29 January 2017

The Beatitudes

The Basilica on the Mount of the Beatitudes

Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven."

28 January 2017

Old things now new...

I had an old friend with me as I offered Mass this morning. Well, perhaps "friend" is too strong a word, but "companion" would fit.

I'm referring to my chalice. It had belonged originally to a Catholic priest whose name is now lost. It had found its way into an estate sale and a very close friend of mine obtained it and gave it to me. I was an Episcopal priest at the time. It was at that same time that I was considering seriously the possibility of entering the Catholic Church, and if God willed it, to become a Catholic priest under the terms of the Pastoral Provision.

The chalice itself is beautiful - gold, rather ornate, quite old, and very graceful in its design. I used it as an Episcopalian, and it came with us when we moved to Texas to begin the work of nurturing the small community while we waited to enter into full Catholic communion.

The great day came on 15 August 1983. I was ordained as a Catholic priest and the Catholic parish of Our Lady of the Atonement was brought into being. The next day I offered my first Mass as a Catholic priest using my beautiful chalice and thus restoring it to its proper place as a chalice on a Catholic altar, holding the Precious Blood of Jesus, in the hands of a Catholic priest.

It continued to be used for all our Masses in the early years of the parish. But then, as happens over time, we obtained more chalices. Two of them came back with us from two different pilgrimages to Rome. Another was a gift to the parish. Soon my trusty companion found its way behind other chalices. It was safely stored in its cloth cover, but like its place in the back of the cabinet, it drifted into the back of my mind.

But recently I remembered it. Memories flooded into my mind of all the adventures and situations that chalice had seen with me. When I took it out of its cloth bag, its beauty struck me. It needed a little cleaning, which I happily did. When I offered the Mass this morning my chalice was restored to its proper place - not stored in a bag at the back of a shelf, but at the center of the celebration of the Mass.

As I was preparing it with the wine and water all the memories of where it had been with me flashed through my mind. My conversion, my first Mass, ministering to the little community at the beginning of our parish - all of it, and all of the wonderful people with me at those times, came into my heart.

When the chalice was elevated, containing Christ's Precious Blood, everyone who had been with me through everything up to that moment was lifted up. And with the lifting up, so God's blessings come down.

"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." -St. Luke 21:32

27 January 2017

St. Thomas and the Crucifix

This large oil painting of St. Thomas Aquinas before the Crucifix hangs in the nave of the Church of Our Lady of the Atonement, and it depicts the occasion on which St. Thomas perceived a change in the crucifix before which he was praying. He heard Christ's voice saying, "You have written well of Me, Thomas. What would you desire as a reward?" Tearfully, Thomas replied, "Nothing, Lord. I do it all for you."

I was very moved by the story when I had first heard it, and was delighted to find an old painting which captured that conversation between Christ and His saint. It was on one of my adventures in "junk-shopping" several years ago. My family and I were visiting relatives in Connecticut, and I decided to poke around some of the local establishments calling themselves "antique shops." 99.9% of the stuff in those places is usually pretty awful, but there's always the chance of finding a treasure which I call "junque amongst the junk." This painting was one such piece of "junque," and I couldn't resist.

Unframed, covered with dust, and held on the wall with a couple nails in the top corners, it had come from a Catholic church in the area which had been "renovating." I asked the shop owner how much he wanted for it, and we began the bargaining ballet which is required in such places. "Too much," I said. Of course, he knew his initial price was too much. "How much will you give?" he asked. The dance was on. We went back and forth. He came down a little, but I wanted him to come down a lot. I feigned indifference about it, thanked him for his time, and went on my way. The shopkeeper knew what I was up to, but it was part of the choreography, and we both knew I'd be back. The next day when I entered his shop I asked him if he'd had people lined up to buy the painting. With a big smile, he said, "No," so I gave him my final offer, which he accepted -- high enough for him to make a profit, low enough for me to consider it a bargain.

The canvas was carefully rolled for transportation back to Texas. When we got home I gently cleaned it, and took it to Hobby Lobby (they do a great job of framing, in my opinion) to choose just the right frame to complement the painting. When I picked it up it came to the church to be placed in the spot where it now hangs. I'd chosen the location carefully, so that when a preacher is in the raised wineglass pulpit the image of St. Thomas Aquinas is directly across the nave. His image is there, as a reminder that he's always ready to intercede and to inspire as the word of God is preached.

