31 August 2016

A visit to the Academy


I have recovered enough from hip replacement surgery to make a visit to my beloved students at The Atonement Academy.  This picture shows my visit with Upper School students out in the courtyard.  I had the opportunity to visit several classrooms, too.  It won't be long before I will be able to spend lengthier portions of the day, eventually restoring my regular schedule.

27 August 2016

Better each day...


Most of you know that about a week ago I had a rather nasty fall in the rectory which resulted in a broken hip. There was no dramatic reason for the fall – it was simply my inattention which caused me to stumble on a small set of steps leading into the kitchen which sent me “airborne” resulting in landing square on my hip on a tile floor.

In what was a typical (for me) attitude that ”these things never happen to me” I decided that the excruciating pain was the result of a pulled muscle and I proceeded to try and walk it off (what a mistake!) which only exacerbated the injury. After a night of being propped on a sofa, even I was willing to admit that there was a good chance I had broken something. That was confirmed after a visit to the Baptist Emergency Hospital (newly built on 1604 near us). I was then transferred to St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital, where I was given a complete hip replacement. The care I received was consistently marvellous, and your prayers are putting me over the top!

Although it’s still a bit difficult for me to negotiate very far, and I still get tired fairly quickly, I do plan to make a visit to the school sometime this week. I’m working regularly with my physical therapist (a wonderful Catholic lady from Boerne) and her exercises are making me stronger. She and the visiting nurse, in consultation with the surgeon encouraged me to remain at home this weekend, but they agreed that a visit to the school next week would be good for everybody!

Of course, I yearn to be back at the altar in the place I love so much, with the people who are so dear to me. Right now, I’m not able to stand for any extended period of time, but it won’t be long before I’m back with renewed energy. Thanks for your prayers!

19 August 2016

Construction of our first church...

The original Church of Our Lady of the Atonement was built in 1986-87 for the grand sum of $500,000 (which seemed to be an absolute fortune at the time), and these pictures show the process of its construction.

Beginning the foundation

Pouring the concrete slab

Placing the medal of Our Lady of the Atonement at the site of the high altar

Raising the first wall

Placing the butresses

Building the tower

The tower, and the wall of the Lady Chapel

The walls from inside the structure

The roof beams, looking toward the high altar

The entrance in the tower, looking toward the Lady Chapel

The building takes on its shape

The spire being assembled on the ground

The spire being placed on the tower

The spire almost in place

The spire in its place, and the exterior structure nearly completed

The original church, completed...

...and greatly expanded a few years later.

14 August 2016

Thirty-three years ago...

I was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on 15 August 1983, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven,  At the same time, the Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement was canonically erected and I was appointed to be the Founding Pastor.  Apparently there's still work to do, because I'm still here!

Procession into the Cathedral of San Fernando
15 August 1983
for the Mass of Ordination.


Being examined by the Archbishop before priestly ordination.

The Litany of the Saints.
JoAnn (holding Sarah), my father and mother, my grandmother.
In the pew behind my family are some of the
Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus,
and I served as their Chaplain for several years.

The Laying on of Hands.
Bishop Popp, Archbishop Flores, Fr. Peter Scagnelli.
The Priest's First Blessing.

Our family at the time.
JoAnn (expecting Catherine), me, Sarah, Christian, Nathan.

12 August 2016

The Consecration of the Altar

As we get closer to August 15th, we move towards the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day when we celebrate many of our important parish anniversaries -- the founding of the parish thirty-three years ago, the dedication of the church and consecration of the altar, the founding of the school, and for me personally it will be the thirty-third anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.

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


Praying the Litany, before the Consecration of the Altar.


The Prayer to Consecrate the Altar.


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


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


Placing the linens on the newly-consecrated Altar.


Opening the Triptych.


Placing the crucifix and candles at the High Altar.


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

10 August 2016

St. Clare of Assisi


St. Clare was born in 1194 to a well-to-do family in Assisi. As with all girls at that time, she was expected to marry at a young age, and spend her life being a wife and mother. However, Clare refused to marry, even though her family had chosen a suitable young man for her. Instead, she began listening to another young man, Francis, who had given his life over to God, and was living a life based on the Gospel, and in complete poverty. St. Francis and St. Clare became life-long friends, and he served as her spiritual guide.

When she was 18, Clare left her father’s house one night in secret, and she was met on the road by some of the religious brothers of St. Francis. Together they went to the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula – the “Little Portion” – where Clare was clothed in a rough woolen habit, and she exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it. Her beautiful long hair was cut and a veil was placed over her head. St. Francis placed her temporarily in a Benedictine convent, where her father and her brothers came – very angry – and they tried to drag her back home. She clung to the altar of the church, and she threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair and remained absolutely adamant that she was giving her life over to God.

Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, and in complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order (Poor Clares). Francis obliged her under obedience at age 21 to accept the office of abbess, and she remained abbess until her death in 1253, when she was nearly 60 years old.

The nuns went barefoot, they slept on the ground, they ate no meat and they observed almost complete silence. They possessed no property, even in common, subsisting on daily contributions. When even the pope tried to persuade her to mitigate this practice, she showed her characteristic firmness: "I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation of following Jesus Christ."

Clare and her community of nuns lived in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi, which is still there today. She served the sick, waited on table, and washed the feet of the nuns who went out to beg. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals and bishops often came to consult her—but she never left the walls of San Damiano.

