23 June 2017

Nativity of St. John the Baptist


St. John the Baptist was a contemporary of our Lord who was known for preparing the way for Jesus Christ, and for baptizing Him. John was born through an act of God to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was otherwise too old to bear children. According to the scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John. Zachariah was skeptical and for this he was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will.

The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ praised St. John the Baptist so highly, saying that among those born of women there was none greater, encouraged a special veneration, and so we find a regular cycle of feasts in his honour among the early Christian churches.

It was the firm belief among the faithful from the time of the early Church that John was freed from original sin at the moment when his mother met the Blessed Virgin, when the child "leaped in the womb" of St. Elizabeth. Saint Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church, establishing that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" and, therefore, was born without original sin. Accordingly, the Church celebrates his natural birth by a festival of his "nativity," assigned some six months before the nativity of Christ, since John was six months older than the Lord.

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of 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 Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 June 2017

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.

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More


St. Thomas More was born in London, England and was Chancellor of King Henry VIII. As a family man and a public servant, his life was a rare synthesis of human sensitivity and Christian wisdom.

St. John Fisher studied Theology in Cambridge and became Bishop of Rochester. His friend, Thomas More, wrote of him, 'I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him.' He and his friend St. Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of Marriage.

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.

O God, who didst raise up amongst the English people thy blessed Martyrs John and Thomas to be defenders of the faith and to witness to the primacy of the Roman Church: grant by their merits and prayers; that in the profession of one faith we may all be made one in Christ, and in him continue to be at one with one another; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 June 2017

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


The time and place where Aloysius Gonzaga grew up - 16th-century Italy - was not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a kill-joy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left.

Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself.

Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a program he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director, St. Robert Bellarmine, to guide him.

Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervor was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint.

To his credit, Aloysius recognized that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, "I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight."

Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old.

In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St. Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace.

- Excerpted from "Saints for Every Occasion," by Thomas J. Craughwell

O God, the giver of all spiritual gifts, who in the angelic youth of thy blessed Saint Aloysius didst unite a wondrous penitence to a wondrous innocence of life: grant, by his merits and intercession; that although we have not followed the pattern of his innocence, yet we may imitate the example of his penitence; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 June 2017

St. Alban, Protomartyr of Britain


THE STORY OF SAINT ALBAN
as recounted in the
Ecclesiastical History of the English People
by the Venerable Bede [672 - 735]

During this persecution St. Alban Suffered. Fortunatus in his Praise of the Virgins, in which he mentions the blessed martyrs, who came to the Lord from every quarter of the globe, calls him 'Illustrious Alban, fruitful Britain's child.'

When infidel rulers were issuing violent edicts against the Christians, Alban, though still a heathen at the time, gave hospitality to a certain cleric who was fleeing from his persecutors. When Alban saw this man occupied day and night in continual vigils and prayers, divine grace suddenly shone upon him and he learned to imitate his guest's faith and devotion. Instructed little by little by his teaching about salvation, Alban forsook the darkness of idolatry and became a wholehearted Christian. When this cleric had been staying with him for some days, it came to the ears of the evil ruler that a man who confessed Christ, though not yet destined to be a martyr, was hiding in Alban's house. He at once ordered his soldiers to make a thorough search for him there. When they came to the martyr's dwelling, St. Alban at once offered himself to the soldiers in place of his guest and teacher, and so, having put on the garment, that is to say the cloak, which the cleric was wearing, he was brought in bonds to the judge.

