31 August 2015

27 August 2015

St. Augustine of Hippo


After Augustine's conversion and baptism through the teaching and example of St. Ambrose, this son of the devout and patient St. Monica went back to his native Africa in 387, where he was ordained a priest in 391 and consecrated bishop of Hippo in 396. Actually, the furthest thing from Augustine's mind was to become a priest. He was visiting the town of Hippo. He was listening to a sermon by the Bishop of Hippo. The bishop, without any warning whatsoever, said, "This Church is in need of more priests, and I believe that the ordination of Augustine would be to the glory of God." Augustine was shocked to hear his name mentioned during the sermon itself. Suddenly, there were those around him who dragged Augustine forward, and the bishop together with his council of priests laid hands on him and ordained him to the priesthood. He scarcely had time to adjust to being a priest when, a few years later, Augustine was chosen to succeed the bishop who had ordained him, and so was from that time until his own death, the bishop of Hippo.

He was a faithful and hard-working shepherd to his people, but he also found time to write extensively. He was an admirer of Jerome, the great translator of Scripture, and Augusting wrote him a letter hoping to establish a friendship. Unfortunately, the letter went astray. Jerome did not receive the letter, and its contents became public knowledge before Jerome even knew it had been written. Because it was a personal letter, Augustine, in addition to saying how much he admired Jerome, had mentioned some criticisms of something Jerome had written. Jerome was furious, thinking Augustine had been publicly speaking against him, and Jerome was willing to make his response into a public argument with the Bishop of Hippo. However, Augustine wrote him another letter, deeply apologizing and explaining what had happened, and Jerome was calmed. Over the ensuing years they had a long, intellectual and friendly correspondence.

St. Augustine was a very productive writer. The works we have (and it is generally assumed that much of his work did not survive) include 113 books and treatises, more than 200 letters, and over 500 sermons. Among the most famous of his writings are his “Confessions,” and “The City of God,” in which he discusses the work of God in history, showing the relationship between the Christian as citizen of an earthly society and the Christian as citizen of Heaven. His third great work is his “De Trinitate” ("On the Trinity"), in which he discusses the doctrine of the Trinity by comparing the mind of man with the mind of God, based upon the fact that man is made in the image of God. He speaks of a Trinitarian structure in the act of knowing something, a Trinitarian structure in the act of self-awareness, and a Trinitarian structure in the act of religious understanding through which man sees himself as made in the image of God.

Perhaps St. Augustine’s most famous attack on heresy was against the Pelagians. There was a man from Britain named Morgan, or in Latin, Pelagius (meaning "islander"), who began to preach about what he saw as a deterioration of moral standards. Pelagius saw Christians living lives which were sometimes immoral, or at least less than exemplary, and who blamed their actions on human frailty. Pelagius gave the reply to this: "No, God has given you free will. You can follow the example of Adam, or the example of Christ. God has given everyone the grace he needs to be good. If you are not good, you simply need to put in more effort." In his argument with Pelagius, St. Augustine asked him about original sin, and he received the reply that there is no such thing. Augustine asked him why, in that case, it was the universal custom to baptize infants, and Pelagius had no answer. St. Augustine saw the teaching of Pelagius as undermining the doctrine that God is the ultimate source of all good, leading the virtuous Christian to feel that he had earned God's approval by his own efforts. The teaching of Pelagius was condemned by the Church because of the clear argumentation put forward by St. Augustine.

At the then-advanced age of seventy-five, St. Augustine, the great and distinguished Bishop of Hippo, died on 28 August 430.

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Augustine of Hippo, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

26 August 2015

St. Monica, Widow and Confessor


The circumstances of St. Monica's life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of those temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and lived an immoral life. Monica also had to put up with an ill-tempered mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius constantly criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but he always respected her. Monica's prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law over to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his Baptism.

Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. At the time of his father's death, Augustine was 17 and a student of rhetoric in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy – which was a combination of gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with the basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, with matter (physical things) being regarded as dark and evil. At this point, Augustine was living an immoral life. For a while, Monica refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine's trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica's spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan, as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was nearing the end. She told Augustine, "Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled." She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

O Lord, who through spiritual discipline didst strengthen thy servant St. Monica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we beseech thee, and use us in accordance with thy will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Praise and Glory to God!


O COME, let us sing unto the LORD; * let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; * and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God; * and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are all the corners of the earth; * and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it; * and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship and fall down, * and kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God; * and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; * let the whole earth stand in awe of him.
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; * and with righteousness to judge the world, and the people with his truth.


ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may he unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

21 August 2015

Lighting the Shrines

One of the things I enjoy is arriving early at the church each day to unlock things and to prepare for the day. By about 5:30 a.m. I begin making the rounds of the various shrines to prepare them for those who will come to pray that day, lighting them and offering prayers for those who have asked me to remember them in prayer.

SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF THE ATONEMENT


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.

OUR LADY OF THE ATONEMENT, MOTHER OF SORROWS


O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; 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.

ST. JOSEPH


O God, who from the family of thy servant David didst raise up St. Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son and the spouse of his Virgin Mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; 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.

THE HOLY ABBOT, ST. BENEDICT


Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, St. Benedict, may commend us unto thee; that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight; 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.

ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA

 

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.

ST. THERESA OF THE CHILD JESUS


Lord Jesus Christ, who hast said, Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven: Grant us, we beseech thee; in meekness and lowliness of heart to follow the footsteps of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, thy holy virgin, and so at last to come unto thine everlasting kingdom; where thou livest and reignest, with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

ST. PATRICK


Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Saint Patrick to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN


Almighty God, who didst bestow on thy Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow thy kindly light and to find peace in thy Church; grant, we beseech thee, that through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL

 

O God, who didst endue thy blessed Saint Vincent de Paul with apostolic virtue, to the intent that he should preach thy Gospel to the poor, and stablish the honor of the priesthood of thy Church: Grant we beseech thee; that we may so hold in reverence his works of righteousness, that we may learn to follow the pattern of his godly conversation; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF GOD


O God, who didst vouchsafe that 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.

14 August 2015

A simple little church...

The Dedication of the original church and the Consecration of the High Altar took place on 15 August 1987. Archbishop Flores officiated on that occasion, and as plain as the building was at that time, he was genuinely surprised that our then-tiny parish was able to build a dignified temple for the worship of God. When he began his sermon he said that he needed to change his prepared text, because he had expected us to have only a multi-purpose hall at that point so early in our history, and he was going to urge us to move forward in building a proper church. He told us, "...but when I saw it, I thought it was a basilica in the woods!" From that time on, we have referred to our "basilica in the woods," remembering with great fondness the archbishop's surprise.

Gathered before the High Altar, to prepare for its Consecration.


Praying the Litany, before the Consecration of the Altar.


The Prayer to Consecrate the Altar.


Placing the Relics of St. Thomas Becket, and Anointing the Altar stone.


The Archbishop giving his personal Rosary to be placed in the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Placing the linens on the newly-consecrated Altar.


Opening the Triptych.


Placing the crucifix and candles at the High Altar.


Celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the newly-consecrated Altar.

12 August 2015

St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus

        St. Pontian
Have you ever become friends with someone you never thought you would? Sometimes we might write someone off, but then, if we let ourselves, we may very well find that they’re not so bad after all – that, in fact, they’re really a pretty good friend. That's what happened with Pontian and Hippolytus.

Pontian was a Roman who served as pope from 230 to 235. He was a faithful and holy man, and upheld the Catholic faith even when there were those around him who were trying to change it. But he happened to live at a time when the Roman emperor was persecuting the Church horribly, and killing as many Christians as he could find. Pontian was treated in a very cruel way: he was banished to the island of Sardinia, where they mined silver and lead, and where prisoners were forced to work in horrible conditions. Pontian was not only exhausted from the work, but he was constantly beaten by his jailers, and his life was one long torture.

St. Hippolytus
While Pontian was enduring all that, he met another Christian who had been exiled to Sardinia – Hippolytus – who had been a Catholic priest in Rome. Actually, this wasn’t the first time they had met; in fact, Hippolytus was a fierce rival to Pontian. Hippolytus thought that Pontian the pope was too easy on those who had been trying to water down the faith. He spoke out against Pontian whenever he could, and in fact, Hippolytus gathered around him a group of followers who said that Pontian wasn’t really suitable to be the pope, so they proclaimed Hippolytus to be the pope. Hippolytus led many Christians into schism, claiming that only the really good people could be members of the Church. He taught that Christians should be completely separate from the world, and should have nothing to do with anyone who might sin – naturally, Hippolytus and his followers never thought that they were sinners. This, of course was a heresy.

The emperor didn’t care what differences these two men might have – as far as he was concerned, they were both part of the Church, and since Hippolytus seemed to be a trouble-maker, he was sent off to Sardinia to work in the mines. As Pontian and Hippolytus were brought together as two prisoners, Hippolytus came to realize how wrong he had been about Pontian. He confessed his errors to Pontian, and the two became friends and companions in their suffering. Both of them were worked to exhaustion, and beaten unmercifully, until both of them died – rivals and enemies when they were free, but friends and fellow Catholics when they were facing death. Both of them are numbered with the martyrs of the Church – Catholic who refused to deny Christ, and whose death gave witness to the power of God.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who on this day devoutly observe the festival of thy holy Martyrs, blessed Pontian and Hippolytus, may thereby increase in godliness to the attainment of everlasting salvation; 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.

04 August 2015

Dedication of St. Mary Major


From The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch:

St. Mary Major is important to Christendom for three reasons.

