30 July 2018

St. Ignatius Loyola


St. Ignatius of Loyola was born at Loyola in the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain in 1491. A member of the minor nobility, Ignatius spent his youth and early adulthood as a courtier and soldier. He occasionally vowed to dedicate himself more fully to God, but never quite followed through. It was only after he read the lives of the saints while convalescing from a leg wound incurred as a result of his soldiering that he finally began his spiritual pilgrimage with real intent at the age of 30.

Soon after this, St. Ignatius began to experience ecstatic visions, but within a year suffered a period of intense spiritual dryness (what St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night of the soul”), which nearly drove him to despair. He persevered, however, and out of this was born Spiritual Exercises, one the most important Catholic works of all time. By now a major figure in Catholic intellectual circles, St. Ignatius dutifully finished his schooling at age of 43 and took a position teaching in Paris and later in Rome.

In spite of his noble origins, St. Ignatius lived an astonishingly humble lifestyle, which others often resented. Yet he attracted several followers (including St. Francis Xavier), and in 1540 received approval from Pope Paul III for his new order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. In a very short time, this order would go on to become one of the best known of all Catholic religious orders.

O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; 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.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

29 July 2018

St. Peter Chrysologus


In the fifth century, Ravenna, not Rome, was the capital of the Roman Empire in the West, and Ravenna itself became a metropolitan see. St. Peter Chrysologus was one of the most distinguished archbishops of that See.

Peter was born in Imola about the year 400 and studied under Cornelius, bishop of that city, who ordained him deacon. In 433, the archbishop of Ravenna died, and when a successor had been chosen by the clergy and people of Ravenna, they asked Bishop Cornelius to obtain confirmation of their choice from Pope Sixtus III. On his trip to Rome, Cornelius took his deacon, Peter, as his companion; upon seeing Peter, the pope chose him for the See of Ravenna instead of the one selected by the clergy and people of Ravenna.

Peter was consecrated and was accepted somewhat grudgingly at first by both the clergy and the people. Peter, however, soon became the favorite of Emperor Valentinian III, who resided at Ravenna and was also highly regarded by Pope St. Leo the Great, the successor of Pope Sixtus.

There were still traces of paganism in Peter's diocese, and his first effort was to establish the Catholic faith everywhere, rooting out abuses and carrying on a campaign of preaching and special care of the poor. Many of his sermons still survive, and it is on the basis of these that he came to be known as Chrysologus, or "the golden word."

In his concern for the unity of the Church, Peter Chrysologus opposed the teaching of Eutyches, condemned in the East, who asked for his support. Peter also received St. Germanus of Auxerre to his diocese and officiated at his funeral.

Knowing that his own death was near, Peter returned to his own city of Imola and after urging great care in the choice of his successor he died at Imola about the year 450 and was buried in the church of St. Cassian. In 1729, Pope Benedict XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.

O God, who madest the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an illustrious preacher of thy incarnate Word: grant, through his intercession; that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of thy salvation and faithfully manifest them in our lives; 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 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.

25 July 2018

Ss. Joachim and Anne


According to tradition, St. Joachim and St. Anne have come to us as being the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. They are not named in the Scriptures, but this tradition dates back to the early years of the Church, as does the story which tells us that after many years of not having a child, an angel appeared to them and told them that God would be granting them this blessing.  They had prayed for a child, and part of their prayer was the promise that they would dedicate their child to the service of God. Little did they know at that time what great service would be given by their infant daughter.

When Mary reached the age of three, her parents fulfilled their vow. Together with their family and friends, they took her to the Temple. The High Priest and other Temple priests greeted the procession, and tradition says that the child was brought before the fifteen high steps which led to the sanctuary. It is said that the child Mary made her way to the stairs and, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, ascended all fifteen steps, coming to the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. Tradition then says that the High Priest, acting outside every rule he knew, led the Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, astonishing everyone present in the Temple. So it was that she, whose own womb would become the Holy of Holies, came into the presence of the God Whom she would bear.

St. Joachim and St. Anne returned to their home, but the Handmaid of the Lord remained in the Temple until her espousal, where she was prepared by God.  As the grandparents of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they serve as examples and intercessors for all parents and grandparents.

