31 March 2016

Divine Mercy Sunday Indulgence


On DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY, a plenary indulgence, is granted to the Faithful under the usual conditions:

1.     Sacramental confession (within about 20 days before or after);
2.     Reception of Holy Communion;
3.     Prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff (Our Father and Hail Mary).

and who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin:

1.     either take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy,

or

2.     who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!").


You may obtain the plenary indulgence for yourself, or it may be applied to the soul of one who is departed, but it cannot be obtained for another person still living.

30 March 2016

Thursday in the Easter Octave


Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

-Luke 24:35-48

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal Mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation: grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; 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.

29 March 2016

Wednesday in the Easter Octave


Read St. Luke 24:13-35

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

On the road to Emmaus, we notice where Jesus directs the attention of the disciples. Not to themselves. Not to their personal experiences or subjective feelings. He directs them to the revelation of Almighty God. Jesus opens up the Scriptures for them and beginning with the words of Moses and going all the way through the prophets, He shows how His death and resurrection form the rhythm of the Scriptures from the very start.

That's how Jesus turns stubborn hearts that are slow to believe into hearts that burn with faith in Him -- it's through the Scriptures that are preached and taught in their fullness by the Church which Jesus Christ has founded. If our hearts are slow to believe and our minds are dull in the knowledge of God, we have only ourselves to blame for not listening to God’s Word as it’s taught to us by our Holy Mother the Church.

See what the Gospel then tells us. Although their hearts were burning, their eyes were not yet opened. Jesus pretends to go on, but the disciples insist that He join them for supper. It was nearing the end of the day, and evening was coming. They enjoin Him to remain for supper.

Although Jesus was their guest, He sits at the head of the table. He takes the bread, He blesses and breaks it, and He gives it to them. It is an echo of the last meal that Jesus had with His apostles on the night in which He was betrayed. Here again is Jesus, breaking bread. And St. Luke tells us that "their eyes were opened and they recognized Him." In the breaking of the Bread, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus is recognized and known.

O God, who dost gladden us with the yearly solemnity of the Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord: mercifully grant that we may so observe this temporal feast; that we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; 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 March 2016

Monday in the Easter Octave


So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, "Tell people, `His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

- St. Matthew 28:8-15

O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith; that we may behold thee in all thy works; 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.

26 March 2016

Easter Schedule


The Great Vigil of Easter 
at 8:00 p.m.

Easter Day 
at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 11:00 a.m.


(There will be no 6:00 p.m. Mass on Easter Day)

Miserere mei, Deus

Our Academy Honors Choir sings Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere mei, Deus."


The link for this video can be found here.

25 March 2016

The Divine Mercy Novena


The Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday, and the Chaplet is said each day of the Novena.  The Chaplet is said in this way:


1. Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.
2. Then on the Our Father Beads say the following:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
3. On the 10 Hail Mary Beads say the following:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
(Repeat step 2 and 3 for all five decades).
4. Conclude with(three times):
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

The intentions of each day are as follows:

DAY 1 (Good Friday) - All mankind, especially sinners.

DAY 2 (Holy Saturday) - The souls of priests and religious.

DAY 3 (Easter Sunday) - All devout and faithful souls.

DAY 4 (Easter Monday) - Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him.

DAY 5 (Easter Tuesday) - The souls of separated brethren.

DAY 6 (Easter Wednesday) - The meek and humble souls and the souls of children.

DAY 7 (Easter Thursday) - The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus' mercy.

DAY 8 (Easter Friday) - The souls who are detained in purgatory.

DAY 9 (Easter Saturday) - The souls who have become lukewarm.

The full prayers for the Novena intentions are at this link.

24 March 2016

Not my favourite thing...


The most difficult thing for me within the Sacred Triduum? Without a doubt, emptying the tabernacle. I know it has to be done, but I don't like it.

I have removed the Blessed Sacrament from the Sacred Heart Chapel so that the Altar of Repose can be prepared to receive Him tonight. This morning after Benediction, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the High Altar tabernacle. I'll go to the Poor Clare nuns' St. Joseph Chapel this afternoon and I almost feel cruel doing it.

