29 September 2017

St. Jerome the Irritable

Most saints are remembered for some outstanding virtue or devotion which they practiced, but Jerome is frequently remembered for his bad temper! It is true that he came across as a bit of a grouch and could use a vitriolic pen, but his love for God was extraordinarily intense. St. Jerome considered that anyone who taught error was an enemy of God and truth, and he went after such a person with his mighty and sometimes sarcastic pen.

He was above all a Scripture scholar, translating most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. He also wrote commentaries which are a great source of scriptural inspiration for us today. He was an avid student, a thorough scholar, a prodigious letter-writer and a consultant to monk, bishop and pope. St. Augustine said of him, "What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known."

His love for scripture lead him to the Holy Land – he wanted to see the places of scripture.  He began work on his greatest achievement, which was the Latin Vulgate version of the scriptures.

He took up residence in Bethlehem, and the cave in which he lived was in close proximity to the cave in which Jesus was born.  It was where he studied and worked for many years, eventually dying there.  His body is now in St. Mary Major in Rome.

Here are some quotes from the inimitable Jerome:

On the study of Hebrew he wrote, “From the judicious precepts of Quintilian, the rich and fluent eloquence of Cicero, the graver style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny, I turned to this language of hissing and broken-winded words.”

On worldly women, he railed against those who “paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony, whose plastered faces, too white for human beings, look like idols; and if in a moment of forgetfulness they shed a tear it makes a furrow where it rolls down the painted cheek; women to whom years do not bring the gravity of age, who load their heads with other people's hair, enamel a lost youth upon the wrinkles of age, and affect a maidenly timidity in the midst of a troop of grandchildren.”

Even the clergy of Rome didn’t get a break. He said, “All their anxiety is about their clothes.... You would take them for bridegrooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies.”

No wonder he ended up living in a cave.

St. Jerome's Cave in Bethlehem,
where we have celebrated Mass according to the Anglican Use on a few occasions.

O God, who hast given us the holy Scriptures for a light to shine upon our path: grant us, after the example of thy servant Saint Jerome and assisted by his prayers, so to learn of thee according to thy holy Word; that we may find in it the light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day; 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.

28 September 2017

The Holy Archangels

O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: mercifully grant that as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven; so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; 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.

+ + +
Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs or classes are 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.

St. Michael
The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, “who is like unto God?” and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host." He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.

St. Gabriel
St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachariah when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation. The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.

St. Raphael
Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveler with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means "God has healed".

St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions

The mixed-race child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, Lawrence Ruiz grew up in Manila and married a local Catholic girl. They had three children, and lived a simple life on his modest salary as a clerk working for the local parish. What they lacked in material things they more than made up for in their deep Catholic faith. Living something of an anonymous life, known only to their immediate circle of family and friends, life was good but not extraordinary. That is, not until a false accusation was made. And then, life as Lawrence Ruiz and his wife knew it, no longer existed. Everything was turned upside down as he made the nearly-impossible decision to run from his accusers. He was completely innocent, but he paid a very heavy price, which involved leaving his beloved wife and children and the only home he knew.

Lawrence made his way to a ship which was headed for Japan, and his travelling companions were three Dominican priests, a Japanese priest, and a layman who suffered from leprosy. They arrived in Okinawa and made no secret of their Catholic faith. And for that, they were arrested and tortured mercilessly. They were dragged off to Nagasaki, where further sport was made of Lawrence and the others, in an attempt to get them to deny Christ. They remained steadfast in professing their love for God and His Church. Lawrence had already had a false accusation made against him, but this accusation - that he was a Catholic - was an accusation he was happy to confirm, no matter what the consequences. And the consequences were brutal. He and his companions were hung upside down while having heavy stones tied to them; they were held under water until the moment before they would drown; they had wood splinters driven under their fingernails. But through it all, their hearts were filled with love for God and forgiveness for their persecutors.

When they finally died from their tortures, the bodies of Lawrence and his companions were burned and the ashes were thrown into the sea. Their faithful witness, however, fed that great burning fire of God's love, which continues to burn to this day.

