28 February 2011

A priest forever...


Fr. Edwin Vigil, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, was only thirty-two years old when he died this past week-end in a swimming accident.  Fr. Vigil was with his father, vacationing in their native El Salvador, when the tragedy happened.


He had been ordained less than four years, but deeply loved being a priest.  As Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said, "While Father Edwin's life's journey was more a sprint than a marathon, his nearly 4 years of priestly ministry were filled with love for his God, his family and his church.  He witnessed to the parishioners he served a humility and selflessness that helped them to see in his priesthood the presence of Christ."


Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the soul of Edwin, thy servant and Priest, may by thee be admitted to the fellowship of thy Saints in heaven, and be made partaker of eternal blessedness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.
Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord;
and let light perpetual shine upon him.

27 February 2011

Of trees and fruit...


"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.”

- St. Matthew 7:15-20

Whenever I read our Lord’s words which tell of the good tree bearing good fruit, my thoughts invariable return to the apple trees which had been planted on our family’s Connecticut farm. What care had been lavished on them, and what marvelous fruit they produced! The care continued for a while...but first one year’s pruning was missed, and then another; soon the apples were smaller and fewer. Over the years, neglect took its toll, until today there is nothing left but a few rotted stumps where countless bushels of apples once were harvested. Our Lord’s point is clear: what is true for trees is true for people. If we take care to prune away the things which keep us from God, and are fed with the spiritual food of the Sacraments, we will produce the good fruits of the Spirit; but if we neglect the spiritual care which is essential to our health and growth, we will be no more than a rotting stump, producing nothing.

25 February 2011

For your prayers...

- Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. David Noble, and also remember in your prayers his twin brother, Fr. Bruce Noble, that God will strengthen him at this time.  Both of them have had a long association with Our Lady of Walsingham parish in Houston.

- Please pray for the "Becoming One" gathering in Kansas City, Missouri.  Bishop David Moyer and I are leading this event, and there will be many there who are preparing to enter the Ordinariate when it is established in this country.

- In your prayers, give thanks to God for the release of Said Musa from prison in Afghanistan.  You may have read his story here, and thanks be to God that he is now free, which you can read about here.

22 February 2011

Re-posting as a re-minder...

THIS COMING SUNDAY


The Church of Our Lady of the Atonement

invites you to attend an
Organ Recital
featuring

James O’Donnell

Organist and Master of Choristers
Westminster Abbey – London, UK

Sunday, February 27, 2011
4 o’clock in the afternoon

Program

Prelude and Fugue on BACH ~ Franz Liszt
Deuxième Fantaisie ~ Jehan Alain
Prelude and Fugue in C (BWV 547) ~ J.S. Bach
Choral III in A minor ~ Cesar Franck
Miroir ~ Ad Wammes
Suite, Op 5 ~ Maurice Duruflé

A Reception will follow in the Pope John Paul II Library.
A free-will offering will be received for the support of the parish Music Series.
This event is co-sponsored by the
Alamo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists

For more information, contact music@atonementonline.com

Biography of Mr. O'Donnell

James O’Donnell is Organist and Master of Choristers at Westminster Abbey, London, UK and is one of the outstanding British musicians of his generation. After early studies at the Royal College of Music, he was appointed organ scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took a first-class degree in music and studied the organ with Peter Hurford, Nicolas Kynaston and, subsequently, David Sanger. He served for five years as Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, succeeding as Master of Music at the age of 26.

In January 2000, James O’Donnell was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, where he is responsible for the direction of the music at the daily choral services and state occasions for which the Abbey is renowned. He directs the Abbey Choir in its programme of concerts, tours, broadcasts and recordings, including visits in recent years to the Far East, Denmark, Germany, Spain, the United States and, in October 2007, Australia.

James O’Donnell is internationally known as an organist, having appeared in concert all over the world. He has played many times in the United States and throughout Europe. He has appeared at the BBC Proms and in many other festivals both at home and abroad and has worked with some of the country’s leading orchestras and ensembles. He opened the Royal Festival Hall’s 50th anniversary organ concert season (October 2003), and recent concerts have included St-Sulpice, Paris, Cologne Cathedral, and the Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow, together with concerts in Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. He was a featured recitalist at the 2006 national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Chicago. From 1997 until 2004 he was Professor of Organ at the Royal Academy of Music, where he now holds the post of Visiting Professor. James O’Donnell is represented in North America by Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.

Chair of St. Peter


O God, who didst bestow upon thy blessed Apostle Saint Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and didst appoint unto him the priesthood for the binding and loosing of sin: grant, we beseech thee; that by the help of his intercession we may be delivered from the bonds of all our iniquities; who livest and reigneth with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 February 2011

Growth!


