30 May 2014

The Feast of the Visitation


The Feast of the Visitation honours the Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore in her womb the Incarnate Word of God. It shows her as the first missionary and evangelist, as she takes the Word to her cousin Elizabeth. The unborn infant, St. John, was cleansed from original sin as the two expectant mothers embraced. St. Elizabeth addressed her as the "Mother of the Lord," and Mary responded with the great canticle of praise, the Magnificat: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, and holy is His name" (Lk. 1:46).
Father in heaven, by whose grace the Virgin Mother of thine incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping thy word: Grant that we who honour the exaltation of her lowliness may follow the example of her devotion to thy will; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Novena to the Holy Ghost


THE NOVENA TO THE HOLY GHOST begins on Friday, 30 May.

FIRST DAY Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up thy dwelling within our souls, and make of them thy sacred home. Make us live by grace as adopted children of God. Pervade all the energies of our souls, and create in us fountains of living water, springing up unto eternal life.

SECOND DAY Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to our souls the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach us to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Show us the way by which we may be able to attain to them, and possess them, and hold them hereafter, our own forever.

THIRD DAY Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in thy light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of thee and the Father and the Son.

FOURTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide us in all our ways, that we may always do thy holy will. Incline our hearts to that which is good, turn them away from all that is evil, and direct us by the path of thy commandments to the goal of eternal life.

FIFTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give courage to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil.

SIXTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, and make us to understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for thy glory and the salvation of thy creatures. May we always be faithful in putting thy rewards before every earthly gift.

SEVENTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess our hearts, and incline them to a true faith in thee, to a holy love of thee, our God. Give us thy grace, that we may seek thee and find thee, our best and our truest joy.

EIGHTH DAY Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate our inmost hearts, that we may set thee, our Lord and God, before our faces forever; and shun all things that can offend thee, so that we may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of thy divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens.

NINTH DAY Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a desire for holy things. Produce in our souls the fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness.

The following prayer concludes the Novena each day:

O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

27 May 2014

The Expansion Begins!

Today we marked the formal beginning of the expansion project for The Atonement Academy. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller was with us, and he spoke beautiful and inspiring words for the occasion, after which we had Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. At its conclusion we all went to the Crusader Gymnasium where our 570 students, along with faculty and other guests, including representatives from the Archdiocesan Schools Office, prayed with the Archbishop in thanksgiving to God, asking Him to bless the expansion project and to provide for the safety of all who will be working on it.

26 May 2014

Breathing Catholic Air - Part 2



"Views from the Choir Loft" is a website about Catholic liturgy and music. Appearing there is a two-part article entitled "An Overview of the Music Program at Our Lady of the Atonement Church and Academy."

You can read Part 1 here. You may go here to read Part 2, and it includes this paragraph as its conclusion:
The sacred music program at Our Lady of the Atonement Church and The Atonement Academy serves as a model for other institutions seeking to train young people in singing the great music of the Church. It owes its success to a number of factors including the support of its pastor, Fr. Christopher Phillips, appropriation of financial resources, a dedicated music faculty and an unbreakable bond between church and school. Other elements include a dedicated rehearsal space, a fine pipe organ and a church with generous acoustics. What is not essential is a school filled with exceptionally talented students. Without question, there are many students who attend The Atonement Academy who possess considerable musical talent. However, most of the students are no different from children in any other school. With the right combination of elements in place, this amazing program can happen anywhere!

23 May 2014

Our Remarkable Honors Choir

Here are two pieces sung by The Atonement Academy Honors Choir, under the direction of Mrs. Murray.

If Ye Love Me, by Thomas Tallis




Ave Verum Corpus, by W. A. Mozart

20 May 2014

Breathing Catholic Air

An article describing what God is doing at Our Lady of the Atonement Church appears in the Corpus Christi Watershed blog, "Views from the Choir Loft." You can read Part I of the article here.


