23 September 2014

Our Lady of Walsingham

In 1061, so the story goes, the lady of the manor of Little Walsingham in Norfolk, a widow named Lady Richeldis, prayed to our Lady asking how she could honour her in some special way. In answer to this prayer Mary led Lady Richeldis in spirit to Nazareth and showed her the house in which she had first received the angel's message. Mary told Richeldis to take the measurements of this house and build another one just like it in Walsingham. It would be a place where people could come to honour her and her Son, remembering especially the mystery of the Annunciation and Mary's joyful 'yes' to conceiving the Saviour.

The late eleventh century and all through the twelfth and thirteenth century was the era of the crusades, which saw a growing interest in the sites consecrated by the human presence of Jesus in the Holy Land. But now pilgrims need not go so far; in England itself there was a 'new Nazareth' built by one of their own countrywomen.

The actual house from Nazareth was moved – perhaps even miraculously – to Loreto, and we find that the measurements of the house in Loreto and the house in Walsingham are the same.

Why venerate a house? Because it was there that the Word-made-Flesh lived as Man with mankind.

O God, who through the mystery of the Word made flesh didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the blessed Virgin Mary, and wondrously place it in the bosom of thy Church: Grant that being made separate from the tabernacles of sinners, we may become worthy to dwell in thy holy house; 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.

The Early History of the Anglican Use


Fr. Jack Barker wrote a brief but important history of the Anglican Use some time ago.  Those who are members of Anglican Use or Ordinariate parishes and communities will be particularly interested in this account of those "early days" of the movement which continues to bring so many of the Faithful from Anglicanism into full Catholic communion.

You can read the document by going to this link.

22 September 2014

St. Pio of Pietrelcina


St. Pio was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town in southern Italy. His family were farmers, and his father worked also as a shepherd to support the family. In fact, when St. Pio was a boy his father was gone for periods of time because he had come to America looking for work, sending money back to his family. When St. Pio was 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars and made his first vows when he was 19. He suffered several health problems, but he was eventually ordained at age 22 on 10 August 1910, and was known after that as Padre Pio.

He had been a priest for about eight years. One morning he was praying before a crucifix, when he received the stigmata. He is the first priest ever to receive this outward mark of union with Christ Crucified – St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon. In fact, because this became a source of curiosity for so many people, Padre Pio was forbidden from having any public ministry for some years, even having to say Mass privately. This was a tremendous burden for him, but he accepted it in complete obedience to his superiors. But as word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch, although he himself never understood or emphasized these gifts.

People always seem to be most fascinated with these dramatic gifts, but the foundation of St. Pio’s life was his total love for Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament, and his life of prayer for others, especially prayer for healing – both spiritual and physical healing. In fact, in 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that today serves about 60,000 patients a year.

St. Pio died in 1968, and people continued to report many miracles and healings that had come through his intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999, and then in 2002 he was canonized in the presence of more than 300,000 people who gathered in Rome for the Mass.
O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Pio of Pietrelcina, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 September 2014

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist


As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
St. Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans didn’t care what the tax collectors got by collecting extra for themselves, and so they were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners.” So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of His followers.

Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more shocked. What business did this supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that it cannot be a substitute for loving others.

When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax office – no doubt counting his day's profit – Jesus spoke only two words – "follow me". Those two words changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving apostle who would bring the treasures of God's kingdom to the poor and needy. He turned from his sin, so that he could follow Jesus.

O ALMIGHTY God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

19 September 2014

The Holy Martyrs of Korea


On September 20, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, the martyrs of Korea.

The Catholic faith came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Peking to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly about twelve years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom didn’t come until 1883.

In the meantime, there were horrible persecutions against the Christians. The major religion in Korea consisted of ancestor worship, and this was considered to be a cornerstone of their society. If anyone refused to take part in ancestor worship, they were considered traitors to the country, and would be killed. Obviously, Catholics would not be able to be part of that, and as a result, more than 8,000 of them were executed, and in unspeakable ways. Most of them were simple country people, whose names were known only to those closest to them. 103 of them were canonized by name, by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the Holy Martyrs of Korea, 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 Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

18 September 2014

A Pilgrimage to Spain and France


Our Lady of the Atonement Church has arranged a magnificent pilgrimage to Spain and France, leaving on January 5th 2015, and returning on January 16th 2015.  We will fly first to Madrid, after which we will be visiting Avila, Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, León, Burgos, and Loyola.  Crossing into France we will be visiting Toulouse, and then on to the great Marian Shrine of Lourdes.  After visiting Carcassonne we return to Spain, visiting Barcelona and Montserrat.  After a visit to Zaragoza, we return to Madrid for our flight home.


Go to this link to download a complete description of our pilgrimage destinations and other details about the pilgrimage.  We will be celebrating the Mass (Anglican Use) daily, praying in places made holy by countless generations of pilgrims who have gone before us.

16 September 2014

St. Robert Bellarmine


Born in the year 1542, Robert Bellarmine's family was large and relatively poor. His mother was especially devout and was given to works of charity, fasting, and regular prayer. Young Robert learned these things from her, and never forgot them. As a very young man he entered the Society of Jesus, and was eventually ordained. He had a tremendous gift for preaching, and was also a notable scholar, going on to teach at the University of Louvain. The Church recognized his faithfulness and his intellectual brilliance, and after a time he became a bishop, and was named a Cardinal.

