19 April 2014

A hymn for Eastertide...


God our Father, Lord of glory,
Thanks and praise we give to Thee;
In Thy mercy to our fathers,
Thou didst bring them through the sea.
So by water hast Thou saved us,
Now from Adam's sin set free.

Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour,
Of Thy sacrifice we sing;
As the lamb in ancient myst'ry
To Thy people life didst bring,
So in Eucharistic glory,
Thou, God's Lamb, art made our King.

Holy Spirit, Breath from heaven,
We Thy precious gifts embrace;
At creation all things living
Thou didst sanctify with grace.
So may we, creation's glory,
Be for Thee a dwelling place.

Loving mercy of the Father,
Sacrifice of Christ the Son,
Quick'ning power of the Spirit:
In us let Thy work be done!
May we rise to life eternal,
That our Paschal joy be won.


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips
Tune: "St. Thomas" 8.7.8.7.8.7

Holy Saturday


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Stone of the Anointing
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

18 April 2014

Good Friday

After the Solemn Liturgy, the Blessed Sacrament having been removed from the Altar of Repose, the Relic of the True Cross is put in its place.


And so Good Friday ends.

17 April 2014

Video: Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Here's the video of Maundy Thursday morning's Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, with the faculty and students of The Atonement Academy. You will also hear a gorgeous anthem sung by the Academy's Honors Choir.

Not my favourite thing...


The most difficult thing for me within the Sacred Triduum? Without a doubt, emptying the tabernacle. I know it has to be done, but I don't like it.

I removed the Blessed Sacrament from the Sacred Heart Chapel yesterday, so that the Altar of Repose could be prepared to receive Him tonight. This morning after Benediction, the Blessed Sacrament will be removed from the High Altar tabernacle. The Poor Clare nuns have begged me to come as late as possible this afternoon before emptying the tabernacle in their Chapel, and I almost feel cruel doing it.

My favourite thing in the Easter Vigil Mass? The moment of consecration, when our Lord returns to us in His Eucharistic glory. It's then that everything seems to be back to normal. And it's always a heart-warming moment for me when, after the Vigil Mass, I carry the pyx to the Poor Clare monastery. The nuns wait in the Chapel, with one of them greeting me at the door, candle in hand, as eager as a wife waiting for the return of her husband after a long trip.

It's all really quite wonderful.

Maundy Thursday

Each year on the morning of Maundy Thursday the students at the Academy gather for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It gives me an opportunity to explain to them why we do not celebrate any other Mass today, other than the evening Mass of the Lord's Last Supper.

Each year we read the account of the Passover in Exodus, and I remind them that the Church, celebrating the Mass this evening, is the New Israel offering up Christ as the Passover Lamb, and so we participate in the New Passover.

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast!

God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament hath left unto us a memorial of his passion: Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

16 April 2014

Tenebrae

With the conclusion of the Spy Wednesday Mass, all will be made ready for the first service of the Sacred Triduum, with the chanting of Tenebrae this evening. In addition to all the other ceremonies of the season, we have (for more than thirty years) chanted Tenebrae on the eve of each of the three days. The psalms become almost hypnotic. The gradual extinguishing of the candles is a visual reminder of the death of Christ. The readings take us back to those events in Jerusalem, and all that led to them.

From the first antiphon we chant this evening, to the final prayer we offer on Friday night, Tenebrae provides a path into the Passion of Christ.

Spy Wednesday


Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."
-Matthew 26:14-25
Elsewhere the Gospel tells us that Satan entered into Judas, but even before this, Judas had shown himself to be dishonest and a lover of money. He kept the money box which was used for the needs of Jesus and the disciples, but he was accustomed to taking money out for himself. When the expensive perfume was used to anoint Jesus, he complained that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor – although he was more likely thinking that he could take the money himself. And now, he goes to the chief priests and asks what they would give him if he delivered Jesus to them. The bargain was struck: thirty silver pieces for the Son of God.

Could the betrayal by Judas have been because of something as common and low as his love for money? Certainly, it looks that way. There could have been other reasons – some have said that he was trying to force Christ into revealing himself as the Messiah. Some have said that Judas was jealous of all the other disciples and so wanted to do something to ruin their common life together. But if Judas betrayed Jesus for those reasons, why did he ask for money when he went to the high priests? He could have handed Jesus over to them without asking for money.

No, Judas was a lover of money, a worldly man who was looking for personal gain. As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” And this, no doubt, was an evil act. When Judas approached Jesus in the garden, our Lord asked him, “Judas would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” Judas had given his betraying kiss before, when he took money into his filthy hands, caressing it as a lover would his beloved.

Spy Wednesday serves as a reminder to us, too, that we can betray Christ for common, low things. We tend to think about our own wants before we think of Christ. We sometimes spend time trying to get things for ourselves while forgetting the needs of others. When we put things before what we owe to God, we’re betraying Christ. When we’re cruel or when we bully someone weaker than we are, we’re betraying Christ. When we delight in gossip, we’re betraying Christ. When we cheat someone, or when we take something which isn’t ours, we’re betraying Christ. When we use foul language, speaking filthy words from the same mouth in which we receive the Body of Christ, we’re betraying Him.

