30 June 2019

St. Junipero Serra

Statue of St. Junipero Serra,
located in the National Statuary Hall,
Washington, D.C.

As America was being formed through its revolution in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in the west. Missions were being established under the direction of a grey-robed Franciscan, known to us as St. Junipero Serra. He was born in 1713 in Spain on the island of Majorca. Well into his adult life, until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom, first as a student of theology and then as a teacher. At the same time he was becoming famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed a vocation God had given him; namely, to preach the Gospel to the native people of the New World.

In 1750 he arrived by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico. He and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City, but on the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite. This would remain a difficult and often life-threatening illness for the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He then went to the area of present-day Monterey, California. The first mission was founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north in 1769. Other missions followed, making a total of nine missions being founded under the direction of St. Junipero, and twelve more were founded after his death.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic and prideful military commanders, and even with danger of death from the native people he had come to serve. During his ministry he baptized more than six thousand people and confirmed some five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought to the people of the New World not only the gift of faith but also the highest standard of living they had ever known. He was deeply loved by the people he served, which they showed by their outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

He was beatified in 1987 and canonized on 23 September 2015.

O God, who by thine ineffable mercy hast been pleased through the labours of thy Priest Saint Junipero Serra to count many American peoples within thy Church: grant by his intercession; that we may so join our hearts to thee in love, as to carry always and everywhere before all people the image 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.

28 June 2019

Ss. Peter and Paul, Apostles

Ss. Peter and Paul by Bartolomeo Vivarini


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City State



Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome

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

27 June 2019

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: Grant that the devout homage of our hearts, which we render unto Him; may by thy mercy be deemed a recompense, acceptable in thy sight; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

+  +  +

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

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

St. Cyril of Alexandria


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

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

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

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

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

23 June 2019

Nativity of St. John the Baptist


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

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

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

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

22 June 2019

A reminder of our roots...

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

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

The annual celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, with the procession from the high altar to the outdoor shrine for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, serves also as a reminder of our roots because this shrine marks an important place on our church grounds. It's the site of “the finding of the crucifix,” and also the place where the first Mass was celebrated on the property. Here's the story.

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

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

I knew this was the spot. I had visited it before making the request. I had to crawl through the underbrush, literally on my belly, to make any kind of exploration. I had a small medal of Our Lady of the Atonement with me, and I buried it in the earth as I was making my slow process through the woods and brush, claiming it for our Lady and her parish. Shortly after burying the medal, I came into a small clearing, allowing me to stand up. With the thick undergrowth surrounding me, I saw in the middle of the clearing a wooden cross stuck into the ground, and fastened to the rough cross was a small crucifix. I took it as a sign. This was the place. This was where our Lord and His Blessed Mother wanted us to be. But I need to tell you why such a sign was necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

21 June 2019

Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More


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

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

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

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

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

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

20 June 2019

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, the giver of all spiritual gifts, who in the angelic youth of thy blessed Saint Aloysius didst unite a wondrous penitence to a wondrous innocence of life: grant, by his merits and intercession; that although we have not followed the pattern of his innocence, yet we may imitate the example of his penitence; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 June 2019

St. Alban, Protomartyr of England


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

St. Alban depicted in the Triptych at our High Altar



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




O Eternal Father, who, when the Gospel of Christ first came to England, didst gloriously confirm the faith of Alban by making him the first to win the martyr’s crown: grant that, assisted by his prayers and following his example in the fellowship of the Saints, we may worship thee, the living God, and faithfully witness to Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 June 2019

St. Romuald

Saint Romuald, who founded the Camaldolese monastic order during the early eleventh century, did not always appear to be called to the religious life. He was born into an aristocratic family and grew up in luxury. His life had little in the way of self-restraint or religious devotion.

It was a shocking tragedy that changed the course of his life.. When Romuald was twenty years old, he saw his father Sergius kill one of his relatives in a dispute over some property. Romuald was horrified by the crime he had witnessed, and he was moved to take refuge in a monastery to do penance for his father.

The experience in the monastery awakened a vocation in him, and he had the overwhelming desire to live an entire life of penance as a monk. In fact, Romuald’s father Sergius repented of his crime and ultimately followed his son into religious life.

Romuald traveled extensively, serving the Church, and eventually helping to establish or reform almost a hundred hermitages and monasteries. His work resulted in the foundation of the Camaldolese order in 1012, when a piece of land called the “Camaldoli,” was given to Romuald. His monastic foundation combined hermits’ cells with community life, giving it a distinct identity and charism.

Here is the “Brief Rule” of St. Romuald for his monks:

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

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

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

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


O God, who through Saint Romuald didst renew the manner of life of hermits in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach the heavenly realms on high; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Hymn to the Most Holy Trinity

Almighty God, majestic King,
with joyful hearts thy people sing:
Alleluia, alleluia.
For all good gifts we offer praise,
and ask thy blessings all our days:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Son,
who on the cross salvation won:
Alleluia, alleluia.
Through thy great sacrifice of love
we join our song with saints above:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

O Holy Spirit, Light divine,
dwell in these hearts and souls of thine:
Alleluia, alleluia.
Keep us in peace and unity
that with one voice our chant may be,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1996
Tune: LASST UNS ERFREUEN, from Geistliche Kirchengesang, 1623

15 June 2019

The Most Holy Trinity


It is the foundational belief of every Christian that God is a Trinity of Persons. In fact, that is the very definition of Christianity. It comes to us from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...” [St. Matthew 28:18-20].

