25 September 2015

The Truth Is Personal


The Atonement Academy teachers have regularly-scheduled conferences with the parents of our students, and today was a conference day. We began the day as usual with Mass, and all the teachers were present. The appointed Gospel reading was from St. Luke’s Gospel:

Now it happened that as Jesus was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, "Who do the people say that I am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen." And he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." - Luke 9:18-22

In many ways this very familiar passage describes the work of Catholic educators. Jesus began by asking what men were saying about him; and then, suddenly, he aims the question at the Twelve, "Who do you say that I am?"

Those of us who are Catholic educators do teach our students what “others have said” – whether it be about Jesus, or His moral teaching, or the various philosophies and concepts which are part of the search for truth, or the principles of science, or the mystery and beauty of music, all of which open up truth to them. It is important for students to know what others who have come before them have said. But when it comes to the ultimate Truth – the fullness of Truth which we know in Christ Jesus, it is never enough to know only what other people have said. A person educated only in what others have said might be able to pass any examination on what has been said and thought about Truth; he might have read every book about theology and philosophy, about science and the arts, and he might have read all the great literature ever written in every language upon earth and still not be engaged with the Incarnate Word as the final and highest and most personal expression of the fullness of Truth. The greater part of our task as Catholic educators must always be to have our students answer the question our Lord asked the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?”

In the end, any educational institution which cannot engage its students in that question cannot be educating the whole person. It is the fatal weakness of public schools, including charter schools. Truth can never be something that is only talked about. Ultimately, Christ comes to each person asking not, "Can you tell me what others have said and written about me?" but, "Who do you say that I am?" When he was writing to St. Timothy, St. Paul did not say, "I know what I have believed"; but he said, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. 1:12). This is our great task as Catholic educators – that of presenting the truth, and then making it personal because Truth is a Person.

22 September 2015

Prayer for the Pope's safety


O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he travels; surround him with your loving care; protect him from every danger; and bring him in safety to his journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

20 September 2015

The King's Fair


The King's Fair was a wonderful event once again this year, beginning with a beautiful Sung Mass in the morning, and moving on to all sorts of food and festivities, including a visit from the Knights of the Guild and their magnificent horses, showing off their jousting skills.

You'll find some pictures here.

16 September 2015

True Motherhood: Love and Discipline



Earlier this week at the commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, while preaching at the Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta Residence, the Holy Father’s homily contained these words:
“In these times where I don’t know if it’s the prevailing sense but there is a great sense in the world of being orphaned, it’s an orphaned world. This word has a great importance, the importance when Jesus tells us: ‘I am not leaving you as orphans, I’m giving you a mother.’ And this is also a (source of) pride for us: we have a mother, a mother who is with us, protects us, accompanies us, who helps us, even in difficult or terrible times.”

Pope Francis went on to explain that this motherhood of Mary goes beyond her and is contagious. From it, comes a second motherhood, that of the Church.
“Without motherhood, only rigidity and discipline remain. The Church is our mother. She is our ‘Holy Mother Church’ that is generated through our baptism, makes us grow up in her community and has that motherly attitude, of meekness and goodness: Our Mother Mary and our Mother Church know how to caress their children and show tenderness. To think of the Church without that motherly feeling is to think of a rigid association, an association without human warmth, an orphan. The Church is our mother and welcomes all of us as a mother: Mary our Mother, our Mother Church, and this motherhood are expressed through an attitude of welcome, understanding, goodness, forgiveness and tenderness.”

Those are comforting words, and true words, as far as they go. Most of us know them to be true because of our own experience.

When it came to her three sons, my mother always sought to understand, she was certainly good, quick to forgive and treated each of us with great tenderness. But she was not a push-over. There were standards in our family – certain expectations concerning behavior – and we knew they were unchanging. Also, because my mother and father agreed on those expectations, there was nowhere to hide and it was impossible to play one parent against the other. Our understanding and forgiving mother could also be a demanding mother, when it came to our transgressions.

And so it is with our Holy Mother the Church, which is why I venture to say that I think the Holy Father didn’t go quite far enough, and in fact, even borders on setting up a false dichotomy. Having standards and expectations when it comes to what is right or wrong is not being rigid; rather, having discipline is being realistic and loving.

When my brothers and I were young boys it would not have occurred to us to say to our father, “You’re too rigid – we’re going to appeal to Mom!” We knew the rules, we knew they agreed on the expectations, and we knew we would receive a just verdict from each of them.

So also, the motherhood of Mary and of the Church is a just and true motherhood, embracing us in love while also holding us accountable, and it's through that loving discipline that we know we’re not orphans.

14 September 2015

Our Lady 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.

Exposition of the Relic

A relic of the True Cross is made available each year on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, for the veneration of the Faithful.