- It stands as a venerable monument to the Council of Ephesus (431), at which the dogma of Mary's divine Motherhood was solemnly defined; the definition of the Council occasioned a most notable increase in the veneration paid to Mary.

- The basilica is Rome's "church of the crib," a kind of Bethlehem within the Eternal City; it also is a celebrated station church, serving, for instance, as the center for Rome's liturgy for the first Mass on Christmas. In some measure every picture of Mary with the divine Child is traceable to this church.

- St. Mary Major is Christendom's first Marian shrine for pilgrims. It set the precedent for the countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honor our Blessed Mother throughout the world. Here was introduced an authentic expression of popular piety that has been the source of untold blessings and graces for Christianity in the past as in the present.

The beginnings of St. Mary Major date to the Constantinian period. Originally it was called the Sicinini Basilica; it was the palace of a patrician family by that name before its transformation into a church by Pope Liberius. The story of its origin is legendary, dating from the Middle Ages. The Breviary gives this version: "Liberius was on the chair of Peter (352-366) when the Roman patrician John and his wife, who was of like nobility, vowed to bequeath their estate to the most holy Virgin and Mother of God, for they had no children to whom their property could go. The couple gave themselves to assiduous prayer, beseeching Mary to make known to them in some way what pious work they should subsidize in her honor.

Mary answered their petition and confirmed her reply by means of the following miracle. On the fifth of August — a time when it is unbearably hot in the city of Rome — a portion of the Esquiline would be covered with snow during the night. During that same night the Mother of God directed John and his wife in separate dreams to build a church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the site where they would see snow lying. For it was in this manner that she wanted her inheritance to be used.

John immediately reported the whole matter to Pope Liberius, and he declared that a similar dream had come to him. Accompanied by clergy and people, Liberius proceeded on the following morning in solemn procession to the snow-covered hill and there marked off the area on which the church in Mary's honor was to be constructed.

Under Pope Sixtus III (432-440) the basilica was rebuilt, and upon the occasion of the definition of Mary's divine Motherhood by the Council of Ephesus, consecrated to her honor (432). He decorated the apse and walls with mosaics from the lives of Christ and His blessed Mother, which even to this day beautify the church and belong to the oldest we possess. As early as the end of the fourth century a replica of the Bethlehem nativity grotto had been added; on this account the edifice became known as "St. Mary of the Crib." To the Christian at Rome this church is Bethlehem. Other names for the basilica are: Liberian Basilica, because it dates to the time of Pope Liberius; St. Mary Major (being the largest church in Mary's honor in Rome); Our Lady of the Snow, because of the miracle that supposedly occasioned its erection.

We could point out how the divine Motherhood mystery dominates all Marian liturgy; for the Theotokos doctrine has kept Mariology Christo-centric in the Church's worship. Although recent popular devotion to Mary has become to a certain extent soft and sentimental and has, one may say, erected its own sanctuary around Mary as the center, devotion to our Blessed Mother in the liturgy has always remained oriented to Christ. In the liturgy the divine Motherhood has always been the bridge from Mary to Jesus. One need only examine Matins in honor of Mary or the Masses from her Common to be reassured. Everywhere Christ takes the central position, and Mary is the Christbearer.

Pope Liberius tracing the outline of the basilica in the August snowfall.

The High Altar.
Reliquary containing the major relic of the Manger.

02 August 2015

The Beauty of Holiness


Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas

St. Peter Julian Eymard


This account of the life of St. Peter Julian Eymard is excerpted from the Saint of the Day by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

Born in La Mure d'Isere in southeastern France, Peter Julian's faith journey drew him from being a priest in the Diocese of Grenoble (1834) to joining the Marists (1839) to founding the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (1856). In addition to those changes, Peter Julian coped with poverty, his father's initial opposition to Peter's vocation, serious illness, a Jansenistic striving for inner perfection and the difficulties of getting diocesan and later papal approval for his new religious community.

His years as a Marist, including service as a provincial leader, saw the deepening of his Eucharistic devotion, especially through his preaching of Forty Hours in many parishes.

The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament began working with children in Paris to prepare them to receive their first Communion. It also reached out to non-practicing Catholics, inviting them to repent and begin receiving Holy Communion again. He was a tireless proponent of frequent Holy Communion, an idea given more authoritative backing by Pope Pius X in 1905.

Inspired at first by the idea of reparation for indifference to the Eucharist, Peter Julian was eventually attracted to a more positive spirituality of Christ-centered love. Members of the men's community, which Peter founded, alternated between an active apostolic life and contemplating Jesus in the Eucharist. He and Marguerite Guillot founded the women's Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.

Peter Julian Eymard was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1962, one day after Vatican II's first session ended.

O God, who didst adorn St. Peter Julian Eymard with a wondrous love for the sacred mysteries of the Body and Blood of thy divine Son; grant that we may be worthy to receive the same devotion he drew from this holy banquet; 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.