My favourite thing in the Easter Vigil Mass? The moment of consecration, when our Lord returns to us in His Eucharistic glory. It's then that everything seems to be back to normal. And it's always a heart-warming moment for me when, after the Vigil Mass, I carry the pyx to the Poor Clare monastery. The nuns wait in the Chapel, with one of them greeting me at the door, candle in hand, as eager as a wife waiting for the return of her husband after a long trip.

When it's all back to normal, it's really quite wonderful.

21 March 2016

Holy Week at the Parish

Stained glass window at the entrance to the Sacred Heart Chapel.

Holy Week at Our Lady of the Atonement Church incorporates liturgy steeped in ancient ritual, woven throughout with superb sacred music. Reverence and honour are given to Almighty God. It is a time of giving oneself over to complete devotion to the Lord, and joining with Him in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK:

On Wednesday of Holy Week is called Spy Wednesday, remembering that Judas Iscariot met with the Jewish leaders and received his thirty pieces of silver. The parish begins the first of three evenings with the Office of Tenebrae. Tenebrae, from the Latin for "shadows," is the chanting of selected psalms and readings, during which fifteen candles are gradually extinguished, in a darkened church. The psalms and readings on these evenings call the penitent to the events on the following day. Tenebrae on this night begins at 7:00 P.M., on Holy Thursday following the 7:00 P.M. Mass, and on Good Friday following Stations of the Cross at 7:00 P.M. Confessions are heard on Spy Wednesday following the chanting of the Office of Tenebrae, at approximately 8:40 P.M.

MAUNDY THURSDAY:

Holy Thursday, called Maundy Thursday from the Latin mandatum which means "commandment,” is a day of sacred and central importance to us. It was on this occasion that Christ gave the novum mandatum: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” after which He washed the feet of His apostles as a concrete example of humble and sacrificial love. It was on that same night that He imparted the gift of the Sacred Priesthood, and instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the conclusion of our Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is borne in solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, where the Faithful "keep watch" with Christ throughout the night until the Solemn Liturgy on Good Friday. You are invited to visit the Altar of Repose anytime from 9:00 P.M. on Holy Thursday until 3:00 P.M. on Good Friday.

GOOD FRIDAY

On Good Friday, the Solemn Liturgy begins at 3:00 P.M. to the sound of a single tolling bell from the tower, which marks the death of the Lord on Calvary. The sacred music on this day, in English, Latin, and Greek, draws us more and more into the Passion of Christ, as the Faithful venerate the Holy Cross, and receive Him in Holy Communion. The day concludes with Stations of the Cross and Tenebrae at 7:00 P.M. A special collection for the preservation of the Shrines of the Holy Land will be taken on this day.

VIGIL OF THE RESURRECTION

The Faithful gather on Holy Saturday at 8:00 P.M., in anticipation of the lighting of the new fire, which symbolizes Christ our Light. The Pascal Candle is then borne into the church as the Vigil Mass of the Resurrection begins with the chanting of the Exsultet. The power of deliverance from bondage in sin and the freedom through baptismal waters form the dominant theme of this Mass, rich in symbolism from ancient times. The church is transformed from the starkness of Good Friday to the jubilation of the Resurrection, with flowers, traditional hymns and the return of the "Alleluia."

THE SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION

Three holy Masses on Easter Day are celebrated at 7:30 A.M., 9:00 A.M., and 11:00 A.M. Our Lenten fasting, prayers, and almsgiving have prepared us spiritually for this holy day -- the greatest feast day of the Christian Year. Join us at Our Lady of the Atonement during Holy Week and experience for yourself a Holy Week to remember!

20 March 2016

Palm Sunday


(The Second Sunday of the Passion)

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the Cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: mercifully grant that we may follow the example of his patience, and so be made partakers of his Resurrection; 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.

19 March 2016

St. Joseph Hymns


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715

1. Holy Joseph, Intercessor,
Unto thee God's children sing;
Be our Patron and Protector,
To God's throne our praises bring.

2. Faithful Spouse of faithful Virgin,
Lover of God's purity;
From thy worthy place in heaven,
Pray that we may faithful be.

3. Guardian of the Word Incarnate,
Silent guide of God's own Son;
Guard our hearts and lead us onward
To the life that Christ has won.

