30 June 2013

Blessed Junipero Serra

Statue of Blessed Junipero Serra,
located in the National Statuary Hall,
Washington, D.C.

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Blessed Junipero Serra to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.:
In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

29 June 2013

Fifth Sunday after Trinity


O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

28 June 2013

Chapters In Our History: A Little Book

The little book which made a big difference

An important part of family life is the shared heritage, the common tradition, the collection of stories which form its history. It’s hard for me to let one of my children’s birthdays go by without telling the story of what we were doing on that day and what it was like when they were born. Sometimes I get a kind of good-natured rolling of the eyes because “here goes Dad with his stories again,” but I think there is something in us that needs to hear the stories which make up our past history It helps us to know who and what we are today.

I do the same thing from time to time at the parish. I tell the story about how Our Lady of the Atonement claimed us as her own children. Stories like that are an important part of every parish family, I think. To know how we as a community of the faithful came to be, is something which bears telling. It describes the living actions of the Living God Who claims us and calls us to holiness. It helps us to love the God Who set our feet upon the path which leads to Him.

Our own story began with a young Episcopal clergyman named Lewis Wattson who was born in 1863 and lived until 1940. Little did I know when I first heard of him many years ago that his willingness to seek and follow God’s Will for his life would have such a deep affect on my own life, for the life of my family, and for the lives of all who are part of our parish.

Lewis Wattson (who would come to be known as Fr. Paul of Graymoor) considered the separation of the Anglicans from the Catholic Church under the reign of King Henry VIII to be a matter of great sadness and tragedy. He wanted to do all he could to bring about the reunion of Christendom under the headship of the Successor of Peter, and he actively sought God’s guidance as to what he should do within his own ministry to accomplish this.

On July 9, 1893, after the morning service in the Episcopal Church where he was the rector, he knelt down before the altar in the empty church and opened the Scriptures three times. The first time the pages opened to the Gospel of St. John at the words spoken by Jesus when He taught that the Holy Spirit must spring up in those who believe, like a well of Living Water. The second time the pages opened in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, where he wrote, “We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the Atonement.” The third time the pages opened at St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, where the institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is recounted.

The young cleric made a notation of these passages. He took them as being God’s guidance to him for the foundation of the work which was to be his. He felt that God was calling him to found a religious community. First of all, it would have the Holy Spirit as its inspiration and guide, with the Living Water as its sustenance. Second, the doctrine he was to preach was to be the “atonement,” the reconciliation of man with God accomplished by Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Third, the central means of grace by which Christ’s atoning work on the cross was accomplished is made a reality through the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the same time, God gave him the feeling that this would not be accomplished immediately, but that some years would need to pass before it would become a reality.

Fr. Paul finished his time at St. John’s and was called to a new mission in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was attached to the Episcopal parish of St. Barnabas. He was successful in his work there, and then God made it clear that the time had come. He was to return to the east and take up the foundation of this new work which was to be based upon those passages of Scripture which had been revealed to him. He was to found a new Franciscan community within the Episcopal Church, and he was to do it with a holy woman named Lurana White.

It was on July 4, 1898 that Fr. Paul wrote (still as an Episcopalian clergyman), “I believe in the universal jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff as the Successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” So his path was set. He and Mother Lurana founded their Community within the Episcopal Church, and based it upon the truth they had come to know, until finally they and their fellow Atonement Franciscans were received into the Catholic Church on October 30, 1909. He had travelled from St. John’s Church to St. Barnabas’ Church and then finally to a remote hilltop in New York State where he and his community made their final home and brought with them the unique title by which they knew the Blessed Virgin, that title which God had entwined with the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, the title which recalled Mary standing beneath that Cross, the title of Our Lady of the Atonement.

I knew nothing of this story when my family and I returned to the United States in 1978 after living in England for five years. It was there that I had completed my theological studies and I had been ordained and had served as an Anglican clergyman. Upon our return my path was mysteriously united with the path of Fr. Paul in ways I was not even aware.

The Episcopal parish to which I had been called was another St. Barnabas Church. It was there that I found a book which had been left by one of my predecessors, a book entitled “Our Lady and Reunion” which was one of the very few books in existence which was exclusively about Our Lady of the Atonement. I had never heard this title of Mary before, and I was tempted to discard the book because I thought it was nothing which would interest me. But for some reason I just couldn’t throw it away. So it remained on my book shelf, where I would look at it from time to time. The picture of Our Lady of the Atonement in that little book developed a stronger and stronger hold on me, and like Fr. Paul, while I was at St. Barnabas I began to realize that my spiritual journey was leading my family and myself to the Catholic Church.

