29 January 2014

Scripture Study


The Scripture studies I give on Wednesday evenings in the Blessed John Paul II Library at Our Lady of the Atonement Church are recorded, and here are some of those which are available for you:

Introduction to Holy Scripture (four sessions)

The Epistle to the Hebrews (ten sessions)

We use the Ignatius Bible (Catholic Revised Standard Version) in our studies, and it is helpful to have a Bible available to follow along, when using the study of Hebrews.

The Word of God


This picture shows part of the Sacred Heart Chapel, and I like the combination of some important symbols having to do with the Word of God.

The icon of the Virgin Mary presents her as the "Bearer of the Word," as she holds Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word in her arms. Immediately in front of the icon is the lectern with the lectionary, which is the written Word of God. In the forefront is the Communion rail, where the Faithful receive the Word Made Flesh in the Most Holy Sacrament.

26 January 2014

St. Angela Merici


Although she was called to the celibate life, and therefore had no children of her own, St Angela Merici had the heart of a mother. Born in 1474 in Verona, and it being a time when the education of children was scarcely a consideration, St Angela had a great concern for the Catholic formation of the children of poor families. She began classes for them, teaching them their catechism. Over the years more young women joined her in teaching, and the concentration came to center more on the forming of young girls, preparing them to be strong in their faith and so be able to pass this on to their own children. Eventually the community of teachers was organized as the Sisters of St Ursula, who have had an important role in the history of Catholic education.

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. Angela Merici, 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.

25 January 2014

Restored Order of the Sacraments


In 2006, with the permission and encouragement of the archbishop at that time, our parish instituted the "restored order of the Sacraments," returning Confirmation to its proper and historic place, before receiving Holy Communion. Children who have reached the age of discretion - in canon law, considered to be the age of seven - are eligible to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, followed by First Holy Communion, their First Confessions having been made sometime during the previous days.

Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion – those are the Sacraments of Initiation, and that is the traditional order of reception. Unfortunately (and unintentionally) the order of receiving them got changed in most of the Western Church, so that Confirmation is seen more as a kind of “rite of passage” for those in their teenage years. What this came to mean in practical terms is that many people “slip through the cracks” and aren’t confirmed until much later (if at all). Sadly, very often teenagers use the occasion of Confirmation as a kind of “farewell” to regular Mass attendance.

This restored order is now the ordinary practice in some dioceses, and we are pleased to have returned to this venerable tradition in our parish. Postponing the reception of Confirmation until the teenage years (when young people need its grace the most) comes at the time when they are least likely to present themselves for it. Better to arm them with the grace early. It won’t go bad, it won’t run out, and they’ll have it to use throughout those “growing up” years.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller will be with us at Our Lady of the Atonement Church on Wednesday, February 19th, to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation and to celebrate a Solemn Mass for First Holy Communion. As he has in the past, the Archbishop will be celebrating the Mass according to the Anglican Use liturgy.

The following "Questions and Answers" are provided for your information and interest:

Why is our parish celebrating Confirmation and First Communion at the same event?
In the early Church, Christian initiation was celebrated together as a single event. The person was immersed into the waters of Baptism, anointed with chrism, and shared in the Eucharistic meal. Over time, and for many reasons, the celebration of these sacramental rituals became separated from one another. In the renewal of the sacraments which was mandated by the Second Vatican Council, the Church was invited to restore the celebrations of the sacraments of Christian initiation to their original order – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. This restored order helps us recognize that sharing in the Eucharist completes our initiation into the Church.



What does the Church say about linking these two sacraments?
In article #1275, The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates the inseparable nature of the sacraments of initiation as follows: "Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ's Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ."



Doesn't the Church require a certain age for Confirmation?
Both the Rite of Confirmation and Canon Law (Canon #891) set the age of discretion (age 7) as the age for Confirmation. Effective July, 2002, the U.S. Conference of Bishops designated the age for Confirmation to be between the age of discretion and age 16. Within that range, local bishops may determine their own diocesan policy. Thus, the age for Confirmation may vary from diocese to diocese, sometimes even from parish to parish. Regardless of age, Confirmation is always a sacrament of initiation. The important thing to remember is that sacraments are not about age alone, they are about growing in faith, about sharing in God's grace.



How will my child be preparing for Confirmation?
In the restored order, Confirmation preparation is integrated into the preparation for Eucharist. This means that the close connection between Baptism and Confirmation is emphasized, while recognizing the important of Eucharist as the culmination of Christian initiation.



Will my child be learning about the Holy Spirit?
Naturally, as your child continues to participate in religious education, he/she will continue to learn more and more about the Holy Spirit's action in our lives. Your child's Eucharist preparation book also teaches about the power of the Spirit and the special gifts of the Spirit. Just as your child was first empowered by the Spirit in Baptism, your child will continue to grow in the Spirit through the grace of Confirmation.



