23 September 2018

Our Lady of Walsingham

In 1061, so the story goes, the lady of the manor of Little Walsingham in Norfolk, a widow named Lady Richeldis, prayed to our Lady asking how she could honour her in some special way. In answer to this prayer Mary led Lady Richeldis in spirit to Nazareth and showed her the house in which she had first received the angel's message. Mary told Richeldis to take the measurements of this house and build another one just like it in Walsingham. It would be a place where people could come to honour her and her Son, remembering especially the mystery of the Annunciation and Mary's joyful 'yes' to conceiving the Saviour.

The late eleventh century and all through the twelfth and thirteenth century was the era of the crusades, which saw a growing interest in the sites consecrated by the human presence of Jesus in the Holy Land. But now pilgrims need not go so far; in England itself there was a 'new Nazareth' built by one of their own countrywomen.

The actual house from Nazareth was moved – perhaps even miraculously – to Loreto, and we find that the measurements of the house in Loreto and the house in Walsingham are the same.

Why venerate a house? Because it reminds us that the Word-made-Flesh lived as Man with mankind.

O God, who, through the mystery of the Word made flesh, didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary: do thou grant that we may keep aloof from the tabernacle of sinners, and become worthy indwellers of thy house; 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. Pius of Pietrelcina


St. Pius was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town in southern Italy. His family were farmers, and his father worked also as a shepherd to support the family. In fact, when St. Pius was a boy his father was gone for periods of time because he had come to America looking for work, sending money back to his family. When St. Pius was 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars and made his first vows when he was 19. He suffered several health problems, but he was eventually ordained at age 22 on 10 August 1910, and was known after that as Padre Pio.

He had been a priest for about eight years. One morning he was praying before a crucifix, when he received the stigmata. He is the first priest ever to receive this outward mark of union with Christ Crucified – St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon. In fact, because this became a source of curiosity for so many people, Padre Pio was forbidden from having any public ministry for some years, even having to say Mass privately. This was a tremendous burden for him, but he accepted it in complete obedience to his superiors. But as word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch, although he himself never understood or emphasized these gifts.

People always seem to be most fascinated with these dramatic gifts, but the foundation of St. Pius’s life was his total love for Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament, and his life of prayer for others, especially prayer for healing – both spiritual and physical healing. In fact, in 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that today serves about 60,000 patients a year.

St. Pius died in 1968, and people continued to report many miracles and healings that had come through his intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999, and then in 2002 he was canonized in the presence of more than 300,000 people who gathered in Rome for the Mass.

Almighty everliving God, who, by a singular grace, didst give the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of thy Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of thy mercy: grant that, through his intercession, we may be united constantly to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the Resurrection; 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.

22 September 2018

Autumn Ember Saturday


Almighty and everlasting God, who through godly continency bestowest healing both of body and soul: we humbly beseech thy majesty graciously to look upon the devout prayers and abstinence of thy people, granting us in this world the succour of thy grace, and in the world to come life everlasting; 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.

[For those to be ordained]
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are (now) called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; 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.

[For the choice of fit persons for the ordained ministry]
O God, who didst lead thy holy Apostles to ordain ministers in every place: grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable men for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, 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 September 2018

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 2018

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 2018

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.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants: that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings, may likewise fast from sin within our souls; 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.

A sign in Nain...


[At that time, Jesus] went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
- Luke 7:11-17

Jesus comes upon a funeral procession. It’s the funeral of a young man, and he is the only son of a widowed mother. What unspeakable sadness and mourning must have marked that crowd in Nain. The men who were carrying the body to the burial site were probably thinking of the friend they had lost; the woman who had already buried her husband was now having to give her only son over to the grave; the family friends who were with her no doubt felt her deep loss. Jesus happened to be in the city of Nain on this particular day, and He chanced to be nearby when the procession was making its way to the cemetery. And He was obviously very moved by what He saw. St. Luke tells us that Jesus saw the bereaved mother, and “had compassion on her,” and He went to her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And they weren’t just empty words. They weren’t like the words which you and I say embarrassingly when we’re confronted by someone who has lost someone dear to them. No - our Lord was giving the woman a reason not to cry, because after He said it, He went to the coffin and he addressed the dead man, saying “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the gospel tells us that at that command the young man sat up, alive, and he began to speak!