13 September 2015

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Site of the Crucifixion, Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the crucifixion of our Lord on the hill of Calvary, and after his subsequent resurrection from the nearby tomb where His body had been placed, there was a concerted effort by both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem to obliterate any physical evidence or reminder of these events. They didn’t want there to be any rallying-place for the disciples of Jesus to gather, so dirt was piled up over the general site, and with the passage of time there were pagan temples built on top of it. But a persistent story was passed from generation to generation; namely, that the Cross on which Christ had died had been hidden somewhere underneath the site which was subsequently covered by pagan places of worship.

Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, was nearing the end of her life. A devout Christian, she received the divine inspiration that she should journey to Jerusalem to excavate the area where the Holy Sepulchre was, and attempt to locate the True Cross. The year was 326, and she set off on her pilgrimage. When St. Helena arrived in Jerusalem she was able to find someone who was very familiar with the story of where the Holy Cross had been hidden, and she ordered the excavation to begin – obviously able to arrange such a project because she was the Emperor’s mother.

The excavation was a success, but the problem was that three crosses were found on the spot. How was St. Helena to determine which one was the True Cross of Jesus? What happened next has come to us down through history in a tradition which tells us that St. Helena, along with the Bishop of Jerusalem, devised an experiment. The three crosses were taken to a woman who was near death; when she touched the True Cross, she was healed. This confirmed to St. Helena that the actual Cross upon which our Lord was crucified had been found.

Such a discovery called for celebration, and along with the great rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving to God, the Emperor Constantine ordered that two churches be built – one at the site of the burial of Christ (the Holy Sepulchre) and one on the site of the crucifixion (Mount Calvary). Because the sites were very close to one another, the churches were actually connected by a great colonnade, and today they are fully incorporated as one structure. The solemn dedication of the churches took place on September 13 and 14, in the year 335. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was fixed on September 14th, spreading from Jerusalem, on to other churches, until by the year 720 the celebration was kept throughout the whole Church.

The story doesn’t end there. In the early seventh century, the Persians conquered Jerusalem. The Persian king looted the city and stole the True Cross, taking it to Persia. Eventually, however, the Emperor recaptured the True Cross and brought it back to Jerusalem. The tradition says that he carried the Cross on his own back, but when he attempted to enter the church on Mount Calvary, he was unable to take another step. Bishop Zacharias of Jerusalem saw that the emperor was having difficulty, and so advised him to take off his royal robes and crown, and to dress in a penitential robe instead. As soon as the Emperor took the bishop’s advice, he was able to carry the True Cross into the church, where it was enshrined for the veneration of the Faithful. Eventually, smaller pieces of the relic were distributed throughout Christendom.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

11 September 2015

Remember and pray...

World Trade Center, 9/11

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen.


Pentagon, 9/11

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord,
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die,
we are the Lord's.


Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

10 September 2015

The Holy Name of Mary


Although the commemoration of the Holy Name of Mary isn't until Saturday, September 12th, we're making it a two-day celebration to remember the giving of her name by her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anne, and also another important historical event. The parents of the Blessed Virgin chose the Hebrew name of Miryãm, which means “lady” or “sovereign.” The feast of the Holy Name of Mary originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. It was Pope Innocent XI who extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683, and for a very special reason. It was an act of thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West.

What happened was this: the Turks had been hammering the city of Vienna for a couple of months, and finally enough was enough. Under the leadership of Poland’s king an army comprised of Germans, Austrians and Poles made their move against the Turks, routing them completely. It was such an important victory that the Pope was inspired to do something special – thus, what had been a localized commemoration was now an act of thanks from the whole Church. But there’s more to the story…

When the Turks made their hasty retreat there were all sorts of things left behind, including several sacks containing a strange bean unknown to the victors. Thinking it was food for the invaders’ camels, the Viennese were about to dump it all in the Danube. But there was a citizen of Vienna who had been a captive under the Turks. He knew these beans were roasted by the Turks, and after grinding them up they would put them in hot water, making a drink they really seemed to relish. This man, Kolinsky, received exclusive permission to make and sell this new and unfamiliar drink – coffee.

The Viennese people hated it. It was bitter. The grounds got stuck in their teeth. It didn’t seem much better than drinking a cup of mud. Then a friend of Kolinsky made a suggestion. Strain out the grounds. Put a little milk in it to lighten it up. Add some sugar to make it more palatable. After following that advice, the people flocked to buy it, and so the first coffee house was born.

But let’s face it – what’s a cup of coffee without something to go with it? And with that came a new pastry which not only tasted good, but poked a stick in the eye of the Muslims. The delectable comestible was formed into the shape of a crescent – that symbol which had become so hated during the Turkish occupation – and with every bite of these wonderful pastries the Viennese were able to have another small victory over their invaders.

