31 March 2008

Most highly favored lady...

The students returned to classes today, after the Easter break. Last week had seemed very quiet at the parish. It's amazing what the absence of nearly five hundred students can do to a place.

It was especially beautiful to have everyone back for the Solemnity of the Annunciation. As I've frequently mentioned, all our students (from Pre-Kinder through High School) attend Mass daily. Each day's school Mass is a Sung Mass, and we always use incense on Feasts and Solemnities. Today was no exception, and one of our high school "regulars" was serving as thurifer -- a young man who has perfected the "360-degree swing" with the thurible. He'd managed to lay out a pretty good cloud covering in the sanctuary, and the children were making their responses more strongly than is usual for a Monday morning. There's something about celebrating the Annunciation that seems special to the students each year. Maybe it's partly because I always remind them that "it's only nine months until Christmas..."


One of the lovelier moments was when the organ started that wonderful Basque carol which is so beautifully wedded to the Baring-Gould translation, and every voice from the youngest onward joined in singing,


The angel Gabriel from heaven came,

his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;

"All hail," said he, "thou lowly maiden, Mary,

most highly favored lady,"Gloria!


"For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,

all generations laud and honor thee,

thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,

most highly favored lady,"Gloria!


Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,

"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,

"my soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name."

Most highly favored lady,Gloria!


Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ was born

in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,

and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say

"Most highly favored lady,"Gloria!


Absolutely beautiful.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” - Isaiah 7:14


V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

V. Ecce ancilla Domini,
R. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

V. Et Verbum caro factum est,
R. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus.* Sancta Maria, Mater Dei ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

29 March 2008

A window on beauty...

One of my favorite artists is the Pre-Raphaelite, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Born in the city of Birmingham in 1833, he had the requisite bleak childhood experienced by so many artists, which drove him to seek beauty outside his own circumstances. And he found it. His long association with William Morris, and his studies with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, led him to develop his particular artistic style, which in turn had great influence on art, crafts, furniture, and even literature. In fact, it is thought that his paintings had some effect on a young J.R.R. Tolkien, who was growing up in Birmingham at the time.

I have copies of some of his works hanging in my office, which provide me with daily pleasure. One of them is "The Pelican In Her Piety," painted in 1880:


Another intensely beautiful work is "The Star of Bethlehem," of which the original is massive in size. My copy is a small version, but still impressive:


To give some idea of the magnitude of the original, here is a c.1890 photograph of Burne-Jones in his studio, working on "The Star of Bethlehem."



Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones died in 1898. As a young man he had considered entering the Anglican ministry, but instead devoted himself to the magnificent artistic gifts which God had given him. He left an impressive body of work, and I am grateful for the beauty it continues to bring to me.

27 March 2008

"It is the Lord!"

Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way.

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish.

That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.

Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.

This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

- St. John 21:1-14

26 March 2008

He appeared to be going further...

...but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him…

24 March 2008

"Now on the first day of the week..."

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."

Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Happy Smigus Dyngus Day!

If you're Polish, I guess you're soaked to the skin today. Easter Monday traditionally is Smigus Dyngus Day, when everybody throws buckets of water at each other -- although I guess if you're from the more refined levels of Polish society, you make do with a light sprinkling. Anyway, apparently it's a custom with roots in the commemoration of the birth of Christianity in Poland (966 A.D.) in which Holy Baptism was administered to Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday, uniting all of Poland under the banner of Christianity.

There's also the custom of cutting willow branches and hitting one another's legs, but I'm thinking that's some form of Polish courtship ritual...
Ah, I love these wonderful ethnic customs!

22 March 2008

Ex umbris...

On Holy Saturday we recall the time when our Lord was resting in the tomb, after His Passion and Death. It's also a time when we prepare the church for the celebration of the Queen of Feasts, beginning with the Great Vigil of Easter tonight. My first task this morning was to open the triptych, which had been closed for the week of the Passion. Since I had posted an explanation of the painting which shows it in the closed position, I thought it would be of interest to give the description of the painting which forms the reredos throughout the rest of the year.

THE TRIPITYCH OPENED


THE SIDE PANELS

It was through the mystery of the Annunciation that the Light, Who is Christ, came into a sin-darkened world. Thus the interior of the triptych is bathed in color and light.

On the side panels, four large saints turn their attention to the figure of Christ seated in majesty on the clouds of Heaven: Alban the first Martyr of Britain, Bede the Venerable, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury. With each of these saints are smaller, signature saints—saints who further enhance the spiritual significance found in the painting. The saints located in the tracery are a Carmelite saint, Bernard, Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas Moore, Christopher (the Christ-bearer), Philip the Apostle, John Fisher, and Paulinus of York. These figures, done in enameled copper, also include attributes of each of the larger saints. The saints depicted were chosen for a deeper significance that will be explained later. Close examination of the figures will reveal that the colors in the flooring match the colors of the flooring below the larger figures, and that even the slant of the floor matches the slant of the floor below.

Beneath each of these signature saints is a copper-enameled seraph, that is, an angel with six wings. Seraphim are traditionally thought to be found closest to God in heaven. Each angel carries a shield with the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II: a white cross with the large letter “M” honoring Mary and her role in the atoning sacrifice of the cross. The coat of arms reinforces a theme of this painting, the thanksgiving being offered by the congregation of Our Lady of the Atonement for the pontificate of John Paul II.

The background of the interior panels, including the main panel, were crafted by applying two layers of gold leaf on the boards. A staining agent was then applied to the gold leaf. After drying, the upper layer was cut through to reveal the bright gold behind it. The green outline of this gold pattern, the “Tree of Life” pattern, are rosettes, stylized roses based on the Tudor rose. Each of these rosettes has a center of enameled copper. The colors used in the centers, and in the rosettes, reflect the colors of the flooring.

The gothic tracery is enameled copper, patterned on the oldest existing gothic tracery pattern, found on a silk grisaille painting now located in the Louvre.

The red and blue colors were chosen for their close association with the British nation, but they are symbolic also of other mysteries. Red is the color of martyrdom and death, e.g., Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; blue is the color of his mother, the Virgin Mary. Thus in these two dominant colors is the symbolic name of the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement.

Before looking in detail at the four large saints, we should note the close relationship that existed between them. Saint Alban, the first Martyr of Britain, was instrumental in making the Catholic Faith part of the English experience. One of his biographers was Saint Bede.

As pope, Saint Gregory was interested in the conversion of the English nation. It was at his insistence that Saint Augustine came to Canterbury from the monastery that Gregory had founded in Rome.