Why did Jesus do this? Was it just so that this particular woman could have her son back? Certainly, that was the immediate result of Christ’s action - but that wasn’t the primary purpose of it all. No, Jesus was using a very human and tragic situation to show the world that He is Lord of all - that even death is no match for his power. And in this story is given to us a picture of the Gospel: those who were there in Nain on that day, and those of us who hear about it today, can see Jesus reach out and give life to a dead man. And this is the message which the Church has preached and taught ever since - that death has no sting, that the grave has no victory, in the face of Christ’s divine power.

16 September 2018

St. Robert Bellarmine


Born in the year 1542, Robert Bellarmine's family was large and relatively poor. His mother was especially devout and was given to works of charity, fasting, and regular prayer. Young Robert learned these things from her, and never forgot them. As a very young man he entered the Society of Jesus, and was eventually ordained. He had a tremendous gift for preaching, and was also a notable scholar, going on to teach at the University of Louvain. The Church recognized his faithfulness and his intellectual brilliance, and after a time he became a bishop, and was named a Cardinal.

He never forgot the lessons he learned at home, and his charity to the poor was manifested in the fact that even though he lived in a Cardinal’s palace, he ate the same food as the poor would eat, he dressed in rough clothing, and he even stripped the plush curtains and tapestries from the walls to sell them and gave the money to the poor. As he said, “The poor can catch cold; the walls cannot.”

He lived at the time when the Protestants were causing great dissension in the Church, and St. Robert Bellarmine used his considerable talents in presenting Catholic truth, and helping others to see the errors of protestantism.

He knew the best way to keep the Church strong was to make strong Catholics, and he compiled an important catechism for teachers and students. In fact, it was his work with the young that gave him the most satisfaction, and he had an immense effect on the lives of the students who learned from him. One the most famous of his students was a young man named Aloysius, who eventually was himself raised to the altar, and is known to us as St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

St. Robert Bellarmine – a great man who never forgot his humble beginnings, and who loved the Church and worked for her unity.

O God, who didst adorn blessed Robert Bellarmine, thy Bishop and Doctor, with wondrous learning and virtue, to banish the wiles of error and contend for the rights of the Apostolic See: grant by his merits and intercession; that we may grow in the love of truth, and that the hearts of those that err may return to the unity of thy Church; 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 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows



Immediately following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Church commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. This primarily remembers Mary standing at the foot of the cross, keeping a sorrowful vigil as she saw her son dying. Over time it actually developed to include what are called the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, growing out of the prophecy of St. Simeon, who, at the time of the Presentation, told Mary that a sword should pierce through her own soul.

These seven sorrows are:
The Prophecy of Simeon concerning the Jesus, born for the rise and fall of many.
The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family.
The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days.
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary.
The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross.
The Descent from the Cross, with Jesus placed in Mary's arms.
The Burial of Jesus.

The title of Our Lady of Sorrows is very closely related to our own title of Our Lady of the Atonement – we see our primary image of the Blessed Mother holding her Son who holds the cross (St. Simeon’s prophecy), and we have the image of Our Lady of the Atonement as the Pieta, as she holds the lifeless body of her Son when he was taken down from the cross.

This commemoration helps us to remember Mary’s sacrifice for our salvation, and also the importance of avoiding things in our own lives which would cause further sorrow to Mary, who is our Mother.

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.

13 September 2018

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 and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

12 September 2018

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 2018

The Most 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 defeated Muslim invaders. 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.

10 September 2018

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.

07 September 2018

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.

O Lord, we beseech thee, bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace: that as our redemption began to dawn in the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so this festival of her Nativity may yield us an increase of peace; 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.

06 September 2018

Peace which passes understanding...


