30 January 2012

"...in the Pope's house."

Here's a video taken at a recent Angelus address, where the Holy Father is releasing a couple of doves from his window.  As you can see, the birds aren't too eager to fly away, and one of them circles for a moment, and dives into the window, flying over the pope's head.  Pope Benedict, always unflappable, says, "Mama mia!  They want to be in the Pope's house!"

Apparently there are a lot of Anglicans who feel the same way.

96 Soldiers of Christ...

This will be a grace-filled and busy week.  On Saturday I will be presenting ninety-six candidates to Bishop Cantu, to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.  Forty-four of them are our second-grade children, who will also be receiving their First Holy Communion.  The remaining number of candidates are other children in the parish who are not enrolled in the school, and also a large number of adults -- converts to the Catholic faith, or reverts (baptized Catholics who fell away years ago, and who have now been called back to the practice of their faith). 

Fr Moore and I have begun hearing their confessions, but we have lots more scheduled throughout the week.  Please pray for all those who will be receiving the bountiful grace of God through the sacraments, that they all may be steadfast soldiers of Christ!

29 January 2012

Epiphany IV


Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and in our time grant us thy peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

28 January 2012

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel


There are increasing assaults being directed against the faith and consciences of Catholics in this country, and our bishops have asked us to pray for the freedom of the Church. Let us enlist the help of St. Michael the Archangel, by using this prayer daily:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

25 January 2012

A most wonderful blessing...

Yesterday something really wonderful happened right after the students' Mass. A young girl who is in her senior year was baptized. That by itself is tremendous. What makes this particularly special is that she travelled here from China to go to the Atonement Academy Upper School. She found our school by searching on the internet, and made all the arrangements to come to this country -- not an easy process! She was raised with no religion, and when she arrived she didn't speak any English. Now she is getting ready to graduate, speaks fluent English, has done very well academically, and has freely embraced the Catholic faith. Today, she received her first Holy Communion. Her name is Tara (a shortened form of her Chinese name) but she has taken Maria as her baptismal name (after Maria Goretti). What a time to rejoice!



What thrill it was to hear the students of the Upper School, gathered to witness the baptism of their classmate, joining in this prayer from our baptismal rite:

Almighty and everlasting God, heavenly Father, we give thee humble thanks, that thou hast vouchsafed to call us to the knowledge of thy grace, and faith in thee: increase this knowledge, and confirm this faith in us evermore. Give thy Holy Spirit to this thy Servant, that she may be born again, and be made an heir of everlasting salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Last Day of the Octave


That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

Today's intention is that missionary zeal will conquer the world for Christ.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

24 January 2012

Seventh Day of the Octave

That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

Today's intention is that the Jewish people will be converted and find their inheritance in the Catholic Faith.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

23 January 2012

Here's the latest Crusader Bulletin...

Catch up on all the Academy activities -- read the Crusader Bulletin here.  By the way, we have received a record number of applications for the next academic year.  If you're hoping for a place for your child, but haven't yet applied, go here for instructions.

Sixth Day of the Octave



That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

Today's intention is that lapsed Catholics will return to the Sacraments of the Church.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

22 January 2012

Fifth Day of the Octave


That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

Today's intention is that Christians in America may be one, in union with the Chair of Saint Peter.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

+ + + + +

"My dear friends, we want to realize in our lives that, when we work, we should work in such a way as to earn the rewards of eternal life. Many men work and they work hard, but they do not have a supernatural motive behind them. Some men work very hard, but they work so hard for six days in the week that they are too tired to go to church on Sunday. Now that work is not laying up treasure in Heaven. There is the possibility of doing everything you do in this world for the constraining love of Christ, and then you put a supernatural motive behind it. Not even a cup of water given to a thirsty traveler in Christ’s name goes without its reward."
- Fr Paul of Graymoor

21 January 2012

Bless the unborn children...


O Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
we beg you to protect all mothers of the unborn
and the children within their wombs.

Fourth Day of the Octave

Pictured: The Corpus Christi Cross at Graymoor

That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

Today's intention is for the return of all Protestants throughout the world to the unity of the Catholic Church.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

+ + + + +

More than one hundred years ago, Fr Paul Wattson carried a sixteen-foot cedar cross through the wilds of Graymoor to the summit of the Holy Mountain where it still stands today, weathering time and the elements. It is a testament to the vision of At-One-Ment of mankind with God and with one another.

