24 April 2017

Ah, sweet memories...

Forty-one years ago today, when I was a young man of twenty-six, I was ordained as an Anglican priest in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Providence, Rhode Island. I had been serving as a Deacon in St. Stephen’s Southmead, in Bristol, England, and would continue serving there as assistant curate. So that our families could be present, JoAnn and I, along with our infant daughter, made the journey to America for the occasion.

It was a grand affair. St. Stephen’s in Providence was known as “Smokey Steve’s,” and not without reason. Smack dab in the middle of the Brown University campus, it was (in those days) one of those wonderful Anglo-catholic ghettos, where those who went to “hear Mass” imagined that the whole world lived by the rubrics of the English Missal and sang from The English Hymnal, a world where the Thirty-nine Articles had more to do with the number of buttons on Father’s cassock than with the detestable enormities of Rome.

April 24th was a perfect spring day that year. Cliché as it sounds, it really did feel like the first day of the rest of my life. Little did I know what a fatal fall was waiting for the Episcopal Church – or maybe I just didn’t want to see it. But I do thank God for that day, forty-one years ago. It opened the door for my vocation to the Catholic priesthood, a gift that still astonishes me.

23 April 2017

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen


St. Fidelis was born Mark Rey and took the name of "Fidelis" when he joined the Capuchin Order at the age of 35 in 1612. He was born at Sigmaringen, a town in modern-day Germany. He studied law and philosophy at Freiburg. St. Fidelis subsequently taught philosophy at the University of Freiburg, ultimately earning a "doctor of laws". During his time as a student he did not drink wine, and wore a hair-shirt. He was known for his modesty, meekness, and chastity. In 1604, he and three friends travelled through Europe, and during his travels he attended Mass very frequently; in every town where he came, he visited the hospitals and churches, passed several hours on his knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and gave to the poor sometimes the very clothes off his back.

After he returned home, he took up the practice of law, and was known for his great fairness, and his dislike of ruining anyone’s reputation. He didn’t hesitate to offer his legal help to those who couldn’t afford the cost of a lawyer, and his charity earned him the name of "counsellor and advocate for the poor". He became disenchanted with some of the bad practices associated with many lawyers, and he decided to join the Capuchin friars.

When he entered the Franciscan Order of the Capuchins, he was given the religious name of "Fidelis," meaning Faithful. He finished his novitiate and his studies for the priesthood, offering his first Mass on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4), in 1612. As soon as St Fidelis finished his course of theology, he was immediately employed in preaching and in hearing confessions. He was named to be Superior of one of the Capuchin Convents, and many people in the area were renewed in their faith, and several Protestant Calvinists were converted. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith commissioned Fidelis specifically for work among the Protestants.

The Protestants were very angry at this attempt to convert them. They made threats against Fidelis' life, and he began to prepare himself for martyrdom. It was on April 24, 1622, that St Fidelis made his confession, said Mass, and then went out to preach. During the sermon, leaders of the Protestants called for his death. One of them discharged his musket at him in the Church, but missed him, and the Catholics begged him to leave the place, but he was ready to lay down his life. As he went out and was on the road, a group of about twenty Calvinists started to harass him, calling him a false prophet. One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on the head with his sword. Fidelis rose again on his knees, and stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, and prayed to God for their pardon. Another sword struck him in the head, and he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. His attackers continued to stab him, and they hacked off his left leg, saying it was punishment for him coming to preach to them. He was buried by the Catholics the next day, and many who had participated in St Fidelis' martyrdom, were converted, and received into the Catholic Church.

O God, who didst enkindle blessed Fidelis with seraphic ardour of spirit in the propagation of the true Faith, and didst vouchsafe to adorn him with the palm of martyrdom, and with glorious miracles: we beseech thee; that, by his merits and intercession, thou wouldest so confirm us through thy grace in faith and charity; that in thy service we may be worthy to be found faithful, even unto death; 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.

St. George the Martyr

Edward Burne-Jones,
‘The Legend of St George and the Dragon,
VI: St George Kills the Dragon’, 1866

St. George was born in Cappadocia in what is now Turkey, of noble Christian parents. After his father died, he went with his mother to Palestine, which is where she had come from. Her family there was quite wealthy, and she had a large estate, which fell to her son George. He was strong and robust, and having embraced the profession of a soldier, was made a tribune in the army of the Emperor Diocletian. He showed himself to be an excellent soldier, very brave, and he received many honours and advancements in his military career. When Diocletian began persecuting the Christian religion, St. George gave up his commission and posts, and complained to the emperor himself of his severities and bloody edicts. He was immediately cast into prison, and put on trial, questioned and tortured with great cruelty; but nothing could shake his constancy. The next day he was led through the city and beheaded.