These saints enjoyed a relationship with one another, and were influential in one another’s lives, and through their relationships they have affected all of us. We could say that Alban laid the groundwork that Gregory built upon by sending Augustine. Bede was the recipient of all the work that Augustine had done in Gregory’s name, based on the faith that Alban had planted, rooted in the atoning service of Christ.

SAINT ALBAN (C. 209)

Saint Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People tells us about Saint Alban, protomartyr of the English Catholic Church. According to Saint Bede, Alban sheltered a priest during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. This priest converted Alban to the Faith, and when soldiers came to arrest the priest, Alban put on the priest’s cloak and offered himself in place of the priest. The virtue of Saint Alban converted his first executioner. Then, as Alban’s head rolled from the block, the eyes of his second executioner fell out and landed in a holly bush.

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.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT ALBAN

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the great reformer of the Cistercians was, like Alban, a warrior for the Faith. He brought about a great spiritual revival in the world of his time. At his fee is a bee hive, one of his symbols, recalling the honeyed eloquence of his preaching. He carries a symbol with a dual meaning. The gray enamel tablets are reformed rule, but they can be seen also as the stone tablets of the Law given to Moses at Sinai. Thus the figure can be read as Bernard Law, the name of the Cardinal Archbishop who served as the Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision at the time of the canonical erection of the parish.

A Carmelite saint represents all of those nameless saints through the centuries who have run the race, fought the good fight, and received the unfading crown of glory, the same that has been given to Saint Alban. Thus this panel depicts Saint Alban, glorified by a martyr’s death; Saint Bernard, glorified for his promotion of reform and his devotion to the Church; and those saints like this nameless Carmelite who won sanctification through the white martyrdom of cloistered and unknown religious life. A Carmelite was chosen because of the close association between the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of the Atonement Church, whose pastor served for many years as the Sisters’ Chaplain. The figure here carries the symbols of two great Carmelite saints: Theresa of the Child Jesus, symbolized by the single rose and crucifix, and Theresa of Avila, who like Bernard worked for reform in her community and in the Church, symbolized by the heart aflame.

SAINT GREGORY (c. 540-604)

The pagan Saxons destroyed much of the early Christian culture of Britain. The conversion of these cruel overlords was the special project of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory became a monk after a distinguished career in politics. Using his family’s wealth, he founded six monasteries in Sicily. In Rome, on the Coelian Hill, he established his seventh monastery, dedicated to Saint Andrew, where he lived the life of a simple monk. His time in the monastery was short, however. The pope sent him on a mission which lasted over seven years. When he returned, he was elected abbot of his monastery.

Shortly thereafter, Gregory was elected pope, succeeding Pelagius II. Rome was at the time being devastated by the plague, and Gregory organized pilgrimages throughout the city. During one of the pilgrimages a vision of Saint Michael, waving a sword, was seen above the spot now known as Castel Saint’Angelo. The plaque suddenly abated, and all of Rome hailed the new pope as a worker of miracles.

Gregory’s pontificate lasted fourteen years. During this time he reorganized both civil and ecclesiastical life. He redefined dioceses and reclaimed the papal states. In all his dealings with the churches of the East and West, Gregory insisted upon the supremacy of the Roman See. With deference for the rights of bishops in their own dioceses, he asserted the principle of the primacy of the Chair of Saint Peter. “Who can doubt,” he wrote, “that the Church of Constantinople is subject to the Apostolic See?” So also in the relationship with the emperor, Saint Gregory combined deference for the rights of the civil power with vigilance to defend his own rights and those of the ecclesiastical and monastic orders.

He was known also for liturgical reform. He was a prolific writer of letters, commentaries, sermons, and lives of the saints. He also wrote a book on pastoral care, noting what the life of a priest or bishop should be.

Saint Gregory began the mission to England and is known by the title “Apostle of England.” He sent monks from his own monastery of Saint Andrew, led by Augustine, to carry out this mission. In the reredos Gregory is shown in his full pontificals, holding his metropolitan cross. Next to him are buildings and flames. The buildings represent the monasteries he founded, but they can also serve to remind us of the New City of God he created from the civil and religious institutions of his period. The flames, surrounding the buildings, but not burning them, recall the medieval belief that Saint Gregory had great power to release souls from purgatory.

Saint Gregory is shown holding a wood-cut. This wood-cut, made especially for this triptych, recalls another medieval belief. It is related that, during the sacrifice of the Mass, the Man of Sorrows appeared to Gregory at the moment of transubstantiation. This was seen as a reaffirmation of this Catholic doctrine. The wood-cut is based on a German wood-cut of the period depicting this miracle.

Pope Saint Gregory also has another traditional emblem with him: the hovering Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that inspired his work and gave him the courage and strength to bring it to fulfillment.

One final detail: on the dalmatic he wears (in Gregory’s time bishops wore all the vestments) are rows of fringe, recalling that he is the patron saint of fringe-makers.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT GREGORY

Saint John Fisher (1469-1535) and Saint Paulinus of York (d. 644), whose names (when read together), give us the name of the Holy Father, John Paul.

Saint John Fisher was born at York, the same place that Saint Paulinus came to evangelize. He was recognized as one of the leading theologians of his day. He was also bishop of Rochester, one of the poorest of all dioceses. Like Gregory, John Fisher wrote about and practiced a real pastoral care for his priests. He tried to give them an example of priestly zeal and life. He wrote about the heresies of his day, but is known for never using abusive language. Rather, he relied on reason and persuasion to bring back the prodigals.

In the divorce controversy between Henry VIII and Queen Catherine, he defended the queen. He refused to take the oath defending the divorce and the Succession Act of 1534. Arrested for this refusal, he was confined to the Tower and eventually beheaded.

This small enamel shows him clutching a monstrance, for he was devoted to the Eucharistic Mystery, as was Saint Gregory. He is also shown carrying the keys of Peter, for he defended the rights of the sovereign pontiff to the point of martyrdom. He treads upon a crown to show that he refused to allow the true queen to be displaced by a usurper.

Saint Paulinus had come to England in the mission of Saint Augustine to Canterbury. Saint Bede said that it was Paulinus who brought from Rome many of the liturgical vessels and relics given by Gregory the Great to this infant church so that the sacraments would be celebrated properly, with solemnity and dignity.