Grant us, we pray, Lord God, the same perseverance shown by thy Martyrs Saint Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions in serving thee and their neighbour: even as those persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed in thy 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.

21 September 2017

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.

20 September 2017

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
St. Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans didn’t care what the tax collectors got by collecting extra for themselves, and so they were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners.” So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of His followers.

Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more shocked. What business did this supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that it cannot be a substitute for loving others.

When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax office – no doubt counting his day's profit – Jesus spoke only two words – "follow me". Those two words changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving apostle who would bring the treasures of God's kingdom to the poor and needy. He turned from his sin, so that he could follow Jesus.

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Saint Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist: grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches; and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 September 2017

The Holy Martyrs of Korea

On September 20, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, the martyrs of Korea.

The Catholic faith came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Peking to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly about twelve years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom didn’t come until 1883.

In the meantime, there were horrible persecutions against the Christians. The major religion in Korea consisted of ancestor worship, and this was considered to be a cornerstone of their society. If anyone refused to take part in ancestor worship, they were considered traitors to the country, and would be killed. Obviously, Catholics would not be able to be part of that, and as a result, more than 8,000 of them were executed, and in unspeakable ways. Most of them were simple country people, whose names were known only to those closest to them. 103 of them were canonized by name, by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

O God, who wast pleased to increase thy adopted children in all the world, and who made the blood of thy Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his Companions a most fruitful seed of Christians: grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example; 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 September 2017

St. Theodore of Canterbury

St. Theodore was born in Tarsus, and after he became a priest, he came to the attention of the Pope, who decided to send him to Britain to become the seventh archbishop of Canterbury. He was consecrated in 668, and became the first archbishop to rule the whole English Church. After his consecration he set out from Rome with St. Adrian, who had been abbot of a monastery, and also St. Benedict Biscop, who would become one of the great English abbots.

In 669 they reached Canterbury, where Theodore made Adrian the abbot of SS. Peter and Paul monastery, afterward named St. Augustine's. There they created a famous school influential in the lives of such brilliant scholars as the celebrated historian St. Bede the Venerable and the skilled church architect St. Aldhelm.

Theodore set about organizing the Church throughout England. Many of the sees had no bishops when he first arrived, and others sees needed to be divided. In 672 he called the first general synod of the bishops of the English Church to settle many important questions about the discipline and life of the Church in England.

Theodore's greatest achievement was to adapt the Roman ideal of a centralized church to English conditions. His establishment of a centralized church under the archbishopric of Canterbury in close alliance with secular rulers was maintained by his successors.

Theodore and Adrian brought organization and education to the English Church, and what they established there continue on to this day, even in parishes such as our own, which follow many of the traditions they began.

O God, whose Bishop Theodore was called to England to set the Church on a firm foundation: by his prayers, build us always anew on the rock that is Christ; and keep thy household faithful to the call we have received; 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 September 2017

Our Lady of Sorrows

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; 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.

St. Luke's Gospel Study

We began our study of St. Luke's Gospel this week, and each week's session will be uploaded to YouTube. 


13 September 2017

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Site of the Crucifixion, Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the crucifixion of our Lord on the hill of Calvary, and after his subsequent resurrection from the nearby tomb where His body had been placed, there was a concerted effort by both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem to obliterate any physical evidence or reminder of these events. They didn’t want there to be any rallying-place for the disciples of Jesus to gather, so dirt was piled up over the general site, and with the passage of time there were pagan temples built on top of it. But a persistent story was passed from generation to generation; namely, that the Cross on which Christ had died had been hidden somewhere underneath the site which was subsequently covered by pagan places of worship.

Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, was nearing the end of her life. A devout Christian, she received the divine inspiration that she should journey to Jerusalem to excavate the area where the Holy Sepulchre was, and attempt to locate the True Cross. The year was 326, and she set off on her pilgrimage. When St. Helena arrived in Jerusalem she was able to find someone who was very familiar with the story of where the Holy Cross had been hidden, and she ordered the excavation to begin – obviously able to arrange such a project because she was the Emperor’s mother.