So why the legends, especially the story of St. George slaying the dragon? According to the story, a terrible dragon, which lived in a marshy swamp, had ravaged all the country round a city of Libya, called Selena. It would come near the city looking for something to eat, and when it breathed, it would spread sickness throughout all the people. The people decided to give the monster two sheep every day to satisfy its hunger, but, when they ran out of sheep, they would give the dragon a human victim, whom they would choose by lot. On one occasion the lot fell to the king's little daughter. The king offered all his wealth to purchase a substitute, but the people had said that no substitutes would be allowed, and so the maiden, dressed as a bride, was led to the swamp. At that very time, St. George happened to ride by, and he asked the young girl what she did, but she warned him to leave her, because his own life was in danger. St. George stayed, however, and when the dragon appeared, St. George, making the sign of the cross, bravely attacked it and stabbed it with his lance, wounding it. Then asking the maiden for her belt, he bound it round the neck of the monster, and the princess was able to lead it without any struggle, back to the town. St. George told the people not to be afraid, but only be baptized, after which he cut off the dragon's head and the townsfolk were all converted. The king would have given George half his kingdom, but the saint replied that he must ride on, bidding the king meanwhile take good care of God's churches, honour the clergy, and have pity on the poor.

This legend was a great symbol of St. George who fought against the Emperor and against all those things that were trying to destroy the Church. The lesson is that good eventually will conquer evil, and all we need to do is put our fear aside, and live in the grace of our baptism.

O God of hosts, who didst so kindle the flame of love in the heart of thy servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death: grant us the same power of faith and love; that we, who rejoice in his triumphs, may come to share with him the fulness of the Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 April 2017

Divine Mercy


DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
23 April 2017

Mass will be offered at
7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.

DIVINE MERCY DEVOTIONS 3:00 p.m.

______________


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

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

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

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

or

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


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

20 April 2017

Friday in the Easter Octave


After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberas; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

-John 21:1-14

O God, who hast united the diversity of nations in the confession of thy Name: grant that they who are born again in the font of Baptism, may be of one mind in faith and in godliness of life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 April 2017

The Paschal Sacrifice


Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.
Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
- I Cor. 5:6b-8

Yeast (leaven) makes bread rise, but it is a kind of bacterium, so it also corrupts, and as St. Paul says, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” St. Paul’s point is that one sin can spoil the whole person, and even the wider community, both within and as seen by others.

The only way to assure that there is no corruption is to become a fresh batch of dough. Through baptism, we are unleavened – the stain of original sin is washed away, and we’re given grace to enable us to avoid sin. Through our baptismal consecration, we have been made a holy people, a people set apart for God. Because of that, we must constantly strive to become what God intends us to be, which means that we are to eliminate those corrupting influences which compromise the integrity of the consecration which took place at our baptism.

And what has made us “unleavened”? We are unleavened – we are like a fresh batch of dough – because the true paschal lamb, Jesus Christ, has been sacrificed. In the old rites during Passover the lambs were sacrificed, and St. Paul reminds us that in Christ’s death and resurrection, He is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover.

In fact, Jesus – the true Passover Lamb – is the perfection of the sacrificing of the lambs in the temple at Passover. The lambs which were sacrificed in the Temple were only a reminder that the time had come for the Jews to clean out all leaven from their homes; the sacrificing of the lambs did not actually accomplish the cleansing of the leaven. But the sacrifice of Christ the true Passover Lamb actually casts out the leaven – the corruption of sin – and makes us “a new creation.” By His sacrifice we are made into a kind of pure, unleavened bread, ready to serve Christ in this world, and finally to be with Him in heaven.

Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

17 April 2017

Tuesday in the Easter Octave


Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

- St. John 20:11-18


O God, who by the glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; 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.

Monday in the Easter Octave


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

- St. Matthew 28:8-15

O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith; that we may behold thee in all thy works; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

16 April 2017

A Sermon for Easter Day


Our celebration of Easter tends to surround us with familiar things. We have commemorated all the events of Holy Week, and when we come to the Easter celebration, we know what to expect – the music, the flowers, the order of the Mass, even the sermon has the ring of the familiar.

That was not so for St. Mary Magdalene, as she made her sad journey to the tomb on that first Easter morning. She had kept watch with the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the cross on Friday afternoon. She had seen the lifeless body of Jesus placed in the arms of His Mother, and she knew He was dead. She had helped to make the hasty burial preparations, and now she was returning to finish what she thought would be her last act of love towards her Master. But it was then that things seemed to be disoriented, and not as she expected.

When Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb in the semi-darkness, what she saw was very disturbing. The massive stone had been rolled away from the opening, the entrance to the tomb was wide open, and she knew things were not the way they should be. Her first thought? Grave robbers! In fact, those were the first anguished words from her mouth when she ran back to tell the disciples, Peter and John. "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him!"

We can understand her panic and her grief. First they had crucified her Master. Now they had stolen His body – the body to which she had planned to give her final loving care. As soon as she tells them, Peter and John both run to the tomb.