Paulinus of York became Bishop of Rochester in 634; John Fisher, born at York, became Bishop of Rochester in 1504. Both of these dioceses, York and Rochester, were erected through the mission to convert the Saxons, begun by Gregory and administered by Augustine of Canterbury.

SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY (C. 605)

When Pope Saint Gregory decided that the time had come for the evangelization of Anglo-Saxon England, he chose as the missionaries some thirty or more monks from his monastery of Saint Andrew. He gave them their own Prior, Augustine, as their leader. Shortly after arriving in France, the missionaries returned to Rome, for they had heard about the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and the dangers of the Channel. Pope Gregory reassured them that the English were open to the Gospel, and he sent them back with much encouragement and support. The missionaries arrived in the territory of the king of Kent, Ethelbert. The king listened to them and gave them a dwelling in Canterbury.

In 597, on Pentecost, Augustine baptized the king. Afterwards, Augustine went again to France, where he was consecrated bishop of the English by Saint Virgilius, metropolitan of Arles. Augustine sent two monks to Rome to give a report of the mission, to ask for more helpers, and to obtain advice on various points. They came back bringing the pallium for Augustine and were accompanied by a fresh band of missionaries, among them Saint Paulinus. With these “ministers of the Word,” said Saint Bede, “the Pope sent all things needed in general for Divine Worship and the service of the Church, sacred vessels, altar cloths, furniture for churches, and vestments for the clergy, relics and also many books.”

In Canterbury, Augustine rebuilt an ancient church which, with an old wooden house, formed the nucleus for his metropolitan basilica and for the later monastery of Christ Church. Outside the walls of Canterbury he made a monastic foundation which he dedicated in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul. After his death, this abbey became known as Saint Augustine’s and was the burial place of the early archbishops.

Augustine had difficulty in reconciling some practices that were at variance with those of the Roman tradition, and this process was not successfully completed in his lifetime. During these difficult moments he was encourage by Pope Gregory.

Augustine’s last years were spent in spreading and consolidating the Faith through Ethelbert’s realm, and Episcopal sees were established at London and Rochester. On May 26, c. 605, about seven years after his arrival in England, Saint Augustine died. His feast is observed on this date in England and Wales, but elsewhere on May 28th.

In the reredos Augustine is shown in his full pontificals with his crosier. Prominent among his vestments is the pallium sent to him by Pope Gregory. He holds in his hand a model of the cathedral church at Canterbury.

Next to him are the liturgical vessels and appointments he caused to be brought to England for the service of the Church. The largest of these items is the crucifix. Note that the decoration of the crucifix has a wheat and grape motif, representing the Eucharist. From the side of the image of the crucified Christ is painted a red and blue line which falls upon the crown below. The significance is that Ethelbert, symbolized by the crown, was baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, from whose side flowed water and blood after His atoning crucifixion.

On the opposite side of Saint Augustine is a small reliquary casket. The design of the enthroned Christ and apostles is modeled after a reliquary casket, dating to the time of Augustine, still in the possession of Canterbury Cathedral.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE.

The two Thomases, Saint Thomas More and Saint Thomas of Canterbury, stand for the name of the studio that did the work for the reredos, Studio Didymus. “Didymus” is the Greek word for “the twin” – thus, two Thomases. But this pair also has another relationship with the central figure.

Saint Thomas More (1478-1535) was a contemporary of Saint John Fisher. He was executed the day following Fisher’s own death in the Tower. Thomas More was born in London, a diocese established by Saint Augustine. He was in service to his king, as Augustine served Ethelbert. He studied at Canterbury, the administrative center of Augustine’s mission. He served the king as chancellor, but refused to agree to the Divorce question, and would not take the oath stating that the king was the head of the Church in England. He was beheaded for his refusal.

In the enamel, Thomas More is shown wearing his lawyer’s cap and gown and carrying the keys of Peter. He stands on the crown that Henry would have given away to Ann Boleyn.

On the other side is Saint Thomas á Becket, or Thomas of Canterbury (1118-1170), who was born in London. Thomas served the archbishop of Canterbury, a line of authority that stretched back to Augustine. It was the archbishop of Canterbury who recommended Thomas as chancellor to Henry II, and Thomas himself became archbishop in 1163. As archbishop, Thomas became truly a man of God and defender of the papacy. It was his defense of the Church and papacy that brought about his conflict with the king and his eventual martyr’s death at Canterbury, in the church established by Augustine centuries before.

Relics of Saint Thomas of Canterbury are enclosed in the altar stone of Our Lady of the Atonement Church, and his is one of the small statutes besides the tabernacle door.

SAINT BEDE THE VENERABLE (673-735)

Although very little is known about Saint Bede, we do know that he was a monk of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth and Jarrow, where at the age of seven he had been given into the care of the abbot. His monastic life was uneventful, and we can sum it up in his own words: “I have spent the whole of my life devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and, amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily task of singing in the church, it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write.”

It was as a teacher and writer that Bede was supreme. He wrote both theological and secular works, prose and poetry. He was interested in science and the natural order. His historical writings are perhaps the best remembered. His chief work was The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, one of the most important historical writings of the early Middle Ages. It is the sole source for much information about the early Saxon history.

Saint Bede died at his work. On the Tuesday before Ascension Day he summoned the priests of the monastery, made them little gifts of paper and incense, and begged their prayers. At intervals during the next forty-eight hours, propped up in bed, he dictated to the last sentence an English rendering of the Gospel of Saint John upon which he was engaged at the onset of his illness. Finally, asking to be laid on the floor he sang the anthem “O King of Glory” from the Office of Ascension Day and died with the doxology, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” on his lips.

Bede is the only Englishman who was named by Dante in the Paradiso. Saint Boniface, when he learned of Bede’s death, said “The light, lit by the Holy Spirit for the good of the whole Church, has been extinguished.” In the reredos Saint Bede appears in his simple monastic garb. He was dedicated to the monastic office and to the life of prayer, thus his red prayer beads are shown in the folds of his habit. He carries the crosier, though he was never a bishop, to recall the bishop’s role of teacher and scholar, characteristics of Bede. He also carries an opened copy of his Ecclesiastical History, and the picture on the frontispiece is of the original small church of Our Lady of the Atonement, before its expansion. Next to him is the extinguished candle, recalling Saint Boniface’s words. At the top of the candlestick is the inscription of the doxology Bede was praying at the moment of death.