So there we have it. There’s the story of how Turkish coffee was made drinkable, and how the croissant – the “Turkish crescent” – came into being. And it all happened as part of the victorious triumph achieved under the banner of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

On Friday we will offer a Votive Mass of the Holy Name of Mary, and our Upper School students will be gathering for coffee and crescent-shaped pastries after Mass to celebrate the Church's victory, and to remember that we must be vigilant, asking the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary to protect us from that centuries-old threat which continues to push its way into our lives.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of thy heavenly grace: That like as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us thy servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of her Most Holy Name may avail for the increasing of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

09 September 2015

THE CRUSADER TIMES

Here is the link to the latest issue of THE CRUSADER TIMES, which keeps you up to date on the happenings at The Atonement Academy.

06 September 2015

Church Doors

I like good, solid church doors. There's something beautiful about them, with the promise of great possibilities behind them. These are the doors at Our Lady of the Atonement Church...

The Great West Doors


The original doors, now opening from the nave onto the courtyard.


The Sacred Heart Chapel door.

03 September 2015

St. Cuthbert, Bishop & Confessor

St. Cuthbert, one of the great saints of Britain, was born in Northumbria in about the year 635, at about the same year in which St. Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne. He was raised as a Christian, and in his youth he spent time in military service, and also seems to have spent time as a shepherd.

His life changed when he was about 17 years old. He was tending sheep out in the hills, and looking into the night sky he saw a great light descend to earth and then return, and he believed that a human soul was being taken to heaven at that moment. The date was August 31, 651, the night of the death of St. Aidan, who was the great bishop and monk of Lindisfarne. This became Cuthbert’s time of decision for the future of his life. He immediately went to one of the monasteries, Melrose monastery, which had been founded by St. Aidan, and requested admittance as a novice.

For the next 13 years he was with the Melrose monks. At that time Melrose was then given land to found a new monastery at Ripon, and Cuthbert went with the founding party and was made guestmaster of the new foundation. After serving in that capacity for a time, St. Cuthbert returned to his original monastery and was appointed as Prior of Melrose.

After a time, St. Cuthbert moved to Lindisfarne and settled into the life of the monastery. He became an active missionary, and he was very much in demand as a spiritual director. He was an outgoing, cheerful, compassionate person and no doubt became popular. But when he was about forty years old he believed that he was being called to be a hermit and to dedicate himself completely to prayer. He moved to a remote island, where he remained for another ten years.

He was not destined to remain in the life of a hermit. When he was about fifty years old, he was asked by the Church to leave his hermitage and become a bishop, and he very reluctantly agreed. For two years he was an active, travelling bishop, and he journey far and wide ministering to those under his spiritual care.

Finally, feeling that death was approaching, he retired to his old hermitage where, in the company of Lindisfarne monks, he died on March 20, 687.

The 4th of September is kept as a commemoration of St. Cuthbert in remembrance of the transference of his relics to Durham. With the invasion of the Vikings near the end of the 9th century, the body of St. Cuthbert was taken from Lindisfarne by the monks to a new location for safekeeping, until finally arriving at the place known as “Deer’s meadow,” or “Durham,” where a chapel was built for the relics, and this chapel marked the place where the great Durham Cathedral now stands.

Almighty God, who didst call St. Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of thy people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from thy ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Divine Worship - The Missal


For more than thirty years we have been waiting for this harvest. In 1983 the seeds were carefully planted with the compilation of The Book of Divine Worship, now resulting in this beautiful DIVINE WORSHIP altar missal. Although it is available only for pre-ordering, it won't be long before it is in actual use. Deo gratias.

02 September 2015

Pope St. Gregory the Great


St. Gregory, truly "the Great," served the Church as Supreme Pontiff from 590 until 604.  After serving the city of Rome as a senator and prefect, all by the age of thirty, he gave himself to God by entering religious life as a Benedictine monk.  It was during his time as abbot that this famous incident took place, recorded in The Golden Legend:

It happed afterward that as Saint Gregory passed through the market of Rome, and saw there two fair children white and ruddy of visage, and fair yellow hair which were for to sell. And Saint Gregory demanded from whence they were, and the merchant answered, of England. After Saint Gregory demanded if they were christian, and he answered: Nay, but that they were paynims. Then sighed Saint Gregory and said: Alas, what fair people hath the devil in his doctrine and in his domination. After he demanded how these people were called: he answered that they were called Angles men; then he said they may well be so called for they have the visage of angels.

Abbot Gregory eventually became Pope. In addition to his tremendous influence on the liturgical and musical life of the Church, he remembered the Angle children he had seen in the slave market. He sent forty Benedictine monks to England, and among their number was St. Augustine of Canterbury. The rest, as they say, is history...

O God, the strength of them that put their trust in thee, who didst stablish thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Gregory with the strength of constancy to defend the freedom of thy Church: grant, we pray thee, that by his prayers and good example, we may manfully conquer all things contrary to our salvation; 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.