29 December 2007

Defender of the Church

This morning's Mass commemorating St. Thomas Becket was quiet but beautiful, and special in that his relics are contained in our parish's high altar. As the picture above shows, he also keeps watch at the tabernacle in the form of a lovely old English statue, which is a companion to the statue of St. Stephen Protomartyr on the opposite side. The icon in the tabernacle door shows St. Michael and St. Gabriel.

O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant
Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of
thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among
us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the
Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.

27 December 2007

Those ill-tempered monks...

I wish someone would tell these monks to cut it out. Once again, the Greek Orthodox monks and the Armenian monks tried to beat the living daylights out of one another in the Basilica of the Holy Nativity. I don't know what the excuse was this time -- I guess it had something to do with who was cleaning what, and someone's ladder got onto someone else's section -- but a similar set-to happened the last time I was there.

We had arrived in the Basilica on the Solemnity of the Epiphany some years ago, and one of the Orthodox bishops had his chair off to the side of the main altar. Apparently, one of the legs was over an invisible line, and some rival monks came over and tried to push it to another location while the bishop was still in it! Needless to say, fisticuffs ensued and the Israeli police had to be called in. What a scandal and embarrassment!


With all that the Christians have to endure at the hands of the authorities, it's just pathetic that these monks can't remember they're caretakers of the birthplace of the Saviour of us all. It's not just a piece of real estate. When I remember the real suffering and discrimination our brothers and sisters in Christ are undergoing, the placement of a ladder or a chair seems less than inconsequential.


Please pray for the Christians who are left in the Holy Land. And pray for these monks. Perhaps someday they'll decide to serve the Lord Jesus, rather than their own interests.

26 December 2007

Our best gift...

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Dear Mary, his Mother, sang sweet lullabies,
as Jesus, awaking, gazed into her eyes.
The most holy Virgin, with loving caress
embraced the world’s Saviour with Love’s tenderness.

Good Joseph stood guarding the Mother and Child,
his soul filled with awe and his heart undefiled.
The birth of young Jesus made angels to sing,
but Joseph in silence kept watch o’er his King.

What once was a stable may our hearts become;
may God’s holy fam’ly in us find a home.
With Mary and Joseph and angels above
we worship the Infant, the gift of God’s Love.

Text: V.1, Traditional
Vv. 2-4, Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1995
Music: Cradle Song, William James Kirkpatrick, (1838-1921)

25 December 2007

What the heck is this?

I just finished the fourth Christmas Mass, and I'm ready to get back to the rectory for lunch, but I just had to make mention of this rather different "nativity" scene in St. Peter's Square.

What the heck is that all about? And who are these nameless "Vatican officials" who are telling us that St. Matthew's Gospel says that Jesus was born in Joseph's house in Nazareth? I mean, just because he "took Mary into his own home" doesn't mean they didn't have to leave for that pesky census. And what's with the pub next door to the carpenter's shop? I don't remember that in Matthew's Gospel.


It may be my lack of intellectual depth, but the explanation by yet another nameless "Vatican official" that this scene reminds us that "Jesus was born in many places..." seems to me to be so much piffle.


Bottom line... I don't like it. But then again, they didn't ask for my opinion.
.....
UPDATE: According to an art expert, Elizabeth Lev, this is supposed to be a depiction of Joseph's dream when the angel spoke to him about not being afraid to take Mary as his wife, and not a statement about where Christ was actually born. I'm not sure I get it, and it seems like the whole thing is little more than confusing.

22 December 2007

An interesting discussion thread...

If you'd like to get in on an interesting discussion, pop over to Gerald Augustinus' blog, "The Cafeteria is Closed." He posted his thoughts about the abuse scandal, and kind of slid into a discussion of married priests. Mind you, when Gerald gets going, he can be rather "earthy," so it's not the sort of reading you'll want to do if you're looking for a sweet, spiritual uplift. But you might like to read through the comments, and have a look at the discussion about married Catholic clergy.

Although my situation is pretty well known, I've never pushed for a generally married priesthood in the Catholic Church. Anyway, those kinds of decisions are made by men in authority far above me. But I do find the discussion interesting, because it so often devolves to practical issues ("a married man couldn't give enough time," or "it would cost the parish too much money.") Or it exposes the residual of a certain brand of gnosticism ("a married man isn't as pure as a celibate man.") I think those are pathetic non-arguments, and have little to do with the crux of the question.


At any rate, it's an interesting discussion, which you can join in Gerald's comment box.

18 December 2007

Singing their hearts out...

Hands down, our academy has one of the best music programs around. Every student learns to sing, and to sing well. They have the experience of daily Mass, which for them is always a Sung Mass, so they're accustomed to traditional chant, hymns, and real anthems. From third grade on, they take turns singing in the choir for Mass, so they understand the place of music as the "handmaid of the liturgy." We have an excellent music faculty, with Edmund Murray, Chalon Murray and Alfred Thigpen. Real professionals all, they not only teach music, but they instill a love for music in our children -- and I mean real music, not the warmed-over 60's and 70's stuff.

Anyway, here's a picture of our first and second graders at their Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which they presented today in the St. Anthony Hall. It's astonishing to me, to hear them singing descants and other two-part music, all beautifully and on pitch. If they're this good now, then I can't wait to hear them when they get into our Middle and Upper School choirs.

17 December 2007

It's rose, not pink!

After nearly twenty-five years, our parish finally has a full set of rose vestments (cope, chasuble, two dalmatics, stoles and maniples, chalice veil and burse), which we used for the first time yesterday on Gaudete Sunday. They're so striking that I almost wish we had "Rose Week" rather than "Rose Sunday." But we'll be using them again on Laetare Sunday in Lent -- which will be coming very soon, since Ash Wednesday is on February 6th this year.

15 December 2007

Read this...

Mark Steyn has long been my favorite columnist, and his article today had me nodding my head in agreement, and constantly muttering "yes" under my breath as I read it:

This is the time of year, as Hillary Rodham Clinton once put it, when Christians celebrate "the birth of a homeless child" – or, in Al Gore's words, "a homeless woman gave birth to a homeless child."

Just for the record, Jesus wasn't "homeless." He had a perfectly nice home back in Nazareth. But he happened to be born in Bethlehem. It was census time, and Joseph was obliged to schlep halfway across the country to register in the town of his birth. Which is such an absurdly bureaucratic overregulatory cockamamie Big Government nightmare that it's surely only a matter of time before Massachusetts or California reintroduce it.

But the point is: The Christmas story isn't about affordable housing. Joseph and Mary couldn't get a hotel room – that's the only accommodation aspect of the event. Sen. Clinton and Vice President Gore are overcomplicating things: Dec. 25 is not the celebration of "a homeless child," but a child, period.

Just for a moment, let us accept, as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and the other bestselling atheists insist, that what happened in Bethlehem two millennia is a lot of mumbo-jumbo. As I wrote a year ago, consider it not as an event but as a narrative: You want to launch a big new global movement from scratch. So what do you use?

The birth of a child. On the one hand, what could be more powerless than a newborn babe? On the other, without a newborn babe, man is ultimately powerless. For, without new life, there can be no civilization, no society, no nothing. Even if it's superstitious mumbo-jumbo, the decision to root Christ's divinity in the miracle of His birth expresses a profound – and rational – truth about "eternal life" here on Earth.

