30 December 2016

The Holy Family


Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, who was espoused to St. Joseph. Because Jesus was part of a family, this provides a singular blessing for each one of our families, because now we have the Holy Family as a model and an inspiration. Of course, the celebration of the Holy Family is much more than just a kind of "patronal feast" for families. It really provides a picture of the Church itself, which is the true Family founded by Christ. The Holy Catholic Church is that family in which St. Joseph is the paternal Guardian, the Blessed Virgin is the maternal Heart, and Jesus is mystically present as the Divine Son. It is the Church which is our true and abiding Family, and our own earthly families can be strengthened by imitating and being consecrated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who by thy wondrous holiness didst adorn a human home, and by thy subjection to Mary and Joseph didst consecrate the order of earthly families: grant that we, being enlightened by the example of their life with thee in thy Holy Family, and assisted by their prayers, may at last be joined with them in thine eternal fellowship; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

28 December 2016

St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas was born in London, England around the year 1117. He was the son of pius parents, and his mother converted to Christianity through the example and teachings of his father. From his early youth, Thomas was educated in religion and holiness. After his childhood, Thomas was then taught at a monastery and later at a school in London. After the death of both his parents, Thomas decided to finish his schooling by studying canon law. He was successful in his studies and was made secretary to one of the courts of London.

After working for a while at law, Thomas decided to dedicate the rest of his life to God, and began to work towards ordination. In all that he did, Thomas diligently applied himself and became well known as a holy and honest worker. His work came under the scrutiny of King Henry II and, in 1157, Thomas was asked to serve as Lord Chancellor to the king. After the bishop of Canterbury died, Henry sought to elect Thomas to the position, and in 1162 this suggestion was accepted by a synod. Thomas warned the king that it might cause friction and conflict of interests, but accepted the position.

Thomas served as bishop by seeking to help the people and develop his own holiness. He practiced many penances and was very generous to the poor with both his time and his money. As Henry's reign continued, he began more and more to exercise his hand in Church affairs. This caused many disagreements with Thomas, and after one especially trying affair, he retired for a while to France. When Thomas returned to England, he again became involved in a dispute with the king. Some of the king's knights saw this as treason, and as a result they killed Thomas in his own Church. Henry did penance at the grave of Thomas, seeking forgiveness for the actions of his knights, and the tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.

- Reprinted from the Catholic News Agency
_______________________

St. Thomas Becket (of Canterbury) has a special place in the devotional life of our parish.  Not only does his image (in the form of a lovely old English statue) keep watch at the tabernacle, but his relics are contained under the stone in our high altar.

O God, for whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas Becket fell by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all who call upon him for succour may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire; 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.

Tabernacle at the High Altar, flanked by St. Stephen (l.) and St. Thomas Becket (r.)

27 December 2016

The Holy Innocents


In the midst of celebrating the incarnation of holy innocence, our joy is tempered by the remembrance of the deaths of the Holy Innocents. A wicked ruler ordering death much as he might order the destruction of an unwanted animal; terrified parents seeing their children's blood on the same streets where their families had walked for generations; brutalized children having their lives stolen scarcely after they had begun; a whole town maimed beyond recognition, all because the sin of Adam and Eve necessitated the birth of a Saviour.

We relate the slaughter of the Holy Innocents to the millions of children murdered through abortion -- and quite rightly so. But the horror of abortion is something that goes even beyond what happened on the streets of Bethlehem. The deaths of those little boys in Bethlehem afforded some safety to the Christ Child, because the sly Herod thought he had accomplished his purpose, and so the Holy Family was able to continue unmolested on its journey to the safety of Egypt. Those little boys, even in their suffering, had parents who did all they could to protect them from the violence descending upon them. Those little boys were named, and they were loved, and they were incorporated into God's family through the religious rites attended to by their mothers and fathers. The little boys of Bethlehem are remembered even today, and their deaths are able to be seen as being directly related to the mystery of the Holy Incarnation.

But the little victims of abortion... theirs is a holocaust that defies description. Not a single action of a single wicked ruler are their deaths; rather, their deaths are "a matter of choice" -- choices made by the very ones who should be protecting their innocent lives. These are not deaths being endured for any noble cause. These are deaths born of ignorance, of selfishness, of greed, of any number of the spoiled fruits of sin.

As we remember the deaths of the Holy Innocents, pray also for those who are being murdered in their holy innocence. And pray, too, that the twisted hearts which allow and encourage such unspeakable things might be changed.

O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and nurslings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: mortify and kill all vices in us; and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith, even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; 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.


  [Go to this link to read my daily Facebook posts.] 

26 December 2016

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

The cave of St. John on Patmos.

Our spiritual journey continues during this Octave of Christmas, as we travel from the Feast of young St. Stephen to the Feast of the aged St. John. And what a journey he made, being taken from tending his fishing nets by the Galilean sea to a cave of exile on the island of Patmos. In both places he was called by the Lord Jesus; first, to listen to the Divine Word so he could follow, and second, to record the Divine Word so those of us who have come later can also follow.

On one of our parish pilgrimages we went to Greece and Turkey, where we visited the cave in which St. John received the apocalyptic vision. As many holy places as I have visited, rarely have I been as affected as I was while standing in that place. There it was that the Risen Lord spoke to John with a power so overwhelming that a fissure was left overhead, dividing the rock into three pieces as a reminder that the Trinity had revealed the truth on that spot. Every place one looked, there was a reminder of John: the hollow in the rock where he rested his head when he grew so tired he could no longer stand upright; the sloping shelf on which the Revelation was recorded. It was all I could do to keep my shoes on my feet, so clearly was this "holy ground." It seemed as though the breath of history was held in that place, and that the apostle would at any moment appear once again to take up his pen to continue recording the living and awe-full word of the Lord. But of course, that could not be. It was there, in that cave, that the final word was spoken. What St. John heard there was the last word of truth. There is no more to be revealed; all we can pray for now is for our increased understanding of what Christ has spoken once for all. Here are the last words the Lord spoke to the last living apostle, written down with trembling hand:
"I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star." The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let him who hears say, "Come." And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen.


The icon pictured here was obtained during a parish pilgrimage, which included a visit to the island of  Patmos, where St. John had been exiled and where the Revelation was given to him by the Risen Christ. This image hangs in the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, near the altar.

Shed upon thy Church, we beseech thee, O Lord, the brightness of thy light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of thine apostle and evangelist St. John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that we may at length attain to the fullness of life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Stephen Protomartyr


It’s only the second day of the octave of celebrating the birth of Our Lord, and already we’re commemorating the first one to die for his faith in that same Lord. St. Stephen – the great deacon, the compelling preacher, the martyr whose blood was a seed of faith in St. Paul – his was a life which showed very early that the Catholic faith isn’t for cowards.

Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed: and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may learn to love and bless our persecutors, by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen; who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our Mediator and Advocate; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 December 2016

The Christmas Schedule


Christmas Eve

5:00 p.m.
Solemn Vigil Mass

11:00 p.m.
Choral Music

11:30 p.m.
Solemn Proclamation of Christmas
Procession to the Crib
Solemn High Mass


Christmas Day

7:30 a.m.
Low Mass

9:00 a.m.
Solemn High Mass

11:00 a.m.
Solemn High Mass

20 December 2016

What the Holy Family was not...


This is the time of year when we come across tiresome statements about the Holy Family, all in an effort to make them into some kind of political symbol, I suppose.  If I could make it clear:
  • They were not homeless.  Joseph and Mary each came from perfectly good homes in Nazareth, and they were no more homeless than I was during the time we lived in England, when I had to travel from my home in Bristol up to the American Embassy in London to register the births of my children when they were born.  I'm sick of the stories that make them sound like vagrants, having to find shelter under the nearest interstate overpass.  The inn was full, yes.  All the inns were full.  Bethlehem was packed full of people.  It wasn't out of cruelty that the innkeeper offered them the stable.  It was probably done as a favor to them.  Inns were notoriously seedy places, and the stable was probably a whole lot cleaner and more private.  Homelessness in our society is a sad and tragic thing, caused by various circumstances.  But let's not use the Holy Family as a prop in the lobby for the homeless.
  • They were not illegal aliens.  Joseph and Mary were obeying civil authority when they went to the city of David, because Joseph was descended from King David. They weren't fleeing from an oppressive regime in Nazareth, and they weren't scrounging for work in Bethlehem so they could send some denarii back to the folks in the old country. Nor was that the case when they went to Egypt.  Yes, they were fleeing from a cruel ruler, but they weren't crawling through barbed wire or hiding from border agents.  They simply crossed over into Egypt because borders were immaterial. Whatever one's opinion is about illegal immigration, Joseph and Mary don't lend themselves as examples for any argument one way or the other.  The circumstances just don't fit.
  • They were not living in poverty.  Ok, they weren't rich.  But they weren't eating out of garbage cans or subsisting on food stamps, either.  Joseph, as a carpenter, had a perfectly respectable trade, and his work would be much in demand, wherever he was.  In fact, his occupation is described as tekton, which is more like a general contractor.  Mary's parents were respectable people.  Tradition hints that Anne was descended from one of the high priests of the Temple, and Joachim was well-off enough to have a flock of sheep, indicating that Mary's background was not one of grinding poverty, any more than was Joseph's.
The Holy Family is just that: the Holy Family.  Their place in history is unique.  But every year we're treated to shallow words by politicians and media hacks who think they're expressing deep thoughts, using the Holy Family to make some point or other about social ills.  These usually are the very people who are horrified by the mention of religion at any other time of the year.  Ignore them.

17 December 2016

Late Advent


As we begin this time of Late Advent, so we begin the great “O" Antiphons, which lead up to the Vigil of the Nativity. Each antiphon highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel (O God With Us), and they are taken from the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah.

Of course, most of the Catholic Church already shares our patrimony’s gift regarding the O Antiphons in the metrical translation of these antiphons, the universally beloved: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” That translation is, in large part, the work of the famed Anglican priest, translator and hymnographer, John Mason Neale (1818-1866), to whose scholarly and literary gifts the Anglican Church owes its recovery of the great treasury of pre-Reformation Latin hymnody.

There is, however, another antiphon which is firmly part of our patrimony.  It is our unique eighth O Antiphon, which we will hear on the morning of December 24th — a most fitting antiphon indeed to echo throughout the monasteries and churches of the land known then – and now again – as “Our Lady’s Dowry,” the antiphon O Virgo virginum:
O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold, is a divine mystery.

15 December 2016

Little Bethlehem


This is a good time of the year to remember that great things can come in small packages, and the village of Bethlehem certainly is a case in point. A place of little consequence became the focus of the universe, and in its most rude and humble spot the Savior of the world drew His first breath. We should remember Bethlehem, not just at Christmas-time, but every time we are feeling that our own lives are not grand or influential. God found room in a mean stable for His miraculous work; let Him find room in our hearts, and just see what He will do!

14 December 2016

St. John of the Cross


St. John of the Cross was born in Spain in 1542, and he learned some important lessons from his parents -- especially the importance of sacrificial love. His father gave up tremendous wealth and social status when he fell in love and married a weaver's daughter, and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, John’s mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed as he came to know that one great love in his own life -- God.

When the family finally found work, the family still lived in poverty. When he was only fourteen, John took a job caring for people in a hospital for those with incurable diseases or who were insane. It was in the midst of this poverty and suffering that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

St. John eventually became a priest and joined the Carmelite order. This was at the time of great Saint Teresa of Avila, and she asked him to help her in her efforts to reform the Carmelites, who had become very worldly. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer, but many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John's own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell which was only six feet by ten feet, where he was frequently beaten. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolate cell, his love and faith continued to grow. He had nothing left but God -- and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. He managed to hide from his pursuers, and from then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God's love.

"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you."
Saint John of the Cross
Priest, Mystic, Poet, Doctor of the Church

O God, who didst inspire thy holy Confessor Saint John with an ardent love of self-denial and of the Cross: grant that by constantly following his example, we may attain to everlasting glory; 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.

13 December 2016

St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr


Lucy’s name has as its root the Latin word for light, lux. This makes her commemoration all the more meaningful during this time of Advent, as we increase each week the number of candles we light on the Advent wreath, reminding us that our lives are to be more and more illumined by the light of Christ.

We can be certain that there was a young Christian girl named Lucy who lived at the end of the 3rd century and into the beginning of the 4th century, because devotion to her is widespread from the 4th century on. Lots of the details of her life, however, come from legends and stories which were told from one generation to the next – and although the stories no doubt have some factual basis, many of the details were added over the years.

So what do we know about her? We know that Lucy’s father died when she was very young, because there is no mention of him whatsoever in the stories about her. Lucy’s mother, Eutychia, suffered from a serious sickness for many years, and she was unable to find any doctor who could help her. Young Lucy had heard of the healing power of the prayers of a young girl, St. Agatha, who had been martyred for the faith. The story is that St. Lucy convinced her mother that they should travel to the tomb of St. Agatha, so they could ask for her prayers for Lucy’s mother. They prayed all night, even falling asleep at the tomb. In her sleep, Lucy had a vision of St. Agatha, and at that moment, her mother Eutychia was cured.

