31 December 2011

Our Most Holy Mother Mary

Since the time our Lord Jesus walked this earth as the God-Man, there have been, over the centuries, numerous titles which have arisen to give honor to his most holy Mother. From the early centuries of the Church, she was known as Theotokos, or God-bearer, and as time passed, the Blessed Virgin Mary was honored with many other titles. Some of these titles are more widely known than others, but all convey a distinct attribute of Mary as a person who has found favor with God. Some titles describe her state of life, such as Our Lady of Grace. Others denote a location where she may have spoken spiritually to an individual, such as Our Lady of Walsingham. In some of her titles, she is associated with the redeeming work of her Son, and there are many such examples of this. But perhaps no other title in the world better describes the fullness of Mary's relationship with her Son as does the title of Our Lady of the Atonement.

The title embraces two mysteries of our faith: first, the atonement -- the wonderful at-one-ment which was achieved by our Lord Jesus Christ as He shed His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross at Calvary, through which came the reconciliation of man with God, and of man with man, making us "at one" in His Sacred Heart; and second, the role which Our Lady has in the atonement wrought by God -- her coöperation with the Divine Will at the annunciation, and her participation in her Son's sufferings and death as she stood at the foot of the Cross. These words which Simeon spoke to her came to pass: "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." The crowning act of Redeeming Love -- the Atonement upon the Cross of Jesus Christ -- is for all of us the means whereby mankind finds salvation. Here Jesus gave us the greatest gift: His precious life. Here he gave us His Blessed Mother. Here Mary stood, and here we stand next to her, at the foot of the Cross. We are children of The Atonement and the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, is Our Lady who bears witness to Christ's Atonement.

30 December 2011

Mary, Mother of God - Mass Schedule


Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Saturday, December 31st
Vigil Mass at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, January 1st
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

There will not be a 6:00 p.m. Mass on Sunday evening.

29 December 2011

The Holy Family


Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, who was espoused to St. Joseph.  Because Jesus was part of a family, this provides a singular blessing for each one of our families, because now we have the Holy Family as a model and an inspiration. Of course, the celebration of the Holy Family is much more than just a kind of "patronal feast" for families. It really provides a picture of the Church itself, which is the true Family founded by Christ. The Holy Catholic Church is that family in which St. Joseph is the paternal Guardian, the Blessed Virgin is the maternal Heart, and Jesus is mystically present as the Divine Son. It is the Church which is our true and abiding Family, and our own earthly families can be strengthened by imitating and being consecrated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Almighty God, grant us so to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love, that we might come to the joy and peace of thine eternal home; 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.

Becket: The Film

Here's the complete "Becket," surely one of the greatest films made -- or, perhaps it's great because of the saint it portrays.





























St. Thomas of Canterbury


"To look upon he was slim of growth and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face. Blithe of countenance was he, winning and loveable in his conversation, frank of speech in his discourses, but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment and understanding that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner."
- from the Icelandic Saga

That’s the description of St. Thomas of Canterbury. A man who had astonishing worldly power, he valued only the power of Christ. A man who had the friendship of royalty, he desired only the friendship of the Divine King. He wore honour as a hair-shirt, and bore truth as a cloak around him. The Church was the mother he loved, and he died defending her maternal dignity.

When the sword was about to fall, he bent his head in prayer, commending himself and the holy dignity of the Church to God's keeping, and to the intercession of Blessed Mary and the martyr St. Denis. After the second and third blow, he spoke softly, "For the Name of Jesus and the protection of the Church I am ready to embrace death."

This was a bishop after Christ's own heart. As the labourer in the field sweats under the noonday sun, so did the blood pour down the body of this holy labourer for God's own people, until it pooled on the cold stone floor of God's own house. And in the silence of death his blood cried out. It cried out for the king's repentance; it cried out for the Church to stand firm upon her foundation; it cried out for the faithful to come -- and come they did, the pilgrims coming in such multitudes as had rarely been seen. They came to pray with Thomas, the bishop after Christ's own heart, the man blithe of countenance and frank of speech. And Thomas still prays. He prays for the return of his countrymen to the faith for which he died. He prays for clergy to use the courage imparted to them when they were anointed. He prays for all of us, that we may live – and die – "for the Name of Jesus."