4. Humble man in lofty station,
God has shed His grace on thee;
Pray such grace to us be given,
That we live eternally.


+   +   +   +   +


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1992
Music: "Bread of Heaven" by William D. Maclagan, 1875


1. Blesséd Joseph, Guardian mild,
Who didst love the Holy Child,
Show thy love to us who pray,
Shield us from all harm this day:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

2. Great Saint Joseph, Patron bold
Of the Church from days of old,
Give us courage strong and new,
To proclaim God's Gospel true:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

3. He Whom thou didst guide in youth,
We receive in very truth;
In this Sacrament of love,
We are one with thee above:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us one with Christ our Lord!

18 March 2016

St. Joseph

The St. Joseph Shrine
Our Lady of the Atonement Church
(NOT the statue described in the following story!)

It's been a couple of years since I've posted this story, but it's my favorite experience with St. Joseph -- and as I always say, if a story is worth telling once, it's worth boring people to death with it!

I was a young Episcopal cleric just returned to Rhode Island from a stint of serving in the Anglican Diocese of Bristol, England. The parish I had come to was middle-to-high: vestments, occasional incense, a few statues strategically placed.

There was a parishioner who wanted us to have a new statue of St. Joseph. The old statue was small and not in terribly good shape. I was deputized to find a new one, but there were a couple of requirements. It had to be two feet tall and it had to be cheap. The only solution was to go to a local religious goods store and look for something that might look half-way acceptable if the lights were dim.

I found one. It wasn’t beautiful, but it didn’t look as though it had been dragged behind a truck either. “Wrap it up and I’ll take it,” I told the clerk. “Sorry, sir, but this is the last one and we don’t have a box for it,” was the reply. A dilemma. I was driving a Volkswagen, and the back seat was already fairly full with a child’s car seat and other assorted items. The only option I could see was to stand it up in the passenger’s seat and strap the seat belt around it, which I did.

I was just closing the passenger door. St. Joseph was safely strapped in, facing ram-rod straight ahead. I heard a voice behind me. “You might want to let him drive.” I turned around to see a young priest about my age, with a grin on his face. We exchanged quips about the statue with the seat belt, and then began to chat about other things. We quickly discovered that my Episcopal parish and his Catholic parish were located fairly close to one another. We seemed to click, we made lunch plans, and one of the most important friendships of my life began.

We got together regularly to talk. It didn’t take long for our discussions to turn into question and answer sessions – me asking the questions, and him giving the answers. I wanted to know about the Catholic faith. And he told me. He was always gentle in his answers, but he never watered down the truth. Even if the issue was a difficult one, he always told me what the Church teaches. I was grateful for that. I would have resented it if I had discovered that he was tailoring what he said to make it fit what he might have thought I wanted to hear. I learned Catholic truth, and when it was presented to me in its fullness and in its beauty, I knew I had to embrace it. I believed it completely.

How grateful I always have been to St. Joseph. Without saying a word, he helped bring me into the Catholic Church by introducing me to a faithful Catholic priest. The statue may not have been very beautiful, but everything else in the story is.


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

17 March 2016

St. Cyril of Jerusalem


Cyril of Jerusalem loved to study the Holy Scriptures from the time he was a child, and he made such progress that he became known for his deep faith. He was eventually ordained priest by St. Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and he was given the work of preaching to the faithful and instructing those preparing for baptism. His Catechetical Instructions, which explain clearly and fully all the teaching of the Church, still exist today for us to read. His treatment of these subjects is so distinct and clear that he refuted not only the heresies of his own time, but also, by a kind of foreknowledge, he was able to expose heresies which would develop later. Upon the death of Patriarch St. Maximus, Cyril was chosen to be bishop in his place.

As bishop he endured many injustices and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and so they told lies about him, and drove him into exile. They were so violent against him that he fled to Tarsus in Cilicia, but eventually, with a new emperor and the death of many of his enemies, Cyril was able to return to Jerusalem, where he taught his people and led them away from false doctrine and from sin. If once wasn’t enough, he was driven into exile a second time under the Emperor Valens, but eventually peace returned to the Church, and the Arians were once again brought under control, so he was able to return again to Jerusalem. The earnestness and holiness with which he fulfilled the duties of being bishop were evident in the strength and holiness of the Church in Jerusalem.