John is faster; Peter is braver. John takes a tentative peek inside and sees the strips of burial linens. He hesitates. But Peter, never one to hesitate over anything, heads directly into the tomb. He sees the burial linens along with the cloth that covered Jesus' head. But something is strange here, out of the ordinary. Everything is neat and in order. The head cloth is folded up by itself, separate from the shroud. Whoever did this was not in much of a hurry. The grave-clothes are exactly as there were on Christ’s body, completely undisturbed. Whatever had happened, it was obvious that this was hardly the work of grave robbers.

John finally gathers up enough courage to go inside the tomb to take a good look for himself. And he records this solemn sentence about his own reaction: "He saw and he believed." He saw the empty tomb and the undisturbed linens, and he believed Jesus' word that He would rise from the dead on the third day. He saw and he believed. That’s where we get the phrase, “Seeing is believing.”

But we should understand that seeing is not necessarily believing. And conversely, believing does not necessarily involve seeing. When it comes to our faith, “seeing” puts the evidence before the eyes, but “believing” is trusting that Jesus is true to His word. It is quite possible to see and not believe.

The Pharisees saw with their own eyes the miracles Jesus performed, but they did not believe. Peter saw the same things in the tomb that John did, but Peter did not believe at first. Later that week, another apostle, St. Thomas said, "Unless I see His wounds and touch them, I will not believe."

It was not just what John saw, but it was also what Jesus had said, which led John to believe. And Jesus prepared us for the fact that it is possible to not see and yet believe, when He said to St. Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." That’s a direct reference to us. And St. John emphasizes this point when he writes, "They did not yet know from the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead."

Jesus would soon open their minds to see from the Scriptures that Christ must suffer and on the third day rise. That is why He gave them an empty tomb and undisturbed linens. It was to preach to them on that first Easter morning. They were not yet able to get it from the Scriptures, because it is later, near the end of his Gospel, that St. John writes, "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."

We do not see what those disciples saw on that first morning. In fact, we cannot see what they saw. The original sites are there, and we can visit them as places of prayer and devotion, but things no longer look as they did. If we travel to Jerusalem and visit the very site of the resurrection, the only reason we know it is the place is because others have told us that it is. There is nothing there now that would let us know what had happened.

Sometimes we might be tempted to think that it would have been easier to believe all this back then, at the time of Mary Magdalene, and Peter, and John. They were eyewitnesses to all that surrounded Jesus' death and resurrection. They saw all of this with their own eyes. Sometimes it seems as though it would be so much easier, if we could just see “with our own eyes!” Just to be able to peek into the open, empty tomb to glance at the linen burial cloths, maybe a glimpse of a bright angel or two, and a look at the face of the resurrected Jesus. It would be so easy for us to believe if only we could see, or at least we imagine it would be.

But the written record handed down to us tells us differently. Seeing is not necessarily believing. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus with her own eyes and she thought He was the gardener. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus saw Jesus; in fact, they walked and talked with Him for seven miles, but they didn’t recognize him until He broke the bread at the table with them. Seeing is not necessarily believing.

Look around at the people of any Catholic parish. There is little visible evidence to tell the world that it is a gathering of holy people, cleansed and claimed by the blood of Christ. But God has declared that it is so – and He expects us to live in such a way that this fact becomes evident to the world.

The next time you hear someone say, “Seeing is believing,” don’t accept that. It simply isn’t true. If we follow only what we see, we will end up racing from one tomb to the next, from one church to the next, from one preacher to the next, perhaps even from one religion to the next, – always searching for something that we can see with our eyes, but coming up empty. We will end up as Mary Magdalene started out on that first Easter morning when she said, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they have put him."

As believers and members of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, we do know where Jesus is. First of all, we know He is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, restored to His place of eternal glory. But we also know that He is in the midst of His Church, which is the living Body of Christ. And we know this: the same crucified and risen Jesus, who defeated death and crushed the head of Satan, and whom Mary saw in the garden that morning, is located in the tabernacle of every Catholic church, hidden yet really present, unseen yet truly and objectively with us. He calls each of us by name from the waters of baptism, making us new creatures by the power of His death and resurrection. We are buried in Him and He is buried in us. When we receive Holy Communion, He buries His crucified body and blood in us, and He remakes us by giving us new life. He could not be any clearer about it: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise Him up on the Last Day."

Jesus gave His life so that we could have eternal life.

When we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we are also claiming the promise of the resurrection of our own bodies on the Last Day. In rising from the dead, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the Last Day of the old creation on this day, which is the first day of the new creation. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty and orderly. Death has been swallowed up in victory. The disorder and darkness of death has been reordered by the Light of Christ. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Jesus Christ is risen, and in Him, we too will rise in glory.