Last year I wrote a book on demographic decline and became a big demography bore, and it's tempting just to do an annual December audit on the demographic weakness of what we used to call Christendom. Today, in the corporate headquarters of the Christian faith, Pope Benedict looks out of his window at a city where children's voices are rarer and rarer. Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe. Go to a big rural family wedding: lots of aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas but ever fewer bambinos. The International Herald Tribune last week carried the latest update on the remorseless geriatrification: On the Miss Italia beauty pageant, the median age of the co-hosts was 70; the country is second only to Sweden in the proportion of its population over 85, and has the fewest citizens under 15. Etc.

So in post-Catholic Italy there is no miracle of a child this Christmas – unless you count the 70 percent of Italians between the ages of 20 and 30 who still live at home, the world's oldest teenagers still trudging up the stairs to the room they slept in as a child even as they approach their fourth decade. That's worth bearing in mind if you're an American gal heading to Rome on vacation: When that cool 29-year-old with the Mediterranean charm in the singles bar asks you back to his pad for a nightcap, it'll be his mom and dad's place.

I'm often told that my demographics-is-destiny argument is anachronistic: Countries needed manpower in the Industrial Age, when we worked in mills and factories. But now advanced societies are "knowledge economies," and they require fewer working stiffs. Oddly enough, the Lisbon Council's European Human Capital Index, released in October, thinks precisely the opposite – that the calamitous decline in population will prevent Eastern and Central Europe from being able to function as "innovation economies." A "knowledge economy" will be as smart as the brains it can call on.

Meanwhile, a few Europeans are still having children: The British government just announced that Muhammad is now the most popular boy's name in the United Kingdom.

As I say, the above demographic audit has become something of an annual tradition in this space. But here's something new that took hold in the year 2007: A radical antihumanism, long present just below the surface, bobbed up and became explicit and respectable. In Britain, the Optimum Population Trust said that "the biggest cause of climate change is climate changers – in other words, human beings," and professor John Guillebaud called on Britons to voluntarily reduce the number of children they have.

Last week, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Barry Walters went further: To hell with this wimp-o pantywaist "voluntary" child-reduction. Professor Walters wants a "carbon tax" on babies, with, conversely, "carbon credits" for those who undergo sterilization procedures. So that'd be great news for the female eco-activists recently profiled in London's Daily Mail who boast about how they'd had their tubes tied and babies aborted in order to save the planet. "Every person who is born," says Toni Vernelli, "produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases and adds to the problem of overpopulation." We are the pollution, and sterilization is the solution. The best way to bequeath a more sustainable environment to our children is not to have any.

What's the "pro-choice" line? "Every child should be wanted"? Not anymore. The progressive position has subtly evolved: Every child should be unwanted.

By the way, if you're looking for some last-minute stocking stuffers, Oxford University Press has published a book by professor David Benatar of the University of Cape Town called "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence." The author "argues for the 'anti-natal' view – that it is always wrong to have children … . Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct." As does Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us" – which Publishers Weekly hails as "an enthralling tour of the world … anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like." It's a good thing it "anticipates" it poetically, because, once it happens, there will be no more poetry.

Lest you think the above are "extremists," consider how deeply invested the "mainstream" is in a total fiction. At the recent climate jamboree in Bali, the Rev. Al Gore told the assembled faithful: "My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here." Really? The American Thinker's Web site ran the numbers. In the seven years between the signing of Kyoto in 1997 and 2004, here's what happened:

•Emissions worldwide increased 18.0 percent;

•Emissions from countries that signed the treaty increased 21.1 percent;

•Emissions from nonsigners increased 10.0 percent; and

•Emissions from the United States increased 6.6 percent.

It's hard not to conclude a form of mental illness has gripped the world's elites. If you're one of that dwindling band of Westerners who'll be celebrating the birth of a child, "homeless" or otherwise, next week, make the most of it. A year or two on, and the eco-professors will propose banning Nativity scenes because they set a bad example.


You can read more from Mark Steyn here.

13 December 2007

Praising God with song...

This past Tuesday evening our Academy students, from 3rd grade through high school, presented a concert of sacred music. What a magnificent program it was!

12 December 2007

An excellent Scripture resource...

One of the things I enjoy doing is teaching the Wednesday evening Scripture study here at the parish. I’ve loved reading and studying the scriptures from the time I was a child, and that led me to complete my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies. In fact, the more deeply I studied the Bible, the more of the Catholic faith I discovered – no surprise there!

Anyway, I’m very excited about this new site from the Congregation for Clergy. It’s called “Biblia Clerus,” and it links every passage in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, with commentaries which are taken from a tremendous variety of sources, all written in complete conformity with Sacred Tradition and magisterial teaching.

Whether you’re a busy parish priest or deacon who’d like to teach a Scripture study for your people, or if you’re a layman who’d like to know more about God’s sacred word, this is an extremely helpful site. I highly recommend that you have a look.

08 December 2007

Episcopal diocese secedes

The following story is being posted by various news services:

FRESNO, California (Reuters) - An entire California diocese of the U.S. Episcopal Church voted to secede on Saturday in a historic split following years of disagreement over the church's expanding support for gay and women's rights. The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno in central California, voted to leave the church, which has been in significant upheaval since 2003 when U.S. Episcopals consecrated the first openly gay bishop in the church's more than four centuries of history. The vote was 173 lay and clergy convention delegates in favor, with 22 against. Amid the dissent of recent years, the Episcopal Church said 32 of its 7,600 congregations had left, with another 23 voting to leave but not taking the final step. San Joaquin is the first of the church's 110 dioceses to complete the split. Last year, clergy and lay representatives of the 8,800- member Diocese of San Joaquin -- with 47 churches in 14 counties -- overwhelmingly voted at their annual convention to split with the U.S. church, but held off on a final decision until Saturday's meeting.


I am earnestly praying that these good people will come to understand that their true destination is communion with the Holy See. It will be within the Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Successor of St. Peter, that they will finally find the spiritual home they are seeking. For now, they are aligning themselves with another part of the Anglican Communion. That can be only a temporary home. The difficulties they have experienced in the Episcopal Church will surface eventually even in those "safe" parts of Anglicanism. The crisis is not the ordination of women or the ordination of active homosexuals. Rather, it's a crisis of leadership. Christ has given us the leader He wants us to have, and that leader is Peter.

05 December 2007

Yes, it's a Holy Day of Obligation.

Honestly, I wish the bishops hadn't started to fiddle around with the obligation attached to various solemnities. As every minimalist Catholic knows, if a Holy Day of Obligation falls on a Saturday or a Monday, "you don't have to go to Mass." I never quite got the reasons for that. Either a solemnity has an obligation or it doesn't. What the day of the week has to do with it, I can't imagine.

To add to the confusion, if the Immaculate Conception falls on a Saturday or a Monday the obligation remains. Therefore, this year (because the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is on Saturday) the obligation to attend Mass either on the vigil or the day stands.


Of course, the minimalists still have opportunity to do as little as possible. The question has been asked, "If I go to a Mass on Saturday evening, can it count for the Solemnity and for Sunday, too?" I don't even want to answer the question. Besides, it's a non-question in this parish. We have no Saturday evening Mass.