Now it happened that, when Alban was brought in to him, the judge was standing before the devils' altars and offering sacrifices to them. Seeing Alban, he immediately flew into a rage because this man of his own accord had dared to give himself up to the soldiers and to run so great a risk on behalf of the guest whom he had harboured. He ordered Alban to be dragged before the images of the devils in front of which he was standing and said, 'You have chosen to conceal a profane rebel rather than surrender him to my soldiers, to prevent him from paying a well-deserved penalty for his blasphemy in despising the gods; so you will have to take the punishment he has incurred if you attempt to forsake our worship and religion.' St. Alban had of his own accord declared himself a Christian before the enemies of the faith, and was not at all afraid of the ruler's threats; arming himself for spiritual warfare, he openly refused to obey these commands. The judge said to him, 'What is your family and race?' Alban answered, 'What concern is it of yours to know my parentage? If you wish to hear the truth about my religion, know that I am now a Christian and am ready to do a Christian's duty.' The judge said, 'I insist on knowing your name, so tell me at once.' The man said, 'My parents call me Alban and I shall ever adore and worship the true and living God who created all things.' The judge answered very angrily, 'If you wish to enjoy the happiness of everlasting life, you must sacrifice at once to the mighty gods.' Alban answered, 'The sacrifices which you offer to devils cannot help their votaries nor fulfill the desires and petitions of their suppliants. On the contrary, he who has offered sacrifices to these images will receive eternal punishment in hell as his reward.' When the judge heard this he was greatly incensed and ordered the holy confessor of God to be beaten by the torturers, thinking that he could weaken by blows that constancy of heart which he could not affect by words. Alban, though he was subjected to the most cruel tortures, bore them patiently and even joyfully for the Lord's sake. So when the judge perceived that he was not to be overcome by tortures nor turned from the Christian faith, he ordered him to be executed.

As he was being led to his execution, he came to a rapid river whose stream ran between the town wall and the arena where he was to suffer. He saw there a great crowd of people of both sexes and of every age and rank, who had been led (doubtless by divine inspiration) to follow the blessed confessor and martyr. They packed the bridge over the river so tightly that he could hardly have crossed it that evening. In fact almost everyone had gone out so that the judge was left behind in the city without any attendants at all. St. Alban, whose ardent desire it was to achieve his martyrdom as soon as possible, came to the torrent and raised his eyes towards heaven. Thereupon the river-bed dried up at that very spot and he saw the waters give way and provide a path for him to walk in. The executioner who was to have put him to death was among those who saw this. Moved by a divine prompting, he hastened to meet the saint as he came to the place appointed for his execution; then he threw away his sword which he was carrying ready drawn and cast himself down at the saint's feet, earnestly praying that he might be judged worthy to be put to death either with the martyr whom he himself had been ordered to execute, or else in his place.

So while he was turned from a persecutor into a companion in the true faith, and while there was a very proper hesitation among the other executioners in taking up the sword which lay on the ground, the most reverend confessor ascended the hill with the crowds. This hill lay about five hundred paces from the arena, and, as was fitting, it was fair, shining and beautiful, adorned, indeed clothed, on all sides with wild flowers of every kind; nowhere was it steep or precipitous or sheer but Nature had provided it with wide, long-sloping sides stretching smoothly down to the level of the plain. In fact its natural beauty had long fitted it as a place to be hallowed by the blood of a blessed martyr. When he reached the top of the hill, St. Alban asked God to give him water and at once a perpetual spring bubbled up, confined within its channel and at his very feet, so that all could see that even the stream rendered service to the martyr. For it could not have happened that the martyr who had left no water remaining in the river would have desired it on the top of the hill, if he had not realized that this was fitting. The river, when it had fulfilled its duty and completed its pious service, returned to its natural course, but it left behind a witness of its ministry. And so in this spot the valiant martyr was beheaded and received the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. But the one who laid his unholy hands on that holy neck was not permitted to rejoice over his death; for the head of the blessed martyr and the executioner's eyes fell to the ground together.

The soldier who had been constrained by the divine will to refuse to strike God's holy confessor was also beheaded there. In his case it is clear that though he was not washed in the waters of baptism, yet he was cleansed by the washing of his own blood and made worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then the judge, who was astonished by these strange heavenly miracles, ordered the persecution to cease and began to respect the way in which the saints met their death, though he had once believed that he could thereby make them forsake their devotion to the Christian faith. The blessed Alban suffered death on 22 June near the city of Verulamium which the English now call either Uerlamacaestir or Uaeclingacaestir (St. Albans). Here when peaceful Christian times returned, a church of wonderful workmanship was built, a worthy memorial of his martyrdom. To this day sick people are healed in this place and the working of frequent miracles continues to bring it renown.

* * * * *

St. Alban depicted in the Triptych at our High Altar



In this painting, Saint Alban is depicted as a triumphant warrior for the Faith. He wears the purple cloak of the priest – purple is the color of nobility – and stands next to his emblem, the holly bush. The eyes of his executioner can be seen on top of the bush. Saint Alban also wears the Order of the Garter of Saint George. This chivalric order, here executed in both the collar and garter, is one of the most coveted in Great Britain. It is given to those who have contributed greatly to the life of the nation. It is fitting that Alban should wear these emblems because he gave his life for the Faith, which has given much to the English people.