The excavation was a success, but the problem was that three crosses were found on the spot. How was St. Helena to determine which one was the True Cross of Jesus? What happened next has come to us down through history in a tradition which tells us that St. Helena, along with the Bishop of Jerusalem, devised an experiment. The three crosses were taken to a woman who was near death; when she touched the True Cross, she was healed. This confirmed to St. Helena that the actual Cross upon which our Lord was crucified had been found.

Such a discovery called for celebration, and along with the great rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving to God, the Emperor Constantine ordered that two churches be built – one at the site of the burial of Christ (the Holy Sepulchre) and one on the site of the crucifixion (Mount Calvary). Because the sites were very close to one another, the churches were actually connected by a great colonnade, and today they are fully incorporated as one structure. The solemn dedication of the churches took place on September 13 and 14, in the year 335. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was fixed on September 14th, spreading from Jerusalem, on to other churches, until by the year 720 the celebration was kept throughout the whole Church.

The story doesn’t end there. In the early seventh century, the Persians conquered Jerusalem. The Persian king looted the city and stole the True Cross, taking it to Persia. Eventually, however, the Emperor recaptured the True Cross and brought it back to Jerusalem. The tradition says that he carried the Cross on his own back, but when he attempted to enter the church on Mount Calvary, he was unable to take another step. Bishop Zacharias of Jerusalem saw that the emperor was having difficulty, and so advised him to take off his royal robes and crown, and to dress in a penitential robe instead. As soon as the Emperor took the bishop’s advice, he was able to carry the True Cross into the church, where it was enshrined for the veneration of the Faithful. Eventually, smaller pieces of the relic were distributed throughout Christendom.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Relic of the True Cross, in the Lady Chapel for the veneration of the Faithful.
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas

12 September 2017

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom is known as one of the greatest preachers in the long history of the Church, and surely his homilies form a major legacy, but John lived at a time and in circumstances which demanded great holiness – something which God granted him in abundance.

John was born in 347, the son of Christian parents. His mother, Anthusa, was widowed at the age of twenty, soon after his birth. Anthusa gave all of her attention to her son. She gave him the best classical education available, and he was enrolled as a catechumen when he was eighteen. He came under the influence of Bishop Meletius of Antioch, who baptized him and ordained him lector.

At this time, John felt called to lead the life of a monk-hermit. He took up residence in a cave, spent his time studying the Scriptures, and put himself under the discipline of an elderly hermit named Hesychius. The discipline was demanding and austere, eventually breaking the health of John. He returned to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest, and he came to be known as a great preacher.

During the next twelve years the people of Antioch were enthralled with his sermons. He preached with a depth of knowledge and persuasiveness that were memorable to those who heard him. It was during this time that he received the nickname of Chrysostom, or “golden mouth,” because it was commonly said that “his words are like pure gold.” In the year 397, the Emperor Arcadius appointed John Chrysostom to the vacant See of Constantinople. It was feared that John’s humility would lead him to refuse the position, so he had to be lured to Constantinople, where he subsequently was consecrated bishop in 398.

It was not a peaceful or holy place in which John Chrysostom found himself. There was an abundance of political intrigue. Fraud and extravagance were the order of the day. Those around him were driven by their raw ambition to be advanced in their positions. John Chrysostom brought about immediate changes: he cut back expenses; he gave generously to the poor; he constructed hospitals. He set about reforming the clergy, called the monks back to a life of discipline, and reminded all the people of the importance of leading faithful and moral lives.

As might be expected, his program of reforms made enemies – especially the Empress Eudoxia along with Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. With the city of Constantinople in an uproar and his life under threat, John was exiled by the emperor in the year 404.

The situation continued to deteriorate, with the papal envoys being imprisoned, and John (who was defended by the pope and who had ordered John to be restored to his See) was sent even further into exile. Eventually he found himself six hundred miles from Constantinople, across the Black Sea. St. John Chrysostom was weary and he was sick. He died in exile in the year 407, and yet his last words were, "Glory to God for all things."

