29 February 2012

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus


Happy St. David’s Day, as the title of this post says. My Welsh ancestors would want me to make mention of our great patron for his feast day, which is March 1st. Following is an excerpt from an anonymous account of the saint:

Saint David, or Dewi Sant, as he is known in the Welsh language, is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century. During his life, he was the archbishop of Wales, and he was one of many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.

For details of the life of Dewi, we depend mainly on his biographer, Rhigyfarch. He wrote Buchedd Dewi (the life of David) in the 11th century. Dewi died in the sixth century, so nearly five hundred years elapsed between his death and the first manuscripts recording his life. As a result, it isn't clear how much of the history of Dewi's life is legend rather than fact.

However, sources tell us that Dewi was a very gentle person who lived a frugal life. It is claimed that he ate mostly bread and herbs - probably watercress, which was widely used at the time. Despite this supposedly meager diet, it is reported that he was tall and physically strong.

Dewi is said to have been of royal lineage. His father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, who was prince of Ceredigion, a region in South-West Wales. His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftain. Legend has it that Non was also a niece of King Arthur.

Dewi was born near Capel Non (Non's chapel) on the South-West Wales coast near the present city of Saint David. We know a little about his early life. He was educated in a monastery called Hen Fynyw, his teacher being Paulinus, a blind monk. Dewi stayed there for some years before going forth with a party of followers on his missionary travels.

Dewi travelled far on his missionary journeys through Wales, where he established several churches. He also travelled to the south and west of England and Cornwall as well as Brittany. It is also possible that he visited Ireland. Two friends of his, Saints Padarn and Teilo, are said to have often accompanied him on his journeys, and they once went together on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch.

Dewi is sometimes known, in Welsh, as 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the Water Drinker) and, indeed, water was an important part of his life. He is said to have drunk nothing else. Sometimes, as a self-imposed penance, he would stand up to his neck in a lake of cold water, reciting Scripture.

He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn (Rose Vale) on the banks of the small river Alun where the cathedral city of St. David stands today. They had to get up very early in the morning for prayers and afterwards work very hard to help maintain life at the monastery, cultivating the land and even pulling the plough. Many crafts were followed, and beekeeping, in particular, was very important. The monks had to keep themselves fed as well as the many pilgrims and travelers who needed lodgings. They also had to feed and clothe the poor and needy in their neighborhood.

There are many stories regarding Dewi's life. It is said that he once raised a youth from death, and milestones during his life were marked by the appearance of springs of water. These events are arguably more apocryphal than factual, but are very well known to Welsh-speaking schoolchildren.

Perhaps the most well-known story regarding Dewi's life is said to have taken place at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. They were to decide whether Dewi was to be archbishop. A great crowd gathered at the synod, and when Dewi stood up to speak, one of the congregation shouted, 'We won't be able to see or hear him'. At that instant the ground rose till everyone could see and hear Dewi. Unsurprisingly, it was decided, very shortly afterwards, that Dewi would be the archbishop.

It is claimed that Dewi lived for over 100 years, and it is generally accepted that he died in 589. His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. Rhigyfarch transcribes these as 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.'

“Do the little things” (“Gwnewch y pethau bychain”) is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh, and has proved an inspiration to many. On a Tuesday, the first of March, in the year 589, the monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'.

Dewi's body was buried in the grounds of his own monastery, where the Cathedral of St. David now stands. After his death, his influence spread far and wide - first through Britain, along what was left of the Roman roads, and by sea to Cornwall and Brittany.

For those who might like to celebrate St. David’s Day with an authentic comestible, here is the recipe for cawl, which is the dish most commonly served for dinner on the farm during the winter months in the counties of South and West Wales. The broth would be served in basins or bowls, with bread, and the meat and vegetables served as a second course.

2 lb Best end of neck Welsh Lamb
1/2 lb Carrots
2 large Leeks
1/2 oz Flour
1 small Swede or Turnip
1 lb Potatoes
1 oz parsley
Salt and Pepper

Put the meat into the saucepan, cover with cold water, add salt and pepper, bring slowly to the boil and skin carefully. (This can be done beforehand, and the fat allowed to set on the surface. This makes it easier to skim off). Then add the carrots (cut in half), the swede (sliced) and the white of the leeks, and simmer gently for two to two-and-a-half hours. Add the potatoes (cut in flour) and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. When the potatoes are almost cooked, thicken with flour and a little water. Lastly add the green of the leeks and parsley (chopped) and simmer for another 10 minutes and serve in basins while hot.