“Remember,” writes Cardinal Gasquet, “what the work was upon which Saint Bede was engaged upon his deathbed – a translation of the gospels into English …” But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing is now extant.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT BEDE THE VENERABLE

Saint Phillip the Apostle (1st c.) and Saint Christopher (date unknown) with the Christ Child were positioned to be read from the right hand of Christ, that is, it reads “Saint Christopher/Saint Philip” – the name of the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Church. Following traditional iconography, Christopher holds aloft the Child Jesus, and Saint Philip, a martyr by crucifixion, holds a cross.

THE MAIN PANEL

The back, or main, panel serves to call our attention to the glory of God and to focus our attention on the Eucharist presence of Jesus Christ as reserved in the tabernacle on the retable.

The central figure is Christ enthroned on the clouds of Heaven, sitting in regal splendor. The clothing of the figure is done entirely by hand in copper enamel work. Each piece was cut, fitted, and molded out of pure copper. On top of the copper was laid ground glass enamel powder. This was then fired at extremely high heat to melt the glass on the surface of the copper. This is difficult, and was made more so, because it was decided to fire in the patterns of the clothing as well. The patterns are not painted, but rather laid out in dry enamel and fired. Thus they are permanent. All the pattern in the cloak, the trim work, and the patterns of crosses in the lappets (the ribbons from the tiara), are done in this manner. The figure’s “jewels” were also made from copper, enameled, and they are applied to the surface of the figure, giving it dimension and body. The cope clasp is the Agnus Dei, based on an enamel of the eleventh century. Christ is the Lamb who offered Himself as a victim to wash away with His own blood the pollution of our nature and of our carnal actions: CARNALES ACTUS TULIT AGNUS HIC HOSTIA FACTUS.

The figure of Christ enthroned was chosen because the work was commissioned in honor of the pontificate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. For this reason the figure is dressed as the pontiff. This was a common artistic motif of the Middle Ages. Christ, sitting in judgement, has a countenance softened with compassion. He is sovereign, as evidenced by his jeweled scepter, but He is also the loving Savior who seeks only to bless us, as the hand raised in blessing signifies.

On either side of Christ are two angels, carrying two more of the instruments of His passion and death, the spear and the sponge. The spear recalls the miracle of blood and water flowing from the side of Christ and reminds us that we are brought into the Church through baptism, and through this baptism we share in the redemptive death of Christ. The sponge recalls the thirst of Christ upon the cross. When He asked for drink, He was given sour wine or gall mixed with vinegar. When we come to the altar in thirst, we are given His blood to drink, the same blood that flowed from His side.

The patterns on the vesture of the angels further heighten the symbolic character of the work. The angel with the sponge has a pattern made up of a blooming lily and a cross. The lily calls to mind the lily of Saint Joseph, an indirect reference to the donors, the Joseph family, the lily of the blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Atonement, and finally the lily of Saint Anthony, after whom the city of San Antonio was named. The cross pattern is the same as used on the front panel’s lower angels. It is made up of the two “Ts” of the Holy Father’s personal motto. “Totus Tuus.” The angel with the lance has a pattern of a crown of thorns enclosing three nails, calling to mind the bitter and pain-filled death of the Savior. Interwoven with this pattern is the cross made up of the double “Ts.”

The lower angels are positioned behind the tabernacle. They hover in attentive reverence behind the King of kings and Lord of lords. They carry the veil of His Most Holy Name, JESUS, SON OF GOD, SAVIOR. They are vested in patterns appropriate to their proximity to the Eucharist mystery. The golden angel is dressed in a pattern of a long cross with stylized rays of glory behind it – for there is no glory save that of the cross. The green angel has a pattern of gold wheat and a cross. On the cross He was made into that pure bread offered up for us and given to us daily these sacred mysteries.

At the feet of these angels is an inscription that expresses both the Eucharistic mystery and the role of the Virgin Mary, Patroness of this church: AVE VERUM CORPUS NATUS EX MARIA VIRGINE (Hail the True Body, born of Mary the Virgin).

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF THE MAIN PANEL

The figure to the right of Christ is that of His foster father, Saint Joseph, tenderly holding the Infant Jesus. This figure was chosen because of the family surname of those whose donation made this reredos possible, and also because Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Church, the family, and of a happy death.

On the other side of Christ is an image of the Mother of God on the occasion of her glorious Assumption into heaven. She is shown with her arms lowered, the position of humility and the gesture of showering blessings. Near the bottom of the figure is her belt dropping off, which recalls the medieval belief that this belt was given to Saint Thomas at the moment of the Assumption. This belief was one of the most popular during the Middle Ages, and many churches have remnants of this relic in their collections. The image of the Blessed Virgin Assumed was chosen because of the dedication and blessing of Our Lady of the Atonement Church which took place on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1987.

THE ROLE OF THE ANGELS

In this painting there are six large angels and ten small enamel angels. This motif is not simply an artistic addition to the work, but rather has several purposes.

First, His Holiness Pope John Paul II is very much concerned with the traditional belief and teaching of the Church concerning the existence of these heavenly spirits. He has re-emphasized this teaching on many occasions.

Second, such groupings of angels were often found in the style of medieval art that is the inspiration for this reredos. Angels always had a place in the iconography of the Middle Ages. They were especially to be seen in scenes of the Passion. The angels here are relevant to the name of this parish, for they carry those instruments associated with the atoning death of our Lord.

The angels of the Passion are vested as deacons. Deacons are those ministers that assist the priest at the Mass, as the angels assisted Christ in His last agony, death, and resurrection.

Finally, these images of angels remind us of the famous story about Pope Saint Gregory and the people of England. According to tradition, he was inspired to work for the conversion of the pagan Saxons after seeing slaves from Britain for sale in the markets of Rome. He exclaimed, “Not Angles but Angels!”

THE METAL WORK

The hinges on this work are hand-forged steel which extend the front and back in the tradition of metalsmithing in the Middle Ages, and are designed to represent sword blades. This design recalls the prophecy by Saint Simeon that a sword of sorrow would pierce the heart of the Virgin Mary. The center lock, by which the panels are held flush when closed, is in the shape of the tablets of the Mosaic Law. The pin is in the shape of a cross, representing both the cross of Moses’ bronze serpent and the cross of Jesus.

THE CROSSES OF DEDICATION

Although not part of the triptych, there are four crosses found on the east and west walls of the church, which mark the places where the Holy Chrism was placed during the dedication of this place of worship. They are painted in the same style and colors of the reredos, and this “flowering cross” pattern was one of the favorite designs of the Middle Ages.

