciaguerra gave a more formal structure to the meetings and built a room called the Oratory to hold them in.

Philip understood that it wasn't enough to tell somebody not to do something – they had to have something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when crowds were involved in all sorts of things that could lead to trouble, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a picnic accompanied by instrumental music for the mid-day break. After walking twelve miles in one day everyone was too tired to be tempted!

Eventually, Philip’s success with young people started to make some of the other priests jealous, and the good work he was doing was threatened. But eventually Philip and the others who worked with him were seen to be doing God’s work, so they were able to continue. In fact, St. Philip wouldn’t allow a single bad thing to be said about the people who had tried to destroy him. Eventually he and the others who worked with him realized they needed a center for their activities, and they were able to take up residence at what was known as “Chiesa Nuova,” or the “New Church.”

Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself. Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they always had a humorous side. When one priest gave a beautiful sermon, Philip ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so people would think he only had one sermon. When one man asked Philip if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip gave him permission -- if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes and name-calling he received.

And Philip carried out his own mortifications to learn humility. There are stories of him wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he wanted to seem. When some people came from Poland to see the great saint, they found him listening to another priest read to him from joke books.

But Philip was very serious about prayer, spending hours in prayer. He was so easily carried away that he refused to preach in public and could not celebrate Mass with others around. But he when asked how to pray his answer was, "Be humble and obedient and the Holy Spirit will teach you."

St. Philip Neri died in 1595 after a long illness, at the age of eighty years.

_________________________________


Whenever we have a parish pilgrimage to Rome, we always visit the magnificent but charming Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, better known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. This served as the center of operation for St. Philip Neri, the fun-loving saint who combined humor with holiness, and whose work resulted in the foundation of the Oratorians.





O God, who didst exalt thy blessed Confessor St. Philip Neri to the glory of thy Saints: mercifully grant that we, who rejoice in his festival, may learn to follow rightly the pattern of his godliness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 May 2015

St. Bede the Venerable


A man venerated as an example of holiness even before his death, the name of St. Bede describes his life. From the Old English word bēd, which means prayer, he was devoted to God, to His worship, and to the study of His truth. Living from about the year 672 until 26 May 735, Bede was born on the lands of the Northumbrian monastery in which he died. Brilliant by the standards of any age, he was regarded for his goodness as much as for his scholarship. He died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips, and some time before, he had written what is known as his Death Song:

Fore there neidfaerae naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnotturra than him tharf sie
to ymbhycggannae aer his hiniongae
huaet his gastae godaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege doemid uueorthae.

Before the unavoidable journey there, no one becomes
wiser in thought than him who, by need,
ponders, before his going hence,
what good and evil within his soul,
after his day of death, will be judged.


Heavenly Father, who didst call thy servant St. Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to thy service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship; Grant that as he laboured in the Spirit to bring the riches of thy truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make thee known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

George Herbert's "Whitsunday"

Pentecost by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1320


"Whitsunday"
by George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633)

Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and flie away with thee.

Where is that fire which once descended
On thy Apostles? thou didst then
Keep open house, richly attended,
Feasting all comers by twelve chosen men.

Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow,
That th’ earth did like a heav’n appeare;
The starres were coming down to know
If they might mend their wages, and serve here.

The sunne, which once did shine alone,
Hung down his head, and wisht for night,
When he beheld twelve sunnes for one
Going about the world, and giving light.

But since those pipes of gold, which brought
That cordiall water to our ground,
Were cut and martyr’d by the fault
Of those, who did themselves through their side wound,

Thou shutt’st the doore, and keep’st within;
Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
And if the braves of conqu’ring sinne
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.

Lord, though we change, thou art the same;
The same sweet God of love and light:
Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.