O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy lovingkindness; 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 July 2018

St. James the Greater


St. James the Greater (meaning the Elder) and his brother John were apparently partners with those other two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and lived in Bethsaida, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. His mother was a sister of Mary, and he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "son of thunder," the brother of John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

Along with Peter and his brother John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, who witnessed the Transfiguration, were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemani. Like his brother, he was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after Jesus' resurrection.

His prominence and his presence in Jerusalem must have been well known, for scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection, he became involved in the political maneuverings of the day and was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat to Judaism.

Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. The two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him in a far different way than they expected.

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; 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.

23 July 2018

St. Sharbel Makluf


St. Sharbel Makhluf is a Maronite saint, a member of the ancient Eastern Catholic Church of Antioch.  It was in Antioch that Christ's followers were first called Christians, and St. Peter ministered there before going to Rome.  The Maronites have their own liturgy and discipline, and have always been in full communion with the See of Peter.  They take their name from St. Maron, a fifth century monk and patriarch of Antioch.

Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra where he was born, his influence has spread widely.

Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853, and was ordained six years later.

Following the example of the fifth-century Saint Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875, until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.

He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Pope Paul VI beatified Sharbel in 1965, and canonized him 12 years later.

O God, who didst call the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion: grant us, we pray thee; that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be coheirs of his 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.

St. Bridget of Sweden


On July 23rd the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden. Bridget was a mystic and a visionary, and she received visions of Christ’s suffering many times throughout her life. She was born in 1303 and her parents were highly respected people, her father being a local governor and provincial judge.

When Bridget was only ten, it is recorded that she had a vision of Jesus on the cross and heard him say, “Look at me, my daughter,” to which she responded, "Who has treated you like this?" The answer she heard from Jesus was, "Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” From that moment on, Bridget perceived it as her mission to try and stop people from offending Jesus.

When she was 14, Bridget married an 18-year old man named Ulf. Like Bridget, Ulf had set his heart on serving God. They had eight children, and their marriage of twenty-eight years was a very happy one. Bridget and Ulf also served the Swedish court, Bridget as the queen's personal maid.

All her life, Bridget had marvelous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them.

After her husband died, Bridget put away her rich clothes and lived as a poor nun. Later, in 1346, she began the order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as Bridgettines. She still kept up her own busy life, traveling about doing good everywhere she went.

Shortly before she died, Bridget went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the shrines there, she had visions of what Jesus had said and done in each place, and all of her revelations on the suffering of Christ were published after her death.

St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX just eighteen years later in 1391.

O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women in all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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.

19 July 2018

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


St. Apollinaris was one of the great martyrs in the early years of the Church. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter. The miracles he conducted in Ravenna soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the faith. However, at the same time, his words and works brought upon him the fury of the pagan people, who beat Apollinaris viciously on several occasions.

During one beating, Apollinaris was cut with knives, and scalding hot water poured over his wounds.  In this state of suffering he was then put on a ship to be sent to Greece.

In Greece St. Apollinaris carried on the same course of preaching, and miracles, and sufferings. In fact, after a cruel beating by Greek pagans, he was sent back to Italy.

When Emperor Vespasian issued a decree of banishment against the Christians, Apollinaris was kept hidden for some time, but as he was leaving, passing through the gates of the city, he was attacked and savagely beaten. He lived for seven days, foretelling that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Apollinaris triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Ravenna, 6th century.

17 July 2018

St. Camillus de Lellis


St. Camillus is the patron saint of hospitals, hospital workers and those who are sick. Here is his story, excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch.

St. Camillus' mother was nearly sixty years old when he was born in 1550. As a youth he gave himself to the sinful pleasures of this world. His conversion dates from the feast of the Purification, 1575. Two attempts to enter the Capuchin Order were frustrated by an incurable sore on his leg. In Rome St. Camillus was received in a hospital for incurables; before long he was put in charge because of his ability and zeal for virtue. He brought to the sick every imaginable kind of spiritual and bodily aid.