A well-known story concerns her prayer and trust. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed on the walls of the convent when it faced attack by invading Saracens, who were Muslims. She prayed for Christ to protect them, and she told her sisters not to be afraid. In the face of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, the invaders ran away, and the sisters were safe.

In 1958 Pope Pius XII designated St. Clare as the patron saint of television. One Christmas Eve, when she was too sick to get up from her bed to get to Mass, she was very disappointed. She prayed that God would allow her to take part in the Mass. Although she was more than a mile away she saw Mass on the wall of her dormitory. So clear was the vision that the next day she could name the friars at the celebration.

Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation: that we who rejoice in the festival of blessed Clare, thy Virgin, may grow in the knowledge and love of true devotion; 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.

Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi.

07 August 2016

St. Dominic, Priest and Founder


Born in old Castile, Spain, St. Dominic was trained for the priesthood by a priest-uncle, studied the arts and theology, and became a canon of the cathedral at Osma, where there was an attempt to revive the apostolic common life described in the Acts of the Apostles.

On a journey through France with his bishop, he came face to face with the then virulent Albigensian heresy at Languedoc. The Albigensians (Cathari, “the pure”) held to two principles—one good, one evil—in the world. All matter is evil—hence they denied the Incarnation and sacraments. On the same principle, they abstained from procreation and took a minimum of food and drink. The inner circle led what some people regarded as a heroic life of purity and asceticism not shared by ordinary followers.

Dominic sensed the need for the Church to combat this heresy, and was commissioned to be part of the preaching crusade against it. He saw immediately why the preaching was not succeeding: the ordinary people admired and followed the ascetical heroes of the Albigenses. Understandably, they were not impressed by the Catholic preachers who traveled with horse and retinues, stayed at the best inns and had servants. Dominic therefore, with three Cistercians, began itinerant preaching according to the gospel ideal. He continued this work for 10 years, being successful with the ordinary people but not with the leaders.

His fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in 1215 he founded a religious house at Toulouse, the beginning of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).

His ideal, and that of his Order, was to link organically a life with God, study and prayer in all forms, with a ministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His ideal was “to speak only of God or with God."

Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

03 August 2016

St. John Vianney


St. John Vianney, also known as the Holy CurĂ© de Ars, was born May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, near Lyon, France to a family of farmers. He was an unremarkable student and his bishop was reluctant to ordain him.  He did so in 1815 only because there was a shortage of priests.  He was then sent to the remote French community of Ars in 1818 to be a parish priest.

Upon his arrival, the priest immediately began praying and working for the conversion of his parishioners. Although he saw himself as unworthy of his mission as pastor, he allowed himself to be consumed by the love of God as he served the people.

St. John Vianney slowly helped to revive the community’s faith through both his prayers and the witness of his life. He gave powerful homilies on the mercy and love of God, and it is said that even staunch sinners were converted upon hearing him. In addition, he restored his church, formed an orphanage, and cared for the poor.

His reputation as a confessor grew rapidly, and pilgrims traveled from all over France to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Firmly committed to the conversion of the people, he would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Plagued by many trials and besieged by the devil, St. John Vianney remained firm in his faith, and lived a life of devotion to God. Dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, he spent much time in prayer and practiced much mortification. He lived on little food and sleep, while working without rest in unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness, until he was well into his 70s.

St. John Vianney died on August 4, 1859. More than a thousand people attended his funeral, including the bishop and priests of the diocese, who already viewed his life as a model of priestly holiness.

The Holy Curé of Ars was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron of priests. Over 450,000 pilgrims travel to Ars every year in remembrance of his holy life.

Almighty and merciful God, who didst wonderfully endue Saint John Vianney with pastoral zeal and a continual desire for prayer and penance: grant, we beseech thee; that by his example and intercession, we may win the souls of our brethren for Christ, and with them attain glory everlasting; 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.

01 August 2016

St. Eusebius of Vercelli


Eusebius was the founder of the canons regular, priests living under a religious rule and dedicated to pastoral work. The canons regular was the immediate result of the rise of monasticism in the East, and St. Eusebius of Vercelli saw the possibilities of this new movement for the clergy. His example was imitated all over the West and brought about a renewal of clerical life. He was born in Sardinia and as a child was taken to Rome, where he became a member of the Roman clergy under Pope Julius. Consecrated for the see of Vercelli in 344, he gathered his clergy into a community life, founding also the dioceses of Turin and Embrun. In 355, he attended the Council of Milan as legate of Pope Liberius, which defended St. Athanasius against those Western bishops intimidated by the emperor. When Eusebius was ordered along with other bishops to condemn Athanasius, he refused, insisting instead that they all sign the Nicene Creed. When threatened by the emperor, Eusebius stood his ground and told the emperor he had no right interfering in Church matters.

In anger, the emperor sent Eusebius into exile in Palestine, where he was severely mistreated by the Arians. He was moved around from place to place and after his release by the Emperor Julian he consulted with Athanasius in Alexandria on the Arian crisis. Returning to Italy, he joined with St. Hilary of Poitiers in opposing the Arian bishop of Milan and returned to Vercelli amid the rejoicing of his people.

Eusebius is considered by many to be the author of the Athanasian Creed, and a copy of the Gospels written in his own hand is preserved in the cathedral at Vercelli. He died on August 1, 371, his courage in suffering for the faith inspiring other bishops to oppose the Arian heresy.

(Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints)

Lead us, O Lord God, to imitate the constancy of Saint Eusebius in affirming the divinity of thy Son: that, by preserving the faith he taught as thy Bishop, we may merit a share in the very life 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.