29 April 2016

Pope St. Pius V


Pope St. Pius V -- Michael Ghislieri -- was born into a poor family on 17 January 1504.  He spent his childhood working as a shepherd, until he entered the Dominican Order at the age of fourteen.  His keen intelligence served well, and eventually he was ordained as a bishop, ultimately occupying the Throne of St. Peter.

St. Pius V lived in times much like our own.  The Council of Trent took place during his lifetime, and as is the case with most Councils, there was a time of confusion following.  He spent much of his life -- before his time as pope, and then until his death -- working to implement the principles of the Council, and strengthening the witness of the Catholic Church.

A very important event took place on October 7, 1571.  It is associated with Our Lady, and also with Pope St. Pius V.

For some time the Muslims had attempted to conquer Europe, not only for political reasons, but also in an attempt to destroy the Church and impose Islam throughout the known world.

On that clear October morning a huge gathering of ships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, near the Greek port of Lepanto -- 280 Turkish ships, and 212 Christian ships. For years the Muslims had been raiding Christian areas around the Mediterranean and had carried off thousands of Christians into slavery. In fact, all of the ships gathered on that morning were powered by rowers – and the Muslim ships had nearly 15,000 Christian slaves in chains, being forced to pull the oars to guide the ships into battle. The Catholic fleet was under the command of Don Juan of Austria, but the Catholic fleet was at a great disadvantage in its power and military ability. This was a battle that would decide the fate of the world – either the Turks would be victorious and the Church destroyed, or the Catholics would be victorious and would put down the Muslim threat.

Pope St. Pius V knew the importance of victory. He called upon all of Europe to pray the rosary, asking for the intercession of Our Lady, that God would grant a Catholic victory. Although it seemed hopeless, the people prayed. Don Juan guided his battleships into the middle of the Turkish fleet; meanwhile, many of the Christian slaves had managed to escape their chains and poured out of the holds of the Muslim ships, attacking the Turks and swinging their chains, throwing the Muslims overboard. The combination of the attack by the Catholic fleet and the uprising of the Christian slaves meant that there was a great victory by the Catholics fleet over the mighty Turkish fleet.

We know today that this victory was decisive. It prevented the Islamic invasion of Europe at that time, and it showed the Hand of God working through Our Lady. At the hour of victory, St. Pope Pius V, who was hundreds of miles away in his Papal residence, is said to have gotten up from a meeting, went over to a window, and through supernatural knowledge exclaimed, "The Christian fleet is victorious!" and he wept tears of thanksgiving to God.

This day has been remembered throughout the Church, first as Our Lady of Victory, and then as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary – remembering the victory God granted, and also remembering the means by which that victory was achieved – that it was an intervention by God through the prayers offered by praying the Rosary... perhaps something we might consider in our own generation.


O God, who, for the overthrow of the enemies of thy Church and for the restoring of divine worship, wast pleased to choose blessed Pius to be Supreme Pontiff: grant that we may be defended by his protection, and so cleave to thy service; that overcoming the devices of all our enemies, we may rejoice in perpetual peace; 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.

24 April 2016

St. Mark the Evangelist


Excerpted from "The Church's Year of Grace" by Pius Parsch:
John Mark, later known simply as Mark, was a Jew by birth. He was the son of that Mary who was proprietress of the Cenacle or "upper room" which served as the meeting place for the first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He was still a youth at the time of the Savior's death. In his description of the young man who was present when Jesus was seized and who fled from the rabble leaving behind his "linen cloth," the second Evangelist might possibly have stamped the mark of his own identity.

During the years that followed, the rapidly maturing youth witnessed the growth of the infant Church in his mother's Upper Room and became acquainted with its traditions. This knowledge he put to excellent use when compiling his Gospel. Later, we find Mark acting as a companion to his cousin Barnabas and Saul on their return journey to Antioch and on their first missionary journey. But Mark was too immature for the hardships of this type of work and therefore left them at Perge in Pamphylia to return home.

As the two apostles were preparing for their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take his cousin with him. Paul, however, objected. Thereupon the two cousins undertook a missionary journey to Cyprus. Time healed the strained relations between Paul and Mark, and during the former's first Roman captivity (61-63), Mark rendered Paul valuable service (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), and the Apostle learned to appreciate him. When in chains the second time Paul requested Mark's presence (2 Tim. 4:11).

