30 January 2019

St. John Bosco


St. John Bosco was born near Turin, Italy, in 1815. His father died when John was only two years old, but his mother made sure he received a good education. His early years were financially difficult but at the age of twenty he entered the major seminary, thanks to the financial help received from a benefactor. John Bosco was ordained a priest on June 5, 1846.

At this time the city of Turin was on the threshold of the industrial revolution and as a result there were many challenges and problems, especially for the young men who came there to work. Many of them had little or no education, and since they worked long hours, there were few opportunities to get an education. Gifted as he was as an educator and a leader, Don Bosco formulated a system of education based on "reason, religion and kindness." In spite of the criticism and violent attacks of the anti-clericals, he conducted workshops for the tradesmen and manual laborers, schools of arts and sciences for young workers, and schools of the liberal arts for those preparing for the priesthood. In 1868 there were 800 students involved in this educational system. To ensure the continuation of his work, Don Bosco founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians), which was approved in 1869. Also, with the help of Sister Mary Dominic Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix.

He also found time to write popular catechetical pamphlets, which were distributed throughout Italy, as was his Salesian Bulletin. This great apostle of youth died on January 31, 1888, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. Pope John Paul II named him "father and teacher to the young."

O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; 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 January 2019

St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor


One of the greatest Catholic teachers in the history of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas is honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.

His parents had plans for him. In the year 1230, when he was only five years old, they took him to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, and it was their hope that he would choose to become a Benedictine there, and eventually become abbot. In 1239 he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to philosophy of Aristotle, and he saw how that philosophy could be used in the service of Catholic theology.

Thomas abandoned his family's plans for him and he joined the Dominicans, much to his mother's dismay. In fact, she ordered one of her other sons to capture Thomas away from the Dominicans, and he was kept at home for over a year. Of course, that couldn’t last forever, and once he was free, he went to Paris and then to Cologne, where he finished his studies with St. Albert the Great. He eventually became a professor at the University of Paris, and was known throughout the Church as one of the great scholars of all time.

But along with his fame as a scholar, he remained modest, a perfect model of childlike simplicity and goodness. He was known for his mildness in speaking and for his great kindness. Whatever clothing or other items he could give away, he gladly did. He kept nothing superfluous in his efforts to alleviate the needs of others.

His great Summa – which was his last and, unfortunately, uncompleted work, is a compendium of the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped work on it after celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, "I cannot go on.... All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me." He died just a few months later.

Everlasting God, who didst enrich thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Saint Thomas Aquinas: grant to all who seek thee a humble mind and a pure heart; that they may know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

25 January 2019

St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops

St. Paul had many colleagues and helpers who took part in his missionary journeys, and into whose charge he often entrusted some of the young churches.

On January 26th we commemorate two such men, Timothy and Titus. We know about them because St. Paul referred to them in his writings, and he also wrote letters to them through which we begin to see how the Church developed and few during those first years.

Timothy was the son of a pagan father and a Jewish mother. He was from Lystra in the Roman province of Asia. He was probably baptized as a young boy, and when he grew up, he went with Paul and Silas on their journeys. Over the next 13 years he travelled throughout the Greek world with Paul – Corinth, Thessalonica, and even Rome – ending up in Ephesus, where he was made bishop. From what St. Paul writes to St. Timothy, he seems to have had an affectionate nature, he was frail in health, and a bit young for his important office. In fact, St. Paul wrote to him saying, “Let no one disregard you because of your youth,” and St. Paul warned him remain faithful to the gospel, because there were various Gnostic heresies infiltrating the Church at that time.

Titus was born probably in Antioch, which at that time was an extremely important city in the Roman Empire, and it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. Titus was born into a pagan family, and he received baptism from the apostles. For several years he served as an interpreter and secretary to St. Paul, and he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem when the apostles met to decide on the very important question of whether the Gentile converts had to follow Jewish law or not. Later Titus was sent by Paul to the island of Crete to take charge of the church there. Titus received careful instructions on the selection of elders for the churches in that country, and was associated with the community there until his death as a very old man in the year 96.

The lives of these two bishops give us an important look at life in the Church in New Testament times. We see that the Gospel has been preached and accepted; small churches have been formed. We see also that there were some troubles and difficult times – there were persecutions by the government; there were those who were trying to change the gospel as it had been revealed by Christ; there were quarrels among some of the Christians themselves. The lives of Timothy and Titus remind us of how the apostles slowly laboured at building up the Church, and we see how the succession of the bishops who came after the apostles continued on through the years, down to our very day.

Heavenly Father, who didst send thine Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel, and gavest him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in the Faith: grant that, through their prayers, our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the Name of Jesus; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 January 2019

Conversion of St. Paul


St. Paul was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, and was born in Tarsus, the capitol of Cilicia. Although he was a Roman citizen, he was brought up as a strict Jew, studied to be a rabbi, and later became a violent persecutor of the Christians.

