14 June 2019

Ember Saturday in Whitsun Week


We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts: by whose wisdom we were created, and by whose providence we are governed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

For those to be ordained:
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

For the choice of fit persons for the ordained ministry:
O God, who didst lead thy holy Apostles to ordain ministers in every place: grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable men for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

For all Christians in their vocation:
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and godly serve thee; 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.

The unity desired by Christ...


Some years ago I had a brief exchange of emails with an Anglican clergyman who lives a little distance away.  It's an exchange I will always remember. His parish was, I think, part of the American group that had a pastoral relationship with some of the Anglicans in Africa. I don't really understand all the connections, and I don't know who's in communion with whom, but he came across as a very nice man who plainly loves Christ. He was writing to express his interest in talking with me, so I let him know I'd be delighted to see him, and we suggested some possible dates and times.

One of my suggestions was a time right after one of the weekday Masses. "In fact," I wrote, "perhaps you'd like to come to the Mass, and we can meet right afterwards." That sounded like a great idea to him, and I thought we were set.

Then I got another email. "Am I ok for Holy Communion?" I knew what he was asking, and I wondered why he would even ask. "Sadly, no," I wrote back, "I'm a priest under orders, as I know you understand, and I wouldn't be able to administer Holy Communion to you."

Here's what he wrote back: "This is one of the things that stands in the way of real unity - the RCC treats other Christians as though they aren’t really Christians - denying them the Body and the Blood. This is especially problematic in light of the fact that you and I do nearly the same service, and our ordinations share many of the same apostolic roots, along with a common apostolic succession. That’s gotta hurt the cause of Christ in a world that desperately, desperately needs Him."

It was probably my fault because had I invited him to attend the Mass. Maybe that's why he took it as more than just an invitation to be there, although his response made it obvious that he knew the answer before he asked the question. His blanket statement that Catholics treat others as though they're not really Christians is based solely upon the fact that we don't have a "come one, come all" policy at the Communion rail. He knows the Church doesn't deny that he's a Christian. In fact, the Church teaches explicitly that all those who are validly baptised belong to Christ. And then there's the subtle slap, that I'm hurting the "cause of Christ" because I won't allow him to receive Holy Communion. The problem is, most protestants view Holy Communion as a means of achieving the unity Christ desires; whereas the Catholic understanding is that it's sign of the unity of faith we're supposed to have already. So how can we best understand the vast difference between those two understandings?

Maybe St. Paul can help. In his epistle to the Ephesians, he holds up the relationship Christ has with the Church as being an image of the marriage relationship. That image provides a very helpful picture to us, when it comes to Holy Communion.

We've all known young couples who decide that they're going to live together, and have a sexual relationship, because they think it will somehow bring them closer together, and help them find out if they should get married. In effect, they want to pretend they're married, in the hope that it'll lead to the real thing. Of course, it doesn't. It cheapens God's gift of sexuality. And even if they do eventually marry, you can be sure that the anniversary they keep isn't going to be the anniversary of the first time they had sexual intercourse.

Having a sexual relationship outside of marriage gives a fake impression of a sacred union. It's unsatisfying, and eventually one or both of the partners starts to feel used. At some point there comes a desire either to end it, or else to make it permanent. It's only when a man and a woman have bound themselves together before God by "pledging their troth each to the other" - by making solemn vows to one another before God - it's only then that their sexual relationship can be what God intends it to be.

Keep that image in mind - the image of a man and woman bound by vows made before God. Now think about trying to achieve Christian unity by having everybody receive Holy Communion, no matter what they believe. It's like sex before marriage. It's only an illusion of unity.

13 June 2019

Ember Friday in Whitsun Week


Most merciful God, we beseech thee: that thy Church, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, may nevermore be disquieted by the assaults of her enemies; 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 June 2019

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.

Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; 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.

Several years ago I wrote two hymn texts in honour of the Patron of our City and our Archdiocese, and they are published here for anyone who would like to use them.

  1.  Praise to God the mighty Father, who didst call Saint Anthony
         from a life of sore temptation to the way of purity.
        Humble work and meek obedience marked his holy way of love;
        now, his earthly task completed, works his wonders from above.

  2. Praise to Jesus Christ our Saviour, who didst give Saint Anthony
        grace to preach with zeal and boldness, giving truth new charity.
        Men, once lost, who heard the Gospel from the lips of Francis' son
        came to know God's grace and favour, and the life which Christ had won.

  3.  Praise to God the Holy Spirit, who inspired Saint Anthony
        in the way of love and service, calling men to charity,
        lifting up the fallen sinner, feeding them with Living Bread,
        showing men the way to heaven, there to live with Christ their Head.

  4.  Gracious Doctor and Confessor, holy Priest with golden tongue,
        joined with all the saints of heaven, praising God the Three in One;
        help us in our earthly journey, keep our thoughts on God most high,
        that with thee, Christ's saint and servant, we may live and never die.

Tune: Rustington, by Charles H. H. Parry (1848-1918)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips


+   +   +   +   +   +   +

           1.  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.

           2.  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.

           3.  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

Thursday in Whitsun Week


Almighty God, who on this day didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of thy Holy Spirit: shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 June 2019

Whitsun Ember Wednesday


We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Whit Tuesday


Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God: that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

09 June 2019

Whit Monday


Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts: that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into the truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

08 June 2019

The Solemnity of Pentecost


Very often we read in the Gospels that something is “in fulfillment of the Scriptures.” The Solemnity of Pentecost is exactly that: it is “in fulfillment of the Scriptures.”