How much did I pay for the painting? It wasn't cheap, but suffice it to say that the frame cost more than the picture.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor

One of the greatest Catholic teachers in the history of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas is honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.

His parents had plans for him. In the year 1230, when he was only five years old, they took him to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, and it was their hope that he would choose to become a Benedictine there, and eventually become abbot. In 1239 he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to philosophy of Aristotle, and he saw how that philosophy could be used in the service of Catholic theology.

Thomas abandoned his family's plans for him and he joined the Dominicans, much to his mother's dismay. In fact, she ordered one of her other sons to capture Thomas away from the Dominicans, and he was kept at home for over a year. Of course, that couldn’t last forever, and once he was free, he went to Paris and then to Cologne, where he finished his studies with St. Albert the Great. He eventually became a professor at the University of Paris, and was known throughout the Church as one of the great scholars of all time.

But along with his fame as a scholar, he remained modest, a perfect model of childlike simplicity and goodness. He was known for his mildness in speaking and for his great kindness. Whatever clothing or other items he could give away, he gladly did. He kept nothing superfluous in his efforts to alleviate the needs of others.

His great Summa – which was his last and, unfortunately, uncompleted work, is a compendium of the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped work on it after celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, "I cannot go on.... All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me." He died just a few months later.

Everlasting God, who didst enrich thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Saint Thomas Aquinas: grant to all who seek thee a humble mind and a pure heart; that they may know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 January 2017

St. Agnes, described by St. Ambrose

St. Agnes, described by St. Ambrose as he writes "On the Dignity of Virginity":

It is the birthday of St. Agnes, let men admire, let children take courage, let the married be astounded, let the unmarried take an example. But what can I say worthy of her whose very name was not devoid of bright praise? In devotion beyond her age, in virtue above nature, she seems to me to have borne not so much a human name, as a token of martyrdom, whereby she showed what she was to be.
But I have that which may assist me. The name of virgin is a title of modesty. I will call upon the martyr, I will proclaim the virgin. That panegyric is long enough which needs no elaboration, but is within our grasp. Let then labour cease, eloquence be silent. One word is praise enough. This word old men and young and boys chant. No one is more praiseworthy than he who can be praised by all. There are as many heralds as there are men, who when they speak proclaim the martyr.
She is said to have suffered martyrdom when twelve years old. The more hateful was the cruelty, which spared not so tender an age, the greater in truth was the power of faith which found evidence even in that age. Was there room for a wound in that small body? And she who had no room for the blow of the steel had that wherewith to conquer the steel. But maidens of that age are unable to bear even the angry looks of parents, and are wont to cry at the pricks of a needle as though they were wounds. She was fearless under the cruel hands of the executioners, she was unmoved by the heavy weight of the creaking chains, offering her whole body to the sword of the raging soldier, as yet ignorant of death, but ready for it. Or if she were unwillingly hurried to the altars, she was ready to stretch forth her hands to Christ at the sacrificial fires, and at the sacrilegious altars themselves, to make the sign of the Lord the Conqueror, or again to place her neck and both her hands in the iron bands, but no band could enclose such slender limbs.
A new kind of martyrdom! Not yet of fit age for punishment but already ripe for victory, difficult to contend with but easy to be crowned, she filled the office of teaching valour while having the disadvantage of youth. She would not as a bride so hasten to the couch, as being a virgin she joyfully went to the place of punishment with hurrying step, her head not adorned with plaited hair, but with Christ. All wept, she alone was without a tear. All wondered that she was so readily prodigal of her life, which she had not yet enjoyed, and now gave up as though she had gone through it. Every one was astounded that there was now one to bear witness to the Godhead, who as yet could not, because of her age, dispose of herself. And she brought it to pass that she should be believed concerning God, whose evidence concerning man would not be accepted. For that which is beyond nature is from the Author of nature.
What threats the executioner used to make her fear him, what allurements to persuade her, how many desired that she would come to them in marriage! But she answered: It would be an injury to my spouse to look on any one as likely to please me. He who chose me first for Himself shall receive me. Why are you delaying, executioner? Let this body perish which can be loved by eyes which I would not. She stood, she prayed, she bent down her neck. You could see the executioner tremble, as though he himself had been condemned, and his right hand shake, his face grow pale, as he feared the peril of another, while the maiden feared not for her own. You have then in one victim a twofold martyrdom, of modesty and of religion. She both remained a virgin and she obtained martyrdom.