But how? My vocation was to the priesthood, but that wasn’t possible at the time. As a married man I was excluded from Catholic ordination. Then one day in 1980 the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, announced that he was establishing a Pastoral Provision for individuals just as myself, married Episcopal clergy with a vocation to Catholic priesthood. So the door was opened. And another move was in store. Just as Fr. Paul moved from his St. John’s Church to another St. Barnabas Church as part of his discernment for the doing of God’s Will, so I was called to move from St. Barnabas Church to another Episcopal church called St. John’s where I could more easily discern what God had in store. He made His Will clear quite quickly. My family and I were to move to Texas where God would reveal what it was He wanted me to do. So it was that we arrived in January of 1982 and set about building upon the foundation which would result in the establishment of a parish which had already been formed in the eternal mind of Almighty God.

The little book about Our Lady of the Atonement was one of the first volumes I unpacked and placed on the bookshelves of that first small house on the northeast side of San Antonio which we called the Rectory, where I shared my office with the washer and dryer and an old manual typewriter. I made a promise to God that if He would allow my ordination as a Catholic priest to take place, and if He inspired the archbishop to establish a parish for those faithful people here in San Antonio who also were seeking entrance into the Catholic Church, then we would ask permission to erect the parish under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. God made good on His side of the bargain. On August 15, 1983 I was ordained as a Catholic priest, and our parish was canonically erected under the patronage of Our Lady of the Atonement.

That was thirty years ago. At that time ours was a tiny and optimistic group of eighteen people worshipping in a rented church with an unknown future. Today we are part of a strong and growing parish with an excellent school, a community of Catholics from a great variety of backgrounds with a reputation which is known far beyond our archdiocesan boundaries. Is it something we did ourselves? No, obviously not. God did it, just as God worked in the lives of Fr. Paul and Mother Lurana to accomplish His divine Will. And we, as they, have lived and continue to live in the power of those Scriptures revealed to Fr. Paul so long ago, teaching us that we have no power, no “Living Water” save that of the Holy Spirit; that we have one truth to proclaim, and that is the truth of the atonement of man with God through the work of Jesus upon the Cross; and that the fruit of this work is made a reality through the Holy Sacrifice which is offered upon the Altar. And overarching it all is the heavenly assistance which we know is ours; namely, the intercession of our Blessed Mother, known to us under her mysteriously beautiful title of Our Lady of the Atonement.

Novena to Our Lady of the Atonement


The Novena to Our Lady of the Atonement

To take part in the Novena:

On each day, if possible, assist at Holy Mass, and go to Confession and Communion at least once during the Novena. The following prayers are recommended to be said daily:

ONE DECADE OF THE ROSARY
(One Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory be.)

MEMORARE OF ST. BERNARD
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

THE THREE-FOLD SALUTATION

We salute thee, Holy Mary, Daughter of God the Father, and entreat thee to obtain for us a devotion like thine own to the most sweet Will of God.

We salute thee, Virgin Mother of God the Son, and entreat thee to obtain for us such union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that our own hearts may burn with love for God and an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls.

We salute thee, Immaculate Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, and entreat thee to obtain for us such yielding of ourselves to the Blessed Spirit, that He may, in all things, direct and rule our hearts, and that we may never grieve Him in thought, word, or deed.

THE LITANY
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven,
have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy upon us.

Our Lady of the Atonement, Daughter of God the Father, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of God the Son, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, standing by the Cross, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, given to us as a Mother, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, our Mediatrix, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, firm Hope, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, sure Refuge, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Divine Love, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Shepherdess of the wandering sheep, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, pillar of Unity, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Conversions, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of the outcast, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Star of the pagans, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of missionaries, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother most sorrowful, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Lily of Israel, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Model of resignation, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Haven of peace, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Comfort of the afflicted, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Guide of the doubtful, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Welcomer of the pilgrims, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Handmaid of the Father, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mirror of the Son, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Precious Blood, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, true Model, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, strong Protectress, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, hailed by the Archangel Gabriel, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Splendor of Heaven, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Delight of the Saints, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Strength of the weak, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Comfort of the dying, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, triumphant with Jesus, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Universe, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Children of the Atonement, pray for us.


Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
Pray for us, O Blessed Mother;
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. O God, who didst deign that we, thy children, shouldst invoke our Mother Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement; grant that through her powerful intercession we may obtain the fullness of thy blessings; through thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

27 June 2013

St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr


St. Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor, probably around the year 125. It is not known when he came to Gaul. He was a priest of the Church of Lyons during the persecution of 177 when St. Pothinus, first bishop of the city and the first martyr of Lyons, was put to death. Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop and twenty-five years later was martyred in his turn during a fresh persecution.

As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus, thy Martyr and Bishop, grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to establish thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest give thy people constancy in thy true religion; and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; 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.

26 June 2013

St. Cyril of Alexandria


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

St. Cyril is one of the great Greek fathers of the Church. He was chosen by divine Providence to be the shield and champion of the Church against Nestorius, who denied the unity of person in Christ. If this heresy had succeeded, Mary would not be called the Mother of God.