The word itself indicates “fifty.” Originally it was an Old Testament religious festival, but it took on fresh importance in the New Testament. In Old Testament Israel, the first of the grain harvest was an important event. It meant that the people would have sufficient food for the coming year, and there were great ceremonies surrounding the harvest. Every year, fifty days after the first of the grain was harvested, there would be a festival. Processions of pilgrims would bring baskets of their first fruits to the temple as a thank offering for the harvest. In later Judaism, Pentecost marked another great event, because it was seven weeks after the Passover Sabbath, which was the time to celebrate the giving of the Law at Sinai where God had made a people for Himself.

And now, in the age of the New Covenant, the fifty day period marks a new understanding of a different kind of harvest – a mystical harvest, in which Christ becomes a kind of supernatural grain. His crucifixion and death comprised a new kind of harvest. Christ, the mystical grain, was buried. And fifty days after the promised Seed had been buried in the ground and sprang to life on the third day, there was a harvest festival of the resurrection. Fifty days after His exodus through death into life Jesus gave a new law – the law of love – making for Himself a people, His new Israel, His Holy Catholic Church. That is why we call Pentecost the “birthday of the Church” – it is a day of celebration for the outpouring of the Spirit and the beginning of the spread of the Gospel to all nations. Seven weeks after Christ died and rose from the dead, He breathed the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit upon His Church.

O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

05 June 2019

St. Norbert, Confessor and Bishop


St. Norbert was born about the year 1080 and his early life was one of ease and selfishness. It was an easy move for him to enter into the pleasure-loving German court. He had no hesitation about availing himself of every opportunity for enjoyment. To ensure his success at court, he also had no qualms about accepting holy orders as a canon and whatever financial benefices that came with that position. However, he did hesitate at becoming a priest, because even in his selfishness and casual attitude toward religion, he realized that the priesthood had serious responsibilities.

One day as Norbert was out riding, a thunderstorm came up suddenly. Norbert, who was always meticulous about his appearance, was buffeted by the high winds, and was soaked by the rains. A sudden flash of lightning startled his horse, throwing Norbert to the ground.

For almost an hour he lay unmoving. When he awoke his first words were, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" In response Norbert heard in his heart, "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."

He immediately devoted himself to prayer and penance, and began the instruction for the priesthood he had avoided previously. He was ordained in 1115. His complete conversion and change in life caused some who remembered him previously to accuse him of hypocrisy. Norbert responded by giving everything he owned to the poor, after which he went to the pope for permission to preach.

With the pope's blessing, Norbert became an itinerant preacher, traveling through Europe with two companions. As a response to his old ways, he now chose the most difficult ways to travel, such as walking barefoot in the middle of winter through snow and ice. Unfortunately the two companions who followed him died from the difficult and demanding way of life. But Norbert was gaining the respect of those sincere clergy who had despised him before.

The pope encouraged him to settle and found a community in the diocese of Laon in northern France. There, in the desolate valley wilderness of Prémontré, Norbert laid the foundations for his religious Order. He chose the rule of St. Augustine for the new community. Communal life was marked by its austerity, its poverty, and its intense liturgical life of prayer.Norbert continued to preach and to attract large numbers to his community.

On July 25, 1126, Norbert was ordained archbishop of Magdeburg and relinquished the leadership of his Order to begin the work of shepherding the vast diocese on the northeastern frontier of the German Empire.

Weakened by his travels and labors, and probably by malaria contracted at Rome, Norbert was in Magdeburg when he died on June 6, 1134.

O God, who didst make blessed Norbert thy Confessor and Bishop an illustrious preacher of thy Word, and through him didst render thy Church fruitful with a new offspring: grant, we beseech thee; that by his intercession and merits, we may be enabled by thy help to practise what he taught, both in word and deed; 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 June 2019

St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr


Named Winfrith by his well-to-do English parents, Boniface was born probably near Exeter, Devon. As a boy, he studied in Benedictine monastery schools and became a monk himself in the process. For 30 years he lived in relative peace, studying, teaching, and praying. In his early 40s he left the seclusion of the monastery to do missionary work on the Continent. Because his first efforts in Frisia (now the Netherlands) were unsuccessful, Winfrith went to Rome in search of direction. Pope Gregory II renamed him Boniface, "doer of good," and delegated him to spread the gospel message in Germany.

In 719 the missionary monk set out on what was to be a very fruitful venture. He made converts by the thousands. Once, the story goes, he hewed down the giant sacred oak at Geismar to convince the people of Hesse that there was no spiritual power in nature. In 722 the Pope consecrated him bishop for all of Germany. For 30 years Boniface worked to reform and organize the Church, linking the various local communities firmly with Rome. He enlisted the help of English monks and nuns to preach to the people, strengthen their Christian spirit, and assure their allegiance to the pope. He founded the monastery of Fulda, now the yearly meeting place of Germany's Roman Catholic bishops. About 746 Boniface was appointed archbishop of Mainz, where he settled for several years as head of all the German churches.

Over the years he kept up an extensive correspondence, asking directives of the popes, giving information about the many Christian communities, and relaying to the people the popes' wishes. In 752, as the pope's emissary, he crowned Pepin king of the Franks. In his 80s and still filled with his characteristic zeal, Boniface went back to preach the gospel in Frisia. There, in 754 near the town of Dokkum, Boniface and several dozen companions were waylaid by a group of savage locals and put to death. His remains were later taken to Fulda, where he was revered as a martyr to the Christian faith.

- From various sources

O God, who raised up the holy Bishop and Martyr Saint Boniface from the English nation to enlighten many peoples with the Gospel of Christ: grant, we pray; that we may hold fast in our hearts that faith which he taught with his lips and sealed with his blood; 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.

02 June 2019

St. Charles Lwanga & Companions


Charles was one of twenty-two Ugandan martyrs who had converted from paganism. He was baptized in November 1885, a year before his death, and became a moral and spiritual leader among the converts. He was the chief of the royal pages under the king, Mwanga, and was considered the strongest athlete of the court.