He never forgot the lessons he learned at home, and his charity to the poor was manifested in the fact that even though he lived in a Cardinal’s palace, he ate the same food as the poor would eat, he dressed in rough clothing, and he even stripped the plush curtains and tapestries from the walls to sell them and gave the money to the poor. As he said, “The poor can catch cold; the walls cannot.”

He lived at the time when the Protestants were causing great dissension in the Church, and St. Robert Bellarmine used his considerable talents in presenting Catholic truth, and helping others to see the errors of protestantism.

He knew the best way to keep the Church strong was to make strong Catholics, and he compiled an important catechism for teachers and students. In fact, it was his work with the young that gave him the most satisfaction, and he had an immense effect on the lives of the students who learned from him. One the most famous of his students was a young man named Aloysius, who eventually was himself raised to the altar, and is known to us as St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

St. Robert Bellarmine – a great man who never forgot his humble beginnings, and who loved the Church and worked for her unity.

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Robert Bellarmine, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

15 September 2014

Generous words about the parish...


Almost everyone likes to hear kind and generous words...especially when they're about oneself!

Mr. Jeff Ostrowski, who does such magnificent work for the Church through Corpus Christi Watershed, visited our parish with his family this past Sunday.

You can read his assessment of the experience on his blog, Views from the Choir Loft: Reflections on Sacred Music & the Roman Liturgy.

Ss. Cornelius & Cyprian, Martyrs


Rome had been without a bishop for about a year because of the persecution of the Emperor Decius, when Cornelius was elected Bishop of Rome in 251. Although it was a time of persecution, that wasn’t the biggest problem he had to face. Divisions in the Church had been taking place, stemming from the argument about whether or not the Church could forgive a person’s very serious sins – for instance, if someone had turned away from their faith, but then wanted to return to the Church, the question was whether the Church could give forgiveness and take that person back. A fairly popular priest during that time named Novatian was against the practice of giving forgiveness. He claimed that the Church had no power to pardon those who had lapsed during time of persecution. The same applied to cases of murder, and other serious sins. In fact, Novatian felt so strongly about this that he set himself up as a rival pope.

However, St. Cornelius, with the strong support of St. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage in North Africa, insisted that the Church did have the power to forgive apostates and other sinners, and that they could be re-admitted to Holy Communion after having performed an appropriate period of penance. Some letters of Cornelius to Cyprian together with Cyprian’s replies have survived.

A synod of Western bishops in Rome in October 251 upheld Cornelius, condemned the teachings of Novatian, and excommunicated him and his followers. When persecutions of the Christians started up again in 253 under Emperor Gallus, Cornelius was exiled and he died as a martyr.

His great friend and supporter, St. Cyprian was from a very wealthy pagan background, but he became a Christian, and was known as a great orator. After his baptism he distributed most of his wealth to the poor, and was eventually ordained as a priest, and then became the bishop of the city where he had grown up, Carthage. Just as Pope Cornelius faced persecution, so did Cyprian. He was a strong defender of the teaching of Cornelius, and even though they lived a continent apart, after they were both martyred, they were always linked together in the mind of the Church as having stood up for the mercy of God, and His desire to forgive the sins of those who repented.
O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyrs St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Atonement Academy: A School of Excellence


THE ATONEMENT ACADEMY: AN AWARD-WINNING SCHOOL...AGAIN!

The Atonement Academy College Preparatory School has been named to the School of Excellence Honor Roll — a distinction held by only five other schools in Texas — and one of two Catholic high schools in San Antonio to earn the prestigious award this year. Since 2001, the Honor Roll has recognized excellence in Catholic identity, academics and civic education at Catholic high schools across the United States. The Atonement Academy won the award in 2008, and again in 2012.

The Cardinal Newman Society announced the list of schools recognized by the Catholic Education Honor Roll as 2014 Schools of Excellence in a news release this morning.  Since 2004 the Honor Roll has celebrated quality Catholic education throughout the United States, and Honor Roll schools receiving this designation are marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics. This year seventy-one schools received the honor of being named as a School of Excellence, and an additional nine received the distinction of Honorable Mention.

Academy headmaster Walter Spencer remarked, “We are humbled as well as privileged to be in this group of less than five percent of the Catholic high schools in the United States.  This recognition underscores our efforts to maintain our Catholic identity as well as to carry on the tradition of rigorous Catholic education. We are grateful to our students for helping us achieve this honor and to their parents, who make many sacrifices to keep Catholic education a priority for their families.”

“Since competition began in 2004, the Honor Roll has been a helpful tool for administrators, families, and benefactors in recognizing the quality of a Catholic high school education,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day—not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity—and we are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”

This year’s Honor Roll schools are diverse: large and small, new and long-established, highly selective and those with open enrollment admissions policies, as well as a variety of tuition rates. The common trait is an institutional commitment to providing a truly integrated and faithful Catholic education across all disciplines and in all areas of student activities.

