30 November 2012

Spend time with Our Lord...


In the Sacred Heart Chapel
beginning at 7:30 a.m. each Friday,
continuing until 7:15 a.m. on Sunday.

27 November 2012

The Judge of the quick and the dead

We're getting close to the beginning of Advent. It's a time of preparation -- but not simply preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord. It's also a time when we contemplate such things as death, judgement, heaven and hell, and we prepare ourselves to meet Christ on the last day, when He will judge the quick and the dead. Behind our high altar, in the center panel of the triptych, is a painting of Christ the Judge, and this was a frequent theme in medieval churches.


One of the finest of these is the great Doom Painting over the chancel arch in St. Thomas, Salisbury, England. Painted in 1475, it was whitewashed at the time of the Anglican break with Rome, and then rediscovered and restored in the 19th century. This is the largest such painting in England, and is in the parish church I often visited during my time as a student in Salisbury.




Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility: that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal : Through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.

26 November 2012

The Widow's Mite

"The Widow's Mite" by James Tissot

[Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had."
-St. Luke 21:1-4
We know exactly where Jesus was when he said this. In the Temple there were the various Courts – the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of the Israelites, the Court of the Priests, all gathered around the Holy of Holies. A person would go through these various Courts to get to the next one, as far as he was allowed. In this particular passage, Jesus was speaking in the Court of the Women. Men could be there, but women could go no further. Located there were thirteen collecting boxes known as the Trumpets. They were shaped like trumpets with the narrow part at the top and the wider part at the foot. Each one was assigned to offerings for a different purpose - for the wood that was used to burn the sacrifice, for the incense that was burned on the altar, for the upkeep of the golden vessels, and so on. It was near these Trumpets that Jesus was sitting.

He looked up and saw several people putting their offerings into the Trumpets, including a poor widow. All she had in the world was two “lepta.” A lepton was the smallest of all coins; the name means "the thin one." It was worth only a fraction of a penny, but Jesus said that it far out-valued all the other offerings, because it was everything she had.

He was calling attention to some important points. When it comes to a gift, there’s the spirit in which it’s given. A gift which is given unwillingly, a gift which is given with a grudge, a gift given for the sake of prestige or of self-display loses a lot of its value. The only real gift is that which is the outflow of the loving heart, something given because the giver cannot help it.

And there’s the sacrifice which the gift involves. Something which is virtually nothing to one person may be a huge amount to somebody else. That day in the Temple, the gifts of the rich, as they flung their offerings into the Trumpets, didn’t really cost them very much; but the two lepta of the widow cost her everything she had. The rich had probably calculated how much they could afford; she gave with a kind of reckless generosity which could give no more.

Giving does not begin to be real giving until it hurts. A gift shows our love only when we have had to do without something or have had to work doubly hard in order to give it. This was the point Christ was making.

24 November 2012

Christ the King


The King of the Universe, dragged before a minor earthly ruler, was asked the question, "Are you a king, then?" It was such a simple question, and yet so fertile. Just as a seed bursting with the beginning of life when it falls into good soil is able to produce a harvest beyond imagining, so Christ's answer to Pilate's question (if it had been met with some glimmer of grace, some hint of human charity) might have lifted the life of that petty potentate into the upper reaches of God's glory, when our Lord told him "My kingdom is not of this world..." But Pilate could not grasp that, and so instead has been immortalized with the phrase, "...suffered under Pontius Pilate..." which describes the death of the King he could never understand.

We, however, have been given to know that kingdom "not of this world," and so have been spared the blindness which afflicted Pilate. In the cross we see a throne; in the thorns we see a crown; in the wounded side we see a gateway to Christ's eternal kingdom.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in thy well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Holy Martyrs of Vietnam

The Martyrs of Vietnam consist of 117 who died for the Faith. Although the martyrdoms did not take place at the same time, they were all canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 19, 1988.