20 January 2012

The Society of the Atonement

A brief video telling of the beginning of the Society of the Atonement, founded by Fr Paul and Mother Lurana...

18 January 2012

Praying twice...


It was tremendously inspiring at Mass today, to hear 550 students singing this hymn to the wonderful hymn tune "Thaxted," from Gustav Holst's "The Planets." On the way out of Mass a second grader plucked on my chasuble and said, "That was a really pretty song, Father." One of the little joys of having a parish school...


To thee, O gracious Father, we lift our loving hearts;
to us the Bread of Heaven eternal life imparts.
We thank thee for thy favour that marks us as thine own;
Lord, keep us ever faithful, who come before thy throne.
What love thou hast bestowed on us,
a love which makes us free!
It cleanses us from ev'ry sin,
and keeps us close to thee.

To thee, O Christ our Saviour, we come for saving grace;
we see how tender love is, by looking on thy face.
Keep us from all things hurtful by the power of thy Cross;
and help us to remember our gain comes from thy loss.
What heav'nly Food is ours, Lord,
this Food which makes us free!
It fills our hearts and makes us whole,
and keeps us close to thee.

To thee, O Holy Spirit, we whisper our desire;
our lives are empty vessels: Lord, fill them with thy fire.
Make us thy faithful people who seek to do thy will;
give us thy gifts of power, our empty hearts to fill.
What peace that passes ev'ry thought,
that peace which makes us free!
It banishes each doubt and fear,
and keeps us close to thee.

From thee, O Triune Godhead, salvation is come down;
Atonement now is given, mankind receives his crown.
In Sacrament tremendous we touch eternity;
we love thee, God our Saviour: thou art our destiny.
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
our faith shall never cease!
In thee we have eternal life,
and never-ending peace.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: “Thaxted” by Gustav Holst, 1874-1934

Our Lady and Unity

Statue originally from Graymoor, now in our Lady Chapel.

Closely associated with the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity is the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. In her we see complete unity with God, and unity with us as members of the Church. Through her obedience she became one with His divine Will; as she stood beneath the cross, we were given to her as her children; and as she was with the apostles on Pentecost, she was shown to be a type of the Church.

Fr. Paul of Graymoor, who established the Octave, had a great devotion and deep love for Our Lady of the Atonement. Here are some of his words about her:

Since the time that Christ 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. In 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 of these 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 Fatima. In some titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 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 of Our Lady 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 -- 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.

Octave begins today...


That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

Today's intention is for the return of the "other sheep" to the One Fold of our Lord Jesus Christ.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

+ + + + +

"As the Immaculate Heart of Mary, His Mother, beats in perfect union with the Sacred Heart of her divine Son, we can readily perceive how dear the cause of Catholic unity is to her also. It should be your desire, as loving Children of the Atonement, to be united in all things with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and, therefore, we too should ardently desire the return of the 'other sheep,' particularly those of the Anglican household of faith, to the unity of the one fold under the one supreme shepherd, the Pope of Rome."
- Fr Paul of Graymoor

17 January 2012

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity


On January 18th begins the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, a period of eight days set apart for the express purpose of seeking “that unity which was prayed for by Christ Himself.” This was the inspiration given by God to Fr. Paul of Graymoor who, with Mother Lurana, founded the Society of the Atonement in Graymoor, New York. An excellent history of this work is found on the site of Centro Pro Unione.

Known more familiarly today as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the traditional prayers set by Fr. Paul are as follows:

ANTIPHON: That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

[Here is brought to mind the intention for the day's prayer.]

January 18: For the return of the "other sheep" to the One Fold of our Lord Jesus Christ.

January 19: For the return of the Eastern Orthodox Christians to communion with the Apostolic See.

January 20: For the return of the Anglicans to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

January 21: For the return of all Protestants throughout the world to the unity of the Catholic Church.

January 22: That Christians in America may be one, in union with the Chair of Saint Peter.

January 23: That lapsed Catholics will return to the Sacraments of the Church.

January 24: That the Jewish people will be converted to the Catholic Faith.

January 25: That missionary zeal will conquer the world for Christ.

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

+  +  +  +  +

Father Paul considered the Octave as the greatest project which came from Graymoor, and even though it was overshadowed by the less-specific "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" during his own lifetime, he rejoiced that those separated from the Catholic Church felt called to observe the January period as a time of prayer for unity. Even though their concept of unity differs from that of the Catholic Church, it is significant that so many pray for the unity which God desires for His people.