O Eternal Father, who, when the Gospel of Christ first came to England, didst gloriously confirm the faith of Alban by making him the first to win the martyr’s crown: grant that, assisted by his prayers and following his example in the fellowship of the Saints, we may worship thee, the living God, and faithfully witness to Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 June 2017

St. Romuald


St. Romuald, born c.950 in Ravenna, is the founder of the Camaldolese Order, which is a branch of the Benedictines. Austere and devout, along with the penance he imposed upon his young monks, he also gave them solid formation. Here is the “Brief Rule” of St. Romuald for his monks:

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

That sounds like good guidance for all of us.

O God, who through Saint Romuald didst renew the manner of life of hermits in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach the heavenly realms on high; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

17 June 2017

Solemnity of Corpus Christi


On Sunday, June 18th, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi -- giving 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 and 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)

14 June 2017

Pilgrimage: Rome and Holy Land



I will be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land which will include a three-day stop in Rome, departing on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, and returning on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

On February 20th we will fly from San Antonio to New York City, where we will enjoy a 5-hour tour of two important sites: The 9-11 Memorial, built at the place where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood, as well as St. Patrick's Cathedral.

That evening, we will board our trans-Atlantic flight to Rome - the Eternal City - arriving the following morning. We'll spend three days in Rome and visit some of the places most important to our Faith.

Then, on February 24th we will depart on our flight to Tel Aviv, going directly to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. Nazareth, Mount Tabor (Transfiguration), Cana, Mount Carmel, Caesarea, Capernaum, Tiberias, Mount of Beatitudes, Bethlehem, Bethany, Jericho will be on our pilgrimage as we head for our destination of the Holy City of Jerusalem. There are many places to visit and in which to pray in this most important city We will walk the original Stations of the Cross, taking us to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the site of Calvary and the Tomb.

We will, of course, offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily, and we will read and contemplate the Holy Scriptures - especially the Gospels - in the very places where it all happened.

If you would like further information, please email romeandholyland@gmail.com.

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.

One of his concerns was that the Muslims then in control of Jerusalem would not admit Christian pilgrims. In 1253 he traveled about appealing for a new Crusade, aimed solely at pressuring the Muslims into permitting pilgrimages. 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 and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 June 2017

St. Anthony of Padua

The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua is on June 13th, and it's a pretty big deal for us here in the city that bears his name. It was on St. Anthony's Day in 1691 that the Franciscan fathers arrived at a small Indian village near the river, and named the settlement after him. From that tiny beginning, San Antonio is now the seventh largest city in the United States, and as far as I'm concerned, a wonderful place to live.

St. Anthony was born in Portugal and entered the Augustinian monastery of Sao Vicente in Lisbon when he was fifteen. When news of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco reached him, he joined the Franciscans at Coimbra. At his own request, he was sent as a missionary to Morocco, but he became ill, and on his return journey his boat was driven off course and he landed in Sicily. He took part in St. Francis' famous Chapter of Mats in 1221 and was assigned to the Franciscan province of Romagna.

He became a preacher by accident. When a scheduled preacher did not show up for an ordination ceremony at Forli, the Franciscan superior told Anthony to go into the pulpit. His eloquence stirred everyone, and he was assigned to preach throughout northern Italy. Because of his success in converting heretics, he was called the "Hammer of Heretics" and because of his learning, St. Francis himself appointed him a teacher of theology. St. Anthony of Padua was such a forceful preacher that shops closed when he came to town, and people stayed all night in church to be present for his sermons. He became associated with Padua because he made this city his residence and the center of his great preaching mission.

After a series of Lenten sermons in 1231, Anthony's strength gave out and he went into seclusion at Camposanpiero but soon had to be carried back to Padua. He did not reach the city but was taken to the Poor Clare convent at Arcella, where he died. He was thirty-six years old, and the whole city of Padua turned out in mourning for his passing.

He was canonized within a year of his death and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946.

- Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints
__+__+__+__

 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.

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.

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

11 June 2017

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.