Excepting Sts. Athanasius and Augustine, his equal as a defender of orthodoxy, can hardly be found in the Church's history. His greatest achievement was the successful direction of the ecumenical council at Ephesus (431), of which he was the soul (Pope Celestine had appointed him papal legate). In this council two important dogmas were defined – that there is but one person in Christ, and that Mary (in the literal sense of the word) can be called the Mother of God (Theotokos). His successful defense of the latter doctrine is his greatest title to honor.

His writings show such depth and clarity that the Greeks called him the "seal of the fathers." He died in 444 A.D., after having been bishop for thirty-two years.

O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; through the same 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.

The arrival of the Great Rood


One of the striking features when entering our church is the almost life-sized crucifix (in earlier English usage, known as the "rood") surmounting the rood screen. It marks the boundary between the nave and the sanctuary. How it came to be here is a story which must be passed along as something which should be remembered.

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

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

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

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

24 June 2013

Receiving a beautiful name...


I remember that day in 1983 when I was summoned to the archbishop’s office. Now, getting a call from one's archbishop is not something priests especially look forward to – but this time was the exception. Word had been received from Rome; the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, after lengthy prayer, had made the decision to give his permission for my ordination, and the archbishop called me in to give me that wonderful news, and to set the date. I went to what was the old chancery office, where Archbishop Flores and I set the dates: August 7th was the day when I would be made Deacon; August 15th to be ordained as Priest. And then he said, “We’ll be formally erecting the parish on August 15th, too. Have you thought about what it will be named?"

Actually, I had thought about it, and I’d prayed about it, and I was a little hesitant about suggesting it, because there wasn’t another parish in the whole country dedicated under the name I was hoping for. The little group of us (eighteen people altogether, counting the children) who would comprise the founding families of this parish knew we wanted a title associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary – and there was only one name that would be suitable, as far as we were concerned. It’s a title of Mary which originated in Anglicanism – the same origin to which all of us who were founding the parish traced our spiritual roots.

The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, who had formed the Society of the Atonement in the Episcopal Church, entered into full Catholic communion in 1909, and brought with them the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary which had become so dear to them. And now it was our turn – so with a tentative tone, I asked the archbishop, “Could we be dedicated to Our Lady of the Atonement?” The look on his face told me that he wasn’t familiar with the title, but his immediate answer was, “Yes.”

I just knew it would be – after all, I was there, making the request on July 8th, the eve of the Feast of that title. And that’s how we came to be dedicated to the Lady with the red mantle, who holds in her arms the Divine Infant, who in turn holds out to us His cross.  Our Lady of the Atonement was now, truly, our Mother.

Benedictus Dominus Deus


The Benedictus is the canticle of thanksgiving spoken by Zechariah on the occasion of the birth of his son, John the Baptist, and recorded by St. Luke in the first chapter of his Gospel (vv. 68-79).

It is composed of two parts, the first section being a thanksgiving for the fulfillment of the Jewish hope for the coming of the Messiah. The time of their long-awaited deliverance was here, and it was the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham.  It meant that God's people would be able to "serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness."

The second part of the canticle is addressed by Zechariah to his own son, John, who was to have an important a part in the redemption of mankind. He was to be a prophet.  He would preach repentance, and would "go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways."

The Benedictus Dominus Deus is found in The Book of Divine Worship as one of the canticles in Morning Prayer.

BLESSED be the Lord God of Israel; * for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, * in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, * which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies, * and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, * and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, * that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies * might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him, * all the days of our life.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: * for thou shalt go. before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people * for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist


Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant St. John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

23 June 2013

Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, and Mildred

The parishes of the Anglican Use were granted permission to celebrate certain saints not found on the universal calendar of the Catholic Church.  One of the days set apart for this is June 23rd, when we keep the feast day of Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, Mildred and All Holy Nuns.  I've linked information to the names of these three amazing women, each of whom had great influence on the Church in Britain.  The phrase "All Holy Nuns" includes all the great Religious women throughout the British Isles, known and unknown, who have given witness to Christ.









21 June 2013

St. John Fisher & St. Thomas More


Two great heroes of the English Church, forever linked together, are St. John Fisher (1469-1535) and St. Thomas More(1478-1535). Standing for the apostolic dignity of the Church as against secular attempts to undermine its rightful authority, these two shed their blood for their consciences' sake, out of love for Jesus Christ.

We are fortunate to have a lengthy description of St. Thomas More, written by his good friend Erasmus, in letter dated 1519:
You ask me to paint you a full-length portrait of More as in a picture. Would that I could do it as perfectly as you eagerly desire it. At least I will try to give a sketch of the man, as well as from my long familiarity with him I have either observed or can now recall. To begin, then, with what is least known to you, in stature he is not tall, though not remarkably short. His limbs are formed with such perfect symmetry as to leave nothing to be desired. His complexion is white, his face fair rather than pale, and though by no means ruddy, a faint flush of pink appears beneath the whiteness of his skin. His hair is dark brown, or brownish black. The eyes are grayish The eyes are grayish blue, with some spots, a kind which betokens singular talent, and among the English is considered attractive, whereas Germans generally prefer black. It is said that none are so free from vice.