Within this group, 96 were Vietnamese, 11 were Spaniards, and 10 were French. There were 8 bishops, 50 priests and 59 lay Catholics. Certain individual martyrs were mentioned by name in the process of canonization: Andrew Dung-Lac, a diocesan priest; Thomas Tran-Van-Thien, a seminarian; Emmanuel Le-Van-Pung, the father of a family; Jerome Hermosilla and Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, both bishops; and John Theophane Venard.
O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his Companions, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 November 2012

Thanksgiving Day Prayer


Almighty and gracious Father, we give thee thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

20 November 2012

Presentation of Mary in the Temple


St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had prayed for a child, and part of their prayer was the promise that they would dedicate their child to the service of God. Little did they know at that time what great service would be given by their infant daughter.

When Mary reached the age of three, her parents fulfilled their vow. Together with their family and friends, they took her to the Temple. The High Priest and other Temple priests greeted the procession, and tradition says that the child was brought before the fifteen high steps which led to the sanctuary. It is said that the child Mary made her way to the stairs and, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, ascended all fifteen steps, coming to the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. Tradition then says that the High Priest, acting outside every rule he knew, led the Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, astonishing everyone present in the Temple. So it was that she, whose own womb would become the Holy of Holies, came into the presence of the God Whom she would bear.

St. Joachim and St. Anne returned to their home, but the Handmaid of the Lord remained in the Temple until her espousal, where she was prepared by God and protected by angels.

O God, who on this day didst vouchsafe that blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost, should be presented in the Temple: Grant, we beseech thee; that by her intercession we may be found worthy to be presented unto thee in the temple of thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 November 2012

Reprint of an old piece...


I wrote this several years ago, but someone asked about it the other day, so I dug around and found it. Here it is -- it's called "God, a Book and a Boy."

I grew up on a farm in Connecticut. It wasn’t like one of those high-class places in the movies. No pristine white rail fences, just plain old barbed wire to keep the livestock off the road. The house had sections which pre-dated the American Revolution, but it couldn’t have passed as elegant. It was just comfortable, as well-used farm houses are comfortable.

We shared it with my grandparents. Families used to do that sort of thing. They lived in one part, and we had ours. Visiting them was as easy as walking through a door from our front room into their kitchen, and it was a route I knew well as a child.

In my grandparents' part of the house there was what was known as the back room, which had been a bedroom when my father was growing up. The reason for its demotion from bedroom to back room was evident: its location in the northeast corner of the house gave it little protection from howling winter winds, and since insulation was nearly unknown when the house was built, it was pretty darned cold in there. Certainly no place someone would want for a bedroom, if it could be helped.

Its changed status meant that it became a repository for everything that had no other place to be put. It became my treasure-trove. Old pictures, Nana’s unwanted knick-knacks, boxes with forgotten contents, all of it found its final resting place in there.

There were two things in the back room that I came close to coveting. One was an oval-shaped bas-relief carving of the Descent of Christ from the Cross. How such a thing found its way into the possession of a protestant family, I’ll never know. But I loved it, and when I asked my grandmother if I could have it, for some reason she told me that if I was ever ordained I could claim it. I was, and I did, and it hangs in my rectory to this day. The second thing was a book, a very particular book which had belonged to my English great-grandmother, who had been staunchly Anglican. It was a combined Book of Common Prayer (1662 edition) and the Holy Bible (King James Version), and although my family subsequently wandered off into Methodism, they had kept this book because it had been Nana’s. Its leather binding was cracked, but not badly. There was an ornate brass cross attached to its front cover. I wanted it very much, and it was given to me. So began my love affair with the formality of Anglican prayers and with the Holy Scriptures.

It seems odd that a ten year old boy would be able to find something of God within cracked leather and yellowed pages, but I did. It was as close as I had to a Real Presence, and my inability to understand all the words emphasized the Mystery I was seeking. There would seem to be little use for “A Table to Find Easter-Day; From the Present Time till the Year 2199 Inclusive,” or for “Forms of Prayer for the Anniversary of the day of the Accession of the Reigning Sovereign,” or even for “A Table of Kindred and Affinity,” although it was fascinating to learn that one’s mother's father's wife may not marry her mother's mother's husband. But for the rest of it, these were my first faltering steps towards Catholic beauty, Catholic order, Catholic truth.