 Almighty and everlasting God, who dost choose the weak things of the world to confound those things that are strong: mercifully grant that we, who keep the festival of blessed Agnes thy Martyr, may perceive within ourselves the effect of her prayers; 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.

20 January 2017

Pray for the President

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Ss. Fabian and Sebastian, Martyrs

January 20th is the commemoration of two great 3rd century martyrs – one a pope, and one a soldier.

St. Fabian was simple farmer but was an extraordinary person, who took his Catholic faith very seriously. One day he came into the city of Rome from the countryside, but this wasn’t just any day – it happened to be the day when a new pope was being chosen. Who knows? Perhaps Fabian had come to Rome that day out of curiosity, to see who the next pope would be, or perhaps it was some other business that brought him there. But he was there on that particular day. Those who had gathered to elect the next pope prayed for a sign. They probably had no idea that God would give them such a clear sign, because at that very moment a dove flew towards Fabian and settled on his head. They took this as a sign that Fabian had been chosen by God. Although he was not even ordained at the time, he was immediately acclaimed by the whole city of Rome. He was ordained and installed as pope. Fabian’s fourteen year reign as pope was fairly peaceful, but the end came with a new persecution by the Emperor Decius. Fabian was one of the first to be martyred, in the year 250, during that persecution.

St. Fabian is commemorated on the same day as is St. Sebastian, although their lives had very different circumstances. St. Sebastian was born in Gaul, and he came from a rich Roman family, who sent him to Milan for his education. He became an officer in the Imperial Roman army and captain of the guard, and was known for his goodness and bravery. He was a favorite of Emperor Diocletian. It was during the persecution by Diocletian that Sebastian visited Christians in prison, bringing them supplies and comfort. He even healed the wife of one of the soldiers by making the sign of the cross over her. Seeing his witness, many soldiers and even a Roman governor became Christians.

Diocletian ordered Sebastian to give up his Christian faith but he refused. It was then that Sebastian was tied to a tree and archers shot arrows into his body and left him for dead. When a devout Christian woman came to bury him, she was amazed to find him still alive. She took him to her home and nursed his wounds. When Sebastian was well enough, the woman pleaded with him to escape the dangers of Rome. But Sebastian was a brave soldier. He would not run away. He returned to preach to Diocletian and urged him to stop torturing the Christians.

The emperor was shocked to see Sebastian alive. He refused to listen to what Sebastian had to say, and ordered that Sebastian be immediately clubbed and beaten to death. He died in 288.

St. Fabian’s remains are in the Basilica of St. Sebastian, and these two, whose lives were so different, were linked together by their common faith, and are two of our great martyrs.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, on this day devoutly observing the feast of thy holy Martyrs Saints Fabian and Sebastian, may thereby increase in godliness to the attainment of everlasting 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.

16 January 2017

St. Anthony of Egypt

Before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, back in the days when Christianity was still a persecuted religion, the act of becoming a Christian meant that a person turned his back on security, prestige, popularity, and success as far as the world was concerned. After the Emperor Constantine had changed Christianity from being a persecuted religion into one that was acceptable to society, and it became fairly easy to be a Christian, many who were serious about their faith felt that they needed to make a bigger sacrifice. As a result, some of them wanted to show their Christian commitment by leaving society and going out into the desert to become hermits, where they could devote themselves to a life of solitude, fasting, and prayer. Although this had begun to happen even before Christianity became legal, after Constantine this “going out into the desert” was seen more and more. One of the earliest examples is St Anthony of Egypt, who is considered to be the founder of Christian monasticism.

St Anthony of Egypt was the son of Christian parents, and from them he inherited a large estate. On his way to church one day, he found himself thinking about the words of Jesus, where He said, "Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me." When he got to church, he heard the preacher speaking on those very words. He took this as a message from God for him, so having provided for the care of his sister, he gave his land to the tenants who lived on it, and gave his other wealth to the poor, and became a hermit, living alone for twenty years, praying and reading, and doing manual labor. As more Christians sought out that solitary life, they tended to gravitate towards the place where St Anthony was, so in the year 305, he decided to give up his solitude, and he became the head of a group of monks, living in a cluster of huts or cells, devoting themselves to communal singing and worship, to prayer and study and manual labor under Anthony's direction. They weren’t there simply to renounce the world, but they wanted to develop their lives of prayer for others, and they worked with their hands to earn money so they could give it to the poor, and they gave spiritual guidance to those who sought them out.