Now, it happened that some time before this, Eutychia had arranged a marriage for Lucy with a young man who was a pagan, but Lucy insisted that she wouldn’t marry, and that the money which would have been used for her dowry should be spent on the poor. In fact, Lucy gave away everything she owned, including her property and her jewelry. News of this came to the attention of the young man whom she was supposed to marry, and he became very angry. He went to the local authorities to report that Lucy was a Christian – and this was a time when it was illegal to belong to the Church.

She was condemned to prison, but when the guards came to take her away, they found that it was impossible to lift her. No matter how much they tried to lift her, she seemed to become immoveable. It is said that she was killed when they plunged a dagger into her throat, and the story is that they had gouged out her eyes before her death. She is often pictured in art with two eyes on a plate, and for that reason she is the patroness of those who are blind or who have any disease of the eyes.

She is Lucy – lux – who lived and died in the light of Christ.

Almighty and everlasting God, who dost choose those whom the world deemeth powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of thy youthful martyr St. Lucy, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

11 December 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe


The miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is expecting a child. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born again" among the peoples of the New World.

Pictured here is our parish Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which will be blessed by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller on 14 December 2015 in the presence of the students of The Atonement Academy.

O God, who hast willed that under the special patronage of the most Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, we should receive an abundant measure of unceasing favours: grant us, thy suppliant people; that as we rejoice to honour her upon earth, so we may enjoy the vision of her in heaven; 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.

Beata Maria Virgo Guadalupensis,
Imperatrix Americarum, Praesidium Nondum Natorum.

10 December 2016

Gaudete!


December 11th, the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete!

Masses at Our Lady of the Atonement Church
will be at
7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
will be at 4:00 p.m.

08 December 2016

St. Juan Diego


Although we don’t know very much about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, we know that he was born in the year 1474 in part of what is today Mexico City. The Catholic faith was brought to Mexico in 1519 when Cortez landed on the coast of Mexico, and there were Catholic priests with him. Juan Diego was among the first of those the hear the Gospel, and in 1524, when he was 50 years old, Juan Diego was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Peter da Gand.

Juan Diego took his faith very seriously and attended Mass on a daily basis. He had a fifteen mile walk to Mass every morning, and on December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request that the bishop build a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who asked for her prayers. The Bishop at first didn’t believe Juan Diego, and he asked for some sign to prove that the apparition was true. On December 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. The Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and even though it was winter time, he found roses blooming. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to ask for Mary’s intercession.

O God, who by means of Saint Juan Diego didst show the love of the most holy Virgin Mary for thy people: grant, through his intercession; that, by following the counsels our Mother gave at Guadalupe, we may be ever constant in fulfilling thy will; 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.

07 December 2016

The Immaculate Conception


It was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who famously said, “There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church…” He was referring, of course, not simply to the institution, but more to what the Catholic Church teaches.

In my work with converts to the Faith, there are usually certain predictable teachings that are like “red flags” to those who are inquiring about Catholic teaching. Along with issues such as Papal Infallibility, one of the biggest “red flags” tends to be the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Let’s look first at what this doctrine is not. It does not refer to the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary, nor does it mean that Mary was somehow miraculously conceived. Mary was conceived in the normal way as the natural fruit of the marriage of Ss. Joachim and Anne, but at the moment of her conception she was preserved from original sin and its stain.

As we know, the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, became their bitter legacy to us. Original sin deprives us of sanctifying grace, and the stain of original sin corrupts our human nature. But by God’s grace, given at the moment of Mary’s conception, she was preserved from these defects, and so from the first instant of her existence Mary had the fullness of sanctifying grace, and was unburdened by the corrupt nature caused by original sin. In this way, Mary becomes a “second Eve,” conceived in the same state of original purity as God intended for mankind.

Why would God do this? We state the reason every time we say the Creed. When we profess that Jesus Christ “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,” we’re proclaiming that God took human flesh upon Himself. And from whom did He take that flesh? From Mary. So the question must be asked: would God – who can have no part in sin – take upon Himself that which was fallen, stained and corrupt? The answer is obvious: of course He wouldn't. So, as we can see already, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception has as much to do with our Lord Jesus Christ and His Incarnation, as it does with the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, as we explore the various Marian dogmas, we see this consistently. What God does in and through Mary finds its ultimate purpose in Jesus Christ.

We can find a strong implicit reference to the Immaculate Conception in St. Luke 1:28. In the original Greek text, when the archangel Gabriel is addressing the young Virgin Mary, the word used is translated to say that she is “full of grace.” In some translations of scripture, Gabriel’s words are translated as “highly favored one,” but that translation doesn’t capture the best and fullest meaning. The original Greek clearly indicates that Mary was filled with grace in the past, and the effect of it continues into the present. Understanding that, it’s apparent that the grace received by Mary didn’t come about through Gabriel’s visit; rather, she was always filled with grace.

Here’s another point used by those who doubt the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: They ask, “What about the words Mary spoke in her Magnificat, when she says, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”? If she wasn’t a sinner, why would she need a Savior?” Remember, Mary was a human being, a descendant of Adam and Eve. When she was conceived, she was certainly subject to the contracting of original sin, like all of us. But she was preserved from it – and how so? By grace. Mary was redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way; that is, by anticipation. There’s a helpful analogy which has been used by the Church to illustrate this very fact: a man falls into a deep pit, and somebody reaches down and pulls him out. It would be true to say that the man was “saved” from the pit. A woman is walking by that same pit, and she’s about to fall in, but at that very moment someone reaches out and pulls her back from the edge. She also has been “saved” from the pit. And in fact, she didn’t even get dirty like the poor man did, who actually fell in. God, who is outside of time, applied Christ’s saving grace to Mary before she was stained by original sin, rather like the woman in the story who didn’t get dirty because she was prevented from falling into the pit. So yes, Mary had a Savior, and He is none other than Christ, her Son and her Lord.

Then we’ve got Romans 3:23, where St. Paul says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Did St. Paul mean this statement to be understood in an all-inclusive, no-one-excluded way? Well, let’s consider. First of all, we certainly have to exclude Jesus Himself. Even though He was fully man, we know He didn’t sin. And what about a new-born baby? If sin is the deliberate disobedience to God’s law, could we say that a little baby has committed sin? I don’t think so. Although St. Paul was certainly stating the truth about mankind, his purpose in writing this section of Romans wasn’t to discuss the possibility of exceptions; rather he was constructing an important argument about law and grace, justification and redemption. If anybody wants to apply Romans 3:23 to Mary, then they’d have to apply it to babies and young children, too.