To me, all of this is just a reminder of how some Catholics think. "What's the least I have to do?" And without being unkind or disloyal, I think the bishops have assisted in cultivating that kind of thinking.

From the Holy See...

PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF LOURDES

VATICAN CITY, DEC 5, 2007 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.

"The forthcoming 150th anniversary of the day in which Mary Most Holy, revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette Soubirous, wished a shrine to be erected and venerated in the place known as 'Massabielle' in the town of Lourdes," the decree reads, "calls to mind the innumerable series of prodigies through which the supernatural life of souls and the health of bodies has drawn great advantage from the omnipotent goodness of God."

"Indeed, by venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary in the place 'upon which her feet trod,' the faithful draw nourishment from the Holy Sacraments, expressing the firm intention to lead in the future Christian lives of increasing faithfulness" and they "achieve a vivid vivid perception of the significance of the Church. ... Indeed the succession, over time, of marvelous events ... enables us to glimpse the joint operation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church: in the year 1854 the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was defined," and "in the year 1858 Mary Most Holy showed herself to ... Bernadette Soubirous using the words of the dogmatic definition: 'I am the Immaculate Conception.'

"In order to draw increased fruits of renewed sanctity from this holy anniversary," the decree adds, "the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decided to concede the gift of Plenary Indulgence" to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), in the following way:

A) "If between December 8, 2007 and December 8, 2008 they visit, preferably in the order suggested: (1) the parish baptistery used for the Baptism of Bernadette, (2) the Soubirous family home, known as the 'cachot,' (3) the Grotto of Massabielle, (4) the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette received First Communion, and on each occasion they pause for an appropriate length of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the jubilee prayer or other Marian invocation."

B) "If between February 2, 2008 ... and February 11, 2008, Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes and 150th anniversary of the apparition, they visit, in any church, grotto or decorous place, the blessed image of that same Virgin of Lourdes, solemnly exposed for public veneration, and before the image participate in a pious exercise of Marian devotion, or at least pause for an appropriate space of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The decree concludes by recalling that faithful who "through sickness, old age or other legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence ... if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, on the days February 2 to 11, 2008, in their hearts they spiritually visit the above-mentioned places and recite those prayers, trustingly offering to God, through Mary, the sickness and discomforts of their lives."

03 December 2007

The Chanting Seminarians...

We were pleased to welcome several seminarians from Assumption Seminary, who belong to the schola which has been assembled there. They provided some of the music at our Latin Mass, and also presented a program of sacred music afterwards. We concluded by chanting Compline, and it was a nice experience for everyone.

The seminary schola is still young, and there's lots of work to be done. But it was great to see these men pouring their hearts into learning and singing the traditional music of the Church. With the all-too-long history of what I call the "Pickin' 'n' Grinnin' School of Church Music" having held sway there for so long, this is a real step forward. Next summer they plan to attend a Gregorian Chant Study Tour in the Alps, led by Fr. Robert Skeris, and we were able make a contribution toward the cost of that trip. It should be a great experience for them, and I'm delighted that so many of our seminarians are dedicating themselves to elevating their appreciation of the Sacred Liturgy and its music.

30 November 2007

A beautiful end to the week...

We celebrated a Latin Mass in honor of St. Andrew this morning, and the students gathered again this afternoon for Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We have various teams of older boys to serve at these additional services, but even so, there’s a constant stream of boys popping into the sacristy beforehand asking, “Do you have enough servers?” It’s wonderful to see how eager they are to serve at the altar.

The whole school – faculty and students – all seem to love the Service of Evensong and Benediction. It makes a great “end of the day” on Feast Days, and the sound of young voices rising up before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is a profoundly beautiful thing. After the Sacred Host has been placed in the monstrance and we’ve sung O Salutaris Hostia, everyone joins together with this devotion:

Jesus, my Lord and my God, Son of the living God and Son of the Virgin Mary, I believe that thou art here, and I adore thee. Behind the form of the Sacred Host I believe that thou art present, in all the perfection of thy Manhood and Divinity, and I adore thee. With the Angels of thy court, with thy holy Mother Mary, and with all thy Saints, I kneel in humble adoration. Jesus, my Lord, I thee adore. O make me love thee more and more. Amen.

At the Benediction itself the organ starts with its gentlest sounds, and the crescendo builds and builds, until the full organ is belting it out at the zenith of it all. Absolutely spine-tingling!

Then the voices join together in the sacred rhythm of the Divine Praises:

Blessed be God. Blessed be His holy Name. Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Blessed be the Name of Jesus. Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart. Blessed be His Most Precious Blood. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Blessed be the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception. Blessed be her glorious Assumption. Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste Spouse. Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.

On their way out, inevitably some of the little ones ask me, “Can we do that again?”

Spe Salvi

The Holy Father's encyclical, Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), is now online. It provides perfect spiritual reading as we prepare for Advent. I'm looking forward to reading it carefully.

What a blessing our Pope is!

28 November 2007

When in doubt, blame the Catholics...

According to this article Tony Blair was ready to announce his formal conversion to Catholicism during his recent visit to the Holy See, but was dissuaded from doing so by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. I guess His Eminence had his reasons, and I won’t go into my opinion of his advice to the former Prime Minister. But what interested me most were some of the comments in response to the article, when it referred to the Emancipation Act of 1829: “Clauses in the Act state that no Catholic adviser to the monarch can hold civil or military office. Also, it would have caused a potential conflict with his role in choosing Church of England bishops.”

Apparently some people blame Blair’s “Catholic leaning” for the appointment of Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury. From what I glean in the comments, the thought is that the crypto-Catholic Tony Blair sought out the worst possible selection and nominated him, just to wreak havoc in the Anglican Communion. I guess that would make him kind of a ecclesiastical Guy Fawkes.

25 November 2007

Christ our King

The Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, was dragged before a minor earthly ruler, Pilate, and was asked the question, “Are you a king, then?” Such a simple question it was, and yet so fertile. As a seed bursting with the beginning of life, when it falls into good soil, is able to produce a harvest beyond imagining, so Christ’s answer to Pilate’s question (if it had been met with some glimmer of grace, some hint of human charity) might have lifted the life of that petty potentate into the upper reaches of God’s glory, for our Lord told him, “My kingdom is not of this world…” But that, Pilate could not grasp. And so instead he has been immortalized with the phrase “…suffered under Pontius Pilate…” which describes the death of the King he could never understand. We, however, have been given to know this kingdom “not of this world,” and so have been spared the blindness which afflicted Pilate. In the cross we see a throne. In the thorns we see a crown. In the wounded side we see a gateway to Christ’s kingdom, which is eternal.

24 November 2007

Mark your calendar!

The 2008 Anglican Use Conference will be taking place here at the parish on July 10th, 11th and 12th. There will be more complete information available soon, but I wanted to get the dates out there to give everyone time to plan. His Excellency, the Most Reverend John Myers, Archbishop of Newark and the Ecclesiastical Delegate, will be one of the featured speakers.

The conference coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Our Lady of the Atonement Church, and it was here that the Anglican Use was first implemented. We'll have lots to celebrate, there'll be interesting speakers, the liturgies and music will be beautiful -- please do make plans to attend. More information will come as it's available.

23 November 2007

God's courageous ones...