We’re horrified by what Judas did. But we need to look at our own lives, too, lest we are betraying Jesus.

O Lord God, whose blessed Son our Saviour gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame: Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

15 April 2014

Malice Aforethought


"Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And so Judas Iscariot did.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times." And so Simon Peter did.

What was different between Peter and Judas? Judas deliberately betrayed the Lord. Peter, in a moment of weakness and cowardice, denied Him.

Most of us would see the difference between hurting someone because of carelessness or thoughtlessness, as opposed to plotting something behind someone’s back, actually planning to do something hurtful, or even to trying get revenge on someone.

Certainly in both cases, someone ends up being hurt. But isn’t it preferable to be like Peter, who never meant to do what he did, who acted impulsively but who was able to repent; rather than carrying out purposeful treachery and betrayal, as Judas did? The Gospel tells us that Jesus had even given a special sign affection to Judas that night, but it was then that Judas fully cooperated with Satan, leaving the Upper Room and going off to pursue the evil act he had been planning.

Satan does things like that. If the devil can plant cruelty and hatred in us, it allows him to ruin lives and twist us into doing hurtful things. Tomorrow is Spy Wednesday. It’s a reminder that we have to be on our guard lest Satan turn us from the love of God and from the path which God has chosen for us, and send us off into things which are bad for us - paths which can destroy relationships and which bring hurt and unhappiness into our lives and the lives of others. Peter repented, and went on to serve Christ as the greatest of the apostles and the Rock on which the Church was built; whereas Judas saw the mess he had made, gave in to despair, and hanged himself.

It's not a very difficult choice for us to make...is it?

14 April 2014

Holy Week at the Parish

Stained glass window at the entrance to the Sacred Heart Chapel.

Holy Week at Our Lady of the Atonement Church incorporates liturgy steeped in ancient ritual, woven throughout with superb sacred music. Reverence and honour are given to Almighty God. It is a time of giving oneself over to complete devotion to the Lord, and joining with Him in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK:

On Wednesday of Holy Week is called Spy Wednesday, remembering that Judas Iscariot met with the Jewish leaders and received his thirty pieces of silver. The parish begins the first of three evenings with the Office of Tenebrae. Tenebrae, from the Latin for "shadows," is the chanting of selected psalms and readings, during which fifteen candles are gradually extinguished, in a darkened church. The psalms and readings on these evenings call the penitent to the events on the following day. Tenebrae on this night begins at 7:00 P.M., on Holy Thursday following the 7:00 P.M. Mass, and on Good Friday following Stations of the Cross at 7:00 P.M. Confessions are heard on Spy Wednesday following the chanting of the Office of Tenebrae, at approximately 8:40 P.M.

MAUNDY THURSDAY:

Holy Thursday, called Maundy Thursday from the Latin mandatum which means "commandment,” is a day of sacred and central importance to us. It was on this occasion that Christ gave the novum mandatum: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” after which He washed the feet of His apostles as a concrete example of humble and sacrificial love. It was on that same night that He imparted the gift of the Sacred Priesthood, and instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the conclusion of our Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is borne in solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, where the Faithful "keep watch" with Christ throughout the night until the Solemn Liturgy on Good Friday. You are invited to visit the Altar of Repose anytime from 9:00 P.M. on Holy Thursday until 3:00 P.M. on Good Friday.

GOOD FRIDAY

On Good Friday, the Solemn Liturgy begins at 3:00 P.M. to the sound of a single tolling bell from the tower, which marks the death of the Lord on Calvary. The sacred music on this day, in English, Latin, and Greek, draws us more and more into the Passion of Christ, as the Faithful venerate the Holy Cross, and receive Him in Holy Communion. The day concludes with Stations of the Cross and Tenebrae at 7:00 P.M. A special collection for the preservation of the Shrines of the Holy Land will be taken on this day.

VIGIL OF THE RESURRECTION

The Faithful gather on Holy Saturday at 8:00 P.M., in anticipation of the lighting of the new fire, which symbolizes Christ our Light. The Pascal Candle is then borne into the church as the Vigil Mass of the Resurrection begins with the chanting of the Exsultet. The power of deliverance from bondage in sin and the freedom through baptismal waters form the dominant theme of this Mass, rich in symbolism from ancient times. The church is transformed from the starkness of Good Friday to the jubilation of the Resurrection, with flowers, traditional hymns and the return of the "Alleluia."

THE SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION

Three holy Masses on Easter Day are celebrated at 7:30 A.M., 9:00 A.M., and 11:00 A.M. Our Lenten fasting, prayers, and almsgiving have prepared us spiritually for this holy day -- the greatest feast day of the Christian Year. Join us at Our Lady of the Atonement during Holy Week and experience for yourself a Holy Week to remember!

11 April 2014

Palm Sunday


The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
will be celebrated at
7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
(There will be the blessing and distribution of palms at each Mass)

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

10 April 2014

St. Stanislaus of Cracow


St. Stanislaus was born in 1030 and was educated at Gnesen and at Paris. After his ordination to the priesthood he was made a canon of the cathedral at Cracow as well as archdeacon and preacher. Upon the death of the bishop of Cracow, he was nominated bishop of the diocese by Pope Alexander II.