During Lent, this recipe for Caws Pobi (Welsh rarebit, also known as Welsh Rabbit, although it has nothing to do with rabbits) makes a great Friday night supper.

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

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

And finally, for something deliciously sweet and authentically Welsh, try some wonderful Bara Brith (Welsh fruitcake):

1 lb (450g) mixed dried fruit, such as raisins and currants
1 pint (300ml) tea
2 tbsp marmalade
1 egg, beaten
6 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 lb (450g) self raising flour
honey to glaze

Soak the fruit overnight in the tea. Next day, mix in the marmalade, egg, sugar, spice and flour. Spoon mixture into a greased 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and bake in a warm oven 325°F, 170°C for 1 hour or until the center is cooked through. Check from time to time to see that the top does not brown too much, and cover with a sheet of foil or move down a shelf in the oven if necessary. Once cooked, leave the Bara Brith to stand for 5 minutes then turn out of the tin on to a cooling tray. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top with honey. Served sliced with salted butter and some tasty farmhouse cheddar.

But between bites, remember St. David’s words: Gwnewch y pethau bychain, Do the little things.

28 February 2012

Our Father...


"Pray then like this: Our Father..."

Jesus gave His disciples the perfect prayer which calls God, "Our Father." It’s probably the most familiar prayer in history, and yet its familiarity means that sometimes we don’t think about the words as much as we should when we say it. Even the first word is important, as it is in our English translation – “Our.” When Jesus taught this prayer, he set it very much in the context of “all of us together.”

Certainly, God loves each one of us individually, and He deals with us individually, but He has called us individually to be part of His Body, the Church. Throughout the whole prayer, it’s prayed in the plural – and it’s a reminder to us that we are part of something much larger than ourselves, and that what we do or neglect to do has an effect on others.

When we were baptized, that sacrament affected us individually, certainly – it took away the stain of original sin – but it also incorporated us into something; namely, the Church, the Body of Christ.

When we were confirmed, each of us was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. But it also made us active members of an army – the army of Christ - and we were given grace and power to join with others in fighting against sin, the world and the devil.

When we receive Holy Communion, each of us individually receives the Body and Blood of Christ, but we receive it in Communion with the Church throughout the world, and in union with the saints throughout the ages.

Even when we pray to God by ourselves, when we say the Amen, we say it with the whole Church – Militant, Expectant, and Triumphant.

The great poet, John Donne, wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself…” which is a reminder that what I do, what I say, or what I neglect to do or say, affects not just me, but it has an affect on all those around me.

27 February 2012

The Triptych closed...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 February 2012

A wilderness no more...


God brings order out of chaos; He makes sense out of confusion. Our Lord Jesus Christ went into the wilderness for forty days, and during that time He underwent terrible trials, being tempted by the devil himself. And yet, by the Lord’s very presence there, He transformed the wilderness for us. For those of us who follow Christ, the wilderness is no longer dominated by Satan; rather, it is the Lord Jesus who is there for us. Instead of facing trials on our own, we have at our disposal every means of spiritual help. The redemptive work of Jesus Christ took place even in that desert place, as He transformed a place of desolation into a place where consolation can be found. By staying close to our Lord in times of trial, through the Sacraments and through prayer, we know that every sorrow can be turned to joy, and every dark moment can be flooded with the Light of Christ.

24 February 2012

Stations of the Cross


You can click here for the Order of the Stations of the Cross we use here at the parish.
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

23 February 2012

The great St. Polycarp

Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. But being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation had not known. With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose.

Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer -- to be true to the life of Jesus and to imitate that life. As Jesus often responsed strongly to the Pharisees, so Polycarp, when confronted by a heretic who demanded respect by saying, "Recognize us, Polycarp," was told by Polycarp, "I recognize you, yes, I recognize the son of Satan."