The Atonement Academy has an enrollment of 572 students in grades PreK-4 through 12 and was founded in 1994.  The high school was added in 2005. With a mission to “strive for excellence in the physical, the intellectual, and the spiritual virtues through a challenging course of classical and Catholic education,” the school builds into every student’s routine daily Mass, rigorous academics, and opportunities for participation in sports and a variety of extracurricular activities. The Academy is the parish school of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, founded in the Archdiocese of San Antonio in 1983. The pastor is Father Christopher G. Phillips and the academy headmaster is Mr. Walter Spencer.

Mr. Walter Spencer, Headmaster,
announces the award to the Upper School students.



14 September 2014

Mater Dolorosa


The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(One Our Father, Seven Hail Marys, while meditating on each Sorrow.)

The Prophecy of Simeon concerning the Infant Jesus. (St. Luke 2:34)
The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (St. Matthew 2:13)
The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (St. Luke 2:43)
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary. (St. Luke 23:26)
The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (St. John 19:25)
The Descent from the Cross, with Jesus placed in Mary's arms. (St. Matthew 27:57)
The Burial of Jesus. (St. John 19:40)

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; 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.

Litany of the Holy Cross


Relic of the True Cross, Our Lady of the Atonement Church


Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy upon us.
God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, Have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy upon us.

Christ Jesus, laden with the Cross and led to Calvary, Have mercy upon us.
Christ Jesus, nailed to the Cross, Have mercy upon us.
Christ Jesus, raised up on the Cross, Have mercy upon us.
Christ Jesus, obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, Have mercy upon us.
Christ Jesus, bearing our sins in thine own Body on the Tree, Have mercy upon us.
Christ Jesus, by whose stripes we are healed, Have mercy upon us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat, Good Lord, deliver us.
By thy buffetings and stripes, Good Lord, deliver us.
By thy Crown of Thorns, Good Lord, deliver us.
By thy Cross and Passion, Good Lord, deliver us.
By the anguish of thy Sacred Heart upon the Cross, Good Lord, deliver us.
By thy most precious Death, Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, that we may die unto sin and live unto righteousness,
We beseech thee to hear us, Good Lord.
That we may take up our cross daily and follow thee,
We beseech thee to hear us, Good Lord.
That we may perfectly know thee, the Crucified,
We beseech thee to hear us, Good Lord.
That we may never crucify thee afresh,
We beseech thee to hear us, Good Lord.
That being made partakers of thy sufferings, we may share also in thy consolations,
We beseech thee to hear us, Good Lord.

Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, Hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy upon us.


Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, our merciful High Priest, who on the Cross didst offer to the Father a pure offering, to reconcile sinners unto God by the infinite merits of thy Life, thy Passion and thy Death; give us grace, we beseech thee, to die to the world, and live to thee alone, and finally depart in peace, through thy merits; who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

12 September 2014

St. John Chrysostom


St. John Chrysostom is known as one of the greatest preachers in the long history of the Church, and surely his homilies form a major legacy, but John lived at a time and in circumstances which demanded great holiness – something which God granted him in abundance.

John was born in 347, the son of Christian parents. His mother, Anthusa, was widowed at the age of twenty, soon after his birth. Anthusa gave all of her attention to her son. She gave him the best classical education available, and he was enrolled as a catechumen when he was eighteen. He came under the influence of Bishop Meletius of Antioch, who baptized him and ordained him lector.

At this time, John felt called to lead the life of a monk-hermit. He took up residence in a cave, spent his time studying the Scriptures, and put himself under the discipline of an elderly hermit named Hesychius. The discipline was demanding and austere, eventually breaking the health of John. He returned to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest, and he came to be known as a great preacher.

During the next twelve years the people of Antioch were enthralled with his sermons. He preached with a depth of knowledge and persuasiveness that were memorable to those who heard him. It was during this time that he received the nickname of Chrysostom, or “golden mouth,” because it was commonly said that “his words are like pure gold.” In the year 397, the Emperor Arcadius appointed John Chrysostom to the vacant See of Constantinople. It was feared that John’s humility would lead him to refuse the position, so he had to be lured to Constantinople, where he subsequently was consecrated bishop in 398.

It was not a peaceful or holy place in which John Chrysostom found himself. There was an abundance of political intrigue. Fraud and extravagance were the order of the day. Those around him were driven by their raw ambition to be advanced in their positions. John Chrysostom brought about immediate changes: he cut back expenses; he gave generously to the poor; he constructed hospitals. He set about reforming the clergy, called the monks back to a life of discipline, and reminded all the people of the importance of leading faithful and moral lives.

As might be expected, his program of reforms made enemies – especially the Empress Eudoxia along with Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. With the city of Constantinople in an uproar and his life under threat, John was exiled by the emperor in the year 404.

The situation continued to deteriorate, with the papal envoys being imprisoned, and John (who was defended by the pope and who had ordered John to be restored to his See) was sent even further into exile. Eventually he found himself six hundred miles from Constantinople, across the Black Sea. St. John Chrysostom was weary and he was sick. He died in exile in the year 407, and yet his last words were, "Glory to God for all things."

O God, who didst give to thy servant St. John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

11 September 2014

The Holy Name of Mary


The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated on Monday, September 8th, and now on September 12th we commemorate the giving of her name by her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anne. They chose the Hebrew name of Miryãm, which means “lady” or “sovereign.” The feast of the Holy Name of Mary originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. It was Pope Innocent XI who extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683, and for a very special reason. It was an act of thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West.