The crosses themselves were cut from wood that came from Krakow, Poland, near the birthplace of Pope John Paul II, and the city of which he was Cardinal Archbishop prior to his elevation to the papacy.

20 March 2008

A little more of our history...

We just finished constructing an outdoor shrine which marks an important place on our church grounds – the site of “the finding of the crucifix,” and also the area where the first Mass was celebrated on the property. Let me explain.

After the parish was canonically erected on 15th August 1983, I began to search for a permanent location for us to worship and to grow from our original eighteen people. We were, at that time, meeting at San Francesco di Paola Church, in downtown San Antonio. It was a lovely little place, built by Italian immigrants, but the location was ill-suited for us. Everyone had to travel quite a distance, and it was difficult to build up a communal life in a place which was fairly remote for all of us. So I began to look for some land.

It seemed to me that the future growth of San Antonio would be taking place on the northwest side of the city. Everything pointed to it, and that has indeed come to pass. The archdiocese had (several years before) purchased a small plot of land for the possibility that a territorial parish might be needed. When I inquired about locating our parish there, the answer was, “Yes, that would be fine. There’s not much happening out there anyway, and we probably won’t need it for a territorial parish.” The short-sightedness of that statement aside, it worked out well for us. To get the property, we were required to pay a rather hefty sum to the archdiocese, which eventually we did.

I knew this was the spot. I had visited it before making the request. I had to crawl through the underbrush, literally on my belly, to make any kind of exploration. I had a small medal of Our Lady of the Atonement with me, and I buried it in the earth as I was making my slow process through the woods and brush, claiming it for our Lady and her parish. Shortly after burying the medal, I came into a small clearing, allowing me to stand up. With the thick undergrowth surrounding me, I saw in the middle of the clearing a wooden cross stuck into the ground, and fastened to the rough cross was a small crucifix. I’m not stupid – I took it as a sign. This was the place. This was where our Lord and His Blessed Mother wanted us to be. But I need to tell you why such a sign was necessary.

At the same time as I had requested the possibility of our getting the land, some Dominican priests had approached the archbishop about staffing a chaplaincy for the University of Texas, which is a short distance away. Even though we had asked first, the archbishop thought perhaps a better use for the land would be to give it to the Dominicans. I told the archbishop, “You can’t! I’ve already claimed it for Our Lady of the Atonement.” He expressed his regret, but told me his mind was set. I warned him that we’d begin praying. And so we did.

For nine evenings we gathered to pray the Novena to the Holy Ghost. By the fourth evening, the archbishop contacted me. “I don’t know what kind of prayer you’ve been saying,” he said, “but the situation with the Dominicans has fallen through. You can build there.” We finished the novena as an act of thanksgiving. We were intensely grateful to God, but not surprised at what He had done. Mind you, I have nothing against the Dominicans, but the Blessed Mother had other plans for the land.

I saved that little crucifix. We built a simple wooden shrine to Our Lady of the Atonement on the property where the crucifix had been found, and fastened it onto the peak of the shrine’s roof. In time we made plans to celebrate a Mass there, and to break ground for the church.

Today there stands the newly-completed shrine, a copy of the original wooden one, but now in stone. Within the altar is the simple wood altar which stood there originally, now protected by a permanent stone altar. And the little crucifix is there. It’s mounted in the placed where the tabernacle would normally be, if this were an indoor altar.

So it reminds us of our beginnings, and of how God guided and protected us as new converts to the Catholic faith. There are plaques being installed on either side of the shrine, briefly telling the story, so our children and their children won’t forget that the Lord and His Mother heard our prayers.

Best headline of the week...




MANILA (AFP) — Philippine health officials Wednesday warned people taking part in Easter crucifixions and self-flagellation rituals to get a tetanus shot first and sterilise the nails to avoid infections.

Every Good Friday in this predominately Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation dozens of men re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by having themselves nailed to wooden crosses.

At the same time hundreds of others, mostly men, strip to the waist and whip themselves until their backs are cut and bloody as a way of atoning for their sins over the past year.

The Catholic church frowns upon the crucifixions and self flagellations which have become a tourist attraction in a number of towns around the country.

The department of health issued a health warning advising people taking part in the rituals this Friday to have tetanus shots and to check the condition of the whip they will use before lashing their backs.

It warned that dirty whips could lead to tetanus and other infections.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that as was hard to discourage "flagellants from whipping their own flesh, the best penitents can do is ensure that their whips are well-maintained."

According to the Manila Times, in San Fernando City, Pampanga, some 23 people, including two women, plan to reenact the crucifixion on Friday.

"We are not trying to go against the Lenten tradition here because whipping has somewhat already become some form of 'atonement for sins' for some of us," Duque said.

"But this advice is important to make sure that no one will land in the hospital due to tetanus or other infections that penitents might get in the process," he said.

The health department has also warned that the six-inch (15-centimetre) nails used in crucifixions should be sterilised.

18 March 2008

The Week of the Passion

The triptych at the High Altar is in its closed position for Passion Week. It depicts the Annunciation, the mystical beginning of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ:

The Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of the Atonement:

A closer picture, showing the Crown of Thorns:

Some of the relics located in the Lady Chapel:

Following is a description of the Triptych closed

The triptych, entitled “CHRIST IN GLORY,” which serves as the reredos behind the High Altar is left in its open position during the year, being closed only during Holy Week, when a more somber atmosphere is desired. The following detailed description outlines the artistic and theological concepts which are represented in this art work.

THE FRONT PANELS
(when the triptych is in the closed position during Holy Week)

The front panels of the triptych are painted in the traditional grisaille, a technique using only shades of gray.

The mystery of our salvation begins with the Good News of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. It is this scene that occupies the top register of the work. The Archangel Gabriel is announcing the tidings of Great Joy. He carries the staff of his authority, an iconographic symbol that has roots deep in antiquity. He is vested with a cope and the crossed stole of a priest. His stole bears the following inscriptions:

MATER AMORIS, DOLORIS ET MISERICORDIAE, ORA PRO NOBIS.
Mother of love, of sorrow and of mercy, pray for us.

GAUDE, MARIA, CUNCTAS HERESES SOLA INTEREMISTI IN UNIVERSO MUNDO.
Rejoice, Mary, thou alone has put down all heresies in the whole world.

The inscription honors the title under which this parish honors the Virgin Mary: Our Lady of the Atonement. The stole of the Archangel ends in the coat of arms of Pope John II, the Cross of Jesus, and the initial “M” of the Mother of God.