One of the things distinguishing mankind from the rest of creation is his desire to understand things beyond himself. No doubt it is because he is created in God’s image, who is the Lord of all knowledge and wisdom.

We do know a great deal about the world around us, and we are able to grasp the transcendent truths which should guide our lives. We can see the smallest part of creation through a microscope, and we can view the farthest horizons through a telescope. We can capture and categorize immense amounts of knowledge -- but there is one thing that eludes any scientific or philosophical system: namely, finding that peace which comes from God. And when dark things happen, which threaten to remove all sense of peace, remember the foundation on which we rest: our Lord Jesus Christ and His love.

St. Paul wrote to the Philippians that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding” is the thing which will keep our hearts and minds in Christ. It’s humbling, that the only thing which really matters is the one thing that we will never completely understand.

04 September 2018

St. Teresa of Calcutta


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 2018

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.

02 September 2018

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.

A Prayer for Those Who Labour


O LORD Jesus Christ, who in thy earthly life didst share man’s toil, and thereby hallow the labour of his hands: prosper all those who maintain the industries of this land; and give them pride in their work, a just reward for their labour, and joy both in supplying the needs of others and in serving thee their Saviour; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

30 August 2018

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne


The Holy Island of Lindisfarne has a recorded history from the 6th century AD. It was an important center of Christianity not only under St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, but also is known for its association with St. Cuthbert, St. Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and St. Eadberht of Lindisfarne.

St. Aidan studied under St. Senan, one of the great Irish monk-saints, and he became a monk at Iona in about the year 630. His obvious virtues caused him to be selected as first Bishop of Lindisfarne in 635.

Lindisfarne is an island of about one thousand acres, and is off the northeast coast of England. It served as a home base for the evangelizing of the mainland, and in time St. Aidan became known as the "apostle of Northumbria," because the king of Northumbria, Oswald, asked him to come and spread the Christian faith among the people. St. Bede spoke highly of the spiritual care given by St. Aidan to his people. King Oswald had studied in Ireland and because of their common spiritual heritage he eventually became a close friend of St. Aidan, supporting him in his work to the end of his life.

St. Aidan died at Bamborough on 31 August 651, and his remains were taken to Lindisfarne. St. Bede writes that "he was a pontiff inspired with a passionate love of virtue, but at the same time full of a surpassing mildness and gentleness."

O loving God, who didst call thy servant St. Aidan of Lindisfarne from the peace of a cloister to reestablish the Christian mission in northern England, and didst endow him with gentleness, simplicity, and strength: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, following his example, may use what thou hast given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

29 August 2018

St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line, and St. Margaret Ward, Martyrs

The three martyrs we commemorate on August 30th are numbered amongst the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, who suffered death for the Catholic faith which had been outlawed in the kingdom. These three women – St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line, and St. Margaret Ward – were all martyred because they protected Catholic priests from the Elizabethan authorities, who were seeking out all Catholic priests for execution. During this dark time in history, it was illegal for priests to be in the country, as it was illegal for Catholics to receive the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

St. Margaret Clitherow was a convert to the faith. She became a Catholic when she was eighteen. Although her husband was not a Catholic, he supported her in the practice of her faith, along with their son Henry, who was studying for the priesthood. Margaret’s husband even went so far all to allow her to welcome priests into their home for the celebration of Mass, and 1586 she was arrested for giving shelter to a priest. She was condemned to the horrifying death of being slowly crushed to death, being made to lay upon a sharp stone with a door placed upon her while nearly eight hundred pounds of stone were gradually added on top of the door. This took place on Good Friday in 1586. She died with the name of Jesus upon her lips.

St. Anne Line was also a convert, and was completely disowned by her family. In 1586 she married a man who was also a convert to the faith, but who soon exiled from the country, leaving Anne by herself. She eventually managed two “safe houses” where travelling priests could hide, but was arrested on February 2, 1601, when she assisted a priest in escaping arrest. When she was brought to court, she fully admitted what she had done, and told the judge that her only regret was that she had not helped more priests. St. Anne Line was hung in London, and before her death she repeated what she had said in court, stating clearly that she did not repent for her actions, but that she wished she could have done it a thousand times.

