17 March 2018

First Sunday in Passiontide

Our Lord Jesus said, “And I, when I be lifted up, will draw all men unto myself...” When He is lifted up upon the Cross, He accomplishes the atonement. The great gulf is bridged, and mankind is once more made “at one” with God, just as we were before the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The gates of heaven are opened to us, all through the lifting up of Christ and His death upon the Cross. We live in the light of the fact that Christ is “the Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,” and in “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” there was made “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” As we labor in this world in the midst of the evil which surrounds us, we know our need for a true atonement - not just a good example, but an eternal, godly, and forceful healing of our broken lives, which have been maimed and crippled by sin.

There is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to merit God’s love, or earn our own salvation. The purpose of seeking spiritual growth is only so that we can better serve the One who has earned our salvation for us, Jesus Christ. He was lifted up upon the Cross so that we can be lifted up to heaven. He was broken so that we can be made whole. The lesson we need to learn is to be learned at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ - that even though we are sinful and fall short of the glory of God, in spite of it all, God loves us with that yearning, passionate love which led Him to give Himself to be lifted up for us. And because of that, our hearts cannot help but be broken open to receive the Love which knows no rest and which never tires until it has found us, and has brought us to our true home in Christ’s kingdom.

St. Patrick, Apostle to Ireland

St. Patrick Shrine
Our Lady of the Atonement Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 March 2018

A heavenly patron...

It was a month ago that I was privileged to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the tomb of Pope St. John Paul II, nearly thirty-four years after concelebrating a Mass with him in his private papal chapel.

O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 March 2018

Answering prayers...

In today’s Gospel the official, whose son was ill, makes a trip from Capernaum to Cana to request a cure. In fact, he even suggests to Jesus how to do it: "Sir, come down before my child dies." But then our Lord does something unexpected. He lets the father know that it is not necessary for Him to be physically present to affect the cure, but that it will simply be done by His command.

God’s Will can be accomplished in whatever way He sees fit. The man expected Jesus to go to Capernaum, but Jesus had another plan, and the father showed his great faith by simply accepting that. Let’s be prepared to accept in faith whatever way our Lord chooses to answer our prayers, knowing that He will fulfill His Divine Will in ways we cannot even imagine.

10 March 2018

Asking Our Lady's Intercession

GRANT, we beseech thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body: and, at the glorious intercession of the blessed and ever-Virgin Mary, may be delivered from present sadness, and may rejoice in continual gladness; 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.

09 March 2018

St. Frances of Rome

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 March 2018

Via Dolorosa

Walking the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem...

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy, but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking the Way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

07 March 2018

Mass In The Tomb

It was my privilege recently to lead thirty-one pilgrims to Rome and to the Holy Land.  Ours was a compatible band, and the experiences we shared helped to make this Lent an especially blessed season.

Among our many spiritual adventures, I'll begin with our final Mass of the pilgrimage.  We were roused from sleep at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre an hour later, to prepare for Mass at 5:00 a.m.  This Mass would be in the Edicule, the very tomb of our Lord, a Mass offered on the place where His lifeless Body was placed, and from where He rose from the dead triumphant in His glory.

The liturgy was, of course, from our own Divine Worship: The Missal.  To be in the most sacred place in all creation, and then to speak the familiar words, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid..." made my soul soar, and I know it affected the other pilgrims, too.

Here are some pictures from that blessed occasion:

Arriving at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
very early in the morning.

The pilgrims anticipate their entrance
into the basilica.

In the sacristy, vested and prepared for Mass.

Entering the Edicule
for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Edicule, or "Little House" which protects
the walls of the cave containing the Tomb.

Offering the Holy Sacrifice.

Mysterium Tremendum.

St. Perpetua and St. Felicity

With the lives of so many early martyrs shrouded in legend, we are fortunate to have the record of the courage of Perpetua and Felicity from the hand of Perpetua herself, her teacher Saturus, and others who knew them. This account, known as "The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity," was so popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies.

In the year 203, Vibia Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death during Septimus' persecution. Her surviving brother (another brother had died when he was seven) followed her leadership and became a catechumen as well.

Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. We can easily understand his concern. At 22 years old, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live -- including a baby son who was still nursing. We know she was married, but since her husband is never mentioned, many historians assume she was a widow.

Perpetua's answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, "See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?" Her father answered, "Of course not." Perpetua responded, "Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am -- a Christian."

This answer so upset her father that he attacked her. Perpetua reports that after that incident she was glad to be separated from him for a few days -- even though that separation was the result of her arrest and imprisonment. Perpetua was arrested with four other catechumens including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, along with Saturninus and Secundulus. Their catechist, Saturus, had already been imprisoned before them.

She was baptized before taken to prison. Perpetua was known for her gift of "the Lord's speech" and receiving messages from God. She tells us that at the time of her baptism she was told to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials.

The prison was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. There was no light anywhere and Perpetua "had never known such darkness." The soldiers who arrested and guarded them pushed and shoved them without any concern. Perpetua had no trouble admitting she was very afraid, but in the midst of all this horror her most excruciating pain came from being separated from her baby.

The young slave, Felicity was even worse off, not only suffering from the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling, but she was eight months pregnant.

Two deacons who ministered to the prisoners paid the guards so that the martyrs would be put in a better part of the prison. There her mother and brother were able to visit Perpetua and bring her baby to her. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her, she said "my prison suddenly became a palace for me." Once more her father came to her, begging her to give in, kissing her hands, and throwing himself at her feet. She told him, "We live not in our own power but in the power of God."

Meanwhile Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom and her companions would go on their journey without her. Her friends also didn't want to leave so "good a comrade" behind.

Two days before the execution, Felicity went into a painful labor. The guards made fun of her, insulting her by saying, "If you think you suffer now, how will you stand it when you face the wild beasts?" Felicity answered them calmly, "Now I'm the one who is suffering, but in the arena there will be Another with me, suffering for me, because I will be suffering for him." She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage.

There was a feast the day before the games so that the crowd could see the martyrs and make fun of them. But the martyrs turned this all around by laughing at the crowd for not being Christians and exhorting them to follow their example.

The four new Christians and their teacher went to the arena (the fifth, Secundulus, had died in prison) with joy and calm. Perpetua in usual high spirits met the eyes of everyone along the way. We are told she walked with "shining steps as the true spouse of Christ, the darling of God."

When those at the arena tried to force Perpetua and the rest to dress in robes dedicated to their gods, Perpetua challenged her executioners. "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods." She and the others were allowed to keep their clothes.

The men were attacked by bears, leopards, and wild boars. The women were stripped to face a rabid heifer. When the crowd, however, saw the two young women, one of whom had obviously just given birth, they were horrified and the women were removed and clothed again. Perpetua and Felicity were thrown back into the arena so roughly that they were bruised and hurt. Perpetua, though confused and distracted, still was thinking of others and went to help Felicity up. The two of them stood side by side as all five martyrs had their throats cut.

Perpetua's last words were to her brother: "Stand fast in the faith and love one another."

O Holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden 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.

04 March 2018

Back from our pilgrimage

As many of you know, I have been leading a pilgrimage in Rome and the Holy Land for thirty pilgrims.  We returned late on Saturday, March 3rd. 

I will be posting pictures and will have some commentary soon.