The Archangel announces “Ave Maria, Dominus Tecum.” The script for this inscription is based on early Gothic capitals of the late 11th century found in manuscripts on the Oxford Collections.

With the hearing of the greeting and the assent of the Virgin Mary, Jesus enters into the world. Following the tradition of the Middle Ages, the tiny figure of the Christ is located above the Archangel. Jesus is carrying a scarlet cross signifying His Passion and Death. This figure is the only color found on these panels other that the grisaille. Jesus is the Light of Life. He cuts into the grayness and darkness of our world with His glory and His power. His is the only figure represented that does not cast a shadow, for there is nothing of darkness about Him.

Gabriel, the holy Archangel, is flanked by two small figures in niches at the tops of the pillars. The tips of his wings cover the image of Eve, our first mother, our earthly mother. His wings shadow her body. No longer are we bound by the fact of the sin that she brought into the world. There is a new life beginning here, not subject to sin and death. Thus her body, representing human birth, is covered in the light of this Annunciation mystery.

Across from Eve is Adam, her husband. The side of our first parent still bears the mark of his missing rib, through which God first created Woman.

The Most Holy Mother of God attends to the Angelic presence. She had been at prayer, as is evidenced by the opened book. However, even at prayer she was in darkness. Her prayer was based on the Old Testament. These scriptures are without the fullness of the Life and Light of Christ. At this very moment there is only one Light in the world, Jesus Christ. The extinguished candle bears mute testimony to the ineffectiveness of natural light when compared to the brilliance of the Christ.

The Virgin responds, “Ecce ancilla Domini.” Her response is painted in such a way that God the Father may “see” her answer. This upside-down painting was a common element of these Annunciation depictions.

The Blessed Mother also is flanked by two images in the pillar niches; the prophet Isaiah, holding his scroll of prophecy about the Virgin, and John the Precursor, who will prepare the way for the Infant brought into the world this day. Saint John holds the Lamb, the representation of the Christ. The Virgin Mary also learns that her kinswoman Elizabeth will bear a son, John, portrayed here. These two figures are different from Adam and Eve. They are not static. Moving out of their niches, taking an active part in the drama, they “rejoice” to see this day.

Above the Mother of God, the Holy Ghost hovers and overshadows. His wings stretch out and cover her with the love and favor of the Eternal God. Next to the Virgin are her traditional lilies, the symbol of her purity. These lilies are topped with three unopened buds, calling to mind the Most Holy Trinity, and with the birth of Christ this Trinity will burst forth into the world. Placed with the lilies are gladioli. The name “”gladiolus” is Latin for “the sword flower,” recalling the sword of sorrow which would pierce the heart of Mary, reminding us of her role in the Atonement of mankind as she stands at the foot of the cross. The angels in the lower registers call to mind the bitter, pain-filled death of Jesus.

They attend the Lord and carry next to their hearts the instruments of the Passion. Yet while they keep this redemptive death before us, they also remind us of the Risen and Glorious Lord, for their gaze and attention are fixed on the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament resides.

Behind both figures there is a repeated symbolic pattern. The center of the pattern is a stylized Tudor rose, a reference to the English roots of the liturgical traditions found at Our Lady of the Atonement Church. From this rose blossoms a lily, for out of the Anglican tradition blossomed the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement. This flower again calls to mind the patronage of Saint Joseph. The lily also reminds us of the generosity of Colonel and Mrs. Robert E. Joseph, Sr., whose gift provided this reredos for the church. Springing from this lily are three nails which refer to the atoning Sacrifice of Jesus and the congregation’s struggle to find a place in the Church. These symbols of pain are crowned with a shield bearing the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II. His coat of arms is wreathed in the laurel crown of victory. Then crowning all this are more lilies, bursting forth in glory and beauty.

The Angel of the Pillar clutches the pillar at which Christ was scourged. His vesture, and the vesture of the accompanying angel, have a distinctive pattern in the material: a cross. This cross is formed by two “Ts,” a reference to the motto of Pope John Paul II, “Totus Tuus.” In this particular context, the motto reminds us that the death of Christ was done all for us.

With sorrowful eyes, the Angel of the Crown of Thorns and the Whip of Flagellation bears the dread instruments of suffering and torture used in the Passion of Jesus.

The inscription across the center of the panels reads HIC EST DOMUS DEI ET PORTA COELI ALLELUIA. This refers both to the tabernacle and, by application, to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Thou art a priest forever..."

The priests of the archdiocese gather today with the archbishop for a day of recollection and the Chrism Mass. I always find the occasion to be intensely personal and yet mystically communal, experiencing the bond amongst all priests, living and departed, in our sharing in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Please pray for all priests throughout this week, and especially on Maundy Thursday, which is the anniversary of the establishment of the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant in Christ's Blood.

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: Send down upon Benedict our Pope, all bishops and other clergy, and upon the congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

16 March 2008

Venerable Michael McGivney

Good news for all members of the Knights of Columbus, and indeed, good news for the whole Church: on 15th March 2008 the Holy See recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights, and he is now referred to as "Venerable." This is an important first step towards possible beatification and canonization.

15 March 2008

St. Joseph's Day, transferred

Since we're keeping St. Joseph's Day today because it would otherwise fall in Holy Week, and because I'm often guilty of repeating stories, here's the account I wrote last year on his feast day. It's an experience I often remember.

14 March 2008

The Body of Christ Crucified

Read this and weep.

Death Comes for the Archbishop
Paulos Faraj Rahho, R.I.P.

By Nina Shea

The Catholic Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found dead Thursday in a shallow grave in that northern Iraq city. On February 29, Islamist extremists had abducted the 65-year-old prelate while he prayed, in Aramaic, the language of Jesus himself, the Lenten Stations of the Cross at his church.

There could be no starker statement that Christians are targeted for their faith in a ruthlessly intolerant Iraq. Cardinal Delly, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, weeps in Baghdad; he weeps for his martyred friend, and for the bitter fate of Iraq’s ancient Christian Church.

Many other Iraqi Christians have been terrorized and murdered over the last four years: Fr. Paulos Iskander was beheaded, Fr. Mundhir al-Dayr assassinated in his Protestant church, Fr. Ragheed Ganni and three deacons gunned down and their car booby trapped as they went about their ministries. The list includes many lay people; even Christian children have turned up dead from torture, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently documented.