07 June 2017

Another Honor for the Academy


Once again, the Cardinal Newman Society has recognized our parish school, The Atonement Academy, as a National Honor Roll school, distinguishing itself in academic excellence and Catholic identity.

This is yet another assurance to our families that their students are receiving the very finest Catholic education available.

Congratulations to the administration and faculty of The Atonement Academy for the great work and dedication this honor represents!

The Ember Days


With our Divine Worship Missal, we have a restoration of some of our traditions which had been temporarily lost to us, and the Ember Days are an example of this.

Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"). There are those who say that the word “ember” is a corruption of the Latin title, but it is as likely that it comes from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle." As the year progresses and returns to its beginning, the ember days are part of the circle of the year. These days of prayer and fasting originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine with his arrival in the year 597.

The fasting is modified – basically no food between meals – and there are particular things for which we are to pray and give thanks. These days are to be used to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us -- for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it is a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us.

Another important aspect of the Ember Days is for us to pray for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during these four periods of time throughout the year.

04 June 2017

Infallibility is NOT Impeccability


Amongst the Catholic doctrines most troublesome to many Protestants (and many Orthodox, too) is that of papal infallibility. Perhaps it conjures up visions of flabella and the sedia gestatoria, or a not-so-subtle Vatican form of mind control, or even an abuse of our valued freedom of conscience.

Actually, it’s a rather straightforward sign of God’s love for His Church.

First of all, papal infallibility is not to be confused with impeccability. Most people understand this, but there are some who think Catholics are supposed to believe that the Pope cannot sin. Infallibility has nothing to do with the absence of sin. It’s a charism – a gift – which God imparts. Although it is rightly referred to as “papal infallibility," nonetheless it is something shared with the whole body of Catholic bishops. Although they do not have this charism individually, they do exercise the gift when they teach in doctrinal unity with the Successor of St. Peter. This is defined in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith.

Despite the myths held by some, the Pope doesn’t wake up in the morning and think to himself, “I think I shall proclaim something infallibly today,” nor are Catholics inhabitants of an ecclesiastical Wonderland in which they are required to believe “six impossible things before breakfast.”

So what is papal infallibility? It is defined in the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4, n. 9:
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

This was confirmed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.

The doctrine of papal infallibility did not abruptly appear in the 19th century. It was found implicitly from the earliest days of the Church, and indeed has its foundation in Holy Scripture itself. In St. John’s Gospel (21:15-17) Christ makes it clear to St. Peter that he, Peter, is to tend the flock and feed the sheep; in St. Luke’s Gospel (22:32) our Lord tells Peter that He will pray for him, so that his faith will not fail, and for him to strengthen the other apostles; in St. Matthew’s Gospel (16:18) Christ proclaims Peter to be the Rock on which He would build His Church.

The Church, founded by our divine Saviour, was commanded by Him to teach everything that He had revealed to His apostles (St. Matthew 28:20), and He promised them that they would be guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (St. John 16:13). As the teaching authority of the Church, along with the primacy of St. Peter and his successors, was more and more comprehended, there came a clearer understanding of the protection God provides through the gift of infallibility. From the scriptural testimony, on through such witnesses as St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Augustine of Hippo, it is clear the Church has always understood that God reveals and safeguards His truth through this charism.

There is an erroneous idea that a formal statement of infallible truth marks the occasion when the Church only began to teach a particular doctrine – in other words, that belief in papal infallibility began in only in 1870. However, infallible pronouncements are usually made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics, and so have never required a formal and infallible statement. We see this even with a cursory reading of the Catechism, where most of the doctrines outlined in its pages require no corresponding papal document to confirm what is simply part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.

If we scratch the surface of most arguments against the doctrine of papal infallibility, we will often find that there is confusion between infallibility and impeccability (“look at the sinful popes in history”), along with an independent streak of protestantism (“no one is going to tell me what I have to believe”). I find it to be both amazing and amusing, that those who are most vociferous against papal infallibility present their arguments with a certitude which could only be described as infallible.

It takes no great leap of faith to accept the fact that the God who created the universe and raises the dead, would also ensure that His children are given the truth. That He protects His Vicar on earth from solemnly defining something as true, if it’s really false, not only harmonizes with Scripture, but it is reflected in the unbroken history of the Church. We should derive great comfort from the doctrine of infallibility, because it’s a beautiful act of God’s divine love.