15 April 2017

An Easter Hymn


God our Father, Lord of glory,
Thanks and praise we give to Thee;
In Thy mercy to our fathers,
Thou didst bring them through the sea.
So by water hast Thou saved us,
|: Now from Adam's sin set free. :|

Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour,
Of Thy sacrifice we sing;
As the lamb in ancient myst'ry
To Thy people life didst bring,
So in Eucharistic glory,
|: Thou, God's Lamb, art made our King. :|

Holy Spirit, Breath from heaven,
We Thy precious gifts embrace;
At creation all things living
Thou didst sanctify with grace.
So may we, creation's glory,
|: Be for Thee a dwelling place. :|

Loving mercy of the Father,
Sacrifice of Christ the Son,
Quick'ning power of the Spirit:
In us let Thy work be done!
May we rise to life eternal,
|: That our Paschal joy be won. :|

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips
Tune: Cwm Rhondda, John Hughes (1907)

14 April 2017

Holy Saturday


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of 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.


Stone of the Anointing
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Good Friday


Almighty God: we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the Cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

13 April 2017

Maundy Thursday in the morning...

Each year on the morning of Maundy Thursday the students at the Academy gather for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It gives me an opportunity to explain to them why we do not celebrate any other Mass today, other than the evening Mass of the Lord's Last Supper.

Each year we read the account of the Passover in Exodus, and I remind them that the Church, celebrating the Mass this evening, is the New Israel offering up Christ as the Passover Lamb, and so we participate in the New Passover.

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast!

God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament hath left unto us a memorial of his passion: Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

12 April 2017

Tenebrae


With the conclusion of the Spy Wednesday morning Masses, all is made ready for the first service of the Sacred Triduum, with the chanting of Tenebrae this evening. In addition to all the other ceremonies of the season, we have (for more than thirty years) chanted Tenebrae on the eve of each of the three days. The psalms become almost hypnotic. The gradual extinguishing of the candles is a visual reminder of the death of Christ. The readings take us back to those events in Jerusalem, and all that led to them.

From the first antiphon we chant on Wednesday evening, to the final prayer we offer on Good Friday night, Tenebrae takes us deeply into the Passion of Christ.

On Wednesday the Office of Tenebrae is chanted at 7:00 p.m. (Confessions following, beginning approx. 8:40 p.m.).

On Maundy Thursday the Office of Tenebrae is chanted immediately following the Mass of the Lord's Supper (the Mass begins at 7:00 p.m.).

On Good Friday the Office of Tenebrae is chanted after the Stations of the Cross (Stations begin at 7:00 p.m.).

Spy Wednesday


Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."
-Matthew 26:14-25
Elsewhere the Gospel tells us that Satan entered into Judas, but even before this, Judas had shown himself to be dishonest and a lover of money. He kept the money box which was used for the needs of Jesus and the disciples, but he was accustomed to taking money out for himself. When the expensive perfume was used to anoint Jesus, he complained that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor – although he was more likely thinking that he could take the money himself. And now, he goes to the chief priests and asks what they would give him if he delivered Jesus to them. The bargain was struck: thirty silver pieces for the Son of God.

Could the betrayal by Judas have been because of something as common and low as his love for money? Certainly, it looks that way. There could have been other reasons – some have said that he was trying to force Christ into revealing himself as the Messiah. Some have said that Judas was jealous of all the other disciples and so wanted to do something to ruin their common life together. But if Judas betrayed Jesus for those reasons, why did he ask for money when he went to the high priests? He could have handed Jesus over to them without asking for money.

No, Judas was a lover of money, a worldly man who was looking for personal gain. As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” And this, no doubt, was an evil act. When Judas approached Jesus in the garden, our Lord asked him, “Judas would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” Judas had given his betraying kiss before, when he took money into his filthy hands, caressing it as a lover would his beloved.

Spy Wednesday serves as a reminder to us, too, that we can betray Christ for common, low things. We tend to think about our own wants before we think of Christ. We sometimes spend time trying to get things for ourselves while forgetting the needs of others. When we put things before what we owe to God, we’re betraying Christ. When we’re cruel or when we bully someone weaker than we are, we’re betraying Christ. When we delight in gossip, we’re betraying Christ. When we cheat someone, or when we take something which isn’t ours, we’re betraying Christ. When we use foul language, speaking filthy words from the same mouth in which we receive the Body of Christ, we’re betraying Him.

We’re horrified by what Judas did. But we need to look at our own lives, too, lest we are betraying Jesus.

O God, who didst will that thy Son should suffer death upon the Cross that thou mightest deliver us from the snares of the enemy: grant that by the merits of his Passion and Death we may know the power of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 April 2017

Tuesday in Holy Week


When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.' A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.