The Octave, as originally conceived by Father Paul, reflects the unchanging truth that there can be no real unity apart from union with that Rock, established by Christ Himself, which is Peter and his successors. For that reason, St. Peter is considered the special Patron of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

16 January 2012

Digging Into God's Word...


For more than a quarter of a century I’ve been teaching an on-going scripture course at the parish for anybody who wants to come. Back in the early years we had classes on Sunday mornings between Masses – those were the days when there was such a thing as “between Masses.” As the parish has grown, so has the Mass schedule, so we moved the scripture study to Wednesday evenings. It’s not one of those "sit-around-and-share-your-ignorance" kinds of classes. It involves real teaching and real learning.

I’ve loved studying the scriptures from the time I was very young. When I finally settled down into my undergraduate program (after my first-year detour into organ performance and church music), I majored in Biblical Studies. Interesting though it was, something wasn’t really clicking with me. I listened carefully. I took meticulous notes. I did well on the exams. I graduated in fine shape with a combined Biblical Studies/Philosophy degree, and then I went off for further studies in England. But my study of the scriptures seemed to be missing something. There was a hole there, a void. I got used to it, though, and so I thought that it must be all right. I assumed that must be what everyone experiences.

It was after becoming a Catholic that I decided to go back, on my own, and have another look at the Bible in a systematic way. Since I’m quite convinced that the best way to learn is to teach, that’s what I decided to do, so for better or for worse, the parish got a “Pastor’s Bible Study” injected into its schedule.

Actually, it seems that it was “for better.” I prepared, and people came. And I discovered what had been missing before. I had been reading the Bible with protestant eyes. But to read it as a Catholic with a Catholic understanding, it all came together in a way which was utterly profound. For the more than twenty-five years I’ve been teaching the course, we have been criss-crossing between Old Testament and New, and for all that time I have been seeing the Catholic Church gazing off the pages at me. Sacrifice and sacrament, the spread of the Church with the spread of the Gospel, the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ, all the teaching of St. Paul – when you read it with Catholic eyes, it all comes together, and it makes wonderful, eternal sense.

This discovery excited me when I was a young Catholic priest, just starting out, and it has continued to be one of the joys of my life as a pastor, to help open up the Scriptures to others. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Brother, you can say that again!

For those who might be interested, you can hear some of the sessions on podcast here.  We're studying St. Luke's Gospel right now, so those sessions will be uploaded as they're available.

15 January 2012

Christ the Light


Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that thy people, illumined by thy Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that He may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

14 January 2012

The Great Rood


This story has been on the blog before, but I'm posting it again because it's one of the stories our parishioners should know as part of our history:

One of the striking features when entering our church is the almost life-sized crucifix (in earlier English useage, known as the "rood")surmounting the rood screen. It marks the boundary between the nave and the sanctuary. How it came to be here belongs to the lore of our parish.

When the church was built in 1987 there was but a simple wrought iron rail where people knelt to receive Holy Communion. When it was installed it was thought of as temporary, because the plan all along was to construct a rood screen with a communion rail incorporated into it. I found the right carpenter to build it, and plans were started. The search began for the great crucifix which would crown the screen. Catalogues were scoured, but I found nothing suitable. Word came that there was a large crucifix stored in the basement of a local convent. I went to look at it, but it wasn’t the right size. One day the idea came to me to call the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement in Graymoor. I spoke to Sr. Alexis Joseph, S.A., who was a good friend of the parish, and the godmother of one of my daughters.

“Sister, you don’t know of any large crucifixes looking for a home, do you?” I asked. “No, I don’t,” Sister replied, “but if I hear of anything I’ll let you know.” I hung up the phone, not feeling very hopeful. Scarcely had the receiver been replaced, and the phone rang. It was Sister Alexis Joseph. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said, and then went on to tell me, “I had just hung up the phone from our conversation, and when I happened to look out the window there was a truck with a trailer behind it coming into the convent driveway. I could see there was something wrapped up on the trailer, and when I went out to greet the two men in the truck, they told me that they had salvaged something from their church in upstate New York, which was undergoing ‘renovations.’ When I asked them what it was they told me that it was a really big crucifix.”

Apparently these faithful Catholic men couldn’t bear the thought of it being thrown out, so they decided to load it onto a trailer and drive to Graymoor because, in their words, “the Sisters will know what to do with it.” Sister Alexis Joseph went on to tell me, “I shouldn’t have been surprised that it arrived just as you were looking for it!”