At the age of thirty-two he began studying for Holy Orders and was not ashamed of being numbered with children. After ordination to the holy priesthood he founded a congregation of Regular Clerics, the "Ministers to the Sick." As a fourth vow the community assumed the duty of caring for the plague-ridden at the risk of their lives. With invincible patience Camillus persevered day and night in the service of the sick, performing the meanest of duties. His love shone forth most brightly when the city of Rome was stricken by epidemic and famine, and when the plague raged at Nola. Having suffered five different maladies, which he called God's mercy, he died in Rome at the age of sixty-five. On his lips was the prayer for the dying: "May the face of Christ Jesus shine gloriously upon you." Pope Leo XIII declared him the heavenly patron of hospitals and added his name in the litany for the dying.


O God, who for the comfort of souls striving in their last agony, didst adorn Saint Camillus with singular gifts of charity: we beseech thee, by his merits, to pour upon us the spirit of thy love; that in the hour of our death, we may be worthy to overcome the enemy and to attain to the heavenly crown; 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.

16 July 2018

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel


Mount Carmel is closely associated with the Prophet Elijah. Located in northern Israel, it was and remains a place of great beauty. There is still a chapel called the Grotto of St. Elijah, which is most likely where he sheltered

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and have often been at the forefront of explaining and defending the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. St. Therese of the Child Jesus dedicated her life to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and during the last days of her life she frequently spoke of her.

There is a strong tradition that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. The scapular reminds us of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way.

O God, who didst adorn the Order of Mount Carmel with the especial title of thy most blessed Mother the Ever-Virgin Mary: mercifully grant; that as we do this day remember her in our solemn observance, so by the help of her succor we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Flower of Carmel, vine blossom laden,
Joy of heaven, who yet a maiden,
Bore God's Holy One.
Gentlest Mother, who never man did know,
On Carmel's children your privilege bestow,
Star of Ocean.

Root of Jesse, flower in the cradling bud,
Take us to you, keep us with you in God,
His together.
All chaste lily, rising despite the thorn,
Strengthen, help us, so feeble and forlorn,
Great Protectress!

Be our armor, valiant for Christ when war
Rages round us, hold high the Scapular,
Strong and saving.
In our stumbling, guide us on God's wise way,
In our sorrow, comfort us when we pray;
Rich your mercy.

Holy Lady, Carmel's great Friend and Queen,
Feast your people from your own bliss, the unseen
Grace, God's goodness.
Key and Gateway, opening on Paradise,
Mother, win us a place with you in Christ
Crowned in glory.


Elijah's Cave atop Mt. Carmel, where we have offered Mass while on pilgrimage.

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.

12 July 2018

St. Henry, King and Confessor


St. Henry had great power in this world, but he used that power for the good of his people and for the spread of the Catholic Faith. Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but he realized that his temporal power was a gift from God, and he strove to gain an immortal crown, by putting himself always at the service of his eternal King, Jesus Christ.

As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt the churches which had been destroyed by Muslim invaders, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and was himself a Benedictine Oblate. When Pope Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was in danger from enemies of the Church, St. Henry received him and ultimately restored him to the Holy See.

It was Henry’s practice never to undertake anything without first praying. There were times that he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided in this way by God’s divine protection, he conquered barbarous nations more by prayer than by weapons.

He was married to a devoted wife, also a saint, St. Cunigund, although they remained childless. In fact, together they are patron saints of childless couples.

When Henry’s life's work was accomplished, he was called by God in 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg and immediately there were many miracles reported by those who prayed at his tomb. St. Henry was a man who had managed to lead his earthly kingdom with such responsibility that he never lost sight of the Kingdom of God.

We live in this world, but we are not to be of this world. In fact, we’re called to sanctify this world.

O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by thee in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms: grant, we pray, through his intercession; that amid the uncertainties of this world, we may hasten towards thee in perfect purity of heart; 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

St. Benedict of Nursia

Shrine of St. Benedict
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas

St. Benedict was born about the year 480 in Nursia, Italy. His family was most likely of noble lineage, which afforded him the opportunity go to Rome, where he received his education. By the time of Benedict’s arrival there, Rome had entered into serious moral and political decay. Because the corruption around him so disturbed him, Benedict broke off his studies and withdrew from Rome to enter into a solitary life of prayer.

For three years Benedict remained by himself, living in a cave, seeking to grow closer to God through a life of prayer and fasting. His reputation as being a holy person grew, leading people to seek him out for spiritual guidance.