I’m sitting here listening to the Fauré “Requiem” and remembering Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, whom we commemorated at Mass this morning. Since reading his biography several years ago, I can’t get him out of my thoughts. There’s something about this man which is captivating – from his wonderful sense of humor to his fearless final cry, “Viva Cristo Rey!” He’s a priest I would have liked to have known, although to have known him in his circumstances would require a courage I wonder if I would have had. I hope I would, but one never knows until faced with the situation. I guess it’s kind of like St. Augustine’s prayer, “Lord, make me holy, but not yet…” I want God’s grace for courage, but I'm not sure I would want to face the circumstances which would make me use it.

Anyway, my profound respect for Blessed Miguel has made me, over the years, look at the lives of others who were martyred during that horrible period in Mexico’s history. The following comments about them come from the website, Catholic.net:

Fathers Cristobal Magallanes Jara and Agustin Caloca were martyred together on May 25, 1927 at Colotitlan, Jalisco. Father Magallanes was accused of promoting the Cristero revolt, although he had preached and written against armed rebellion. While he was in jail, he told Father Caloca, “Cheer up, God loves the martyrs . . . one moment and we are in Heaven.” Father Caloca, responded, “We have lived for God and in him we die.” Before he was shot, Father Magallanes distributed his few possessions among his executioners and gave them absolution, saying: “I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serves toward the peace of our divided Mexico.”

Father David Galvan, a seminary teacher, was arrested while on his way to aid the victims of a confrontation in Guadalajara on January 30, 1915. Warned that he might be killed, he replied, “What greater glory is there than to die saving a soul?” He was executed by firing squad.

Father Luis Batiz, and the Catholic laymen David Roldan, Salvador Lara, and Manuel Moralez were killed August 15, 1926 at Chalchihuites, Zacatecas. The three laymen were officers of the Liga Defensora de la Libertad Religiosa. Father Batiz was accused of plotting an uprising. The four were offered their freedom if they recognized the legitimacy of President Calles’s anti-religious laws. All of them refused. Father Batiz asked the soldiers to free Morales, because he had children, but Morales told them, “I am dying for God, and God will care for my children.” He raised his hat as the soldiers fired. The others died crying out “ Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Santa Maria de Guadalupe!”

On January 17, 1927, Father Jenaro Sanchez, a pastor in Tecolotlan, Jalisco, was arrested and hanged from a mesquite tree. When the soldiers put the rope around his neck, he said, “My countrymen, you are going to hang me, but I pardon you, and my Father God also pardons you, and long live Christ the King!”

As a young priest Father Mateo Correa gave First Communion to Miguel Pro. In 1927, frail and elderly, he was taking the viaticum to a sick parishioner near Valparaiso when he was caught and accused of being in league with the Cristeros. Taken to Durango, he heard the confessions of some Cristeros awaiting execution. When the commander demanded to know what they had said, the brave confessor refused to answer, and he was shot.

On March 26, 1927, Father Julio Alvarez, pastor of Mechoacanejo, Jalisco, was arrested, tied to the saddle of a horse, and led away to Leon. On hearing his sentence, he said, “I know that you have to kill me because you are ordered to do so, but I am going to die innocent because I have done nothing wrong. My crime is to be a minister of God. I pardon you.” He crossed his arms and the soldiers fired, then threw his body onto a trash heap near the church.

While in prison in Cuernavaca, Father David Uribe wrote, “I declare that I am innocent of the things of which I am accused. . . . I pardon all my enemies and I beg pardon from any that I have offended.” On April 12th, 1927, he was shot in the back of the head near San Jose Vidal, Morelia.

On April 11, 1927, the pastor of Totolan, Jalisco, Father Sabas Reyes was arrested, beaten, and tortured, but he suffered with heroic patience. His hands and feet were burned, he was starved, left in the sun, and given nothing to drink. He was beaten until a number of his bones were broken and his skull was fractured. On April 13, he was taken to the cemetery and shot. Three or four times the rifles spoke; each time, Father Reyes raised his head and cried out “Viva Cristo Rey.”

Father Roman Adame, the parish priest of Nochistlan, Zacatecas, was denounced and arrested on April 18, 1927. He was forced to walk barefoot from Mexticacan to Yahualica, until a soldier offered his horse when he realized the elderly priest could not walk another step. For three days, Father Adame was kept tied to the columns in front of his jail, given neither food nor water. Although a ransom was paid, he was taken to the cemetery on April 21 and shot. One of the soldiers from the firing squad refused to take part in the execution; in punishment he himself was shot.

Father Jose Isabel Flores of Zapotlanejo, Jalisco, was denounced, arrested, and starved for three days. On June 21, 1927, he was taken to the cemetery and tortured by being hanged from a tree limb, then raised up and down three or four times. Finally he told his tormentors: “This is not the way you are going to kill me, my children. . . . But just let me say, if you received the sacraments from me, don’t cripple the hands that served you.”
One of soldiers present, who had been baptized by Father Flores, then refused to take part in the execution; once again, the soldier himself was immediately shot. When the guns of the remaining soldiers did not fire properly, the commanding office slit the throat of Father Flores with his sword.

Father Jose Maria Robles was pastor of Tecolotlan, Guadalajara. He founded the congregation of sisters known as the Hermanas del Corazon de Jesus Sacramentado. In response to suggestions that he should leave his parish to avoid persecution, he said, “The shepherd can never abandon his sheep.” He was arrested and, in defiance of a legal stay of his execution, he was led on horseback to an oak tree where he prayed briefly, blessed the members of his parish, then pardoned and blessed his murderers. He kissed the rope, put it around his neck, and was hanged on June 26, 1927.

Father Miguel de la Mora, pastor at Colima, was on a trip with friends and stopped for breakfast when a woman asked him to officiate at her daughter’s wedding. Some government officials overheard the conversation, and arrested the group, taking them back to Colima. Advised of his sentence, Father Miguel calmly recited his rosary. He was shot August 7, 1927.

In October 1927, Father Rodrigo Aguilar, a priest in Union de Tula, Jalisco was betrayed and captured by government soldiers. He was taken to the main square of Ejutla where he blessed and forgave his executioners. One of the soldiers arrogantly asked, “Who lives?” telling him he would be spared if he would answer: “Long live the supreme government.” Instead, in a firm voice, the priest responded, “Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Furiously the soldier pulled on the rope to suspend the priest in mid-air. Then he lowered him and again asked, “Who lives?” Father Aguilar gave the same answer. When the same question and answer were repeated a third time, the soldier left the priest to hang until death.

During the height of the persecution, a bishop in the state of Guerrero could not find a priest willing to go to the parish of Atenango del Rio, because city officials had threatened to kill any priest who dared to go there. When he heard of that problem, Father Margarito Flores—a seminary professor and vicar of Chilapa, Guerrero—volunteered at once. On the way, he was caught and forced to walk to Tuliman in the blazing sun, half naked and barefoot. Serenely, Father Flores shared his last meal with his captors, then was taken behind the church where he blessed the soldiers and prayed as he was led forward. He was shot on November 12, 1924.

When he was advised to leave his parish, Father Pedro Esqueda of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, responded “God put me here; He knows where I am.” November 18, 1927, he was captured by government troops at a private home. He was brutally tortured for four days, but suffered in silence. On November 22, he was led to a mesquite tree and ordered to climb it. Although he attempted to obey, he could not because his arm was broken. He was tortured again, then shot.