His countenance is in harmony with his character, being always expressive of an amiable joyousness, and even an incipient laughter, and, to speak candidly, it is better framed for gladness than for gravity and dignity, though without any approach to folly or buffoonery. The right shoulder is a little higher than the left, especially when he walks. This is not a defect of birth, but the result of habit, such as we often contract. In the rest of his person there is nothing to offend. His hands are the least refined part of his body.

He was from his boyhood always most careless about whatever concerned his body. His youthful beauty may be guessed from what still remains, though I knew him when be was not more than three-and-twenty. Even now he is not much over forty. He has good health, though not robust; able to endure all honourable toil, and subject to very few diseases. He seems to promise a long life, as his father still survives in a wonderfully green old age.

I never saw anyone so indifferent about food. Until he was a young man he delighted in drinking water, but that was natural to him (id illi patrium fuit). Yet not to seem singular or morose, he would hide his temperance from his guests by drinking out of a pewter vessel beer almost as light as water, or often pure water. It is the custom in England to pledge each other in drinking wine. In doing so he will merely touch it with his lips, not to seem to dislike it, or to fall in with the custom. He likes to eat corned beef and coarse bread much leavened, rather than what most people count delicacies. Otherwise he has no aversion to what gives harmless pleasure to the body. He prefers milk diet and fruits, and is especially fond of eggs.

His voice is neither loud nor very weak, but penetrating; not resounding or soft, but that of a clear speaker. Though he delights in every kind of music he has no vocal talents. He speaks with great clearness and perfect articulation, without rapidity or hesitation. He likes a simple dress, using neither silk nor purple nor gold chain, except when it may not be omitted. It is wonderful how negligent he is as regards all the ceremonious forms in which most men make politeness to consist. He does not require them from others, nor is he anxious to use them himself, at interviews or banquets, though he is not unacquainted with them when necessary. But he thinks it unmanly to spend much time in such trifles. Formerly he was most averse to the frequentation of the court, for he has a great hatred of constraint (tyrannis) and loves equality. Not without much trouble he was drawn into the court of Henry VIII., though nothing more gentle and modest than that prince can be desired. By nature More is chary of his liberty and of ease, yet, though he enjoys ease, no one is more alert or patient when duty requires it.

He seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most faithful and enduring friend. He is easy of access to all; but if he chances to get familiar with one whose vices admit no correction, he manages to loosen and let go the intimacy rather than to break it off suddenly. When he finds any sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life. He abhors games of tennis, dice, cards, and the like, by which most gentlemen kill time. Though he is rather too negligent of his own interests, no one is more diligent in those of his friends. In a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no one better than in More. In society he is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one is of so melancholy a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there is no misfortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature; yet he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like biting pleasantries. When a youth he both wrote and acted some small comedies. If a retort is made against himself, even without ground, he likes it from the pleasure he finds in witty repartees. Hence he amused himself with composing epigrams when a young man, and enjoyed Lucian above all writers. Indeed, it was he who pushed me to write the "Praise of Folly," that is to say, he made a camel frisk.

In human affairs there is nothing from which he does not extract enjoyment, even from things that are most serious. If he converses with the learned and judicious, he delights in their talent; if with the ignorant and foolish, he enjoys their stupidity. He is not even offended by professional jesters. With a wonderful dexterity he accommodates himself to every disposition. As a rule, in talking with women, even with his own wife, he is full of jokes and banter.

No one is less led by the opinions of the crowd, yet no one departs less from common sense. One of his great delights is to consider the forms, the habits, and the instincts of different kinds of animals. There is hardly a species of bird that he does not keep in his house, and rare animals such as monkeys, foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like. If he meets with anything foreign, or in any way remarkable, he eagerly buys it, so that his house is full of such things, and at every turn they attract the eye of visitors, and his own pleasure is renewed whenever he sees others pleased.

There is no similar description of the godly bishop, St. John Fisher; however, in his correspondence, St. Thomas More wrote these words about him:
"I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him."

O God, who didst raise up amongst the English people thy blessed Martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More in defense of the faith and in witness to the dignity of Apostolic Authority: grant by their merits and prayers; that in the profession of one faith we may all be made one in Christ, and in Him continue to be at one with one another. Through the same 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.

20 June 2013

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


The time and place where Aloysius Gonzaga grew up — 16th-century Italy — is not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a kill-joy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left.

Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself.

Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a program he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director — St. Robert Bellarmine — to guide him.

Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervor was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint.

To his credit, Aloysius recognized that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, "I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight."

Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old.

In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St. Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace.