Polycarp faced persecution the way Christ did. He didn’t seek out martyrdom as some did, but he avoided it until it was God's will. One day, during a bloody martyrdom when Christians were attacked by wild animals in the arena, the crowd became so mad that they demanded more blood by crying, "Down with the atheists; let Polycarp be found." (They considered Christians "atheists" because they didn't believe in their pantheon of gods).

Polycarp was calm but others persuaded him to leave the city and hide at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer for people he knew and for the Church. During his prayer he saw a vision of his pillow turned to fire and announced to his friends that the dream meant he would be burned alive.

As the search closed in, he moved to another farm, but he was discovered. He had a little warning since he was upstairs in the house but he decided to stay, saying, "God's will be done."

Then he went downstairs, talked to his captors and fed them a meal. All he asked of them was that they give him an hour to pray. He spent two hours praying for everyone he had every known and for the Church, "remembering all who had at any time come his way -- small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world." Many of his captors started to wonder why they were arresting this holy, eighty-six-year-old bishop.

But that didn't stop them from taking him into the arena. As he entered the arena, the crowd roared, rather like the animals they cheered. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven above the crowd, "Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man."

The proconsul begged the old bishop to give in because of his age. "Say 'Away with the atheists'" the proconsul urged. Polycarp calmly turned to face the crowd, looked straight at them, and said, "Away with the atheists." The proconsul continued to plead with him. When he asked Polycarp to swear by Caesar to save himself, Polycarp answered, "If you imagine that I will swear by Caesar, you do not know who I am. Let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian." Finally, when all else failed the proconsul reminded Polycarp that he would be thrown to the wild animals unless he changed his mind. Polycarp answered, "Change of mind from better to worse is not a change allowed to us."

Because of Polycarp's lack of fear, the proconsul told him he would be burned alive, but Polycarp knew that a fire which burned only for an hour was far preferable to the flames of eternal fire.

When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed. The fire was lit and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn't being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out.

The proconsul wouldn't let the Christians have the body because he was afraid they would worship Polycarp. The witnesses reported this with scorn for the lack of understanding of Christian faith: "They did not know that we can never abandon the innocent Christ who suffered on behalf of sinners for the salvation of those in this world." After the body was burned, they took away the bones in order to celebrate the memory of his martyrdom and prepare others for persecution. The date was about February 23, 156.

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who didst give to thy venerable servant, the holy and gentle St. Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Saviour, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, after his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

22 February 2012

Fasting and Abstinence


Fasting is recommended by the Sacred Scriptures and is practiced by the Church as a means of atonement for sin and commending individuals and their prayers to God. The intent of fasting is penitential in nature and with the purpose of intensifying prayer. The current practice of the Latin Rite in the United States allows for one main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some food being allowed at the other two mealtimes, with no food at other times. Liquids do not break this fast. The law of the Church binds catholics "from the day after their 18th birthday to the day after their 59th birthday."

Abstinence is followed every Friday in Lent. Abstinence means that we refrain from eating meat or food prepared with meat (including chicken). This practice is to remind us of Jesus' redeeming death, and the practice of penance. The law of the Church binds those who are 14 years of age or older.

...dust thou art...

Thou hast mercy upon all, O Lord, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made, and winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend, and sparest them: for thou art the Lord our God. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee.


Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Masses will be celebrated on Ash Wednesday at 7:00 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., all at the High Altar.  There will be the Imposition of Ashes at each Mass.

21 February 2012

The Alleluia: Farewell!


It used to take place on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday, but since we don't have the "Gesima Sundays" any more (such a pity, but let's pray they're restored to us), we've moved the farewell to the alleluia to the day before Ash Wednesday.

Today the students bring the "alleluias" they've written and place them in a large wooden box, which will be taken in procession to the Lady Chapel after Mass. We'll make our farewell until we welcome the Alleluia back at the Solemn Vigil of Easter.

Alleluia, abide with us today, and tomorrow thou shalt set forth, Alleluia ; and when the day shall have risen, thou shalt proceed on thy way, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

May the good angel of the Lord accompany thee, Alleluia, and give thee a good journey, that thou mayst come back to us in joy, Alleluia.

May Alleluia, that sacred and joyful word, resound to God's praise from the lips of all people.