Mwanga was a wicked king, and very violent, using his power to try and force the young men into immoral acts. Charles was a catechist, and instructed the young men who were serving in the king's court in the Catholic Faith and he baptized them. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and faithful.

Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. He convinced the king that if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?

When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, even cheerful. He was to be executed by being burned to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly to death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, "Kotanda! (O my God!)." He was burned to death by Mwanga's order on June 3, 1886. The other young men were martyred in various ways, and together they were canonized by the Church.

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the blessed martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and his Companions, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Marcellinus and St. Peter

St. Marcellinus and St. Peter the Exorcist were martyred during the Diocletian persecution in about the year 304. The early church held them in very high honor, and evidence of that is the great basilica which the Emperor Constantine built over their tombs, and their names are included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

Pope St. Damasus, who was born at about the same time as the two saints were martyred, says that he heard the story of these two martyrs from their executioner who had become a Christian after their deaths. Marcellinus was a priest, and Peter was an exorcist. Peter had been put into prison at Rome by the judge Serenus, simply for confessing the Christian faith.

During his imprisonment Peter set free Paulina, the daughter of Artemius, the keeper of the prison, from an evil spirit which tormented her. Upon this, Artemius and his wife and all their house, with their neighbors who had run together to see the strange thing, were converted to Jesus Christ. Peter was set free by the jailer, and he brought all the new converts to Marcellinus the priest, who baptized them all.

When the judge Serenus heard of it, he called Peter and Marcellinus before him, and demanded that they deny Christ. They both refused to deny their faith, so they were separated, and Marcellinus the priest was treated in a particularly cruel way. He was beaten and stripped of his clothing, and was shut up in a completely dark cell which had broken glass strewn all over the floor. The slightest movement caused his flesh to be sliced open. Peter was in a nearby cell, and they comforted one another by loudly proclaiming their faith. When it was obvious they wouldn't deny Christ, they were brought out of their cells and were beheaded. Their bodies were taken far outside the city and thrown deep in a dark forest so they would never be found. As it happened, a Christian woman did find their bodies, and she had them brought back and buried their bodies in the catacombs. Their tombs became a place of pilgrimage for the early Christians, who were inspired by their faithful witness even to death.

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of thy Martyrs, Marcellinus and Peter: grant, we beseech thee; that as we do rejoice in their merits, so we may be enkindled to follow them in all virtuous and godly living; 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.

31 May 2019

St. Justin Martyr


St. Justin Martyr was an apologist, and was one of the most important Christian writers of the second century. He was a Greek and was born in Palestine. From the time of his childhood he loved to study, and by the time he was a young man he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a serious student of philosophy and examined the teaching of all the great philosophers, looking for ultimate truth. He was disappointed in his search, because he found they could go only a certain distance, but ultimately each philosophy contained a faulty kind of wisdom, and each one contained error. One day he met a very old man who was a stranger to him. This old man opened the scriptures to Justin, and explained the Christian faith. Justin understood this as the truth he had been looking for – he saw that it completed all of the partial truths had had been studying up until that time. After that encounter he constantly studied the Scriptures, and he lived the Christian faith. Having come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Justin devoted himself completely to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.

Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defenses of the Christian faith. He even presented these Apologies to the Roman Senate, in an attempt to stop the persecution of the Church. Some were convinced, and for a while the persecutions stopped. But eventually there were those in power who wanted to crush the Church because of their own wicked ways of living. Justin was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and he was questioned about the doctrine of the Christians. Justin gave a complete defense of the Christian faith, but Rusticus himself lived a cruel and wicked life, so he didn’t want to hear it. He made Justin choose whether he would sacrifice to the gods or suffer a cruel scourging. Justin answered that he had always wanted to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ because he knew it would bring him to heaven. The prefect sentenced Justin to death. He was horribly scourged, and then beheaded.  This man who sought the truth and found it in Christ, became a great martyr for the faith.

O God, who through the foolishness of the Cross didst wondrously teach blessed Justin Martyr the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ: grant to us by his intercession; that, driving away the errors that beset us, we may attain unto steadfastness of faith; 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.

30 May 2019

Feast of the Visitation


The Feast of the Visitation honours the Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore in her womb the Incarnate Word of God. It shows her as the first missionary and evangelist, as she takes the Word to her cousin Elizabeth. The unborn infant, St. John, was cleansed from original sin as the two expectant mothers embraced. St. Elizabeth addressed her as the "Mother of the Lord," and Mary responded with the great canticle of praise, the Magnificat:

"My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever."

O God, who didst lead the Blessed Virgin Mary to visit Elizabeth, to their exceeding joy and comfort: grant unto thy people; that as Mary did rejoice to be called the Mother of the Lord, so we may ever rejoice to believe the Incarnation of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 May 2019

The Ascension of Our Lord


One of the scriptural phrases intimately associated with Ascensiontide is that when our Lord ascended into heaven, "he led captivity captive…"

These words remind us that the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ make up one continuous event, the event which conquered sin and Satan. We should view this as the "great war" of all the ages.

In Gethsemane the enemy was met; on the Cross the battle was fought; in the Tomb Satan was defeated; and when our Lord ascended into heaven, he went as the victorious Warrior. His "prisoners of war" were all those things which keep us from having full communion with Almighty God.

This was the combat which has brought us peace - the captivity which has given us freedom in Christ.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

26 May 2019

St. Augustine, Apostle to the English


At the end of the sixth century it looked like St. Augustine had found his place in life. He was the respected prior of St. Andrew’s monastery in Rome, and everyone thought he would spend his life there, instructing, governing, and settling into a satisfying and sedentary life.