Here's more good news.  The Catholic Church continues to grow throughout the world, and here's a story that gives the facts and figures:

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The number of baptized Catholics on the planet continues to grow and half of their number are in the Americas. The number of priests and seminarians is also on the rise.

This is some of what can be learned from the data of the 2011 papal yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, presented to Benedict XVI on Saturday morning by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, undersecretary for general affairs.

The statistical data from the year 2009 furnish a summary view of the principal dynamics of the Catholic Church in her 2,956 ecclesiastical entities across the globe: The number of baptized Catholics has increased from nearly 1.16 billion in 2008 to 1.18 billion in 2009, with an absolute increase of 15 million faithful.

The distribution of Catholics among the continents differs notably from that of the population. In regard to percentage of the global population, between 2008 and 2009 the Americas did not change, keeping at a steady 13.6%. In the same two years, the number of Catholics in the Americas climbed to a level that constitutes 49.4% of the Catholic population of the world.

In Asia the Catholic population grew from 10.6% to 10.7% while the total population of Asia is 60.7% of the world’s population.

The total population of Europe, with respect to the total population of the globe, was three points below that of the Americas and represented 24% of the world’s Catholic population.

The countries of Africa and Oceania were both reported to be 15.2% of the world’s population and 0.8% of the total Catholic population of the planet.

Between 2008 and 2009 the number of bishops in the world grew from 5,002 to 5,065, increasing 1.3%. Africa led in this growth (1.8%), followed by Oceania (1.5%), while Asia and the Americas were below the median at 0.8% and 1.2% respectively. Europe was on a par with the median at 1.3%.

The number of priests continues the trend of moderate increase that began in 2000. The number of diocesan and religious priests grew in the last decade from 405,178 in 2000 to 410,593 in 2009.

In 2009 the number of priests increased by 0.34% over 2008. This figure derives from the 0.08% decrease in religious priests and the 0.56% increase in diocesan priests. There was a decrease in religious priests on every continent except for Asia and Africa.

The number of permanent deacons increased 2.5% between 2008 and 2009, from 37,203 to 38,155.

The total population of professed women religious decreased from 739,068 in 2008 to 729,371 in 2009, despite the growth in numbers in Africa and Asia.

The number of candidates for the priesthood has climbed 0.82%, increasing from 117,024 in 2008 to 117,978 in 2009. A large part of the growth is attributable to Asia and Africa where the percentages of increase were 2.39% and 2.2% respectively. Europe and the Americas registered contractions of 1.64% and 0.17% respectively during the period.

Here's some good news!


The Ordinariate family is growing -- go to this link and see what I mean!

19 February 2011

The passage of time...


Recently I spoke to the members of the local Serra Club.  This organization fosters and promotes vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and is an important component in forming healthy vocations.

It had been some twenty-seven years since the last time I had spoken to our local group.  My invitation then had been extended probably more out of curiosity than anything else.  I had just been ordained under the terms of the Pastoral Provision, and it was something of an oddity to have a married, former Anglican, as part of the archdiocesan presbyterate.

Time has passed, and lots has happened since then.  I never could have imagined all those years ago that the next time I spoke to the Serrans, it would be to explain the importance of Anglicanorum coetibus, and to tell them about the influx of hundreds of Anglican clergy throughout the world who will soon be priests in the full communion of the Catholic Church.

As I headed home after speaking with them, I had a good talk with God, thanking Him for letting me be a small part of this wonderful thing which is coming to pass.

On the Sea of Galilee...

Here are a couple of pictures someone sent me from our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  I'm looking particularly thoughtful, gazing out over the water -- can't remember the thoughts, but it looks like they must have been holy...!

"Lord, please don't ask me to walk on that!"

Looking toward shore from the Sea of Galilee

17 February 2011

More stained glass, and a shrine, too!


Here's a picture of the new/old stained glass window, installed today in the Baptistry.  At the top is the Adoration of the Magi, and in the panels beneath are angels holding various symbols, including those of the sacraments.  The glass is old, and comes from more than one source, but is now formed into one beautiful window.  Just peeking at the side of the picture is the Shrine to Blessed John Henry Newman, which is in the process of being completed.


(above, a close-up of the Adoration of the Magi)
(below, showing the window and the nearly-completed Newman shrine)

16 February 2011

Westminster Abbey organist to visit...