While on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians there, he was converted by a miraculous apparition of Our Lord. Was it a sudden conversion? It seemed so, and in a sense it was; however, it other ways it was the culmination of his many experiences with Christians, beginning with the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Paul was a young man, given the job of holding the cloaks of those who carried out the sentence of death on St. Stephen. In fact, even when Paul was arresting Christians, he could not help but be impressed by their deep faith, their innocency of life, and their willingness to die for Christ.

Eventually he became the great Apostle of the Gentiles, making three missionary journeys which brought him to the great centers of Asia Minor and southern Europe, making many converts as he travelled. He was beheaded in Rome in 66, and his relics are kept in the Basilica of St. Paul near the Ostian Way.

O God, who, by the preaching of thine apostle St. Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught; 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.

Fr. Paul and St. Barnabas Parish, Omaha

"Father Paul of Graymoor"
Painted by Tony Pro

Many people are not aware of the connection between a priest now in the process of canonization and one of our Ordinariate parishes, St. Barnabas, in Omaha, Nebraska.

There is an excellent article about the Rev. Lewis Wattson, (later known as Fr. Paul of Graymoor, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement) and his many excellent works, at this website. The whole article is well-worth reading, but here is an excerpt describing Fr. Paul’s early years, leading up to his move to Omaha.

Father Wattson was comfortably settled in at the parish of St. John’s [Episcopal Church] in Kingston, New York. He was beloved by his parishioners for his obvious holiness, speaking ability, leadership and for his personal refinement, charm and kindness. He was a natural sermonizer, rarely preparing his talks ahead of time; he spoke from the abundance of his heart and with trust in the Holy Spirit to inspire him.

A momentous step for him during his time at St. John’s was the beginning of his publishing apostolate. Although he began the publication of The Pulpit of the Cross as a parish bulletin, he began to broaden its scope almost immediately to include articles on doctrinal points of the Faith. It was at once controversial, and we can understand why when we read some of the titles of the articles therein: “The Doctrine of the Real Presence,” “Extreme Unction,” “The Forgiveness of Sins,” “The Sacrifice of the Mass,” “Confirmation.” Rev. Wattson deplored the divisions of Christianity and hammered home the belief that Our Lord founded One Church. He firmly believed that the many splintered sects that Christianity had become were scandalous to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. He considered the many divisions of Protestantism to be due to heretical innovations. When asked in 1895 what he believed the One, True Church of Jesus Christ to be, he answered, “I understand it to be that mighty Christian organism, which has come down to us from Jesus and His Apostles under the name of the Holy Catholic Church and which exists today in three great historic communions: the Roman, the Greek, and the Anglican Communion, the last of which comprises all the English-speaking Catholics throughout the world who are members of the Anglo-Catholic Church.”

At first, as a good Anglican, he did not accept papal supremacy or infallibility as the Roman Catholic Church taught it. He believed it to be the only major error of the Roman Church. In retrospect, we can see that Father Wattson was following the pattern of John Henry Newman fifty years earlier, for three years after the above statement, he did what appeared to be an about-face, and, through divine grace, realized the truth of the pope’s full authority and unique charisms to teach, govern, and sanctify the Church.

Now, as long as he served St. John’s in Kingston, he was a beloved pastor. Something kept gnawing at him, however. He had not yet founded “a preaching order like the Paulists” for his church. It was at some point during his tenure at St. John’s that Father Wattson, after reading a book about the life of “Il Poverello,” fell under the influence of St. Francis of Assisi, his dedication to total poverty, and his complete resignation to the Will of God. As we can see, he was moving closer and closer to a Catholic spirituality. Here at last was the moment he was waiting for — he would found an order patterned after the Franciscans, dedicated to total poverty, chastity and obedience to the superior. He dreamed of beginning his little group at a small mission church on the outskirts of Kingston that he had built to accommodate the growth in numbers of his parishioners.

Now he was faced with giving his order a name. After much prayer before the altar of his church, he determined, like St. Francis, to base the name and rule on how Providence would direct him by opening the Bible randomly three times and choosing the verses from those pages. The randomly chosen verses were St. John 7: 37-39 (receive the Holy Ghost), Romans 5: 11 (Atonement through Jesus Christ), and Corinthians I, 11 (the institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass). (All references are to the King James Version of the Bible.) His eyes zeroed in on the word “Atonement” — the name he gave his order. It would be accomplished through the promise of the Holy Spirit and perpetuated through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He then read the word “atonement” in another way — “at-one-ment.” He would hereafter work for the union of all Christians in one body, as Our Lord intended when he founded His Church. Then he heard a voice tell him, “You will have to wait seven years for this to be realized.” Although surprised and disappointed, he took this as a sign that God wanted him to remain in his pastoral duties at St. John’s for the time being.