O God of truth and love, who gavest to thy Bishop John Chrysostom eloquence to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation, and courage to bear reproach for the honour of thy Name: mercifully grant to the ministers of thy Word such excellence in preaching; that all people may share with them in the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 September 2017

The Holy Name of Mary

We celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th and now on September 12th we commemorate the giving of her name by her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anne. They chose the Hebrew name of MiryĆ£m, which means “lady” or “sovereign.” The feast of the Holy Name of Mary originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. It was Pope Innocent XI who extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683, and for a very special reason. It was an act of thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West.

What happened was this: the Turks had been hammering the city of Vienna for a couple of months, and finally enough was enough. Under the leadership of Poland’s king an army comprised of Germans, Austrians and Poles made their move against the Turks, routing them completely. It was such an important victory that the Pope was inspired to do something special – thus, what had been a localized commemoration was now an act of thanks from the whole Church. But there’s more to the story…

When the Turks made their hasty retreat there were all sorts of things left behind, including several sacks containing a strange bean unknown to the victors. Thinking it was food for the invaders’ camels, the Viennese were about to dump it all in the Danube. But there was a citizen of Vienna who had been a captive under the Turks. He knew these beans were roasted by the Turks, and after grinding them up they would put them in hot water, making a drink they really seemed to relish. This man, Kolinsky, received exclusive permission to make and sell this new and unfamiliar drink – coffee.

The Viennese people hated it. It was bitter. The grounds got stuck in their teeth. It didn’t seem much better than drinking a cup of mud. Then a friend of Kolinsky made a suggestion. Strain out the grounds. Put a little milk in it to lighten it up. Add some sugar to make it more palatable. After following that advice, the people flocked to buy it, and so the first coffee house was born.

But let’s face it – what’s a cup of coffee without something to go with it? And with that came a new pastry which not only tasted good, but poked a stick in the eye of the Muslims. The delectable comestible was formed into the shape of a crescent – that symbol which had become so hated during the Turkish occupation – and with every bite of these wonderful pastries the Viennese were able to have another small victory over their invaders.

So there we have it. There’s the story of how Turkish coffee was made drinkable, and how the croissant – the “Turkish crescent” – came into being. And it all happened as part of the victorious triumph achieved under the banner of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that thy faithful people who rejoice in the name and protection of the most holy Virgin Mary, may by her loving intercession be delivered from all evils on earth and be found worthy to come to everlasting joys 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.

Remember and pray...

World Trade Center, 9/11

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Pentagon, 9/11

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord,
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die,
we are the Lord's.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

09 September 2017

St. Peter Claver, Priest and Missionary

A native of Spain, the young Jesuit priest Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into what is now Colombia, and he was ordained there in 1615.

By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled "supreme villainy" by Pius IX, it continued to flourish.

Fr. Peter Claver's predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Fr. Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself "the slave of the Negroes forever."

As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, the young priest plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God's saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, he instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.

His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead. 

After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his kindness toward the slaves, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.

He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among those who are in slavery or any kind of forced servitude.

O God, who madest Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves, and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience as he came to their help: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things of Christ, we may love our neighbour in deeds and in truth; 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 September 2017

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary

"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy." - St. John Damascene

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated as a liturgical feast at least from the sixth century. Its origin can be traced to the occasion of the consecration of a church in Jerusalem just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, near the Pool of Bethesda, on the traditional site of the house of Ss. Joachim and Anne. Within a few years the liturgy was celebrated in Rome, having been introduced by monks from the East, and the celebration included a procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Although the actual date of Mary’s birth isn’t known, the Church settled on September 8th, and the celebration Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was fixed on December 8th, as the date corresponding to nine months before the celebration of her Nativity.

These two feasts can be seen as a kind of bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin, God completed the new Ark – the living Temple – in which He would dwell. Through Mary, Jesus the Incarnate God has come to us.

At the parish we have a special tradition attached to this day. The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is the day on which all administrators and teachers at the Academy take the Oath of Fidelity. We began this tradition shortly after the founding of our school. After the reading of the Gospel at Mass, the oath is taken to uphold Catholic teaching and the promise is made to live in accordance with the teaching of the Church. The oath is taken in the presence of all the students, and it leaves a great impression on everyone. It’s a reminder of the solemn and serious obligation which belongs to every Catholic educator.