The Solemnity of Pentecost


O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

02 June 2017

St. Charles Lwanga and 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 2017

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.

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of thy Martyrs, Marcellinus and Peter: grant, we beseech thee; that as we do rejoice in their merits, so we may be enkindled to follow them in all virtuous and godly living; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

31 May 2017

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.

O God, who through the foolishness of the Cross didst wondrously teach blessed Justin Martyr the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ: grant to us by his intercession; that, driving away the errors that beset us, we may attain unto steadfastness of faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

30 May 2017

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary


The Feast of the Visitation honours the Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore in her womb the Incarnate Word of God. It shows her as the first missionary and evangelist, as she takes the Word to her cousin Elizabeth. The unborn infant, St. John, was cleansed from original sin as the two expectant mothers embraced. St. Elizabeth addressed her as the "Mother of the Lord," and Mary responded with the great canticle of praise, the Magnificat:

"My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever."

O God, who didst lead the Blessed Virgin Mary to visit Elizabeth, to their exceeding joy and comfort: grant unto thy people; that as Mary did rejoice to be called the Mother of the Lord, so we may ever rejoice to believe the Incarnation of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 May 2017

Memorial Day


ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

27 May 2017

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 blessed Augustine thy Confessor and Bishop, hast enlightened the English people with the light of the true faith: mercifully grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that have gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

26 May 2017

Good news!


I am overjoyed that Fr. Mark Lewis, presently pastor of St. Luke's Ordinariate Parish in Washington, D.C. has accepted the appointment to be the new pastor of our parish, effective 1 July 2017.  He and his wife Vickey will take up residence on 1 August, and we look forward to welcoming them.

As many of you know, an appointment was not going to be made until next year, but I asked Bishop Lopes if he could possibly move it forward, and he was able to do that. This means that Fr. Lewis will be able to begin much sooner in using his many gifts to lead our parish on as Our Lady of the Atonement takes its place as the newest parish in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Pray for Fr. Lewis and his family, and for the good people of St. Luke's. And pray for our own parish as we continue to grow and move forward, that we may in all things give glory to God!

Fr. Lewis and I have been able to talk about his move here, and I will, of course, be available to assist him in any way he chooses. Also, I will be making visits to other Ordinariate communities as the bishop might decide. I will continue giving spiritual direction, offering Mass for the Poor Clare nuns, and generally giving priestly help whenever and wherever needed.

After nearly thirty-four years as pastor of a wonderful parish, overseeing five major building projects, witnessing growth from eighteen people into thousands, and having the privilege of assisting countless numbers of people discover the joy of entering into full Catholic communion, I am looking forward to continuing the adventure!

25 May 2017

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 Philip to the glory of thy Saints: mercifully grant that we, who rejoice in his festival, may learn to follow rightly the example of his virtues; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Novena to the Holy Ghost


The Novena to the Holy Ghost is known as "the first novena," remembering that the apostles returned to the Upper Room after the Ascension and spent the next nine days in prayer, awaiting the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon them at Pentecost. This year the novena begins on May 26th.

NOVENA TO THE HOLY GHOST.
(Each day begins with the intention, and concludes with the final prayer.)

FIRST DAY Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up thy dwelling within our souls, and make of them thy sacred home. Make us live by grace as adopted children of God. Pervade all the energies of our souls, and create in us fountains of living water, springing up unto eternal life.

SECOND DAY Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to our souls the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach us to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Show us the way by which we may be able to attain to them, and possess them, and hold them hereafter, our own forever.

THIRD DAY Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in thy light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of thee and the Father and the Son.

FOURTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide us in all our ways, that we may always do thy holy will. Incline our hearts to that which is good, turn them away from all that is evil, and direct us by the path of thy commandments to the goal of eternal life.

FIFTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give courage to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil.

SIXTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, and make us to understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for thy glory and the salvation of thy creatures. May we always be faithful in putting thy rewards before every earthly gift.

SEVENTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess our hearts, and incline them to a true faith in thee, to a holy love of thee, our God. Give us thy grace, that we may seek thee and find thee, our best and our truest joy.