May this word, which expresses glory as chanted by the choirs of angels, be sweet as sung by the voices of believers.

And may that which noiselessly gleams in the citizens of heaven, yield fruit in our hearts by ever growing love.

May the Lord's good angel go with thee, Alleluia ; and prepare all good things for thy journey. And again come back to us with joy, Alleluia.

Let us pray. O Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

20 February 2012

Exploring St. Mark's Gospel



And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, "What are you discussing with them?" And one of the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me."
St. Mark 9:14-19

As Jesus, along with Peter, James and John returned from the experience of the Transfiguration to the rest of the disciples, the reality of life hit them straight on. We can understand why Peter had suggested that they stay on the mountain-top, as they came back to this scene of a huge crowd gathered around the disciples who had stayed behind, and with scribes arguing with them about something… What was the situation? A father had brought his boy to the disciples, and the boy was an epileptic. All of the symptoms were there. The disciples had been unable to deal with it, and their failure had given the scribes their chance. The helplessness of the disciples was a terrific opportunity for the scribes to not only belittle them, but also their rabbi, Jesus. Then Jesus arrived. The crowd was astonished. Why? It wasn’t because the radiance of the transfiguration was somehow lingering on him; rather, the crowd had thought that he was still a long way off, up on the mountain. They had become so engrossed in their argument that they hadn’t seen him come – and now, just when they were talking about him, he arrived unexpectedly. Have you ever had that experience, of saying something about someone that perhaps wasn’t the nicest thing, and then have them walk in unexpectedly in the middle of your sentence? The way you felt was how this crowd felt. Perhaps “amazed” isn’t the best word!

We learn a couple of things about Jesus. First of all, just as he was ready to face the cross, so he was also ready to face a much more ordinary situation. If only we could be like that – we get ourselves ready to cope with some great thing that’s going to happen in our lives, but we get thrown by a loop when we discover the car is low on gas! This is one of the day-to-day tests of our faith: how do we cope with the little things? Remember Jesus told us that if we can’t be faithful in the little things, we won’t be faithful in the big things.

And in this passage we see something else about Jesus: even though he had come into the world to save the world, he was always ready to give himself completely to any individual who was in his path. It’s easier, sometimes, to talk about loving mankind than it is to love some particularly unattractive person whom God puts in our path. There are those who can wax eloquent about the human race, and yet still ignore the individual stranger in need. Here’s another test of the reality of our faith. Do we give ourselves to individual people in their need, or do we just keep things more “general” in what we say?

14 February 2012

Heading back to the farm...


I'll be spending a few days in Connecticut, back at the family home where I grew up. My mother is 80 now, and had a stroke about a year and a half ago. She's doing pretty well, but I want to spend some time with her -- plus, I haven't been back for quite a while, and I'd like to see some of the extended family, too.

I may be able to post a few things, but I'm not sure. If this post sits here for a while, at least you'll know where I am.

Ss. Cyril and Methodius



Cyril and Methodius were brothers who were born in Thessalonica in the 9th century, where their father was an army officer. This was a part of Greece where many Slavic people lived – people from central and eastern Europe – and the mother of Cyril and Methodius may well have been Slavic. Both of them were highly educated, and gave themselves in service to the Church, becoming missionaries to the Slavic peoples.

The time came when the Duke of Moravia (the present-day Czech Republic) received political independence from German rule, and also received ecclesiastical autonomy, which meant having their own clergy and their own form of the liturgy. It was in these circumstances that Cyril and Methodius became missionaries, devoting themselves to spreading the Gospel and to strengthening the Church among the Slavic people.

Cyril's first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. The Cyrillic alphabet was formed, being based on Greek capital letters. Together the brothers translated the Gospels, the psalter, St. Paul's epistles, as well as the liturgical books, into Slavonic. They composed a Slavonic liturgy, which was very unusual at that time, since the expectation was that the liturgy would be unified with the liturgy of the Western Church, and would use Latin as its language.