In the year 529, after having lived for many years as a monk, Benedict established a monastic foundation where men, who wanted to live the Christian life in common, could come together to draw closer to God. This new community found its home on a hill near Cassino in Italy, and so came to be known as Monte Cassino. After Benedict established his community, he wrote a Rule which was to be followed by the monks in their daily lives. Benedict guided the community as its spiritual father (abba), or “abbot,” until his death around the year 547. His feast day is kept on July 11.

O Eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; 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.

 
Mass at the tombs of St. Benedict & St. Scholastica, Montecassino.

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.

07 July 2018

Our Patronal Solemnity


July 9th is the Patronal Solemnity of Our Lady of the Atonement, with the celebration being transferred to Sunday, July 8th.  The Mass schedule is as usual: 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. (all Divine Worship Missal) and 6:00 p.m. (Latin, Ordinary Form).

The Collect:

Deus, qui dispersa congregas, et congregáta consérvas: quæsumus, per intercessiónem beatíssimæ Vírginis Maríæ, Dóminæ nóstræ Adunatiónis, super ecclésiam tuam uniónis grátiam clementer infunde; et Spíritum Sánctum in totam múndi latitúdinem defunde ut omnes unum sint; per Dóminum nostrum Jésum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sáncti, Deus, per ómnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

O God, who dost gather together those who have been scattered, and who dost preserve those who have been gathered together: We beseech thee through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement, that thou wilt pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Fr. Paul of Graymoor wrote these words about the title in 1919:

I am writing this letter on the day which we are accustomed to observe at Graymoor in special honor of Our Lady of the Atonement. This particular name of Our Blessed Mother is very dear to us and we believe it is dear to Our Lady herself. We hold it as among the most treasured and sacred traditions of our Institute that it was the Blessed Virgin who first taught us to call her by that name and there are cogent reasons why she should give this title a favorite place among the many by which she is invoked.

First among these reasons must be her own devotion to the mystery of the Atonement, for it was by the death of her son on the Cross, which cost him the last drop of his blood and made her preeminently the mother of sorrows, that the wall of division between God and man was broken down and both were made one (Ephesians 2:14), through Christ's atoning sacrifice.

As the Blessed Virgin is inseparably associated with our divine redeemer in the mystery of his incarnation, so is she closely associated with him in the great act of the atonement. Thus, is she always represented in the Gospel and in the liturgy and thought of the Catholic Church as standing by the cross, when Christ was crucified there.

There is a second reason, hardly less weighty than the first, why the title, Our Lady of the Atonement, should powerfully appeal to the mother of God. It was through the Incarnation she become the mother of Christ, but through the atonement she became the new Eve and the mother of all the regenerate, who being redeemed by the precious blood are predestined to eternal life as the adopted sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. The third time Our Lord spoke upon the cross it was to emphasize this phase of the Atonement, when he said to his mother: "Woman, behold your son," and to St. John, "Son, behold your mother." [John 19:26-27] Thus by virtue of the atonement Mary is the mother of all who live through Christ. Can anyone therefore possibly conceive the depth of significance this title "Our Lady of the Atonement" must possess for Our Blessed Mother herself?

But someone will ask, if so highly esteemed, why should it be kept hidden for nineteen hundred years, to be made known to the faithful in the twentieth century? Is it not the custom even of earthly mothers to preserve the choicest fruits in the summer time and hide them away under lock and key, to bring them forth to their children's delight in the depth of winter and did not the master of the wedding feast say to the bridegroom at Cana, "Every man at first brings forth good wine and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But you have kept the good wine until now." [John 2:10] "My ways are not your ways," [Isaiah 55:8] says the Lord of Hosts.


Stabant juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus, et soror matris ejus Maria Cléophæ, et Salóme, et María Magdaléne. Múlier, ecce filius tuus: dixit Jesus; ad discípulum autem: Ecce mater tua.

05 July 2018

St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr


Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Corinaldo, in the Ancona Province in Italy to a farming family. Her father died when she was still a girl, which left her mother along with her and her brothers and sisters to keep the farm going. Maria’s responsibility included cooking and keeping house along with preparing meals for everyone.