- St. John 13:21-38

O God, who by the passion of thy blessed Son didst make an instrument of shameful death to be unto us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

09 April 2017

Monday in Holy Week


Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.  Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

- St. John 12:1-11
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Palm Sunday


(The Second Sunday of the Passion)

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the Cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: mercifully grant that we may follow the example of his patience, and so be made partakers of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

07 April 2017

The Five Wounds


O LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who didst come down from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and didst bear five wounds on the Cross, and didst pour forth thy precious Blood for the remission of our sins: we humbly beseech thee; that at the day of judgement we may be set at thy right hand, and hear from thee that most comfortable word, Come ye blessed into my Father’s Kingdom; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

05 April 2017

St. Vincent Ferrer

St. Vincent Ferrer is the patron saint of builders because of his fame for "building up" and strengthening the Church, through his preaching, missionary work, in his teachings, as confessor and adviser. Born in 1357, when he was eighteen years old he entered the Order of St. Dominic. He was a brilliant student, and soon after his profession he was commissioned to deliver lectures on philosophy while continuing his studies, and eventually he received his doctorate, all the while growing in his spiritual life. In 1390, he entered the service of Cardinal Pedro de Luna, and this developed into a very difficult situation, because this was the time when a claim was made by Cardinal de Luna that he was the legitimate pope. St. Vincent felt a loyalty to his friend the Cardinal, but he realized that truth was more important than mere human friendship, and he felt obliged to go against his friend.

He then began those labors that made him the most famous missionary of the fourteenth century. He evangelized nearly every province of Spain, and preached in France, Italy, Germany, Flanders, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Many conversions followed his preaching, which God Himself assisted by the gift of miracles. Though the Church was then divided by the great schism, the saint was honorably received in the districts subject to the two claimants to the Papacy. He was even went to Granada, which was under the rule of Islam, and he preached the gospel with much success. He lived to see the end of the great schism and the election of Pope Martin V. Finally, having given his life to the preaching of the Faith, he died April 5, 1419.

O God, who didst vouchsafe to illumine thy Church by the merits and preaching of blessed Vincent thy Confessor: grant to us thy servants; that we may both be instructed by his example, and by his advocacy be delivered from all adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

04 April 2017

"...if I be lifted up..."


We find in the teaching of the apostles a great stress upon the death of Christ. The greatest blessings and highest gifts are always connected with His suffering and with the shedding of His blood. Over and over throughout Scripture, we read of forgiveness, of redemption, of healing, of cleansing, of sanctification, of atonement, all won for us, how? By the death of Christ. It all comes to us through that great fact of history, that he was “lifted up” upon the Cross, and there He died – and He has left us the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, which gives us immediate and daily access to all His saving work.

Here is the point that Christ makes: that when He is lifted up upon the Cross, it is the Atonement which He accomplishes. “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto myself...” He says. The great gulf is bridged, and mankind is once more made “at one” with God, just as we were before the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and the gates of heaven are opened to us. It is all made possible through the lifting up of Christ, and His death upon the Cross. He was lifted up upon the Cross, so that we can be lifted up to heaven. He was broken so that we can be made whole. The only lesson we need to learn is to be learned at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ – that even though we are sinful and fall short of the glory of God, in spite of it all, God loves us with that yearning, passionate love which led Him to give Himself to be lifted up for us. Our hearts cannot help but be broken open to receive that Love which knows no rest and which never tires until it has found us, and has brought us to our true home in Christ’s kingdom.

03 April 2017

Holy Week and Easter


April 9th – PALM SUNDAY (Second Sunday in Passiontide)
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. & 6:00 p.m. (Latin)
Blessing and Distribution of the Palms at all Masses

April 10th – MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.

April 11th – TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.

April 12th – SPY WEDNESDAY
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.
The Office of Tenebrae at 7:00 p.m.
(Confessions following, beginning approx. 8:40 p.m.)

April 13th – MAUNDY THURSDAY
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 9:15 a.m.
Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 p.m.
Followed by the Office of Tenebrae
and the All-Night Vigil in the Sacred Heart Chapel
(The Vigil will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Maundy Thursday,
and will end at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday)
On Maundy Thursday evening there will be
child care available in the school building, 6:45 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

April 14th – GOOD FRIDAY
Solemn Liturgy at 3:00 PM
Stations of the Cross and the Office of Tenebrae at 7:00 p.m.
On Good Friday there will be
child care available in the school building, 2:40 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

April 15th – HOLY SATURDAY
The Great Vigil of the Resurrection at 8:00 p.m.

April 16th – THE SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

On Easter Day there will be
child care available in the school building, 8:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

THERE WILL BE NO 6:00 P.M. MASS ON EASTER DAY

St. Isidore of Seville


St. Isidore of Seville was born into a family of saints in Spain in the sixth century. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. His two brothers served as bishops and his sister was an abbess.

But it’s not always easy to live with saints. In fact, although Isidore’s brother Leander is venerated as a saint today, the way he treated his younger brother Isidore was shocking, even to people who lived at that time. Leander, who was much older than Isidore, took over Isidore's education and Leander’s idea of education involved force and and lots of punishment. We know from Isidore's later accomplishments that he was very intelligent and hard-working, so it’s difficult to understand why Leander thought abuse would work instead of patience. One day, the young Isidore couldn't take any more. He was frustrated by his inability to learn as fast as his brother wanted him to, and he was hurt by his brother's treatment, so Isidore ran away. As he stopped to rest, he noticed water dripping on a rock near where he sat. He noticed that the small drops of water that were falling weren’t very forceful, and seemed to have no effect on the solid stone. And yet he saw that over time, the water drops had worn holes in the rock.