Because of these liturgical differences, the use of a different alphabet, and their free use of the vernacular in preaching, it led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On their visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril died during this visit to Rome, and is buried at San Clemente, but Methodius continued his mission work for 16 more years. There were still many in the Church who fought against what the brothers had been doing, and it seemed as though their efforts would die with them. However, the Slavic people held on to their liturgy and their language, and it continued to spread, as it has done to this day.
Almighty and Everlasting God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit didst move thy servants Saints Cyril and Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome, we pray thee, by the love of Christ, all bitterness and contention among us, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

13 February 2012

Signs


The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.
St. Mark 8:11-13

There is a tendency in people to look for God in the abnormal, and it was no different during the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus. People thought when the Messiah came, startling things would happen. And certainly, one of the things the many false Messiahs who came were always promising was that if people would follow them, they would do incredible things. The Pharisees were demanding just such an abnormal sign -- something from heaven which would “prove” that Jesus was the Messiah. They wanted to see some shattering event blazing across the sky, defying nature and giving astonishment to people. Jesus knew their game: He knew that their demand wasn’t due to any desire to see the hand of God; rather, it was due to the fact that they were blind to what actually was happening! The whole world was full of signs: God already makes himself known through His creation. It isn’t necessary for God to “break into creation” to make Himself known because there was already enough evidence for anyone who had eyes to see. The sign of the truly faithful individual is that he finds God in all sorts of circumstances – not just in the astounding or in the inexplicable. There are signs all around us. All we need are "eyes that see."

10 February 2012

Obama's accommodation...

Original scenario: "You're going to hang.  Bring your own rope from home and give it to us to put around your neck."

New scenario: "You're going to hang.  We're sending someone to the store to buy the rope.  Hand over the money to pay for it."

St. Scholastica


(Mass at Montecassino, in the Crypt Chapel where Ss. Benedict and Scholastica are buried)

Twins often share the same interests and ideas with an equal intensity. Therefore, it is no surprise that Scholastica and her twin brother, Benedict, both established religious communities within a few miles from each other.

The twins were born in 480 of wealthy parents. Scholastica and Benedict were brought up together until he left for Rome to continue his studies.

We don’t know much about Scholastica's early life. She founded a religious community for women near Monte Cassino, five miles from where her brother was the abbot of a monastery.

The twins visited each other once a year in a farmhouse because Scholastica was not permitted inside the monastery. They spent these times discussing spiritual matters.

According to an account written by Pope St. Gregory, the brother and sister spent their last day together in prayer and conversation. Scholastica sensed her death was close at hand and she begged Benedict to stay with her until the next day.

He refused her request because he did not want to spend a night outside the monastery, thus breaking his own Rule. Scholastica asked God to let her brother remain and a severe thunderstorm broke out, preventing Benedict and his monks from returning to the abbey.

Benedict cried out, "God forgive you, Sister. What have you done?" Scholastica replied, "I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and he granted it."

Brother and sister parted the next morning after their long discussion. Three days later, Benedict was praying in his monastery and saw the soul of his sister rising heavenward in the form of a white dove. Benedict then announced the death of his sister to the monks and later buried her in the tomb he had prepared for himself.

O God, who for a testimony to the path of innocency didst cause the soul of thy holy Virgin Saint Scholastica to enter heaven in the appearance of a dove; grant unto us, that by her merits and intercession we may walk in such innocency of life; that we may be worthy to attain everlasting felicity; 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.

09 February 2012

Crumbs that satisfy...


Jesus arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, "Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." And he said to her, "For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

Mark 7:24-30

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

08 February 2012

St. Jerome Emiliani


O God, the father of mercies, we pray thee, that like as thou didst raise up thy blessed Saint Jerome Emiliani to be the defender and father of the fatherless: so we, which by thy Spirit of adoption are called and are indeed thy children, may, by his merits and intercession, evermore continue steadfastly therein; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Jerome Emiliani was born in the 15th century, and as a young man he became a soldier for the city-state of Venice. During that time he wasn’t terribly religious; in fact, he was fairly selfish, and didn’t think much about other people. He loved the life of a soldier, and was never happier than when he was heading off to do battle against someone else. One day, when he was engaged in a minor battle, Jerome was captured and chained in a dungeon. While he was in prison, Jerome had a lot of time to think. He began to think about his life, and he began to think about God, and gradually he learned how to pray. One day he managed to escape from prison. He returned to Venice to his family, and with nothing else to do, he took charge of the education of his nephews. At the same time, he began his own studies for the priesthood.