"I promise that I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church whether in the words I speak or in the way I act.

"With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the responsibilities by which I am bound in relation both to the universal church and to the particular church in which I am called to exercise my service according to the requirements of the law.

"In carrying out my charge, which is committed to me in the name of the church, I shall preserve the deposit of faith in its entirety, hand it on faithfully and make it shine forth. As a result, whatsoever teachings are contrary I shall shun.

"I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the whole church and shall look after the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those which are contained in the Code of Canon Law.

"With Christian obedience I shall associate myself with what is expressed by the holy shepherds as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith or established by them as the church's rulers. And I shall faithfully assist diocesan bishops so that apostolic activity, to be exercised by the mandate and in the name of the church, is carried out in the communion of the same church.

"May God help me in this way and the holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand."

The net of the Gospel...

While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.  - St. Luke 5:1-11

Every year, when this Gospel is read at the school Mass, I talk to them about fishing nets.  After describing how the apostles used their nets to catch fish, I move on to our Lord's promise to St. Peter, "...henceforth you will be catching men."  Jesus would give the apostles a new net - the net which is the Gospel - and with this net they would gather people and bring them as a catch, to the Table of the Lord.  It gives me an opportunity to remind them that we ourselves have been caught up in this Gospel net, and then I point out to them the symbolism we have on the ceiling of the nave: the blue color (reminding us of heaven) with a gold net superimposed upon it (reminding us of this Gospel).

The Nave Ceiling - Our Lady of the Atonement Church

04 September 2017

"Icon of the Good Samaritan"

On August 26, 1910 a baby girl was born to a couple of Albanian heritage in Skopje, Macedonia. She was baptized with the name of Agnes, and she grew up in a loving and devoutly Catholic household. When she was eight years old, her father died, leaving her mother with the responsibility of supporting the family, which she did by opening a shop which dealt in embroidery and fabric.

Young Agnes helped her mother, and was also deeply involved in the life of their parish church, but when she was eighteen she felt the call to religious life. She left home in September of 1928, travelling to Dublin, Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant at the Loreto Convent. It was there that she received the religious name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Terese of Lisieux, and she was known as Sr. Mary Teresa.

After her postulancy in Ireland, Sr. Teresa was sent to India, where she was to spend her novitiate. She arrived in Calcutta on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1929, and went immediately into the Loreto convent in Darjeeling. It was on May 24, 1937, that she professed her final vows, and during the 1930’s and 1940’s she taught at a Catholic girls’ school in Calcutta, and came to be known as Mother Teresa.

It was on September 10, 1946 that she was on the train going from Calcutta to Darjeeling. As she later recalled it, it was during that journey that she was given what she termed a “call within a call.” This was when she received the inspiration which would lead to the founding of the Missionaries of Charity. Within her call to religious life she felt the call to establish a new religious institute which would have as its mission, “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love of souls,” and this would be accomplished by “laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” This came to fruition on October 7, 1950, when the new congregation of the Missionaries of charity was erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

Her work had begun in a small way. She washed the sores of sick children; she nursed a woman dying of starvation and tuberculosis; she cared for a homeless man who was without any family, and near death. One by one, some of her former students joined her in the work. Their day would begin with Mass and Holy Communion, and then they would set out on the streets of Calcutta – they were recognizable by their white saris with blue borders – and they had the purpose of caring for the “poorest of the poor,” who had no one to care for them. They searched them out as though searching for Jesus Himself.

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s the work expanded, as did the number of those joining the Missionaries of Charity. They worked not only in Calcutta, but throughout India. Then, in 1965, Pope Paul VI raised the congregation from an archdiocesan institute to one of pontifical right, and they began to spread throughout the world, going first to Venezuela, then into Europe and Africa, eventually opening houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America.

In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and by that time there were 158 Missionaries of Charity foundations throughout the world, and its growth continued, until by 1997 there were nearly 4,000 Sisters in 600 foundations, in 123 countries of the world. In the summer of 1997, after an extensive trip to visit her sisters in Rome, New York, and Washington, Mother Teresa’s health was failing. She returned to Calcutta, and on September 5, 1997, she died at the Motherhouse, very near the Loreto convent where she had arrived some sixty-nine years earlier.