Sometimes people object to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception using this argument: “if we’re saying Mary was without sin, then we’re making her equal to God, because only God is without sin.” But we need to remember that in the beginning, Adam and Eve were created without sin, but they weren’t equal to God. The angels were created without sin, and in fact, from Scripture we know that only some of the angels sinned – Lucifer and his friends – but that means a lot of angels never sinned.  And they certainly are not equal to God.

Tragically, after the fall of our first parents, sin became commonplace and even expected. In fact, think about how often someone will say, after doing something wrong, “Well, I’m only human,” as though sin is perfectly natural, and somehow even defines humanity. Actually, sin is unnatural. We weren’t created to sin; we were created to know God, and to love Him, and to spend eternity with Him in heaven. In Mary, because of the Immaculate Conception, we see a human being as God intends all of us to be. What was maimed by the first Adam and Eve, is restored by the Second Adam and the Second Eve.

So then, what about the Immaculate Conception? It is logical. It is scriptural. And it is definitely an essential ingredient in God’s loving act of redemption.

O GOD, who in the foreknowledge of thy Son’s most precious death didst consecrate for him a dwelling-place by the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: mercifully grant that she who was preserved from all defilement, may evermore pray for us, until we attain unto thee in purity of heart; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

St. Ambrose


St. Ambrose was born around 339 in what is now France, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul. Following his father's footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy, where the main city was Milan. In about 374 the bishop of Milan died. At this same time, the Arian heresy that argued against the divinity of Christ threatened to destroy the Church. The bishop, who wasn’t a very good one, had supported the Arians. So now, the question was, who would take his place - an Arian or a Catholic? Both sides met in the cathedral and a riot broke out.

Public order was Ambrose's responsibility as governor so he hurried to the church and made a passionate speech not in favor of either side, but in favor of peace. He begged the people to make their choice without fighting, using restraint and moderation.

Suddenly, while he was speaking, what sounded like a child’s voice called out, "Ambrose for bishop!" Soon everyone was shouting, "Ambrose for bishop!" The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first deacon, then priest, then bishop, all in a single week!

This politician, now suddenly a bishop, was very much aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture. His deep spirituality and love of God's Word, put together with the speaking skill he had acquired in law and politics, made St. Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church.

St. Ambrose proved to be a fierce opponent of heresy. He battled to preserve the independence of the Church from the state and courageously excommunicated the powerful Catholic Emperor Theodosius I, who had massacred a group of innocent people in Thessalonica. St. Ambrose also had a significant impact on sacred music through the composition of hymns and psalm tones that are known to this day as Ambrosian chant. Besides many sermons and treatises on the spiritual life, Saint Ambrose is responsible for two of the first great theological works written in Latin, De Sacramentis on the Sacraments and De Spiritu Sancto on the Holy Spirit.

Around 385, a young man who was a teacher of rhetoric named Augustine came to hear Saint Ambrose preach in order to study his speaking technique, and in the process, was attracted to the Catholic faith. In 386 Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose and went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Ambrose and his pupil, Augustine, together with St. Jerome and St. Gregory the Great, make up the four original Doctors of the Latin Church. Saint Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan, died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD. His feast day is December 7, the day he was ordained bishop.

O God, who didst give to thy servant St. Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honour of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

05 December 2016

St. Nicholas of Myra


St. Nicholas was born of Christian parents in the last part of the third century, and was raised in the Faith. His parents died when he was young, and they left him a large sum of money. Rather than using this for himself, Nicholas secretly disbursed his fortune to those who were in particular need.

His uncle was the archbishop of Myra, and he ordained Nicholas and appointed him to be the abbot of a nearby monastery. At the death of the archbishop, Nicholas was chosen to fill the vacancy, and he served in this position until his death. About the time of the persecutions of Diocletian, he was imprisoned for preaching Christianity but was released during the reign of Emperor Constantine.

There are lots of stories surrounding the life of Saint Nicholas, one of which relates Nicholas' charity toward the poor. A certain man, who was the father of three daughters, had lost his fortune, and finding himself unable to support his daughters, he was planning to sell them into slavery. Nicholas heard of the man's intentions and secretly threw three bags of gold through a window into the home, thus providing dowries for the daughters, enabling them to be married. There are other stories of his generosity in giving to others, but he always tried to do it secretly.

After Nicholas' death on December 6 in or around 345, his body was buried in the cathedral at Myra, and a great devotion to him grew up. More and more people visited his tomb to ask for his prayers. His body remained there until 1087, when some sailors from Bari, an Italian coastal town, came and took the relics of the saint and transferred them to their own city. Veneration for Nicholas had already spread throughout Europe as well as Asia, but this occurrence led to a renewal of devotion in the West. Countless miracles were attributed to the saint's intercession. His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari.

St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children – and we’re reminded of this here in the parish because we have our St. Nicholas Field. We have a relic of St. Nicholas in the Lady Chapel.

Relic of St. Nicholas, in the Lady Chapel.


O God, who didst adorn thy blessed Bishop Saint Nicholas with power to work many and great miracles: grant, we beseech thee; that by his prayers and merits, we may be delivered from the fires of everlasting torment; 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.

30 November 2016

Making Merbecke Catholic Again

Most Anglicans, when they hear the name John Merbecke, probably think immediately of the very simple and plain setting used for “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion.” Each year in our parish we use this setting for some of the Sung Masses in Advent and Lent. Musically it’s not terribly exciting, but that’s the point of using it during these seasons. It’s tuneful but not overwhelming, and when it’s sung by the pure voices of children, it affords an interesting seasonal change.

The roots of this little setting couldn’t be more Anglican. In 1550, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had asked Merbecke to provide service music “containing so much of the Order of Common Prayer as is to be sung in Churches.” It was to be simple and able to be sung by everyone, and the requirement was “for every syllable a note.”

We don’t know anything about Merbecke’s musical education, but apparently he was an accomplished singer and organist. Born in c.1505, by 1531 his name heads the list of choristers at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. He was appointed Organist of St. George’s in 1541. The virulent protestantism creeping through Europe was making its way into England at that time, and Merbecke was drawn into it, even though he was serving at the King’s Royal Chapel. That was a strange time – King Henry had broken with Rome, but in many ways he remained conservative in his religion, and in those circumstances, Merbecke’s protestant sympathies forced him into a double life. Of course, it couldn’t last forever, and by 1543 his protestantism was revealed. He was accused of owning and writing heretical documents – something that was, in fact, true. Along with two other colleagues at St. George’s, Merbecke was arrested. Charged with being a heretic, he was condemned to death. Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, pleaded Merbecke’s case before the King, and he was given a reprieve. Released from his imprisonment, Merbecke returned to his post of Organist at St. George’s, where he stayed until his death in c.1585.

