27 May 2017

St. Augustine, Apostle to the English


At the end of the sixth century it looked like St. Augustine had found his place in life. He was the respected prior of St. Andrew’s monastery in Rome, and everyone thought he would spend his life there, instructing, governing, and settling into a satisfying and sedentary life.

But the pope had other ideas. The pope been a young monk under Augustine; now that young monk was Pope Gregory, known to history as St. Gregory the Great. We all know the story of how Gregory had seen some fair-skinned people being sold as slaves, and when he asked about them, he was told they were Angles. “Not Angles, but angels!” he had responded, and he decided he needed to send missionaries to their people to bring them the knowledge of the Gospel. England had once known the faith, but the Angles and the Saxons had conquered the land, and had driven the Christians out. Now the time had come to re-evangelize, and Gregory chose Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected and dangerous trip to England. Augustine and his monks had the task of finding what few Christians there were to bring them back into the fullness of the Church, and also to convince their warring conquerors to become Christians themselves.

Every step of the way Augustine and his monks heard the horrid stories of the cruelty and barbarity of the Anglo-Saxons. By the time they had reached France the stories became so frightening that the monks turned back to Rome. Gregory had heard encouraging news that England was far more ready for Christianity than the stories would indicate, including the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to a Christian princess, Bertha. He sent Augustine and the monks on their way again, fortified with his belief that now was the time for evangelization.

King Ethelbert was a good king and he was curious about his wife’s religion. So he went to hear what the missionaries had to say after they landed in England. But he was just as afraid of them as they were of him! He was afraid that these missionaries would use magic on them, so he held the meeting in the open air. But he listened to what they had to say about Christianity. The king was baptized in 597, and unlike other kings who forced all subjects to be baptized as soon as they were converted, Ethelbert left religion to be a free choice. Nonetheless, the following year many of his subjects were baptized.

Augustine was consecrated bishop for the English and more missionaries arrived from Rome to help with the new task. Augustine had to be very careful because although the English had embraced the new religion, they still respected the old pagan ways. St. Gregory the Great was very wise, and he urged Augustine not simply to destroy the things of the old pagan religion, but to consecrate the pagan temples for Christian worship and pagan festivals were transformed into feast days of martyrs. Canterbury itself was built on the site of an ancient church which had been built during the earlier days of Christianity.

St. Augustine was in England for only eight years before he died in 605, but he planted the seeds for the growth of the Christian faith in what had been a dark pagan land.

O God, who by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine thy Confessor and Bishop, hast enlightened the English people with the light of the true faith: mercifully grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that have gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth; 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.

26 May 2017

Good news!


I am overjoyed that Fr. Mark Lewis, presently pastor of St. Luke's Ordinariate Parish in Washington, D.C. has accepted the appointment to be the new pastor of our parish, effective 1 July 2017.  He and his wife Vickey will take up residence on 1 August, and we look forward to welcoming them.

As many of you know, an appointment was not going to be made until next year, but I asked Bishop Lopes if he could possibly move it forward, and he was able to do that. This means that Fr. Lewis will be able to begin much sooner in using his many gifts to lead our parish on as Our Lady of the Atonement takes its place as the newest parish in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Pray for Fr. Lewis and his family, and for the good people of St. Luke's. And pray for our own parish as we continue to grow and move forward, that we may in all things give glory to God!

Fr. Lewis and I have been able to talk about his move here, and I will, of course, be available to assist him in any way he chooses. Also, I will be making visits to other Ordinariate communities as the bishop might decide. I will continue giving spiritual direction, offering Mass for the Poor Clare nuns, and generally giving priestly help whenever and wherever needed.

After nearly thirty-four years as pastor of a wonderful parish, overseeing five major building projects, witnessing growth from eighteen people into thousands, and having the privilege of assisting countless numbers of people discover the joy of entering into full Catholic communion, I am looking forward to continuing the adventure!

25 May 2017

St. Philip Neri


If we had to choose the one saint who always had a funny story to tell, or a harmless practical joke to play, it would be St. Philip Neri, who lived in the 16th century. His sense of humor was for a reason – he said there were plenty of gloomy saints – he wanted to use laughter and good-natured fun as a way of growing closer to God.

Philip’s life wasn’t always easy. His father was a financial failure, and when he was a young man of eighteen, Philip was sent to work with an older cousin who was a successful businessman. During this time, Philip found a favorite place to pray up in the fissure of a mountain that had been turned into a chapel. We don't know anything specific about his conversion but during these hours of prayer he decided to leave worldly success behind and dedicate his life to God.

After thanking his cousin, he went to Rome in 1533 where he was the live-in tutor of the sons of a fellow Florentine. He studied philosophy and theology, but he really wanted to live a life of prayer. During one of his times of prayer, he felt as though a globe of light had entered into him. This experience gave him so much energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking to others about God, everyone from beggars to bankers.

In 1548 Philip formed a kind of confraternity with other laymen to minister to pilgrims who came to Rome without food or shelter. The spiritual director of the confraternity convinced Philip that he could do even more work as a priest, so after completing his studies, Philip was ordained in 1551.

At his new home, the church of San Girolamo, he learned to love to hear confessions. Young men especially found in him the wisdom and direction they needed to grow spiritually. But Philip began to realize that these young men also needed guidance during their daily lives. So Philip began to ask the young men to come by in the early afternoon when they would discuss spiritual readings and then stay for prayer in the evening. The numbers of the men who attended these meetings grew rapidly. In order to handle the growth, Philip and a fellow priest Buonsignore Cacciaguerra gave a more formal structure to the meetings and built a room called the Oratory to hold them in.

Philip understood that it wasn't enough to tell somebody not to do something – they had to have something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when crowds were involved in all sorts of things that could lead to trouble, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a picnic accompanied by instrumental music for the mid-day break. After walking twelve miles in one day everyone was too tired to be tempted!

Eventually, Philip’s success with young people started to make some of the other priests jealous, and the good work he was doing was threatened. But eventually Philip and the others who worked with him were seen to be doing God’s work, so they were able to continue. In fact, St. Philip wouldn’t allow a single bad thing to be said about the people who had tried to destroy him. Eventually he and the others who worked with him realized they needed a center for their activities, and they were able to take up residence at what was known as “Chiesa Nuova,” or the “New Church.”

Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself. Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they always had a humorous side. When one priest gave a beautiful sermon, Philip ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so people would think he only had one sermon. When one man asked Philip if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip gave him permission -- if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes and name-calling he received.

And Philip carried out his own mortifications to learn humility. There are stories of him wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he wanted to seem. When some people came from Poland to see the great saint, they found him listening to another priest read to him from joke books.

But Philip was very serious about prayer, spending hours in prayer. He was so easily carried away that he refused to preach in public and could not celebrate Mass with others around. But he when asked how to pray his answer was, "Be humble and obedient and the Holy Spirit will teach you."

St. Philip Neri died in 1595 after a long illness, at the age of eighty years.

_________________________________


Whenever we have a parish pilgrimage to Rome, we always visit the magnificent but charming Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, better known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. This served as the center of operation for St. Philip Neri, the fun-loving saint who combined humor with holiness, and whose work resulted in the foundation of the Oratorians.





O God, who didst exalt thy blessed Confessor Philip to the glory of thy Saints: mercifully grant that we, who rejoice in his festival, may learn to follow rightly the example of his virtues; 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.

Novena to the Holy Ghost


The Novena to the Holy Ghost is known as "the first novena," remembering that the apostles returned to the Upper Room after the Ascension and spent the next nine days in prayer, awaiting the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon them at Pentecost. This year the novena begins on May 26th.

NOVENA TO THE HOLY GHOST.
(Each day begins with the intention, and concludes with the final prayer.)

FIRST DAY Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up thy dwelling within our souls, and make of them thy sacred home. Make us live by grace as adopted children of God. Pervade all the energies of our souls, and create in us fountains of living water, springing up unto eternal life.

SECOND DAY Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to our souls the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach us to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Show us the way by which we may be able to attain to them, and possess them, and hold them hereafter, our own forever.