From southern Basra to northern Kirkuk, all across Iraq, the Christian community has suffered bloody reprisals for failing to conform to Islamic behavior — in their dress, their social patterns, and their occupations, as well as in their worship. Forty churches have been bombed, mostly in Baghdad and Mosul. During the surge last summer, Sunni militants from a mosque in Baghdad’s religiously integrated Dora neighborhood issued a fatwa specifically commanding the 2,000 Christian families residing there to convert or be killed. Criminal gangs from the majority population have found easy prey in the religious minorities, who, dealing with indifferent security forces and lacking militias of their own, are utterly defenseless.

Iraqi-American Christians, who have joined together to form the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council, believe that religious persecution, above all, has driven out most of Iraq’s Christians — whether Chaldean Catholic, Assyrian, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian, or Protestant. Affirming this, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration & Refugee Services reported in July: “Especially critical is the plight of Iraq’s minority religious communities, including Christians and Mandeans (or Sabeans). These groups, whose home has been what is now Iraq for many centuries, are literally being obliterated — not because they are fleeing generalized violence but because they are being specifically and viciously victimized by Islamic extremists and, in some cases, common criminals.”

These exiles have taken temporary refuge across the border in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and elsewhere. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 40 percent of Iraqi refugees are Christian — a staggering number, considering that Christians accounted for only some 4 percent, or 1.5 million, of Iraq’s total pre-invasion population. Hundreds of thousands more have fled north to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, a mostly vacant, fertile area outside Mosul and south of Kurdistan where many of the ethnic Assyrian Christians had ancestral villages (before being forcibly uprooted during a prior persecution).

Over the past 2,000 years, Iraq’s Christians suffered oppressions and great indignities. The ones who survived through the Hussein era, when dozens of their northern villages were obliterated, were reputed to be the die-hards: They hung on out of devotion to their unique churches, culture, and language (the dying Aramaic). Even now, Pascale Warda — a Chaldean women’s activist, a former cabinet minister in the transition government, and a survivor of four assassination attempts — is an exemplar of those who remain.

Apart from Christians, remnants of Iraq’s other non-Muslim communities are all rapidly shrinking into extinction: Jews number in the double digits (only seven remained in Baghdad as of last July); Mandeans count about 5,000 (the Patriarch of these followers of John the Baptist has recently counseled the community to leave); Yizidis, no more than 500,000 (residing in Nineveh and in the north). They all suffer severe persecution because of their religious status and their numbers continually shrink as their members flee into exile.

Archbishop Rahho was a dynamic leader, and a man of great hope. Despite the odds, he founded the new parish of St. Paul in Mosul, started a “Youth Week” in his diocese, and founded the Fraternity of Charity and Joy, with the aim of assisting sick people and guaranteeing them a dignified life. Anglican canon Andrew White, who works to help Iraqi Christians, eloquently expressed the reaction of that community to the murder of the archbishop: “We are devastated.” Condolences have poured in from around the world, from Christians and non-Christians. It feels like a defining moment.

The Bush administration has yet to acknowledge that the Christians and other defenseless minorities are persecuted for reasons of religion. No policies exist to address their specific needs in Iraq or facilitate their finding refuge abroad. No programs exist to train and support them to police their own villages — more critical than ever now that the military surge has flushed terror northward. No checks are in place to ensure that their villages in Nineveh and elsewhere in the north share equitably in U.S. largesse. No senior administration official has ever even met to hear the views of their American leaders as a group and forge solutions.

The archbishop knew the risks of staying but told his flock that he “wanted to remain in Iraq until the end.” Without urgent administration action, the end may well be near.

13 March 2008

Of cow flatulence and creation...

What the heck kind of “Easter Message” is this?

Oh, never mind. It’s from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, which explains why the Solemnity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ involves garbage, sewage, bovine methane output, and hamburgers.

If I were not already a Christian, there’s nothing here to convince me to become one. Quite honestly, I could join Al Gore’s “global warming movement” and get more interesting literature to read.


Presiding Bishop's Message for Easter 2008

March 11, 2008

From the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop The Episcopal Church

Your Easter celebration undoubtedly has included lots of physical signs of new life -- eggs, flowers, new green growth. As the Easter season continues, consider how your daily living can be an act of greater life for other creatures. How can you enact the new life we know in Jesus the Christ? In other words, how can you be the sacrament, the outward and visible sign, of the grace that you know in the resurrected Christ? How can your living let others live more abundantly?

The Judaeo-Christian tradition has been famously blamed for much of the current environmental crisis, particularly for our misreading of Genesis 1:28 as a charge to "fill the earth and subdue it." Our forebears were so eager to distinguish their faith from the surrounding Canaanite religion and its concern for fertility that some of them worked overtime to separate us from an awareness of "the hand of God in the world about us," especially in a reverence for creation. How can we love God if we do not love what God has made?

We base much of our approach to loving God and our neighbors in this world on our baptismal covenant. Yet our latest prayer book was written just a bit too early to include caring for creation among those explicit baptismal promises. I would invite you to explore those promises a bit more deeply -- where and how do they imply caring for the rest of creation?

We are beginning to be aware of the ways in which our lack of concern for the rest of creation results in death and destruction for our neighbors. We cannot love our neighbors unless we care for the creation that supports all our earthly lives. We are not respecting the dignity of our fellow creatures if our sewage or garbage fouls their living space. When atmospheric warming, due in part to the methane output of the millions of cows we raise each year to produce hamburger, begins to slowly drown the island homes of our neighbors in the South Pacific, are we truly sharing good news?

The food we eat, the energy we use, the goods and foods we buy, the ways in which we travel, are all opportunities -- choices and decisions -- to be for others, both human and other. Our Christian commitment is for this -- that we might live that more abundant life, and that we might do it in a way that is for the whole world.

Abundant blessings this Easter, and may those blessings abound through the coming days and years.


Thank you, Madame Presiding Bishop, for your good wishes for abundant blessings. I have them, thank you, through my Catholic faith – which not only gives me a proper understanding about how to care for our world, but which also lets me know and serve the God who created it all.

12 March 2008

An endless loop?

Well, apparently Clarence Pope (formerly the Episcopal bishop of Fort Worth) is -- once again -- an Episcopalian. Here's an article describing his various moves. In 1994 he made his Profession of Faith, and entered into full communion with Rome. In 1995 he returned to the Episcopal Church. In 2007 he returned to the Catholic Church. Now, in 2008, he's back with the Episcopalians.

I can't imagine what keeps him bouncing back and forth like this. Perhaps it's just a spiritual instability. Maybe he's simply unable to make a decision and stick with it.