But the pope had other ideas. The pope been a young monk under Augustine; now that young monk was Pope Gregory, known to history as St. Gregory the Great. We all know the story of how Gregory had seen some fair-skinned people being sold as slaves, and when he asked about them, he was told they were Angles. “Not Angles, but angels!” he had responded, and he decided he needed to send missionaries to their people to bring them the knowledge of the Gospel. England had once known the faith, but the Angles and the Saxons had conquered the land, and had driven the Christians out. Now the time had come to re-evangelize, and Gregory chose Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected and dangerous trip to England. Augustine and his monks had the task of finding what few Christians there were to bring them back into the fullness of the Church, and also to convince their warring conquerors to become Christians themselves.

Every step of the way Augustine and his monks heard the horrid stories of the cruelty and barbarity of the Anglo-Saxons. By the time they had reached France the stories became so frightening that the monks turned back to Rome. Gregory had heard encouraging news that England was far more ready for Christianity than the stories would indicate, including the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to a Christian princess, Bertha. He sent Augustine and the monks on their way again, fortified with his belief that now was the time for evangelization.

King Ethelbert was a good king and he was curious about his wife’s religion. So he went to hear what the missionaries had to say after they landed in England. But he was just as afraid of them as they were of him! He was afraid that these missionaries would use magic on them, so he held the meeting in the open air. But he listened to what they had to say about Christianity. The king was baptized in 597, and unlike other kings who forced all subjects to be baptized as soon as they were converted, Ethelbert left religion to be a free choice. Nonetheless, the following year many of his subjects were baptized.

Augustine was consecrated bishop for the English and more missionaries arrived from Rome to help with the new task. Augustine had to be very careful because although the English had embraced the new religion, they still respected the old pagan ways. St. Gregory the Great was very wise, and he urged Augustine not simply to destroy the things of the old pagan religion, but to consecrate the pagan temples for Christian worship and pagan festivals were transformed into feast days of martyrs. Canterbury itself was built on the site of an ancient church which had been built during the earlier days of Christianity.

St. Augustine was in England for only eight years before he died in 605, but he planted the seeds for the growth of the Christian faith in what had been a dark pagan land.

O God, who by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine thy Confessor and Bishop, hast enlightened the English people with the light of the true faith: mercifully grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that have gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth; 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.

Memorial Day


ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

25 May 2019

Rogationtide


"Rogation" comes from the Latin "rogare," which means "to ask." The Sixth Sunday of Easter and the following three days leading up to the Solemnity of the Ascension are days during which we beg God's mercy for the avoidance of natural disasters, and it is a time to ask for His blessings, particularly with regard to farming, gardening, and all things related to agriculture.

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers: and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy most gracious and ready help; 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.

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: we humbly pray that thy gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labour to gather them; that we, who constantly receive good things from thy hand, may always give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

O Almighty God who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 May 2019

St. Bede in the Triptych


St. Bede is one of the five major figures depicted on the large triptych which is over the High Altar at Our Lady of the Atonement Church. The following is taken from the fuller description of the triptych, which can be found in its entirety at this link.

SAINT BEDE THE VENERABLE (673-735)

Although very little is known about Saint Bede, we do know that he was a monk of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth and Jarrow, where at the age of seven he had been given into the care of the abbot. His monastic life was uneventful, and we can sum it up in his own words: “I have spent the whole of my life devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and, amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily task of singing in the church, it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write.”

It was as a teacher and writer that Bede was supreme. He wrote both theological and secular works, prose and poetry. He was interested in science and the natural order. His historical writings are perhaps the best remembered. His chief work was The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, one of the most important historical writings of the early Middle Ages. It is the sole source for much information about the early Saxon history.

Saint Bede died at his work. On the Tuesday before Ascension Day he summoned the priests of the monastery, made them little gifts of paper and incense, and begged their prayers. At intervals during the next forty-eight hours, propped up in bed, he dictated to the last sentence an English rendering of the Gospel of Saint John upon which he was engaged at the onset of his illness. Finally, asking to be laid on the floor he sang the anthem “O King of Glory” from the Office of Ascension Day and died with the doxology, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” on his lips.

Bede is the only Englishman who was named by Dante in the Paradiso. Saint Boniface, when he learned of Bede’s death, said “The light, lit by the Holy Spirit for the good of the whole Church, has been extinguished.” In the reredos Saint Bede appears in his simple monastic garb. He was dedicated to the monastic office and to the life of prayer, thus his red prayer beads are shown in the folds of his habit. He carries the crosier, though he was never a bishop, to recall the bishop’s role of teacher and scholar, characteristics of Bede. He also carries an opened copy of his Ecclesiastical History, and the picture on the frontispiece is of the original small church of Our Lady of the Atonement, before its expansion. Next to him is the extinguished candle, recalling Saint Boniface’s words. At the top of the candlestick is the inscription of the doxology Bede was praying at the moment of death.

“Remember,” writes Cardinal Gasquet, “what the work was upon which Saint Bede was engaged upon his deathbed – a translation of the gospels into English …” But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing is now extant.

O God, who hast caused thy Church to shine with the learning of blessed Bede thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant that we thy servants may ever be enlightened by his wisdom, and holpen for his merits’ sake; 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.

21 May 2019

St. Rita of Cascia


St. Rita was born into a happy and faithful Catholic family, and from the time of her childhood she had a very deep desire to live a life pleasing to God. In fact, her parents gave her a little room in their home as an oratory, where she spent all her spare moments. At the age of twelve, however, she wanted to consecrate herself to God by joining a religious community. As pious as her parents were, they pleaded with Rita not to do that, and instead they arranged for her to be married, at the age of eighteen, to an impulsive, disagreeable young man, who was a great trial to young Rita. They had two sons who had both inherited their father's quarrelsome nature. Throughout that time, however, Rita continued in her devotional life, and eventually her holiness and prayers won her husband's heart, so that he was not only willing for her to continue her religious practices, but he himself began to turn towards God.