The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation and the capstone of our faith. It is the guardian of orthodoxy in the Church; it is the essence of effective preaching; it is the guarantor of proper teaching. In fact, the ancient Church accorded so much importance to a correct understanding of the Trinity that the bishops met together to define the Holy Trinity even before they addressed the issue of which books would be included in the New Testament. It is so foundational that we can honestly say that all errors – all heresies – result from the neglect or misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

So what does it actually teach us about God?

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is transcendent over the universe. It teaches us that God is in all things; it does not teach us that all things are God, which is incorrect and a heresy. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that although God is accessible to all, He is above all and beyond all. He is not some kind of “higher self,” nor is he a “deeper consciousness.” He is not an oracle or a disembodied ghostly spirit. God stands above the universe, even as He pervades it. He exercises His own judgment. He has the right to do as He pleases. The doctrine of the Trinity reveals how God could create the universe, and yet be able to speak and make Himself known within it.

In order for God to create the universe, He must be conscious. Certainly an unconscious being could not undertake a deliberate act. Consciousness requires the ability to contrast between “me” and “not me.” Before the creation of the universe, there was nothing that was not God; therefore a god who is simply one person could never achieve consciousness. Such a god would not be able to create the universe, and could not make himself known nor speak within it.

We can understand something of this idea of “consciousness” in our own human relationships, because we are aware of ourselves through our relationships with others. Our own self-consciousness begins in our relationship with our parents, and the consciousness we have about ourselves develops within the various relationships we have – including our relationship with God. This is why, in those rare cases of feral children – children who have been abandoned and raised in the wild by animals – they have the consciousness of animals. They are, of course, human in that they have souls, but their consciousness is stunted because they have not been able to have a normal relationship with other human beings.

This truth is found supremely in the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and it shows something of the fact that we are created in God’s image. The three Persons have a relationship of love, forming the “consciousness” of God; indeed, this love is because of the three united states of consciousness. The Persons of the Trinity are completely One in substance, essence, and will, but each Person in the Trinity perceives the others as both “me” and “not me.” This is why we say the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Holy Spirit – and yet, all are God, in a relationship of unity and love. This unity and love means that God is eternally self-conscious and so is capable of deliberate acts.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals the divine relationship within the Godhead, when we hear Jesus, one Person of the Trinity, calling Himself the Son of another Person of the Trinity, whom He termed His Father, and the third Person, whom He called the Holy Spirit. In this way, He revealed that the relationship among the three Divine Persons is one of perfect love, of mutual submission, and of a unity of will.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals why God saves us and sustains us and to brings us into His glory. As the three Persons live in a relationship of love, so God wants to bring us into that same relationship of love. And because of that, even though we are made by God, God has infinitely more interest in us than a potter has in the pots he makes. God is not satisfied with displaying the good pots and discarding the defective ones; rather, He keeps them all, because God loves us all. God has a paternal interest in us that goes far beyond the physical making of us. He actually works to save us from the fate of being mere things. God wants to perfect us, so that we can live with Him in His glory. Our destiny is not to exist in some obscure corner as an object, but to live in an eternal fellowship with God, sharing in His divine relationship of love.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals how God can be transcendent and eternal, and yet how He can enter into time and space in the Person of Jesus Christ. It explains how God can relate to us personally, on our own terms, but without abdicating the operation of the universe.

The doctrine of the Trinity explains how God can be transcendent and eternal, and yet dwell within us and empower us. It explains how God can be in all things, but not of any one thing; it explains why we find God within us, when at the same time He is above us and beyond us. It explains how the Church can be a human institution, and yet at the same time divine; how it can carry out God’s divine Will, even as it demonstrates our imperfections.

The doctrine of the Trinity explains how a priest can fruitfully celebrate the sacraments and preach the Word in spite of his personal sinfulness, a reminder that God communicates His wisdom through foolish men.

Try as we might to fully understand and explain, the reality of the Trinity is imperfectly expressed in any and all human terms. For example, we sometimes hear from the “politically correct” a reference to the Trinity as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” but that does not describe the essence of the Trinity as it is revealed by Jesus, the incarnate God. Those terms tell us what God does, but it does not tell us who He is. To ascribe only one function to a particular Person of the Trinity leads to heresy.

We can ask, who is the Creator? Is it the Father who spoke the eternal Word, or is it the Word through whom all things were made, or is it the Spirit who moved upon the waters? The answer is: all three. We cannot divide God.

We can ask, who is the Redeemer? Is it the Father who sent the Son, or is it the Son who died and rose again, or is it the Spirit who gives us faith and repentance? The answer is: all three. We cannot divide God.

We can ask, who is the Sustainer? Is it the Father who supplies our needs, or is it the Son who advocates our cause, or is it the Spirit who dwells within us? The answer is: all three. We cannot divide God.

Why should the Creator take an interest in His creation? Why does the Redeemer save us? Why should the Sustainer preserve us beyond mere physical existence? This faulty human formula invented by those who wish to avoid the traditional terms because they judge words such as “Father” and “Son” as being not inclusive, does nothing other than reveal some of the functions of God. It does not describe His divine nature, or His divine motivation, or His eternal plan. It does not reveal God’s love, nor does it explain whether or why God transforms us into whom He intends us to be. In fact, the more people try to be “politically correct” when referring to God, the more their efforts remain “this-worldly,” with no hope for anything beyond the here-and-now.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to proclaim that God is the Father of Mary’s baby; and that God is that baby, the Son of Mary; and that God is the Spirit who conceived that baby in Mary’s virgin womb. Those are facts of history, and in those facts we find that God is love.

Perhaps after all the philosophy, and after all the formulae, and after all the wondering about how three can be one, and one can be three, perhaps this best explains the Holy Trinity: God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves us, and adopts us, and makes us His witnesses in this world. And why? So that we can know Him, and be in a relationship of love with Him, and live with Him eternally in Heaven.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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.