The Church of Our Lady of the Atonement

invites you to attend an
Organ Recital
featuring

James O’Donnell

Organist and Master of Choristers
Westminster Abbey – London, UK

Sunday, February 27, 2011
4 o’clock in the afternoon

Program

Prelude and Fugue on BACH ~ Franz Liszt
Deuxième Fantaisie ~ Jehan Alain
Prelude and Fugue in C (BWV 547) ~ J.S. Bach
Choral III in A minor ~ Cesar Franck
Miroir ~ Ad Wammes
Suite, Op 5 ~ Maurice Duruflé

A Reception will follow in the Pope John Paul II Library.
A free-will offering will be received for the support of the parish Music Series.
This event is co-sponsored by the
Alamo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists

For more information, contact music@atonementonline.com

Biography of Mr. O'Donnell

James O’Donnell is Organist and Master of Choristers at Westminster Abbey, London, UK and is one of the outstanding British musicians of his generation. After early studies at the Royal College of Music, he was appointed organ scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took a first-class degree in music and studied the organ with Peter Hurford, Nicolas Kynaston and, subsequently, David Sanger. He served for five years as Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, succeeding as Master of Music at the age of 26.

In January 2000, James O’Donnell was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey, where he is responsible for the direction of the music at the daily choral services and state occasions for which the Abbey is renowned. He directs the Abbey Choir in its programme of concerts, tours, broadcasts and recordings, including visits in recent years to the Far East, Denmark, Germany, Spain, the United States and, in October 2007, Australia.

James O’Donnell is internationally known as an organist, having appeared in concert all over the world. He has played many times in the United States and throughout Europe. He has appeared at the BBC Proms and in many other festivals both at home and abroad and has worked with some of the country’s leading orchestras and ensembles. He opened the Royal Festival Hall’s 50th anniversary organ concert season (October 2003), and recent concerts have included St-Sulpice, Paris, Cologne Cathedral, and the Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow, together with concerts in Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. He was a featured recitalist at the 2006 national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Chicago. From 1997 until 2004 he was Professor of Organ at the Royal Academy of Music, where he now holds the post of Visiting Professor. James O’Donnell is represented in North America by Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.


"We pray to thee, O Lord..."


This article from the National Catholic Register should make us drop to our knees in prayer, and take up our pens to write to our Senators and Representatives.


I Am In Awe of Such Faith
by Matthew Archbold

An Afghanistan Christian and father of six, is imprisoned and scheduled to die. His crime? He believes Christ is his Savior. And he is scheduled to die because of it. No defense lawyer will take his case for fear of retribution. And he has been told that if he renounces Christ things would go easier. But he doesn’t. He won’t.

Said Musa, who lost his leg from a landmine in the 1990’s and has worked since then as a medical worker for the Red Cross fitting children with prosthetics, has been in jail for eight months. According to a public letter written by him and addressed to our President and the world community, he has been brutally tortured and abused in every way possible, both by guards and inmates.

As of yet the media and the world seem to have taken little notice of Said Musa. There are currently less than 100 mentions of Musa in the news and most of them are not considered part of the mainstream media, other than the Wall Street Journal.

Musa wrote a public letter which I will excerpt here, courtesy of The Barnabas Fund. The English is rough but I think you’ll understand what he’s saying:

“To the international church of world and to the President Brother Barak Obama President of the United States and to the head of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] in Afghanistan!

“My name is Said Musa 45 years old. I have been working since 15 years as a Physiotherapist in I-C-R-C [International Committee of the Red Cross] orthopaedic centre in Kabul, Afghanistan. About four and a half months before by security force of Afghanistan I [was] captured, due to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world.

...Since that time I am in jail. The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head, mocked me ‘He’s Jesus Christ’, spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. Every person spat on me and beat me. Also the prosecutor wrote something wrong against me. He told from himself something wrong against me on my file.

“He is stimulating every day the prisoners against me, ‘He is also in jail due to spy for Iran country’, to reveal the church in Kabul. I’m in a very and very bad condition in the jail.

“I agree with long imprisonment about my faith even for long life. Because I’m the sinnest person in the world. Because sometimes they treated for died I refuse my faith due to died. Sometimes I tolerate the persecution but immediately I acknowledge my sin before Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Don’t refuse me before your holy angels and before your Father.’ Because I am very very weak and sinful man…

I am alone between 400 handlers of terrible values in the jail like a sheep. Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me. Please send a person who should supervise my document and my file, what I said in it. My prosecutor has told something wrong to the judge because he asked [for] money but I refused his request. Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers. I also agree with died on cross of my pride. I also agree with the sacrifice [of] my life in public, I will tell the faith in Lord Jesus Christ son of God and other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith. Hundred percent I am stable to my word. I have family of seven - one wife, three daughters and three sons. My big son [is] about eight years old. One of my daughters can’t speak, she has some mental problems.

