27 July 2018

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...


During his life a priest hears many thousands of confessions. It is one of the great privileges given to a priest, to pronounce the words of absolution which free a penitent from those chains which have bound him. There is perhaps no other time that the priest feels so deeply the sense of that fatherhood which gives him his title.

 A child of God speaks the words, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned…” and in the quiet of the confessional the power of Christ is stirred for the renewal of the soul. That which was broken is healed. What was so heavy at the time of coming is lifted. It is its own magnum mysterium as new birth is once more imparted to the penitent. The divine speaks through the human ear. The fruits of Calvary are applied, and the waters of baptism flow once again over the sullied soul.

 In the confessional we are made young again. As a child is brought to the font, so the soul is presented to our Lord for Him to do His work. And when it is done, those happy words: “Go in peace, for the Lord has taken away your sins.”

Put this on your calendar...


Help Catholics United for the Faith 
celebrate 50 years of apostolic service. 

Join others in Bloomingdale, Ohio 
for a weekend that will deepen your Faith, 
refresh your heart, and renew your spirit.

Eucharistic procession, 
Extraordinary and Ordinary Form Masses, 
Confession, and enriching talks! 

 Learn more and register at the Conference website.

20 July 2018

St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Born on 22 July 1559, and dying on 22 July 1619, St. Lawrence of Brindisi lived exactly sixty years. In that time he became a brilliant scholar, a devout and holy priest, a renowned linguist, an outstanding diplomat – and for many of those years he served as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchins.

His writings fill fifteen volumes, and his knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to preach so effectively to the Jewish people in Italy that the rabbis were certain that Lawrence must have been a Jew who had become a Christian. His skills in dealing with people meant that he served as a papal emissary to many countries, but he never forgot that he was first and foremost a priest.

There is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints, who are named “Doctor of the Church,” and this title indicates that the writings and preaching of such a person are useful to Christians "in any age of the Church." Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was given this title, and he is one of the thirty-six saints to be named “Doctor.”

For some reason, his father insisted that his baptismal name was to be Julius Caesar, and that was done shortly after his birth at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins, and it was upon entering the monastery that he was given the name Lawrence. During his studies at the University of Padua, he showed an aptitude for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and he also showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible.

While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination captured the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. He was sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses. While there, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims who were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to unify Catholics for the purpose of strengthening the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.

His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having earned "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."

Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; 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 July 2018

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Portrait from life of Catherine Tekakwitha, c. 1690,
by Father Chauchetière

It has often been said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of saints. Nine years after the Jesuits Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf were tomahawked by Iroquois warriors, a baby girl was born near the place of their martyrdom, Auriesville, New York.

Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. He hated the coming of the Jesuit missionaries,  but could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. She was moved by the words of three Jesuits who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. She refused to marry a Mohawk brave and at the age of nineteen she finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri (Catherine) on Easter Sunday. Now she would be treated as a slave. Because she would not work on Sunday, she received no food that day. Her life in grace grew rapidly. She told a missionary that she often meditated on the great dignity of being baptized. She was powerfully moved by God’s love for human beings and saw the dignity of each of her people.

She was always in danger, for her conversion and holy life created great opposition. On the advice of a priest, she stole away one night and began a 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal. For three years she grew in holiness under the direction of a priest and an older Iroquois woman, giving herself totally to God in long hours of prayer, in charity and in strenuous penance. At 23 she took a vow of virginity, an unprecedented act for an Indian woman, whose future depended on being married.

Her dedication to virginity was instinctive. She did not know about religious life for women until she visited Montreal. Inspired by this, she and two friends wanted to start a community, but the local priest dissuaded her. She humbly accepted an “ordinary” life. She practiced extremely severe fasting as penance for the conversion of her nation. She died the afternoon before Holy Thursday. Witnesses said that her emaciated face changed color and became like that of a healthy child. The lines of suffering, even the pockmarks, disappeared and the touch of a smile came upon her lips. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012.

O God, who didst desire the Virgin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence: grant, through her intercession; that when all are gathered into thy Church from every nation, tribe, and tongue, they may magnify thee in a single canticle of praise; 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 July 2018

La Sagrada Familia

This is one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited, and I hope to be able to return one day.

09 July 2018

A bit of parish history...

Fr. Paul of Graymoor

One of the things that binds a family together is the shared heritage, the common tradition, the collection of stories from its history. We need to hear those stories that make up our past history, because it helps us to know who and what we are today. Some of you have heard parts of this story before; others of you are new to this parish; but how we, as a community of faith, came to be is an important part of our history which bears telling -- because it describes the living actions of a Living God who claims us and calls us and Who has set our feet upon the path of spiritual growth and holiness.

Our story begins with a young Episcopal clergyman named Lewis Wattson who was born in 1863 and lived until 1940. Who could have known that his willingness to seek and follow God’s Will for his life would have such deep ramifications for us.

Lewis Wattson (who would come to be known as Fr. Paul of Graymoor) was part of what was called the “Anglo-catholic” wing of the Episcopal Church. Those considered to be Anglo-catholics had a high regard for the Sacraments, especially for the Holy Eucharist and for the sacred priesthood. They knew that the sad separation of the Anglicans from the Catholic Church under the reign of King Henry VIII was a matter of great tragedy, and many of them tried to do all they could to bring about the reunion of Christendom under the headship of the Successor of Peter. Father Paul (as he would be known) actively sought God’s guidance for what he should do within his ministry to accomplish the Will of Jesus Christ.