An intimate friendship existed between Mark and Peter; he played the role of Peter's companion, disciple, and interpreter. According to the common patristic opinion, Mark was present at Peter's preaching in Rome and wrote his Gospel under the influence of the prince of the apostles. This explains why incidents which involve Peter are described with telling detail (e.g., the great day at Capharnaum, 1:14f)). Little is known of Mark's later life. It is certain that he died a martyr's death as bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. His relics were transferred from Alexandria to Venice, where a worthy tomb was erected in St. Mark's Cathedral.

The Gospel of St. Mark, the shortest of the four, is, above all, a Roman Gospel. It originated in Rome and is addressed to Roman, or shall we say, to Western Christianity. Another high merit is its chronological presentation of the life of Christ. For we should be deeply interested in the historical sequence of the events in our blessed Savior's life.

Furthermore, Mark was a skilled painter of word pictures. With one stroke he frequently enhances a familiar scene, shedding upon it new light. His Gospel is the "Gospel of Peter," for he wrote it under the direction and with the aid of the prince of the apostles. "The Evangelist Mark is represented as a lion because he begins his Gospel in the wilderness, `The voice of one crying in the desert: Make ready the way of the Lord,' or because he presents the Lord as the unconquered King."

O Almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark: give us grace; that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; 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 April 2016

The Rood Screen

The word "rood" comes from the Saxon word "rode," which means "cross". The rood screen is so called because it is a screen surmounted by the Rood -- a large figure of the crucified Christ -- and it separates the sanctuary from the nave of the church.  The rood screen at Our Lady of the Atonement Church is a major architectural feature of the interior, with the central arch providing a frame for the tabernacle and altar.  The pictures below begin with our rood screen, followed by pictures of other screens (many of which are medieval in origin).

Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas
(Another view, below)


Our Lady of the Atonement Rood Screen
(above, decorated for Easter)

St. Brinius, Dorcester-on-Thames, near Oxford

All Saints Church, Turkdean, Gloucestershire

Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh

All Saints Church, Litcham, Norfolk
(The Rood was destroyed at the time of the Protestant Reformation)

The Minster, Boscastle, Cornwall


(This is a Rood Beam, instead of a full screen)

20 April 2016

St. Anselm of Canterbury

St. Anselm was uninterested in the Church and in religion generally in his youth, but he became one of the Church's greatest theologians and leaders. He received the title "Father of Scholasticism" for his attempt to analyze and illumine the truths of faith through the aid of reason.

For some reason, at the age of 15, Anselm felt strongly that he wanted to enter a monastery, but was refused acceptance because of his father's opposition. Twelve years later, after careless disinterest in religion and years of worldly living, he finally fulfilled his desire to be a monk. He entered the monastery of Bec in Normandy, three years later was elected prior and 15 years later was unanimously chosen abbot.

Considered an original and independent thinker, Anselm was admired for his patience, gentleness and teaching skill. Under his leadership, the abbey of Bec became a monastic school, influential in philosophical and theological studies. During these years, at the community's request, Anselm began publishing his theological works, comparable to those of St. Augustine. His best-known work is the book Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man").

At 60, and really against his will, Anselm was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. His appointment was opposed at first by England's King William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, but the king eventually accepted the appointment. Rufus persistently refused to cooperate with efforts to reform the Church. Anselm finally went into voluntary exile until Rufus died in 1100. He was then recalled to England by Henry I, who was Rufus's brother and successor. Disagreeing fearlessly with Henry over the king's insistence on investing England's bishops, Anselm spent another three years in exile in Rome.

His care and concern extended to the very poorest people, and he was known for his opposition to the slave trade. In fact, Anselm obtained from the national council at Westminster the passage of a resolution prohibiting the sale of human beings. Anselm, like every true follower of Christ, had to carry his cross, especially in the form of opposition and conflict with those in political control. Though personally a mild and gentle man and a lover of peace, he would not back off from conflict and persecution when principles were at stake.

O Everlasting God, who gavest to thy Bishop Anselm singular gifts as a pastor and teacher: grant that we, like him, may desire thee with our whole heart; and, so desiring, may seek thee and, seeking, may find thee; 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 April 2016

Good Shepherd, Good Sheep

"The Good Shepherd" by Philippe de Champaigne

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

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


Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion; that they may forsake those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; 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.

Happy birthday, Holy Father Benedict!

As our beloved Pope Emeritus celebrates his eighty-ninth birthday, we give thanks for his inspiring example and we pray that God will bless him all the days of his life.

In this tribute to him, the music "Ave Verum Corpus" is sung by students of The Atonement Academy.