St. Margaret Ward was an unmarried woman, and so is a virgin-martyr. She helped a priest escape from the prison where he was being held by smuggling him a length of rope with which he could lower himself over the prison wall. She was eventually accused of giving assistance to the priest because it was known that she was the last person to have visited him, and therefore was the most obvious person to have given the rope to the prisoner. St. Margaret Ward was bound by chains, hung up by her hands, and was brutally scourged, as the authorities demanded to know where the priest had gone. She steadfastly refused, and was hung publicly in London on August 30, 1588.

Although these three martyrs were canonized in 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, they are commemorated on a separate day because of the particular reason for their deaths; namely, their deep respect for the priesthood, and their zealous protection of priests.

Steadfast God, as we honour the fidelity in life and constancy in death of thy holy Martyrs Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line, and Margaret Ward: we pray thee to raise up in our day women of courage and resource to care for thy household the Church; 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 August 2018

The Passion of St. John the Baptist


The circumstances surrounding the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist are pretty seedy – we have a drunken king who makes an oath and doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of others; we have a hateful queen who wants revenge; we have a young girl who is pushed into the situation by her mother, and made to do a seductive dance and then make a deal to have John murdered.

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he was the first New Testament prophet. Of course, he was treated like most of the prophets were – he was hated for speaking the truth. Sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah, his vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power he claimed was the Spirit of God. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37), and so the life and death of St. John the Baptist had the great purpose of pointing the way to Christ.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy servant St. John the Baptist triumphed over suffering and despised death: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, enduring hardness and waxing valiant in fight, may with the noble army of martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

27 August 2018

St. Augustine of Hippo


St. Augustine was born in A.D. 354 in what is modern-day Algeria. His family was of some substance and highly respected. His father Patricius was a pagan, though he converted to Christianity on his deathbed. His mother St. Monica was a Christian and raised Augustine in the faith, though he was not baptized until he was an adult.

As a boy Augustine became conscious of sin in a special way when he participated in a pointless act of theft – an act which made a profound impression on him and he later wrote about and regretted it. He and some companions stole pears from a tree, not necessarily to eat, but just to steal for the fun of it. In his spiritual autobiography, the Confessions, he described the incident, and ended his account by writing, “Foul was the evil, and I loved it.”

When he was nineteen, Augustine began a long-term affair with a woman. We do not know her name, because Augustine deliberately didn’t record it. He never married her, but they did have a son. Despite his Christian upbringing, Augustine abandoned the Faith and became a Manichean, a gnostic sect, which crushed his mother.

So far it doesn’t sound much like the life of a saint, so how did he turn things around? He happened to take a position teaching rhetoric in Milan, Italy and, with the encouragement of his mother, began to have more contact with Christians and Christian literature, which brought him in contact with the great St. Ambrose, then the bishop of Milan.

One day, in the summer of 386, he heard a childlike voice chanting “Tolle, lege” (“Take, read”). He took this as a divine command and opened the Bible, randomly, to Romans 13:13-14, which reads: “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Applying this to his own life, Augustine was cut to the heart, and his conversion began in earnest. He was baptized, along with his son Adeodatus, at the next Easter Vigil by St. Ambrose. A few short years later his mother Monica and his son Adeodatus both died. Augustine returned to him home in North Africa, where he was alone on the family property. He sold almost all his possessions and gave the money to the poor and he turned the family home into a monastery. In 391, he was ordained a priest of the diocese of Hippo. In 395, he became the city’s coadjutor bishop and then its bishop. As bishop, he wrote extensively, and the value of his writings was such that he became a Church Father.

Augustine died on August 28, 430. He was canonized by popular acclaim and was subsequently proclaimed to be one of the four original Doctors of the Church.

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Augustine of Hippo, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

26 August 2018

St. Monica, Widow and Confessor


The circumstances of St. Monica's life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of those temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and lived an immoral life. Monica also had to put up with an ill-tempered mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius constantly criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but he always respected her. Monica's prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law over to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his Baptism.

Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. At the time of his father's death, Augustine was 17 and a student of rhetoric in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy – which was a combination of gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with the basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, with matter (physical things) being regarded as dark and evil. At this point, Augustine was living an immoral life. For a while, Monica refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine's trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica's spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan, as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was nearing the end. She told Augustine, "Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled." She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

O God, who art the Comforter of them that mourn, and the Salvation of them that hope in thee, who didst graciously regard the tearful pleading of blessed Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine: grant, we beseech thee, at their united intercession; that we may truly lament our sins and be made worthy to obtain thy gracious pardon; 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.

24 August 2018

St. Louis, King and Confessor


St. Louis IX, (1215-1270) became King of France at the age of twelve. He had been brought up by his mother to be a faithful Catholic ruler, and during his whole life he remembered her words to him: "Never forget that sin is the only great evil in the world.” Then she went on to say, “No mother could love her son more than I love you. But I would rather see you lying dead at my feet than to know that you had offended God by one mortal sin."

Throughout his life he remained deeply devout and as a king his conduct was that of a real saint. He devoted himself to the people of his kingdom and he was a great peacemaker — kings and princes constantly sought his aid in settling disputes. He was a humble man, and was always helpful to the needy, inviting them to his own table to eat. He took time himself to care for lepers and the sick. St. Louis gave to all his people an example of a life that overflowed with charity and with justice for every single person.

He was a person whom it was easy to love; he was a kind husband, the father of eleven children. He took great care in practicing his faith and in receiving the sacraments. St. Louis was known also for his bravery in battle, going on two crusades to protect the Church in the Holy Land from the Muslims who were trying to destroy it. In fact, he was on his second crusade when he was taken ill by the plague. As a penance he asked to be laid on a bed of ashes, and his last words were from Psalm 5, "I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!"

O God, who didst call thy servant St. Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

23 August 2018

St. Bartholomew, Apostle


In St. John's Gospel, Bartholomew (son of Tolomai) is known by the name Nathaniel.  His home was Cana in Galilee, where the miraculous turning of water into wine took place, and he was one of the first disciples called by the Lord Jesus. It was of Bartholomew that Christ said, "Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile!" After the Resurrection of our Lord, he was blessed by being one of the few apostles who witnessed the appearance of the risen Saviour on the sea of Galilee (John 21:2). Following the Ascension the tradition is that he preached the Gospel in Greater Armenia, and it was there that he was martyred by being flayed, which means that while he was still alive, his skin was torn from his body. The Armenians honor him as the apostle of their nation. His relics were brought eventually to Rome to a small island in the middle of the Tiber, where there is a basilica and hospital.

O Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine apostle St. Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: Grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church to love what he believed and to preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tomb of St. Bartholomew, Tiber Island

22 August 2018

St. Rose of Lima


St. Rose of Lima, the first canonized saint of the New World has one characteristic of all saints – she was not really understood by those around her. And she had another characteristic which should not necessarily be imitated by everybody – that of an excessive practice of mortification, that is, self-inflicted suffering.

St. Rose was born to parents of Spanish descent in Lima, Peru, at a time when South America was in its first century of evangelization. She was baptized with the name Isabella, but because she was an extremely beautiful young girl, she was given the nickname of Rose, because she reflected the beauty of roses.

Sometimes the saints have a love for God that is so tremendous, it drives them to some things that would seem very strange to us. And in fact, sometimes the discipline and practices of some of these things really are imprudent, but is a kind of logical carrying out of the idea that anything which might come between them and God should be rooted out. We see this with St. Rose of Lima. Because her beauty was so often admired, she was afraid she would become vain, and she worried that people would think more about her beauty than they would think of God, so Rose used to rub her face with pepper to produce disfiguring blotches. Also, she wore a thick circlet of silver on her head, but it was studded on the inside, like a crown of thorns, giving her a constant reminder of the suffering of Christ. These aren’t necessarily the sorts of things that should be imitated, but they do give us an idea of the intensity of her love for God.