The king at the time, Boleslaus II, trying to strengthen his own power, began invading his neighbors, making himself very unpopular with the nobles of the country, who opposed his policies. St. Stanislaus of Cracow sided with the nobles, led by the king's brother, Ladislaus, and this brought him into conflict with the king.

Stanislaus had opposed the king before for his ruthless and cruel ways – the king was kind of a bully – and one time St. Stanislaus confronted the king face-to-face for his immoral behavior when Boleslaus had abducted the wife of a Polish nobleman and carried her off to his castle. No one seemed willing to face the king from a fear of his rage, but Stanislaus boldly went to the king and threatened him with excommunication if he did not change his ways. Furious, the king promised revenge on the bishop. Later, Stanislaus sided with the nobles in their opposition to the king's political policies, and the king accused him of being a traitor and condemned him to death.

At first the king commanded his soldiers to kill the bishop when he was celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Chapel in Cracow, but the soldiers refused, fearing to bring down upon themselves the wrath of God. Undeterred, the king himself entered the church, drew his sword, and killed the bishop, ordering his soldiers to dismember the body.

Pope Gregory VII placed the country under interdict and Boleslaus fell from power, fleeing to Hungary, where he entered the monastery of Osiak to do penance for his crime. Stanislaus, canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, is one of the patron saints of Poland.
O God, who for thy sake didst suffer thy Bishop Saint Stanislaus of Cracow gloriously to be slain by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all they who call upon him for succor may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire; 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.

07 April 2014

Holy Week and Easter Schedule


April 13th – SUNDAY OF THE PASSION (Palm Sunday)
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m. (Latin)
Blessing and Distribution of the Palms at all Masses

April 14th – MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.

April 15th – TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.

April 16th – SPY WEDNESDAY
Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.
The Office of Tenebrae at 7:00 p.m.
(Confessions following, beginning approx. 8:40 p.m.)

April 17th – MAUNDY THURSDAY
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 9:20 a.m.
Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 p.m.
Followed by the Office of Tenebrae and the All-Night Vigil in the Sacred Heart Chapel
(The Vigil will begin at 9:00 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, and will end at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday)
On Maundy Thursday evening there will be child care available in the school building, 6:45 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

April 18th – GOOD FRIDAY
Solemn Liturgy at 3:00 PM
Stations of the Cross and the Office of Tenebrae at 7:00 p.m.
On Good Friday there will be child care available in the school building, 2:40 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

April 19th – HOLY SATURDAY
The Great Vigil of the Resurrection at 8:00 p.m.

April 20th – EASTER SUNDAY, The Sunday of the Resurrection
Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
THERE WILL BE NO 6:00 P.M. MASS ON EASTER DAY
On Easter Day there will be child care available in the school building, 8:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

06 April 2014

St. John Baptist de La Salle

St. John Baptist de La Salle was born at Rheims in 1651, became a member of the cathedral chapter at Rheims when he was sixteen, and was ordained a priest in 1678. Soon after ordination he was put in charge of a girls' school, and in 1679 he met Adrian Nyel, a layman who wanted to open a school for boys. Two schools were started, and Canon de la Salle became interested in the work of education. He took an interest in the teachers, eventually invited them to live in his own house, and tried to train them in the educational system that was forming in his mind. This first group ultimately left, unable to grasp what the saint had in mind; others, however, joined him, and the beginnings of the Brothers of the Christian Schools were begun.

Seeing a unique opportunity for good, Canon de La Salle resigned his canonry, gave his inheritance to the poor, and began to organize his teachers into a religious congregation. Soon, boys from his schools began to ask for admission to the Brothers, and the founder set up a juniorate to prepare them for their life as religious teachers. At the request of many pastors, he also set up a training school for teachers, first at Rheims, then at Paris, and finally at St.-Denis. Realizing that he was breaking entirely new ground in the education of the young, John Baptist de la Salle wrote books on his system of education, opened schools for tradesmen, and even founded a school for the nobility, at the request of King James of England.

The congregation had a tumultuous history, and the setbacks that the founder had to face were many; but the work was begun, and he guided it with rare wisdom. In Lent of 1719, he grew weak, met with a serious accident, and died on Good Friday. He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900, and Pope Pius XII proclaimed him patron of schoolteachers.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints, Rev. Clifford Stevens

04 April 2014

St. Vincent Ferrer


Excerpted from The Saints, edited by John Coulson:
St. Vincent Ferrer's father was an Englishman, who had been knighted after success in battle. On February 5th, 1367, having completed his studies in philosophy, Vincent became a Dominican. He was moved to Barcelona in the next year, and in 1370 became lecturer in philosophy at the Dominican house in Lerida. In 1373, when he returned to Barcelona to the 'Studium Arabicum et Hebraicum', he was already a famous public preacher.

In 1377 he was sent to Toulouse for further study; there he attracted the attention of the Legate of the future Avignon antipope, Cardinal Pedro de Luna, whose suite he joined, being himself a strong advocate of the claims of the Avignon popes as against those of Rome. He preached a great deal, particularly to Jews and Moors, and converted a rabbi of Valladolid, who, later became Bishop Paul of Burgos, and associated with St. Vincent in his strenuous and successful attempts to convert the Jews of Spain.