The prayers did it for me. And the words of the Scriptures. I would speak them sotto voce in my room, just because the words sounded so beautiful, even to my ignorant ears. I suppose, by most external points of reference, it was an odd thing for a child to do. Certainly, I had plenty of friends, activities at school, involvement in the local church, duties at home. But my soul had a hungry corner that would not stop its demands until it was satisfied. I had never heard Augustine’s words about the restless heart, but I surely knew what he meant.

One of the wonders of the Catholic faith is that it reaches into such unexpected places and in such extraordinary ways to draw the unsuspecting to itself. Indeed, this is its catholicity. It feeds both farm boy and pope.

18 November 2012

Dedication of St. Peter & St. Paul


Almighty and eternal Father, who out of the living stones of thy chosen people hast made a temple meet for thy glory; Multiply, we beseech thee, thy blessings upon the Church, that thy faithful people may draw ever closer to the new and heavenly Jerusalem; 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.

17 November 2012

Submission? You bet!


Each year a large number of Anglicans make the journey into the full communion of the Catholic Church through our parish. In fact, a husband and wife were received yesterday, and at this time there are several more receiving instruction.

Every once in a while I’ll hear from clergy serving in any of the several local Anglican communities. Sometimes they’re interested in becoming Catholic; more often they’re interested in debating. Obviously they don’t want to lose people from their communities, so I don’t blame them for trying to make their case. Some of them see no need to “become Catholic” because they’re quite certain they already have everything necessary for being Catholic. They would entertain the idea of “being in communion with Rome,” as long as it didn’t involve having to believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. In fact, many of them would hold that those Anglicans who intend to become Roman Catholics have sold their souls – to what or to whom, I’m not certain – and words like “capitulation” and “submission” are used fairly often.

I always end up agreeing with them on that point. Becoming a Catholic does require capitulation and submission – to God, that is. It was, after all, God’s idea that the Church be one. It was God’s idea that St. Peter should be the Rock on which His Church would be built. It was God who said, “This is my Body,” and “This is the chalice of my Blood.” It’s all there in the Gospel, from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Himself, so why wouldn’t we take those statements as true? In fact, it was God’s idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be preserved from the stain of original sin so that the flesh He took would be unblemished by sin. And since sin results in death, it’s logical that she who was conceived in the extraordinary situation of original purity should not undergo the ordinary circumstances of death. Likewise, it was God who said that those whom He had joined together, “let not man put asunder.” He also said, “Thou shalt do no murder,” and surely He intended the commandment to be applied to the innocent unborn. These things, and more, are part of the revealed Catholic faith. Who wouldn’t want to submit to such obvious truths?

And I have to ask those who warn against capitulation and submission to these and other matters of faith…what are they offering? Some “pure” form of Anglicanism? Catholicism divorced from the Petrine office established by Christ? A pick-and-choose form of Christianity tailor-made for personal tastes? Actually, that doesn't seem to be working out so well. Pride doesn’t make for a stable foundation, and the private judgement of what’s true doesn’t make very reliable glue.

When he was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey spoke of the “provisional” nature of Anglicanism. In 1989, then-Archbishop Robert Runcie was addressing the North American Conference of Cathedral Deans when he said, “Our vocation as Anglicans is to put ourselves out of business.” Entering into full Catholic communion through the Pastoral Provision or the Ordinariate isn’t so much a matter of going out of business; rather, it’s moving the best treasures to a safe location, where the roof doesn’t leak and the walls aren’t crumbling.