What happened was this: the Turks had been hammering the city of Vienna for a couple of months, and finally enough was enough. Under the leadership of Poland’s king an army comprised of Germans, Austrians and Poles made their move against the Turks, routing them completely. It was such an important victory that the Pope was inspired to do something special – thus, what had been a localized commemoration was now an act of thanks from the whole Church. But there’s more to the story…

When the Turks made their hasty retreat there were all sorts of things left behind, including several sacks containing a strange bean unknown to the victors. Thinking it was food for the invaders’ camels, the Viennese were about to dump it all in the Danube. But there was a citizen of Vienna who had been a captive under the Turks. He knew these beans were roasted by the Turks, and after grinding them up they would put them in hot water, making a drink they really seemed to relish. This man, Kolinsky, received exclusive permission to make and sell this new and unfamiliar drink – coffee.

The Viennese people hated it. It was bitter. The grounds got stuck in their teeth. It didn’t seem much better than drinking a cup of mud. Then a friend of Kolinsky made a suggestion. Strain out the grounds. Put a little milk in it to lighten it up. Add some sugar to make it more palatable. After following that advice, the people flocked to buy it, and so the first coffee house was born.

But let’s face it – what’s a cup of coffee without something to go with it? And with that came a new pastry which not only tasted good, but poked a stick in the eye of the Muslims. The delectable comestible was formed into the shape of a crescent – that symbol which had become so hated during the Turkish occupation – and with every bite of these wonderful pastries the Viennese were able to have another small victory over their invaders.

So there we have it. There’s the story of how Turkish coffee was made drinkable, and how the croissant – the “Turkish crescent” – came into being. And it all happened as part of the victorious triumph achieved under the banner of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of thy heavenly grace: That like as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us thy servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of her Most Holy Name may avail for the increasing of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Remember and pray...

World Trade Center, 9/11

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen.


Pentagon, 9/11

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord,
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die,
we are the Lord's.


Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

08 September 2014

St. Peter Claver

A native of Spain, the young Jesuit priest Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into what is now Colombia, and he was ordained there in 1615.

By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled "supreme villainy" by Pius IX, it continued to flourish.

Fr. Peter Claver's predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Fr. Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself "the slave of the Negroes forever."

As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, the young priest plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God's saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, he instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.

His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead.

After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his kindness toward the slaves, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.

He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among those who are in slavery or any kind of forced servitude.

O God, who to call many Africans in slavery to the knowledge of thy Name didst endue St. Peter Claver with wondrous love and patience in their service: grant by his intercession; that we may seek the things of Christ, and show forth charity toward our neighbors both in deed and in truth; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Mass of Our Lady's Nativity

This is the Sung Mass, celebrated at The Atonement Academy, on September 8th. Annually on this feast day the Academy teachers make their Oath of Fidelity, promising to live according to the doctrine and discipline of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and to exercise the apostolate of teaching in conformity with the revealed Truth, and in union with the universal Church.


07 September 2014

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy." – St. John Damascene
The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated as a universal liturgical feast at least from the sixth century. Its origin can be traced to the occasion of the consecration of a church in Jerusalem just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, near the Pool of Bethesda — a church built on the traditional site of the house of Ss. Joachim and Anne. There they lived as husband and wife. Their love for God and for each other brought them the precious gift of their daughter, Mary. From the earliest years, the Church venerated the place where Mary was born, and the liturgical remembrance began to spread beyond Jerusalem. Within a few years it was celebrated in Rome, having been introduced by monks from the East, and the celebration included a procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Although the actual date of Mary’s birth isn’t known, the Church settled on September 8th, and the celebration Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was fixed on December 8th, as the date corresponding to nine months before the celebration of her Nativity. The two feasts commemorating Mary's conception and her birth can be seen as forming a kind of bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin, God completed the new Ark – the living Temple – in which He would dwell. Because of that there is no more need for the old Temple, and through Mary, Jesus the Incarnate God has come to us to incorporate us into the New Israel.
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of thy heavenly grace; that, like as the child bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us thy servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of her Nativity may avail for the increase of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

04 September 2014

"Icon of the Good Samaritan"


On August 26, 1910 a baby girl was born to a couple of Albanian heritage in Skopje, Macedonia. She was baptized with the name of Agnes, and she grew up in a loving and devoutly Catholic household. When she was eight years old, her father died, leaving her mother with the responsibility of supporting the family, which she did by opening a shop which dealt in embroidery and fabric.

Young Agnes helped her mother, and was also deeply involved in the life of their parish church, but when she was eighteen she felt the call to religious life. She left home in September of 1928, travelling to Dublin, Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant at the Loreto Convent. It was there that she received the religious name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux, and she was known as Sr. Mary Teresa.

After her postulancy in Ireland, Sr. Teresa was sent to India, where she was to spend her novitiate. She arrived in Calcutta on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1929, and went immediately into the Loreto convent in Darjeeling. It was on May 24, 1937, that she professed her final vows, and during the 1930’s and 1940’s she taught at a Catholic girls’ school in Calcutta, and came to be known as Mother Teresa.