Disillusioned in his attempts to heal the schism between Rome and Avignon, St. Vincent saw a vision of our Lord standing between St. Dominic and St. Francis, commissioning him directly to go about preaching penance. He was released by Benedict XIII in November 1399 to do this, and continued his preaching and wandering throughout western Europe until his death, being followed by a crowd of penitents and flagellants which varied from 300 to 10,000. He was in Aragon when the throne became vacant and with his brother, Boniface, a Carthusian, was instrumental in choosing Ferdinand of Castille as prince.

In 1416 he withdrew his own allegiance and that of the kingdom of Aragon from Benedict XIII, because the Avignon antipope had made no serious attempt to heal the schism and had refused the request made by the council of Constance that he should resign in order to make possible a new and undisputed election to the papacy. St. Vincent's decision had the effect of deposing Benedict and of making possible an end to the schism. St. Vincent died on April 5th, 1419, at Vannes in Brittany, where his relics are venerated. He was canonized by Pope Calixtus II in 1455.


O God, who didst vouchsafe to enlighten thy Church with the merits and preaching of St. Vincent Ferrer thy holy Confessor: grant unto us thy servants that we, learning in all things to follow his example, may by his advocacy be defended against all adversities; 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.

03 April 2014

St. Isidore of Seville


St. Isidore of Seville was born into a family of saints in Spain in the sixth century. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. His two brothers served as bishops and his sister was an abbess.

But it’s not always easy to live with saints. In fact, although Isidore’s brother Leander is venerated as a saint today, the way he treated his younger brother Isidore was shocking, even to people who lived at that time. Leander, who was much older than Isidore, took over Isidore's education and Leander’s idea of education involved force and and lots of punishment. We know from Isidore's later accomplishments that he was very intelligent and hard-working, so it’s difficult to understand why Leander thought abuse would work instead of patience. One day, the young Isidore couldn't take any more. He was frustrated by his inability to learn as fast as his brother wanted him to, and he was hurt by his brother's treatment, so Isidore ran away. As he stopped to rest, he noticed water dripping on a rock near where he sat. He noticed that the small drops of water that were falling weren’t very forceful, and seemed to have no effect on the solid stone. And yet he saw that over time, the water drops had worn holes in the rock.

He took this as an important lesson. Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, bit by bit his small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also wanted his brother Leander to see that he was really trying, so he went back. When he returned home, his brother wasn’t any more understanding or any more kind than he had ever been, and in fact Leander sent Isidore off to a monastery where he was confined to a cell so he wouldn’t run away again, and there he was to continue his studies.

Either there must have been a loving side to this fraternal relationship, or Isidore was remarkably forgiving even for a saint, because later he would work side by side with his brother and after Leander's death, Isidore took his place as the bishop of Seville, and would complete many of the projects his brother had started.

In a time where everybody wants to blame the past hurts for their present problems, Isidore didn’t fall into that trap. He was able to separate the abusive way he was taught from the joy of learning. He didn't run from learning after he left his brother but embraced education and made it his life's work. Isidore rose above his past to become known as the greatest teacher in Spain.

His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in every diocese of Spain. He didn't limit his own studies, nor did he want limitations on others. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.

His encyclopedia of knowledge, the Etymologies, was a popular textbook for nine centuries. He also wrote books on grammar, astronomy, geography, history, and biography as well as theology. In fact, the great breadth of Isidore’s learning meant that Pope John Paul II named him Patron of the Internet.

He lived until almost 80. As he was dying his house was filled with crowds of poor to whom he was giving aid and alms. One of his last acts was to give all his possessions to the poor. When he died in 636, this Doctor of the Church had done more than his brother had ever hoped; the light of his learning caught fire in Spanish minds and held back barbarism from Spain. But even greater than his outstanding mind must have been the genius of his heart that allowed him to see beyond rejection and discouragement to joy and possibility.

O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Isidore of Seville, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sub tuum praesidium


Under thy protection
we seek refuge,
Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our needs,
but from all dangers
deliver us always,
O Virgin Glorious and Blessed.


(Image: Our Lady of Lourdes, a statue in the church courtyard, in the early morning.)

01 April 2014

St. Francis of Paola

It would be ungrateful of me if I neglected to pay homage to St. Francis of Paola on this, his feast day. He is, in a sense, one of our parish patrons, since we were meeting in the Church of San Francesco di Paola when our parish was canonically erected in 1983.

This is the Italian parish in San Antonio, founded by immigrants from the Calabria region of Italy, dedicated to their local and beloved saint. The 15th century founder of the Franciscan Minims, St. Francis of Paola was one of the great and holy hermits in the history of the Church. He was given the task by the Pope to prepare King Louis XI of France for a holy death.

The story of this Calabrian saint couldn't be much further from our Anglican roots, but nonetheless he was a great spiritual patron to us in our early days, and I look forward each year to offering the Mass in his honor.

Here is a picture of the church dedicated to him here in San Antonio.


It was our spiritual home for the first few years of our existence, and those of us who were part of those "early days" remember with fondness and with gratitude the hospitality we were shown.

29 March 2014

Teaching Positions at the Academy


OPPORTUNITIES TO TEACH AT THE ATONEMENT ACADEMY...