How will I know if my child is ready for Confirmation?
Readiness for Confirmation cannot be separated from readiness for Eucharist, and sacramental readiness is never about learning, but about faith. As your child prepares for Confirmation and Eucharist, here are three things to keep in mind:


1. Sacraments are always a beginning. As your child matures in faith, he/she will grow in his/her understanding of Confirmation and experience of the Eucharist.

2.The Eucharist is the culmination of the three Sacraments of Initiation. Your child is now welcomed as a fully participating member of the Church.

3.At any age, completion of the Sacraments of Initiation--Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist--in no way signals graduation. Rather it is the beginning of a lifetime of being nourished at the table of the Lord. 

Last Day of the Octave


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

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

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

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

24 January 2014

Conversion of St. Paul

O God, who, by the preaching of thine apostle St. Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Seventh Day of the Octave

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

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

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

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

23 January 2014

Sixth Day of the Octave


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

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

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

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

22 January 2014

St. Joseph, Guardian of the Unborn


O glorious St. Joseph, to whom God committed the care of His only begotten Son amidst the many dangers of this world; Protect, we beseech thee, all unborn children that they may be born in safety; comfort all parents with the knowledge of God’s love; and by thine own powerful intercession open the hearts of all mankind to receive with gladness the gift of new life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fifth Day of the Octave


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

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

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

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

+ + + + +

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

21 January 2014

Fourth Day of the Octave

Pictured: The Corpus Christi Cross at Graymoor

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

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

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

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

+ + + + +

In the year 1900, Fr Paul Wattson carried a sixteen-foot cedar cross through the wilds of Graymoor to the summit of the Holy Mountain where it still stands today, weathering time and the elements. It is a testament to the vision of the At-One-Ment of mankind with God and with one another.

20 January 2014

Third Day of the Octave


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

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

Today's intention is for the return of Anglicans to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

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

19 January 2014

Second Day of the Octave


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

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

Today's intention is for the return of the Eastern Orthodox Christians to communion with the Apostolic See.

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

+ + + + +

"My dear friends, we see all around us saintly souls, not merely in the priesthood or in the religious life. We meet them in the daily walk of life as we come in contact with pious, holy Christian men and women of prayer, men and women who from their childhood have always been most anxious to do the things that pleased God, to listen to that still, small voice, who never undertook any important thing in life until they first sought wisdom and guidance by prayer or taking counsel with some godly servant of the Most High, and we admire those fellow-Christians, and why should it not be so with all of us?"
- Fr Paul of Graymoor

18 January 2014

Octave of Prayer begins today


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

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

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

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

+ + + + +

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

15 January 2014

Truth and Unity


The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on January 18th. Here is an important thought as we prepare to begin this period of prayer:
"...there is no unity without truth. Truth first, unity afterwards, truth the cause, unity the effect. To invert this order is to overthrow the Divine procedure. The unity of Babel ended in confusion; the union of Pentecost fused all nations into one Body and one dogma of the Faith….Truth alone generates unity.”
- Henry Edward Cardinal Manning

09 January 2014

Pray for the Unborn


Almighty God, who hast created us in thine own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with injustice; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the defense of the unborn, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

05 January 2014

The Magi


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

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

St. John Neumann


This American saint was born in Bohemia, which today is within the Czech Republic, in 1811. He completed his seminary formation, and was looking forward to being ordained in 1835, when his bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia had more priests than they needed. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere: no one wanted any more priests. He was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.

But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers, so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. So John left his homeland, and sailed to America, knowing he would probably never return to his home again.

In New York, Fr John Neumann was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. His parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. He spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying with different families, or in taverns and inns along the way, finding places to teach the Faith, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, the young priest felt the need to be part of a community, and so he joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.

Fr John Neumann was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. Sharing same vision as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John Neumann was a founder of Catholic education in this country, and he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100.

He had a great ability to learn languages, and he was able to learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch, so that he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, "Isn't it grand that we have an Irish bishop!"

He spent all his energy on being a great bishop to his people, and he lived very simply. He was only forty-eight years old when he died. He is buried in Philadelphia, in St. Peter’s Church, where pilgrims venerate his tomb and ask for his prayers.

O God, our heavenly Father, who didst raise up thy faithful servant St. John Neumann to be a bishop in thy Church and to feed thy flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of thy Holy Spirit, that they may minister in thy household as true servants of Christ and stewards of thy divine mysteries; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

04 January 2014

The Epiphany

"Star of Bethlehem" by Burne-Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 January 2014

The Most Holy Name of Jesus


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

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

01 January 2014

Mary's Yes: A Treasury of Truth

That's the title of the sermon I preached on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. A video of the sermon is at this link.

Mary, Mother of God


O God, who didst vouchsafe that, as at this time, thy Word should be made flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary: grant to us thy humble servants, that we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may by her intercession find favor in thy sight. Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.