He took this as an important lesson. Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, bit by bit his small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also wanted his brother Leander to see that he was really trying, so he went back. When he returned home, his brother wasn’t any more understanding or any more kind than he had ever been, and in fact Leander sent Isidore off to a monastery where he was confined to a cell so he wouldn’t run away again, and there he was to continue his studies.

Either there must have been a loving side to this fraternal relationship, or Isidore was remarkably forgiving even for a saint, because later he would work side by side with his brother and after Leander's death, Isidore took his place as the bishop of Seville, and would complete many of the projects his brother had started.

In a time where everybody wants to blame the past hurts for their present problems, Isidore didn’t fall into that trap. He was able to separate the abusive way he was taught from the joy of learning. He didn't run from learning after he left his brother but embraced education and made it his life's work. Isidore rose above his past to become known as the greatest teacher in Spain.

His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in every diocese of Spain. He didn't limit his own studies, nor did he want limitations on others. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.

His encyclopedia of knowledge, the Etymologies, was a popular textbook for nine centuries. He also wrote books on grammar, astronomy, geography, history, and biography as well as theology. In fact, the great breadth of Isidore’s learning meant that Pope John Paul II named him Patron of the Internet.

He lived until almost 80. As he was dying his house was filled with crowds of poor to whom he was giving aid and alms. One of his last acts was to give all his possessions to the poor. When he died in 636, this Doctor of the Church had done more than his brother had ever hoped; the light of his learning caught fire in Spanish minds and held back barbarism from Spain. But even greater than his outstanding mind must have been the genius of his heart that allowed him to see beyond rejection and discouragement to joy and possibility.

O God, by whose providence blessed Isidore was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

31 March 2017

To Thee, O Gracious Father


To thee, O gracious Father, we lift our loving hearts;
to us the Bread of Heaven eternal life imparts.
We thank thee for thy favour that marks us as thine own;
Lord, keep us ever faithful, who come before thy throne.
What love thou hast bestowed on us,
a love which makes us free!
It cleanses us from ev'ry sin,
and keeps us close to thee.

To thee, O Christ our Saviour, we come for saving grace;
we see how tender love is, by looking on thy face.
Keep us from all things hurtful by the power of thy Cross;
and help us to remember our gain comes from thy loss.
What heav'nly Food is ours, Lord,
this Food which makes us free!
It fills our hearts and makes us whole,
and keeps us close to thee.

To thee, O Holy Spirit, we whisper our desire;
our lives are empty vessels: Lord, fill them with thy fire.
Make us thy faithful people who seek to do thy will;
give us thy gifts of power, our empty hearts to fill.
What peace that passes ev'ry thought,
that peace which makes us free!
It banishes each doubt and fear,
and keeps us close to thee.

From thee, O Triune Godhead, salvation is come down;
Atonement now is given, mankind receives his crown.
In Sacrament tremendous we touch eternity;
we love thee, God our Saviour: thou art our destiny.
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
our faith shall never cease!
In thee we have eternal life,
and never-ending peace.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: “Thaxted” by Gustav Holst, 1874-1934

30 March 2017

Children of the Atonement


As Passiontide draws near, this is an appropriate time for us to stand even closer to the Blessed Mother. It is her Son’s suffering and death which pierces her Immaculate Heart in a mystical way as she remembers with all of us the great price of our salvation. She consoles us throughout the year, but now especially our devotion should console her, because we are all Children of the Atonement.

Our Lord entrusted us to her at the same time as He spoke to Saint John from the cross, “Behold, thy Mother.” So let us be true sons and daughters. Walk with Mary as she follows her Son’s Via Dolorosa. Stand with her as she keeps her watch at the foot of the cross. Weep with her as she receives Christ's lifeless body into her waiting arms. Comfort her as she endures those three dark days, so that having endured with her, we may rejoice with her in the power and mystery of the Lord's resurrection.


25 March 2017

"Let it be..."


At the Annunciation, God sent His messenger, the archangel Gabriel, to announce to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Incarnate Son of God, and it would be Jesus who would take human flesh from her, to bring salvation into the world. When Mary heard these words, she was filled with awe and wonder, and she asked for clarification: “How can this be…?” When Gabriel told her that it would be by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded by saying, “Let it be unto me according to thy word.”

That is an important phrase, “Let it be…” It takes us back to creation itself, when by the word of God, all things came into being.

In the beginning, God said “Let there be light,” and there was. God brought into being everything there was – by His word there came into being all of creation, including man himself. In fact, creation itself is the larger context for the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As God spoke His creative word in the beginning, so today – at our remembrance of the beginning of the Incarnation – we call to mind Mary’s words, “Let it be…. Let it be unto me according to thy word.” The Virgin Mary’s words, “Let it be,” echo God’s words, “Let there be.” It is, in a way, the continuation of creation and the beginning of our salvation. God says, “Let there be…” and his word brings forth creation; Mary says, “Let it be,” and her words bring forth the Incarnate God into the world.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts: that, as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel; so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 March 2017

St. Turibius


Together with St. Rose of Lima, St. Turibius is among the first of the known saints of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for twenty-six years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge at Granada. He was a great success, but he was about to enter upon a surprising sequence of events.