Candidates must be practicing Catholics willing to take an Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium.

The Atonement Academy has openings for two elementary school classroom teachers. Open grades are likely to be kindergarten and fourth grade. The teachers will be responsible for his or her students’ education in all subjects except music and physical education.

We are also receiving applications for Middle and Upper School teachers for potential openings in English, History, Latin, and Math. Qualified applicants must possess at least a bachelor’s degree and preference will be given to those who have teaching experience. Master’s degree and related teaching certificates a plus.

TO APPLY: Send a cover letter and résumé to Mrs. Mary Havel at: mhavel@atonementonline.com
ACADEMY WEBSITE: http://atonementonline.com/index.php

The latest issue of "Crusader Times"


You can learn about what's happening at The Atonement Academy by reading the latest issue of "Crusader Times." Go to this link.

27 March 2014

Indulgenced Devotion...


Each Friday during Lent we walk the Stations of the Cross with the students at 2:00 p.m., and each Friday at 7:00 p.m. we have Stations for the whole parish, in conjunction with Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. There is a plenary indulgence attached to this devotion, and for you to gain the indulgence, these are the conditions:

EXERCISE OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS
PLENARY INDULGENCE

From The Enchiridion of Indulgences, 1968

A Plenary indulgence is granted to those who piously make the Way of the Cross. The gaining of the indulgence is regulated by the following rules:

A. Must be done before stations of the cross legitimately erected.
B. 14 stations are required. Although it is customary for the icons to represent pictures or images, 14 simple crosses will suffice.
C. The common practice consists of fourteen pious readings to which some vocal prayers are added.. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
D. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the stations are made publicly and it is not possible for everyone taking part to go from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their places.
E. Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence if they spend at least one half and hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
F. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death for the gaining of this indulgence.

A plenary indulgence MUST be accompanied by the three prerequisites of a plenary indulgence:

1. Sacramental Confession,
2. Communion, and
3. Prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time.

The Faithful have been retracing these steps of our Lord Jesus Christ from the earliest days of the Church. While the number and names of the Stations have varied over the centuries, our present order for them eventually was fixed, and the indulgence was attached to the Stations erected in Churches and Oratories. It was no longer required actually to go to Jerusalem to gain the great blessings which flow from this devotion.

26 March 2014

Trisagion


Among the many reasons for my love of our Anglican Use liturgy, not least is the thread of elements from the Eastern Churches which shows itself at various times. It gives an emphasized sense of universality and timelessness and reminds us of the richness and diversity of the various liturgies in the Church. I have not yet seen the revisions made to our liturgy, and which are being used by many of the Ordinariate communities. I'm told that many of the Eastern liturgical elements have been removed in the revision, but I hope the members of the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission have not thrown out the Trisagion, because it is one of those "bridges" found in both the East and the West, and (important for us) specifically in the Sarum rite.

During the Lenten sung Masses we use the Trisagion, the “Thrice Holy” in place of the Kyrie eleison. This ancient hymn is found in almost all of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox liturgies: “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.” It is a preview of the Sanctus, with its roots in the angelic hymn found in St. John’s Book of the Revelation (4:8). The Coptic Church ascribes it first to Nicodemus who, when taking Christ’s body down from the cross, saw the divinity of our Lord manifested and cried out, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal!”

There is another tradition which says that during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius II (408-450), Constantinople was experiencing a violent earthquake. As the people were praying for God’s help, a child was thrown up into the air by the violent quaking. Everyone cried out “Kyrie eleison!” As the child fell to the ground he was heard praying, “Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal,” after which the child died.

In the Western Church the Trisagion found its way into the Sarum rite as part of Compline from the Third Sunday in Lent until the Fifth Sunday in Lent. It was included in the Gallican rite during the Reproaches at the Good Friday liturgy, where it is still used throughout the Latin Rite.

The Trisagion has a rich history, and its place in the Anglican Use Mass is yet another chapter in that living history, which I hope has not been lost. Ah well, we shall see...

24 March 2014

"Let it be..."


At the Annunciation, God sent His messenger, the archangel Gabriel, to announce to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Incarnate Son of God, and it would be Jesus who would take human flesh from her, to bring salvation into the world. When Mary heard these words, she was filled with awe and wonder, and she asked for clarification: “How can this be…?” When Gabriel told her that it would be by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded by saying, “Let it be unto me according to thy word.”

That is an important phrase, “Let it be…” It takes us back to creation itself, when by the word of God, all things came into being.

In the beginning, God said “Let there be light,” and there was. God brought into being everything there was – by His word there came into being all of creation, including man himself. In fact, creation itself is the larger context for the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As God spoke His creative word in the beginning, so today – at our remembrance of beginning of the Incarnation – we call to mind Mary’s words, “Let it be…. Let it be unto me according to thy word.” The Virgin Mary’s words, “Let it be,” echo God’s words, “Let there be.” It is, in a way, the continuation of creation and the beginning of our salvation. God says, “Let there be…” and his word brings forth creation; Mary says, “Let it be,” and her words bring forth the Incarnate God into the world.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts, that we who have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

23 March 2014

St. Turibius of Mongrovejo

Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is among the first of the known saints of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for twenty-six years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge at Granada. He was a great success, but he was about to enter upon a surprising sequence of events.