He was the Rector of a little Episcopal Church named St. John’s, and one morning he knelt down before the altar in the empty church and opened the Scriptures three times. The date was July 9, 1893. The first time the pages opened, it was in the Gospel of St. John, at the words spoken by Jesus when He taught that the Holy Spirit must spring up in those who believe like a well of Living Water; the second time the pages opened it was in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, where he wrote, “We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the Atonement.”; the third time the pages opened, it was in St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, where he recounts the institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He made a notation of these passages, and took them as being God’s guidance to him in the foundation of the work which was to be his: he felt that God was calling him to found a religious community within the Episcopal Church which would have the Holy Spirit as its inspiration and guide, and that the doctrine he was to preach was to be the “atonement” -- the at-one-ment of man with God which was accomplished by Jesus Christ upon the Cross. But at the same time, God gave Fr. Paul the feeling that this would not be accomplished immediately, but that some years would need to pass before it would become a reality. Fr. Paul finished his time at St. John’s and was called to a new mission work in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was attached to the Episcopal parish of St. Barnabas – a parish which is now part of the Ordinariate. He continued very successfully in his work there, until finally God made it clear that the time had come. Fr. Paul was to return to the east and take up the foundation of this new work which was to be based upon those passages of Scripture which had been revealed to him, and which took the name of the Society of the Atonement... a new Franciscan community within the Episcopal Church which he was to co-found with a holy woman named Mother Lurana. So his path was set -- he and Mother Lurana founded their Community within the Episcopal Church with their work being the reunion of all Christians -- and finally they and their fellow Atonement Franciscans were received into the Roman Catholic Church on October 30, 1909. They brought with them the unique title by which they knew the Blessed Virgin -- that title which had God had entwined with the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross -- that title which recalled Mary standing beneath that Cross -- the title of Our Lady of the Atonement.

I knew nothing of this story when my family and I returned to the United States in 1978 from 5 years of living in England, where I had completed my theological studies and where I had been ordained and had served as an Anglican clergyman. But upon our return, my path was mysteriously united with the path of Fr. Paul. The Episcopal parish to which I had been called was another St. Barnabas Church. It was there that I found a little book which had been left by one of my predecessors... a book entitled “Our Lady and Reunion” which was one of the very few books in existence which was exclusively about Our Lady of the Atonement. I had never heard the title before, and was tempted to discard the book because I thought it was nothing which would interest me -- but for some reason I just couldn’t throw it away. So it remained on my book shelf, where I would look at it from time to time. For some reason the picture of Our Lady of the Atonement developed a stronger and stronger hold on me, and like Fr. Paul, while I was at St. Barnabas I began to realize that my spiritual journey was leading my family and myself to the Catholic Church. But how? My vocation was to the priesthood, but that wasn’t possible at the time. To be a married man excluded me from Catholic ordination -- until that day in 1980 when the Holy Father, Pope (now St.) John Paul II announced that he was establishing a Pastoral Provision for individuals just as myself -- married Episcopal clergy with a vocation to Catholic priesthood, and also it allowed for the establishment of parishes. So the door was opened. And another move was in store. We were to move to Texas where God would reveal what it was He wanted. We arrived in January of 1982 and set about building the foundation which would result in the establishment of this parish which had been waiting in the eternal mind of Almighty God.

The little book about Our Lady of the Atonement was one of the first volumes unpacked and placed on the bookshelves of that first modest house on the northeast side of San Antonio where our first parish office shared space with the washer and drier and our office equipment consisted of an old manual typewriter. It was there and in those earliest days that a promise was made to God; namely, that if He opened the door to us, then we would seek permission to erect the parish under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. God made good on His side of the bargain -- on August 15, 1983, I was ordained as a Catholic priest, and our parish was canonically erected under the patronage of Our Lady of the Atonement.

All that was thirty-five years ago. At that time we were a tiny and yet optimistic group of eighteen people, worshipping in a rented church, with an unknown future. None of this existed. We couldn’t see what you can see now. And an essential ingredient in getting us here has been the intercession of our Blessed Mother, known to us under her mysteriously beautiful title of Our Lady of the Atonement. So, what of this title?

It embraces two mysteries of our faith: first, the atonement itself – the complete and perfect at-one-ment which was achieved by our Lord Jesus Christ as He shed His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross at Calvary, through which came the reconciliation of man with God, and of man with man, making us "at one" in His Sacred Heart; and second, the role of the Virgin Mary in the perfect atonement given by God – her coöperation with God’s Divine Will at the annunciation, and her participation in her Son's sufferings and death as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The crowning act of redeeming love, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, is for all of us the means whereby mankind finds salvation, peace, and unity. It was there upon the Cross Jesus gave us the greatest gift: His precious life. It was there He gave us His Blessed Mother. It was there Mary stood, and there we stand next to her as her children – Children of the Atonement – one family, with one Mother, Mary, and with God as our Father, our Redeemer, and who calls us to live in holiness.

03 July 2018

A Prayer for our Nation


Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.