- Excerpted from Saints for Every Occasion, Thomas J. Craughwell

O God, the giver of all spiritual gifts, who in the angelic youth of thy blessed Saint Aloysius didst unite a wondrous penitence to a wondrous innocence of life; grant by his merits and intercession; that although we have not followed the pattern of his innocence, yet we may imitate the example of his penitence; 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.

Going into "nostalgia mode"

As we're approaching the thirtieth anniversary of my priestly ordination and the founding of this parish, I'm going into “nostalgia mode,” as I tend to do when important anniversaries roll around.

My mind wandered back to the first parish I served as an Anglican, St. Stephen Southmead, in Bristol, England. Sometimes when people hear that I had served in a parish in England, the picture that comes to them is that of a lovely medieval stone church on a village green. That definitely wouldn’t describe St. Stephen’s.

Southmead as a government-sponsored “council housing estate” began in 1931, when 1,500 houses were built by the Bristol Corporation, partly to take families cleared from the slums of central Bristol and partly to address the housing shortage of the time. A further 1,100 house were built after World War II. Greystoke Avenue was the “great divide” between the pre-war and post-war sections of Southmead. Both sections had serious social problems and a high rate of crime, although the pre-war section was always just a little more “troubled.” The parish of St. Stephen included both sections, with a population then of about 15,000, and included the huge Southmead Hospital, which had begun in 1902 as a workhouse for the poor and sick, but as the area grew it developed into a full-fledged teaching hospital.

Life in the parish was always interesting, but difficult at first for us as American transplants. There was a natural suspicion of anyone “foreign,” although a bit of time cured that. We lived very much in the midst of the people in a second floor council flat with only one small coal-burning fireplace for heat. Because these homes were built to withstand the rough use they would have as public housing, the floors and walls were painted concrete. The coal bin was just outside the front door to make it easy for the coal man to deliver. Electricity for lights was on a pre-paid meter, and if we didn’t have the necessary coins, it meant there would be candles for light… nice at supper, but not so easy to read by.

Many of the people were awfully nice, many of them were not. I learned politely to decline a seat in those places that were obviously lice-ridden, although there were many homes where I could look forward to a bracing cup of tea on my afternoon rounds. All my parish work was done on foot, since I owned no automobile. Actually, this was an advantage because I was able to get to meet many more people than if I had been driving through the streets. Usually my presence was welcome; sometimes it wasn’t. In some sections of the parish I could see all the curtains moving as I walked by, as they looked at what was (for them) the odd site of a cleric in cassock. In fact, in some places it was so rare that I would be asked, “Who died?” They couldn’t imagine anyone venturing into some of their back streets unless it was for an unavoidable reason. There were times when stones would be thrown at me, but I didn’t take it personally.

I never went into the local Catholic church. It was a short distance from St. Stephen’s, but there didn't seem to be any reason to go in. After all, we Anglicans were “the Church” as far as we were concerned. I spoke to the pastor there once, but he wasn’t terribly friendly. He was an Irish priest posted in a sea of Anglicans, and apparently he wasn’t happy about it. In fact, he started the practice of letting his particularly nasty little dog out of his rectory yard when he saw me coming. Apparently the animal had never seen a cassock, because he used to delight in barking like crazy and sinking his teeth into it, thinking he’d gotten me, I guess. This seemed to provide some entertainment for the priest who would be looking out the door, so I made it a point to walk that way fairly often, just to keep him amused. Perhaps walking by there so often was part of my “walk towards Rome…”

St. Stephen’s itself was a good parish by the Anglican standards of the day. Those who attended were deeply faithful people, and it was a pleasure and a privilege to minister to them. The church wasn’t especially attractive, as you can see from the picture I’ve posted. The style was what we jokingly called “Fifties’ Firehouse.” Churchmanship was fairly middle-of-the-way, with an emphasis on the Parish Eucharist. The vicar with whom I served was an eccentric bachelor who had served as a curate in the great and venerable St. Mary Redcliffe in downtown Bristol, which had been called by the first Queen Elizabeth, “the goodliest parish church in all the land.” He had gone to Southmead, I suppose to work with the poor and downtrodden, but he seemed to have become somewhat downtrodden himself after a number of years.

It was in Southmead that I moved a bit towards a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. There was a Lady Chapel off to one side, with a very lovely icon of the Mother and Child. We celebrated the Eucharist there during the week, and the Offices. As a chapel it was rather sparse, but that seemed to set off the icon to advantage.

We spent three years in Southmead, and our first two children were born there. When I look back on those years, I can see they were formative for me, and a good preparation for the work of founding this parish. I knew then what it was to “make do” with very little, as was the case when we began the work here. I also had practice in being a foreigner, which any non-Texan is considered to be in these parts. And above all, it taught me complete dependence upon God, which is a lesson I always need to learn.

It was rather bittersweet to remember those years. I’m glad I was there, but I’m extremely grateful that I’m in this place now.