Here's what Fr. Christopher Smith, a noted scholar in the field of liturgy and liturgical music, has to say:
"What I saw and heard at Our Lady of the Atonement during my all-too-brief visit went far beyond what I had gleaned about the place from other sources. Fr Christopher Phillips has helped to build a tremendous team who have created an atmosphere where the very air you breathe is Catholic! The care for the sacred liturgy and discipleship formation, the school, the music: I recommend to every priest, school principal and church musician that they make a long visit and learn from what they have accomplished there in such a short time. May their tribe increase: floreat atque vivat!"

Read Part I, and I'll post Part II as soon as it is published.

18 May 2014

Brothers and Sisters in the Holy Land


Fr. Firas Aridah is the parish priest of St. Joseph's in Jifna, which is located in the central West Bank, about fourteen miles north of Jerusalem. During this past Lent, the students here at the Academy raised nearly $8,000 for St. Joseph's School, as a sign of our love and support for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.

16 May 2014

Site Preparation for Construction

To get ready for the construction of the expansion to The Atonement Academy, this massive ledge of rock...



...will be removed by this and other similar machines:

14 May 2014

An Interview: My Catholic Conversion

Here is an interview I had with Marcus Grodi on his "Coming Home" program at few years ago. It contains quite a bit about my own conversion to the Catholic Faith, and because it took place just before the Ordinariates were erected, some of the conversation is about Anglicanorum Coetibus.

First, some snippets from the longer interview:




If you'd like to see the complete program, here it is:

13 May 2014

Solemn Evensong for Eastertide


St. Matthias, Apostle and Martyr


Even after more than thirty years as a Catholic, I still think of the Feast of St. Matthias as falling on February 24th, but upon reflection, I think the change in date was a good thing. Unless Ash Wednesday came especially late, St. Matthias' Day often fell within the Lenten season, but having it on May 14th means it’s closer to the time of the ascension – and historically it was soon after that event that the “casting of lots” took place. So I’ve adjusted myself to the kalendar.

St. Matthias had been a follower of Jesus and was probably one of the seventy-two disciples. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the nascent Church was gathered in prayer and St. Peter said that it was right to choose an apostle to replace Judas. He said it should be someone who had been with Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan until the ascension. Two names were proposed: one was Matthias, and the other was Joseph, called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus). Both of them were good men, but since the Church needed only one, they prayed and asked God to reveal the right choice. This is where the “casting of lots” came in. Sometimes people have the mistaken notion that this was akin to gambling, or some kind of game of chance, and there are those who think perhaps it wasn’t the most appropriate means of determining God’s Will in the matter.

Actually, casting lots was a fairly common way of making a decision. When we look back through Scripture, we come across it pretty often. It was the method used to choose the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8); it was used to determine the priests’ duties in the temple (I Chronicles 24:5); during the terrible storm at sea, poor Jonah was determined to be the guilty one by the casting of lots (Jonah 1:7). For us, it has the unsavoury connection with the crucifixion, since it was by casting lots that the soldiers divided our Lord’s clothing (St. Matthew 27:35). In the case of choosing a replacement for Judas, it was settled in this way because of the very fact that both candidates were equally good. Casting lots was done in different ways, but a common way of doing it was to put the necessary number of polished stones of different colour in a container, and to shake it until one stone fell out, determining the choice. Whatever we might think of the method, it certainly worked. St. Matthias proved to be such a good apostle that after spreading the Gospel in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Egypt and Ethiopia, he was so successful he ended up being martyred for his efforts.

There are plenty of things we can get out of the account of the choosing of Matthias, but I like the thought that the dignity of apostleship seemed to hang by the thread of chance – and yet it wasn’t really chance, was it? God had His plan all worked out, and Peter (along with the others) knew that. They could have pushed their own human will and agenda into the situation: (“Hey, that Joseph Barsabbas is a really nice guy. Let’s choose him!”). In fact, the very fact that Christ’s original choice for that particular seat in the College of Apostles didn’t work out – at least by human standards – shows that God is very much in control of every detail. I mean, would we have planned things that way? The betrayal by Judas which led to the sacrifice which has atoned for man’s sin wouldn’t have been at the top of my list for a good plan. Finding an apostolic replacement by shaking some stones in a container isn’t something I would have thought of.