Although John Merbecke is probably best remembered for his 1550 work on the "Booke of Common Praier Noted," before the English Reformation he was a somewhat talented composer of liturgical music for the Catholic Church, although not many of his compositions survive. His "Missa Per arma iustitie" is still available, as well as the Marian anthem "Ave Dei patris filia." The antiphon "Domine Ihesu Christe" is probably one of his better works, although it’s more sturdy than beautiful.

John Merbecke became a convinced Calvinist, and he expressed great regret for his Catholic compositions. In fact, in 1550 he wrote, “…in the study of music and playing on organs, I consumed vainly the greatest part of My life.” It’s really his "Booke of Common Praier Noted," with its simple Communion setting, which has made Merbecke best known, and that wasn’t actually a work of composition; rather, it was a fitting of the words of the English liturgy to modified plainsong melodies.

I’ve wondered, as I hear his Communion setting being sung at a Catholic Mass, what he would think. I’m quite sure that if he had witnessed such a thing during his earthly life, he would have been appalled – but now that he has the knowledge which comes with eternity (and I do hope he’s spending it in heaven), I would imagine he appreciates the unexpected turn of events which has brought his music back to the Church in which he was baptized.

29 November 2016

St. Andrew, Apostle


Andrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a fisherman. He became a disciple of the great St. John the Baptist, but when John pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Andrew understood that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine Master. Jesus knew that Andrew was walking behind him, and turning back, he asked, "What do you seek?" When Andrew answered that he would like to know where Jesus lived, Our Lord replied, "Come and see." Andrew had been only a little time with Jesus when he realized that this was truly the Messiah.

From then on, he chose to follow Jesus, and became the first disciple of Christ. Next, Andrew brought his brother Simon (St. Peter) to Jesus and Jesus received him, too, as His disciple. At first the two brothers continued to carry on their fishing trade and family affairs, but later, the Lord called them to stay with Him all the time. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time, they left their nets for good. It is believed that after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Andrew went to Greece to preach the gospel. He is said to have been put to death on a cross, to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days, still preaching the Gospel to those who gathered around him in his last hours.


Almighty God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay: grant unto us all; that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfil thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God,
world without end. Amen.

28 November 2016

Advent


The weeks of Advent have a unique sense of mystery all their own. We know Advent best as that time of waiting before the Solemnity of the Nativity, but it contains a much more comprehensive expectation than mere preparation for Christmas. Truly, it collects the many strands of our faith, and weaves them into one fabric which is both lovely and awesome, for during Advent the cradle rests in expectation of the cross; the child Redeemer speaks of the coming Judge resplendent in the clouds; the awaited birth of Jesus is the beginning of His passion; the swaddling-clothes prepared by the expectant Mother foretell the shroud of Christ's burial. Perhaps at no other time of the year is the totality of Christ's work put before us so clearly as it is at this time of Advent.

24 November 2016

St. Catherine of Alexandria


The account of the life and death of St. Catherine of Alexandria was recorded by Eusebius in about the year 320, just a few years after her martyrdom. Eusebius was the Bishop of Caesarea and is known as the "father of Church history."

Catherine was born of into a noble family of Alexandria, and from childhood she had devoted herself to study. Through her reading she had learned a great deal about Christianity, and was subsequently converted after being given a vision of Our Lady and the Holy Child Jesus.

When the Emperor Maxentius began his persecution against the Church, Catherine went to him and gave him a firm rebuke for his cruelty, after which she told him about Christ and the Gospel. The emperor could not answer her arguments against his pagan gods, so he gathered together fifty philosophers to argue against her. Quite the opposite happened, and they were won over by her reasoning. When the emperor learned that they all had become Christians, he had them burned to death.

He then tried to seduce Catherine with an offer to be his consort. She refused him, so he had her beaten and imprisoned. The Emperor went off to inspect his military forces, but when he returned he discovered that his wife Faustina and one of his high officials had been visiting Catherine and had been converted, along with the soldiers of the guard. They too were put to death, and Catherine was sentenced to be killed on a spiked wheel. As soon as her body touched the instrument of torture, the wheel broke into pieces. That did not stop her martyrdom, however, because the emperor ordered that she be taken to a place of execution, where she was beheaded.

St. Catherine of Alexandria could just as well be called St. Catherine the Brilliant because of her intellect and wisdom, along with her ability to explain the Catholic faith with great conviction. As many in her day discovered, to hear her expound upon the Gospel meant almost certainly that those who listened would be converted to follow Christ.

O GOD, whose dwelling-place is in the pure of heart: grant we beseech thee; that we who venerate the memory of the martyr Catherine, thy faithful bride, may have grace to follow the example of her holiness and courage; 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 .

23 November 2016

My Thanksgiving Memories...


This has become something I post each year...

For me it’s impossible to think of Thanksgiving without thinking of Grandpa and Grandma Phillips when they lived at the farm in Connecticut. Of course, childhood memories may change with the passing of years. Some of the details may get blurred. But there are so many happy memories of family gatherings, with Grandpa presiding at the head of it all and Grandma seeming to move constantly between her stove, the pantry, and her place at the table.

Could it have been normal to have had snow by Thanksgiving? When I was little it always seemed as though there was snow on the ground at that time, but maybe it’s my imagination. I do remember how warm it would seem when I went into Grandma’s kitchen, especially on Thanksgiving morning. No matter how early I went in, she would already have been working for hours on what always seemed like the biggest turkey I’d ever seen. I don’t know how she did it with that ancient wood-burning stove she had. Of course, everyone would bring more food when they came – different vegetables, various desserts – but the centerpiece was always Grandma’s turkey. And the heavenly smell which all of that made – it never seemed to be able to be duplicated at any other time of the year.

How did we all fit in their kitchen and living room? There were loads of us, but we found room. And Grandpa was always insistent that we all had to be at the same table, so the big oval kitchen table would get other tables added to it, stretching through the double door into the living room and turning the corner down to the far end. We may not have been able to see everyone at the same time, but we were all at the same table – and Grandpa loved that. I’ve tried to remember how many of us there would have been in those days – certainly more than fifty, with all the grandchildren.