"St. Alban" recounted by St. Bede


THE STORY OF SAINT ALBAN

as recounted in the
Ecclesiastical History of the English People
by the Venerable Bede [672 - 735]

During this persecution St. Alban Suffered. Fortunatus in his Praise of the Virgins, in which he mentions the blessed martyrs, who came to the Lord from every quarter of the globe, calls him 'Illustrious Alban, fruitful Britain's child.'

St. Alban, as depicted
in the triptych.
When infidel rulers were issuing violent edicts against the Christians, Alban, though still a heathen at the time, gave hospitality to a certain cleric who was fleeing from his persecutors. When Alban saw this man occupied day and night in continual vigils and prayers, divine grace suddenly shone upon him and he learned to imitate his guest's faith and devotion. Instructed little by little by his teaching about salvation, Alban forsook the darkness of idolatry and became a wholehearted Christian. When this cleric had been staying with him for some days, it came to the ears of the evil ruler that a man who confessed Christ, though not yet destined to be a martyr, was hiding in Alban's house. He at once ordered his soldiers to make a thorough search for him there. When they came to the martyr's dwelling, St. Alban at once offered himself to the soldiers in place of his guest and teacher, and so, having put on the garment, that is to say the cloak, which the cleric was wearing, he was brought in bonds to the judge.

Now it happened that, when Alban was brought in to him, the judge was standing before the devils' altars and offering sacrifices to them. Seeing Alban, he immediately flew into a rage because this man of his own accord had dared to give himself up to the soldiers and to run so great a risk on behalf of the guest whom he had harboured. He ordered Alban to be dragged before the images of the devils in front of which he was standing and said, 'You have chosen to conceal a profane rebel rather than surrender him to my soldiers, to prevent him from paying a well-deserved penalty for his blasphemy in despising the gods; so you will have to take the punishment he has incurred if you attempt to forsake our worship and religion.' St. Alban had of his own accord declared himself a Christian before the enemies of the faith, and was not at all afraid of the ruler's threats; arming himself for spiritual warfare, he openly refused to obey these commands. The judge said to him, 'What is your family and race?' Alban answered, 'What concern is it of yours to know my parentage? If you wish to hear the truth about my religion, know that I am now a Christian and am ready to do a Christian's duty.' The judge said, 'I insist on knowing your name, so tell me at once.' The man said, 'My parents call me Alban and I shall ever adore and worship the true and living God who created all things.' The judge answered very angrily, 'If you wish to enjoy the happiness of everlasting life, you must sacrifice at once to the mighty gods.' Alban answered, 'The sacrifices which you offer to devils cannot help their votaries nor fulfill the desires and petitions of their suppliants. On the contrary, he who has offered sacrifices to these images will receive eternal punishment in hell as his reward.' When the judge heard this he was greatly incensed and ordered the holy confessor of God to be beaten by the torturers, thinking that he could weaken by blows that constancy of heart which he could not affect by words. Alban, though he was subjected to the most cruel tortures, bore them patiently and even joyfully for the Lord's sake. So when the judge perceived that he was not to be overcome by tortures nor turned from the Christian faith, he ordered him to be executed.

As he was being led to his execution, he came to a rapid river whose stream ran between the town wall and the arena where he was to suffer. He saw there a great crowd of people of both sexes and of every age and rank, who had been led (doubtless by divine inspiration) to follow the blessed confessor and martyr. They packed the bridge over the river so tightly that he could hardly have crossed it that evening. In fact almost everyone had gone out so that the judge was left behind in the city without any attendants at all. St. Alban, whose ardent desire it was to achieve his martyrdom as soon as possible, came to the torrent and raised his eyes towards heaven. Thereupon the river-bed dried up at that very spot and he saw the waters give way and provide a path for him to walk in. The executioner who was to have put him to death was among those who saw this. Moved by a divine prompting, he hastened to meet the saint as he came to the place appointed for his execution; then he threw away his sword which he was carrying ready drawn and cast himself down at the saint's feet, earnestly praying that he might be judged worthy to be put to death either with the martyr whom he himself had been ordered to execute, or else in his place.

So while he was turned from a persecutor into a companion in the true faith, and while there was a very proper hesitation among the other executioners in taking up the sword which lay on the ground, the most reverend confessor ascended the hill with the crowds. This hill lay about five hundred paces from the arena, and, as was fitting, it was fair, shining and beautiful, adorned, indeed clothed, on all sides with wild flowers of every kind; nowhere was it steep or precipitous or sheer but Nature had provided it with wide, long-sloping sides stretching smoothly down to the level of the plain. In fact its natural beauty had long fitted it as a place to be hallowed by the blood of a blessed martyr. When he reached the top of the hill, St. Alban asked God to give him water and at once a perpetual spring bubbled up, confined within its channel and at his very feet, so that all could see that even the stream rendered service to the martyr. For it could not have happened that the martyr who had left no water remaining in the river would have desired it on the top of the hill, if he had not realized that this was fitting. The river, when it had fulfilled its duty and completed its pious service, returned to its natural course, but it left behind a witness of its ministry. And so in this spot the valiant martyr was beheaded and received the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. But the one who laid his unholy hands on that holy neck was not permitted to rejoice over his death; for the head of the blessed martyr and the executioner's eyes fell to the ground together.