14 April 2016

Angelic guidance and protection...

Angele Dei,
qui custos es mei,
Me tibi commissum pietate superna;
Hodie illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna.
Amen.

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
To whom his love commits me here;
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.
Amen.



This prayer, although commonly attributed to St. Anselm, was more likely written by Reginald of Canterbury, a 12th century Benedictine monk. The Latin poem was later added to the works of St. Anselm – I suppose to give it added importance. But it has its own beauty, simplicity and power, no matter who wrote it.

13 April 2016

One of my favourite places...


One of my very favourite places is the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Built in the 13th century as a magnificent Catholic cathedral, it was "repurposed" as an Anglican cathedral during that unfortunate time. We lived in the shadow (literally) of the cathedral for two years while I was studying at Salisbury & Wells Theological College, back in the early 1970's. Our flat was on the third floor of the Archdeaconry, and our windows looked at out the full north side of this magnificent pile of stone.

During the summers, I used to give tours of the Cathedral -- probably to the disappointment of the American tourists. I'm sure they wanted someone with a posh accent to be showing them around. Instead, they got a farmer's kid from Connecticut. Oh well, I'm sure my love for the place came through nonetheless. Also, I had the privilege of substituting for the great organist, Richard Seale, from time to time. Talk about feeling powerful, when the fabulous Father Willis organ was cranked up to its capacity! This was also the place where I served as an Anglican deacon for the first time, so it has that sweet memory for me, too.

It's probably most famous for having the tallest spire in England (404 feet), and its remarkable architectural unity is due to the fact that it was built in a relatively short time. It was begun in 1220, and completed (except for the spire) in 1258.

It certainly would be nice to have it back some day...

12 April 2016

Pope St. Martin I, Martyr


Although little is known of the early life of the seventh century pope and martyr St. Martin I, we do know that he was member of the Roman clergy, and was elected pope in 649. He immediately found himself in the center of a religious and political controversy, which provides us with facts about him during his pontificate.

In the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire there was a heresy, or false teaching, known as Monothelitism, which said that Christ, while on earth, had no human will, but only a divine one. (The Church teaches that Jesus has two wills: a full and perfect divine one, and a full and perfect human one, and these two wills are in perfect accord with each other.) Why is this teaching important? If Christ had no human will, then He wouldn’t be truly human – He would simply be God dressed up in human flesh. We see the two wills of Christ in Scripture when, for example, Jesus was praying in Gethsemane, and He prayed to His father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”

Several of the Eastern emperors had favored the Monothelite teaching, and they were supported by the patriarch of the imperial city of Constantinople.

Pope Martin convened a Council at the Lateran, and the bishops gathered there affirmed the true teaching about the two wills of Christ.

Pope Martin lay on a couch in front of the altar, too sick to fight, when the soldiers burst into the Lateran basilica. He had come to the church when he heard the soldiers had landed. The thought of kidnapping a sick pope from the house of God didn't stop the soldiers from grabbing him and hustling him down to their ship.

When Pope Martin arrived in Constantinople after a long voyage he was immediately put into prison. There he spent three months in a filthy, freezing cell while he suffered from dysentery. He was not allowed to wash, and was given the most disgusting food. After he was condemned for treason without being allowed to speak in his defense he was imprisoned for another three months.

From there he was exiled to the Crimea where he suffered horribly. But hardest to take was the fact that the pope found himself friendless. His letters tell how his own clergy had deserted him and his friends had forgotten him.

He died two years later in exile in the year 656, a martyr who stood up for the right of the Church to establish doctrine even in the face of imperial power. Truth is sometimes “politically incorrect,” but, as St. Martin knew, followers of Christ must defend the Faith nonetheless, even at the risk of controversy, personal suffering, and death.

Everlasting Shepherd, favourably look upon thy flock: and keep it with perpetual protection through the prayers of blessed Martin thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, 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.

11 April 2016

Cardinal Burke and "Amoris Laetitia"

In this post exclusive to The Catholic Register, Cardinal Raymond Burke says a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, ‘by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time.’

I urge you to read this excellent article by Cardinal Burke at this link.  It will give tremendous help in how to read and understand the Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

St. Stanislaus of Cracow


St. Stanislaus was born in 1030 and was educated at Gnesen and at Paris. After his ordination to the priesthood he was made a canon of the cathedral at Cracow as well as archdeacon and preacher. Upon the death of the bishop of Cracow, he was nominated bishop of the diocese by Pope Alexander II.