On February 5, 1928, the parish priest of Valtierilla, Michoican, Father Jesus Mendez had just celebrated Mass secretly when he heard fighting outside the house where he was staying. He left by a back window, taking the chalice under a tilma, but was stopped by a soldier who thought he was carrying arms. He quickly admitted he was priest. Taking his prisoner to the town plaza, the commanding officer attempted three times to kill him. On the first attempt the officer’s pistol misfired. So he ordered his soldiers to shoot the priest, but not a single shot hit Father Mendez (possibly because no one wanted to kill him). Finally, the soldiers removed the priest’s medals and cross, and on a third attempt they succeeded at least in wounding him; one of the soldiers then gave him the coup de grace. His body was thrown on the railroad tracks, but the wives of the town officials rescued and buried it.

Father Toribio Romo was assigned at Tequila, Jalisco where he lived in an abandoned factory. He prayed for courage, telling his sister, “I am cowardly, so if one day God wants me to be killed, I hope he will give me a rapid death, with only the time necessary to pray for my enemies.” In the early morning of February 25, 1928, government troops forced the local mailman to show them where the secret Masses were celebrated. They surprised Father Romo and shot him in his bed, stripped his body of clothing, and threw the naked corpse in front of the city hall.

Father Justino Orona, parish priest at Cuquio, Jalisco, wrote to a friend, “Those of us who walk the road of sorrows with fidelity can leave for heaven with a feeling of security.” On June 29, 1928, at a local ranch, he and his young vicar, Father Atiliano Cruz, recited the rosary and planned their hidden ministry. He asked Father Cruz if he was afraid of the soldiers, and the younger priest replied that he would greet them with the words, “Viva Cristo Rey.” At dawn on July 1, soldiers broke into the house where the two priests were sleeping. Father Cruz greeted them as he had promised, in a strong clear voice. Father Orona was killed immediately; Father Cruz was mortally wounded. Their bodies were thrown in the town plaza.

Father Tranquilino Ubiarco was arrested on October 5, 1928, while officiating at a wedding in a private home. As he was led to his execution, he asked who was commissioned to kill him. When all the soldiers remained silent, he said, “All of this is God’s will; the man who is made to kill me is not responsible.” One of the soldiers then confessed that he was the one who had been chosen, but he now felt that he could not carry out the assignment. Calmly, Father Ubiarco blessed all the soldiers. They hanged him from the branch of a eucalyptus tree at the entrance of town. Once again, the soldier in charge of the execution refused to carry out the order, so he was shot.

Because of the political unrest in Mexico, Father Pedro de Jesus Maldonado was ordained in El Paso, Texas. Returning home, he became pastor of Santa Isabel, Chihuahua. In the early 1930s, he was sent back to safety in Texas, but he begged to be allowed to return. A group of armed and drunken men arrested him at his house and made him walk barefoot to Santa Isabel. He recited his rosary along the way. He was beaten and hit on the head so hard that his left eye popped out. He had prayed for the grace of receiving final Communion. He had a consecrated host with him in a pyx, and when his murderers found it, one of them forced him to eat it saying, “Eat this, this is your last Communion!” He was then beaten until he was unconscious, then taken to the civil hospital where he died on February 11, 1937.


What men these were! I’m sure not one of them, in his youth, imagined he would have his life end as it did. But God gave them His grace for courage -- and each one used it for God’s glory, and for the Gospel.

22 November 2007

A National Day of Thanksgiving

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.


Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

G. Washington



Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.



The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

20 November 2007

St. Edmund, King and Martyr

The life and death of St. Edmund is an outstanding reminder of the great importance our English ancestors attached to their faith, an example we would do well to imitate today in our own lives. That Edmund was a king – and a very young one at that – with every opportunity to choose a less rigorous life make his exemplary faith all the more compelling.

Born in East Anglia in 841, Edmund was chosen king at an early age. His biographers are unanimous in stating he won the hearts of his people by his concern for all – rich and poor alike – and compassionate rule, in an age where violence and despotism were the norm. As a Christian, Edmund stood apart from many kings of his time. He rejected forcible conversions, endowed monasteries and churches by the score, and personally dispensed justice in accordance with Christian precepts, putting aside the much harsher Anglo-Saxon code.

In 869, at the age of 27, Edmund met his end at the hands of the Danish invader Ingvar, a pagan who sought Edmund’s throne. Twice offered his life if he would renounce his faith and kingdom, Edmund refused, declaring that his faith was more precious to him than his life, which he would not purchase by apostasy. Edmund paid for his faith with his life: he was scourged and then shot with arrows, deliberately aimed so as to inflict maximum pain while ensuring an agonizing death. In 915, his body was found to be incorrupt and his relics enshrined in the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds.

18 November 2007

The Holy Scriptures

Today’s collect is one of my favorites, and I always use it before reading the Scriptures or teaching a Bible study:

O Blessed Lord God, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

I believe it was Charles Wesley who said, “Bad men or devils would not have written the Bible, for it condemns them and their works. Good men or angels could not have written it, for in saying it was from God when it was but their own invention, they would have been guilty of falsehood, and thus could not have been good. The only remaining being who could have written it, is God--its real author.”

14 November 2007

Yikes!

I guess I should get out more.

Last evening I celebrated a Mass for a group of older people from various parishes. The occasion was their organization's annual remembrance of the departed, and the Mass took place in the hall where they meet. First off, I’m not a great fan of celebrating Masses outside a real church, unless there’s no other choice. But that’s not my point here. The shocker for me was at the Holy Communion.

In our parish we administer Holy Communion by intinction. It’s never been done any other way. However, knowing that I was a guest celebrant, and that most of the people at the Mass wouldn’t be accustomed to intinction, I was prepared to administer the sacred Hosts from the ciborium. I knew there would be people who would want to receive in the hand, and although I find that practice to be personally disturbing, I acknowledge that it is allowed and so forced myself to cooperate. It must be twenty years or more since I have placed the Host into a communicant’s hand. I hope I never have to again.

Mind you, these were all good, presumably faithful Catholics – most of them in their sixties or seventies. But I’ve never winced and agonized at the time of Holy Communion as I did last night. Some people grabbed the Host out of my hand with their finger and thumb; some of them casually put out one hand and then walked away, picking our Lord up as though eating an hors d'œuvre. One woman took the Host in her hand and then bounced It up and down again, as one might do with loose change. A few popped the Host in their mouths as they would a Tylenol. I never was quite sure which hand to place the Host in when people would limply stretch out both their hands side by side. What happened to the old idea of “making a throne for Jesus” as I used to see in my Anglican days?

Are these practices normal? Is this what it’s like out there? It makes me want to go to the sacristy just to cast a loving look at the intinction sets.

13 November 2007

In our Lord's Holy Land

For the past several years our parish school has had a sister-relationship with the Latin Patriarchate school in Ain Arik, Palestine. We’ve shared letters and pictures. Our students have been able to raise funds during Advent and Lent to send to the school there. It’s been an eye-opener for our children, as they’ve gained a little better idea of just how difficult it is for the students there, living as they do with road-blocks, security walls, little water, poverty.