EIGHTH DAY Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate our inmost hearts, that we may set thee, our Lord and God, before our faces forever; and shun all things that can offend thee, so that we may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of thy divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens.

NINTH DAY Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a desire for holy things. Produce in our souls the fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness.

The following prayer concludes the Novena each day:

O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Ascension of Our Lord


One of the scriptural phrases intimately associated with Ascensiontide is that when our Lord ascended into heaven, "he led captivity captive…" These words remind us that the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ make up one continuous event, the event which conquered sin and Satan. We should view this as the "great war" of all the ages. In Gethsemane the enemy was met; on the Cross the battle was fought; in the Tomb Satan was defeated; and when our Lord ascended into heaven, he went as the victorious Warrior. His "prisoners of war" were all those things which keep us from having full communion with Almighty God. This was the combat which has brought us peace - the captivity which has given us freedom in Christ.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 May 2017

The Rogation Days


Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: we humbly pray that thy gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labour to gather them; that we, who constantly receive good things from thy hand, may always give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


O Almighty God who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 May 2017

St. Rita of Cascia


St. Rita was born into a happy and faithful Catholic family, and from the time of her childhood she had a very deep desire to live a life pleasing to God. In fact, her parents gave her a little room in their home as an oratory, where she spent all her spare moments. At the age of twelve, however, she wanted to consecrate herself to God by joining a religious community. As pious as her parents were, they pleaded with Rita not to do that, and instead they arranged for her to be married, at the age of eighteen, to an impulsive, disagreeable young man, who was a great trial to young Rita. They had two sons who had both inherited their father's quarrelsome nature. Throughout that time, however, Rita continued in her devotional life, and eventually her holiness and prayers won her husband's heart, so that he was not only willing for her to continue her religious practices, but he himself began to turn towards God.

They had been married for eighteen years, when her husband was murdered. No sooner had that happened, than both of her sons died shortly after. Rita's former desire to consecrate herself to God in the religious life came back even more strongly. Three times she tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia, but her request was refused each time, and each time she returned to her home. But God had plans for her. One night as Rita was praying in her home she heard herself called by name, while someone knocked at the door. In a miraculous way she found she was in the nuns’ enclosure, even though it was completely locked. Needless to say, the nuns were astonished at this miracle, and took her in as a member of the monastery.

St. Rita's hidden, simple life in religion was defined by her obedience and charity, and she lived a life filled with penances. One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell. Kneeling before the crucifix, she asked the Lord to let her share in His sufferings. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached from the image on the cross, and embedded itself in her forehead so deeply that she couldn’t remove it. The wound became worse, and it became horribly infected. Because of the foul odor coming from the wound, she wasn’t allowed to be near the other sisters, and this went on for fifteen years.

One day the Pope proclaimed a jubilee at Rome. Rita wanted nothing more than to attend. She was given permission, but only if the wound in her forehead had healed. Miraculously, it was healed, but only for as long as the pilgrimage lasted. When she returned to the monastery, the wound reappeared, and remained until her death.

As the time of her death approached, St. Rita asked for a rose from the garden of her old home. Although it wasn’t the season for roses, a rose was found in full bloom and it was brought to her. After St. Rita's death in 1457, her face took on a radiance, and the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The smell of roses spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. At the time of her death, witnesses saw her cell fill with light, and the bells in the tower rang by themselves. Immediately there were miracles of healing, and the world then knew that a saint had lived in their midst.

Bestow upon us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which thou wert pleased to endow Saint Rita: so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Christopher Magallanes and his Companions


“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”). This was the cry of the “Cristeros,” Catholics who took up arms in the 1920’s in Mexico against the anti-Catholic government led by an evil man named Plutarco Calles, who had instituted and enforced laws against the Church in an attempt to completely erase the Catholic faith in Mexico. Baptisms had been declared illegal; celebrating Mass was illegal; training men for the priesthood was illegal, and the list went on and on.