Tradition states that God gave a sign of His divine blessing upon the spiritual leadership of Cyril by granting the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, which was seen by pagans and Christians alike. Another marvel happened when the Jews were commanded by the wicked Emperor Julian to restore the Temple which had been destroyed. They no sooner began the work when an earthquake happened and great balls of fire broke out of the earth and consumed the work, so that Julian and the Jews were terrified and gave up their plan. This had been clearly foretold by Cyril. He lived long enough to see the Arian heresy condemned, and he died as a beloved and holy bishop, eventually acknowledged to be a doctor of the Church.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that at the intercession of thy blessed Bishop Saint Cyril, we may learn to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent; that we may be found worthy to be numbered for ever among the sheep that hear his voice; 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.

12 March 2016

Entering Passiontide


As we enter Passiontide, this is the time for us to prepare to stand even closer to the Blessed Mother. Queen of Heaven though she is, the commemoration of her Son’s suffering and death surely must pierce her Immaculate Heart in a mystical way as she remembers with all of us the great price of our salvation. She consoles us throughout the year, but now, especially, our devotion should console her. Christ gave us to be her children at the same time as He spoke to Saint John from the cross, “Behold, thy Mother.”

 So let us be true sons and daughters: walk with Mary as she follows her Son’s Via Dolorosa; stand with her as she keeps her watch at the foot of the cross; weep with her as she receives Christ’s lifeless body into her waiting arms; comfort her as her Son is placed in the tomb -- so that, having endured with her, we may rejoice with her in the power and mystery of the Lord’s resurrection.

10 March 2016

Maple sugaring season

For some reason I felt nostalgic today, and I remembered the sugaring seasons of my boyhood back on the farm in Connecticut. Why I remembered, I cannot say. Maybe it's something programmed into my memory through the generations of Yankee blood flowing through my veins. But this is the season, usually in the February/March time-frame, although it can begin earlier and end later, depending on the conditions.  As I recall, freezing temperature overnight, rising to 40 degrees or so in the day make excellent conditions for the sap to run.

I was first taught how to gather sap by my grandfather, Warren Wheeler Jones, when I was very young, probably only five or six years old. Grandpa was very tall and very quiet, and to me one of the more interesting things about him was that he had a wooden leg. He'd been in a tragic hay-mowing accident when he was a young boy. It didn't slow him down, though. He loved the outdoors, and it was Grandpa who taught me all sorts of things; how to fish a trout stream, how to get a team of oxen to do what you want it to do, how to find the best wild mushrooms, how to use a hand scythe to cut hay... and how to tap sugar maple trees and boil the sap down into the best maple syrup in the world.

By the time I was eleven or twelve, I had quite a circuit of maple trees I was tapping. The season was never long -- sometimes only a few weeks, sometimes more -- but I used to love the adventure of following the trail I had mapped out through the woods, having found the best maple trees myself, and working with nature for the annual running of the sap. I'd take an old hand drill with me, along with the spouts which would be used to gather the sap. Some people used store-bought metal spouts, but I liked to make my own. There was a shrub (I can't remember what it was called) from which excellent natural spouts could be made. I'd cut a branch into six inch lengths, and the center was rather soft and could be pushed out, to make a hollow tube. I'd carefully whittle down the end to fit into the holes which I would drill into the trees, and voilà! -- a perfect sap spout. I'd hang a small bucket under each spout, and the sound of the "drip-drip-drip" was music to a young boy's ears.

I'd have to empty the sap pails daily, and sometimes twice daily. I made a simple neck-yoke which allowed me to carry two fairly large buckets along the collection trail, and back out of the woods. It was important to start to boil it right away, because the sap could turn sour if you didn't get right down to business. I had a large pan, broader than it was deep, and I'd get this positioned over an outdoor fire. It seemed almost like magic to see the clear sap turn slightly caramel-color, and then darker and darker until it was syrup. Whatever patience I have today, it was probably learned during the maple syrup season, since it takes something approaching forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. That's a lot of carrying and a lot of boiling, but it certainly did make those pancakes and waffles taste good.

Ok, the nostalgia warning is over. There's no deep message here, except for the old-fashioned warmth of happy memories and the ever-present wonders of God's creation.

05 March 2016

Lenten thoughts...


Even though we've had some cold snaps, there are definite signs of the coming of Spring. There are buds showing on some of the trees; there's even a different feeling in the air.