It was on September 10, 1946 that she was on the train going from Calcutta to Darjeeling. As she later recalled it, it was during that journey that she was given what she termed a “call within a call.” This was when she received the inspiration which would lead to the founding of the Missionaries of Charity. Within her call to religious life she felt the call to establish a new religious institute which would have as its mission, “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love of souls,” and this would be accomplished by “laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” This came to fruition on October 7, 1950, when the new congregation of the Missionaries of charity was erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

Her work had begun in a small way. She washed the sores of sick children; she nursed a woman dying of starvation and tuberculosis; she cared for a homeless man who was without any family, and near death. One by one, some of her former students joined her in the work. Their day would begin with Mass and Holy Communion, and then they would set out on the streets of Calcutta – they were recognizable by their white saris with blue borders – and they had the purpose of caring for the “poorest of the poor,” who had no one to care for them. They searched them out as though searching for Jesus Himself.

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s the work expanded, as did the number of those joining the Missionaries of Charity. They worked not only in Calcutta, but throughout India. Then, in 1965, Pope Paul VI raised the congregation from an archdiocesan institute to one of pontifical right, and they began to spread throughout the world, going first to Venezuela, then into Europe and Africa, eventually opening houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America.

In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and by that time there were 158 Missionaries of Charity foundations throughout the world, and its growth continued, until by 1997 there were nearly 4,000 Sisters in 600 foundations, in 123 countries of the world. In the summer of 1997, after an extensive trip to visit her sisters in Rome, New York, and Washington, Mother Teresa’s health was failing. She returned to Calcutta, and on September 5, 1997, she died at the Motherhouse, very near the Loreto convent where she had arrived some sixty-nine years earlier.

At her death she was mourned throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands came to Calcutta to pray and pay their respect to this remarkable woman. She was given a state funeral, and her body was taken in procession throughout the streets of Calcutta, where she herself had searched out the “poorest of the poor.” After only two years, in recognition of her sanctity, special permission was given to open her cause, and she was beatified on October 19, 2003 after the miraculous healing of an Indian woman through the intercession of Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. In speaking of her, St. John Paul II called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of thy servant, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

St. Cuthbert, Bishop and Confessor

St. Cuthbert, one of the great saints of Britain, was born in Northumbria in about the year 635, at about the same year in which St. Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne. He was raised as a Christian, and in his youth he spent time in military service, and also seems to have spent time as a shepherd.

His life changed when he was about 17 years old. He was tending sheep out in the hills, and looking into the night sky he saw a great light descend to earth and then return, and he believed that a human soul was being taken to heaven at that moment. The date was August 31, 651, the night of the death of St. Aidan, who was the great bishop and monk of Lindisfarne. This became Cuthbert’s time of decision for the future of his life. He immediately went to one of the monasteries, Melrose monastery, which had been founded by St. Aidan, and requested admittance as a novice.

For the next 13 years he was with the Melrose monks. At that time Melrose was then given land to found a new monastery at Ripon, and Cuthbert went with the founding party and was made guestmaster of the new foundation. After serving in that capacity for a time, St. Cuthbert returned to his original monastery and was appointed as Prior of Melrose.

After a time, St. Cuthbert moved to Lindisfarne and settled into the life of the monastery. He became an active missionary, and he was very much in demand as a spiritual director. He was an outgoing, cheerful, compassionate person and no doubt became popular. But when he was about forty years old he believed that he was being called to be a hermit and to dedicate himself completely to prayer. He moved to a remote island, where he remained for another ten years.

He was not destined to remain in the life of a hermit. When he was about fifty years old, he was asked by the Church to leave his hermitage and become a bishop, and he very reluctantly agreed. For two years he was an active, travelling bishop, and he journey far and wide ministering to those under his spiritual care.

Finally, feeling that death was approaching, he retired to his old hermitage where, in the company of Lindisfarne monks, he died on March 20, 687.

The 4th of September is kept as a commemoration of St. Cuthbert in remembrance of the transference of his relics to Durham. With the invasion of the Vikings near the end of the 9th century, the body of St. Cuthbert was taken from Lindisfarne by the monks to a new location for safekeeping, until finally arriving at the place known as “Deer’s meadow,” or “Durham,” where a chapel was built for the relics, and this chapel marked the place where the great Durham Cathedral now stands.

Almighty God, who didst call St. Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of thy people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from thy ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

02 September 2014

Pope St. Gregory the Great


St. Gregory, truly "the Great," served the Church as Supreme Pontiff from 590 until 604.  After serving the city of Rome as a senator and prefect, all by the age of thirty, he gave himself to God by entering religious life as a Benedictine monk.  It was during his time as abbot that this famous incident took place, recorded in The Golden Legend:

It happed afterward that as Saint Gregory passed through the market of Rome, and saw there two fair children white and ruddy of visage, and fair yellow hair which were for to sell. And Saint Gregory demanded from whence they were, and the merchant answered, of England. After Saint Gregory demanded if they were christian, and he answered: Nay, but that they were paynims. Then sighed Saint Gregory and said: Alas, what fair people hath the devil in his doctrine and in his domination. After he demanded how these people were called: he answered that they were called Angles men; then he said they may well be so called for they have the visage of angels.

Abbot Gregory eventually became Pope. In addition to his tremendous influence on the liturgical and musical life of the Church, he remembered the Angle children he had seen in the slave market. He sent forty Benedictine monks to England, and among their number was St. Augustine of Canterbury. The rest, as they say, is history...