The king at the time, Boleslaus II, trying to strengthen his own power, began invading his neighbors, making himself very unpopular with the nobles of the country, who opposed his policies. St. Stanislaus of Cracow sided with the nobles, led by the king's brother, Ladislaus, and this brought him into conflict with the king.

Stanislaus had opposed the king before for his ruthless and cruel ways – the king was kind of a bully – and one time St. Stanislaus confronted the king face-to-face for his immoral behavior when Boleslaus had abducted the wife of a Polish nobleman and carried her off to his castle. No one seemed willing to face the king from a fear of his rage, but Stanislaus boldly went to the king and threatened him with excommunication if he did not change his ways. Furious, the king promised revenge on the bishop. Later, Stanislaus sided with the nobles in their opposition to the king's political policies, and the king accused him of being a traitor and condemned him to death.

At first the king commanded his soldiers to kill the bishop when he was celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Chapel in Cracow, but the soldiers refused, fearing to bring down upon themselves the wrath of God. Undeterred, the king himself entered the church, drew his sword, and killed the bishop, ordering his soldiers to dismember the body.

Pope Gregory VII placed the country under interdict and Boleslaus fell from power, fleeing to Hungary, where he entered the monastery of Osiak to do penance for his crime. Stanislaus, canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, is one of the patron saints of Poland.

O God, for whose honour the glorious Bishop Stanislaus was slain by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all who call upon him for succour, may obtain the saving effect of their petition; 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.

09 April 2016

Third Sunday of Easter


After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way.  Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.  Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go."  (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."


- St. John 21:1-19

Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit; and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; 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.

08 April 2016

A prayer for children...


O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Holy Infant Jesus, surround with Your love all innocent children, born and unborn, who are in any danger. Protect them with your prayers, and keep them close to Your Immaculate Heart. Amen.

06 April 2016

St. John Baptist de La Salle

St. John Baptist de La Salle was born at Rheims in 1651, became a member of the cathedral chapter at Rheims when he was sixteen, and was ordained a priest in 1678. Soon after ordination he was put in charge of a girls' school, and in 1679 he met Adrian Nyel, a layman who wanted to open a school for boys. Two schools were started, and Canon de la Salle became interested in the work of education. He took an interest in the teachers, eventually invited them to live in his own house, and tried to train them in the educational system that was forming in his mind. This first group ultimately left, unable to grasp what the saint had in mind; others, however, joined him, and the beginnings of the Brothers of the Christian Schools were begun.

Seeing a unique opportunity for good, Canon de La Salle resigned his canonry, gave his inheritance to the poor, and began to organize his teachers into a religious congregation. Soon, boys from his schools began to ask for admission to the Brothers, and the founder set up a juniorate to prepare them for their life as religious teachers. At the request of many pastors, he also set up a training school for teachers, first at Rheims, then at Paris, and finally at St.-Denis. Realizing that he was breaking entirely new ground in the education of the young, John Baptist de la Salle wrote books on his system of education, opened schools for tradesmen, and even founded a school for the nobility, at the request of King James of England.

The congregation had a tumultuous history, and the setbacks that the founder had to face were many; but the work was begun, and he guided it with rare wisdom. In Lent of 1719, he grew weak, met with a serious accident, and died on Good Friday. He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900, and Pope Pius XII proclaimed him patron of schoolteachers.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints, Rev. Clifford Stevens

O God, who for the Christian education of the poor, and for the confirmation of the young in the way of truth, didst raise up the holy Confessor John Baptist de la Salle, and through him didst gather a new family in the Church: graciously grant that by his intercession and example we, being kindled with zeal for thy glory in the salvation of souls, may be enabled to be made partakers of his crown 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.

04 April 2016

Eucharistic Evangelism


In 1967 I was a seventeen-year-old college freshman, living away from home for the first time. I was raised as a Methodist, and had been very active in the local church: Sunday School, followed by the eleven o’clock service, and then back on Sunday evening for the weekly meeting of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. When I had packed my things and gone off to begin my college studies, it wouldn’t have been possible to have appeared any more solidly Methodist than I did. But it was the sixties, protest was in the air, and this was my time to be rebellious. On my first Sunday morning away from home, I made a fairly outrageous decision, at least for me. I decided not to go to the Methodist Church. Rather, in the free spirit of protest, I headed off… to the Presbyterian Church.

I was what might be called a rather conservative rebel.