The soldier who had been constrained by the divine will to refuse to strike God's holy confessor was also beheaded there. In his case it is clear that though he was not washed in the waters of baptism, yet he was cleansed by the washing of his own blood and made worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then the judge, who was astonished by these strange heavenly miracles, ordered the persecution to cease and began to respect the way in which the saints met their death, though he had once believed that he could thereby make them forsake their devotion to the Christian faith. The blessed Alban suffered death on 22 June near the city of Verulamium which the English now call either Uerlamacaestir or Uaeclingacaestir (St. Albans). Here when peaceful Christian times returned, a church of wonderful workmanship was built, a worthy memorial of his martyrdom. To this day sick people are healed in this place and the working of frequent miracles continues to bring it renown.

St. Alban, Protomartyr of Britain


St. Alban is the first recorded Christian martyr in Britain, and although the traditional date of his death is c.304 during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian, there are many scholars who would date it as early as c.209, during the persecution under the Emperor Septimius Severus.

Alban was a pagan, serving as a soldier in the Roman Army. He gave shelter to a Christian priest who was fleeing from arrest, and during the next few days the two talked at length. As a result, Alban became a Christian.

When officers came in search of the priest, Alban met them, dressed in the priest's cloak, and they mistook him for the priest and arrested him. He refused to renounce his new faith, and was beheaded, so becoming the first Christian martyr in Britain. The second martyr was the executioner who was to kill him, but who heard his testimony and was so impressed that he, too, professed the Christian Faith, and refused to kill Alban. The third martyr was the priest, who when he learned that Alban had been arrested in his place, hurried to the court in the hope of saving Alban by turning himself in. The place of their deaths is near the site of St. Alban's Cathedral today.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr Alban triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

18 June 2013

St. Romuald of Ravenna

St. Romuald, born c.950 in Ravenna, is the founder of the Camaldolese Order, which is a branch of the Benedictines. Austere and devout, along with the penance he imposed upon his young monks, he also gave them solid formation. Here is the “Brief Rule” of St. Romuald for his monks:
Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

That sounds like good guidance for all of us.

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

12 June 2013

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony was born in Portugal and entered the Augustinian monastery of Sao Vicente in Lisbon when he was fifteen. When news of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco reached him, he joined the Franciscans at Coimbra. At his own request, he was sent as a missionary to Morocco, but he became ill, and on his return journey his boat was driven off course and he landed in Sicily. He took part in St. Francis' famous Chapter of Mats in 1221 and was assigned to the Franciscan province of Romagna.

He became a preacher by accident. When a scheduled preacher did not show up for an ordination ceremony at Forli, the Franciscan superior told Anthony to go into the pulpit. His eloquence stirred everyone, and he was assigned to preach throughout northern Italy. Because of his success in converting heretics, he was called the "Hammer of Heretics" and because of his learning, St. Francis himself appointed him a teacher of theology. St. Anthony of Padua was such a forceful preacher that shops closed when he came to town, and people stayed all night in church to be present for his sermons. He became associated with Padua because he made this city his residence and the center of his great preaching mission.

After a series of Lenten sermons in 1231, Anthony's strength gave out and he went into seclusion at Camposanpiero but soon had to be carried back to Padua. He did not reach the city but was taken to the Poor Clare convent at Arcella, where he died. He was thirty-six years old, and the whole city of Padua turned out in mourning for his passing.

He was canonized within a year of his death and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946.

- Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints

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

Pictured is the St. Anthony Shrine at Our Lady of the Atonement Church

09 June 2013

St. Ephrem the Deacon


St. Ephrem was born sometime around the year 306 in Nibisis, a Syrian town located in modern-day Turkey, during the time when the Church was suffering under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Baptized at about the age of eighteen, Ephrem was ordained as a deacon, and was a prolific writer of hymns, through which he powerfully preached the Gospel.

He wrote frequently in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he gave us this prayer to honour Our Lady, the Mother of God:

O pure and immaculate and likewise blessed Virgin, who art the sinless Mother of thy Son, the mighty Lord of the universe, thou who art inviolate and altogether holy, the hope of the hopeless and sinful, we sing thy praises. We bless thee, as full of every grace, thou who didst bear the God-Man: we all bow low before thee; we invoke thee and implore thine aid. Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin, from every necessity that presses upon us and from all the temptations of the devil. Be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment; deliver us from the fire that is not extinguished and from the outer darkness; make us worthy of the glory of thy Son, O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother. Thou indeed art our only hope, most sure and sacred in God's sight, to whom be honor and glory, majesty and dominion forever and ever world without end. Amen.