Or, perhaps he never really left the Episcopal Church.


It was a strange experience when he visited our parish, after he had become a Catholic. He arrived in clerical dress, wearing his pectoral cross and his episcopal ring. I remember thinking, "How odd." Now I'm thinking that perhaps he really doesn't see any difference between being an Episcopalian and being a Catholic. Apparently he's been receiving Holy Communion in both places concurrently for some time. Either he's completely confused, or he's completely indifferent.


One thing's for sure. He's a better Episcopalian than he is a Catholic. Not that it counts for much.

11 March 2008

Holy Week and Easter schedule


HOLY WEEK and EASTER
at
OUR LADY OF THE ATONEMENT CHURCH
San Antonio, Texas


SUNDAY OF THE PASSION (PALM SUNDAY), MARCH 16TH
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (Latin)
Distribution and Blessing of the Palms at all Masses


MONDAY, MARCH 17TH
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.

TUESDAY, MARCH 18TH
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.

SPY WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19TH
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.
The Office of Tenebrae at 7:00 p.m.
Confessions at 8:30 p.m.


THE SACRED TRIDUUM


MAUNDY THURSDAY, MARCH 20TH
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 9:15 a.m.
Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 p.m.
followed by the Office of Tenebrae.
All-night Vigil in the Sacred Heart Chapel
(10:00 p.m. Holy Thursday through 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday)

On Maundy Thursday there will be Child Care available
in the school building from 6:45 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.


GOOD FRIDAY, MARCH 21ST
Solemn Liturgy at 3:00 PM
Stations of the Cross and the Office of Tenebrae at 7:00 PM

On Good Friday there will be Child Care available
in the school building from 2:40 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.


HOLY SATURDAY, MARCH 22ND
The Great Vigil of the Resurrection at 8:00 p.m.


SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

(Please note: there will be no 6:00 PM Mass on Easter Day)

On Easter Day there will be Child Care available
in the school building from 8:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

09 March 2008

Our Lady beneath the Cross

As Passiontide draws near, this is the time for us to prepare to stand even closer to the Blessed Mother. Queen of Heaven though she is, the commemoration of her Son's suffering and death surely must still pierce her Immaculate Heart in a mystical way as she remembers with all of us the great price of our salvation. She consoles us thoughout the year, but now, especially, our devotion should console her. Christ gave us to be her children at the same time as He spoke to Saint John from the cross, "Behold, thy Mother." So let us be true sons and daughters. Walk with Mary as she follows her Son's Via Dolorosa. Stand with her as she keeps her watch at the foot of the cross. Weep with her as she received Christ's lifeless body into her waiting arms. Comfort her as she endures the three days of darkness -- so that having endured with her, we may rejoice with her in the power and mystery of the Lord's resurrection.

08 March 2008

Spring ahead...

Don't forget to put your clocks ahead an hour before you go to bed tonight. You don't want to be late for Mass... or early... or whatever. I never can figure it out. And frankly, I wish they'd leave it alone. I know there's supposed to be some great purpose to Daylight Saving Time, but I don't know what it is. Actually, I think it was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin, who put it out as a humorous proposal for using fewer candles.

03 March 2008

Laetare

We had our new set of rose vestments in time for Gaudete Sunday this past Advent, but I don't think I posted a picture of them. This picture was taken after last evening's Latin Mass, on Laetare Sunday.

Several people expressed their hearty approval of the vestments, including one who said, "Father, those pink robes are gorgeous. You should wear them more often!"

01 March 2008

Gwnewch y pethau bychain

“Do the little things,” is what the title means, and this was one of the favorite teachings of St. David of Wales. It’s very much in the spirit of the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux, which she exemplified so many centuries later.

Since it’s March 1st, I’m bound to make mention of the patron saint of my Welsh ancestors. This is the second time I’ve done it here, so I guess it could be called an “annual tradition.” The following is an excerpt from Butler’s Lives of the Saints:

St. David, in Welsh Dewid, was son of Xantus, prince of Ceretica, now Cardiganshire. He was brought up in the service of God, and, being ordained priest, retired into the Isle of Wight and embraced an ascetic life, under the direction of Paulinus, a learned and holy man, who had been a disciple of St. Germanus of Auxerre. He is said by the sign of the cross to have restored sight to his master, which he had lost by old age and excessive weeping in prayer. He studied a long time to prepare himself for the functions of the holy ministry. At length, coming out of his solitude, like the Baptist out of the desert, he preached the word of eternal life to the Britons. He built a chapel at Glastonbury, a place which had been consecrated to the divine worship by the first apostles of this island. He founded twelve monasteries, the principal of which was in the vale of Ross, near Menevia, where he formed many great pastors and eminent servants of God. By his rule he obliged all his monks to assiduous manual labour in the spirit of penance: he allowed them the use of no cattle to ease them at their work in tilling the ground, They were never suffered to speak but on occasions of absolute necessity, and they never ceased to pray, at least mentally, during their labour. They returned late in the day to the monastery, to read, write, and pray. Their food was only bread and vegetables, with a little salt, and they never drank anything better than a little milk mingled with water. After their repast they spent three hours in prayer and adoration; then took a little rest, rose at cock- crowing, and continued in prayer till they went out to work. Their habit was of the skins of beasts. When any one petitioned to be admitted, he waited ten days at the door, during which time he was tried by harsh words, repeated refusals, and painful labours, that he might learn to die to himself. When he was admitted, he left all his worldly substance behind him, for the monastery never received any thing on the score of admission. All the monks discovered their most secret thoughts and temptations to their abbot.

There’s nothing like authentic food to mark a saint’s day. Last year I gave the recipe for cawl. This year I thought I’d give the recipe for Caws Pobi (Welsh rarebit, also known as Welsh Rabbit, although it has nothing to do with rabbits).

6 ounces strong Cheddar cheese;
1 tablespoon butter;
1-2 teaspoons Worcester sauce (to taste);
1 level teaspoon dry mustard;
2 teaspoons flour or cornflour;
4 tablespoons beer (about);
4 slices bread toasted on one side.


Put cheese, mustard, Worcester Sauce, butter and flour into saucepan and mix well, moisten with beer, but don't make too wet. Stir over gently heat until all is melted and become a thickish paste. Allow to cool a little while you make the toast.

Spread mixture on untoasted side and put under hot grill until bubbling -- a great supper for Fridays in Lent.

And finally, to one and all, Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus… Happy St. David’s Day!