Other than the big oak table, the most important piece of furniture in Grandma’s kitchen was the china cabinet. It was from there that we took out the treasures we used on Thanksgiving Day. Nana’s beautiful Bavarian china set would be used. The little green candy dishes, with gold leaf on the edges, would be filled with mints and placed at different places on the table. Of course, I’d try to figure out where I’d be sitting, so that one of those little green dishes would be near my place. And I remember my Aunt Alice’s fruit arrangements! As a little boy, I was amazed that she seemed to be able to build the fruit up so high that it looked like it was balancing in mid-air.

I can picture it all, and it seems almost like yesterday that we were all together. I can see Grandma at the stove, and I can picture her pantry with the sink at the end of it. I can hear the sound of their little dog Chippy, his nails clicking on the linoleum floor, trying to keep out of the way. I can see Grandpa in his chair, so happy that his family was all together in one place on his favourite holiday. I can see all of us cousins together – lots of little children excited and wanting to help, but really getting underfoot. And I can remember Grandma trying to come up with jobs to keep some of us busy, and she’d go through all the names until she got to the one she wanted. I used to laugh so hard – and she would, too – when she would start in with “George… Johnny… Earl… Denny… I mean, Chris, why don’t you run outside and see if you can find some pretty berries to make a centerpiece for the table, and Alice… I mean Linda, you can go and help.” And out we’d go, thinking we were on an important mission – not realizing that it was her way of clearing a couple of little ones out of the kitchen so she could have a bit more room to get things prepared. And when we’d come back with some orange berries on a branch and a couple of dried milkweed stalks, Grandma would exclaim about what a beautiful arrangement it would make!

What wonderful times those were, and I think we knew it, even then. How God blessed us as a family. Of course, there have been difficult times, and we miss those whom God had called to be with Him. But we have known God’s love through the love of our family, and we must continue to make memories so that today’s little children can recall them when they are grown with grandchildren of their own.

The family has expanded tremendously, and although miles separate us, the bonds of love keep us together. And when I pray for those of our family who have died, it reminds me that we are all still one family – whether on this earth or in God’s eternal keeping. Even though we may not be able to see everyone whom we love, God sees us all – and He keeps each and every one of us in His divine heart.

22 November 2016

St. Clement, Pope and Martyr


St. Clement I of Rome (92-101) was one of the first popes. According to St. Ireneus, he was the third after Peter, following Pope Linus and Pope Cletus. Clement died as a martyr, but otherwise we know little about his life. He may be the one Paul mentions as his companion in Phil. 4:3. St. Clement wrote a letter to the Corinthians, and we have the text of that, in which he intervenes as the Pope to that community, which had a number of troubles going on – showing us very early the place of the successor of St. Peter in the Church.

Because of his zeal for souls, Pope Clement was banished from Rome to a distant place, where he found two-thousand Christians who had also been banished. When he came to these exiles he comforted them. "They all cried with one voice: Pray for us, blessed Clement, that we may become worthy of the promises of Christ. He replied: Without any merit of my own, the Lord sent me to you to share in your crowns." When they complained because they had to carry the water six miles, he encouraged them, "Let us all pray to the Lord Jesus Christ that He may open to His witnesses a fountain of water." "While blessed Clement was praying, the Lamb of God appeared to him; and at His feet a bubbling fountain of fresh water was flowing." Seeing the miracle, "All the pagans of the neighborhood began to believe."

When the Emperor Trajan heard of these marvels, he ordered Clement to be drowned with an iron anchor around his neck. "While he was making his way to the sea, the people cried with a loud voice: Lord Jesus Christ, save him! But Clement prayed in tears: Father, receive my spirit." At the shore the Christians asked God to give them the body. The sea receded for three miles and there they found the body of the saint in a stone coffin within a small marble chapel; alongside lay the anchor. The body was taken to Rome by Sts. Cyril and Methodius and placed in a church dedicated to his honor (S. Clemente). This is one of the most venerable of the churches in Rome because it retains all the liturgical arrangements of ancient times.

O Everlasting Shepherd, favourably look upon thy flock: and keep it with perpetual protection, through the intercession of blessed Clement thy Pope and Martyr, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church; 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.

21 November 2016

St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr


St. Cecilia is one of several martyrs in the early Church who were young girls, and very serious about their faith. Cecilia was of noble birth. At an early age, she dedicated her life to God with a vow that she wouldn’t marry, but would give herself completely to Christ. However, her family wanted her to marry, and she was engaged to a young nobleman named Valerian. On her wedding day, she prayed to the Lord and asked Him to help Valerian to understand that she couldn’t live with him as his wife. History records, "The day on which the wedding was to be held arrived and while musical instruments were playing she was singing in her heart to God alone saying: Make my heart and my body pure that I may not be confounded." St. Cecilia's prayers were answered, and Valerian understood the importance of her vow to God. In fact, not only did he accept it, but he and his brother Tiburtius were both converted to the Christian faith, and were baptized.

At this time, Christianity was still illegal in Rome. Both Valerian and his brother Tiburtius were soon discovered to be Christians, and they were martyred. Cecilia was discovered soon after, and she was condemned to death. It required two attempts, however, before the death of Cecilia was successful. She was first locked in a bath in her own home to be suffocated by the steam. When she emerged from the bath unharmed, she was then beheaded. The stroke of the axe failed to sever her head from her body, however, and she lived for three days. During this time, she saw to the disbursment of her assets to help the poor, and she donated her home to be used as a church, and there is a great church on that site to this day, which bears her name. When Cecilia finally died, she was buried in the Catacombs of Callixtus. In the 9th century Pope Paschal I had St. Cecilia's remains unearthed from the catacombs and reported that her body was incorrupt and that her hands signaled the Trinity, with one extending three fingers and the other a single finger.


O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Cecilia thy Virgin and Martyr: grant that we who venerate her in our service, may also follow the example of her godly life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 November 2016

Presentation of Mary


St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had prayed for a child, and part of their prayer was the promise that they would dedicate their child to the service of God. Little did they know at that time what great service would be given by their infant daughter.

When Mary reached the age of three, her parents fulfilled their vow. Together with their family and friends, they took her to the Temple. The High Priest and other Temple priests greeted the procession, and tradition says that the child was brought before the fifteen high steps which led to the sanctuary. It is said that the child Mary made her way to the stairs and, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, ascended all fifteen steps, coming to the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. Tradition then says that the High Priest, acting outside every rule he knew, led the Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, astonishing everyone present in the Temple. So it was that she, whose own womb would become the Holy of Holies, came into the presence of the God Whom she would bear.