It seems like we’re rarely prepared for the twists and turns which define God’s plan, and yet that’s the way He works. Why are we surprised when things don’t follow the meticulous plan we’ve worked out in our own minds? After all, even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself prayed in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not My Will, but Thine be done.” And isn’t it our universal experience that, in the end, God’s plan is always best? Quite so.

O Almighty God, who into the place of Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Saint Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: Grant that thy Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; 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.

12 May 2014

Feeding the Faithful...


During his Regina Caeli address on May 11, Pope Francis used this image from the everyday life of the simple farmer:

“When a calf is hungry he goes to the cow, his mother, for milk. However, the cow does not give it to him immediately; it almost seems as if she keeps it for herself. And so what does the calf do? He nudges the cow's udder with his nose, and in this way the milk comes. It is a beautiful image. And this, says the saint, is what you must do with your pastors: always knock at their door, at their heart, so that they give you the milk of doctrine, the milk of grace and the milk of guidance..."

It's a great image, and one that I understand completely, being a dairy farmer's son. I've seen it often, and when the cow continues to be hesitant, I have seen the calf's nudge develop into harder and firmer head-butts, until the cow knows her calf means business.

It appears that the Holy Father has given us permission - nay, even a command - that if our bishops and priests are less than forthcoming when it comes to giving the sweet milk of the Gospel, or if they attempt to pass off curdled milk as the real thing, we should give them a firm nudge, or even a demanding head-butt, as a reminder of why they occupy their particular position in the Church.

10 May 2014

Good Shepherd Sunday


We know our Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He is the one who lays down His life for the sheep. We know also that the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church are called to bear the image of our Good Shepherd by giving themselves completely over to the service of God and His flock.

But the members of the laity need to remember something related to that. Each one has his own responsibility to be the Good Shepherd’s “good sheep.” Just as the Shepherd leads, so the sheep must follow. And by following the Shepherd faithfully, the sheep will reach pastures of heavenly joy. Good Shepherd Sunday should also be “Good Sheep Sunday,” a reminder that we must daily recommit ourselves to follow Christ, wherever He leads.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Pictured is the Good Shepherd window at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

St. Damien of Molokai


In the year 1840, Joseph De Veuster was born in Belgium, to a large family of farmers and merchants.  This was the future Father Damien.  When his oldest brother entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, his father planned that Joseph should take charge of the family business. Joseph, however, decided to become a religious.  When he was nineteen he entered the novitiate in the same house as his brother. It was there that he took the name of Damien.

In 1863, Damien’s brother was supposed to leave for the mission in the Hawaiian Islands, but he became seriously ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother's place. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19th, 1864, where he was ordained to the priesthood the following May 21st. He immediately devoted himself as a travelling missionary on the island of Hawaii.

At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on a very harsh measure which they thought would stop the spread of the dreaded disease of leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. It was decided that anyone who contracted this disease would be taken to the neighboring island of Molokai, where they would have to stay for the rest of their lives. The Catholic Church was deeply concerned about these abandoned lepers and the Bishop spoke to the priests about the problem. He didn’t want to send anyone "in the name of obedience," because he knew that whoever went would probably contract the disease. Four of the priests volunteered, and they would take turns visiting and ministering to the lepers. Fr. Damien was the first to leave, and at his own request and that of the lepers, he remained permanently on Molokai.

He brought hope to this place of despair. He became a source of consolation and encouragement for the lepers.  He became their pastor, the doctor of their souls and of their bodies, without any distinction of race or religion. He gave a voice to the voiceless, he built a community where the joy of being together and openness to the love of God gave people new reasons for living.  He saw the beauty and dignity of each person, no matter how deformed and grotesque their outward appearance.

After Father Damien contracted the disease in 1885, he was able to identify completely with them.  He spoke of "we lepers…" Father Damien was, above all, a witness of the love of God for His people. He got his strength from the Eucharist: "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation..." He said that he was It is there that he found for himself and for others the support and the encouragement, the consolation and the hope, he could, with a deep faith, communicate to the lepers. All that made him "the happiest missionary in the world.”