16 November 2012

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth lived in the 13th century, and she was a princess, the daughter of the King of Hungary. She married the young man she had loved for as long as she could remember, Ludwig of Thuringia, and their life together was blessed with three children. St. Elizabeth took seriously her duties as wife and mother, and because of her deep love for Christ, she took seriously also her duty toward the poor. She embraced the words of our Lord, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done it to me.” She put herself at the service of widows and orphans, she cared for the sick and the needy. Her life was really an expression of her deep love – love for God, love for her husband and children, and love for those who had no one else to love them. Hers was a very beautiful life, and no doubt she would have liked it to go on like that forever.

But sometimes, things can change dramatically – we might not understand why, but it’s always for God’s purpose. St. Elizabeth experienced an especially painful change in her life when her husband, whom she so deeply loved, went off to the Crusades, and there he was killed. Elizabeth was devastated – and not only was she sorrowing for the death of her husband, but her husband’s family, who never approved of her charitable works, cast her and her children out of the family home, and left her with no means of support.

Here was Elizabeth, a princess and the widow of a nobleman, reduced to poverty, wandering with her children for a place to live, until a poor man whom she had helped previously was able to offer her shelter in an abandoned pig sty. Her faith sustained her – not only was she not bitter, but she put in even more effort to caring for the poor, with a renewed feeling for them, since she and her children were now counted among them. She supported herself and her children, as well as her works of charity, by spinning wool and making cloth to sell. She exhausted herself, and was only 24 years old when she died. Her feast day is November 16th.

Almighty God, by whose grace thy servant St. Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honoured Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

15 November 2012

St. Margaret of Scotland


St. Margaret lived in the 11th century, and she was the great-niece of St. Edward the Confessor. She was a Saxon princess, but she was raised in Hungary in exile. Eventually, she and her parents returned to England, but she was forced flee once again after the Battle of Hastings. She went to the court of Malcolm, who was the King of Scotland.

Malcolm was an unrefined man, and Scotland was a wild place – but Margaret and Malcolm fell in love, and they were married. Margaret, in her gentle way and through her exemplary life, lived her Catholic faith in such a way that Malcolm and the people of Scotland gradually changed their ways to be more conformed to Christ’s teaching.

Margaret was a model mother and queen who brought up her eight children in an atmosphere of great devotion and she continued worked hard to improve the lives of the people of Scotland. She had a particular love for the poor, and provided for them out of her own resources, very often serving them herself.
O God, who didst call thy servant St. Margaret of Scotland to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give her zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation


Over the years of his ministry, a priest hears many thousands of confessions. It is one of his great privileges, to pronounce the words of absolution which free a penitent from those chains which have bound him. There is perhaps no other time that the priest feels so deeply the sense of that fatherhood which gives him his title.

A child of God speaks the words, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned…” and in the quiet of the confessional the power of Christ is stirred for the renewal of the soul. That which was broken is healed. What was so heavy is lifted. It is its own magnum mysterium as new birth is once more imparted to the penitent. The Divine hears through the human ear. The fruits of Calvary are applied, and it is as though the waters of baptism flow once again over the sullied soul.

In the confessional we are made young again. Just as a child is brought to the font to be cleansed of the stain of original sin, so in the confessional the soul is presented to our Lord for Him to do His work of forgiveness. And when it is done, those happy words: “Go in peace, for the Lord has taken away your sins.”

The Doctrine of Papal Infallibility


Amongst the Catholic doctrines most troublesome to many Protestants (and many Orthodox, too) is that of papal infallibility. Perhaps it conjures up visions of flabella and the sedia gestatoria, or a not-so-subtle Vatican form of mind control, or even an abuse of our valued freedom of conscience.

Actually, it’s a rather straightforward sign of God’s love for His Church.

First of all, papal infallibility is not to be confused with impeccability. Most people understand this, but there are some who think Catholics are supposed to believe that the Pope cannot sin. Infallibility has nothing to do with the absence of sin. It’s a charism – a gift – which God imparts. Although it is rightly referred to as “papal infallibility," nonetheless it is something shared with the whole body of Catholic bishops. Although they do not have this charism individually, they do exercise the gift when they teach in doctrinal unity with the Successor of St. Peter. This is defined in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith.