St. Joachim and St. Anne returned to their home, but the Handmaid of the Lord remained in the Temple until her espousal, where she was prepared by God and protected by angels.

Almighty and everlasting God, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin Mother Mary to be a dwelling place for thy Son: grant that we who rejoice in her Presentation may at her tender intercession be kept unspotted, and made a pure temple for his dwelling; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


    [Go to this link to read my daily Facebook posts.]

Christ the King


The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal King of the Universe, was dragged before a minor earthly ruler and was asked the question, “Are you a king, then?” Such a simple question it was, and yet so fertile. As a seed bursting with the beginning of life when it falls into good soil is able to produce a harvest beyond imagining, so Christ’s answer to Pilate's question (if it had been met with some glimmer of grace, some hint of human charity) might have lifted the life of that petty potentate into the upper reaches of God’s glory, for our Lord told him “My kingdom is not of this world...” But that Pilate could not grasp, and so instead has been immortalized with the phrase, “...suffered under Pontius Pilate...” which describes the death of the King he could never understand. We, however, have been given to know that kingdom “not of this world,” and so have been spared the blindness which afflicted Pilate. In the cross we see a throne; in the thorns we see a crown; in the wounded side we see a gateway to Christ’s kingdom, which is eternal.

18 November 2016

Basilicas of Ss. Peter and Paul


We commemorate the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul because the Church wants us to remember the importance of consecrated places in which the worship of God takes place. It reminds us of the importance of the consecration of every Catholic Church throughout the world. It is a reminder to us of the incarnational principle on which our faith is based – that God extends His spiritual blessings to us through the use of physical things. He took human flesh upon Himself. He has instituted seven sacraments which use outward forms to communicate inward grace. He has established a hierarchical Church, with a physical presence in the world, to be a sign of His own presence with us.

Defend thy Church, O Lord, by the protection of the holy Apostles: that, as she received from them the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine; so through them she may receive, even to the end of the world, an increase in heavenly grace; 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.

16 November 2016

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth lived in the 13th century, and she was a princess, the daughter of the King of Hungary. She married the young man she had loved for as long as she could remember, Ludwig of Thuringia, and their life together was blessed with three children. St. Elizabeth took seriously her duties as wife and mother, and because of her deep love for Christ, she took seriously also her duty toward the poor.  She embraced the words of our Lord, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done it to me.”  She put herself at the service of widows and orphans, she cared for the sick and the needy. Her life was really an expression of her deep love – love for God, love for her husband and children, and love for those who had no one else to love them. Hers was a very beautiful life, and no doubt she would have liked it to go on like that forever.

But sometimes, things can change dramatically – we might not understand why, but it’s always for God’s purpose. St. Elizabeth experienced an especially painful change in her life when her husband, whom she so deeply loved, went off to the Crusades, and there he was killed. Elizabeth was devastated – and not only was she sorrowing for the death of her husband, but her husband’s family, who never approved of her charitable works, cast her and her children out of the family home, and left her with no means of support.

Here was Elizabeth, a princess and the widow of a nobleman, reduced to poverty, wandering with her children for a place to live, until a poor man whom she had helped previously was able to offer her shelter in an abandoned pig sty. Her faith sustained her – not only was she not bitter, but she put in even more effort to caring for the poor, with a renewed feeling for them, since she and her children were now counted among them. She supported herself and her children, as well as her works of charity, by spinning wool and making cloth to sell. She exhausted herself, and was only 24 years old when she died. Her feast day is November 16th.

O Lord God, who didst teach Saint Elizabeth of Hungary to recognize and to reverence Christ in the poor of this world: grant that we, being strengthened by her example and assisted by her prayers, may so love and serve the afflicted and those in need that we may honour thy Son, the servant King; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

15 November 2016

St. Margaret of Scotland


St. Margaret lived in the 11th century, and she was the great-niece of St. Edward the Confessor. She was a Saxon princess, but she was raised in Hungary in exile. Eventually, she and her parents returned to England, but she was forced flee once again after the Battle of Hastings. She went to the court of Malcolm, who was the King of Scotland.

Malcolm was an unrefined man, and Scotland was a wild place – but Margaret and Malcolm fell in love, and they were married. Margaret, in her gentle way and through her exemplary life, lived her Catholic faith in such a way that Malcolm and the people of Scotland gradually changed their ways to be more conformed to Christ’s teaching.

Margaret was a model mother and queen who brought up her eight children in an atmosphere of great devotion and she continued to work hard to improve the lives of the people of Scotland. She had a particular love for the poor, and provided for them out of her own resources, very often serving them herself.

O God, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst endue her with zeal for thy Church and charity towards thy people: mercifully grant that we who ask her prayers and commemorate her example may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious fellowship of thy Saints; 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.


   [Go to this link to read my daily Facebook posts.]

St. Albert the Great


The life of St. Albert covered almost all of the 13th century. His father was a very wealthy German nobleman, and Albert was able to receive an excellent education at the best universities of his day. He was a philosopher, a bishop, a prolific writer, and one of the most influential scientists of the Middle Ages. We all know the phrase, “a know-it-all” – but St. Albert really was, and in the best sense. He was able to compile a complete system of all the knowledge of his day. The subjects he encompassed included astronomy, mathematics, economics, logic, rhetoric, ethics, politics, metaphysics and all branches of natural science. It would take him more than 20 years to complete this phenomenal presentation.

St. Albert taught that there was no discrepancy between theology and science; rather, they were simply different aspects of a harmonious whole. Among his most important contributions to the development of scientific thought in the Middle Ages was helping the scholarly community to recognize the value of Aristotle’s philosophy, and he had as one of his chief students, St. Thomas Aquinas. It was Thomas who carried St. Albert’s teaching out to its logical conclusions.

St. Albert is the only scholar of his time to have earned the title "Great" -- a title that was applied to him even during his lifetime.

O God, who gavest grace unto blessed Albert, thy Bishop and Doctor, to become truly great in the subjection of human wisdom to divine faith: grant us, we beseech thee, so to follow in the footsteps of his teaching; that we may enjoy the perfect light in heaven; 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.

11 November 2016

St. Josaphat, Martyr for Unity


St. Josaphat was born about the year 1580 in what was the Polish province of Lithuania and was raised as an Eastern Rite Catholic. He had a deep devotion to the suffering of Christ, and looked at the schism between East and West as a wound in the Church as the Sacred Body of our Lord. As a young man in his mid-twenties he entered religious life, joining the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (known as the Basilians), and as a monk he gave himself over to penance and mortification, going barefoot even in winter, and eating only the poorest food.