THIRD DAY Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in thy light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of thee and the Father and the Son.

FOURTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide us in all our ways, that we may always do thy holy will. Incline our hearts to that which is good, turn them away from all that is evil, and direct us by the path of thy commandments to the goal of eternal life.

FIFTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give courage to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil.

SIXTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, and make us to understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for thy glory and the salvation of thy creatures. May we always be faithful in putting thy rewards before every earthly gift.

SEVENTH DAY Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess our hearts, and incline them to a true faith in thee, to a holy love of thee, our God. Give us thy grace, that we may seek thee and find thee, our best and our truest joy.

EIGHTH DAY Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate our inmost hearts, that we may set thee, our Lord and God, before our faces forever; and shun all things that can offend thee, so that we may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of thy divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens.

NINTH DAY Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a desire for holy things. Produce in our souls the fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness.

The following prayer concludes the Novena each day:

O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Ascension of Our Lord


One of the scriptural phrases intimately associated with Ascensiontide is that when our Lord ascended into heaven, "he led captivity captive…" These words remind us that the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ make up one continuous event, the event which conquered sin and Satan. We should view this as the "great war" of all the ages. In Gethsemane the enemy was met; on the Cross the battle was fought; in the Tomb Satan was defeated; and when our Lord ascended into heaven, he went as the victorious Warrior. His "prisoners of war" were all those things which keep us from having full communion with Almighty God. This was the combat which has brought us peace - the captivity which has given us freedom in Christ.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 May 2017

The Rogation Days


Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: we humbly pray that thy gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labour to gather them; that we, who constantly receive good things from thy hand, may always give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


O Almighty God who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 May 2017

St. Rita of Cascia


St. Rita was born into a happy and faithful Catholic family, and from the time of her childhood she had a very deep desire to live a life pleasing to God. In fact, her parents gave her a little room in their home as an oratory, where she spent all her spare moments. At the age of twelve, however, she wanted to consecrate herself to God by joining a religious community. As pious as her parents were, they pleaded with Rita not to do that, and instead they arranged for her to be married, at the age of eighteen, to an impulsive, disagreeable young man, who was a great trial to young Rita. They had two sons who had both inherited their father's quarrelsome nature. Throughout that time, however, Rita continued in her devotional life, and eventually her holiness and prayers won her husband's heart, so that he was not only willing for her to continue her religious practices, but he himself began to turn towards God.

They had been married for eighteen years, when her husband was murdered. No sooner had that happened, than both of her sons died shortly after. Rita's former desire to consecrate herself to God in the religious life came back even more strongly. Three times she tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia, but her request was refused each time, and each time she returned to her home. But God had plans for her. One night as Rita was praying in her home she heard herself called by name, while someone knocked at the door. In a miraculous way she found she was in the nuns’ enclosure, even though it was completely locked. Needless to say, the nuns were astonished at this miracle, and took her in as a member of the monastery.

St. Rita's hidden, simple life in religion was defined by her obedience and charity, and she lived a life filled with penances. One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell. Kneeling before the crucifix, she asked the Lord to let her share in His sufferings. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached from the image on the cross, and embedded itself in her forehead so deeply that she couldn’t remove it. The wound became worse, and it became horribly infected. Because of the foul odor coming from the wound, she wasn’t allowed to be near the other sisters, and this went on for fifteen years.

One day the Pope proclaimed a jubilee at Rome. Rita wanted nothing more than to attend. She was given permission, but only if the wound in her forehead had healed. Miraculously, it was healed, but only for as long as the pilgrimage lasted. When she returned to the monastery, the wound reappeared, and remained until her death.

As the time of her death approached, St. Rita asked for a rose from the garden of her old home. Although it wasn’t the season for roses, a rose was found in full bloom and it was brought to her. After St. Rita's death in 1457, her face took on a radiance, and the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The smell of roses spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. At the time of her death, witnesses saw her cell fill with light, and the bells in the tower rang by themselves. Immediately there were miracles of healing, and the world then knew that a saint had lived in their midst.

Bestow upon us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which thou wert pleased to endow Saint Rita: so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Christopher Magallanes and his Companions


“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”). This was the cry of the “Cristeros,” Catholics who took up arms in the 1920’s in Mexico against the anti-Catholic government led by an evil man named Plutarco Calles, who had instituted and enforced laws against the Church in an attempt to completely erase the Catholic faith in Mexico. Baptisms had been declared illegal; celebrating Mass was illegal; training men for the priesthood was illegal, and the list went on and on.

There were others who resisted peacefully, and today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Christopher Magallanes and 21 other priests as well as three lay companions, who were martyred between 1915 and 1937. They were executed by shooting or hanging, although they themselves had not taken up arms against the government. Their only crimes were that they were Catholic and they stood up for their faith. St. Christopher was a young man who was the pastor of the parish where he had been raised. When the seminaries were outlawed, he began a clandestine seminary. They had to do everything in secret, hiding from the government and moving from place to place. Young priests were trained, and bishops ordained them wherever they could find a hidden place to do it. As these priests were discovered, they would be arrested. They would be given either no trial, or a mock trial, and then they would be killed. Very often their bodies would be displayed as a warning to other Catholics. But before they died, they would cry out those words which gave hope and courage to those around them: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!,” (“Long live Christ the King!”).

The faith was not destroyed in Mexico. In fact, the Church continued to grow and continues on to this day. The lively faith among the Catholics in Mexico today was bought by the blood of these brave men, who would rather die than deny their faith in God.

This is a list of the Holy Martyrs of Mexico who were canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on 21 May 2000:

St. Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, St. Román Adame Rosales, St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, St. Julio Álvarez Mendoza, St. Luis Batis Sáinz, St. Agustín Caloca Cortés, St. Mateo Correa Magallanes, St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado, St. Miguel De La Mora De La Mora, St. Pedro Esqueda Ramírez, St. Margarito Flores García, St. José Isabel Flores Varela, St. David Galván Bermudes, St. Salvador Lara Puente, St. Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, St. Jesús Méndez Montoya, St. Manuel Morales, St. Justino Orona Madrigal, St. Sabas Reyes Salazar, St. José María Robles Hurtado, St. David Roldán Lara, St. Toribio Romo González, St. Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo, St. Tranquilino Ubiarco Robles, and St.David Uribe Velasco.

Almighty and eternal God, who madest Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions faithful to Christ the King even unto martyrdom: grant us, through their intercession; that, persevering in confession of the true faith, we may always hold fast to the commandments of thy love; 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.

19 May 2017

St. Bernardine of Siena

In the year 1400, there was a terrible plague going throughout what we now know as Italy. In the city of Siena, dozens of people were dying each day, and many of those who were dying were the very ones who were caring for the sick. It was a terrible situation – more and more people getting sick, but fewer and fewer people to care for them. It was then that a young man came to the door of the largest hospital in Siena. He had not come because he was sick, but because he wanted to help. And there were several young men whom he’d brought with him – again, not because they were sick, but like him, they were willing to tend the sick. For four months Bernardine and his companions worked day and night not only to comfort the patients but to organize and clean the hospital. Only at the end of the plague did Bernardine himself fall ill – not of the plague, but of exhaustion.

After he recovered, he returned to his aunt, who had raised him, and he nursed her in her final illness. After his aunt died, Bernardine started to think about where his life should be going. He was the son of a noble family, but he had been orphaned at seven and raised by the aunt whom he had cared for. As a young man, he hated indecent talk so much that he would blush when he heard it. Even his schoolmates hesitated to make him so uncomfortable. One day in the marketplace, a man thought it would be a great joke to tease Bernardine, and in a public place he started to talk to Bernardine in a shameful way. He was surprised when Bernardine slapped him in the face. The man slunk away, shamed in front of the very crowd he'd been trying to impress.

Bernardine, who had come to Siena to study, threw himself into prayer and fasting to discover what God wanted him to do. One might have expected him to continue his work with the sick but in 1403 he joined the Franciscans and in 1404 he was ordained a priest.