Despite the myths held by some, the Pope doesn’t wake up in the morning and think to himself, “I think I shall proclaim something infallibly today,” nor are Catholics inhabitants of an ecclesiastical Wonderland in which they are required to believe “six impossible things before breakfast.”

So what is papal infallibility? It is defined in the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4, n. 9:
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

This was confirmed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.

The doctrine of papal infallibility did not abruptly appear in the 19th century. It was found implicitly from the earliest days of the Church, and indeed has its foundation in Holy Scripture itself. In St. John’s Gospel (21:15-17) Christ makes it clear to St. Peter that he, Peter, is to tend the flock and feed the sheep; in St. Luke’s Gospel (22:32) our Lord tells Peter that He will pray for him, so that his faith will not fail, and for him to strengthen the other apostles; in St. Matthew’s Gospel (16:18) Christ proclaims Peter to be the Rock on which He would build His Church.

The Church, founded by our divine Saviour, was commanded by Him to teach everything that He had revealed to His apostles (St. Matthew 28:20), and He promised them that they would be guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (St. John 16:13). As the teaching authority of the Church, along with the primacy of St. Peter and his successors, was more and more comprehended, there came a clearer understanding of the protection God provides through the gift of infallibility. From the scriptural testimony, on through such witnesses as St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Augustine of Hippo, it is clear the Church has always understood that God reveals and safeguards His truth through this charism.

There is an erroneous idea that a formal statement of infallible truth marks the occasion when the Church only began to teach a particular doctrine – in other words, that belief in papal infallibility began in only in 1870. However, infallible pronouncements are usually made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics, and so have never required a formal and infallible statement. We see this even with a cursory reading of the Catechism, where most of the doctrines outlined in its pages require no corresponding papal document to confirm what is simply part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.

If we scratch the surface of most arguments against the doctrine of papal infallibility, we will often find that there is confusion between infallibility and impeccability (“look at the sinful popes in history”), along with an independent streak of protestantism (“no one is going to tell me what I have to believe”). I find it to be both amazing and amusing, that those who are most vociferous against papal infallibility present their arguments with a certitude which could only be described as infallible.

It takes no great leap of faith to accept the fact that the God who created the universe and raises the dead, would also ensure that His children are given the truth. That He protects His Vicar on earth from solemnly defining something as true, if it’s really false, not only harmonizes with Scripture, but it is reflected in the unbroken history of the Church. We should derive great comfort from the doctrine of infallibility, because it’s a beautiful act of God’s divine love.

14 November 2012

St. Albert the Great


The life of St. Albert covered almost all of the 13th century. His father was a very wealthy German nobleman, and Albert was able to receive an excellent education at the best universities of his day. He was a philosopher, a bishop, a prolific writer, and one of the most influential scientists of the Middle Ages. We all know the phrase, “a know-it-all” – but St. Albert really was, and in the best sense. He was able to compile a complete system of all the knowledge of his day. The subjects he encompassed included astronomy, mathematics, economics, logic, rhetoric, ethics, politics, metaphysics and all branches of natural science. It would take him more than 20 years to complete this phenomenal presentation.

St. Albert taught that there was no discrepancy between theology and science; rather, they were simply different aspects of a harmonious whole. Among his most important contributions to the development of scientific thought in the Middle Ages was helping the scholarly community to recognize the value of Aristotle’s philosophy, and he had as one of his chief students, St. Thomas Aquinas. It was Thomas who carried St. Albert’s teaching out to its logical conclusions.

St. Albert is the only scholar of his time to have earned the title "Great" -- a title that was applied to him even during his lifetime.
O God, who gavest grace unto blessed Albert, thy bishop and doctor, to become great because of his subjection of this world’s wisdom to a childlike faith in thee: Grant us, we beseech thee, in such wise to follow his doctrine that finally we may enjoy the fullness of thy light in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

13 November 2012

Crusader Bulletin Online


The latest issue of the Crusader Bulletin is online, with information about the King's Fair, academics, sports, the upcoming Gala, and all sorts of other items of interest.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized. She was a naturalized citizen, having been born in Italy. Her parents were simple farmers, used to hard work and little money, but always ready to welcome another child. In fact, St. Frances was the thirteenth child, and her mother was fifty-two years old when she was born. It was a devout Catholic family in which she was raised, and at night after the day’s work was done, the children would listen to their father read them stories of the saints. Young Frances was especially fascinated by the saints who went on missions to foreign countries.