We’ve been asked now to give our support to the school in Aboud, just north of Ain Arik. I’ve looked on the Latin Patriarchate website to learn more about Aboud:

Aboud, a small village of about 5,000 inhabitants, lies about 30 kms. to the north-west of Ramallah. The people of the village are mainly farmers; olive trees surround the village from all directions and form the main income of the people there. Citrus fruit, grapes and figs are also planted there in large quantities.

There are four schools in this small village, two secondary government schools; one for boys and the other for girls, a third private protestant school, and the Latin School, which is the oldest.

The Latin school was started in Aboud in 1910, when the late Fr. Bishara Sa'adeh came to the village. He bought a small piece of land and constructed a three-room house; one room was used as a chapel, one as a living room and one to be used as a one-classroom school. Later in the same year he built two more rooms to be used by the Rosary Sisters who came to the village, as well as a school for the girls, also cared for by the Rosary Sisters. In 1932 the late Fr. Zakariyya Shomali came to the village as a parish priest. He built a second floor of two rooms to be used a girls school.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Arab Israeli war, many families returned to Aboud from Jaffa and Lud. This resulted in an urgent need to enlarge the school and build new classrooms to cope with the large numbers of refugee students.

The late Fr. Pascal Appodia rose splendidly to the occasion. He added a new floor to cope with the unexpected and sudden increase in the numbers of students. The school soon became the pre-eminent school in the area during the British mandate on Palestine. It had 11 classes at the time when very few other schools even existed in the area. It consisted of two sections, one for the boys with a student body of 120 students, and a girls’ school for 54 girls run by the Rosary Sisters.

Later on, the school was affected by the opening of the other two government schools in the village, and the classes were reduced to grade 7.

Several renovations and additions had been done to the school building. In 1975, Fr. Dominic Vigilio built a multi-purpose hall to be used by both the school and the congregation. This was followed by a two-storey building being erected and the first kindergarten was started in the ground floor of this new building. The second floor was used as a computer lab, a library and a staff room.

The school now has a student body of 146 students from the village and also from the neighbouring villages in grades from kindergarten to grade 9. The school is run by a staff of one principal and 16 well-experienced and highly-qualified teachers.

The extra curricular activities also have their fair share in the educational policy of the school. These include voluntary work in helping the farmers ingathering their crops, mainly in the olive season, boy scouts and girl guides, sports and embroidery classes for the girls.


I look forward to corresponding with the Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Aboud. Fr. Firas Aridah is a dynamic young priest who is very involved with his parish school and with the people of Aboud. Here is an article written by him, describing the situation in which he carries on in his priestly ministry. And please – pray for the Christians living in the Holy Land.

10 November 2007

Simulation of the Sacraments

This weekend will mark another one of those "Hey everybody, look at us!" events sponsored by the "Womenpriests" organization. They claim to be Catholic, but they're not. They claim to achieve the impossible by "ordaining" women to the Catholic priesthood. On November 11th they'll be working their wonders in St. Louis. They'll garner the usual headlines. They'll go through the motions of celebrating their liturgy in some obscure setting. They'll rail against the Church and her revealed teaching, and they'll claim to be prophetic.

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis has written the following message to his people. Although the cause of his message is the immediate event, his message is one of solid teaching, reflecting Christ's divine will as He has revealed it through His Church.



'Be not afraid!'


by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke


Introduction


I write with great sadness about the announced attempt to ordain two women of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to the Order of Priests, on this coming Nov. 11 at the synagogue of the Central Reform Congregation, located at 5020 Waterman Ave. in the City of St. Louis. The attempted ordination is a violation of what is most sacred to us in the Church, one of the sacraments. It imperils the eternal salvation of the women seeking the attempted ordination and the woman, claiming to be a Roman Catholic bishop, who proposes to attempt the ordination. It generates confusion among the faithful and others who are not Catholic regarding an infallible teaching of the Catholic faith. What is more, the hosting of the attempted ordination by the Central Reform Congregation constitutes a grave violation of the mutual respect which should mark the relationship between the Jewish faith and the Roman Catholic faith.


Given the gravity of the matter, I, as your shepherd with the responsibility to make clear the Church’s teaching and to apply the Church’s discipline, offer to you some brief reflections. Space does not permit me to give a complete presentation of the Church’s perennial teaching and practice regarding the reservation of the Sacrament of Holy Orders to men alone. In order to understand better the Church’s teaching regarding the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone, I refer you to the relevant article contained in this issue of the Review (see Local News) and to the resources available on the archdiocesan website, www.archstl.org. In referring you to these excellent materials, I express my deepest gratitude to Lawrence J. Welch, professor of systematic theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, our archdiocesan seminary, who has so ably responded to the many questions proposed by the media in the midst of the confusion caused by the announcement of the attempted ordinations.


Violation of the most sacred realities


What is most painful about the proposed attempted ordinations is the calculated and grave offense they will offer to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. From the teaching in the Holy Scriptures, faithfully handed down to us in the Magisterium, there is no doubt that our Lord Jesus Christ chose only men for the Holy Priesthood, even as He, at the Last Supper, consecrated only men for the priestly office and ministry.


Down the centuries, the Church has faced, many times, the question about whether women can be ordained priests. Following faithfully the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has remained constant in the practice of ordaining only men to the priesthood. When the question about the possibility of the priestly ordination of women was raised again in our time, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II responded unequivocally:


"Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.


"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful" (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis [On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone]" May 22 [Solemnity of Pentecost] 1994, n. 4).


A Catholic who continues to have a question in the matter is bound to inform himself or herself more fully about the Church’s teaching, so that the question may be resolved in accord with the Catholic faith.


In addition to the sacrilege of the attempted ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood, there is added the sacrilege of any attempts by the women involved to offer the Holy Mass, after their supposed ordination. They have, in fact, announced that they will "co-pastor the Thérèse of Divine Peace Inclusive Community on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. beginning Dec. 1, 2007," which will meet in Hope Chapel at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis at 5007 Waterman Ave. One has to suppose that they will attempt to offer the Holy Mass, a most grave offense against our Lord and His Church.


Need of prayer for those involved


Given the most sacred nature of the sacraments which will be simulated, the women involved and any Catholic who knowingly and deliberately assists them risks the eternal salvation of their souls. They commit mortal sin. Because of the most grave, public and obstinate nature of the proposed act of attempted ordination, the Church automatically applies medicinal penalties to the parties who complete the act. Medicinal penalties, for example, excommunication and interdict, are aimed at calling the persons away from their sin and to reconciliation with Christ and His Church. The women involved have been duly admonished regarding the penalties which they will incur, should they proceed with the attempted ordination. Any medicinal penalties or censures incurred will be appropriately declared, so that the ecclesial status of the parties involved may be clear for all.


I urge you, therefore, to offer fervent prayers for the women involved, that they will repent and be reconciled with the Church. Please pray, too, for all who will be confused and led astray by their sinful action.


Confusion of others


Although the attempted ordinations will produce no sacramental reality, that is, will be sacramentally empty, they will be the cause of much confusion among the faithful and others who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church. Already, the media attention to the proposed attempt to ordain two women to the Roman Catholic priesthood has generated much confusion about the Church’s teaching and practice.