This time of the year often takes my thoughts back to the Connecticut farm where I grew up, and the Spring causes me to think of the wonderful apple trees which would show their buds, and then burst into flower. I can remember the care my grandfather would lavish on them, pruning them with care. And the resulting fruit was simply grand! Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Golden Pippin...the varieties seemed almost endless.

As my grandfather aged, and as the demands of the farm increased, the pruning was missed one year, and then another. Soon the apples were smaller and fewer. Over the years unintentional neglect took its toll. Today where gorgeous trees once stood yielding bushel upon bushel of apples, now...nothing.

Our Lord Jesus said, "Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits."

His point is clear. What is true for trees is true for people. If we take care to prune away the things which keep us from God, and if we are fed with the spiritual food of the sacraments, we will produce the good fruits of the Spirit. But if we neglect the spiritual care which is essential to our health and growth, we will be not much more than a rotting stump producing nothing.

Laetare Ierusalem


REJOICE ye with Jerusalem: and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: that ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolations. I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace, may mercifully be relieved; 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.
Our rose vestments.

03 March 2016

St. Casimir, Confessor


St. Casimir known to the people of Poland as "The Peace-maker," was the third of the thirteen children of Casimir IV, King of Poland. Casimir was devout from the time he was a little child, and was known for his life dedicated to prayer and penance. Although he was part of the royal family, he often made his bed on the ground, and he would spend lots of the night in prayer and meditation, especially on the passion of Christ. He always wore very plain clothing, and under them he wore a hairshirt. Because he lived constantly in the presence of God, he always seemed serene and cheerful, and pleasant to everybody. He had a tremendous love of the poor, whom he saw as members of Christ's body, and he was known for giving his possessions away to relive the suffering of the poor. Throughout his life he had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he would often recite a long and beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mother – a hymn we know in English as "Daily, daily sing to Mary."

There came the time when the noblemen of neighboring Hungary became dissatisfied with their king.  In 1471 they went to King Casimir of Poland, the father of St. Casimir, to allow them to place young Casimir on the throne. At that time, Casimir hadn’t yet turned fifteen years old, and he really wanted no part of the plan, but in obedience to his father he set out towards Hungary at the head of an army. As they got closer, Casimir’s soldiers heard that the King of Hungary had assembled a large and strong army, and so Casimir’s army began to desert and go back home. Casimir had been given no money by his father or the Hungarian noblemen, so he wasn’t able to pay his soldiers to stay. It became obvious that Casimir wasn’t going to be able to march into Hungary with any kind of an army at all, so on the advice of his officers, he decided to return home to Poland. King Casimir was very angry with his son Casimir. He had wanted to see his son on the throne of Hungary, because that meant he could control that country, as well as be King of Poland. As young Casimir got closer to home, his father had troops meet him, and instead of allowing the young boy to go to his family in Cracow, instead his father imprisoned him in a dark, musty castle. Young Casimir accepted that with great patience, and let his father know that he would stay in the castle dungeon forever, before he would ever take up arms again. His father finally released him, and Casimir returned to his life of study and prayer, but his life of penance and his time in the dungeon, meant that he developed a disease of the lungs, and he died when he was only twenty-six years old. He was buried at the Church of St. Stanislaus in Vilna. Many miracles were reported at his tomb, and he was canonized in 1521.

O God, who, amidst the pleasures of a temporal kingdom, didst endue thy blessed Saint Casimir with constancy to resist all temptations: grant, we beseech thee; that by his intercession, thy faithful people may learn to despise all things earthly, and to seek earnestly after all things heavenly; 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.

02 March 2016

St. Katharine Drexel


Katharine Drexel was born in Philadelphia in 1858, into a very wealthy and prominent family, which meant that she had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But her life was radically changed when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, and she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death.

She had read a book about the plight of the American Indians, and how difficult their lives were. Once, when she was on a tour of Europe, she met Pope Leo XIII and she asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming, where a family friend was the bishop. The pope said to her, "Why don't you become a missionary?" His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities.

When she returned to America, she visited the Dakota Indian tribe, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Native American missions.

She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O'Connor, she wrote in 1889, "The feast of Saint Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored." Newspaper headlines screamed "Heiress gives Up Her Millions!"

After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of African American Catholic schools in thirteen states, plus forty mission centers and twenty-three rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established fifty missions for Native Americans in sixteen states.

Two saints met when she was advised by Mother Cabrini about the "politics" of getting her order's rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first university in the United States for African Americans.