At her death she was mourned throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands came to Calcutta to pray and pay their respect to this remarkable woman. She was given a state funeral, and her body was taken in procession throughout the streets of Calcutta, where she herself had searched out the “poorest of the poor.” After only two years, in recognition of her sanctity, special permission was given to open her cause.  She was beatified on October 19, 2003 and was canonized on September 4, 2016. In speaking of her, St. John Paul II called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of thy servant, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

03 September 2017

St. Cuthbert, Bishop and Confessor

St. Cuthbert, one of the great saints of Britain, was born in Northumbria in about the year 635, at about the same year in which St. Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne. He was raised as a Christian, and in his youth he spent time in military service, and also seems to have spent time as a shepherd.

His life changed when he was about 17 years old. He was tending sheep out in the hills, and looking into the night sky he saw a great light descend to earth and then return, and he believed that a human soul was being taken to heaven at that moment. The date was August 31, 651, the night of the death of St. Aidan, who was the great bishop and monk of Lindisfarne. This became Cuthbert’s time of decision for the future of his life. He immediately went to one of the monasteries, Melrose monastery, which had been founded by St. Aidan, and requested admittance as a novice.

For the next 13 years he was with the Melrose monks. At that time Melrose was then given land to found a new monastery at Ripon, and Cuthbert went with the founding party and was made guestmaster of the new foundation. After serving in that capacity for a time, St. Cuthbert returned to his original monastery and was appointed as Prior of Melrose.

After a time, St. Cuthbert moved to Lindisfarne and settled into the life of the monastery. He became an active missionary, and he was very much in demand as a spiritual director. He was an outgoing, cheerful, compassionate person and no doubt became popular. But when he was about forty years old he believed that he was being called to be a hermit and to dedicate himself completely to prayer. He moved to a remote island, where he remained for another ten years.

He was not destined to remain in the life of a hermit. When he was about fifty years old, he was asked by the Church to leave his hermitage and become a bishop, and he very reluctantly agreed. For two years he was an active, travelling bishop, and he journey far and wide ministering to those under his spiritual care.

Finally, feeling that death was approaching, he retired to his old hermitage where, in the company of Lindisfarne monks, he died on March 20, 687.

The 4th of September is kept as a commemoration of St. Cuthbert in remembrance of the transference of his relics to Durham. With the invasion of the Vikings near the end of the 9th century, the body of St. Cuthbert was taken from Lindisfarne by the monks to a new location for safekeeping, until finally arriving at the place known as “Deer’s meadow,” or “Durham,” where a chapel was built for the relics, and this chapel marked the place where the great Durham Cathedral now stands.

Almighty God, who didst call St. Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of thy people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from thy ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pope St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory, truly "the Great," served the Church as Supreme Pontiff from 590 until 604.  After serving the city of Rome as a senator and prefect, all by the age of thirty, he gave himself to God by entering religious life as a Benedictine monk.  It was during his time as abbot that this famous incident took place, recorded in The Golden Legend:

It happed afterward that as Saint Gregory passed through the market of Rome, and saw there two fair children white and ruddy of visage, and fair yellow hair which were for to sell. And Saint Gregory demanded from whence they were, and the merchant answered, of England. After Saint Gregory demanded if they were christian, and he answered: Nay, but that they were paynims. Then sighed Saint Gregory and said: Alas, what fair people hath the devil in his doctrine and in his domination. After he demanded how these people were called: he answered that they were called Angles men; then he said they may well be so called for they have the visage of angels.

Abbot Gregory eventually became Pope. In addition to his tremendous influence on the liturgical and musical life of the Church, he remembered the Angle children he had seen in the slave market. He sent forty Benedictine monks to England, and among their number was St. Augustine of Canterbury. The rest, as they say, is history...

O God, the strength of them that put their trust in thee, who didst stablish thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Gregory with the strength of constancy to defend the freedom of thy Church: grant, we pray thee, that by his prayers and good example, we may manfully conquer all things contrary to our salvation; 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.