The Franciscans were known as missionary preachers, but Bernardine did very little preaching with because he had a very weak and raspy voice. For twelve years he remained in the background, spending his time in prayer. At the end of that time, he went to Milan on a mission. He was told by his superior to preach, but he didn’t want to, because his voice was so weak. But when he got up to preach his voice was strong and commanding, and his words were so convincing that the crowd would not let him leave unless he promised to come back.

Thus began the missionary life of this friar, who came to be called a “second St. Paul.” He crisscrossed Italy on foot, preaching for hours at a time, several times a day. We are told he preached on punishment for sin as well as reward for virtue but focusing in the end on the mercy of Jesus and the love of Mary. His special devotion was to the Holy Name of Jesus. In fact, even when it was clear he was dying, he preached on fifty consecutive days. He died in 1444 when he was almost 64 years old.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst endue St. Bernardine of Siena, thy holy Confessor, with preeminent love of thy most holy Name: we beseech thee, that, by the virtue of his merits and intercession: thou wouldest graciously pour into our hearts the spirit of love towards thee; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 May 2017

Ss. Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald


In the middle of the 10th century there was a king in England whose name was Edgar the Peaceable. Not that he was a peaceable man himself – he wasn’t. But he brought peace to the English, and it is that for which he is remembered.

His elder brother, Eadwig, had been king before him. Eadwig was a rather disagreeable man who brought discord to the land. His reign was known most for the conflict between his noblemen and the Church, which Eadwig had fueled by exiling some of the prominent clergy, which included St. Dunstan.

Eventually people tired of the turmoil and disunity under Eadwig, and it was then that they switched their allegiance to Edgar the Peaceable. This opened up all sorts of opportunities for rebuilding a stable society, because Edgar saw the importance of the place of the Church in the nation. He immediately called St. Dunstan back from exile, requesting that he be made a bishop. St. Dunstan remained King Edgar’s advisor for the rest of his reign.

Having St. Dunstan at his side meant that King Edgar could repair the great damage that had been done to the monasteries throughout the land. A series of attacks from the Danes had all but destroyed these important centers of learning and pastoral care, and it was at St. Dunstan’s urging that King Edgar sought out St. Ethelwold and St. Oswald, petitioning also that they be made bishops. The combined efforts of these three saints meant that the monasteries were restored, which assisted in making England unified as a nation.

We see in the story of these three great British saints the importance of seeking cooperation between the Church, with her preaching of the Gospel and her work of teaching and sanctifying, and the State, with its responsibility to uphold the law and good order of society. When the Church and the State work in harmony, each respecting the God-given role of the other, the good fruits which come from that are undeniable. St. Dunstan, St. Ethelwold, and St. Oswald carried out God’s work faithfully. They sought no honour for themselves, but rather they brought honour to God and His Church by teaching the faith, providing the Sacraments, and showing that ultimately God must be the King of every nation.

We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this feast of thy bishops Ss. Dunstan, Ethelwold and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and administering thy church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

17 May 2017

St. John I, Pope and Martyr


Pope John I became pope in 523, and inherited the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. The Western Empire had been ruled for 30 years by the Emperor Theodoric, who had embraced the heresy himself, even though he treated the empire’s Catholics with toleration. His policy changed at about the time John was elected pope. Theodoric didn’t like the fact that there was peace between east and west, because he thought it would be a threat to his reign – he really wanted to rule over everything.

When the eastern emperor, Justin, began imposing severe measures on the Arians of his area, the western emperor forced Pope John to head a delegation to the East to soften the measures against the Arians. At first John refused, but then fearing that the king's anger would be taken out on Western Catholics, he agreed to do Theodoric's bidding on every count save one. He boldly told the king that he would not ask the emperor to allow converts to return to heresy.

The pope arrived in Constantinople shortly before Easter in 526, and since he was the first pope to leave Italy, his reception was more than he could have dreamed. He had been met by the entire city at the twelfth milestone, where the clergy led the procession carrying candles and crosses, and even the emperor prostrated himself before the Holy Father. On the day of Easter, Pope John was seated in a throne higher than the one occupied by the patriarch, in the church of Sancta Sophia, where he celebrated Mass in the Latin tradition. John was accorded the highest honor when he placed the customary Easter crown on the head of Emperor Justin.

After meeting with Justin on Theodoric's behalf, the pope made the exhausting trip back to Ravenna. The king's fury raged. Jealous of the pope's grand reception in the East, Theodoric accused the pope of failing his mission by not securing all of the demands put to Justin. The king then ordered John to remain in Ravenna at his disposal.

John was imprisoned when he reached Ravenna because the emperor suspected a conspiracy against his throne. Shortly after his imprisonment, John died, and because of the cruel treatment he had received, he is counted as a martyr for the faith.

O Everlasting Shepherd, mercifully look upon thy flock: and through blessed John, thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church, keep her with thy perpetual protection; 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.

15 May 2017

St. Isidore the Farmer

This 19th century oil painting of St. Isidore the Farmer
is located in Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

St. Isidore the Farmer, born into a poor but devotedly Catholic family, wouldn’t have appeared to be destined for much in life. His parents had high hopes for him, so it would seem. They named him after the great bishop of Seville, St. Isidore, but that was about all they could give him. As soon as he was old enough to labor in the fields, he was sent off to work. And there he stayed. The boy became a young man who fell in love with an equally devout young woman, Maria. They married, they had a child. They knew immense sorrow when their child died, but they never wavered in their faith.

Isidore attended Mass daily, always before he went to the fields to work. His devotion sometimes caused him to arrive late for his duties, but he always accomplished as much or more than the other workers. Out of jealousy, the others reported his daily lateness to the employer, who decided to keep an eye on Isidore. It became evident that Isidore was toiling faithfully and steadily, and as a sign from God of the goodness and honesty of Isidore, the employer saw the image of an angel working beside him.

I love this saint. As little as he had, he was always generous towards others, always willing to share his meager meal with anyone who had less. His love for God formed the foundation of his work. The manual labor which occupied all his years was dignified by his devotion.

All the saints are interesting, although some of them probably would have been difficult to have been around. But this one… this is a saint I would have liked to have known. Maybe it’s because I grew up working on the family farm, and I know the satisfaction that comes from honest labor on the soil. Maybe it’s my own childhood memories of having a team of oxen as St. Isidore did. Maybe it’s my recollection of feeling an especially close bond to the Divine when working the land. But whatever the cause, I love this saint.

O Almighty God, to whom dost belong all creation, and who dost call us to serve thee by caring for the gifts that surround us: inspire us, by the example of Saint Isidore, to share our food with the hungry, and to work for the salvation of all people; 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.

14 May 2017

Casting Lots for St. Matthias


St. Matthias had been a follower of Jesus and was probably one of the seventy-two disciples. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the nascent Church was gathered in prayer and St. Peter said that it was right to choose an apostle to replace Judas. He said it should be someone who had been with Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan until the ascension. Two names were proposed: one was Matthias, and the other was Joseph, called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus). Both of them were good men, but since the Church needed only one, they prayed and asked God to reveal the right choice. This is where the “casting of lots” came in. Sometimes people have the mistaken notion that this was akin to gambling, or some kind of game of chance, and there are those who think perhaps it wasn’t the most appropriate means of determining God’s Will in the matter.

Actually, casting lots was a fairly common way of making a decision. When we look back through Scripture, we come across it pretty often. It was the method used to choose the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8); it was used to determine the priests’ duties in the temple (I Chronicles 24:5); during the terrible storm at sea, poor Jonah was determined to be the guilty one by the casting of lots (Jonah 1:7). For us, it has the unsavoury connection with the crucifixion, since it was by casting lots that the soldiers divided our Lord’s clothing (St. Matthew 27:35). In the case of choosing a replacement for Judas, it was settled in this way because of the very fact that both candidates were equally good. Casting lots was done in different ways, but a common way of doing it was to put the necessary number of polished stones of different colour in a container, and to shake it until one stone fell out, determining the choice. Whatever we might think of the method, it certainly worked. St. Matthias proved to be such a good apostle that after spreading the Gospel in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Egypt and Ethiopia, he was so successful he ended up being martyred for his efforts.