They had been married for eighteen years, when her husband was murdered. No sooner had that happened, than both of her sons died shortly after. Rita's former desire to consecrate herself to God in the religious life came back even more strongly. Three times she tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia, but her request was refused each time, and each time she returned to her home. But God had plans for her. One night as Rita was praying in her home she heard herself called by name, while someone knocked at the door. In a miraculous way she found she was in the nuns’ enclosure, even though it was completely locked. Needless to say, the nuns were astonished at this miracle, and took her in as a member of the monastery.

St. Rita's hidden, simple life in religion was defined by her obedience and charity, and she lived a life filled with penances. One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell. Kneeling before the crucifix, she asked the Lord to let her share in His sufferings. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached from the image on the cross, and embedded itself in her forehead so deeply that she couldn’t remove it. The wound became worse, and it became horribly infected. Because of the foul odor coming from the wound, she wasn’t allowed to be near the other sisters, and this went on for fifteen years.

One day the Pope proclaimed a jubilee at Rome. Rita wanted nothing more than to attend. She was given permission, but only if the wound in her forehead had healed. Miraculously, it was healed, but only for as long as the pilgrimage lasted. When she returned to the monastery, the wound reappeared, and remained until her death.

As the time of her death approached, St. Rita asked for a rose from the garden of her old home. Although it wasn’t the season for roses, a rose was found in full bloom and it was brought to her. After St. Rita's death in 1457, her face took on a radiance, and the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The smell of roses spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. At the time of her death, witnesses saw her cell fill with light, and the bells in the tower rang by themselves. Immediately there were miracles of healing, and the world then knew that a saint had lived in their midst.

Bestow upon us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which thou wert pleased to endow Saint Rita: so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery; 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 May 2019

Holy Martyrs of Mexico


“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”). This was the cry of the “Cristeros,” Catholics who took up arms in the 1920’s in Mexico against the anti-Catholic government led by an evil man named Plutarco Calles, who had instituted and enforced laws against the Church in an attempt to completely erase the Catholic faith in Mexico. Baptisms had been declared illegal; celebrating Mass was illegal; training men for the priesthood was illegal, and the list went on and on.

There were others who resisted peacefully, and today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Christopher Magallanes and 21 other priests as well as three lay companions, who were martyred between 1915 and 1937. They were executed by shooting or hanging, although they themselves had not taken up arms against the government. Their only crimes were that they were Catholic and they stood up for their faith. St. Christopher was a young man who was the pastor of the parish where he had been raised. When the seminaries were outlawed, he began a clandestine seminary. They had to do everything in secret, hiding from the government and moving from place to place. Young priests were trained, and bishops ordained them wherever they could find a hidden place to do it. As these priests were discovered, they would be arrested. They would be given either no trial, or a mock trial, and then they would be killed. Very often their bodies would be displayed as a warning to other Catholics. But before they died, they would cry out those words which gave hope and courage to those around them: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!,” (“Long live Christ the King!”).

The faith was not destroyed in Mexico. In fact, the Church continued to grow and continues on to this day. The lively faith among the Catholics in Mexico today was bought by the blood of these brave men, who would rather die than deny their faith in God.

This is a list of the Holy Martyrs of Mexico who were canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on 21 May 2000:

St. Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, St. Román Adame Rosales, St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, St. Julio Álvarez Mendoza, St. Luis Batis Sáinz, St. Agustín Caloca Cortés, St. Mateo Correa Magallanes, St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado, St. Miguel De La Mora De La Mora, St. Pedro Esqueda Ramírez, St. Margarito Flores García, St. José Isabel Flores Varela, St. David Galván Bermudes, St. Salvador Lara Puente, St. Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, St. Jesús Méndez Montoya, St. Manuel Morales, St. Justino Orona Madrigal, St. Sabas Reyes Salazar, St. José María Robles Hurtado, St. David Roldán Lara, St. Toribio Romo González, St. Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo, St. Tranquilino Ubiarco Robles, and St.David Uribe Velasco.

Almighty and eternal God, who madest Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions faithful to Christ the King even unto martyrdom: grant us, through their intercession; that, persevering in confession of the true faith, we may always hold fast to the commandments of thy 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.

19 May 2019

St. Bernardine of Siena

In the year 1400, there was a terrible plague going throughout what we now know as Italy. In the city of Siena, dozens of people were dying each day, and many of those who were dying were the very ones who were caring for the sick. It was a terrible situation – more and more people getting sick, but fewer and fewer people to care for them. It was then that a young man came to the door of the largest hospital in Siena. He had not come because he was sick, but because he wanted to help. And there were several young men whom he’d brought with him – again, not because they were sick, but like him, they were willing to tend the sick. For four months Bernardine and his companions worked day and night not only to comfort the patients but to organize and clean the hospital. Only at the end of the plague did Bernardine himself fall ill – not of the plague, but of exhaustion.

After he recovered, he returned to his aunt, who had raised him, and he nursed her in her final illness. After his aunt died, Bernardine started to think about where his life should be going. He was the son of a noble family, but he had been orphaned at seven and raised by the aunt whom he had cared for. As a young man, he hated indecent talk so much that he would blush when he heard it. Even his schoolmates hesitated to make him so uncomfortable. One day in the marketplace, a man thought it would be a great joke to tease Bernardine, and in a public place he started to talk to Bernardine in a shameful way. He was surprised when Bernardine slapped him in the face. The man slunk away, shamed in front of the very crowd he'd been trying to impress.

Bernardine, who had come to Siena to study, threw himself into prayer and fasting to discover what God wanted him to do. One might have expected him to continue his work with the sick but in 1403 he joined the Franciscans and in 1404 he was ordained a priest.