When the archbishopric of Lima in Spain's Peruvian colony became vacant, it was decided that Turibius was the man needed to fill the post. It was generally agreed that he was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area.
Turibius cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were wide-spread, and he devoted his energies (and his suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with no place to sleep, and little or no food. He made his confession every morning to his chaplain, and he would then celebrate Mass with tremendous devotion. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was Saint Rose of Lima, and most likely Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, Saint Francis Solanus.

His people, although they were very poor, also had a sense of personal pride, and they were unwilling to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them himself, anonymously.

When Turibius undertook the reform of the clergy, along with unjust officials, he encountered tremendous opposition. Some tried to "explain" God's law in such a way as to make it appear that God approved of their accustomed way of life. He answered them in the words of Tertullian, "Christ said, 'I am the truth'; he did not say, 'I am the custom."'

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Turibius, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

22 March 2014

That in which we glory...


A few days ago I happened to find a copy of something I said in July of 1983 to the very small group of people who would form the initial membership of the parish. That date was just a month before the establishment of Our Lady of the Atonement as a parish. Ours would be the first parish to be established through the Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II, and although unknown at that time, laying the foundation for the present-day Ordinariates. Many who had been journeying with us had left us just a few months before this. They got cold feet. They had second thoughts. Whereas there had been about fifty of us, we were down to eighteen people, counting the children. We had come together from a variety of Episcopal parishes, and we had left the beautiful places where we had worshipped, where we had been married, where our children had been baptized, and from which our beloved dead had been commended to God. We were tired and discouraged, and there was a need to enhearten the few who remained in our little group. This is a portion of what I said:
"We're almost home. We're coming with very little. We have no church building of our own - in fact, we have very few possessions. It's a daily reminder that we are the Church. The Church is made up of people, not buildings and things. We should be careful that we do not build a false pride out of our humble situation, but we really do identify with St. Paul when he wrote, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' I believe we have an exciting future ahead of us, and we'll grow in numbers and we'll have more in the years ahead. But the lesson we learn at this point in our history is the most important - that whatever our future holds, we must never glory in anything save in the cross of Jesus Christ, in the atoning work which He accomplished upon that cross."

A lot has happened in the more than thirty years since I spoke those words to our little congregation. Indeed, our parish has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. We have a large and beautiful church. We have a magnificent school. The Catholic witness and the influence of the parish goes far beyond the borders of the archdiocese. The numbers of our people and the size of our facilities all continue to increase at an amazing pace. But those are not the things in which we glory. I believe it is all happening because we have lived and witnessed in accordance with the words of St. Paul: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."


19 March 2014

Guadalupe Radio 89.7 FM


Thursday, March 20th is the day.  "What day?" you ask.  It's the day I'll be taking part in the radiothon at Guadalupe radio.

My fundraising hour is from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m.  I need you to call in and make a pledge.  You don't have to live in San Antonio.  You don't have to live in Texas.  All you need to do is call toll-free 1-800-476-3311. It's for a really great cause -- Catholic radio.

So... Thursday... 4 p.m. until 5 p.m.(Central)... 1-800-476-3311.   Let's get the Catholic Faith out there on the airwaves!

18 March 2014

St. Joseph, Just and Kind


We know little about the life of St. Joseph, and yet enough is known to reveal what his character was. What we do know of him for certain, we know from the Gospels, and it is there that we see him to be a man who was determined to do what is right in the sight of God, and to do it in a kindly way. He was betrothed to Mary, and according to Jewish practice, betrothal was as sacred as marriage. Because of that, any infidelity before the actual marriage was treated in the same way as infidelity after marriage: death by stoning was the punishment for such sin. By all human appearance, Joseph's beloved betrothed was in just such circumstances, and he had to act in the way that seemed best. He was a just man, but he was a kind man, too, and surely what Mary told him made a great demand on his faith. But that is the point: Joseph was, above all, a man of faith and completely obedient to the divine will of Almighty God. When it was revealed to him that Mary was to bear the Incarnate Son of God he took her to be his wife. There was no hesitation, no consideration of what others might think or how they might judge. It mattered little to him that it was assumed he was the human father of this Child – not that he would have encouraged others to believe such a thing, for he knew the truth – but it was better than having people think that Mary had shamefully conceived with someone else, and so Joseph took the responsibility, knowing one day the truth would be known, and that Truth "would make men free." It is in this very situation, brought about by God Himself, that Saint Joseph's justness and kindness are both revealed.

His justness is shown in that he was a devout servant of God, and he ordered his life according to the standard of that law which had been revealed to the Jewish nation. He sought to please God in all things, even when it meant that he would be misunderstood or even harshly judged by the world. And because justness does not exclude kindness, his response to the revelation that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit was one of deep gladness and joy, and so he took his place in God's plan without fear or hesitation. This place was not one of glory; rather, it was one of quiet reserve. Whether on the way to Bethlehem, or in the stable, or at the Child's circumcision on the eighth day, or in the Temple when He was presented, or in everyday life in Nazareth, Joseph simply was there. Loved and respected both by the Incarnate Son of God and by the Mother of God, he was a man of deep piety and gracious character.