When the archbishopric of Lima in Spain's Peruvian colony became vacant, it was decided that Turibius was the man needed to fill the post. It was generally agreed that he was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area. Turibius cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were wide-spread, and he devoted his energies (and his suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with no place to sleep, and little or no food. He made his confession every morning to his chaplain, and he would then celebrate Mass with tremendous devotion. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was Saint Rose of Lima, and most likely Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, Saint Francis Solanus.

His people, although they were very poor, also had a sense of personal pride, and they were unwilling to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them himself, anonymously.

When Turibius undertook the reform of the clergy, along with unjust officials, he encountered tremendous opposition. Some tried to "explain" God's law in such a way as to make it appear that God approved of their accustomed way of life. He answered them in the words of Tertullian, "Christ said, 'I am the truth'; he did not say, 'I am the custom."'

O God, who gavest increase to thy Church through the apostolic labours and zeal for truth of the Bishop Saint Turibius: grant that the people consecrated to thee may always receive new growth in faith and holiness; 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 March 2017

In honour of St. Joseph...


O God, who from the house of thy servant David didst raise up Saint Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son, and spouse of his Virgin Mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

+   +   +   +   +

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

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

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

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

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


+   +   +   +   +


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


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

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

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

18 March 2017

Stations of the Cross


Each Friday afternoon during Lent we walk the Stations of the Cross with the students at 2:15 p.m., and each Friday evening in Lent at 7:00 p.m. we have Stations for the whole parish, in conjunction with Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. However, you may make the Stations privately any time, and there is a plenary indulgence attached to this devotion. For you to gain the indulgence, these are the conditions:

EXERCISE OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS
PLENARY INDULGENCE

From The Enchiridion of Indulgences, 1968

A Plenary indulgence is granted to those who piously make the Way of the Cross. The gaining of the indulgence is regulated by the following rules:

A. Must be done before stations of the cross legitimately erected.
B. 14 stations are required. Although it is customary for the icons to represent pictures or images, 14 simple crosses will suffice.
C. The common practice consists of fourteen pious readings to which some vocal prayers are added.. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
D. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the stations are made publicly and it is not possible for everyone taking part to go from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their places.
E. Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence if they spend at least one half and hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
F. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death for the gaining of this indulgence.

A plenary indulgence MUST be accompanied by the three prerequisites of a plenary indulgence:

1. Sacramental Confession,
2. Communion, and
3. Prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time.

The Faithful have been retracing these steps of our Lord Jesus Christ from the earliest days of the Church. While the number and names of the Stations have varied over the centuries, our present order for them eventually was fixed, and the indulgence was attached to the Stations erected in Churches and Oratories. It was no longer required actually to go to Jerusalem to gain the great blessings which flow from this devotion.

17 March 2017

St. Patrick, Apostle to Ireland


St. Patrick is known as the Apostle to Ireland. We’re not sure exactly where he was born, except that it was someplace in Britain. Some claim he was born in England, others say he was born in Scotland, and still others claim he was born in Wales. Wherever his birth took place, the year was about 385, and his parents were Romans, living in Britain, because his father was overseeing the Roman colonies in Britain.

When Patrick was fourteen or so, he was captured during a raid being carried out by Irish invaders, and he was taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. During his time of captivity, he learned the language and practices of the people who held him, and even though he was among them as a slave, he began to love the Irish people.

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty years old, and he then escaped, after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. When he reached the sea, he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, and he was reunited with his family.

The time came when he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, "We beg you, Patrick, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood, and he was eventually ordained. Subsequently Patrick was consecrated to the episcopacy, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433, and he came upon a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted this chieftain, and he then began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

St. Patrick preached throughout Ireland for 40 years, working many miracles and writing of his love for God in his “Confessions.” After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring great suffering, he died on March 17, 461.

O Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be an apostle to the people of Ireland, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: grant us, by his intercession, so to walk in that light; that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 March 2017

Lenten thoughts...


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

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

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

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

08 March 2017

St. Frances of Rome

Lest we forget that God's plan for us is always best, just look at the life of St. Frances of Rome. She was a child born into privilege in the latter part of the 14th century, with parents who had the means to give her a very comfortable life. Young Frances was keenly aware of society's poor around her, and she had the good desire to give herself to the alleviation of their suffering by entering religious life and dedicating herself to this mission. Her parents had other ideas, and apparently so did God.

A young nobleman was selected by her family, and Frances was expected to marry him. She threw herself into prayer, asking God to deliver her from what she saw as a terrible fate. In fact, she was so persistent in this that her confessor asked her a difficult but important question: "Frances, are you really praying to do God's Will, or are you trying to make God bend to your will?"