So the Sisters shipped it to Texas, where it had a short wait for the screen to be built. When it was installed in the church it was as though it was put in the home for which it was always intended. Sister Alexis Joseph died a few years ago, but I think of her frequently as I pass under the great crucifix into the sanctuary, and I pray for the repose of her soul. She was such a delightful woman and a faithful religious, and she told me that her role in finding our crucifix was one of her truly unexpected joys. And I offer an occasional prayer of thanksgiving for those men, too, who like Simon of Cyrene, helped to carry the cross to where it belonged.

12 January 2012

"Greater love hath no man than this..."

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

The summary of the law. Come to Mass at Our Lady of the Atonement, and that’s one of the first things you hear. It gets right down to business. There’s nothing timid about what gets laid out in front of us, and if anybody doesn’t like it, then there’s no point in sticking around. It tells us that Christ’s religion is serious and practical business.

Jesus links the love of our neighbor with our love of God. We love God by loving our neighbor, even when it’s not convenient. The cup of water we give to someone who is thirsty, we’ve given to God. The food we give to the hungry, we’ve given to God. So if we haven’t given the cup of water or the morsel of food where it’s needed, and it’s within our ability to do so, then we’ve denied it to God.

We’re a people who are called to love. Not the squishy-fuzzy-warm feeling kind of love, but a manly and active love, a love that does the right thing. When we love, it’s because we have first been loved by God in Jesus Christ. Christ’s death and resurrection free us to love God and to love our neighbor. No longer do we love just because we have to; we love because now we’re actually able to love. We love because God has loved us in Christ with the greatest love we will ever know - the crucified love of Jesus Christ.

St. Benedict Biscop (c. 628 – 690)

I love telling the stories of the saints. Having Mass every day as we do at the school, it means our children get to know authentic heroes, men and women who show selflessness and genuine godliness in their lives. They are ordinary people made extraordinary by God’s grace. And as we meet them each year, it begins to dawn on many of the students, “if they could do it, maybe I can too.”

Today we commemorate St. Benedict Biscop. He’s not the best known saint, by any means. He didn’t suffer for his faith. He lived fairly comfortably when compared to his contemporaries. But he had a sense of destiny, not just for himself, but for his people. He was (as hagiographers are so fond of saying) “of noble birth,” whatever that means. I suppose it means he didn’t grow up in a hovel, and his parents must have had more than a couple of coins to rub together. He served his king and he was rewarded with his own land grant. The typical “local lad makes good” story.

It could have stopped there. A young man, a property owner, a good Catholic boy, who might have settled down and married the maiden next door, have a passel of children, pass into old age and a quiet death, unknown except to those closest to him. And that would have been fine, if God hadn’t had other plans for him.

Benedict Biscop wanted to travel. He wanted to go to Rome. There was a deep desire within him to make his own kind of ad limina. Saints had lived there, and they had died there, and he wanted to see it, experience it, soak it in for himself. He wanted to pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. He wanted to take in the beauty of it all. And he did, not only once, but several times. In fact, much of his life was spent traveling back and forth to Rome, and what he saw there he wanted to carry back to his own people. And that he did too. Art, liturgy, theology, music, everything he experienced in that great city of faith was something he knew would benefit his people in cold, far-away Northumbria.

Here’s part of the spiritual genius of St. Benedict Biscop. Great music, great art, great architecture isn’t just for the great centers of civilization. God intends it for us all. He has created us with a hunger for such things. The good abbot built the first stone structure his people had ever seen. He brought the finest continental glaziers to wild Northumbria to give his monastery unheard-of glass windows. He filled the place with paintings which served as poor men’s books. He established the expectation of learning amongst his monks, astonishing even them with what they could accomplish. His work reached even a young boy named Bede who came and never left.

When it comes to fitting out God’s house, and the worship offered within it, it takes godly imagination, obedience to Catholic tradition, a readiness to reach higher than one thought possible, a desire to do all things well for God. It was done by Benedict Biscop then, and we can do it now.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Benedict Biscop, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

11 January 2012

Give thanks at all times...