28 December 2011

"Seeds of the Ordinariate"


A series of articles called "Seeds of the Ordinariate" has commenced on the super-site, Catholic.org.  In the first article, our parish is featured.  If you'd like to read it, go here.

26 December 2011

Our Deacons...


On this Feast of St. Stephen,
pray for our Deacons,
Michael D'Agostino and James Orr.

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

24 December 2011

The Solemn Proclamation of Christmas


The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;
In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham;
In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses;
In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king;
In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;
In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;
In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace —
JESUS CHRIST,
Eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished, was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man.

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

St. Francis and the crèche

Chapel of the Crib at Greccio

It was in a grotto at Greccio, on Christmas Eve in 1223, that St. Francis created a crèche depicting the birth of our Savior. It was a simple affair, but as word spread throughout the area the people began to arrive with torches and candles. There they heard the Poor Man of Assisi read the Gospel telling of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, and he preached about Jesus taking poverty upon Himself, so that we might become rich in our love for God.

Since that time, the scene has been recreated in our homes and in our churches, in places public and private, allowing us to "go to Bethlehem, to see this great thing which has come to pass..."

This is the contemporary account written by St. Thomas of Celano, a follower of St. Francis:

Francis’ highest intention, his chief desire, his uppermost purpose was to observe the holy Gospel in all things and through all things and, with perfect vigilance, with all zeal, with all the longing of his mind and all the fervor of his heart, "to follow the teaching and the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ." He would recall Christ’s word through persistent meditation and bring to mind his deeds through the most penetrating consideration. The humility of the incarnation and the charity of the passion occupied his memory particularly, to the extent that he wanted to think of hardly anything else.

What he did on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ near the little town called Greccio in the third year before his glorious death should especially be noted and recalled with reverent memory. In that place there was a certain man by the name of John, of good reputation and an even better life, whom blessed Francis loved with a special love, for in the place where he lived he held a noble and honorable position in as much as he had trampled upon the nobility of his birth and pursued nobility of soul.

Blessed Francis sent for this man, as he often did, about fifteen days before the birth of the Lord, and he said to him: "If you want us to celebrate the present fast of our Lord at Greccio, go with haste and diligently prepare what I tell you. For I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed.” When the good and faithful man heard these things, he ran with haste and prepared in that place all the things the saint had told him.

But the day of joy drew near, the time of great rejoicing came. The brothers were called from their various places. Men and women of that neighborhood prepared with glad hearts, according to their means, candles and torches to light up that night that has lighted up all the days and years with its gleaming star. At length the saint of God came, and finding all things prepared, he saw it and was glad. the manger was prepared, the hay had been brought, the ox and ass were led in. There simplicity was honored, poverty was exalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem. The night was lighted up like the day, and it delighted men and beasts. The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery. The woods rang with the voices of the crowd and the rocks made answer to their jubilation. The brothers sang, paying their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night resounded with their rejoicing. The saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with love, and filled with a wonderful happiness. The solemnities of the Mass were celebrated over the manger and the priest experienced a new consolation.

The saint of God was clothed with the vestments of the deacon, for he was a deacon, and he sang the holy Gospel in a sonorous voice. And his voice was a strong voice, a sweet voice, a clear voice, a sonorous voice, inviting all to the highest rewards. Then he preached to the people standing about, and he spoke charming words concerning the nativity of the poor king and the little town of Bethlehem. Frequently too, when he wished to call Christ Jesus, he would call him simply the Child of Bethlehem, aglow with overflowing love for him; and speaking the word Bethlehem, his voice was more like the bleating of a sheep. His mouth was filled more with sweet affection than with words. Besides, when he spoke the name Child of Bethlehem or Jesus, his tongue licked his lips, as it were, relishing and savoring with pleased palate the sweetness of the word. The gifts of the Almighty were multiplied there, and a wonderful vision was seen by a certain virtuous man. For he saw a little child lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the child as from a deep sleep. This vision was not unfitting, for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of his grace, he was brought to life again through his servant St. Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory. At length the solemn night celebration was brought to a close, and each one returned to his home with holy joy.