St. Frances had a great desire to help others, and after she finished school she assisted in the local parish by teaching catechism, and visiting the sick and the poor. She also taught school, and supervised the running of an orphanage, where she was assisted by a group of young women. Their work became so well-known that the bishop in a neighboring diocese heard of their work, and he asked Frances to establish a missionary institute to work in the area of education. Frances did as the bishop requested, and she called this new community the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. They opened an academy for girls, and before long the work spread with the establishment of new houses.

One day Frances was contacted by Bishop Scalabrini, an Italian bishop who had a great concern for the many immigrants who were leaving Italy for a new life in the United States. It was not easy for these immigrants, and upon their arrival in America they would endure tremendous hardships, and were not being given adequate spiritual care. As Bishop Scalabrini described the situation to Frances, she was very moved by what he said, but it did not occur to her that she might have a part in the solution. It was not until she had an audience with Pope Leo XIII about the future of her religious foundation that she changed her plans. It was her intention to receive papal permission to go to the missions of the orient, but the Holy Father had another suggestion. “Not to the East, but go to the West,” he said to her. “Go to America.”

Now known as Mother Cabrini, she had no hesitation when she heard the Pope’s words. To America she went, and she landed in New York in 1889, immediately establishing an orphanage, and then set about her life’s work – that of seeing a need, and then working for a solution. She built schools, places for child care, medical clinics, orphanages, and homes for abandoned babies. The poor had no place to go when they became seriously ill, so she built a number of hospitals for the needy. At the time of her death, there were more than five thousand children receiving care in the various institutions she built, and her religious community had grown to five hundred members in seventy houses throughout North and South America, France, Spain, and England.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was a frail woman, of a very small stature, but she amazed others with her energy and imagination. She was constantly traveling, sailing the Atlantic twenty-five times to visit her various religious houses and institutions. It was in 1909 that she adopted the United States as her country and formally became a citizen.

As she reached the end of her life, she had given thirty-seven years to the works of charity she loved so much. In her final illness she was admitted to a hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She died while making dolls to be given to orphans at an upcoming Christmas party, her last activity a simple act of charity. Mother Cabrini was beatified in 1938, and canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XI.

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. Frances Xavier Cabrini, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with her 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.

12 November 2012

St. Josaphat, Martyr for Unity

St. Josaphat was born about the year 1580 in what was the Polish province of Lithuania and was raised as an Eastern Rite Catholic. He had a deep devotion to the suffering of Christ, and looked at the schism between East and West as a wound in the Church as the Sacred Body of our Lord. As a young man in his mid-twenties he entered religious life, joining the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (known as the Basilians), and as a monk he gave himself over to penance and mortification, going barefoot even in winter, and eating only the poorest food.

In 1618, after living as a monk for nearly fifteen years, he was appointed to be archbishop of the Eastern Rite Diocese of Polotzk, and he devoted his energies to work for the reunion of the Church, all the while deepening the faith of his people through his preaching and his example. There were those in the Orthodox Church, not in union with Rome, who were very much against his work towards unity, and a group of them decided he must be stopped, making plans to assassinate him. In fact, St. Josaphat knew there were many who did not want unity, and he knew his life was in danger; however, he pressed forward in his work to heal the rift between East and West.

One day when he was visiting part of his diocese in territory which is now in Russia, his enemies made an attack on the place where he was staying, and many of those who were traveling with St. Josaphat were killed. Quietly and with humility, St. Josaphat went toward the attackers and asked them why they had done such a thing, saying to them, “If you have something against me, see, here I am.” The crowd screamed at him saying, “Kill the papist!” They ran towards him with their weapons, killing him with an axe-blow to his head.