When her parents fell into financial trouble, she worked in the garden all day and sewed at night, to help with family expenses. Even though she was a model daughter, and worked hard for the family, for ten long years she struggled against her parents because of their insistence that she should find a young man and get married. Rose herself sensed a vocation to religious life, but they refused to let her enter a convent, so out of obedience she continued her life of penance and solitude at home as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic. So deep was her desire to live the life of Christ that she spent most of her time at home in solitude.

During the last few years of her life, St. Rose set up a room in the house, where she cared for homeless children, the elderly and the sick. This was really the very first organized charitable work done for the poor in Peru. She was completely secluded in her life and activity – she worked with no one else, and in fact the authorities found her way of life so strange that she was interrogated by church officials, but after speaking with her, they knew that she was living a life that was filled with God’s grace.

We could see the life of St. Rose as just being an eccentric life – a strange girl who did what seemed to be strange things. But her life was transfigured from being something odd, into being something beautiful, because of her immense love for God. In fact, her love for Him was so great, that she was able to endure ridicule from many people, as well as long periods of sickness. In fact, her witness to God’s love was so tremendous, that when she died at the age of 31, the whole city came out for her funeral, and all of the most prominent men in the city and in the Church took turns carrying her coffin in the funeral procession.

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who didst will that Saint Rose, bedewed with heavenly graces, should blossom forth among the peoples of the Americas as a flower of virginity and suffering: grant to us thy servants, so to run after her in the fragrance of her sweetness; that we may be found worthy to be made a sweet savour unto Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 August 2018

Queenship of Mary


Our understanding of the queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary has grown over the centuries, but it has its roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship, and when it comes to her queenship, we can go all the way back to the Old Testament to see why it’s true: in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court. All the things we know about the Blessed Virgin Mary always flows from what we know about the Lord Jesus Christ.

As early as in the fourth century, St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and referred to her as “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Church’s devotional life reflects our belief: one of the mysteries of the Rosary, for instance, is the crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. In several of the Church’s prayers and litanies, the Blessed Virgin is assigned the title of Queen.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In 1954, Pope Pius XII established this feast, and he wrote an encyclical titled “To the Queen of Heaven.” In that encyclical, the Pope teaches that Mary deserves the title of Queen because she is Mother of God, and because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work. As Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary shows us the highest state of perfected humanity, and she intercedes for us in our own growth in holiness.

Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness: That we who celebrate the memory of the holy Mother of God, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, may, by her intercession, be delivered from our sins; 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.

20 August 2018

Pope St. Pius X


A young boy named Joseph Sarto grew up in Venetia on June 2, 1835. He was the son of a cobbler – someone who repairs shoes – and he grew up in a loving family, but a poor one. He was educated only in the village school, and received a vocation to the priesthood. He did so well, and was so suited to the ordained life, special permission was given for him to be ordained at the age of 23. He worked for seventeen years as a parish priest, and when he arrived as curate in the parish of Tombolo he worked tirelessly amongst the people, especially the poor, organizing evening courses to bring a higher level of education to the parish, as well as training the parishioners in the singing of Gregorian chant, all in the context of his sacramental ministry. His pastor, Fr. Constantini, wrote of young Fr. Sarto: "They have sent me as curate a young priest, with orders to mould him to the duties of pastor; in fact, however, the contrary is true. He is so zealous, so full of good sense, and other precious gifts that it is I who can learn much from him. Some day or other he will wear the mitre, of that I am sure. After that—who knows?"

He was obviously marked for great things.  He was appointed as bishop of a small diocese, and in 1892 was advanced to the metropolitan see of Venice with the honorary title of patriarch. On August 4, 1903, he was elected Pope, "a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everybody.

The primary aim of his pontificate Pius X announced in his first encyclical letter, which was "to renew all things in Christ." To accomplish this, he encouraged early and frequent reception of Holy Communion; he called for a renewal and improvement of church music; he encouraged daily Bible reading and the establishment of various Biblical institutes; and he is known for his very strong stand against Modernism, which he called the "synthesis of all heresies." All these were means toward the realization of his main objective of renewing all things in Christ.