The hay that had been placed in the manger was kept, so that the Lord might save the beasts of burden and other animals through it as he multiplied his holy mercy. And in truth it so happened that many animals throughout the surrounding region that had various illnesses were freed from their illnesses after eating of this hay. Indeed, even women laboring for a long time in a difficult birth, were delivered safely when some of this hay was placed upon them; and a large number of persons of both sexes of that place, suffering from various illnesses, obtained the health they sought. later, the place on which the manger had stood was made sacred by a temple of the Lord, and an altar was built in honour of the most blessed father Francis over the manger and a church was built, so that where once the animals had eaten the hay, there in the future men would eat unto health of soul and body the flesh of the Lamb without blemish and without spot, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in highest and ineffable love gave himself to us, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, eternally glorious, forever and ever. Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia.
The most important section of the sanctuary at Greccio is the Chapel of the Crib, which was built in the present form in 1228. A rock under the altar indicates the place where Francis arranged the manger. The cave wall is surrounded by a fresco from the school of Giotto. It shows Francis wearing the dalmatic of a deacon and taking into his arms the infant Jesus.

23 December 2011

Take comfort...


When some sorrow seems to overwhelm, when a bitter word cuts deep, when a loved-one disappoints, when one is tempted to think that God has forgotten...


...remember that even the most beautiful flower grows out of dirt.

Christmas Schedule


CHRISTMAS EVE

Sung Mass at 5:00 p.m.

Presentation of Christmas Music at 11:00 p.m.

Solemn Proclamation of Christmas and
Procession to the Creche, followed by
Solemn High Mass at 11:30 p.m.


CHRISTMAS DAY

Low Mass at 7:30 a.m.
Sung Mass at 9:00 a.m.

22 December 2011

One more step forward...


The appointment of an Ordinary for the U.S. Ordinariate is welcome news indeed, even if this story has broken somewhat prematurely.  You can read about it here.

Fr Jeffrey Steenson is a priest already known and respected by many of the Catholic bishops, and having him in this position will help to give credibility to this newest jurisdiction in the Church in this country.

My own acquaintance with Fr Steenson goes back several years, and the many impressive gifts he brings to this position bodes well for the future of the Ordinariate.

May God bless you, Fr Steenson, and all those who will be entering the Ordinariate!

20 December 2011

In the fullness of time...

O precious Lord, once born for us
in stable small and poor;
be born again within our hearts,
and there let us adore.
-
As once our Saviour thou didst come,
both Man and God divine,
so now thou givest Flesh and Blood
'neath forms of bread and wine.
-
Sweet Fruit of Virgin Mary's womb,
once hid from earthly sight,
may we thy children fruitful be,
and show the world thy Light.
-
Now stay with us, Lord Jesus Christ,
in solemn Mystery,
that when our work on earth be done
thy glory we may see.
-
Tune: "St. Botolph" by Gordon Slater (1896-1979)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1992

17 December 2011

Late Advent

With the start of Late Advent we begin the great “O Antiphons,” which lead up to the Vigil of the Nativity. Each antiphon highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel, and they are taken from the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah.

The order of the antiphons isn't accidental. If we work backwards, beginning with the last title and take the first letter of each antiphon -- Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia -- the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” The Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and to whom we refer in these seven Messianic titles, tells us: “Tomorrow, I will come.”

16 December 2011

Nine Lessons and Carols


The Church of Our Lady of the Atonement

Invites you to attend

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
for Advent and Christmas

Presented by the
Parish Festival Choir
St. Cecilia Youth Choir
St. Nicholas Children’s Choir

Featuring works by
Berlioz, Howells, Rutter,
Willcocks and others

Sunday, December 18, 2011
4 o’clock in the afternoon

A reception will follow in the Blessed John Paul II Library

A free-will offering will be received to support
the parish Music Series

The Crusader Bulletin


Go to this link to read the latest Crusader Bulletin, the newsletter from The Atonement Academy.  You'll find information about upcoming events, honors earned by our students, reports on various activities, and lots of pictures.

15 December 2011

"More than a prophet..."


"When the messengers of John had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
- St. Luke 7:24-28

10 December 2011

A pretty amazing project

Elizabeth Surovic, one of our parish girls and a Junior at The Atonement Academy, completed this project for her Gold Award in Girl Scouts.  It's a 24-foot altar used at the Investiture Mass for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, which took place recently in San Antonio.  Have a look, and be amazed!

09 December 2011

St. Juan Diego


Although we don’t know very much about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, we know that he was born in the year 1474 in part of what is today Mexico City. The Catholic faith was brought to Mexico in 1519 when Cortez landed on the coast of Mexico, and there were Catholic priests with him. Juan Diego was among the first of those the hear the Gospel, and in 1524, when he was 50 years old, Juan Diego was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Peter da Gand.