The Franciscans were known as missionary preachers, but Bernardine did very little preaching with because he had a very weak and raspy voice. For twelve years he remained in the background, spending his time in prayer. At the end of that time, he went to Milan on a mission. He was told by his superior to preach, but he didn’t want to, because his voice was so weak. But when he got up to preach his voice was strong and commanding, and his words were so convincing that the crowd would not let him leave unless he promised to come back.

Thus began the missionary life of this friar, who came to be called a “second St. Paul.” He crisscrossed Italy on foot, preaching for hours at a time, several times a day. We are told he preached on punishment for sin as well as reward for virtue but focusing in the end on the mercy of Jesus and the love of Mary. His special devotion was to the Holy Name of Jesus. In fact, even when it was clear he was dying, he preached on fifty consecutive days. He died in 1444 when he was almost 64 years old.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst endue St. Bernardine of Siena, thy holy Confessor, with preeminent love of thy most holy Name: we beseech thee, that, by the virtue of his merits and intercession: thou wouldest graciously pour into our hearts the spirit of love towards thee; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 May 2019

St. John I, Pope and Martyr


Pope John I became pope in 523, and inherited the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. The Western Empire had been ruled for 30 years by the Emperor Theodoric, who had embraced the heresy himself, even though he treated the empire’s Catholics with toleration. His policy changed at about the time John was elected pope. Theodoric didn’t like the fact that there was peace between east and west, because he thought it would be a threat to his reign – he really wanted to rule over everything.

When the eastern emperor, Justin, began imposing severe measures on the Arians of his area, the western emperor forced Pope John to head a delegation to the East to soften the measures against the Arians. At first John refused, but then fearing that the king's anger would be taken out on Western Catholics, he agreed to do Theodoric's bidding on every count save one. He boldly told the king that he would not ask the emperor to allow converts to return to heresy.

The pope arrived in Constantinople shortly before Easter in 526, and since he was the first pope to leave Italy, his reception was more than he could have dreamed. He had been met by the entire city at the twelfth milestone, where the clergy led the procession carrying candles and crosses, and even the emperor prostrated himself before the Holy Father. On the day of Easter, Pope John was seated in a throne higher than the one occupied by the patriarch, in the church of Sancta Sophia, where he celebrated Mass in the Latin tradition. John was accorded the highest honor when he placed the customary Easter crown on the head of Emperor Justin.

After meeting with Justin on Theodoric's behalf, the pope made the exhausting trip back to Ravenna. The king's fury raged. Jealous of the pope's grand reception in the East, Theodoric accused the pope of failing his mission by not securing all of the demands put to Justin. The king then ordered John to remain in Ravenna at his disposal.

John was imprisoned when he reached Ravenna because the emperor suspected a conspiracy against his throne. Shortly after his imprisonment, John died, and because of the cruel treatment he had received, he is counted as a martyr for the faith.

O Everlasting Shepherd, mercifully look upon thy flock: and through blessed John, thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church, keep her with thy perpetual protection; 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 May 2019

St. Isidore the Farmer

This 19th century oil painting of St. Isidore the Farmer
is located in Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

St. Isidore the Farmer, born into a poor but devotedly Catholic family, wouldn’t have appeared to be destined for much in life. His parents had high hopes for him, so it would seem. They named him after the great bishop of Seville, St. Isidore, but that was about all they could give him. As soon as he was old enough to labor in the fields, he was sent off to work. And there he stayed. The boy became a young man who fell in love with an equally devout young woman, Maria. They married, they had a child. They knew immense sorrow when their child died, but they never wavered in their faith.

Isidore attended Mass daily, always before he went to the fields to work. His devotion sometimes caused him to arrive late for his duties, but he always accomplished as much or more than the other workers. Out of jealousy, the others reported his daily lateness to the employer, who decided to keep an eye on Isidore. It became evident that Isidore was toiling faithfully and steadily, and as a sign from God of the goodness and honesty of Isidore, the employer saw the image of an angel working beside him.

I love this saint. As little as he had, he was always generous towards others, always willing to share his meager meal with anyone who had less. His love for God formed the foundation of his work. The manual labor which occupied all his years was dignified by his devotion.

All the saints are interesting, although some of them probably would have been difficult to have been around. But this one… this is a saint I would have liked to have known. Maybe it’s because I grew up working on the family farm, and I know the satisfaction that comes from honest labor on the soil. Maybe it’s my own childhood memories of having a team of oxen as St. Isidore did. Maybe it’s my recollection of feeling an especially close bond to the Divine when working the land. But whatever the cause, I love this saint.

O Almighty God, to whom dost belong all creation, and who dost call us to serve thee by caring for the gifts that surround us: inspire us, by the example of Saint Isidore, to share our food with the hungry, and to work for the salvation of all people; 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.

13 May 2019

St. Matthias, Apostle


St. Matthias had been a follower of Jesus and was probably one of the seventy-two disciples. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the nascent Church was gathered in prayer and St. Peter said that it was right to choose an apostle to replace Judas. He said it should be someone who had been with Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan until the ascension. Two names were proposed: one was Matthias, and the other was Joseph, called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus). Both of them were good men, but since the Church needed only one, they prayed and asked God to reveal the right choice. This is where the “casting of lots” came in. Sometimes people have the mistaken notion that this was akin to gambling, or some kind of game of chance, and there are those who think perhaps it wasn’t the most appropriate means of determining God’s Will in the matter.

Actually, casting lots was a fairly common way of making a decision. When we look back through Scripture, we come across it pretty often. It was the method used to choose the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8); it was used to determine the priests’ duties in the temple (I Chronicles 24:5); during the terrible storm at sea, poor Jonah was determined to be the guilty one by the casting of lots (Jonah 1:7). For us, it has the unsavoury connection with the crucifixion, since it was by casting lots that the soldiers divided our Lord’s clothing (St. Matthew 27:35). In the case of choosing a replacement for Judas, it was settled in this way because of the very fact that both candidates were equally good. Casting lots was done in different ways, but a common way of doing it was to put the necessary number of polished stones of different colour in a container, and to shake it until one stone fell out, determining the choice. Whatever we might think of the method, it certainly worked. St. Matthias proved to be such a good apostle that after spreading the Gospel in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Egypt and Ethiopia, he was so successful he ended up being martyred for his efforts.