There are plenty of things we can get out of the account of the choosing of Matthias, but I like the thought that the dignity of apostleship seemed to hang by the thread of chance – and yet it wasn’t really chance, was it? God had His plan all worked out, and Peter (along with the others) knew that. They could have pushed their own human will and agenda into the situation: (“Hey, that Joseph Barsabbas is a really nice guy. Let’s choose him!”). In fact, the very fact that Christ’s original choice for that particular seat in the College of Apostles didn’t work out – at least by human standards – shows that God is very much in control of every detail. I mean, would we have planned things that way? The betrayal by Judas which led to the sacrifice which has atoned for man’s sin wouldn’t have been at the top of my list for a good plan. Finding an apostolic replacement by shaking some stones in a container isn’t something I would have thought of.

It seems like we’re rarely prepared for the twists and turns which define God’s plan, and yet that’s the way He works. Why are we surprised when things don’t follow the meticulous plan we’ve worked out in our own minds? After all, even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself prayed in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not My Will, but Thine be done.” And isn’t it our universal experience that, in the end, God’s plan is always best? Quite so.

O Almighty God, who into the place of Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Saint Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: Grant that thy Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

13 May 2017

Our Lady of Fatima


The famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the children of Fatima took place during the summer of 1917, during the time of the First World War. The little Portuguese village where this took place was made up mostly of poor people, many of them farmers, and the children of the village traditionally were given the job of taking the sheep out to graze on the hillsides.

The three children who received the apparitions were Lucia, who was ten years old, and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. Together they tended the sheep and, with Lucia in charge, they would often pass the day by praying the Rosary. It was in the summer of 1916 that an Angel appeared to them several times and taught them a prayer to the Blessed Trinity.

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, toward noon, a flash of lightning caught the attention of the children, and they saw a bright, radiant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. They saw this figure only as “a Lady,” and the "Lady" asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and for an end to the war. Also, they were told to come back every month, on the 13th.

Further apparitions took place on June 13 and July 13. This began to get the attention of large crowds of people, and the local government authorities did not like the idea of people gathering together like this, fearing that the people might just turn into a mob. So on August 13, when the children tried to go to the Cova da Iria, they were stopped by local authorities from going. Even though they were stopped on the 13th, they saw the apparition on the 19th. On September 13 the Lady requested that the Rosary be prayed for the intention of an end to the war. Finally, on October 13, the "Lady" identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary," and again she asked for prayer and penitence.

On that day, something strange also took place: the sun seemed to tumble from the sky and crash toward earth. The children had been forewarned of it as early as May 13, the first apparition. The large crowd, which was estimated to be at 30,000 by reporters who were there, saw this phenomenon and came away astounded.

Official recognition of these visions which the children had at the Cova da Iria came on October 13, 1930, when the local bishop - after long inquiry - authorized devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary at the site. The two younger children had died: Francisco in 1919, and his sister Jacinta in 1920. Sister Lucia died in 2005.

Even though people seem more interested in the apparitions themselves, and the miracle of the sun, the important thing is the message brought by the Blessed Virgin Mary – namely, that we should pray, that we should repent of our sins, and that we should dedicate ourselves to being like Mary herself – obedient, and willing to do whatever God tells us.

On this day in 1981 an attempt was made on the life of Pope St. John Paul II, when he was shot while moving through the crowds at the Wednesday audience. He credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life. "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path," he said. He made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Fatima on this date in 2000, and presented one of the bullets which hit him. It is now incorporated into the crown of Our Lady.

O God, who didst choose the Mother of thy Son to be our Mother also: grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 May 2017

A Path Into Full Communion


Each year we receive a number of Anglicans and other Protestants of various denominations into the full communion of the Catholic Church through our parish. In fact, there are several receiving instruction through our Inquirers Class right now.

Every once in a while I’ll hear from clergy from one of the several local Anglican communities. Sometimes they’re interested in exploring the possibility of becoming Catholic; more often they’re interested in debating. Obviously they don’t want to lose people from their communities, so I don’t blame them for trying to make their case. Some of them see no need to “become Catholics” because they’re quite certain they already have everything necessary for being Catholic. They would entertain the idea of “being in communion with Rome,” as long as it didn’t involve having to believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. In fact, they would hold that those Anglicans who intend to become Roman Catholics have sold their souls – to what or to whom, I’m not certain – and words like “capitulation” and “submission” are used fairly often.

I always tell them that I agree with them on that point. Becoming a Catholic does require capitulation and submission – to God, that is. It was, after all, God’s idea that the Church be one. It was God’s idea that St. Peter should be the Rock on which His Church would be founded. It was God who said, “This is my Body,” and “This is the chalice of my Blood.” It’s all there in the Gospel, from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Himself, so why wouldn’t we take those statements as true and want to accept them? In fact, it was God’s idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be preserved from the stain of original sin so that the flesh He took would be unblemished by sin. And since sin results in death, it’s logical that she who was conceived in the extraordinary situation of original purity should not undergo the ordinary circumstances of death. Likewise, it was God who said that those whom He had joined together, “let not man put asunder.” He also said, “Thou shalt do no murder,” and surely He intended the commandment to be applied to the innocent unborn. These things, and more, are part of the revealed Catholic faith. Who wouldn’t want to submit to such obvious truths?

And I have to ask those who warn against capitulation and submission to these and other matters of faith: what are they offering? Some “pure” form of Anglicanism? Catholicism divorced from the Petrine office established by Christ? A pick-and-choose form of Christianity tailor-made for personal tastes? Actually, that doesn't seem to be working out so well. Pride doesn’t make for a stable foundation, and the private judgement of what’s true doesn’t make very reliable glue.

Archbishop Michael Ramsey wrote of the “incomplete” nature of Anglicanism. In 1989, then-Archbishop Robert Runcie was addressing the North American Conference of Cathedral Deans when he said, “Our vocation as Anglicans is to put ourselves out of business.” Entering into full Catholic communion through the Ordinariate isn’t so much a matter of going out of business; rather, it’s moving the best treasures to a safe location, where the roof doesn’t leak and the walls aren’t crumbling, and where God may be worshipped in the beauty of holiness.

Sounds of the Spring Concert

Here's one of the lovely pieces sung by the Honors Choir at the Spring Concert at The Atonement Academy



Ballade To The Moon by Daniel Elder

On moonlit night I wander free,
my mind to roam on thoughts of thee.
With midnight darkness beckoning
my heart toward mystic fantasy:

Come, dream in me!

How beautiful, this night in June!
And here, upon the velvet dune,
I weep with joy beneath the moon.

The path lies dark before my sight,
and yet my feet with pure delight
trod onward through the darkened vale,
beneath the starry sky so bright.

O share thy light!

These woods, their weary wanderer soon
in awe and fearful wonder swoon;
I weep with joy beneath the moon.

And as the darkened hours flee,
my heart beats ever rapidly.
Though heavy hangs my eyes with sleep,
my singing soul, it cries to thee:

Come sing with me!

The twinkling sky casts forth its tune:
O must I leave thy charms so soon?
I weep with joy beneath the moon.



If there is no image, go to this link: https://youtu.be/AySIHPT7ptE

09 May 2017

St. Damien of Molokai


In the year 1840, Joseph De Veuster was born in Belgium, to a large family of farmers and merchants.  This was the future Father Damien.  When his oldest brother entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, his father planned that Joseph should take charge of the family business. Joseph, however, decided to become a religious.  When he was nineteen he entered the novitiate in the same house as his brother. It was there that he took the name of Damien.

In 1863, Damien’s brother was supposed to leave for the mission in the Hawaiian Islands, but he became seriously ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother's place. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19th, 1864, where he was ordained to the priesthood the following May 21st. He immediately devoted himself as a travelling missionary on the island of Hawaii.

At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on a very harsh measure which they thought would stop the spread of the dreaded disease of leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. It was decided that anyone who contracted this disease would be taken to the neighboring island of Molokai, where they would have to stay for the rest of their lives. The Catholic Church was deeply concerned about these abandoned lepers and the Bishop spoke to the priests about the problem. He didn’t want to send anyone "in the name of obedience," because he knew that whoever went would probably contract the disease. Four of the priests volunteered, and they would take turns visiting and ministering to the lepers. Fr. Damien was the first to leave, and at his own request and that of the lepers, he remained permanently on Molokai.