In view of the confusion which has already been caused by the announcement of the attempted ordinations and will be caused by the eventual attempt itself, it is critical that Catholics be prepared to give an account of the Church’s teaching to those who may inquire with them about the matter or may wish to discuss the matter with them. In addition to Pope John Paul’s apostolic letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis," the document, "Ten Frequently Asked Questions about the Reservation of Priestly Ordination to Men," prepared by the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is most helpful. The article, "Pastoral Response to the Teaching on Women’s Ordination," by the eminent theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles, is also most helpful. These resources are all available at the archdiocesan website, www.archstl.org. If you wish to study the matter even more extensively, I recommend the book, "The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church," by Sister Sara Butler, MSBT, a most respected theologian and professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.


Violation of respect for the Catholic Church


Another painful aspect of the proposed attempted ordinations is the hosting of the event by a Jewish synagogue. To host an event which is offensive to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church is profoundly disrespectful and a most serious violation of the relationship which has developed between leaders of the Jewish faith and the archbishop of St. Louis.


I have written twice to Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation, asking her to cancel the event, out of respect for the Roman Catholic Church. In her response to my first letter, Rabbi Talve informed me that it was the unanimous decision of the board of directors of Central Reform Congregation to host the attempted ordinations. Her response seemed to view the matter as merely a question of a difference of opinion among Catholics, in which the Jewish synagogue would merely provide a forum for one viewpoint to express itself. It does not take into account that it is a matter of Catholic doctrine and that the proposed event is the simulation of one of the most sacred rites in the Roman Catholic Church. As I explained in my letter to Rabbi Talve, it would be as if I, as archbishop of St. Louis, would host an event at the Cathedral Basilica that would simulate a Jewish ritual which at the same time would be offensive to the Jewish faith.


The Jewish Community Relations Council has issued a statement in the matter, in which it clarifies that each Jewish congregation "is free to act in accordance with its own understanding of Jewish tradition and law" and that, therefore, "Central Reform Congregation’s decision to make its facilities available for the ordination event represents the action of that congregation, not of the organized Jewish community of greater St. Louis."


The statement also expresses regret over "any pain inuring from Central Reform Congregation’s association with the ordination event to any of our many friends in the Roman Catholic community of St. Louis." The complete text of the statement is found on the archdiocesan website. I am most grateful for the statement. At the same time, I must observe that, in referring to the Church’s teaching on the reservation of priestly ordination to men only as "current Roman Catholic doctrine," the statement fails to understand that the teaching involved is universal and constant, that is, it is not just "current" or subject to change.


Conclusion


I hope that the above helps you to understand better my response, as archbishop, to the most sad situation of the attempted ordinations. I hope that it also leads you to seek a deeper understanding of the Church’s teaching in the matter and helps you to be able to respond to the inevitable questions which will be raised to Catholics by friends and acquaintances. I thank you, in advance, for whatever you can do to help others to understand the Church’s teaching and practice.


Above all, I hope that my reflections will lead you to pray for the conversion of heart of the women involved, for the sake of their eternal salvation and for the sake of the many whom they will lead into confusion about the Church’s teaching and practice. Prayer can accomplish more than we ever imagine, and the present situation needs the help of many prayers.

06 November 2007

A great Catholic school

It's pretty exciting to see an excellent Catholic school growing right before my eyes. The Atonement Academy is getting ready to graduate the first senior class this year. Some of these graduating students have been with us since Kindergarten; others have joined the Academy along the way. College applications are being readied. The letters of recommendations are being written and the transcripts are being prepared.

The excellence of the academic and spiritual life here is evident, and if you'd like to have a look at the program, go here. The application process is outlined here. I'm astonished at the achievements of many of these young men and women, and I only wish I had been able to receive this kind of education. But even if I wasn't able to receive it, at least I'm privileged to have a part in providing it.

05 November 2007

On a personal note...

One of the meadows where I helped with haying during my boyhood...

A favorite path through the woods...

Ready to be mowed, raked and baled...


I've mentioned in past posts that I grew up on the family dairy farm in Connecticut, and many of my happiest childhood memories are attached to the acreage on East Cotton Hill Road in New Hartford. My grandparents, my parents, and then my brothers all continued on, spanning most of the twentieth century. A few years ago it went the way of most family farms, and the dairy operations ceased. The land remains, however, with the ever-present allure of selling to developers.

Recently, I was pleased to learn that what is left of the farmland won't be turned over to outsized houses on artificially demarcated building lots. Instead, the old farm will live on in a fashion by being part of the "open space" preservation plan. It means that through a grant from the state of Connecticut, combined with financial support from the town, the land will remain as it is -- undeveloped, a haven for wildlife, available for future generations to experience the woods and fields and wetlands as I did when I was a boy.

Sad as it is that there's no longer a working farm there, nonetheless it's nice to know that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their successive generations will be able wander the same streams and fields and woods as I did. May they enjoy it as much.

31 October 2007

All Saints and All Souls

November 1st, All Saints' Day, is a Holy Day of Obligation, and we'll be keeping it with all solemnity. There'll be a Low Mass at 7:00 a.m., and Sung Masses at 9:15 a.m. and at 7:00 p.m. The Lower School children always have a great time dressing as their favorite saint, and even though classes are in session, there's feeling of it being a "special day."

November 2nd is All Souls' Day. The vestments will be black, the Masses will be somber. We will be offering two Requiem Masses, one at 7:00 a.m. and one at 9:15 a.m., and young men from the Upper School will be singing some of the traditional chants at the later Mass. That evening at 7:00 p.m. we will be chanting the Solemn Evensong of All Souls' Day, with yet another opportunity to pray for the Faithful Departed. After Evensong there will be a presentation of one of the most beautiful settings of the Requiem ever written, Gabriel Fauré's "Requiem in D minor, Op. 48." I heard some of the rehearsals last evening, and it's breath-taking.


By the way, the picture accompanying this post shows the Doom painting from St. Thomas Church in Salisbury, England. This was the church where, as a young theological student, I first presided at Evensong. The following is a description of the painting:


"The well known Doom painting of the Last Judgement was commissioned between 1470 and 1500 from an unknown artist, who was probably an Englishman who had travelled in Europe and learned his skills in Flanders and other artistic centres. Doom paintings were not uncommon but few have survived and of those this is one of the largest, covering all the space above the chancel arch, most complete, and probably the best preserved. After the Reformation it was whitewashed over by 1593 and a panel displaying the arms of Elizabeth I set over it. In 1819 traces of colour were noticed under the whitewash which was carefully removed. The painting was recorded on paper and then covered by whitewash again! The whitewash was finally removed in 1881 and the painting restored in oils although the artist made some corrections. There is some dispute about the extent of these but most seems medieval such as the fact that there are are more bishops going to Hell than to Heaven and the figure of an ale-wife, who traditionally sold short measure, is being taken downwards."


Bishops and ale-wives going to hell? Very judgmental!

29 October 2007

More thoughts on the TAC request...

I’ve already posted something on the TAC initiative, in which they seek “full and corporate reunion” with the Catholic Church. There have been myriad stories in the media, which is absolutely the worst place to get accurate information. For instance, the story of how “300 Anglicans defect to Rome after row over women priests” really isn’t terribly accurate. The story made it sound as though the oil of confirmation was freshly dripping from their brows, but the truth of the matter is that they are simply part of TAC, and are not making any independent move towards the Catholic Church. In fact, on their website they claim, “We are a Catholic, Apostolic, Reformed and Protestant Church.” I can’t imagine what that means. How can one be “Catholic” and “Protestant” at the same time, without speaking nonsense?