And immediately Jesus left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, "Every one is searching for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
- St Mark 1:29-39

Jesus is in Capernaum, and by His words and His actions He is manifesting His power, the power of God. Many people heard Him and witnessed what He was doing – it was no secret – and so in the evening there were crowds of people gathering outside the house of Simon Peter, where Jesus was staying. They had brought their sick loved ones for Him to heal, and we’re told that they came “that evening, at sundown,” because it had been the Sabbath, and because of that they would not have been able to carry the sick (which would have been considered to be work) until the Sabbath was ended.

In the account of this day, there are three circumstances in which Jesus healed: first, in the synagogue; second, in the house of Simon Peter; and third, outside in the street. As a result of these occasions of the manifesting His healing power, people now were flocking to Jesus because they recognized that here was someone who could actually do things. They had heard His words, yes – but here was someone who not only spoke, but who also acted. And yet, in their coming to Him, we see the beginnings of trouble, of misunderstanding. The crowds were coming, for the most part, because they wanted something from Him. They weren’t coming simply because they loved him; they weren’t coming because they had been moved by His words and wanted to hear more. They were coming because they wanted something from Him.

Unfortunately, all too often we approach God like that. For every time we remember to thank God, there are hundreds of times we are asking Him for something. We should not come to God only in bad times, when things are in a mess, or when some tragedy happens. Certainly, God is concerned for us then -- but we need to have gratitude and love for God, too. God isn’t someone to be used only in difficult times, but He is to be loved at all times, and remembered every day of our lives.

10 January 2012

Word speaking word...

And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
- Mark 1:21-28

Our Lord Jesus Christ is God Incarnate – God come to earth in human flesh. And why did He do that? To set us free from all those things that hold us back from being what God intends us to be – that is, to be in complete communion with Him. In St. John’s Gospel, Christ is called “Logos,” the “Word.” God’s Word has power to set us free and to transform our lives. When Jesus taught He spoke with authority. He, as the Word, spoke the word of God as no one had spoken it before. When the Rabbis taught, it was necessary for them to quote other authorities. The prophets spoke with authority not their own, and they would begin their statements with, “Thus says the Lord.” When Jesus spoke He needed no other authorities to support His statements. He was authority Incarnate – the Word of God made flesh. When He spoke, God spoke. When He commanded even the demons obeyed.

We receive another lesson from this Gospel. We hear the demons acknowledge the power of Jesus – they knew who He was. But belief isn’t enough – just because they knew who He was, didn’t mean they had faith as we understand faith. And even faith, without carrying it out in works of love, isn't enough. Our faith must be made “incarnate” by doing what God commands. Even the demons we read about in the Gospels confessed a sort of faith, but they certainly had no love. Scripture tells us that true faith works through love. Our faith is made perfect in love because love directs our lives toward the supreme good which is God Himself, as well as towards the good of our neighbor, who is created in the image and likeness of God.

Faith is a free gift of God, and it is the conforming of our will to the whole truth that God has revealed. The Lord gives us His Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds so that we may grow in His truth and in the knowledge of His great love for each of us, which He has shown by coming to us as the Incarnate Word.

09 January 2012

Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…”

Such a paradox, it seems. Eternal life is promised, but only in death is the promise fulfilled. Glorious resurrection is assured, but physical decay is the door through which it comes. In Christ we are made righteous, even as sin attracts us still. Happiness is our true destiny, but it is the gift of the Man of Sorrows. All these things tell us poignantly that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Here is faith: anticipating our complete union with God, in the sure hope that God waits to receive us. Here is faith: waiting upon God, knowing that He is unchanging and always merciful, the One who brings good out of every circumstance. Here is faith: accepting the truth that without God we are incomplete, we are restless, and that we will find no completeness, no rest, apart from Almighty God.

Into our midst He came...


Into our human condition Christ came. Into our tragedies and our sicknesses and our confusions, into our every need, He came. He chose to become, really and entirely, very Man. He took our flesh and blood. He breathed our breath of life. He was, while He was here, a man with men. And so that we might not feel Him to be in His situation and condition to be above any of us, He actually chose to be below most of us, on a level with the most humble and helpless. He asked for no privilege as the Son of God. He went through all that man must endure. He had no desire to be spared any burden of our mortal state. As each thing came in the course of years, He accepted it. He hurried nothing. He waited until the years changed the baby into the child, and the child into the boy, and the boy into the man. He came to be among us, not as a passing vision, not as something strange, but to be “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.”