Actually, my path of protest took me up Nassau Street in Princeton, New Jersey. The Presbyterian Church was several blocks away, and to get there I had about a thirty-minute walk. On the way, I would have to pass St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Now, up until this time, all I knew about the Catholic Church was what I had observed in the little corner of New England where I had grown up. And from what I could see, it seemed like it was made up mostly of Italian and Portuguese people. I had been inside a Catholic Church only once in my life. I was a very young boy at the time, and I didn’t remember much about it except for a very large, very pastel statue which I imagined was staring at me.

But now, here I was, a young man of seventeen, hundreds of miles away from home, feeling slightly wayward for shunning the Methodists, and now seeing a Catholic Church just ahead on my right. Crowds of people were pouring in – obviously, whatever it was the Catholics were accustomed to doing on Sunday mornings was about to begin – and I had to step a bit sideways to try and get by the stream of people. I had heard of getting “swept along by the crowd,” and that's what happened to me. As I was jostled along towards the front door, I had the fleeting thought that maybe this was my punishment for neglecting my Methodist duties.

The flow of people took me right into St. Paul’s Catholic Church. And what greeted me utterly astonished me. There were statues and votive candles. There were rosaries dangling from the hands of kneeling people. Then things began: there was chant, there was the whiff of incense, there were men and boys moving up the aisle in costumes unfamiliar to me, and it seemed awfully foreign. It would have been in Latin, I suppose, although I can’t say that I noticed. I was overwhelmed. And for most of the time, for some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off a veiled object front and center, marked by a hanging lamp, which I learned much later was the tabernacle.

What (or more correctly, Who) was there, I did not know at the time, but my heart was touched in a way that it had never been touched before. I suppose, in a sense, I was following in the steps of my spiritual forebear, John Wesley, who described how his “heart was strangely warmed.” But this wasn't Aldersgate. It was St. Paul's on Nassau Street.

When it was over, I made my way outside, and went off to the later service at the Presbyterian Church. What the preacher said at that later service, I don’t remember. All I could think about was what I had seen earlier, and what I had experienced, and how it all seemed like a mystery. It reached the point subsequently that whenever I passed St. Paul’s, my feet carried me inside. And although I couldn’t admit it to myself, nor could I begin to explain it to myself, every time I went inside I felt like I was somehow “meeting Christ.” Those feelings would lead me out of the Methodist Church, carrying on my search for a while in the Episcopal Church, and then finally home, to the Catholic Church. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being evangelized by the Eucharist, and it had started long before I ever actually received Holy Communion.

St. John Paul II spoke frequently throughout his pontificate of “the task of the new evangelization.” In fact, he called that task “the greatest challenge facing the Church today.” Speaking at the Eucharistic Congress in Seville on June 5, 1994, he stated emphatically that this challenge can be most effectively accomplished by “evangelizing for the Eucharist, in the Eucharist, and from the Eucharist.” Our Holy Father gave the example of Christ Himself, referring to the event which took place on the evening of the Day of the Resurrection, recorded in the Gospel according to St. Luke (24:13-33), when Christ evangelized “in and from and for the Eucharist.”

That very day two of the disciples were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.

The Eucharist is at the very center of the Gospel revealed by Jesus Christ, and Pope Paul VI made this point in his decree Presbyterorum Ordinis:

The other sacraments, as well as with every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are tied together with the Eucharist and are directed toward it. The Most Blessed Eucharist contains the entire spiritual boon of the Church, that is, Christ himself, our Pasch and Living Bread, by the action of the Holy Spirit through his very flesh vital and vitalizing, giving life to men who are thus invited and encouraged to offer themselves, their labors and all created things, together with him. In this light, the Eucharist shows itself as the source and the apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel. Those under instruction are introduced by stages to a sharing in the Eucharist, and the faithful, already marked with the seal of Baptism and Confirmation, are through the reception of the Eucharist fully joined to the Body of Christ.

It’s in the Emmaus event that Christ lays out the model for evangelism. The two disciples are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, discussing the recent events in Jerusalem – Jesus' entrance into the city the week before, His subsequent trial before Pilate, His crucifixion and burial, and the rumors of His resurrection that had been running around all morning, ever since Mary Magdalene and Peter and John had returned from the empty tomb.

In the middle of their conversation, a stranger draws near and walks with them. It’s Jesus, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him," the Gospel tells us. Now certainly, if anyone would recognize Jesus, it would have been these two, who knew him so well. But Jesus hides His identity for a time; He prevents the disciples from recognizing Him for a while, so that He can open their minds to the truth.