As believers, we know that all things work in God’s good time. So it was with Father Wattson. He went along with his parish duties as always. Two years later, he returned home from a round of visiting parishioners to find waiting for him a young minister who introduced himself as the Rev. Mr. Johnson, member of a group of unmarried Episcopal clergymen who were living a semi-monastic life in Omaha, Nebraska [centered at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church]. Rev. Johnson offered Father Wattson the position of superior of this group of dedicated men who called themselves the Associate Mission. Such a life appealed to him because of his unmarried state and his strong ascetical leanings. He began to believe that the Associate Mission was part of God’s plan for his eventual success as a preaching friar of the Episcopal Church and decided to accept the offer.

Needless to say, his congregation at St. John’s was devastated to lose their beloved pastor, although most seemed to understand that he had a special kind of spirituality and was destined for greater things.

Father Wattson arrived at his destination in September of 1895 on the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. His elderly mother accompanied him and occupied a private apartment at the monastery, passing into eternity two years later. He was a faithful and beloved son, and much admired for his loving treatment of her.

Life at the Mission was very much to Father Wattson’s liking. They prayed, worked, studied the Scriptures in their original languages, and attended the spiritual needs of the people of their individual missionary districts. The field of action of the Associate Mission was greatly expanded under Father Wattson, as he added more and more territory to each member. He began to impose a more monastic kind of life, incorporating silence at meals, spiritual readings, and a more rigid schedule. Some of the men were not happy with this new development, and in later years, after he had entered the Catholic Church, Father Wattson — who had become Father Paul — told his friars amusing stories of making monks out of men who did not want to become monks.

Knowing the power of the printed word, Father Wattson revived his old parish bulletin The Pulpit of the Cross from his Kingston days. He installed a hand operated printing press and hired a skilled printer to operate it. His object was to spread the word of God far and wide for the salvation of men.

Shortly after his arrival in Omaha, Father Wattson began a serious study of the Roman Catholic Church, her teachings and claims. This was something that he could never bring himself to attempt in the past. Over the years, many had speculated in print and in the spoken word that one day, Father Wattson would indeed “go to Rome,” as the bishop had in anger told his father so long ago. A seemingly innocent occurrence — missing his regular train back home after a long day’s missionary work — brought him to visit a Catholic Church near the train station to “pass some time.” As he entered the dimly lit church, the sanctuary light drew him to the altar and the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior. There he knelt for a long time and poured out his soul to Jesus in the tabernacle, asking for guidance to see the truth and the courage to accept it, even if that truth would force him to admit that what he had accepted all his life was not the truth. When he arose from his prayer, he felt refreshed and filled with determination to follow that truth, regardless of consequences.

Returning home, he began a serious inquiry into the Catholic Church, reading everything he could get his hands on, both pro and con. He came to the educated conclusion that the claims of Rome were, after all, true, and communion with the See of Peter was the only way by which men could share in Christian Unity. Peace and joy engulfed him and spontaneously he began to recite the Te Deum. Perhaps he would not have been so joyful had he realized then that for the next twelve years he would be the most controversial figure in the Episcopal Church. It was this conclusion that told him that his work in Omaha was finished. He would return to the East, adopt Franciscan spirituality seriously, and with his newfound companion in the love of Lady Poverty, Sister Lurana White, begin the true work of the Atonement. Accordingly, he resigned his position with the Associate Mission and set out for New York three years to the day after he had arrived in Nebraska.

Further information about the cause for the canonization of Fr. Paul of Graymoor can be found at this link.

The original St. Barnabas Church in Omaha (this building no longer exists)
and the Clergy House attached.

The altar in the original St. Barnabas Church.

The altar cross, which is still used in the present
St. Barnabas Church (built in 1915).


St. Barnabas Catholic Church today,
a parish of the Ordinariate.

23 January 2019

St. Francis de Sales, Gentleman Saint


St. Francis de Sales was known as the “gentleman saint” because of his gracious and gentle nature. In fact, it was he who said, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” But it wasn't always so with him. By his own admission, he had a very quick temper, and although it took him more than twenty years to master it, no one suspected he had such a problem because he worked so hard to suppress it. With the “let it all hang out” attitude which is so prevalent today, probably psychologists and counselors wouldn't think that was such a good idea – but by exercising self-control under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, St. Francis was able to achieve great sanctity.