He accepted what was most universal in human experience, including pain and suffering. He was willing to be man. A simple, plain man was He, unknown, unhonoured in the world, “made like in all things unto his brethren.” He came because mankind is so precious in God’s sight. He died as we do, and in dying, so He died for each of us. And we must remember, too, that as He came for the good and the blessing of each of us, so He came for all those around us. He came for our friends and neighbours. He came for those whom we love, and for those whom we don’t especially like. He came for those from whom we are estranged and for those against whom we might have done some wrong. He was incarnate and He died, not only for those who hope that they are in His grace, and who live in His peace, but He came, too, for those who are misguided and blinded by the things of this world. He came for the outcast and the forsaken and foolish and for those who are in ignorance. He came for all sinners, for criminals, for those who seem to have no hope. He came for them all. He was “for a little while made lower than the angels.” He came to heal all of the unspeakable agonies that the multitudes have suffered from war and from disease and from every torture; He came to alleviate all that has been endured throughout the ages by those faithful departed whom we remember by name at the altar. For all of us He came.

It is a pretty season, this time of birth and guiding stars, this time of gifts and good feelings. But He came not to make it pretty. He came to make us whole.

08 January 2012

The Baptism of Our Lord

The sinless Son of God, who has no need to be baptized, submits to a sinner’s baptism. The Light of God, in whom is no darkness at all, goes into the depths of the River Jordan, buried before His death. The pure Word of God, who came to proclaim the truth, stands mute before the Voice which prepared His way. A divine whisper proclaims the Beloved as the Father’s own. Fluttering wings form a nimbus. And with the Baptism of our Lord all water becomes holy. The water created by God at the beginning; the water through which the ark safely traveled; the water through which the Israelites marched dry-shod -- all is made holy. The water which flowed over the Word Made Flesh has gone on to mingle with all the water of the whole earth, and by that water we are made clean.

Almighty and everlasting God, who by the Baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan didst sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin; Mercifully look upon us, who have been cleansed of sin and sanctified with the Holy Ghost, that we may be kept safe in the ark of Christ’s Church; and grant that we, being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally we may come to the land of everlasting life, there to dwell with thee for ever and ever, world without end. Amen.

O come let us adore Him...

The Magi were the first Gentiles to believe in Christ, guided by a mysterious star which led them from the East to the village of Bethlehem, where they found the Infant Jesus. They are called "sages" or "wise men" in the New Testament, but the idea that they were kings first appears in Christian tradition in the writings of Tertullian, who called them "fere regis," or "almost kings." This became generally accepted by the sixth century because of the implication of Psalm 72, which speaks of the kings of Tarshish, Arabia, and Saba, "who shall bring presents." The New Testament says nothing of how many there were, although the traditional number of three was first ascribed by Origen, based upon the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their names (Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) were first mentioned in the sixth century, and are also included in the writings of the Venerable Bede. In the Middle Ages the Magi were venerated as saints, and their relics are enshrined in the cathedral in Cologne (pictured above).


But what to the Magi teach us? Surely, the overwhelming lesson is the absolute importance of complete and utter adoration. They had travelled great distances and risked both physical danger and the wrath of Herod himself, just to kneel before the Incarnate Word of God. All we need to do is to go the nearest Catholic Church, where the same Christ waits for us in the tabernacle.

07 January 2012

The Epiphany

"Star of Bethlehem" by Burne-Jones

Epiphany is about light. "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." It is about the coming of the true Light into the darkness of this world. "Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome." "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men."

The chief image of Epiphany is the star in the East whose light guided the Magi to the Child-King enthroned on His mother's lap. The Light of God's love had come to shine on the Gentiles, too. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." The Gentiles worship Him with gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Magi rejoice in the light, and bow down and worship Him.

Light was the first word spoken by God into the chaotic darkness of creation. "Let there be light." And there was light. “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness."

Our lives are given to reflect the light of God's glory, and this is the noblest and most blessed purpose of all. We are, in a mystical way, to be an “epiphany” of Christ, so that every man can see His glory, and so welcome His Light into the dark world.

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know thee now by faith, to thy presence, where we may behold thy glory face to face; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

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

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

In thy Kingdom grant us rest,
in Jerusalem the blest;
with the saints our lips shall sing,
with the angels echoing:
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
thou dost reign, and we are thine!

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips (1990)
Music: “Lucerna Laudoniae”
David Evans (1874-1948)

"...regenerate, and grafted..."

These pictures of the baptism of young Joseph Whittemore give an image of "living water" as it is poured over his head under the watchful eyes of his godparents, taking with it the stain of original sin and imparting new life in the Church.