In 321, Christians in Alexandria were beginning to experience persecution again, this time by the Emperor Maximinus – even though the Christian faith had been made legal by Constantine – and Anthony visited Alexandria to encourage those who were facing the possibility of martyrdom. He visited again in 335, when Arianism had become strong in the city, and he converted many by his preaching and testimony, and by prayer and the working of miracles. What we know of Anthony’s life we learn from the writings of St Athanasius, one of the followers of St Anthony. It was Athanasius who said about Anthony: "No one ever met him grieving, without failing to go away rejoicing."

Anthony died after a long, prayerful life in 356. He was 105.

Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; 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 January 2017

We're growing...

To accommodate the growth of our parish - both church and school - our new expansion is nearing the completion of the first phase of the project.  Pictured here is what will be the main entrance to the building.

Thanks be to God, we will have more room for our growing student body, and expanded facilities which can serve the various apostolates of the parish.

07 January 2017

This week's parish email...

Dear Friends,

This past Friday, January 6th, would have been the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  However, the bishops in this country have transferred the celebration of Epiphany to Sunday.  As we enter Epiphanytide we should remember that the Epiphany involves more than the visit from the Wise Men. 

Epiphany means “manifestation,” and the Church has always linked three events as part of the “manifestation,” the “showing forth” of the Divine Incarnate Word:

- the visit of the Magi;
- the Baptism of Our Lord;
- Christ's first miracle at the wedding in Cana.

Together these are the Epiphany: the manifestation of the God-Man to the world.

Ultimately, of course, we ourselves are supposed to be the on-going epiphany of Jesus Christ.  Our own lives – our words and our actions – should show the presence of God in the world, and the power and the mercy of the God-Man.


Sunday Masses at Our Lady of the Atonement are at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.  Mass is offered each weekday at 7:00 a.m. and at 9:15 a.m. The Mass on Saturday morning is offered at 10:00 a.m. followed by the rosary and confessions.


Beginning on Wednesday, January 11th, I will be teaching a course titled “An Introduction to Holy Scripture.”  This course was offered some years ago, and many found it helpful in preparing to study the various books of the Bible in a deeper way.  The course lasts for a limited number of weeks (probably three or four) which makes it easier for you to commit to the whole course.

Join us on Wednesday, January 11th, when we will meet in the St. John Paul II Library from 6:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m.


A new series of CATHOLIC INQUIRY CLASSES will begin on Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. in the Common Room.

Are you considering becoming a Catholic?   Are you an adult who wishes to be confirmed?  Are you returning to the practice of your faith after being away for a while?  These classes are for you! Please contact Alan Becker at 210-273-9426 or at alanmbecker@gmail.com.


Enrollment for the new academic year at The Atonement Academy has begun for all students. Whether you are enrolling a student for the first time, or if you have returning students, go to the Academy website - http://school.atonementonline.com/ -  where you will find instructions for enrollment for the 2017/2018 academic year, or call (210) 695-2240 to arrange for a tour. There are some classes which will fill up early, so don't wait to begin the process!


LOOKING FOR WORK?  We have two janitorial positions open at the church and school, and both would begin immediately.  If you would like to work in a friendly Catholic environment and be of help to the parish, please email sphillips@atonementonline.com for information and to arrange an interview.


Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place in the Sacred Heart Chapel from 7:30 a.m. on Friday until 7:15 a.m. on Sunday each week. This is a wonderful apostolate which takes no special preparation or talent, but only having a simple love for God and a desire to spend time with Him in the Most Holy Sacrament.  Please consider giving an hour a week in this beautiful way.  Our Lord Jesus Christ waits for us, and He is more than ready to hear your prayers, intercessions, and petitions.


May God bless you throughout this Epiphanytide.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

05 January 2017

Hymns in honour of St. Joseph


St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec, was founded by St. Andre Bessette, and grew out of his great devotion to the Foster-father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are two hymns in honour of St. Joseph:

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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.

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

1. Bless├ęd 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!