That simple question brought about a profound change in Frances. With some reluctance, she married the young nobleman, and to her surprise the marriage turned out to be very happy. They had three children, and she found that her husband was perfectly willing for her to carry out an apostolate to the poor. In fact, she discovered that her sister-in-law had the same desire to serve, and the two were able to work together and pray together, eventually inspiring others to join in their good works. The group of women became a quasi-religious community, and when Frances was widowed she was able to go and live with them, sharing a common life of work and prayer.

St. Frances also had the great comfort of being able to see her Guardian Angel, and she was careful in following the angelic guidance she received.

Frances came to realize that God had given her far more than she had asked for. She had a happy marriage, and she was able to fulfill her desire for religious life, too. That's the way it is with God. He always gives in abundance, albeit in unexpected ways. All we need to do is follow Him in love, and pray as our Lord Himself did, "...not my will, but Thine be done."

O God, who amongst other gifts of thy grace, didst honour blessed Frances, thy handmaid, with the familiar converse of an Angel: grant, we beseech thee; that by the help of her intercession, we may be worthy to attain unto the fellowship of the Angels in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Ember Days


With our Divine Worship Missal, we have a restoration of some of our traditions which had been temporarily lost to us, and the Ember Days are an example of this.

Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"). There are those who say that the word “ember” is a corruption of the Latin title, but it is as likely that it comes from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle." As the year progresses and returns to its beginning, the ember days are part of the circle of the year. These days of prayer and fasting originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine with his arrival in the year 597.

The fasting is modified – basically no food between meals – and there are particular things for which we are to pray and give thanks. These days are to be used to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us -- for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it is a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us.

Another important aspect of the Ember Days is for us to pray for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during these four periods of time throughout the year.

07 March 2017

St. John of God


St. John of God was born at the end of the 15th century. He tended to be a very impulsive person, from the time he was a child. When he was prompted to do something, he usually stuck with it, no matter what – which is fine, if the prompting comes from God, but it can make life difficult if it’s something from your own imagination.

When he was only eight years old, John heard a someone talking about all the adventures there were out in the world, and so young John took it into his head to run away to seek his fortune. He never saw his parents again, but instead spent time on the road, begging his way from village to town, until he became very sick. A kind man and his family nursed him back to health, and John stayed with them, working as a shepherd until he was 27 years old. Feeling the urge to travel again, John joined the Spanish army, which was at that time in a war against France. As a soldier, he was hardly a model of holiness, taking part in the gambling, drinking, and the wild life along with his comrades. One day, he was thrown from a stolen horse near French lines. Frightened that he would be captured or killed, he reviewed his life and vowed impulsively to make a change.

He took on all sorts of physically hard work – unloading ship cargoes, building fortifications, anything he could find to earn a living. He would work hard all day, but then in the evening he would visit churches, and spend time reading spiritual books. Reading gave him so much pleasure that he decided that he should share this joy with others. He quit his job and became a book peddler, traveling from town to town selling religious books and holy cards. Finally, when he was 41 years old, he came to Granada where he sold books from a little shop.

After hearing a sermon on repentance, he was so overcome by the thought of his sins that the whole town thought he had gone crazy. After hearing the sermon John rushed back to his shop, tore up any secular books he had, gave away all his religious books and all his money. With his clothes torn and constantly crying, he was the target of insults, jokes, and even stones and mud from the townspeople and their children.

Some friends took him to a hospital for the insane. Eventually, the priest who had preached the sermon that had affected John so much, came to see him, and told him that he had gone on like this enough, so John was moved to a better part of the hospital, and where he was free to move about. Although still a patient, he began to help the other sick people around him. In fact, this experience made him decide to start his own hospital for the poor and those who had no one to care for them. He had no money for a building, so he went to the poor and homeless wherever they were – in abandoned buildings or under bridges – and he called those places his hospital. He continued to beg for money, and eventually found a very poor house which gave him a location where he could bring the sick and nurse them.

One day he heard that the hospital where he had been a patient was on fire. He immediately ran there and found that no one was doing anything. He entered the building and carried out the patients one by one, and then went back in to get as much of the contents as he could. As the fire burned more fiercely, he fell through the weakened timbers, and everyone thought he was dead – but almost miraculously, he walked out of the flames, unhurt.

John was ill himself when he heard that a flood was bringing precious driftwood near the town. He jumped out of bed to gather the wood from the raging river. Then when one of his companions fell into the river, John without thought for his illness or safety jumped in after him. He failed to save the boy and caught pneumonia. He died on March 8, his fifty-fifth birthday, of the same impulsive love that had guided his whole life.

John of God is patron saint of booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick, and firefighters and is considered the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers.

O God, who didst cause blessed John, by the fire of thy love, to pass unhurt amid the flames, and through him didst enrich thy Church with a new offspring: grant, by the pleading of his merits; that our vices may be healed by the fire of thy charity, and that we may obtain thine eternal healing; 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.