I’ve been following the TAC thing on the blogs, too. I can’t make a whole lot of sense out of what I read – and again, perhaps blogs aren’t always the best source for sensible statements. But the following statement I read is far from unique:

Let's say it again: "united but not absorbed." The intention is not for we Anglicans in TAC to convert to Roman Catholicism, but to be IN COMMUNION with the Roman Catholic Church. There is a big difference.

In my previous post I expressed my concern that this might be representative of the understanding of many, if not most, of the TAC members. Comments such as this don’t assuage my concern. Mind you, I’m certainly not concerned that the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will somehow miss the nuances within the request. We’ve got some pretty brilliant minds who’ll be looking at this. But the attention being paid to this by the media and within Anglicanism does mean that if Rome is unable to respond favorably to the TAC letter, there will be another handy stick with which to beat the Church. “These nice people asked to come home, but nasty old Rome slammed the door…”

I could be totally wrong about this, but the more I read and study the TAC initiative, it isn’t clear to me that it’s so much a wanting to “come home,” but more a request to “take us as we are.” Fortunately for everyone, I’m not the one being asked, nor am I the one who will have any role in the ultimate decision. But the whole thing is definitely interesting.

Veiled joy...

We've had three Sisters visiting the parish for the past several days. They're members of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. Sister Grace Marie, Sister Rose Marie and Sister Elizabeth Marie have been staying in our St. Joseph Parish House, attending Mass here and generally joining in parish life. They'll be heading back tomorrow to the cloister in Hanceville, but it's been great to have them here. Sister Elizabeth Marie entered religious life from this parish, and Sister Grace Marie and Sister Rose Marie are both converts from Anglicanism -- so it was rather like "coming home" for all of them!

23 October 2007

A few thoughts about the TAC petition...

"The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded."

The Traditional Anglican Communion is a rather large (some 400,000 persons world-wide) “communion of churches,” all under a Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth. TAC sees itself as carrying on the conversations inaugurated by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, and His Holiness, Pope Paul VI – conversations which resulted in the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). TAC is not in communion with Canterbury, but is comprised of “continuing Anglicans,” that is, those who have left the official provinces of the Anglican Communion and formed their own dioceses under their own hierarchy.

This most recent and formal approach to the Holy See is wonderful news, and those of us who are Catholics of the Anglican Use are especially supportive of the initiative. To have an influx of some hundreds of thousands of people from an Anglican background would be not only a great blessing to those who enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, but it would strengthen the presently small numbers in the Anglican Use and would greatly bolster the evangelistic and liturgical apostolate given to us by our Holy Mother the Church.

No one but the TAC bishops and certain members of the Curia of the Holy See knows what is in the letter. No one knows how long it will take for a response to come from Rome. There are, no doubt, many items for discussion and many issues to settle.

Certain obvious problems need to be solved, not least of which is the fact that the TAC Primate is a former Catholic priest who left the Church and subsequently married. In fact, more than one TAC bishop has been divorced and remarried. They have all given assurance that they are willing to step aside if that presents an insurmountable problem (how could they think it wouldn’t?). Sad to say, this will be a problem to be solved also for several of their clergy and laity.

Also, one of the bedrock and guiding principles of TAC is that it seeks to be "an Anglican Church in communion with the Holy See.” What does that mean? Remembering my own understanding of that phrase when I was an Anglican, at that time we visualized reunion as the coming together of two equals which had been separated by the unfortunate circumstances of history. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when referring to those Christian communities coming out of the Protestant reformation in its recent “Responsa ad quaestiones,” states clearly, “According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense." I have no idea how this principle of being "an Anglican Church in communion with the Holy See” was phrased in their letter, but it would be interesting to have some insight into the TAC understanding of it.

I’m curious to know what the “average person in the pew” in TAC thinks of this. I’ve read on more than one blog various comments from TAC laity who maintain that they would not actually be Roman Catholics, but would be “in communion” with Rome. If that sentiment is in any sense widespread, it would indicate some problems with the proposal. But nonetheless, I’m very excited about this development, and I am praying daily that it bears good fruit. I’m eager to hear the response from the Holy See, and I hope this request is such that it can be granted.

18 October 2007

Another day, another blessing...

I know I’ve said it before, and probably to the point of some people saying “Ok, enough already!” But I do love being the pastor of this parish. Not because of anything dramatic, but just because of the daily round of worship and confessions, along with the usual counseling, seeing parishioners, giving spiritual direction, making decisions about things, whether small or far-reaching. I really enjoy being greeted by the littlest students in their sing-song unison voices (Goo-ood mor-rn-ning Fa-ath-ther!, which must be a particularly “Catholic school” thing). It’s very moving to hear a soft knock at my office door with one of the high school students asking quietly, “Could I make my confession, Father?”

Today was a beautiful St. Luke’s Day. We started out with the quiet and early celebration of the Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel. This serves the needs of many who have to get to work, but want to go to daily Mass, and also a number of early-risers love the peaceful, low-key celebration. Mid-morning we pulled out all the stops because it was the Feast of St. Luke, so several hymns were included, the incense hung in clouds throughout the nave and sanctuary. This afternoon we celebrated Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I’m always deeply moved when I hear all the students singing the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis to Anglican chant. They really look forward to Benediction, and as they adore our Lord they love it that the organ gets louder and more dramatic as the Sign of the Cross is traced out in front of them with the Blessed Sacrament.

Most of them have left for the day now. The older students are just finishing up their last class period, and things will become fairly quiet again – all ready to begin again tomorrow. I reckon our Lord continues to answer our prayer made daily, “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy, defend us from all perils and dangers of this night…”

17 October 2007

A Cardinal in Texas!

The Most Reverend Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, has been named to the College of Cardinals by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. Please pray for the Cardinal-designate as he prepares to assume new responsibilities within the Church.

15 October 2007

"Lantern of the Lothians"

One of the truly beautiful hymn tunes in the Church’s treasury is David Evans’ “Lucerna Laudoniae.” The name of the tune means “Lantern of the Lothians,” which was a Franciscan monastery at Haddington, East Lothian in Scotland. The monastery was destroyed in 1355, but in the fifteenth-century a church was built on the site – and it is now immortalized by this simple and dignified hymn tune.

There are several texts which have made use of the tune, perhaps the most famous being “For the beauty of the earth.” Some years ago I wrote the following words specifically for the tune, and we sang this hymn yesterday at Mass after Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ, our Saviour King,
unto thee thy people sing;
hear the prayers we humbly make,
hear them for thy mercy’s sake.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls, and make us thine.

Give us eyes that we may see;
give us hearts to worship thee;
give us ears that we may hear;
in thy love, Lord, draw us near.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In our darkness, shed thy light;
lift us to thy heav’nly height;
may we be thy dwelling-place,
tabernacles of thy grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In thy Kingdom grant us rest,
in Jerusalem the blest;
with the saints our lips shall sing,
with the angels echoing:
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
thou dost reign, and we are thine!
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips (1990)
Music: “Lucerna Laudoniae”
David Evans (1874-1948)