He brought hope to this place of despair. He became a source of consolation and encouragement for the lepers.  He became their pastor, the doctor of their souls and of their bodies, without any distinction of race or religion. He gave a voice to the voiceless, he built a community where the joy of being together and openness to the love of God gave people new reasons for living.  He saw the beauty and dignity of each person, no matter how deformed and grotesque their outward appearance.

After Father Damien contracted the disease in 1885, he was able to identify completely with them.  He spoke of "we lepers…" Father Damien was, above all, a witness of the love of God for His people. He got his strength from the Eucharist: "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation..." He said that he was "the happiest missionary in the world.”

Fr. Damian served for sixteen years among the lepers, and died on April 15th 1889.
O Father of mercy, who gavest us in Saint Damien a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned: grant that, by his intercession; as faithful witnesses of the heart of thy Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

07 May 2017

Good Shepherd Sunday


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.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Pictured is the Good Shepherd window at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

04 May 2017

The English Martyrs


During the 16th and 17th centuries hundreds of Catholics gave their lives in England, martyred simply because they stayed faithful to the Catholic Church. They themselves had not changed, but what changed were the laws of their nation.

King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects not only in civil matters, but also in spiritual things. He took to himself a spiritual power that can belong only to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter. The Catholics at that time wanted to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but their consciences could not allow them to grant the power of spiritual supremacy. It is as though, in the United States, the president and Congress took upon themselves the power to determine what we as Catholics believe, and how we worship. We could not allow Congress to pass laws that changed the Church’s teaching about the Mass, or what we believe about God. But this was what had happened during that terrible time. This was what led many people to face death courageously rather than act against their consciences and deny their Catholic faith.

This firm attitude in defense of their freedom of conscience and of their faith in the truth of the Holy Catholic Church is identical in all the martyrs, although they were a diverse group of people – priests, religious, laymen, housewives and mothers, some highly educated, some very simple laborers. But they all shared the same faith, and the same determination to keep that faith – and for that, they were put to death.

The torments they endured were horrible. Most of them were killed in extremely violent ways – the priests, for instance, were hanged, drawn and quartered. Others were tortured for long periods of time before their deaths. But every one of them remained steadfast in their Catholic faith, and they died praying for their executioners, and even praying for the monarch who had ordered their deaths.

O Merciful God, who, when thy Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, didst raise up men and women in England who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: give unto thy Church that peace which is thy will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven and be partakers together in the vision of thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

02 May 2017

Ss. Philip and James, Apostles


St. Philip was born in Bethsaida, Galilee. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist and is mentioned as one of the Apostles in the lists of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and in Acts. Aside from the lists, he is mentioned only in John’s Gospel in the New Testament. He was called by Jesus Himself and brought Nathanael to Christ. Philip was present at the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when he engaged in a brief dialogue with the Lord, and was the Apostle approached by the Hellenistic Jews from Bethsaida to introduce them to Jesus. Just before the Passion, Jesus answered Philip's request to show them the Father, but no further mention of Philip is made in the New Testament beyond his listing among the Apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. According to tradition he preached in Greece and was crucified upside down at Hierapolis under Emperor Domitian. His feast day is May 3

St. James the Less, the author of the first catholic Epistle (addressed to the Church generally), was the son of Alphaeus (also known as Cleophas). His mother Mary was either a sister or a close relative of the Blessed Virgin, and for that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of the Lord. The Apostle held a distinguished position in the early Christian community of Jerusalem. St. Paul tells us he was a witness of the Resurrection of Christ; he is also a "pillar" of the Church, whom St. Paul consulted about the Gospel. According to tradition, he was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and was at the Council of Jerusalem about the year 50. St. James was martyred for the Faith by the Jews in the Spring of the year 62. He was held in great respect by everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, which earned him the of "James the Just."

O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal 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.

01 May 2017

St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor


St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Catholic Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under Alexander, who became the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius made great progress in learning and virtue, eventually going into the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony.

In 319, Athanasius became a deacon, and as a young cleric, he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy being put forth by Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius.

In 325, he assisted his bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326.

His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373.

Grant, O Lord, we pray thee: that our devout observance of this yearly festival of thy Confessor and Bishop Saint Athanasius may render us thy servants acceptable unto thy loving-kindness; that the oblation of this our bounden duty and service may be profitable unto him in the reward of his godliness, and obtain for us thy servants the bountiful gifts of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Words from Fr. Paul of Graymoor


From the writings of Fr. Paul of Graymoor, on Our Lady of the Atonement:

She is necessarily "of the Atonement" since it was the will of God that she play a necessary part in the atonement or redemption. This is not to say that without her man would have remained unredeemed but that God's plan gave her a large share in the redemptive work. When we address the Blessed Mother, as "of the Atonement," we mean then, that there is some very close bond between the atonement and her, that she belongs to the atonement and the atonement to her. Mary, although her part is in no way similar in nature to that of her divine Son's, cooperated with Jesus Christ, as no other creature did, in his work of reconciling man with God.

Her claim to this high title rests most solidly on the fact that she consented to become, and became the mother of the Redeemer; that she suffered with Jesus during the passion; and that all graces merited for mankind by Christ have come to us through Mary.

30 April 2017

St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker
Statue in the Sacristy
Our Lady of the Atonement Church

The commemoration of St. Joseph the Worker falls on the first day of the month that is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was fixed in the calendar by Pope Pius XII in 1955. The pope expressed the hope that this feast would accentuate the dignity of labour and would bring a spiritual dimension to the work we do.

The teaching of the Church reaches back into the Old Testament, when we read in the Book of Genesis that God created man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend to it. From that time, God, who is the creator and ruler of the universe, has called men and women in every age to develop and use their talents for the good of others, and as a way of sharing in the creative work of God. In every kind of labour we are to remember that we are obeying the command of God to use our talents, and to receive the fruit of our labours. Our work allows us to provide for our own needs, and for the needs of those for whom we are responsible. It also allows us to show proper charity towards those who are in need.

The Church asks us to look to St. Joseph on this day, and follow his example of work, by which he showed his love and responsibility for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the Child Jesus. St. Joseph shows the dignity of work – and whether it is manual work, or any other kind of work, we are to do it in a spirit of cooperation with God, and as an offering to Him. Any task, well done, is an offering to God – when we work, we should see it as a work done for God, and it is part of what shows that we are created in His image. In creation itself, God worked for six days, and rested the seventh. So in our own lives, we are to keep that balance between using our energy for work, and then out of respect for our minds and bodies, give a day for our spiritual and physical renewal.

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

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

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.

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, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life learned from Saint Joseph to share our toil, and thus hallowed our labour: Be present with thy people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of the world responsive to thy will; and give us all a pride in what we do and a just return for our labour; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Truth on the road to Emmaus


"Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." Notice where Jesus directs the attention of the disciples. Not into 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. Through the Scriptures which 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 hearing 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.

St. Pius V, The Pope of Lepanto

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 confusion of the enemies of thy Church, and for the restoring of the honour of thy worship, didst appoint thy blessed Saint Pius V to be Chief among thy Pastors: grant that we, being defended by his intercession, may so steadfastly follow after thy commandments, that we may overcome all the devices of our enemies, and rejoice in perpetual peace and security; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 April 2017

St. Catherine of Siena


St. Catherine was born in Siena in the year 1347, and she was the last of 25 children born to her parents. Her father was a wealthy man in the business of dying wool. From her earliest life, Catherine was a different kind of child, spiritually sensitive, and being part of such a large family, she liked to find times when she could be alone with God. It was at the age of six that she had some sort of vision near the Church of San Domenico in Siena. From that moment onward, she followed an even stricter path of devotion, and when she was only seven, she dedicated herself to Christ, taking a private and internal vow that she would never marry, but would live only to serve God.