At seventy-seven, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost twenty years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at ninety-six and was canonized in 2000.
- from various sources

O God of love, who didst call Saint Katharine Drexel to teach the message of the Gospel and to bring the life of the Eucharist to the Native American and African American peoples: by her prayers and example, enable us to work for justice among the poor and the oppressed; and keep us undivided in love in the Eucharistic family of thy 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.

The Holy Water Font


Just inside the main doors of the church in the narthex is a simple marble holy water font. On a typical day during the year, hundreds of the faithful dip their fingers into its water to make the sign of the cross upon themselves, both as a blessing and as a reminder of their own baptism. This means that over the course of an average week, water from this font has been taken thousands of times, and yet few know the rich history of where it had been and how it came to be in our church.

It was in the year 1895 that a young woman, Lurana Mary White, began a correspondence with an Episcopal cleric, Lewis Wattson (later known as Fr. Paul of Graymoor), because of their mutual interest in the life and spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi. Both of them were Episcopalians at the time, although both were searching for the fullness of the Catholic faith. They felt a call to the religious life, and had the sense that God was calling them to found a Franciscan community within Anglicanism.

Through various circumstances, Lurana White (with a few companions) was able to pioneer this effort, with Fr. Paul joining her soon after. An unused chapel called St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness in Graymoor, New York, was put at her disposal, along with a building in some disrepair, called Dimond House, which was about half a mile from the chapel. Now known as Sister Lurana Mary, she arrived there on a bitterly cold day in December, 1898, and so began the foundation of the Society of the Atonement.

In Lent of 1899 funds were raised to begin building a convent near St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness. Combined with donations from others, Sister Lurana (now known as Mother Lurana) gave the totality of her own personal funds for the purpose of building and furnishing the convent, along with its chapel, known as the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels. One of the items chosen and purchased by Mother Lurana was a simple marble holy water font.

The Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels has seen a number of historic events. It was there that the first Atonement Sisters made their religious profession; it was there that Fr. Paul spent the night in prayer before being clothed in his Franciscan habit, becoming the first Friar of the Atonement; it was there that the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity was prayed for the first time; it was there that the members of the Society of the Atonement were received into the Catholic Church; and it was at the Oratory altar that Fr. Paul celebrated his first Mass as a Catholic priest. Through all those events, and more, the simple marble holy water font stood at the entrance.

Sadly, when the misguided ideas of “renewal” after Vatican II swept through the various religious communities, the Society of the Atonement was not spared. Things which had been given for the glory of God were ruthlessly tossed aside, and one of the casualties was the holy water font which had stood guard for so many years inside the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels. It was thrown outside behind the convent, where the erstwhile font became a makeshift birdbath – and there it remained until I happened to be visiting Graymoor shortly after my ordination as a Catholic priest.

One of the aged Sisters pulled me aside, and asked to talk to me. Sr. Cyril, S.A., was one of the last of “Mother Lurana’s girls” – members of the Sisters of the Atonement who had been formed as a religious by their Mother Foundress – and she told me how she was heart-broken to see “Mother’s holy water font” thrown outside in the garden. Sr. Cyril asked if I would consider giving it a home in our parish, and I told her that if her superiors approved, I would happily have it transported back to Texas. She asked; her superiors gave permission, and so I set about finding a way of getting it shipped to San Antonio. One of my father’s old friends, who happened to own a long-distance trucking company, was able to accommodate my request, and in due time the font arrived at the church.

After all the history it had seen, the holy water font was for a time put to yet another use – we had no baptismal font when we first built our church, and so Mother Lurana’s holy water font became our baptismal font for some years.  In fact the first child baptized in it was my own daughter, Lurana, named after the Mother Foundress of the Sisters of the Atonement. For several years all the children of our parish were “born again in the waters of baptism” using that simple marble holy water font, which had come so far from its original home.

It was not until the church was expanded to its present size that we were able to have a proper baptistry, and a real baptismal font, which finally allowed us to return Mother Lurana’s font to its original purpose. So it stands at the entrance of Our Lady of the Atonement Church, more than a hundred years after it was lovingly chosen by Mother Lurana to stand at the entrance of her little Oratory, now serving the same purpose of providing holy water for the Faithful who come to give worship and glory to Almighty God.

The Altar in the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels.