30 June 2018

The Protomartyrs of Rome


These are the holy men and women who are called the "Protomartyrs of Rome." They were accused of burning Rome by Nero , who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called "disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles' death."

Pope Clement I, third successor of St. Peter, writes: “It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith... Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented... suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize.”

O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; 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 June 2018

Ss. Peter and Paul, Apostles

Ss. Peter and Paul by Bartolomeo Vivarini


On June 29 the Church celebrates the feast day of Ss. Peter & Paul. As early as the year 258, there is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day. Together, the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome, through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom there.

Peter, who was named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee. Jesus gave him the name Cephas (Petrus in Latin), which means ‘Rock,’ because he was to become the rock upon which Christ would build His Church. Peter was the first to recognize that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and pledged his fidelity until death.

Although he had his human weaknesses, Peter was chosen to shepherd God's flock. Peter led the Apostles as the first Pope and ensured that the disciples kept the true faith. St. Peter spent his last years in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually being martyred in the year 64. He was crucified upside-down at his own request, because he claimed he was not worthy to die as his Lord.

He was buried on Vatican hill, and St. Peter's Basilica is built over his tomb.

St. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles. His letters are included in the writings of the New Testament, and through them we learn much about his life and the faith of the early Church.

Before using his Gentile name of Paul, he was Saul, a Jewish pharisee who viciously persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Scripture records that Saul was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Saul's conversion took place as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christian community there. As he was traveling along the road, he was suddenly surrounded by a great light from heaven. He was blinded and fell off his horse. He then heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered: “Who are you, Lord?” Christ said: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul continued to Damascus, where he was baptized and his sight was restored. He spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world.

Paul was imprisoned and taken to Rome, where he was beheaded in the year 67. He is buried in Rome in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote:
"Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; And even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith."

O God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, that they were enabled to bear witness to the truth by their death: grant unto thy Church that, as in the beginning she was enlightened by their teaching, so by their intercession she may continue in the same unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City State



Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome

O God, who by the preaching of thy holy apostles Ss. Peter and Paul didst cause the light of thy gospel to shine upon the nations: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having their life and labour in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to thee for so great a gift, by following the example of their zeal and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr


St. Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor, probably around the year 125. It is not known when he came to Gaul. He was a priest of the Church of Lyons during the persecution of 177 when St. Pothinus, first bishop of the city and the first martyr of Lyons, was put to death. Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop and twenty-five years later was martyred in his turn during a fresh persecution.

As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus, thy Martyr and Bishop, grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to establish thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest give thy people constancy in thy true religion; and grant us thy peace all the days of our 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.

27 June 2018

St. Cyril of Alexandria


Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:

St. Cyril is one of the great Greek fathers of the Church. He was chosen by divine Providence to be the shield and champion of the Church against Nestorius, who denied the unity of person in Christ. If this heresy had succeeded, Mary would not be called the Mother of God.

Excepting Sts. Athanasius and Augustine, his equal as a defender of orthodoxy, can hardly be found in the Church's history. His greatest achievement was the successful direction of the ecumenical council at Ephesus (431), of which he was the soul (Pope Celestine had appointed him papal legate). In this council two important dogmas were defined – that there is but one person in Christ, and that Mary (in the literal sense of the word) can be called the Mother of God (Theotokos). His successful defense of the latter doctrine is his greatest title to honor.

His writings show such depth and clarity that the Greeks called him the "seal of the fathers." He died in 444 A.D., after having been bishop for thirty-two years.

O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 June 2018

Nativity of St. John the Baptist


St. John the Baptist was a contemporary of our Lord who was known for preparing the way for Jesus Christ, and for baptizing Him. John was born through an act of God to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was otherwise too old to bear children. According to the scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John. Zachariah was skeptical and for this he was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will.

The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ praised St. John the Baptist so highly, saying that among those born of women there was none greater, encouraged a special veneration, and so we find a regular cycle of feasts in his honour among the early Christian churches.

It was the firm belief among the faithful from the time of the early Church that John was freed from original sin at the moment when his mother met the Blessed Virgin, when the child "leaped in the womb" of St. Elizabeth. Saint Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church, establishing that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" and, therefore, was born without original sin. Accordingly, the Church celebrates his natural birth by a festival of his "nativity," assigned some six months before the nativity of Christ, since John was six months older than the Lord.

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 June 2018

Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, Mildred, and All Holy Nuns

Hilda of Whitby (c. 614–680) is the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was chosen as the venue for the Synod of Whitby. An important figure in the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England to Christianity, she was abbess at several monasteries and recognised for the wisdom that drew kings to her for advice.

Etheldreda lived from about 636 –  679) is the name for the Anglo-Saxon saint known, particularly in a religious context, as Etheldreda or Audrey. She was an East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian queen and Abbess of Ely.  Her name was attached to a section in London called St. Audrey’s, known for selling inexpensive trinkets, and is where we get our word “tawdry.”

Mildred, was an 8th-century Anglo-Saxon abbess of the Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet, in Kent. She was declared a saint after her death, and later her remains were moved to Canterbury.

We know little of these women, and yet their names come to us as great witnesses to the Faith, and as foundresses of influential religious houses.  There is little left of the work they did in this world, and yet the Gospel which they believed and which they passed on to generations after them continues its work in the world as a testament to women such as these, as well as innumerable saints – known to us and unknown – who were born and baptized, who were faithful in kneeling before the altar just as we do, and who were sustained by the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as we all are.

It is an inspiration to glimpse at lives such as these, reminding us that the anonymous and the little known in previous generations were essential in handing on the Gospel to us.  And most of us, when centuries have passed, will be anonymous and little known, but we will have done our part in believing the Gospel and handing the Faith on to others. What we do here day after day is of essential importance, not just for our own salvation, but for the salvation of unborn generations to come.








O God, by whose grace thy holy Nuns, blessed Hilda, Etheldreda, and Mildred, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became burning and shining lights in thy Church: grant, by their merits and prayers; 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 thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More


St. Thomas More was born in London, England and was Chancellor of King Henry VIII. As a family man and a public servant, his life was a rare synthesis of human sensitivity and Christian wisdom.

St. John Fisher studied Theology in Cambridge and became Bishop of Rochester. His friend, Thomas More, wrote of him, 'I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him.' He and his friend St. Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of Marriage.

On the morning of 19 May 1935 in St. Peter's Basilica, this Solemn Proclamation was made by Pope Pius XI:

"In honour of the Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after mature deliberation and imploring the divine assistance, by the advice of our Venerable Brethen the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops present in the city, We decree and define as Saints, and inscribe in the Catalogue of the Saints, Blessed John Fisher and Thomas More, and that their memory shall be celebrated in the Universal Church on the anniversaries of their heavenly birth."

Although St. Thomas More was martyred on 1 July, two weeks after St. John Fisher, their respective feast days have been joined together and are celebrated on 22 June.

O God, who didst raise up amongst the English people thy blessed Martyrs John and Thomas to be defenders of the faith and to witness to the primacy of the Roman Church: grant by their merits and prayers; that in the profession of one faith we may all be made one in Christ, and in him continue to be at one with one another; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 June 2018

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


The time and place where Aloysius Gonzaga grew up - 16th-century Italy - was not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a kill-joy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left.

Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself.

Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a program he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director, St. Robert Bellarmine, to guide him.

Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervor was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint.

To his credit, Aloysius recognized that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, "I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight."

Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old.

In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St. Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace.

- Excerpted from "Saints for Every Occasion," by Thomas J. Craughwell

O God, the giver of all spiritual gifts, who in the angelic youth of thy blessed Saint Aloysius didst unite a wondrous penitence to a wondrous innocence of life: grant, by his merits and intercession; that although we have not followed the pattern of his innocence, yet we may imitate the example of his penitence; 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. Alban, Protomartyr of England


THE STORY OF SAINT ALBAN
as recounted in the
Ecclesiastical History of the English People
by the Venerable Bede [672 - 735]

During this persecution St. Alban Suffered. Fortunatus in his Praise of the Virgins, in which he mentions the blessed martyrs, who came to the Lord from every quarter of the globe, calls him 'Illustrious Alban, fruitful Britain's child.'

When infidel rulers were issuing violent edicts against the Christians, Alban, though still a heathen at the time, gave hospitality to a certain cleric who was fleeing from his persecutors. When Alban saw this man occupied day and night in continual vigils and prayers, divine grace suddenly shone upon him and he learned to imitate his guest's faith and devotion. Instructed little by little by his teaching about salvation, Alban forsook the darkness of idolatry and became a wholehearted Christian. When this cleric had been staying with him for some days, it came to the ears of the evil ruler that a man who confessed Christ, though not yet destined to be a martyr, was hiding in Alban's house. He at once ordered his soldiers to make a thorough search for him there. When they came to the martyr's dwelling, St. Alban at once offered himself to the soldiers in place of his guest and teacher, and so, having put on the garment, that is to say the cloak, which the cleric was wearing, he was brought in bonds to the judge.

Now it happened that, when Alban was brought in to him, the judge was standing before the devils' altars and offering sacrifices to them. Seeing Alban, he immediately flew into a rage because this man of his own accord had dared to give himself up to the soldiers and to run so great a risk on behalf of the guest whom he had harboured. He ordered Alban to be dragged before the images of the devils in front of which he was standing and said, 'You have chosen to conceal a profane rebel rather than surrender him to my soldiers, to prevent him from paying a well-deserved penalty for his blasphemy in despising the gods; so you will have to take the punishment he has incurred if you attempt to forsake our worship and religion.' St. Alban had of his own accord declared himself a Christian before the enemies of the faith, and was not at all afraid of the ruler's threats; arming himself for spiritual warfare, he openly refused to obey these commands. The judge said to him, 'What is your family and race?' Alban answered, 'What concern is it of yours to know my parentage? If you wish to hear the truth about my religion, know that I am now a Christian and am ready to do a Christian's duty.' The judge said, 'I insist on knowing your name, so tell me at once.' The man said, 'My parents call me Alban and I shall ever adore and worship the true and living God who created all things.' The judge answered very angrily, 'If you wish to enjoy the happiness of everlasting life, you must sacrifice at once to the mighty gods.' Alban answered, 'The sacrifices which you offer to devils cannot help their votaries nor fulfill the desires and petitions of their suppliants. On the contrary, he who has offered sacrifices to these images will receive eternal punishment in hell as his reward.' When the judge heard this he was greatly incensed and ordered the holy confessor of God to be beaten by the torturers, thinking that he could weaken by blows that constancy of heart which he could not affect by words. Alban, though he was subjected to the most cruel tortures, bore them patiently and even joyfully for the Lord's sake. So when the judge perceived that he was not to be overcome by tortures nor turned from the Christian faith, he ordered him to be executed.

As he was being led to his execution, he came to a rapid river whose stream ran between the town wall and the arena where he was to suffer. He saw there a great crowd of people of both sexes and of every age and rank, who had been led (doubtless by divine inspiration) to follow the blessed confessor and martyr. They packed the bridge over the river so tightly that he could hardly have crossed it that evening. In fact almost everyone had gone out so that the judge was left behind in the city without any attendants at all. St. Alban, whose ardent desire it was to achieve his martyrdom as soon as possible, came to the torrent and raised his eyes towards heaven. Thereupon the river-bed dried up at that very spot and he saw the waters give way and provide a path for him to walk in. The executioner who was to have put him to death was among those who saw this. Moved by a divine prompting, he hastened to meet the saint as he came to the place appointed for his execution; then he threw away his sword which he was carrying ready drawn and cast himself down at the saint's feet, earnestly praying that he might be judged worthy to be put to death either with the martyr whom he himself had been ordered to execute, or else in his place.

So while he was turned from a persecutor into a companion in the true faith, and while there was a very proper hesitation among the other executioners in taking up the sword which lay on the ground, the most reverend confessor ascended the hill with the crowds. This hill lay about five hundred paces from the arena, and, as was fitting, it was fair, shining and beautiful, adorned, indeed clothed, on all sides with wild flowers of every kind; nowhere was it steep or precipitous or sheer but Nature had provided it with wide, long-sloping sides stretching smoothly down to the level of the plain. In fact its natural beauty had long fitted it as a place to be hallowed by the blood of a blessed martyr. When he reached the top of the hill, St. Alban asked God to give him water and at once a perpetual spring bubbled up, confined within its channel and at his very feet, so that all could see that even the stream rendered service to the martyr. For it could not have happened that the martyr who had left no water remaining in the river would have desired it on the top of the hill, if he had not realized that this was fitting. The river, when it had fulfilled its duty and completed its pious service, returned to its natural course, but it left behind a witness of its ministry. And so in this spot the valiant martyr was beheaded and received the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. But the one who laid his unholy hands on that holy neck was not permitted to rejoice over his death; for the head of the blessed martyr and the executioner's eyes fell to the ground together.

The soldier who had been constrained by the divine will to refuse to strike God's holy confessor was also beheaded there. In his case it is clear that though he was not washed in the waters of baptism, yet he was cleansed by the washing of his own blood and made worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then the judge, who was astonished by these strange heavenly miracles, ordered the persecution to cease and began to respect the way in which the saints met their death, though he had once believed that he could thereby make them forsake their devotion to the Christian faith. The blessed Alban suffered death on 22 June near the city of Verulamium which the English now call either Uerlamacaestir or Uaeclingacaestir (St. Albans). Here when peaceful Christian times returned, a church of wonderful workmanship was built, a worthy memorial of his martyrdom. To this day sick people are healed in this place and the working of frequent miracles continues to bring it renown.

* * * * *

St. Alban depicted in the Triptych at our High Altar



In this painting, Saint Alban is depicted as a triumphant warrior for the Faith. He wears the purple cloak of the priest – purple is the color of nobility – and stands next to his emblem, the holly bush. The eyes of his executioner can be seen on top of the bush. Saint Alban also wears the Order of the Garter of Saint George. This chivalric order, here executed in both the collar and garter, is one of the most coveted in Great Britain. It is given to those who have contributed greatly to the life of the nation. It is fitting that Alban should wear these emblems because he gave his life for the Faith, which has given much to the English people.




O Eternal Father, who, when the Gospel of Christ first came to England, didst gloriously confirm the faith of Alban by making him the first to win the martyr’s crown: grant that, assisted by his prayers and following his example in the fellowship of the Saints, we may worship thee, the living God, and faithfully witness to 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 June 2018

St. Romuald


St. Romuald, born c.950 in Ravenna, is the founder of the Camaldolese Order, which is a branch of the Benedictines. Austere and devout, along with the penance he imposed upon his young monks, he also gave them solid formation. Here is the “Brief Rule” of St. Romuald for his monks:

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

That sounds like good guidance for all of us.

O God, who through Saint Romuald didst renew the manner of life of hermits in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach the heavenly realms on high; 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 June 2018

St. Richard of Chichester


Richard of Wyche was born in 1197 at Droitwyche, the son of a prosperous yeoman farmer. He and his brother were orphaned at an early age, and an incompetent guardian wasted the inheritance. Richard worked long and hard to restore the family property, and when he had succeeded, he turned it over to his brother and went off to Oxford to become a scholar. He was too poor to afford a gown or a fire in winter, but he did very well at his studies, with Robert Grosseteste among his teachers, and he established what would be a lifelong friendship with his tutor, Edmund Rich (Edmund of Abingdon). He studied canon law at Oxford (and probably also at Paris and Bologna) and, having acquired a doctorate, he became Chancellor of Oxford in 1235.

Meanwhile, his tutor had become Archbishop of Canterbury, and soon asked Richard to become his Chancellor. When the Archbishop rebuked King Henry III for keeping various bishoprics vacant as long as possible (because as long as they were vacant their revenues went to the Crown), Henry forced him into exile, and Richard accompanied him to France and nursed him in his final illness. After the Archbishop's death in 1240, Richard studied at the Dominican house in Orleans, and was ordained priest in 1243.

In 1244 he was elected Bishop of Chichester, but Henry would not recognize the election, locked him out of the bishop's residence, and pocketed the revenues. Richard accepted shelter with a village priest, and spent the next two years walking barefoot through his diocese, preaching to fishermen and farmers, and correcting abuses. He held synods to legislate, and insisted that the sacraments must be administered without payment, and the Liturgy celebrated with reverence and order. The clergy were required to be celibate, to wear clerical dress, and to live in the parishes they were assigned to and carry out their duties in person. The laity were required to attend services on all Sundays and holy days, and to know by heart the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed. After two years, Henry was pressured into recognizing Richard as Bishop, but Richard continued to live as he had before.

One of his concerns was that the Muslims then in control of Jerusalem would not admit Christian pilgrims. In 1253 he traveled about appealing for a new Crusade, aimed solely at pressuring the Muslims into permitting pilgrimages. He caught a fever and died in 1253. A well-known prayer written by him reads in part as follows:
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 June 2018

St. Anthony of Padua

The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua is on June 13th, and it's a pretty big deal for us here in the city that bears his name. It was on St. Anthony's Day in 1691 that the Franciscan fathers arrived at a small Indian village near the river, and named the settlement after him. From that tiny beginning, San Antonio is now the seventh largest city in the United States, and as far as I'm concerned, a wonderful place to live.
St. Anthony was born in Portugal and entered the Augustinian monastery of Sao Vicente in Lisbon when he was fifteen. When news of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco reached him, he joined the Franciscans at Coimbra. At his own request, he was sent as a missionary to Morocco, but he became ill, and on his return journey his boat was driven off course and he landed in Sicily. He took part in St. Francis' famous Chapter of Mats in 1221 and was assigned to the Franciscan province of Romagna.

He became a preacher by accident. When a scheduled preacher did not show up for an ordination ceremony at Forli, the Franciscan superior told Anthony to go into the pulpit. His eloquence stirred everyone, and he was assigned to preach throughout northern Italy. Because of his success in converting heretics, he was called the "Hammer of Heretics" and because of his learning, St. Francis himself appointed him a teacher of theology. St. Anthony of Padua was such a forceful preacher that shops closed when he came to town, and people stayed all night in church to be present for his sermons. He became associated with Padua because he made this city his residence and the center of his great preaching mission.

After a series of Lenten sermons in 1231, Anthony's strength gave out and he went into seclusion at Camposanpiero but soon had to be carried back to Padua. He did not reach the city but was taken to the Poor Clare convent at Arcella, where he died. He was thirty-six years old, and the whole city of Padua turned out in mourning for his passing.

He was canonized within a year of his death and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946.

- Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints
__+__+__+__

 Simple saint and faithful priest, 
at this Eucharistic feast
we recall thy holy face, 
and with thee our Lord embrace.
Give us true simplicity: 
pray for us, Saint Anthony.

Word of God thou didst proclaim; 
unto thee God's Spirit came,
bringing faith when thou didst preach, 
showing truth when thou didst teach.
May we speak words truthfully: 
pray for us Saint Anthony.

Error flees before God's Light: 
through thy life Christ shineth bright,
showing men the way to peace, 
evil's hold from them release.
Free from evil may we be: 
pray for us Saint Anthony.

Tune: Bread of Heaven, by William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826-1910)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

10 June 2018

St. Barnabas, Son of Encouragement


From "The Church's Year of Grace," by Pius Parsch:

Strictly speaking, Barnabas was not an apostle, but the title has been bestowed upon him since very early times. His first name was Joseph; Barnabas (etymology: "son of consolation") was a surname. He belonged to the tribe of Levi. He was a Hellenist, that is, a Jew who lived outside of Palestine and spoke the Greek tongue. Born in Cyprus, he embraced the faith soon after the death of Christ, becoming a member of the original Jerusalem community. His first noteworthy deed was to sell his belongings and place the money at the feet of the apostles.

It is to his lasting credit that he befriended the neo-convert Paul and introduced him to the apostles when everyone was still distrusting the former persecutor. More noteworthy still was his service to the universal Church by being the first to recognize Paul's potential for the cause of Christ; it was Barnabas who brought him from Tarsus to teach at Antioch. The first missionary journey (about 45-48 A.D.) the two made together, and Barnabas seems to have been the leader, at least at the beginning (Acts 13-14). Barnabas' appearance must have been dignified and impressive, otherwise the inhabitants of Lystra would not have regarded him as Jupiter.

He was present with Paul at the Council of Jerusalem (ca. 50). While they were preparing for the second missionary journey, there arose a difference of opinion regarding Mark; as a result each continued his labors separately. Barnabas went to Cyprus with Mark and thereafter is not referred to again in the Acts of the Apostles or in any other authentic source. From a remark in one of Paul's letters we know that he lived from the work of his own hands (1 Cor. 9:5-6). The time and place of his death have not been recorded. It is claimed that his body was found at Salamina in 488 A.D. His name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass since ancient times.

O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue thy holy Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts of the Holy Spirit: leave us not, we beseech thee, destitute of thy manifold gifts, nor yet of grace to use them always to thy honour and glory; 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 June 2018

Immaculate Heart of Mary

"Immaculate Heart of Mary"
Oil on canvas, at the lectern,
Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

Following upon the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the commemoration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Here is a prayer for consecrating ourselves to her motherly heart.

O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners; we consecrate ourselves to thy Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life: all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts, and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, and our country. We desire that all that is in us and around us may belong to thee, and may share in the benefits of thy motherly blessing. And that this act of consecration may be truly fruitful and lasting, we renew this day at thy feet the promises of our Baptism and our First Holy Communion.

We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics, who are submissive to all directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and of His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s Day. We pledge ourselves to make the consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all, Holy Communion, an important part of our lives, in so far as we are able to do.

Finally, we promise thee, O glorious Mother of God and loving Mother of men, to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the spreading of devotion to thy Immaculate Heart, in order to hasten and assure, through thy queenly rule, the coming of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of thine adorable Son Jesus Christ, in our own country, and in all the world; as in Heaven, so on earth. Amen.

07 June 2018

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: Grant that the devout homage of our hearts, which we render unto Him; may by thy mercy be deemed a recompense, acceptable in thy sight; through the same 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.


O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee;
on earth thou art an exile’s rest,
in heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
thou fount of contrite tears:
where’er those living waters flow,
new life to sinners they bestow,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
our trust is all in thee,
for though earth’s night be dark and drear,
thou breathest rest where thou art near,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
when shades of death shall fall,
receive us ‘neath thy gentle care,
and save us from the tempter’s snare,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
lead exiled children home,
where we may ever rest near thee,
in peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart.

+  +  +

Of the many promises Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed to St. Margaret Mary for those who are devoted to His Sacred Heart, these are the principal ones:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

03 June 2018

Ready for Corpus Christi...

The original outdoor altar where the first Mass was celebrated on our property.

This is the shrine today, with the original wooden altar encased in stone.

As part of our celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi there is a procession from the high altar to the outdoor shrine where we have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. This shrine marks an important place on our church grounds. It's the site of “the finding of the crucifix,” and also the place where the first Mass was celebrated on the property. Here's the story.

After the parish was canonically erected on 15th August 1983, I began to search for a permanent location for us to worship and to grow from our original eighteen people. We were, at that time, meeting at San Francesco di Paola Church, in downtown San Antonio. It was a lovely little place, built by Italian immigrants, but the location was ill-suited for us. Everyone had to travel quite a distance, and it was difficult to build up a communal life in a place which was fairly remote for all of us. So I began to look for some land.

It seemed to me that the future growth of San Antonio would be taking place on the northwest side of the city. Everything pointed to it, and that has indeed come to pass. The archdiocese had (several years before) purchased a small plot of land for the possibility that a territorial parish might be needed. When I inquired about locating our parish there, the answer was, “Yes, that would be fine. There’s not much happening out there anyway, and we probably won’t need it for a territorial parish.” The short-sightedness of that statement aside, it worked out well for us. To get the property, we were required to pay a rather hefty sum to the archdiocese, which eventually we did.

I knew this was the spot. I had visited it before making the request. I had to crawl through the underbrush, literally on my belly, to make any kind of exploration. I had a small medal of Our Lady of the Atonement with me, and I buried it in the earth as I was making my slow process through the woods and brush, claiming it for our Lady and her parish. Shortly after burying the medal, I came into a small clearing, allowing me to stand up. With the thick undergrowth surrounding me, I saw in the middle of the clearing a wooden cross stuck into the ground, and fastened to the rough cross was a small crucifix. I’m not stupid – I took it as a sign. This was the place. This was where our Lord and His Blessed Mother wanted us to be. But I need to tell you why such a sign was necessary.

At the same time as I had requested the possibility of our getting the land, some Dominican priests had approached the archbishop about staffing a chaplaincy for the University of Texas, which is a short distance away. Even though we had asked first, the archbishop thought perhaps a better use for the land would be to give it to the Dominicans. I told the archbishop, “You can’t! I’ve already claimed it for Our Lady of the Atonement.” He expressed his regret, but told me his mind was set. I warned him that we’d begin praying. And so we did.

For nine evenings we gathered to pray the Novena to the Holy Ghost. By the fourth evening, the archbishop contacted me. “I don’t know what kind of prayer you’ve been saying,” he said, “but the situation with the Dominicans has fallen through. You can build there.” We finished the novena as an act of thanksgiving. We were intensely grateful to God, but not surprised at what He had done. Mind you, I have nothing against the Dominicans, but the Blessed Mother had other plans for the land.

I saved that little crucifix. We built a simple wooden shrine to Our Lady of the Atonement on the property where the crucifix had been found, and fastened it onto the peak of the shrine’s roof. In time we made plans to celebrate a Mass there, and to break ground for the church.

Today there stands the newly-completed shrine, a copy of the original wooden one, but now in stone. Within the altar is the simple wood altar which stood there originally, now protected by a permanent stone altar. And the little crucifix is there. It’s mounted in the placed where the tabernacle would normally be, if this were an indoor altar.

So it reminds us of our beginnings, and of how God guided and protected us as new converts to the Catholic faith. There are plaques on either side of the shrine, briefly telling the story, so our children and their children won’t forget that the Lord and His Mother heard our prayers.  And every year our Lord Jesus Christ blesses us on this spot through Benediction of His Most Precious Body and Blood.