She wanted very much to dedicate herself to Religious life, and although her parents initially resisted the idea, eventually her father gave in and allowed Catherine to follow whatever she felt God was calling her to do. In 1363, when she was just 15 years old, Catherine became a Dominican Tertiary, and wore the black cloak which designated her as a Dominican sister. She began to increase her charitable work, and spent a great deal of her time in a nearby hospital, caring for the sick.

Throughout this time she became known as someone who gave excellent spiritual guidance, as more and more people came to her, or wrote to her, for spiritual advice. In fact, she became well-known throughout the Church as a devout and gifted spiritual guide, and even as a mystic. It was during a visit to the city of Pisa that she received the stigmata in the presence of a crucifix hanging in the Church of Santa Cristina. As her spiritual fame grew, she was even asked to travel to different countries to act as a mediator for the papacy, which was at that time in exile at Avignon in France. She was very strong in voicing her opinion to Pope Gregory that he needed to bring the Papal Court back to Rome, and unify the Church. When the terrible situation arose with the false election of a second Pope, leading the Church to the edge of schism, she was instrumental in restoring the true Pope to his rightful place.

In the year 1380, when she was just 33 years old, St. Catherine died. She was eventually proclaimed to be a saint, and along with St. Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Siena was proclaimed to be patron saint of Italy. Pope Paul VI conferred on her the title of Doctor of the Universal Church, and in 1999 she was proclaimed co-patron saint of Europe by Pope St. John Paul II.

O Merciful God, who gavest to thy servant Saint Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the Passion of Christ: grant that, through her prayers; we thy people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

28 April 2017

The Triptych Opened


With the coming of Easter comes the opening of the triptych at the High Altar. During Lent it is closed, and an explanation of the painting which shows in the closed position was given.  Now that it is once more opened until Lent begins again, here is an explanation of the painting which forms the reredos for most of the liturgical year.

THE TRIPTYCH OPENED


THE SIDE PANELS

It was through the mystery of the Annunciation that the Light, Who is Christ, came into a sin-darkened world. Thus the interior of the triptych is bathed in color and light.

On the side panels, four large saints turn their attention to the figure of Christ seated in majesty on the clouds of Heaven: Alban the first Martyr of Britain, Bede the Venerable, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury. With each of these saints are smaller, signature saints—saints who further enhance the spiritual significance found in the painting. The saints located in the tracery are a Carmelite saint, Bernard, Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas Moore, Christopher (the Christ-bearer), Philip the Apostle, John Fisher, and Paulinus of York. These figures, done in enameled copper, also include attributes of each of the larger saints. The saints depicted were chosen for a deeper significance that will be explained later. Close examination of the figures will reveal that the colors in the flooring match the colors of the flooring below the larger figures, and that even the slant of the floor matches the slant of the floor below.

Beneath each of these signature saints is a copper-enameled seraph, that is, an angel with six wings. Seraphim are traditionally thought to be found closest to God in heaven. Each angel carries a shield with the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II: a white cross with the large letter “M” honoring Mary and her role in the atoning sacrifice of the cross. The coat of arms reinforces a theme of this painting, the thanksgiving being offered by the congregation of Our Lady of the Atonement for the pontificate of John Paul II.

The background of the interior panels, including the main panel, were crafted by applying two layers of gold leaf on the boards. A staining agent was then applied to the gold leaf. After drying, the upper layer was cut through to reveal the bright gold behind it. The green outline of this gold pattern, the “Tree of Life” pattern, are rosettes, stylized roses based on the Tudor rose. Each of these rosettes has a center of enameled copper. The colors used in the centers, and in the rosettes, reflect the colors of the flooring.

The gothic tracery is enameled copper, patterned on the oldest existing gothic tracery pattern, found on a silk grisaille painting now located in the Louvre.

The red and blue colors were chosen for their close association with the British nation, but they are symbolic also of other mysteries. Red is the color of martyrdom and death, e.g., Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; blue is the color of his mother, the Virgin Mary. Thus in these two dominant colors is the symbolic name of the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement.

Before looking in detail at the four large saints, we should note the close relationship that existed between them. Saint Alban, the first Martyr of Britain, was instrumental in making the Catholic Faith part of the English experience. One of his biographers was Saint Bede.

As pope, Saint Gregory was interested in the conversion of the English nation. It was at his insistence that Saint Augustine came to Canterbury from the monastery that Gregory had founded in Rome.

These saints enjoyed a relationship with one another, and were influential in one another’s lives, and through their relationships they have affected all of us. We could say that Alban laid the groundwork that Gregory built upon by sending Augustine. Bede was the recipient of all the work that Augustine had done in Gregory’s name, based on the faith that Alban had planted, rooted in the atoning service of Christ.

SAINT ALBAN (C. 209)

Saint Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People tells us about Saint Alban, protomartyr of the English Catholic Church. According to Saint Bede, Alban sheltered a priest during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. This priest converted Alban to the Faith, and when soldiers came to arrest the priest, Alban put on the priest’s cloak and offered himself in place of the priest. The virtue of Saint Alban converted his first executioner. Then, as Alban’s head rolled from the block, the eyes of his second executioner fell out and landed in a holly bush.

In this painting, Saint Alban is depicted as a triumphant warrior for the Faith. He wears the purple cloak of the priest – purple is the color of nobility – and stands next to his emblem, the holly bush. The eyes of his executioner can be seen on top of the bush. Saint Alban also wears the Order of the Garter of Saint George. This chivalric order, here executed in both the collar and garter, is one of the most coveted in Great Britain. It is given to those who have contributed greatly to the life of the nation. It is fitting that Alban should wear these emblems because he gave his life for the Faith, which has given much to the English people.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT ALBAN

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the great reformer of the Cistercians was, like Alban, a warrior for the Faith. He brought about a great spiritual revival in the world of his time. At his fee is a bee hive, one of his symbols, recalling the honeyed eloquence of his preaching. He carries a symbol with a dual meaning. The gray enamel tablets are reformed rule, but they can be seen also as the stone tablets of the Law given to Moses at Sinai. Thus the figure can be read as Bernard Law, the name of the Cardinal Archbishop who served as the Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision at the time of the canonical erection of the parish.

A Carmelite saint represents all of those nameless saints through the centuries who have run the race, fought the good fight, and received the unfading crown of glory, the same that has been given to Saint Alban. Thus this panel depicts Saint Alban, glorified by a martyr’s death; Saint Bernard, glorified for his promotion of reform and his devotion to the Church; and those saints like this nameless Carmelite who won sanctification through the white martyrdom of cloistered and unknown religious life. A Carmelite was chosen because of the close association between the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of the Atonement Church, whose pastor served for many years as the Sisters’ Chaplain. The figure here carries the symbols of two great Carmelite saints: Theresa of the Child Jesus, symbolized by the single rose and crucifix, and Theresa of Avila, who like Bernard worked for reform in her community and in the Church, symbolized by the heart aflame.

SAINT GREGORY (c. 540-604)

The pagan Saxons destroyed much of the early Christian culture of Britain. The conversion of these cruel overlords was the special project of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory became a monk after a distinguished career in politics. Using his family’s wealth, he founded six monasteries in Sicily. In Rome, on the Coelian Hill, he established his seventh monastery, dedicated to Saint Andrew, where he lived the life of a simple monk. His time in the monastery was short, however. The pope sent him on a mission which lasted over seven years. When he returned, he was elected abbot of his monastery.

Shortly thereafter, Gregory was elected pope, succeeding Pelagius II. Rome was at the time being devastated by the plague, and Gregory organized pilgrimages throughout the city. During one of the pilgrimages a vision of Saint Michael, waving a sword, was seen above the spot now known as Castel Saint’Angelo. The plaque suddenly abated, and all of Rome hailed the new pope as a worker of miracles.

Gregory’s pontificate lasted fourteen years. During this time he reorganized both civil and ecclesiastical life. He redefined dioceses and reclaimed the papal states. In all his dealings with the churches of the East and West, Gregory insisted upon the supremacy of the Roman See. With deference for the rights of bishops in their own dioceses, he asserted the principle of the primacy of the Chair of Saint Peter. “Who can doubt,” he wrote, “that the Church of Constantinople is subject to the Apostolic See?” So also in the relationship with the emperor, Saint Gregory combined deference for the rights of the civil power with vigilance to defend his own rights and those of the ecclesiastical and monastic orders.