Within Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is the tomb of its architect, and on that tomb are the words, "If ye seek his monument, look around you." How much more impressive are those words when they are used of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. There could be no greater remembrance of Joseph's holy life, than that glorious Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, the foster-son of the quiet, just, kind man of God.

Blesséd Joseph, Guardian mild,
Who didst love the Holy Child,
Show thy love to us who pray,
Shield us from all harm this day:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

Great Saint Joseph, Patron bold
Of the Church from days of old,
Give us courage strong and new,
To proclaim God’s Gospel true:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

He Whom thou didst guide in youth,
We receive in very truth;
In this Sacrament of love,
We are one with thee above:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us one with Christ our Lord!

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips 1992
Tune: “Bread of Heaven” by William D. Maclagan, 1875

17 March 2014

St. Cyril of Jerusalem


Cyril of Jerusalem loved to study the Holy Scriptures from the time he was a child, and he made such progress that he became known for his deep faith. He was eventually ordained priest by St. Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and he was given the work of preaching to the faithful and instructing those preparing for baptism. His Catechetical Instructions, which explain clearly and fully all the teaching of the Church, still exist today for us to read. His treatment of these subjects is so distinct and clear that he refuted not only the heresies of his own time, but also, by a kind of foreknowledge, he was able to expose heresies which would develop later. Upon the death of Patriarch St. Maximus, Cyril was chosen to be bishop in his place.

As bishop he endured many injustices and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and so they told lies about him, and drove him into exile. They were so violent against him that he fled to Tarsus in Cilicia, but eventually, with a new emperor and the death of many of his enemies, Cyril was able to return to Jerusalem, where he taught his people and led them away from false doctrine and from sin. If once wasn’t enough, he was driven into exile a second time under the Emperor Valens, but eventually peace returned to the Church, and the Arians were once again brought under control, so he was able to return again to Jerusalem. The earnestness and holiness with which he fulfilled the duties of being bishop were evident in the strength and holiness of the Church in Jerusalem.

Tradition states that God gave a sign of His divine blessing upon the spiritual leadership of Cyril by granting the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, which was seen by pagans and Christians alike. Another marvel happened when the Jews were commanded by the wicked Emperor Julian to restore the Temple which had been destroyed. They no sooner began the work when an earthquake happened and great balls of fire broke out of the earth and consumed the work, so that Julian and the Jews were terrified and gave up their plan. This had been clearly foretold by Cyril. He lived long enough to see the Arian heresy condemned, and he died as a beloved and holy bishop, eventually acknowledged to be a doctor of the Church.

Strengthen, O Lord, we beseech thee, the bishops of thy Church in their special calling to be teachers and ministers of the Sacraments, that they, like thy servant St. Cyril of Jerusalem, may effectively instruct thy people in Christian faith and practice; and that we, taught by them, may enter more fully into the celebration of the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

16 March 2014

St. Pádraig

St. Patrick's Shrine at Our Lady of the Atonement Church


Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant St. Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

"Lorica of St. Patrick"
version by Cecil Frances Alexander, 1889

A Prayer for Divine Protection


Look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, we beseech thee, Almighty God, and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty to be our defence against all our enemies; 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.

10 March 2014

Behold the Lord transfigured...


This coming Sunday is the Second Sunday in Lent, and the Gospel reading is the account of our Lord’s transfiguration. The contrast between the sobriety of the season and the splendor of the event makes for a powerful statement.

At the time of the transfiguration St. Peter wanted to build a tabernacle, a permanent dwelling place. He wanted to “capture the moment,” so to speak. By itself, that desire wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the time. There was still work to be done, still truth to be learned. The opportunity would afford itself later, after the passion and death, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. It would be later, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. It would be then that Peter would have the task. He would be asked to build the Church upon that Rock which was chosen by Jesus Christ Himself.

This would be the tabernacle which needed to be built: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. Not far off on a mountaintop would it be built, but a tabernacle which is to be in the midst of the world, allowing everyone to worship the One who lives within it.

Christ gave St. Peter the desire to build and He gave him everything he would need to make the most glorious tabernacle.


Behold our Lord transfigured,
In Sacrament Divine;
His glory deeply hidden,
'Neath forms of Bread and Wine.
Our eyes of faith behold Him,
Salvation is outpoured;
The Saviour dwells among us,
by ev'ry heart adored.

No longer on the mountain
With Peter, James and John,
Our precious Saviour bids us
To walk where saints have gone.
He has no lasting dwelling,
Save in the hearts of men;
He feeds us with His Body,
To make us whole again.

With Moses and Elijah,
We worship Christ our King;
Lord, make our souls transfigured,
Let us with angels sing.
Lead us in paths of glory,
Give tongues to sing thy praise;
Lord Jesus, keep us faithful,
Now and for all our days.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: "Ewing" by Alexander C. Ewing, 1853

09 March 2014

St. Frances of Rome

Lest we forget that God's plan for us is always best, just look at the life of St. Frances of Rome. She was a child born into privilege in the latter part of the 14th century, with parents who had the means to give her a very comfortable life. Young Frances was keenly aware of society's poor around her, and she had the good desire to give herself to the alleviation of their suffering by entering religious life and dedicating herself to this mission. Her parents had other ideas, and apparently so did God.