O God, the strength of them that put their trust in thee, who didst stablish thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Gregory with the strength of constancy to defend the freedom of thy Church: grant, we pray thee, that by his prayers and good example, we may manfully conquer all things contrary to our salvation; 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.

01 September 2014

"I am God's wheat, ground fine..."


"No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God."

- St. Ignatius of Antioch, c.107

Bishop Gracida, still going strong!


Bishop René Henry Gracida is ninety-one years old, looks twenty years younger than that, and speaks out with the enthusiasm of a newly-ordained priest. He is unashamedly Catholic, unflinchingly pro-life, and doesn't hesitate to step on episcopal toes. His life as a war-time pilot, a Benedictine monk, a parish priest, and an outspoken bishop should be the stuff of books and movies, and I have enjoyed knowing him for nearly thirty years.

Bishop Gracida, now Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese Corpus Christi, has written down some of the highlights of his remarkable life in a series of posts which appear on his blog, Abyssus Abyssum Invocat/Deep Calls To Deep. I have assembled them in one place and in chronological order.

You can read them at this link.

31 August 2014

Labor Day

Labor Day has become synonymous with barbeques and bargains, but it was instituted originally as a day to honor workers, and especially to feature the place of organized labor.  Labor unions have had an up-and-down place in the history of our nation, and at this particular time the stock of unions isn't terribly high.  It is a good thing, however, to honor workers and their labor.

The patron saint of laborers is St. Joseph the Worker. The actual commemoration falls on the first day of May, but it is a good thing to remember him on Labor Day too, as a way of accentuating the dignity of labor and as a reminder of the spiritual dimension of work.

The teaching of the Church reaches back into the Old Testament, when we read in the Book of Genesis that God created man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend to it. From that time, God, who is the creator and ruler of the universe, has called men and women in every age to develop and use their talents for the good of others, and as a way of sharing in the creative work of God. In every kind of labor we are to remember that we are obeying the command of God to use our talents, and to receive the fruit of our labors. Our work allows us to provide for our own needs, and for the needs of those for whom we are responsible. It also allows us to show proper charity towards those who are in need.

As we celebrate Labor Day, we should look to St. Joseph and follow his example of work, by which he showed his love and responsibility for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the Child Jesus. St. Joseph shows the dignity of work – and whether it is manual work, or any other kind of work, we are to do it in a spirit of cooperation with God, and as an offering to Him. Any task, well done, is an offering to God.  When we work, we should see it as a work done for God, and it is part of what shows that we are created in His image. In creation itself, God worked for six days, and rested the seventh. So in our own lives, we are to keep that balance between using our energy for work, and then out of respect for our minds and bodies, give a day for our spiritual and physical renewal.


Almighty God our Heavenly Father, who declarest thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The path to eternal life...


"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

30 August 2014

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne


St. Aidan studied under St. Senan, and he became a monk at Iona in about the year 630. His obvious virtues caused him to be selected as first Bishop of Lindisfarne in 635, and in time he became known as the "apostle of Northumbria." St. Bede spoke highly of the spiritual care given by St. Aidan to his people. Oswald, the king of Northumbria, and who had studied in Ireland, was a close friend of St. Aidan, and gave great support to his work. St. Aidan died at Bamborough on 31 August 651, and his remains were taken to Lindisfarne. St. Bede writes that "he was a pontiff inspired with a passionate love of virtue, but at the same time full of a surpassing mildness and gentleness."
O loving God, who didst call thy servant St. Aidan of Lindisfarne from the peace of a cloister to reestablish the Christian mission in northern England, and didst endow him with gentleness, simplicity, and strength: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, following his example, may use what thou hast given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Remember September...

When September arrives it always reminds me of beginning my theological studies in Salisbury, England, when JoAnn and I arrived in 1973, knowing no one, getting used to living in a foreign country, and having a great time figuring out the language. It was English, but unlike anything I’d heard before. My fellow students were from all over England and Ireland, and the variety of dialects at first presented something of a challenge to understand.

Pictured above is what was the Salisbury & Wells Theological College. It’s now become something called the “Sarum College,” and it appears that now you can go there for conferences, retreats, ecumenical studies, etc., but it’s no longer an actual theological college. The building itself is wonderful. The main building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and was built in 1677. It has a marvelous sweeping staircase as a feature of the dignified entrance hall. The College Chapel (along with the dormitory wing) was designed by William Butterfield and built in the 1870’s. Dormitories stretched out towards the back, and they were interesting in that there was a repeating arrangement of a small room and then a few large rooms. This was a hold-over from the days when the young gentlemen students would have men-servants to see to their needs. By the time I was there, each room was a student’s room, and the lucky ones got the bigger rooms.

I didn’t have to contend with that, however. As a married student I was able to find a flat nearby, and we lived in what had been the servants’ quarters on the top floor of the archdeacon’s house. Number 23, The Close, was our address. How well I remember it, with a fabulous view of the north side of the majestic Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I did manage to get one of the smaller rooms at the College which I used as a study, and it turned into something of a meeting place for many of us.  It came to be known as "the grotto" because of the rather nice Marian shrine I had there, plus the perpetual "churchy" fragrance which was the result of my keeping a few grains of incense on the bulb in my desk lamp.  We had what we considered at the time to be elevated discussions about theology, the pitiful state of the Anglican Communion, and how it would all be different when we were ordained and could be out in our future parishes - each one of which would undoubtedly become a model of Anglo-catholic worship, excellent preaching, and faultless pastoral care. Needless to say, things didn't work out as we expected, although in my case it turned out even better.