He was known also for liturgical reform. He was a prolific writer of letters, commentaries, sermons, and lives of the saints. He also wrote a book on pastoral care, noting what the life of a priest or bishop should be.

Saint Gregory began the mission to England and is known by the title “Apostle of England.” He sent monks from his own monastery of Saint Andrew, led by Augustine, to carry out this mission. In the reredos Gregory is shown in his full pontificals, holding his metropolitan cross. Next to him are buildings and flames. The buildings represent the monasteries he founded, but they can also serve to remind us of the New City of God he created from the civil and religious institutions of his period. The flames, surrounding the buildings, but not burning them, recall the medieval belief that Saint Gregory had great power to release souls from purgatory.

Saint Gregory is shown holding a wood-cut. This wood-cut, made especially for this triptych, recalls another medieval belief. It is related that, during the sacrifice of the Mass, the Man of Sorrows appeared to Gregory at the moment of transubstantiation. This was seen as a reaffirmation of this Catholic doctrine. The wood-cut is based on a German wood-cut of the period depicting this miracle.

Pope Saint Gregory also has another traditional emblem with him: the hovering Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that inspired his work and gave him the courage and strength to bring it to fulfillment.

One final detail: on the dalmatic he wears (in Gregory’s time bishops wore all the vestments) are rows of fringe, recalling that he is the patron saint of fringe-makers.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT GREGORY

Saint John Fisher (1469-1535) and Saint Paulinus of York (d. 644), whose names (when read together), give us the name of the Holy Father, John Paul.

Saint John Fisher was born at York, the same place that Saint Paulinus came to evangelize. He was recognized as one of the leading theologians of his day. He was also bishop of Rochester, one of the poorest of all dioceses. Like Gregory, John Fisher wrote about and practiced a real pastoral care for his priests. He tried to give them an example of priestly zeal and life. He wrote about the heresies of his day, but is known for never using abusive language. Rather, he relied on reason and persuasion to bring back the prodigals.

In the divorce controversy between Henry VIII and Queen Catherine, he defended the queen. He refused to take the oath defending the divorce and the Succession Act of 1534. Arrested for this refusal, he was confined to the Tower and eventually beheaded.

This small enamel shows him clutching a monstrance, for he was devoted to the Eucharistic Mystery, as was Saint Gregory. He is also shown carrying the keys of Peter, for he defended the rights of the sovereign pontiff to the point of martyrdom. He treads upon a crown to show that he refused to allow the true queen to be displaced by a usurper.

Saint Paulinus had come to England in the mission of Saint Augustine to Canterbury. Saint Bede said that it was Paulinus who brought from Rome many of the liturgical vessels and relics given by Gregory the Great to this infant church so that the sacraments would be celebrated properly, with solemnity and dignity.

Paulinus of York became Bishop of Rochester in 634; John Fisher, born at York, became Bishop of Rochester in 1504. Both of these dioceses, York and Rochester, were erected through the mission to convert the Saxons, begun by Gregory and administered by Augustine of Canterbury.

SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY (C. 605)

When Pope Saint Gregory decided that the time had come for the evangelization of Anglo-Saxon England, he chose as the missionaries some thirty or more monks from his monastery of Saint Andrew. He gave them their own Prior, Augustine, as their leader. Shortly after arriving in France, the missionaries returned to Rome, for they had heard about the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and the dangers of the Channel. Pope Gregory reassured them that the English were open to the Gospel, and he sent them back with much encouragement and support. The missionaries arrived in the territory of the king of Kent, Ethelbert. The king listened to them and gave them a dwelling in Canterbury.

In 597, on Pentecost, Augustine baptized the king. Afterwards, Augustine went again to France, where he was consecrated bishop of the English by Saint Virgilius, metropolitan of Arles. Augustine sent two monks to Rome to give a report of the mission, to ask for more helpers, and to obtain advice on various points. They came back bringing the pallium for Augustine and were accompanied by a fresh band of missionaries, among them Saint Paulinus. With these “ministers of the Word,” said Saint Bede, “the Pope sent all things needed in general for Divine Worship and the service of the Church, sacred vessels, altar cloths, furniture for churches, and vestments for the clergy, relics and also many books.”

In Canterbury, Augustine rebuilt an ancient church which, with an old wooden house, formed the nucleus for his metropolitan basilica and for the later monastery of Christ Church. Outside the walls of Canterbury he made a monastic foundation which he dedicated in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul. After his death, this abbey became known as Saint Augustine’s and was the burial place of the early archbishops.

Augustine had difficulty in reconciling some practices that were at variance with those of the Roman tradition, and this process was not successfully completed in his lifetime. During these difficult moments he was encourage by Pope Gregory.

Augustine’s last years were spent in spreading and consolidating the Faith through Ethelbert’s realm, and Episcopal sees were established at London and Rochester. On May 26, c. 605, about seven years after his arrival in England, Saint Augustine died. His feast is observed on this date in England and Wales, but elsewhere on May 28th.

In the reredos Augustine is shown in his full pontificals with his crosier. Prominent among his vestments is the pallium sent to him by Pope Gregory. He holds in his hand a model of the cathedral church at Canterbury.

Next to him are the liturgical vessels and appointments he caused to be brought to England for the service of the Church. The largest of these items is the crucifix. Note that the decoration of the crucifix has a wheat and grape motif, representing the Eucharist. From the side of the image of the crucified Christ is painted a red and blue line which falls upon the crown below. The significance is that Ethelbert, symbolized by the crown, was baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, from whose side flowed water and blood after His atoning crucifixion.

On the opposite side of Saint Augustine is a small reliquary casket. The design of the enthroned Christ and apostles is modeled after a reliquary casket, dating to the time of Augustine, still in the possession of Canterbury Cathedral.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE.

The two Thomases, Saint Thomas More and Saint Thomas of Canterbury, stand for the name of the studio that did the work for the reredos, Studio Didymus. “Didymus” is the Greek word for “the twin” – thus, two Thomases. But this pair also has another relationship with the central figure.

Saint Thomas More (1478-1535) was a contemporary of Saint John Fisher. He was executed the day following Fisher’s own death in the Tower. Thomas More was born in London, a diocese established by Saint Augustine. He was in service to his king, as Augustine served Ethelbert. He studied at Canterbury, the administrative center of Augustine’s mission. He served the king as chancellor, but refused to agree to the Divorce question, and would not take the oath stating that the king was the head of the Church in England. He was beheaded for his refusal.

In the enamel, Thomas More is shown wearing his lawyer’s cap and gown and carrying the keys of Peter. He stands on the crown that Henry would have given away to Ann Boleyn.

On the other side is Saint Thomas á Becket, or Thomas of Canterbury (1118-1170), who was born in London. Thomas served the archbishop of Canterbury, a line of authority that stretched back to Augustine. It was the archbishop of Canterbury who recommended Thomas as chancellor to Henry II, and Thomas himself became archbishop in 1163. As archbishop, Thomas became truly a man of God and defender of the papacy. It was his defense of the Church and papacy that brought about his conflict with the king and his eventual martyr’s death at Canterbury, in the church established by Augustine centuries before.

Relics of Saint Thomas of Canterbury are enclosed in the altar stone of Our Lady of the Atonement Church, and his is one of the small statutes besides the tabernacle door.

SAINT BEDE THE VENERABLE (673-735)

Although very little is known about Saint Bede, we do know that he was a monk of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth and Jarrow, where at the age of seven he had been given into the care of the abbot. His monastic life was uneventful, and we can sum it up in his own words: “I have spent the whole of my life devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and, amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily task of singing in the church, it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write.”

It was as a teacher and writer that Bede was supreme. He wrote both theological and secular works, prose and poetry. He was interested in science and the natural order. His historical writings are perhaps the best remembered. His chief work was The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, one of the most important historical writings of the early Middle Ages. It is the sole source for much information about the early Saxon history.