O God, who for the salvation of souls didst cause thy blessed Confessor Saint Francis de Sales to become all things to all men: pour into our hearts, we pray thee, the sweetness of thy charity; that by the direction of his counsels and the succor of his merits we may attain to the joys of life everlasting; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 January 2019

St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr


From The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:
St. Vincent of Saragossa was one of the Church's three most illustrious deacons, the other two being Stephen and Lawrence. He is also Spain's most renowned martyr. Ordained deacon by Bishop Valerius of Saragossa, he was taken in chains to Valencia during the Diocletian persecution and put to death. From legend we have the following details of his martyrdom. After brutal scourging in the presence of many witnesses, he was stretched on the rack; but neither torture nor blandishments nor threats could undermine the strength and courage of his faith. Next, he was cast on a heated grating, lacerated with iron hooks, and seared with hot metal plates. Then he was returned to prison, where the floor was heavily strewn with pieces of broken glass. A heavenly brightness flooded the entire dungeon, filling all who saw it with greatest awe.

After this he was placed on a soft bed in the hope that lenient treatment would induce apostasy, since torture had proven ineffective. But strengthened by faith in Christ Jesus and the hope of everlasting life, Vincent maintained an invincible spirit and overcame all efforts, whether by fire, sword, rack, or torture to induce defection. He persevered to the end and gained the heavenly crown of martyrdom.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy Deacon and Martyr Vincent triumphed over suffering and despised death: grant, we beseech thee, by his intercession; that enduring hardness, and waxing valiant in fight, we may with the noble army of Martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

08 January 2019

Let's study the Scriptures!


We're continuing our Wednesday evening Scripture study, meeting at 6:45 p.m. in the St. John Paul II Library at Our Lady of the Atonement Church. We have just finished our study of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and we are about to begin an in-depth study of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

04 January 2019

St. John Neumann


This American saint was born in Bohemia, which today is within the Czech Republic, in 1811. He completed his seminary formation, and was looking forward to being ordained in 1835, when his bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia had more priests than they needed. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere: no one wanted any more priests. He was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.

But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers, so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. So John left his homeland, and sailed to America, knowing he would probably never return to his home again.

In New York, Fr John Neumann was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. His parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. He spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying with different families, or in taverns and inns along the way, finding places to teach the Faith, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, the young priest felt the need to be part of a community, and so he joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.

Fr John Neumann was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. Sharing same vision as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John Neumann was a founder of Catholic education in this country, and he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100.

He had a great ability to learn languages, and he was able to learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch, so that he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, "Isn't it grand that we have an Irish bishop!"

He spent all his energy on being a great bishop to his people, and he lived very simply. He was only forty-eight years old when he died. He is buried in Philadelphia, in St. Peter’s Church, where pilgrims venerate his tomb and ask for his prayers.

O God, who didst call the Bishop Saint John Neumann, renowned for his charity and pastoral service, to shepherd thy people in America: grant, by his intercession; that, as we foster the Christian education of youth and are strengthened by the witness of brotherly love, we may constantly increase the family of thy 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.

01 January 2019

St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen


St. Basil was educated in Caesarea, Constantinople, and Athens in the fourth century. He enjoyed stimulating university life. There he met St. Gregory Nazianzen, a quiet, scholarly man. The two became close friends.

Basil traveled through the East and studied monastic life. As a result, he formed his own monastic group. Gregory joined him. From their discussions, Basil composed a rule of life for monks. He allowed monks and nuns to operate hospitals and guesthouses and work outside the community. His principles still influence Eastern monasticism.

The two friends lived the monastic life for only about five years. Then Gregory had to return home to care for his father, who was a bishop. When Gregory got home, he was ordained a priest, although he did not think himself worthy. He watched over his father’s diocese.

In 374, Basil was made bishop of Caesarea. The Church called on him to refute the Arian heresy, which claimed that Jesus was not God. Emperor Valens promoted the heresy. Basil believed the Church must remain independent of the emperor and boldly defended the Church. He preached morning and evening to large crowds. When a famine struck, he gave his money to people who were poor. He organized a place to feed the hungry and served the people himself. Basil even built a town, which included a church, a hospital, and a guesthouse.

Basil continued to write for the Church and to clarify the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. When one town was falling away from the faith, Basil ordained Gregory to be a bishop and sent him there. Gregory went unhappily because he disliked conflict. The two friends were later reconciled.

For 30 years, Constantinople had been under the leadership of supporters of the Arian movement. The bishops of the surrounding areas begged Gregory to come and restore the faith, and again he went, dreading the task. Gregory made his house a church and preached on the Trinity. The people called him “the theologian.”

Both St. Basil and St. Gregory were misunderstood, but in spite of this, they rebuilt the faith. Basil died at age 49. Gregory resigned from Constantinople because of opposition and spent his last years reading, writing his autobiography, and enjoying his gardens.

Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to know the power of thine unending love; 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.