There are plenty of things we can get out of the account of the choosing of Matthias, but I like the thought that the dignity of apostleship seemed to hang by the thread of chance – and yet it wasn’t really chance, was it? God had His plan all worked out, and Peter (along with the others) knew that. They could have pushed their own human will and agenda into the situation: (“Hey, that Joseph Barsabbas is a really nice guy. Let’s choose him!”). In fact, the very fact that Christ’s original choice for that particular seat in the College of Apostles didn’t work out – at least by human standards – shows that God is very much in control of every detail. I mean, would we have planned things that way? The betrayal by Judas which led to the sacrifice which has atoned for man’s sin wouldn’t have been at the top of my list for a good plan. Finding an apostolic replacement by shaking some stones in a container isn’t something I would have thought of.

It seems like we’re rarely prepared for the twists and turns which define God’s plan, and yet that’s the way He works. Why are we surprised when things don’t follow the meticulous plan we’ve worked out in our own minds? After all, even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself prayed in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not My Will, but Thine be done.” And isn’t it our universal experience that, in the end, God’s plan is always best? Quite so.

O Almighty God, who into the place of Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Saint Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: Grant that thy Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

12 May 2019

Our Lady of Fatima


The famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the children of Fatima took place during the summer of 1917, during the time of the First World War. The little Portuguese village where this took place was made up mostly of poor people, many of them farmers, and the children of the village traditionally were given the job of taking the sheep out to graze on the hillsides.

The three children who received the apparitions were Lucia, who was ten years old, and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. Together they tended the sheep and, with Lucia in charge, they would often pass the day by praying the Rosary. It was in the summer of 1916 that an Angel appeared to them several times and taught them a prayer to the Blessed Trinity.

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, toward noon, a flash of lightning caught the attention of the children, and they saw a bright, radiant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. They saw this figure only as “a Lady,” and the "Lady" asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and for an end to the war. Also, they were told to come back every month, on the 13th.

Further apparitions took place on June 13 and July 13. This began to get the attention of large crowds of people, and the local government authorities did not like the idea of people gathering together like this, fearing that the people might just turn into a mob. So on August 13, when the children tried to go to the Cova da Iria, they were stopped by local authorities from going. Even though they were stopped on the 13th, they saw the apparition on the 19th. On September 13 the Lady requested that the Rosary be prayed for the intention of an end to the war. Finally, on October 13, the "Lady" identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary," and again she asked for prayer and penitence.

On that day, something strange also took place: the sun seemed to tumble from the sky and crash toward earth. The children had been forewarned of it as early as May 13, the first apparition. The large crowd, which was estimated to be at 30,000 by reporters who were there, saw this phenomenon and came away astounded.

Official recognition of these visions which the children had at the Cova da Iria came on October 13, 1930, when the local bishop - after long inquiry - authorized devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary at the site. The two younger children had died: Francisco in 1919, and his sister Jacinta in 1920. Sister Lucia died in 2005.

Even though people seem more interested in the apparitions themselves, and the miracle of the sun, the important thing is the message brought by the Blessed Virgin Mary – namely, that we should pray, that we should repent of our sins, and that we should dedicate ourselves to being like Mary herself – obedient, and willing to do whatever God tells us.

On this day in 1981 an attempt was made on the life of Pope St. John Paul II, when he was shot while moving through the crowds at the Wednesday audience. He credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life. "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path," he said. He made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Fatima on this date in 2000, and presented one of the bullets which hit him. It is now incorporated into the crown of Our Lady.

O God, who didst choose the Mother of thy Son to be our Mother also: grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Entrustment of Priests to Our Lady


It was on 12th May 2010 that Pope Benedict XVI went to Fatima and prayed before the image of Our Lady, entrusting all priests to her maternal protection and guidance.  This is the prayer he offered:

Immaculate Mother, in this place of grace, called together by the love of your Son Jesus the Eternal High Priest, we, sons in the Son and his priests, consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart, in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus, we can do nothing good and that only through him, with him and in him, will we be instruments of salvation for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit, obtain for us the inestimable gift of transformation in Christ. Through the same power of the Spirit that overshadowed you, making you the Mother of the Saviour, help us to bring Christ your Son to birth in ourselves too. May the Church be thus renewed by priests who are holy, priests transfigured by the grace of him who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy, it was your Son Jesus who called us to become like him: light of the world and salt of the earth.

Help us, through your powerful intercession, never to fall short of this sublime vocation, nor to give way to our selfishness, to the allurements of the world and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity, guard us with your humility and enfold us with your maternal love that is reflected in so many souls consecrated to you, who have become for us true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church, we priests want to be pastors who do not feed themselves but rather give themselves to God for their brethren, finding their happiness in this. Not only with words, but with our lives, we want to repeat humbly, day after day, Our “here I am.” Guided by you, we want to be Apostles of Divine Mercy, glad to celebrate every day the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar and to offer to those who request it the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace, you who are fully immersed in the one universal mediation of Christ, invoke upon us, from God, a heart completely renewed that loves God with all its strength and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord your efficacious word: “They have no wine," so that the Father and the Son will send upon us a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Full of wonder and gratitude at your continuing presence in our midst, in the name of all priests I too want to cry out: “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Our Mother for all time, do not tire of “visiting us”, consoling us, sustaining us. Come to our aid and deliver us from every danger that threatens us. With this act of entrustment and consecration, we wish to welcome you more deeply, more radically, for ever and totally into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth in the desert of our loneliness, let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness, let it restore calm after the tempest, so that all mankind shall see the salvation of the Lord, who has the name and the face of Jesus, who is reflected in our hearts, for ever united to yours! Amen!