As the song says, "Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow..."

29 August 2014

Ss. Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line, and Margaret Ward, Martyrs

The three martyrs we commemorate on August 30th are numbered amongst the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, who suffered death for the Catholic faith which had been outlawed in the kingdom. These three women – St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line, and St. Margaret Ward – were all martyred because they protected Catholic priests from the Elizabethan authorities, who were seeking out all Catholic priests for execution. During this dark time in history, it was illegal for priests to be in the country, as it was illegal for Catholic to receive the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

St. Margaret Clitherow was a convert to the faith. She became a Catholic when she was eighteen. Although her husband was not a Catholic, he supported her in the practice of her faith, along with their son Henry, who was studying for the priesthood. Margaret’s husband even went so far all to allow her to welcome priests into their home for the celebration of Mass, and 1586 she was arrested for giving shelter to a priest. She was condemned to the horrifying death of being slowly crushed to death, being made to lay upon a sharp stone with a door placed upon her while nearly eight hundred pounds of stone were gradually added on top of the door. This took place on Good Friday in 1586. She died with the name of Jesus upon her lips.

St. Anne Line was also a convert, and was completely disowned by her family. In 1586 she married a man who was also a convert to the faith, but who soon exiled from the country, leaving Anne by herself. She eventually managed two “safe houses” where travelling priests could hide, but was arrested on February 2, 1601, when she assisted a priest in escaping arrest. When she was brought to court, she fully admitted what she had done, and told the judge that her only regret was that she had not helped more priests. St. Anne Line was hung in London, and before her death she repeated what she had said in court, stating clearly that she did not repent for her actions, but that she wished she could have done it a thousand times.

St. Margaret Ward was an unmarried woman, and so is a virgin-martyr. She helped a priest escape from the prison where he was being held by smuggling him a length of rope with which he could lower himself over the prison wall. She was eventually accused of giving assistance to the priest because it was known that she was the last person to have visited him, and therefore was the most obvious person to have given the rope to the prisoner. St. Margaret Ward was bound by chains, hung up by her hands, and was brutally scourged, as the authorities demanded to know where the priest had gone. She steadfastly refused, and was hung publicly in London on August 30, 1588.

Although these three martyrs were canonized in 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, they are commemorated on a separate day because of the particular reason for their deaths; namely, their deep respect for the priesthood, and their zealous protection of priests.

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 St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line and St. Margaret Ward, 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.

28 August 2014

Our Deacons' Anniversary Day


August 29th 2014 is the seventeenth anniversary of the ordination of our two deacons, Dn. Michael D'Agostino and Dn. James Orr, and we give thanks to God for their faithful witness and ministry.

ALMIGHTY God, who by thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church, and didst inspire thine Apostles to choose into the Order of Deacons the first Martyr Saint Stephen, with others; Mercifully behold these thy servants called to the like Office and Administration: so replenish them with the truth of thy Doctrine, and adorn them with innocency of life, that, both by word and good example, they may faithfully serve thee in this Office, to the glory of thy Name, and the edification of thy Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.

Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist


The circumstances surrounding the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist are pretty seedy – we have a drunken king who makes an oath and doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of others; we have a hateful queen who wants revenge; we have a young girl who is pushed into the situation by her mother, and made to do a seductive dance and then make a deal to have John murdered.

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he was the first New Testament prophet. Of course, he was treated like most of the prophets were – he was hated for speaking the truth. Sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah, his vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power he claimed was the Spirit of God. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37), and so the life and death of St. John the Baptist had the great purpose of pointing the way to Christ.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy servant St. John the Baptist triumphed over suffering and despised death: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, enduring hardness and waxing valiant in fight, may with the noble army of martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Augustine and the Trinity


The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise De Trinitate [about the Holy Trinity], endeavouring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

Augustine was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

The Bishop of Hippo approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”

“I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.

“But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.

The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.

Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Christ Child Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding before the great mysteries of our Faith.

27 August 2014

St. Augustine of Hippo


After Augustine's conversion and baptism through the teaching and example of St. Ambrose, this son of the devout and patient St. Monica went back to his native Africa in 387, where he was ordained a priest in 391 and consecrated bishop of Hippo in 396. Actually, the furthest thing from Augustine's mind was to become a priest. He was visiting the town of Hippo. He was listening to a sermon by the Bishop of Hippo. The bishop, without any warning whatsoever, said, "This Church is in need of more priests, and I believe that the ordination of Augustine would be to the glory of God." Augustine was shocked to hear his name mentioned during the sermon itself. Suddenly, there were those around him who dragged Augustine forward, and the bishop together with his council of priests laid hands on him and ordained him to the priesthood. He scarcely had time to adjust to being a priest when, a few years later, Augustine was chosen to succeed the bishop who had ordained him, and so was from that time until his own death, the bishop of Hippo.