It was on July 5, 1902, that Maria was sitting outside the steps of her home mending a shirt while one of the neighboring young men named Alessandro was working in the barnyard. Everyone else was working in the fields. As she concentrated on her sewing, Alessandro surprised her and grabbed her from her steps. When he tried to rape her, Maria cried that it was a mortal sin and warned he would go to hell.

When Alessandro persisted, she fought him and begged him to stop, telling him over and over again that he was committing a sin. Alessandro began to choke her and pulled out a knife and stabbed her eleven times. When she attempted to reach the door, he stabbed her three more times then fled.

Maria's family returned home and found her bleeding on the floor. They quickly took her to the nearest hospital but it was too late to save her.

As she lay dying, Maria forgave Alessandro and said she wanted to see him in Heaven with her. She died that day while looking upon an image of the Virgin Mary and holding a cross to her chest.

Alessandro remained unrepentant for his actions until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him lilies, which immediately burned in his hands. When he woke, he was a changed man. He repented his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released 27 years later, he went directly to Maria's mother and begged her forgiveness, which she gave.

Maria Goretti was beatified in 1947, and three years later Maria was declared a saint and Alessandro was present at her canonization. He later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, where he lived in a monastery and worked as its receptionist and gardener until his death.

Saint Maria is called a martyr because she fought against Alessandro's attempts at sexual sin; however, the most important aspects of her story are how she forgave her attacker – and her forgiveness brought about his conversion.

These words are from the homily of Venerable Pope Pius XII at her canonization:
"It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl - I shall concern myself only with highlights - we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven."

O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying thy commandments; 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 July 2018

St. Elizabeth of Portugal


Born in 1271, Elizabeth (or Isabel) was married to King Diniz of Portugal. Like her great-aunt St. Elizabeth of Hungary, for whom she was named, St. Elizabeth of Portugal dedicated her life to the poor. She established orphanages and provided shelter for the homeless. She also founded a convent in Coimbra.

Known for settling disputes, St. Elizabeth was called the Peacemaker. When her son Alfonso declared war on his father because he was jealous of the attention being paid by Diniz to his illegitimate sons, it was Elizabeth who rode between the armies, reconciling the two sides. On another occasion, she rode to Estremoz despite being ill to keep the army of Affonso, by then King Alfonso IV, from fighting that of Castile. Alfonso, angry at the mistreatment his daughter Maria was suffering at the hands of her husband, the king of Castile, had ordered an attack. St. Elizabeth stopped the fighting, but the exertion proved to be too much for her and she fell ill, dying shortly thereafter.

St. Elizabeth was buried in Coimbra, and she was canonized in 1625 by Urban VIII.

O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst adorn Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvellous grace for reconciling those in conflict: grant, through her intercession; that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God; 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.

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.

St. Thomas the Apostle


At that time: Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
- St John 20:24-31

Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; 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.

01 July 2018

America and Natural Law


“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As we prepare to celebrate once again the anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, we should take pride in those words. They can be interpreted in only one way – although they have been misinterpreted in innumerable ways – and that one way is in the light of Natural Law. To borrow the language of the Declaration of Independence, Natural Law stems from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The American Founders believed this. They followed it. We cannot understand our nation without understanding this.

These words remind those in government, not just in this country but in all nations, of the limits of their power.  They mark a moral boundary that must never be violated if the government is to retain its legitimacy. The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God are the permanent things, the first things, the fixed order knowable by reason and observable by the rules of nature and nature’s God. Natural law is superior to, and precedes, political and governmental institutions.

For instance, the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — is a universally recognized ethic. It is referred to as the Golden Rule because it is universally true and just. That’s why to own and enslave someone, or purposely to maim or to kill innocent human life is always wrong because it is always wrong — we know it, we feel it — no matter what a majority of legislators or jurists say. There’s something in our heart, even in our gut, that knows certain things are right and certain things are wrong.  That is the effect of natural law.  We could even say it is the image of God in which we are all created.

That’s why our July 4th celebration is so important.  It certainly doesn’t celebrate those times when our nation has diverged from its founding principles. No, we celebrate the fact that our nation is the only one on earth which is founded upon Natural Law – the “laws of nature and of Nature’s God.”