Good Shepherd, Good Sheep

"The Good Shepherd" by Philippe de Champaigne

We know our Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He is the one who lays down His life for the sheep. We know also that the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church are called to bear the image of our Good Shepherd by giving themselves completely over to the service of God and His flock.

But the members of the laity need to remember something related to that. Each one has his own responsibility to be the Good Shepherd’s “good sheep.” Just as the Shepherd leads, so the sheep must follow. And by following the Shepherd faithfully, the sheep will reach pastures of heavenly joy. Good Shepherd Sunday should also be “Good Sheep Sunday,” a reminder that we must daily recommit ourselves to follow Christ, wherever He leads.


Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion; that they may forsake those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; 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.

10 May 2019

Mary's month...


The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We set the month apart by presenting flowers and crowning her. We also sing special hymns and anthems which honour her throughout the month. The practice of dedicating the month of May to our Lady was popularized especially by Pope Leo XIII in the latter part of the 19th century, but the idea goes back to ancient times.

In classic western culture (both Greek and Roman), May was recognized as the season of the beginning of new life. In the Greek world, May was dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and although that cult was riddled through and through with immoral practices, it did establish a relationship for the month of May with fertility and motherhood. Roman culture linked the month of May to Flora, the goddess of bloom and blossoms, and this led to the custom of "ludi florales" (or floral games) which took place at the very end of April as a preparation for entering into the month of May.

It seems that this ancient tradition of connecting May with new life and fertility, led to a realization that May is very much the month of motherhood and likely is one of the reasons why Mother’s Day is celebrated during May not only in the United States but in many countries and cultures of both the East and the West. In the month of May, the winter comes to an end and the spring season begins. In fact the month of May was the official beginning of spring in Roman culture.

The connection between motherhood and May led the Church eventually to adopt May as Mary’s Month. May is the Month of our Lady precisely because she is the Mother of God and our mother, too.

St. Damien of Molokai


In the year 1840, Joseph De Veuster was born in Belgium, to a large family of farmers and merchants.  This was the future Father Damien.  When his oldest brother entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, his father planned that Joseph should take charge of the family business. Joseph, however, decided to become a religious.  When he was nineteen he entered the novitiate in the same house as his brother. It was there that he took the name of Damien.

In 1863, Damien’s brother was supposed to leave for the mission in the Hawaiian Islands, but he became seriously ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother's place. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19th, 1864, where he was ordained to the priesthood the following May 21st. He immediately devoted himself as a travelling missionary on the island of Hawaii.

At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on a very harsh measure which they thought would stop the spread of the dreaded disease of leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. It was decided that anyone who contracted this disease would be taken to the neighboring island of Molokai, where they would have to stay for the rest of their lives. The Catholic Church was deeply concerned about these abandoned lepers and the Bishop spoke to the priests about the problem. He didn’t want to send anyone "in the name of obedience," because he knew that whoever went would probably contract the disease. Four of the priests volunteered, and they would take turns visiting and ministering to the lepers. Fr. Damien was the first to leave, and at his own request and that of the lepers, he remained permanently on Molokai.

He brought hope to this place of despair. He became a source of consolation and encouragement for the lepers.  He became their pastor, the doctor of their souls and of their bodies, without any distinction of race or religion. He gave a voice to the voiceless, he built a community where the joy of being together and openness to the love of God gave people new reasons for living.  He saw the beauty and dignity of each person, no matter how deformed and grotesque their outward appearance.

After Father Damien contracted the disease in 1885, he was able to identify completely with them.  He spoke of "we lepers…" Father Damien was, above all, a witness of the love of God for His people. He got his strength from the Eucharist: "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation..." He said that he was "the happiest missionary in the world.”

Fr. Damian served for sixteen years among the lepers, and died on April 15th 1889.

O Father of mercy, who gavest us in Saint Damien a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned: grant that, by his intercession; as faithful witnesses of the heart of thy Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected; 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 May 2019

The English Martyrs


The English Martyrs include 284 men and women who gave their lives during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were martyred simply because they remained steadfast in their Catholic faith. What had happened?

King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects not only in civil matters, but also in spiritual things. He took to himself a spiritual power that can belong only to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter. The Catholics at that time wanted to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but their consciences could not allow them to grant the power of spiritual supremacy. It is as though, in the United States, the president and Congress took upon themselves the power to determine what we as Catholics believe, and how we worship. We could not allow Congress to pass laws that changed the Church’s teaching about the Mass, or what we believe about God. But this was what had happened in England and Wales. This was what led many people to face death courageously rather than act against their consciences and deny their Catholic faith.

This firm attitude in defense of their freedom of conscience and of their faith in the truth of the Holy Catholic Church is identical in all these Martyrs, although they were a diverse group of people – priests, religious, laymen, housewives and mothers, some highly educated, some very simple laborers. But they all shared the same faith, and the same determination to keep that faith – and for that, they were put to death. And this persecution was not only under Henry VIII, but it continued under Elizabeth I and her successors, all the way into the Commonwealth under Cromwell.

The torments they endured were horrible. Most of them were killed in extremely violent ways – the priests, for instance, were hanged, drawn and quartered. Others were tortured for long periods of time before their deaths. But every one of them remained steadfast in their Catholic faith, and they died praying for their executioners, and even praying for the monarch who had ordered their deaths.

O Merciful God, who, when thy Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, didst raise up men and women in England who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: give unto thy Church that peace which is thy will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven and be partakers together in the vision of thy 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.