He was a faithful and hard-working shepherd to his people, but he also found time to write extensively. He was an admirer of Jerome, the great translator of Scripture, and Augusting wrote him a letter hoping to establish a friendship. Unfortunately, the letter went astray. Jerome did not receive the letter, and its contents became public knowledge before Jerome even knew it had been written. Because it was a personal letter, Augustine, in addition to saying how much he admired Jerome, had mentioned some criticisms of something Jerome had written. Jerome was furious, thinking Augustine had been publicly speaking against him, and Jerome was willing to make his response into a public argument with the Bishop of Hippo. However, Augustine wrote him another letter, deeply apologizing and explaining what had happened, and Jerome was calmed. Over the ensuing years they had a long, intellectual and friendly correspondence.

St. Augustine was a very productive writer. The works we have (and it is generally assumed that much of his work did not survive) include 113 books and treatises, more than 200 letters, and over 500 sermons. Among the most famous of his writings are his “Confessions,” and “The City of God,” in which he discusses the work of God in history, showing the relationship between the Christian as citizen of an earthly society and the Christian as citizen of Heaven. His third great work is his “De Trinitate” ("On the Trinity"), in which he discusses the doctrine of the Trinity by comparing the mind of man with the mind of God, based upon the fact that man is made in the image of God. He speaks of a Trinitarian structure in the act of knowing something, a Trinitarian structure in the act of self-awareness, and a Trinitarian structure in the act of religious understanding through which man sees himself as made in the image of God.

Perhaps St. Augustine’s most famous attack on heresy was against the Pelagians. There was a man from Britain named Morgan, or in Latin, Pelagius (meaning "islander"), who began to preach about what he saw as a deterioration of moral standards. Pelagius saw Christians living lives which were sometimes immoral, or at least less than exemplary, and who blamed their actions on human frailty. Pelagius gave the reply to this: "No, God has given you free will. You can follow the example of Adam, or the example of Christ. God has given everyone the grace he needs to be good. If you are not good, you simply need to put in more effort." In his argument with Pelagius, St. Augustine asked him about original sin, and he received the reply that there is no such thing. Augustine asked him why, in that case, it was the universal custom to baptize infants, and Pelagius had no answer. St. Augustine saw the teaching of Pelagius as undermining the doctrine that God is the ultimate source of all good, leading the virtuous Christian to feel that he had earned God's approval by his own efforts. The teaching of Pelagius was condemned by the Church because of the clear argumentation put forward by St. Augustine.

At the then-advanced age of seventy-five, St. Augustine, the great and distinguished Bishop of Hippo, died on 28 August 430.

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Augustine of Hippo, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Almighty God, Majestic King


Almighty God, majestic King,
with joyful hearts thy people sing: Alleluia, alleluia.
For all good gifts we offer praise,
and ask thy blessings all our days:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Son,
who on the cross salvation won: Alleluia, alleluia;
through thy great sacrifice of love
we join our song with saints above:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

O Holy Spirit, Light divine,
dwell in these hearts and souls of thine: Alleluia, alleluia.
Keep us in peace and unity
that with one voice our chant may be,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1996
Music: LASST UNS ERFREUEN, from Geistliche Kirchengesang, 1623

26 August 2014

St. Monica, Widow and Confessor


The circumstances of St. Monica's life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of those temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and lived an immoral life. Monica also had to put up with an ill-tempered mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius constantly criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but he always respected her. Monica's prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law over to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his Baptism.

Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. At the time of his father's death, Augustine was 17 and a student of rhetoric in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy – which was a combination of gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with the basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, with matter (physical things) being regarded as dark and evil. At this point, Augustine was living an immoral life. For a while, Monica refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine's trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica's spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan, as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was nearing the end. She told Augustine, "Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled." She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

O Lord, who through spiritual discipline didst strengthen thy servant St. Monica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we beseech thee, and use us in accordance with thy will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Prayer to the Blessed Mother


O Holy Mary, blessed Mother of my God, who dost bear in thine arms He Who is the sacrifice for my sins, and Who rested His head upon thy breast; pray for me, that as thou didst hold Him in His death, so He may hold me in the hour of my death in His everlasting arms.  Amen.

24 August 2014

St. Louis, King and Confessor


St. Louis IX, (1215-1270) became King of France at the age of twelve. He had been brought up by his mother to be a faithful Catholic ruler, and during his whole life he remembered her words to him: "Never forget that sin is the only great evil in the world.” Then she went on to say, “No mother could love her son more than I love you. But I would rather see you lying dead at my feet than to know that you had offended God by one mortal sin."

Throughout his life he remained deeply devout and as a king his conduct was that of a real saint. He devoted himself to the people of his kingdom and he was a great peacemaker — kings and princes constantly sought his aid in settling disputes. He was a humble man, and was always helpful to the needy, inviting them to his own table to eat. He took time himself to care for lepers and the sick. St. Louis gave to all his people an example of a life that overflowed with charity and with justice for every single person.

He was a person whom it was easy to love; he was a kind husband, the father of eleven children. He took great care in practicing his faith and in receiving the sacraments. St. Louis was known also for his bravery in battle, going on two crusades to protect the Church in the Holy Land from the Muslims who were trying to destroy it. In fact, he was on his second crusade when he was taken ill by the plague. As a penance he asked to be laid on a bed of ashes, and his last words were from Psalm 5, "I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!"

O God, who didst call thy servant St. Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.