We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Raymond of Peñafort

O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Raymond of Peñafort, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Raymond of Peñafort lived to be a hundred years old, and with such a long life, he had the opportunity to do lots of things, and he certainly took full advantage of all the time God gave him on this earth. St. Raymond was born into a Spanish family of noblemen, which meant that he had the resources and the education to get a very good start in life.

By the time he was 20, St. Raymond was teaching philosophy. In his early 30s he earned a doctorate in both canon law and civil law. When he was 41 he became a Dominican. Pope Gregory IX called him to Rome to work for him and to be his confessor. One of the things the pope asked him to do was to gather together all the decrees of popes and councils. St. Raymond compiled five books called the Decretals, and this was really the beginning of an organized system of canon law for the Church. In fact, since St. Raymond’s work, the first actual Code of Canon Law was put together in 1917.

St. Raymond wrote a book for confessors which was a collection of various situations and sins, and in this book he discussed the different doctrines and laws of the church which would be applied in the various cases – a work which was very helpful to confessors.

At the age of 60, St. Raymond was appointed archbishop of Tarragona, the capital of Aragon. He didn't like the honor at all and ended up getting sick and resigning in two years.

He didn't get to enjoy his peace for long, however, because when he was 63 he was elected by his fellow Dominicans to be the head of the whole Order, the successor of St. Dominic. St. Raymond worked hard, visited on foot all the Dominican houses, reorganized their constitutions and managed to put through a provision that a master general be allowed to resign. When the new constitutions were accepted, St. Raymond, then 65, resigned as the head of the Dominicans. He still had 35 years ahead of him, and he spent those years very productively, opposing heresies and working for the conversion of the Muslims who were occupying Spain.

St. Raymond was a lawyer, especially a canon lawyer, and we might think that’s kind of a boring and dry job, but it is the law which outlines matters of justice and provides for the protection of the rights of individuals. Imagine the chaos if we had no laws in society. The same is true in the Church. Laws state ideally those things that are for the best interests of everyone and make sure the rights of all are safeguarded. From St. Raymond, we can learn a respect for law as a means of serving the common good.

- from various sources.

06 January 2012

In honour of St. Joseph


Recognizing the great devotion to St. Joseph which St. Andre Bessette had, here are a couple of hymns in honour of the Foster-father of our Lord.

+   +   +   +   +

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715
 
1. Holy Joseph, Intercessor,
Unto thee God's children sing;
Be our Patron and Protector,
To God's throne our praises bring.

2. Faithful Spouse of faithful Virgin,
Lover of God's purity;
From thy worthy place in heaven,
Pray that we may faithful be.

3. Guardian of the Word Incarnate,
Silent guide of God's own Son;
Guard our hearts and lead us onward
To the life that Christ has won.

4. Humble man in lofty station,
God has shed His grace on thee;
Pray such grace to us be given,
That we live eternally.


+   +   +   +   +


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1992
Music: "Bread of Heaven" by William D. Maclagan, 1875


1. Blesséd Joseph, Guardian mild,
Who didst love the Holy Child,
Show thy love to us who pray,
Shield us from all harm this day:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

2. Great Saint Joseph, Patron bold
Of the Church from days of old,
Give us courage strong and new,
To proclaim God's Gospel true:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

3. He Whom thou didst guide in youth,
We receive in very truth;
In this Sacrament of love,
We are one with thee above:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us one with Christ our Lord!

St. André Bessette

Brother André, whose baptismal name was Alfred, was born into a poor working family in 1845 in Canada, and both his parents had died by the time he was twelve. He was adopted by his aunt and uncle, but when he was fourteen they had moved to California to seek their fortune in the gold rush, leaving him to fend for himself. Young Alfred was sickly, and his bad health made it difficult for him to keep a job for very long, so he wandered from farm to farm and town to town in Canada and also in the United States, picking up odd jobs as he went. Finally he came to the Holy Cross Brothers in 1870. He carried with him a note from his pastor saying, "I am sending you a saint." The Brothers found that difficult to believe. The Holy Cross Brothers were teachers and, at 25, Alfred still did not know how to read and write. Alfred had no place else to go and so was in a desperate situation, but he was also prayerful and deeply devoted to God and Saint Joseph. He may have had no place left to go, but he believed that was because this was the place where he should have been all along.