The outbreak of the first World War, practically on the date of the eleventh anniversary of his election to the See of Peter, was the blow that occasioned his death. Bronchitis developed within a few days, and on August 20, 1914, St. Pius X succumbed to "the last affliction that the Lord will visit on me." He had said in his will, "I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor" — and no one questioned the truth of his words. He was one of those chosen few men whose personality is irresistible. Everyone was moved by his simplicity and his kindness. Yet it was something more that carried him into all hearts: and that 'something' is best defined by saying that all who were ever admitted to his presence had a deep conviction of being face to face with a saint.


The relic of Pope St. Pius X (pictured here) belonged originally to the Atonement Friars in Graymoor. It had been obtained by Fr. Paul of Graymoor, and after the establishment of our parish it was given to us by the friars.

It was during the pontificate of St. Pius X that the Society of the Atonement entered the Catholic Church, bringing with them the beloved title of Our Lady of the Atonement.

O God, who for the defence of the Catholic faith, and the restoring of all things in Christ, didst fill thy Supreme Pontiff, Saint Pius the Tenth, with heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude: graciously grant that, following his teaching and example, we may attain unto eternal rewards; 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 August 2018

St. Bernard of Clairvaux


It was said of St. Bernard that his personality “was so attractive, his power of persuasion so difficult to withstand, that we are told that mothers hid their children and wives clung to their spouses lest he attract them into the monastery.” Who was this man? Bernard’s father was a knight who had died in battle and his mother also died when Bernard was still quite young. In the year 1098 Bernard felt called to join a monastic community of reformed Benedictines. In his excitement about entering the monastery, he also persuaded 24 of his friends, four of his brothers and two of his uncles to join with him. This shows the influence that he had at a young age! The community had been dwindling, so we can imagine what it meant when this zealous young man showed up with thirty other men, ready to learn and live the monastic life. Bernard really wanted to live a hidden life, spending his time doing simply manual work and praying to God. Instead, St. Bernard and 11 others were sent out to establish a monastery. Before the monastery was established the town was called Wormwood and was a haven for thieves; after the monastery was established the area was known as Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. It was here in Clairvaux where Bernard was positioned as abbot and became well-known throughout Christendom.

This newly established monastery grew fast and soon had 130 monks. At first St. Bernard was very strict about fasting and would allow the monks to eat very little, but an experience with serious sickness helped him to understand that God had created the body with a need for food, so he reformed the requirements, although life was still quite strict. He felt led to start preaching and became so famous for his preaching that he was sought from all over and people started flocking to hear Bernard of Clairvaux. The teachings brought a lot of people, but St. Bernard also prayed for the sick who came, and many of them were healed by God – sometimes when St. Bernard simply made the sign of the cross over them.

All St. Bernard wanted was a life of contemplation in Clairvaux, but his reputation was wide spread and his advice sought after by princes, popes, and other high ranking leaders in the religious and political arenas. St. Bernard used his influence to work for real justice and he did his very best to make sure that holy and righteous men were placed in positions of leadership. In fact, St. Bernard influenced many bishops and other leaders to change their ways and humble themselves.

As St. Bernard grew older, he began to tire from all his travelling and preaching, and settling disputes, but finally he was able to return to Clairvaux where he continued in his meditations and writings. He spent his last few years writing, and his works are still among the classic works on the Catholic faith. On August 20, 1153 he gathered those who were close to him and received the Last Sacraments. He died at the age of 63.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Bernard of Clairvaux, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

From Our History: First Construction

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

Beginning the foundation

Pouring the concrete slab

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

Raising the first wall

Placing the butresses

Building the tower

The tower, and the wall of the Lady Chapel

The walls from inside the structure

The roof beams, looking toward the high altar

The entrance in the tower, looking toward the Lady Chapel

The building takes on its shape

The spire being assembled on the ground

The spire being placed on the tower

The spire almost in place

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

The original church, completed...

...and greatly expanded a few years later.