In 1618, after living as a monk for nearly fifteen years, he was appointed to be archbishop of the Eastern Rite Diocese of Polotzk, and he devoted his energies to work for the reunion of the Church, all the while deepening the faith of his people through his preaching and his example. There were those in the Orthodox Church, not in union with Rome, who were very much against his work towards unity, and a group of them decided he must be stopped, making plans to assassinate him. In fact, St. Josaphat knew there were many who did not want unity, and he knew his life was in danger; however, he pressed forward in his work to heal the rift between East and West.

One day when he was visiting part of his diocese in territory which is now in Russia, his enemies made an attack on the place where he was staying, and many of those who were traveling with St. Josaphat were killed. Quietly and with humility, St. Josaphat went toward the attackers and asked them why they had done such a thing, saying to them, “If you have something against me, see, here I am.” The crowd screamed at him saying, “Kill the papist!” They ran towards him with their weapons, killing him with an axe-blow to his head.

St. Josaphat's body was thrown into the river, but it remained on the surface of the water, surrounded by rays of light, and was recovered. Those who had murdered him, when they were sentenced to death, repented of what they had done. Through the gentle example of St. Josaphat and helped by his heavenly intercession, through the grace of God they became Catholics.

Stir up in thy Church, we pray, O Lord, the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat: that, as he laid down his life for the sheep; so through his intercession we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit and not fear to lay down our life for our brethren; 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.


   [Go to this link to read my daily Facebook posts.]

10 November 2016

St. Martin of Tours


When he was merely a boy, Martin became a Christian catechumen against his parents' wishes, and at the age of fifteen he was forced by his father, a pagan soldier, to be enrolled in the army.

It was on a winter's day, while stationed at Amiens, that Martin met a beggar almost naked and frozen with cold. Having nothing to give him, Martin cut his cloak in two and gave poor man half.

That night in a dream Martin saw Our Lord clothed in the half cloak, and heard Him say to surrounding angels: "Martin, yet only a catechumen, has wrapped Me in this garment." He decided to be baptized, and shortly after this he left the army.

Martin succeeded in converting his mother, but he was driven from his home by the Arian heretics who were powerful in that place, and he took shelter with the bishop, St. Hilary. Near Poitiers they founded first monastery in France, and in the year 372 St. Martin was made Bishop of Tours. The people of that area, though Christian in name, were mostly still pagan in their hearts and in their daily practice. Unarmed and attended only by his monks, St. Martin destroyed the heathen temples and groves, and then completed this courageous act by preaching the Gospel. After witnessing many miracles at the hand of their bishop St. Martin, there was a complete conversion of the people. St. Martin’s last eleven years were spent in the humble work of travelling throughout Gaul, preaching and manifesting the power of God through his works and by the purity of his life.

O God, who seest that we are not able to stand in our own strength: mercifully grant that, through the prayers of blessed Martin thy Confessor and Bishop, we may be defended from all adversities; 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.

Pope Leo and Attila the Hun


Pope St. Leo reigned twenty-one years as pope in the 5th century, and is the first pope to be titled "the Great." He truly was a great Pope, defending the Faith, and confirming the primacy of the Successors of St. Peter. But perhaps the most exciting thing Pope Leo did was when he had a confrontation with the infamous and cruel military leader, Attila the Hun. This is the story.

The Huns were a nomadic people, originating probably in Mongolia, but they migrated westward, sacking and pillaging whatever cities or towns that were in their way. Until the time of Attila in the 5th century, the Huns were comprised of a loose confederation of tribes, not really a unified people at all – that is, until Attila came on the scene. He unified them, and they were making their sweep across Europe. By the time of Pope Leo, Attila the Hun was busy ransacking most of Italy, and his plan included the sack of Rome. Attila hoped to add it to his possessions, not only for the riches it would give him, but he was also trying add to his number of wives, and the young woman he had his eye on would be impressed with his taking Rome, or so he thought.

Pope Leo, of course, wanted to protect Rome and keep its citizens alive, but here was Attila, looking to attack and plunder the city, and destroy the Church. With the approach of Attila and his mob of soldiers, Pope Leo went into prayer, committing his papacy to the patronage and protection of St. Peter, the apostle and first pope, and then Leo did a very brave thing – he arranged a meeting with Attila just outside the city of Rome. Nobody thought this was a very good idea – in fact, everyone in Rome was sure that Pope Leo would be immediately martyred by this conqueror who never hesitated to murder and destroy anything or anyone who got in his way.

Nonetheless, Pope Leo went to meet Attila. And then, one of the most dramatic moments in Christian history takes place: Attila calls off the sack of Rome. And Leo goes safely back to Rome. What happened? What made Attila retreat?

This is the account of that meeting: while Attila and Leo were conversing, Attila was shaking in his boots, because that during that conversation, Attila saw a vision like he had never seen before! Attila saw St. Peter himself hovering over Leo's head . . . with a huge sword drawn and pointed directly at him! Attilla was certain he would be immediately killed if he didn’t withdraw and leave the area, so to save his own skin, Attila ran away from the Pope, who was armed only with the Truth.

And that is the story of how Pope Leo the Great saved Rome from being destroyed.

O Lord Jesu Christ, who didst strengthen thy holy Bishop and Doctor, Pope Leo, to maintain both by word and deed the verity of thy sacred Humanity: grant, we beseech thee; that guided by the light of his doctrine, we may earnestly defend the faith of thy holy Incarnation; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


  [Go to this link to read my daily Facebook posts.]

09 November 2016

Dedication of St. John Lateran


On November 9th the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour in the city of Rome, known also as St. John Lateran. On the façade is carved the proud title “Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput” – “The Mother and Head of all Churches of the City and of the World.” It is the cathedral of Rome – it is the Pope’s Cathedral, and so is, in a sense, the Cathedral of the world – senior in dignity even to St. Peter’s Basilica.

One of the reasons we celebrate this Feast is because the Church wants us to remember the importance of consecrated places in which the worship of God takes place. It reminds us of the importance of the consecration of every Catholic Church throughout the world. It is a reminder to us of the Incarnational principle on which our faith is based – that God extends His spiritual blessings to us through the use of physical things. He took human flesh upon Himself. He has instituted seven sacraments which use outward forms to communicate inward grace. He has established a hierarchical Church, with a physical presence in the world, to be a sign of His own presence with us.

O Most blessed Saviour, who didst vouchsafe thy gracious presence at the Feast of Dedication: be present with us at this time by thy Holy Spirit, and so possess our souls by thy grace; that we may be living temples, holy and acceptable unto thee; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.