Saint Bede died at his work. On the Tuesday before Ascension Day he summoned the priests of the monastery, made them little gifts of paper and incense, and begged their prayers. At intervals during the next forty-eight hours, propped up in bed, he dictated to the last sentence an English rendering of the Gospel of Saint John upon which he was engaged at the onset of his illness. Finally, asking to be laid on the floor he sang the anthem “O King of Glory” from the Office of Ascension Day and died with the doxology, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” on his lips.

Bede is the only Englishman who was named by Dante in the Paradiso. Saint Boniface, when he learned of Bede’s death, said “The light, lit by the Holy Spirit for the good of the whole Church, has been extinguished.” In the reredos Saint Bede appears in his simple monastic garb. He was dedicated to the monastic office and to the life of prayer, thus his red prayer beads are shown in the folds of his habit. He carries the crosier, though he was never a bishop, to recall the bishop’s role of teacher and scholar, characteristics of Bede. He also carries an opened copy of his Ecclesiastical History, and the picture on the frontispiece is of the original small church of Our Lady of the Atonement, before its expansion. Next to him is the extinguished candle, recalling Saint Boniface’s words. At the top of the candlestick is the inscription of the doxology Bede was praying at the moment of death.

“Remember,” writes Cardinal Gasquet, “what the work was upon which Saint Bede was engaged upon his deathbed – a translation of the gospels into English …” But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing is now extant.

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF SAINT BEDE THE VENERABLE

Saint Phillip the Apostle (1st c.) and Saint Christopher (date unknown) with the Christ Child were positioned to be read from the right hand of Christ, that is, it reads “Saint Christopher/Saint Philip” – the name of the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Church. Following traditional iconography, Christopher holds aloft the Child Jesus, and Saint Philip, a martyr by crucifixion, holds a cross.

THE MAIN PANEL

The back, or main, panel serves to call our attention to the glory of God and to focus our attention on the Eucharist presence of Jesus Christ as reserved in the tabernacle on the retable.

The central figure is Christ enthroned on the clouds of Heaven, sitting in regal splendor. The clothing of the figure is done entirely by hand in copper enamel work. Each piece was cut, fitted, and molded out of pure copper. On top of the copper was laid ground glass enamel powder. This was then fired at extremely high heat to melt the glass on the surface of the copper. This is difficult, and was made more so, because it was decided to fire in the patterns of the clothing as well. The patterns are not painted, but rather laid out in dry enamel and fired. Thus they are permanent. All the pattern in the cloak, the trim work, and the patterns of crosses in the lappets (the ribbons from the tiara), are done in this manner. The figure’s “jewels” were also made from copper, enameled, and they are applied to the surface of the figure, giving it dimension and body. The cope clasp is the Agnus Dei, based on an enamel of the eleventh century. Christ is the Lamb who offered Himself as a victim to wash away with His own blood the pollution of our nature and of our carnal actions: CARNALES ACTUS TULIT AGNUS HIC HOSTIA FACTUS.

The figure of Christ enthroned was chosen because the work was commissioned in honor of the pontificate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. For this reason the figure is dressed as the pontiff. This was a common artistic motif of the Middle Ages. Christ, sitting in judgement, has a countenance softened with compassion. He is sovereign, as evidenced by his jeweled scepter, but He is also the loving Savior who seeks only to bless us, as the hand raised in blessing signifies.

On either side of Christ are two angels, carrying two more of the instruments of His passion and death, the spear and the sponge. The spear recalls the miracle of blood and water flowing from the side of Christ and reminds us that we are brought into the Church through baptism, and through this baptism we share in the redemptive death of Christ. The sponge recalls the thirst of Christ upon the cross. When He asked for drink, He was given sour wine or gall mixed with vinegar. When we come to the altar in thirst, we are given His blood to drink, the same blood that flowed from His side.

The patterns on the vesture of the angels further heighten the symbolic character of the work. The angel with the sponge has a pattern made up of a blooming lily and a cross. The lily calls to mind the lily of Saint Joseph, an indirect reference to the donors, the Joseph family, the lily of the blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Atonement, and finally the lily of Saint Anthony, after whom the city of San Antonio was named. The cross pattern is the same as used on the front panel’s lower angels. It is made up of the two “Ts” of the Holy Father’s personal motto. “Totus Tuus.” The angel with the lance has a pattern of a crown of thorns enclosing three nails, calling to mind the bitter and pain-filled death of the Savior. Interwoven with this pattern is the cross made up of the double “Ts.”

The lower angels are positioned behind the tabernacle. They hover in attentive reverence behind the King of kings and Lord of lords. They carry the veil of His Most Holy Name, JESUS, SON OF GOD, SAVIOR. They are vested in patterns appropriate to their proximity to the Eucharist mystery. The golden angel is dressed in a pattern of a long cross with stylized rays of glory behind it – for there is no glory save that of the cross. The green angel has a pattern of gold wheat and a cross. On the cross He was made into that pure bread offered up for us and given to us daily these sacred mysteries.

At the feet of these angels is an inscription that expresses both the Eucharistic mystery and the role of the Virgin Mary, Patroness of this church: AVE VERUM CORPUS NATUS EX MARIA VIRGINE (Hail the True Body, born of Mary the Virgin).

THE SIGNATURE SAINTS OF THE MAIN PANEL

The figure to the right of Christ is that of His foster father, Saint Joseph, tenderly holding the Infant Jesus. This figure was chosen because of the family surname of those whose donation made this reredos possible, and also because Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Church, the family, and of a happy death.

On the other side of Christ is an image of the Mother of God on the occasion of her glorious Assumption into heaven. She is shown with her arms lowered, the position of humility and the gesture of showering blessings. Near the bottom of the figure is her belt dropping off, which recalls the medieval belief that this belt was given to Saint Thomas at the moment of the Assumption. This belief was one of the most popular during the Middle Ages, and many churches have remnants of this relic in their collections. The image of the Blessed Virgin Assumed was chosen because of the dedication and blessing of Our Lady of the Atonement Church which took place on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1987.

THE ROLE OF THE ANGELS

In this painting there are six large angels and ten small enamel angels. This motif is not simply an artistic addition to the work, but rather has several purposes.

First, His Holiness Pope John Paul II is very much concerned with the traditional belief and teaching of the Church concerning the existence of these heavenly spirits. He has re-emphasized this teaching on many occasions.

Second, such groupings of angels were often found in the style of medieval art that is the inspiration for this reredos. Angels always had a place in the iconography of the Middle Ages. They were especially to be seen in scenes of the Passion. The angels here are relevant to the name of this parish, for they carry those instruments associated with the atoning death of our Lord.

The angels of the Passion are vested as deacons. Deacons are those ministers that assist the priest at the Mass, as the angels assisted Christ in His last agony, death, and resurrection.

Finally, these images of angels remind us of the famous story about Pope Saint Gregory and the people of England. According to tradition, he was inspired to work for the conversion of the pagan Saxons after seeing slaves from Britain for sale in the markets of Rome. He exclaimed, “Not Angles but Angels!”

THE METAL WORK

The hinges on this work are hand-forged steel which extend the front and back in the tradition of metalsmithing in the Middle Ages, and are designed to represent sword blades. This design recalls the prophecy by Saint Simeon that a sword of sorrow would pierce the heart of the Virgin Mary. The center lock, by which the panels are held flush when closed, is in the shape of the tablets of the Mosaic Law. The pin is in the shape of a cross, representing both the cross of Moses’ bronze serpent and the cross of Jesus.

THE CROSSES OF DEDICATION

Although not part of the triptych, there are four crosses found on the east and west walls of the church, which mark the places where the Holy Chrism was placed during the dedication of this place of worship. They are painted in the same style and colors of the reredos, and this “flowering cross” pattern was one of the favorite designs of the Middle Ages.

The crosses themselves were cut from wood that came from Krakow, Poland, near the birthplace of Pope John Paul II, and the city of which he was Cardinal Archbishop prior to his elevation to the papacy.