Their long faces betray their disappointment. Cleopas tells the whole sad story: how Jesus had been a prophet mighty in word and deed; how the chief priests and religious rulers had handed him over to be crucified; how they had pinned their hopes on him, thinking that He was the Messiah, the coming Redeemer of Israel. But things were looking pretty confusing. It was now the third day since His death. Some women had come with visions of angels and news of His resurrection. His tomb was empty, but Jesus was nowhere to be seen. What it all meant, they couldn’t tell.

They had their facts about Jesus straight. Indeed He was a prophet mighty in work and word. Certainly He was rejected by His people and crucified. The women’s story was true: it was the third day and Jesus had risen. He was the One who had come to redeem Israel just as they had hoped. They had all the facts, but they didn’t have all these facts grounded in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. And this is a large part of evangelism: not only giving the facts, but also bringing an understanding of those facts.

A person can know the Scriptures. A person can know the catechism. A person might even be able to recite the Latin titles of all the papal encyclicals. But if those facts aren’t plugged into the power of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, none of it will make much sense or be of much use.

"O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." Jesus chides them for their unbelief. They should have known. They had Moses and the prophets. It was plastered all over the pages of the Scriptures. The evidence was there for them. So, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Notice where Jesus directs their attention. Not into their own hearts. 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 Moses and going all the way through the prophets, He shows how His death and resurrection provide the rhythm of every passage.

Jesus gives the appearance of going on, past Emmaus, but the disciples insist that He join them for supper. It was nearing the end of the day, and evening was coming. Wouldn't He please stay and eat with them?

Though Jesus was their guest, He assumes the place of the host at the head of the table. He takes the bread, blesses and breaks it, and gives it to them. We can’t miss the connection with the Passover meal that Jesus had with His disciples, three days before, on the night in which He was betrayed. Here again is Jesus, taking bread and breaking it. 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.

This is evangelism: Word and Sacrament. And that's what the Holy Mass is: Jesus serving us with Himself. Jesus making Himself known. Jesus being with us, objectively, really and truly, even when eyes are clouded. From the very beginning, the Church has understood this. Scripture teaches us that "they were devoted to the teaching of the apostles, to the fellowship, the Breaking of the Bread, and to the prayers." And because of that, the Church could be certain that the crucified and risen Lord was present among them, not only to save them, but to strengthen them to go into the world as He had commanded them, making disciples of all nations. And Scripture further teaches us that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” They needed no programs, no gimmicks, no publicity stunts, no mass marketing. They had the Word and the Sacraments. That's all they needed. And the Lord added daily to their number.

We are called to one thing: to be faithful – faithful to God’s revelation; faithful in our sacramental life; faithful in giving glory to God; faithful to the teaching of the Church; faithful to the traditions which the Church has exhorted us to maintain. Those are the ingredients of success. We are to be a people whose “hearts burn within them” with a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are to be a people whose eyes have been opened to “recognize the Lord Jesus Christ in the Breaking of the Bread.”

Success in evangelism is so simple: just as Jesus is at the center of our churches in our tabernacles, so we are to keep Jesus at the center of our lives in the tabernacles of our hearts. This is the best and strongest tool we have for the work of evangelism. And this is why we must proclaim in the strongest possible way that Christ Sacrificed and Christ Present is the center and foundation of our being. Because we never know when a young seventeen-year-old rebel might wander in.

03 April 2016

Octave Day of Easter


Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of 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.

02 April 2016

Saturday in the Easter Octave


Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
-St. Mark 16:9-15


This portion of St. Mark’s Gospel outlines the duties of the Church which Christ had founded, the tasks committed to it by Jesus himself.

It states very clearly that the Church has the duty to spread the truth of the gospel. As members of the Church we are Christ’s heralds, we are His ambassadors.

It outlines an understanding of the sacramental ministry of the Church: to baptize, to make people whole by means of the power that Jesus had bestowed upon the Church.

And we are reminded that the Church is never alone in its work; it is the Body of Christ, and Christ works with it and in it and through it. So St. Mark’s Gospel finishes with the message that the life of the Christian is lived in the presence and in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God who was crucified and who rose again in great triumph over sin, the world, and the devil.

We thank thee, heavenly Father, for that thou hast delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and hast brought us unto the kingdom of thy Son: and we pray thee that, as by his death he hath recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to joys eternal; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.