Juan Diego took his faith very seriously and attended Mass on a daily basis. He had a fifteen mile walk to Mass every morning, and on December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request that the bishop build a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who asked for her prayers. The Bishop at first didn’t believe Juan Diego, and he asked for some sign to prove that the apparition was true. On December 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. The Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and even though it was winter time, he found roses blooming. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to ask for Mary’s intercession.


O God, who didst endow thy servant St. Juan Diego with clarity of faith and holiness of life: Grant us, we beseech thee, to keep with steadfast minds the faith which he taught, and in his fellowship to be made partakers of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

07 December 2011

The Immaculate Conception

Archbishop Fulton Sheen famously said, “There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church…” He was referring, of course, not just to the institution, but to what the Catholic Church teaches.

As Anglicans prepare to enter into full communion by way of Anglicanorum coetibus, many have been studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and so have been immersed in the richness of our faith. Others, however, are considering a rejection of Anglicanorum coetibus because they disagree with the Church’s teaching about one thing or another. Of course, people are always free to accept or reject – no one will ever be forced into communion with the Holy See. But it’s essential, I believe, that in making such a decision – which can have eternal consequences – people need to have an understanding of the actual doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church.

Where to begin? Perhaps with the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This doctrine seems to be a red flag to some people. I’ve heard the assertion that it represents “an unhealthy emphasis upon the maiden from Nazareth,” and that it’s a “Romish addition to the Faith.” Let’s have a look at it. This won’t be an exhaustive study, but it may help bring some clarity to the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in God’s plan for our salvation.

First, it probably doesn’t need to be stated (but I will anyway!) what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not. It doesn’t refer to the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary, nor does it mean that Mary was somehow miraculously conceived. Mary was conceived in the normal way as the natural fruit of the marriage of Ss. Joachim and Anne, but at the moment of her conception she was preserved from original sin and its stain. As we know, the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, became their bitter legacy to us. Original sin deprives us of sanctifying grace, and the stain of original sin corrupts our human nature. By God’s grace, given at the moment of Mary’s conception, she was preserved from these defects, and so from the first instant of her existence Mary had the fullness of sanctifying grace, and was unburdened by the corrupt nature caused by original sin. In this way, Mary becomes a “second Eve,” conceived in the same state of original purity as God intended for mankind.

Why would God do this? We state the reason every time we say the Creed. When we profess that Jesus Christ “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,” we’re proclaiming that God took human flesh upon Himself. And from whom did He take that flesh? From Mary. So the question must be asked: would God – who can have no part in sin – take upon Himself that which was fallen, stained and corrupt? The answer is apparent: of course He wouldn't. So, as we can see already, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception has as much to do with our Lord Jesus Christ and His Incarnation, as it does with the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, as we explore the various Marian dogmas, we see this consistently. What God does in and through Mary finds its ultimate purpose in Jesus Christ.

We can find a strong implicit reference to the Immaculate Conception in St. Luke 1:28. In the original Greek text, when the archangel Gabriel is addressing the young Virgin Mary, the word used is kecharitomene, which expresses a characteristic quality of Mary; namely, that she is “full of grace.” In some translations of scripture, Gabriel’s words are given as “highly favored one,” but that translation doesn’t capture the best and fullest meaning. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning “to fill or endow with grace,” and since the Greek has it in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was filled with grace in the past, and the effect of it continues into the present. If we accept St. Luke’s record of the archangel’s words as being accurate, it’s apparent that the grace received by Mary didn’t come about through Gabriel’s visit; rather, she was always filled with grace.

What about the words Mary spoke in her Magnificat, when she says, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”? If she wasn’t a sinner, why would she need a Savior? Remember, Mary was a human being, a descendant of Adam and Eve. When she was conceived, she was certainly subject to the contracting of original sin, like all of us. But she was preserved from it – and how so? By grace. Mary was redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way; that is, by anticipation. There’s a helpful analogy which has been used by the Church to illustrate this: a man falls into a deep pit, and somebody reaches down and pulls him out. It would be true to say that the man was “saved” from the pit. A woman is walking by that same pit, and she’s about to fall in, but at that very moment someone reaches out and pulls her back from the edge. She also has been “saved” from the pit. And in fact, she didn’t even get dirty like the poor man did, who actually fell in. God, who is outside of time, applied Christ’s saving grace to Mary before she was stained by original sin, rather like the woman in the story who didn’t get dirty because she was prevented from falling into the pit. So yes, Mary had a Savior, and He is none other than Christ, her Son and her Lord.

Then we’ve got Romans 3:23, where St. Paul says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Did St. Paul mean this statement to be understood in an all-inclusive, no-one-excluded way? Well, let’s consider. First of all, we have to exclude Jesus Himself. Even though He was fully man, we know He didn’t sin. And what about a new-born baby? If sin is the deliberate disobedience to God’s law, could we say that a little baby has committed sin? I don’t think so. Although St. Paul was certainly stating the truth about mankind, his purpose in writing this section of Romans wasn’t to discuss the possibility of exceptions; rather he was constructing an important argument about law and grace, justification and redemption. If anybody wants to apply Romans 3:23 to Mary, then they’d have to apply it to babies and young children, too.

Sometimes people object to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception using this argument: if we’re saying Mary was without sin, then we’re making her equal to God, because only God is without sin. However, we need to remember that in the beginning, Adam and Eve were created without sin, but they weren’t equal to God. The angels were created without sin, and in fact, from Scripture we know that only some of the angels sinned – Lucifer and his friends – but that means a lot of angels never sinned. And they certainly are not equal to God.

Tragically, after the fall of our first parents, sin became commonplace and even expected. In fact, think about how often someone will say, after doing something wrong, “Well, I’m only human,” as though sin is perfectly natural, and somehow even defines humanity. Actually, sin is unnatural. We weren’t created to sin; we were created to know God, and to love Him, and to spend eternity with Him in heaven. In Mary, because of the Immaculate Conception, we see a human being as God intends us to be. What was maimed by the first Adam and Eve, is restored by the Second Adam and the Second Eve.

So what about the Immaculate Conception? It’s logical, it’s scriptural, and it’s part of God’s loving act of redemption.

(I wrote this last year, and it was first published on The Anglo-Catholic.)

"Ambrose for bishop!"


St. Ambrose was born around 339 in what is now France, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul. Following his father's footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy, where the main city was Milan. In about 374 the bishop of Milan died. At this same time, the Arian heresy that argued against the divinity of Christ threatened to destroy the Church. The bishop, who wasn’t a very good one, had supported the Arians. So now, the question was, who would take his place - an Arian or a Catholic? Both sides met in the cathedral and a riot broke out.

Public order was Ambrose's responsibility as governor so he hurried to the church and made a passionate speech not in favor of either side, but in favor of peace. He begged the people to make their choice without fighting, using restraint and moderation.

Suddenly, while he was speaking, what sounded like a child’s voice called out, "Ambrose for bishop!" Soon everyone was shouting, "Ambrose for bishop!" The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first deacon, then priest, then bishop, all in a single week!

This politician, now suddenly a bishop, was very much aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture. His deep spirituality and love of God's Word, put together with the speaking skill he had acquired in law and politics, made St. Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church.

St. Ambrose proved to be a fierce opponent of heresy. He battled to preserve the independence of the Church from the state and courageously excommunicated the powerful Catholic Emperor Theodosius I, who had massacred a group of innocent people in Thessalonica. St. Ambrose also had a significant impact on sacred music through the composition of hymns and psalm tones that are known to this day as Ambrosian chant. Besides many sermons and treatises on the spiritual life, Saint Ambrose is responsible for two of the first great theological works written in Latin, De Sacramentis on the Sacraments and De Spiritu Sancto on the Holy Spirit.

Around 385, a young man who was a teacher of rhetoric named Augustine came to hear Saint Ambrose preach in order to study his speaking technique, and in the process, was attracted to the Catholic faith. In 386 Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose and went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Ambrose and his pupil, Augustine, together with St. Jerome and St. Gregory the Great, make up the four original Doctors of the Latin Church. Saint Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan, died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD. His feast day is December 7, the day he was ordained bishop.

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

05 December 2011

"Rise, take up your bed..."


At that time: as Jesus was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith he said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?"  When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" --he said to the man who was paralyzed-- "I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home." And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen strange things today."
- St. Luke 5:17-26

01 December 2011

A prayer for safety...


O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.