07 June 2013

Immaculate Heart of Mary


"Immaculate Heart of Mary" oil on canvas at the lectern, Our Lady of the Atonement Church

Following upon the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is our commemoration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Here's a prayer for consecrating ourselves to her motherly heart.


O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners; we consecrate ourselves to thy Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life: all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts, and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, and our country. We desire that all that is in us and around us may belong to thee, and may share in the benefits of thy motherly blessing. And that this act of consecration may be truly fruitful and lasting, we renew this day at thy feet the promises of our Baptism and our First Holy Communion.


We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics, who are submissive to all directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and of His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s Day. We pledge ourselves to make the consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all, Holy Communion, an important part of our lives, in so far as we are able to do.


Finally, we promise thee, O glorious Mother of God and loving Mother of men, to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the spreading of devotion to thy Immaculate Heart, in order to hasten and assure, through thy queenly rule, the coming of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of thine adorable Son Jesus Christ, in our own country, and in all the world; as in Heaven, so on earth. Amen.

06 June 2013

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Stained glass window in the
Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas.

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: Grant that the devout homage of our hearts, which we render unto Him; may by thy mercy be deemed a recompense, acceptable in thy sight; through the same 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.


O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee;
on earth thou art an exile’s rest,
in heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
thou fount of contrite tears:
where’er those living waters flow,
new life to sinners they bestow,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
our trust is all in thee,
for though earth’s night be dark and drear,
thou breathest rest where thou art near,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
when shades of death shall fall,
receive us ‘neath thy gentle care,
and save us from the tempter’s snare,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
lead exiled children home,
where we may ever rest near thee,
in peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart.


Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas

05 June 2013

St. Norbert, Founder and Bishop

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace by Pius Parsch:
Although a cleric, Norbert led a very worldly life for a number of years. The decisive change took place suddenly in 1115. While riding one day, he was overtaken by a thunderstorm. A flash of lightning struck the ground before him, the horse threw him, and he seemed to hear a voice upbraiding him for his conduct.

As in the case of St. Paul, the experience wrought a complete transformation. Norbert decided to give away his property and income rights, and to lead a life of abnegation, devoting himself particularly to preaching. In 1120 he founded the Order of Premonstratensians (the first monastery was at Premontre) according to the rule of St. Augustine; approval came from Pope Honorius II in 1126.

In 1125, he was named archbishop of Magdeburg. On July 13, 1126, Norbert entered the city and came barefoot to the cathedral. About to enter the archepiscopal palace, he was refused admission by the porter, who failed to recognize a bishop so poorly dressed. "You know me better and see me with clearer eyes than those who are forcing me to this palace. Poor and wretched man that I am, I should never have been assigned to this place," Norbert answered when the porter later sought his pardon.

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. Norbert, 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.

St. Boniface, Missionary & Martyr


Named Winfrith by his well-to-do English parents, Boniface was born probably near Exeter, Devon. As a boy, he studied in Benedictine monastery schools and became a monk himself in the process. For 30 years he lived in relative peace, studying, teaching, and praying. In his early 40s he left the seclusion of the monastery to do missionary work on the Continent. Because his first efforts in Frisia (now the Netherlands) were unsuccessful, Winfrith went to Rome in search of direction. Pope Gregory II renamed him Boniface, "doer of good," and delegated him to spread the gospel message in Germany.

In 719 the missionary monk set out on what was to be a very fruitful venture. He made converts by the thousands. Once, the story goes, he hewed down the giant sacred oak at Geismar to convince the people of Hesse that there was no spiritual power in nature. In 722 the Pope consecrated him bishop for all of Germany. For 30 years Boniface worked to reform and organize the Church, linking the various local communities firmly with Rome. He enlisted the help of English monks and nuns to preach to the people, strengthen their Christian spirit, and assure their allegiance to the pope. He founded the monastery of Fulda, now the yearly meeting place of Germany's Roman Catholic bishops. About 746 Boniface was appointed archbishop of Mainz, where he settled for several years as head of all the German churches.

Over the years he kept up an extensive correspondence, asking directives of the popes, giving information about the many Christian communities, and relaying to the people the popes' wishes. In 752, as the pope's emissary, he crowned Pepin king of the Franks. In his 80s and still filled with his characteristic zeal, Boniface went back to preach the gospel in Frisia. There, in 754 near the town of Dokkum, Boniface and several dozen companions were waylaid by a group of savage locals and put to death. His remains were later taken to Fulda, where he was revered as a martyr to the Christian faith.

- From various sources

Almighty God, who didst call thy faithful servant St. Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labour and suffering didst raise up a people for thine own possession: Pour forth thy Holy Spirit upon thy Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many thy holy Name may be glorified and thy kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.