Fr. Damian served for sixteen years among the lepers, and died on April 15th 1889.
O Father of mercy, who gavest us in Saint Damien a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned: grant that, by his intercession; as faithful witnesses of the heart of thy Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected; 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..

08 May 2014

Microchimerism

A recent discovery is that naturally-acquired microchimerism is quite common in human beings. What is microchimerism, you ask?

Basically it is the presence of a small number of cells in one person that actually originated in a genetically different individual. Apparently, during pregnancy some cells travel from the mother to the baby, and also some cells move from the baby to the mother. What is surprising is that a small number of the mother’s cells persist in her children on into adult life, and a small number of cells from prior pregnancies are found in mothers many years later.

Although I don't even begin to understand it, this discovery has important ramifications in the study of autoimmune diseases, degenerative diseases, and cancer -- and I'm very glad for that. However, I find it interesting for other reasons.

This has to have an effect on our understanding of the bond between mother and child, and indeed, on our understanding of the Incarnation itself. Every mother understands the words of St. Simeon to the Blessed Virgin, when he told her, "a sword will pierce through your own soul also."

Microchimerism means that cells from every child conceived by a woman -- whether that child was given birth, whether that child was miscarried, whether that child was still-born, even if that child was aborted -- she continues to have in her own body a certain number of cells from every pregnancy.

We know from our understanding of the Incarnation that the physical and the spiritual are bound up together. I believe the discovery of microchimerism in human beings might help to explain why a mother can never forget her child, even if that child was aborted. She continues to carry something of her child within her. No matter how much this twisted world tells her that getting rid of the child was the "right choice," she can never completely "rid" herself of her baby.

I think it would be a comfort to the mother who has lost a child through miscarriage or still-birth, to know that the child's immortal soul is with God and that cells from the child's physical body remain within her. And I think the same thing contributes to the tragedy of abortion, that a mother retains within her some of the cells of the child that had been ripped from her womb.

04 May 2014

"...their eyes were opened..."


“...He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” This is the description used by Cleopas and the other disciple after they had encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the way to the village of Emmaus.

These two men had heard the report of the women who had gone to the tomb early on the first day of the week, only to find it empty.  As they were discussing these things, Jesus joined them on the journey and spoke with them, opening up the Scriptures for them.  But even with all that, still they did not recognize Him.  It was only when our Lord blessed and broke bread, just as He had at the Last Supper, that finally "their eyes were opened," and they knew who He was.

Here, then, is a great truth: we can hear others speak of the Lord, we can read the Scriptures and have them interpreted according to the mind of the Church, but the living encounter with the Risen Lord takes place within that Gift which He Himself has given us: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

03 May 2014

Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are among the best known of the many hundreds of Catholics who gave their lives in England and Wales during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were martyred simply because they stayed faithful to the Catholic Church. They themselves had not changed, but what changed were the laws of their nation.

King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England and Wales, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects not only in civil matters, but also in spiritual things. He took to himself a spiritual power that can belong only to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter. The Catholics at that time wanted to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but their consciences could not allow them to grant the power of spiritual supremacy. It is as though, in the United States, the president and Congress took upon themselves the power to determine what we as Catholics believe, and how we worship. We could not allow Congress to pass laws that changed the Church’s teaching about the Mass, or what we believe about God. But this was what had happened in England and Wales. This was what led many people to face death courageously rather than act against their consciences and deny their Catholic faith.

This firm attitude in defense of their freedom of conscience and of their faith in the truth of the Holy Catholic Church is identical in all the Forty Martyrs, although they were a diverse group of people – priests, religious, laymen, housewives and mothers, some highly educated, some very simple laborers. But they all shared the same faith, and the same determination to keep that faith – and for that, they were put to death.

The torments they endured were horrible. Most of them were killed in extremely violent ways – the priests, for instance, were hanged, drawn and quartered. Others were tortured for long periods of time before their deaths. But every one of them remained steadfast in their Catholic faith, and they died praying for their executioners, and even praying for the monarch who had ordered their deaths.

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power the Holy Martyrs of England and Wales triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them 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. Amen.