St. Josaphat's body was thrown into the river, but it remained on the surface of the water, surrounded by rays of light, and was recovered. Those who had murdered him, when they were sentenced to death, repented of what they had done. Through the gentle example of St. Josaphat and helped by his heavenly intercession, through the grace of God they became Catholics.
Raise up, O Lord, we pray thee, in thy Church the Spirit whereby Saint Josaphat thy martyr and bishop laid down his life for the sheep: That by his intercession, we, being moved and strengthened by the same, may not fear to lay down our lives for our brethren; 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.

11 November 2012

St. Martin of Tours, Soldier & Bishop


Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant St. Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Protect all those in military service, and with them give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we all may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

10 November 2012

Pope St. Leo the Great


Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:
Leo I, Pope and Doctor of the Church, ruled from 440 to 461. He is surnamed "the Great" and ranks among the most illustrious sovereigns that ever sat on the throne of St. Peter. Of his life, we know little; with him the man seems to disappear before the Pope. He saw most clearly that one of his greatest tasks was to vindicate the primacy of the Roman bishop, St. Peter's successor, and to raise the prestige of the Holy See before the entire world. Hardly any Pope in history has occupied a like position in the ecclesiastical and political world.

As a writer, too, his name is famous. His sermons, which occur frequently in the Divine Office, belong to the finest and most profound in patristic literature. The Council of Chalcedon was held under his direction (451). The Breviary tells us: Leo I, an Etruscan, ruled the Church at the time when Attila, King of the Huns, who was called the Scourge of God, invaded Italy. After a siege of three years, he took, sacked and burned Aquileia, and then hurried on toward Rome. Inflamed with anger, his troops were already preparing to cross the Po, at the point where it is joined by the Mincio.

Here Attila was stopped by Leo (452). With God-given eloquence, the Pope persuaded him to turn back, and when the Hun was asked by his servants why, contrary to custom, he had so meekly yielded to the entreaties of a Roman bishop, he answered that he had been alarmed by a figure dressed like a priest that stood at Leo's side; this individual was holding a drawn sword and acted as if he would kill him if he advanced farther. As a result Attila retreated to Pannonia.

Meanwhile, Leo returned to Rome, and was received with universal rejoicing. Some time later, the Vandal Genseric entered the city, and again Leo, by the power of his eloquence and the authority of his holy life, persuaded him to desist from atrocity and slaughter (455).
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O Lord our God, grant that thy Church, following the teaching of thy servant St. Leo of Rome, may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption, and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man, neither divided from our human nature nor separate from thy divine Being; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

09 November 2012

Thoughts on the day's Gospel reading


The Gospel (St. John 2:13-22) appointed for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran puts before us the commanding figure of Jesus Christ striding into the great Temple in Jerusalem. He cleanses it, making a whip of cords and driving out the sellers of animals and the money-changers, overturning their tables and telling them, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” Christ did this, because those who were buying and selling within the temple of God were not doing it for the glory of God; they were not doing it for the worship of God or for the good of man; rather, it was for personal gain and for selfish reasons.

The Church teaches us that religion is more than just the vertical dimension of the spiritual life – it’s more that simply “God and me.” Ethics and morality must be the practical expression of a true and living faith. How we conduct ourselves in the marketplace reflects our relationship with God. Certain business practices may be legal but that doesn’t insure they are ethical. Certainly, making a profit isn’t condemned in Scripture, but accumulating great wealth by unjustly taking advantage of someone else is.

So, with the crack of a whip, Christ drove the money changers from the temple. And He did it not only because of the contempt that was being shown to the Temple – a place consecrated to God – but also because of the injustice being shown to the people who were there to worship the God in whose honor the Temple had been built. Christ was not kind and gentle that day.