The Holy Cross Brothers took him into the novitiate but soon found out what others had learned – as hard as Alfred (now Brother André) wanted to work, he simply wasn't strong enough. They asked him to leave the order, but André, out of desperation again, appealed to a visiting bishop who promised him that André would stay and take his vows as a Religious Brother.

After his vows, Brother André was sent to Notre Dame College in Montreal (a school for boys age seven to twelve) as a porter. There his responsibilities were to answer the door, to welcome guests, find the people they were visiting, wake up those in the school, and deliver mail.

In 1904, he surprised the Archbishop of Montreal by requesting permission to build a chapel to Saint Joseph on the mountain near the college. The Archbishop refused to go into debt and would only give permission for Brother André to build what he had money for. What money did Brother André have? Only the nickels he had collected as donations for Saint Joseph from haircuts he gave the boys; nickels and dimes from a small dish he had kept in a picnic shelter on top of the mountain near a statue of St. Joseph with a sign "Donations for St. Joseph." He had collected this loose change for years but he still had only a few hundred dollars. Who would start a chapel now with so little funding?

André took his few hundred dollars and built what he could – a small wood shelter only fifteen feet by eighteen feet. He kept collecting money and went back three years later to request to do more building. The Archbishop granted him permission to keep building as long as he didn't go into debt. He started by adding a roof so that all the people who were coming to hear Mass at the shrine wouldn't have to stand out in the rain and the wind. Then came walls, heating, a paved road up the mountain, a shelter for pilgrims, and finally a place where Brother André and others could live full-time to take care of the shrine and the pilgrims who came.. Through kindness, caring, and devotion, Brother André helped many souls experience healing and renewal on the mountaintop. There were even cases of physical healing. But for everything, Brother André thanked St. Joseph.

Despite financial troubles, Brother André never lost faith or devotion. He had started to build a basilica on the mountain but the Depression had interfered. When he was ninety years old he told his co-workers to place a statue of St. Joseph in the unfinished, unroofed basilica. He was so ill he had to be carried up the mountain to see the statue in its new home. Brother André died soon after on January 6, and didn't live to see the work on the basilica completed. But he died in peace, having helped hundreds of thousands of people by strengthening their faith, and by giving honor to the foster-father of our Lord.

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of thy servant, St. André Bessette, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

05 January 2012

Read the Crusader Bulletin


If you'd like to read the current issue of the newsletter of The Atonement Academy, the Crusader Bulletin, you can find it here -- everything you could want to know about Academy activities, students' achievements, upcoming events and lots more!

03 January 2012

554...

...that's how many students we have at The Atonement Academy, and they all returned from the Christmas break today.  It's so good to have them back!  Of course, there were a few things keeping me busy during the break...like all the holy days, the many and beautiful Masses, and the general round of parish life.  But having the students back -- that's my favourite time.  When they're on break, it's almost eerie to hear the class bells echoing down empty hallways, and I find myself heading towards the sacristy when I would usually be celebrating the students' Mass.  Breaks are nice, but I especially like them when they're over...

The Holy Name of Jesus


One of the customs we maintain at our parish is that of bowing one's head at the name of our Lord. It's nothing exaggerated, but just a sign of respect at the sound of the Name of our salvation. There are so many acts of courtesy and respect which have been lost in our everyday living, but there are things such as this that I refuse to put aside. It may seem a little thing, but I believe it is important that we pause and acknowledge the wonder of what God in Christ has done, and is doing. The very idea that the Creator of all things has such love for us that He has put on human flesh in the womb of the chosen maiden, and has taken for Himself the particular name of Jesus, and gives Himself to us daily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass -- that should make us want to bow our heads in wonder and praise. "For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."

Eternal Father, who didst give to thine incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we beseech thee, the love of him who is the Saviour of the world, even our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

02 January 2012

Spiritual Adoption

Having just celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, this is a good time to take on the "spiritual adoption" of an unborn child in danger of being aborted. Archbishop Fulton Sheen encouraged people to name in their heart an unknown child, and to pray this prayer every day for nine months:

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of [baby’s name] the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.”


We know prayer makes a difference. We might not be able to know the specific fruits of our prayers, but God does hear and He always answers our petitions. If you'd like to know more about spiritual adoption, here's a helpful website.

01 January 2012

New Ordinariate for the United States


It has been announced that the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has been erected for the United States, and the first Ordinary is Fr. Jeffrey Steenson. 

Heartiest congratulations to Fr. Steenson, and prayers for all who will be entering the Ordinariate!