There were others who resisted peacefully, and today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Christopher Magallanes and 21 other priests as well as three lay companions, who were martyred between 1915 and 1937. They were executed by shooting or hanging, although they themselves had not taken up arms against the government. Their only crimes were that they were Catholic and they stood up for their faith. St. Christopher was a young man who was the pastor of the parish where he had been raised. When the seminaries were outlawed, he began a clandestine seminary. They had to do everything in secret, hiding from the government and moving from place to place. Young priests were trained, and bishops ordained them wherever they could find a hidden place to do it. As these priests were discovered, they would be arrested. They would be given either no trial, or a mock trial, and then they would be killed. Very often their bodies would be displayed as a warning to other Catholics. But before they died, they would cry out those words which gave hope and courage to those around them: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!,” (“Long live Christ the King!”).

The faith was not destroyed in Mexico. In fact, the Church continued to grow and continues on to this day. The lively faith among the Catholics in Mexico today was bought by the blood of these brave men, who would rather die than deny their faith in God.

This is a list of the Holy Martyrs of Mexico who were canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on 21 May 2000:

St. Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, St. Román Adame Rosales, St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, St. Julio Álvarez Mendoza, St. Luis Batis Sáinz, St. Agustín Caloca Cortés, St. Mateo Correa Magallanes, St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado, St. Miguel De La Mora De La Mora, St. Pedro Esqueda Ramírez, St. Margarito Flores García, St. José Isabel Flores Varela, St. David Galván Bermudes, St. Salvador Lara Puente, St. Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, St. Jesús Méndez Montoya, St. Manuel Morales, St. Justino Orona Madrigal, St. Sabas Reyes Salazar, St. José María Robles Hurtado, St. David Roldán Lara, St. Toribio Romo González, St. Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo, St. Tranquilino Ubiarco Robles, and St.David Uribe Velasco.

Almighty and eternal God, who madest Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions faithful to Christ the King even unto martyrdom: grant us, through their intercession; that, persevering in confession of the true faith, we may always hold fast to the commandments of thy love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 May 2017

St. Bernardine of Siena

In the year 1400, there was a terrible plague going throughout what we now know as Italy. In the city of Siena, dozens of people were dying each day, and many of those who were dying were the very ones who were caring for the sick. It was a terrible situation – more and more people getting sick, but fewer and fewer people to care for them. It was then that a young man came to the door of the largest hospital in Siena. He had not come because he was sick, but because he wanted to help. And there were several young men whom he’d brought with him – again, not because they were sick, but like him, they were willing to tend the sick. For four months Bernardine and his companions worked day and night not only to comfort the patients but to organize and clean the hospital. Only at the end of the plague did Bernardine himself fall ill – not of the plague, but of exhaustion.

After he recovered, he returned to his aunt, who had raised him, and he nursed her in her final illness. After his aunt died, Bernardine started to think about where his life should be going. He was the son of a noble family, but he had been orphaned at seven and raised by the aunt whom he had cared for. As a young man, he hated indecent talk so much that he would blush when he heard it. Even his schoolmates hesitated to make him so uncomfortable. One day in the marketplace, a man thought it would be a great joke to tease Bernardine, and in a public place he started to talk to Bernardine in a shameful way. He was surprised when Bernardine slapped him in the face. The man slunk away, shamed in front of the very crowd he'd been trying to impress.

Bernardine, who had come to Siena to study, threw himself into prayer and fasting to discover what God wanted him to do. One might have expected him to continue his work with the sick but in 1403 he joined the Franciscans and in 1404 he was ordained a priest.

The Franciscans were known as missionary preachers, but Bernardine did very little preaching with because he had a very weak and raspy voice. For twelve years he remained in the background, spending his time in prayer. At the end of that time, he went to Milan on a mission. He was told by his superior to preach, but he didn’t want to, because his voice was so weak. But when he got up to preach his voice was strong and commanding, and his words were so convincing that the crowd would not let him leave unless he promised to come back.

Thus began the missionary life of this friar, who came to be called a “second St. Paul.” He crisscrossed Italy on foot, preaching for hours at a time, several times a day. We are told he preached on punishment for sin as well as reward for virtue but focusing in the end on the mercy of Jesus and the love of Mary. His special devotion was to the Holy Name of Jesus. In fact, even when it was clear he was dying, he preached on fifty consecutive days. He died in 1444 when he was almost 64 years old.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst endue St. Bernardine of Siena, thy holy Confessor, with preeminent love of thy most holy Name: we beseech thee, that, by the virtue of his merits and intercession: thou wouldest graciously pour into our hearts the spirit of love towards thee; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.