When good people are faced with evil, it would seem that our Lord has given something of an example to follow. He did not limit himself to prayer or to talk; He also did something about it. “To everything there is a season,” the Scriptures tell us, and we can see that even in the life of Christ that there was a season to make a stand against evil by taking specific action.

It was necessary for Christ to drive the money-changers out of the temple because of the evil they had brought into the lives of honest people, and because of the dishonor those actions brought to the House of God. So it is necessary at times that evil must be faced squarely by taking positive action, so that the common good might be preserved. Sometimes, for the triumph of good, the whip must be cracked, and evil must be beaten back.

Whether it be civil leaders inflicting injustice on people; or whether it be those who steal the right to life from the unborn; or whether it be the unfaithful cleric who cheats people from knowing the fullness of the Gospel and worshipping according to the mind of the Church; or whether it be the gossip who destroys the reputation of another – we are called to stand up for the good, and against the evil.

The Gospel tells us that after Christ had cleansed the Temple, “his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for thy house will consume me...’” And so should zeal for the things of God consume us. Zeal is the business side of love, whether it be love of God or love of man. “Zeal,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “is the energy of love.” Zeal, as an ardent love of God, is to be shown in our lives as a desire to promote the love of God, to promote the worship of God, to promote the praise of God, to promote the glory of God. It is to be shown in our spiritual lives as we perform those Christian works of mercy and love that we have been taught by our Lord. And zeal, also, is to be shown in practical ways, as we accept our responsibility for the support and work of Christ’s Body the Church. This is one of the reasons we have places of beauty, consecrated to the glory of God – so that you and I can be inspired to be zealous for God and for the things of God; so that we can work for justice in this world; so that we can spread the truth of the Gospel by our words and our actions – and also, to give us a glimpse of the eternity of heaven.

06 November 2012

Pray for our nation...

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

05 November 2012

Adoration on election day...


Beginning at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, November 6th, and concluding at 6:00 p.m., the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for Adoration in the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

The Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration will be present throughout the day, and you are invited to join them in adoration at any time.

02 November 2012

St. Martin de Porres


St. Martin de Porres was born in very difficult circumstances. His mother was a woman who had been a slave, but now freed, and was of African background. His father was of Spanish nobility who was living in Peru. St. Martin’s parents were not married, but lived as common law man and wife, and they had two children, Martin and his sister. The children inherited the dark complexion and African features of their mother, and the father, who was cruel and shallow in his attitude towards race, left the family, and they were reduced to poverty. Because they were of mixed race, this meant that Martin and his sister were considered to be on the lowest level of Lima’s society.

When Martin was 12, his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. He learned how to cut hair and also how to give basic medical care, which was usual for barbers at that time. After a few years in this medical apostolate, St. Martin applied to the Dominicans to be a "lay helper," not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother. After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. Many of his nights were spent in prayer and penitential practices; his days were filled with nursing the sick and caring for the poor. He treated all people regardless of their color, race or status. He was instrumental in founding an orphanage, took care of slaves brought from Africa and managed the daily alms of the priory with practicality as well as generosity. He became the procurator for both priory and city, whether it was a matter of "blankets, shirts, candles, candy, miracles or prayers!" When his priory was in debt, he said, "I am only a poor mulatto. Sell me. I am the property of the order. Sell me."

Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, Martin's life reflected God's extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he prayed, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and a remarkable rapport with animals. His charity extended to beasts of the field and even to the vermin of the kitchen. He would excuse the raids of mice and rats on the grounds that they were underfed; he kept stray cats and dogs at his sister's house.

Many of his fellow religious took him as their spiritual director, but he continued to call himself a "poor slave." He was a good friend of another Dominican saint of Peru, Rose of Lima.
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. Martin de Porres, 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.

Some good advice...

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, there is a rubric in "The Order for the Visitation of the Sick" which says,
¶ The Minister is ordered, from time to time, to advise the People, whilst they are in health, to make Wills arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, and, when of ability, to leave Bequests for religious and charitable uses.
Consider yourself advised!

All Souls Day

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of thy Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as thy children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.