St. Jerome was eventually ordained, and settled into the life of a parish priest. But soon after his ordination, God began to call St. Jerome into a new ministry – not in a parish, but a ministry which would reach far beyond a single parish. A terrible plague was sweeping across Europe, and there was widespread famine throughout northern Italy where St. Jerome was. He began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense. While serving the sick and the poor, he made the decision to devote himself and all his resources to assist others, particularly for the care of abandoned children. He founded three orphanages and a hospital.

In about the year 1532, Jerome and two other priests established a religious congregation dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth. Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick. He was eventually canonized, and was named the universal patron of orphans and abandoned children.

06 February 2012

Nothing new under the sun...


The commemoration of St. Paul Miki and his twenty-five companions serves as a stark reminder of the fickle nature of secular powers. The beginning of the Catholic mission in Japan was in 1549, under an agreement with the daimyo, not because a new religion was particularly wanted, but because there was a hope of opening trade with the Europeans, and additionally, the shogunate wanted something to neutralize the growing influence of the Buddhist monks. Things didn’t develop to the satisfaction of those in the imperial government, and because there was no further usefulness in having Catholics in Japan, the great round-up began. Christianity was banned. Those who refused to abandon the Faith were killed.

It was on 5 February 1597 that twenty-six Christians – six European Franciscan missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen including three young boys – were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki on the orders of the daimyo, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Before they were raised up on crosses and pierced through with spears, they had been mutilated by each having an ear cut off, and then force-marched for some six hundred miles as a visible warning to any who might have been reluctant to give up the Faith. The government officials had decided the Catholics were expendable, so the final act was to make a public exhibition of that fact, on a hill overlooking Nagasaki.

The daimyo might now be called “Mr. President,” and the shogunate referred to as “honorable members of Congress,” but not much else has changed. As we’ve seen, even in this great nation of ours, as long as there was the possibility of the Catholic leadership serving some purpose by propping up a particular political platform, there was a certain level of tolerance. But now that the complete agenda of those in secular power is there for the world to see, and now that it has dawned on our ecclesiastical authorities that perhaps they had been pathetically credulous, just wait for it -- our current administration will be as merciless as a 16th century Japanese daimyo.

We can give thanks to God that our bishops have become unified as almost never before, as our president wields a hammer which threatens to smash our constitutional rights of freedom and conscience. Of course, word must translate into action, and on this there can be no compromise. Some of these very bishops will soon be raised to the office of Cardinal in the Church. The last time Pope Benedict XVI did this, he reminded them that the scarlet red of their vesture signifies the dignity of their new office and that they must be ready "even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church."

If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes, and we’ll be ready to stand with them.

From Newman House Press...

Newman House Press announces the publication of

OREMUS
LET US PRAY
The Collects of the Roman Missal


Fr. Peter Stravinskas writes,

"...Newman House Press is pleased to fill a liturgical gap created by the new translation of the Mass. As you know, the collect of a day's Mass is normally that of the Divine Office as well. There is currently a "disconnect" between the text of the Mass and the old version found in the Liturgy of the Hours. To address that, we have "collected" the collects of the Roman Missal in common with the Office and put them into one volume. The book is 400 pages in length (texts in Latin and English on facing pages) and available within the month for $25, plus $5 for shipping and handling. Checks should be made out to Newman House Press. For one month, we are offering a pre-publication discount of five dollars. For orders of five or more to the same address, a reduced rate is also applicable."

You may contact:

Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.
Newman House
601 Buhler Court
Pine Beach, New Jersey 08701

The Holy Martyrs of Japan

04 February 2012

Confirmation and First Communion

So there are another ninety-six fully-fitted soldiers of Christ unleashed on the world!  The Mass and administration of Confirmation this morning was a beautiful occasion, and it's always wonderful to administer First Holy Communion to the newly-confirmed.  Forty-four of the confirmandi are our second graders, and they made their first confessions earlier in the week, all in preparation for this great day.  Now it's time to get all the red vestments put away, and lay out everything we need for the Sunday Masses.  Several of the first communicants promised they'd hold their heads up and be ready to receive Holy Communion tomorrow -- enough of the "little kids' blessings" for them!