“This is a request from me to all over the world, people please help me. I could not have any person to help. For [the] sake [of] Lord Jesus Christ please pray and immediately help me and rescue me from this jail. Otherwise, they will kill me, because I know they’re very very very cruel and hard hearted!

“Your destitute brother in the world.

“Please my English writing is not enough good. If I did some mistake please forgive me! From Kabul Provincial jail.”

I have to wonder how this can be going on when American troops are in Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. embassy officials have said they’ve called for his release as and have expressed their “strong concern.”

But Afghani officials have insisted that “the sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Canadian government to stand up for Said. Writing on the bishops’ behalf, Archbishop Brendan O’Brien of Kingston, chairman of the CCCB Human Rights Committee, wrote:

We urge the Government of Canada to express its condemnation of this religious persecution, and to intervene with the Government of Afghanistan for mercy and clemency for Mr. Sayed.

Pope Benedict XVI recently decried the persecution of Christians throughout the world as well, bringing attention to the issue.

I have always supported America’s mission in Afghanistan but if we do nothing while the country we’re fighting for puts a Christian to death simply for being a Christian, I can’t think of how we can continue to support the mission. This is not a fringe element imprisoning Musa. This is the government of Afghanistan which we are propping up with our military presence. Our young men and women are dying for this mission while the Afghani government may be set to kill a man for the crime of being Christian?

I pray to God that our President, his administration, and world leaders are working behind the scenes to ensure that Said Musa is not put to death for his Christianity. I pray that he is not forgotten. I pray for strength for Said Musa. I pray that I too would have the faith he has shown by recently saying, “My body is theirs to do what they want with. Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell.”

I am in awe of such faith. And all I can do is pray for him and ask others to pray that President Obama and other world leaders will do all they can possibly do to cease the killing of Said Musa and persecuted Christians all around the world.
In our intercessions, when we pray for "prisoners and captives," it is Said Musa and others like him whom we are holding up before God.

12 February 2011

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany


O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

10 February 2011

The lifting of a burden...


Over the past few days, fifty-seven second grade students have made their confessions in preparation for Confirmation and First Holy Communion this Saturday.  Additionally, last night I heard about thirty confessions of adults and other children not in our school, who will also be receiving the sacraments on Saturday.  Others have come at various times, so that all 104 candidates will be completely prepared for the grace they will be receiving.  Hearing confessions is one of the beautiful privileges of being a priest, and some time ago I wrote this brief meditation about it:
Over the years of his life, a priest hears many thousands of confessions. It is one of the great privileges given to a priest, to pronounce the words of absolution which free a penitent from those chains which have bound him. There is perhaps no other time that the priest feels so deeply the sense of that fatherhood which gives him his title. A child of God speaks the words, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned…” and in the quiet of the confessional the power of Christ is stirred for the renewal of the soul. That which was broken is healed. What was so heavy at the time of coming is lifted. It is its own magnum mysterium as new birth is once more imparted to the penitent. The divine hears through the human ear. The fruits of Calvary are applied, and the waters of baptism flow once again over the sullied soul. In the confessional we are made young again. As a child is brought to the font, so the soul is presented to our Lord for Him to do His work. And when it is done, those happy words: “Go in peace, for the Lord has taken away your sins.”

05 February 2011

5th Sunday after Epiphany


Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins and give us, we beseech thee, the liberty of that abundant life which thou hast manifested to us in thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

04 February 2011

A rare sight...





Although it's only a dusting of snow, it's a rare sight to see the church and school like this.

03 February 2011

A grace-filled day...


On Saturday, February 12th, I will be presenting 104 candidates to be confirmed by Bishop John Yanta, who will be visiting the parish that day. Some of them are adults who have recently made a Profession of Faith, or who had previously "slipped through the cracks." Most of the candidates, however, are children who will, at the same Mass, be receiving their First Holy Communion.

In 2006 we instituted the "restored order of the Sacraments," returning Confirmation to its proper and historic place, before receiving Holy Communion. Children who have reached the age of discretion -- in canon law, considered to be the age of seven -- are eligible to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, followed by First Holy Communion. Their First Confessions are made during the previous week.

Please pray for all those who will be receiving God's grace through these sacraments.

01 February 2011

Academy expansion...

The Atonement Academy presently has 550 students in grades Pre-K through 12, and it looks as though we'll have even more for this next academic year. We're outgrowing our most recent expansion, so we have plans to add one more major complex of buildings, which should allow us to expand to about 800 students.

Here are copies of the elevation and floor plan for the next addition.  You can double-click on each picture to enlarge it.

East façade 

Close-up of the East façade

(Above and below) - aerial view of present buildings and the expansion


Ground floor
First floor
Second floor