03 February 2012

By the intercession of St. Blaise...

The Mass this morning for the faculty and students of The Atonement Academy was especially beautiful. We celebrated it in Latin according to the Ordinary Form, with Gregorian chant provided by the schola comprised of young men in our Upper School. There was also a gorgeous anthem by one of our several school choirs...hauntingly lovely.

And, of course, there was the blessing of throats! More than six hundred of them, keeping St. Blaise very busy with his heavenly intercession. Every year on this day I love to see the really young ones coming to the rail for their blessing. Because they're accustomed to staying in their places every other day at the time of Holy Communion, there's a combination of excitement and hesitation on their little faces as they come forward. But it's a blessing they want, and most of them make sure they keep their heads up so those St. Blaise candles can hit the mark!

"By the intercession of Saint Blaise be healed of all ailments of the throat, and all other ailments, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr

St. Blaise was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus and was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him at prayer.

Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games, and found many waiting outside Blaise's cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested, and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to and healed fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats on Blaise's feast day.

Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheading.

St. Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches and many cures were attributed to him. In 1222 the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He is invoked for all throat afflictions, and on his feast two candles are blessed with a prayer that God will free from all such afflictions and every ill all those who receive this blessing.

— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

01 February 2012

The Archbishop's Letter

The recent HHS mandate requiring every employer (including the Catholic Church) to provide insurance which offers completely free sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception to all employees (whether they want it or not) has caused our bishops to speak out with one voice, and they say, "No!"  We have some difficult times ahead of us, and the bishops have asked that we fast and pray, with the intention of turning back this assault on faith and conscience.

Our own Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller has issued a letter which is to be read out at all Masses in the archdiocese this weekend.  I have uploaded a copy of it at this link.

Blinded by what is familiar...


Jesus went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.


St. Mark 6:1-6

When Jesus came to Nazareth, it led to a difficult situation. He was coming to His home town. These were the people who had known Him since He was a boy among them, and because they had known Him for so long, there was no hesitation to criticize Him. The situation is well within the experience of most people – a member of our family, or someone we’ve known all our lives, moves on to some great success. At first we’re proud that we know him. But then people begin to pick at him and his new life. Observations like, “I remember when he used to get into things as a kid around here,” and “I used to babysit for him, and I remember changing his diapers,” pretty soon lead to statements like, “He sure thinks he’s important,” and “Look at him, coming back here and acting like he’s better than everybody else.” There’s an old saying: “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and that’s what happened to Jesus as He came back to Nazareth.

This wasn’t a casual visit meant to renew old acquaintances and to visit His mother Mary. No, He came this time accompanied by his disciples – that is to say, he came as a rabbi, a teacher. He went into the synagogue and He taught, and His teaching wasn’t received with enthusiasm, but instead they heard it with contempt – “…and they took offense at him.” He opened up the scriptures to them, and told them that the words of the prophets were being fulfilled, but all they could see in front of them was a man whom they had known for years, and who had worked in the local carpenter’s shop. They couldn’t imagine that a mere carpenter would have the kind of wisdom that seemed to be contained in his words.

And there’s another interesting thing in this passage. They said, “Is not this Mary’s son?” - a clear indication that Joseph had died by this time, which meant that His mother was simply a local widow being cared for by her extended family, with no particular position in society. And they said, “Don’t we know his brothers and sisters?” Now, of course, the words for brothers and sisters are really from the more generic idea of “family” or “cousins,” so it’s apparent that Jesus had plenty of relatives who were just ordinary residents of Nazareth.

So then, the people of Nazareth despised Him because they knew His family and He was just a working man. The result of all this was that Jesus could do no mighty works in Nazareth. The people wanted something more dramatic, they wanted someone more mysterious and perhaps more famous to give them the message Jesus was giving them. But God most often works through the familiar. Water, oil, bread, wine, even imperfect men can communicate to us the Living God. He became one of us so that we can become one with Him. If people refuse to understand that, then they are missing the opportunity of opening wide the door for our Lord Jesus Christ, who stands at that door and knocks.