A young nobleman was selected by her family, and Frances was expected to marry him. She threw herself into prayer, asking God to deliver her from what she saw as a terrible fate. In fact, she was so persistent in this that her confessor asked her a difficult but important question: "Frances, are you really praying to do God's Will, or are you trying to make God bend to your will?"

That simple question brought about a profound change in Frances. With some reluctance, she married the young nobleman, and to her surprise the marriage turned out to be very happy. They had three children, and she found that her husband was perfectly willing for her to carry out an apostolate to the poor. In fact, she discovered that her sister-in-law had the same desire to serve, and the two were able to work together and pray together, eventually inspiring others to join in their good works. The group of women became a quasi-religious community, and when Frances was widowed she was able to go and live with them, sharing a common life of work and prayer.

Frances came to realize that God had given her far more than she had asked for. She had a happy marriage, and she was able to fulfill her desire for religious life, too. That's the way it is with God. He always gives in abundance, albeit in unexpected ways. All we need to do is follow Him in love, and pray as our Lord Himself did, "...not my will, but Thine be done."
O God, who amidst the manifold gifts of thy grace didst endue thy blessed servant St. Frances of Rome with the familiar converse of an Angel: grant, we beseech thee; that at her intercession we may be found worthy to be admitted to the company of the Angels in thy heavenly kingdom; 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.

07 March 2014

St. John of God


St. John of God was born at the end of the 15th century. He tended to be a very impulsive person, from the time he was a child. When he was prompted to do something, he usually stuck with it, no matter what – which is fine, if the prompting comes from God, but it can make life difficult if it’s something from your own imagination.

When he was only eight years old, John heard a someone talking about all the adventures there were out in the world, and so young John took it into his head to run away to seek his fortune. He never saw his parents again, but instead spent time on the road, begging his way from village to town, until he became very sick. A kind man and his family nursed him back to health, and John stayed with them, working as a shepherd until he was 27 years old. Feeling the urge to travel again, John joined the Spanish army, which was at that time in a war against France. As a soldier, he was hardly a model of holiness, taking part in the gambling, drinking, and the wild life along with his comrades. One day, he was thrown from a stolen horse near French lines. Frightened that he would be captured or killed, he reviewed his life and vowed impulsively to make a change.

He took on all sorts of physically hard work – unloading ship cargoes, building fortifications, anything he could find to earn a living. He would work hard all day, but then in the evening he would visit churches, and spend time reading spiritual books. Reading gave him so much pleasure that he decided that he should share this joy with others. He quit his job and became a book peddler, traveling from town to town selling religious books and holy cards. Finally, when he was 41 years old, he came to Granada where he sold books from a little shop.

After hearing a sermon on repentance, he was so overcome by the thought of his sins that the whole town thought he had gone crazy. After hearing the sermon John rushed back to his shop, tore up any secular books he had, gave away all his religious books and all his money. With his clothes torn and constantly crying, he was the target of insults, jokes, and even stones and mud from the townspeople and their children.

Some friends took him to a hospital for the insane. Eventually, the priest who had preached the sermon that had affected John so much, came to see him, and told him that he had gone on like this enough, so John was moved to a better part of the hospital, and where he was free to move about. Although still a patient, he began to help the other sick people around him. In fact, this experience made him decide to start his own hospital for the poor and those who had no one to care for them. He had no money for a building, so he went to the poor and homeless wherever they were – in abandoned buildings or under bridges – and he called those places his hospital. He continued to beg for money, and eventually found a very poor house which gave him a location where he could bring the sick and nurse them.

One day he heard that the hospital where he had been a patient was on fire. He immediately ran there and found that no one was doing anything. He entered the building and carried out the patients one by one, and then went back in to get as much of the contents as he could. As the fired burned more fiercely, he fell through the weakened timbers, and everyone thought he was dead – but almost miraculously, he walked out of the flames, unhurt.

John was ill himself when he heard that a flood was bringing precious driftwood near the town. He jumped out of bed to gather the wood from the raging river. Then when one of his companions fell into the river, John without thought for his illness or safety jumped in after him. He failed to save the boy and caught pneumonia. He died on March 8, his fifty-fifth birthday, of the same impulsive love that had guided his whole life.

John of God is patron saint of booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick, and firefighters and is considered the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. John of God, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

06 March 2014

Ss. Perpetua & Felicity, Martyrs


With the lives of so many early martyrs shrouded in legend, we are fortunate to have the record of the courage of Perpetua and Felicity from the hand of Perpetua herself, her teacher Saturus, and others who knew them. This account, known as "The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity," was so popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies.

In the year 203, Vibia Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death during Septimus' persecution. Her surviving brother (another brother had died when he was seven) followed her leadership and became a catechumen as well.

Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. We can easily understand his concern. At 22 years old, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live -- including a baby son who was still nursing. We know she was married, but since her husband is never mentioned, many historians assume she was a widow.

Perpetua's answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, "See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?" Her father answered, "Of course not." Perpetua responded, "Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am -- a Christian."

This answer so upset her father that he attacked her. Perpetua reports that after that incident she was glad to be separated from him for a few days -- even though that separation was the result of her arrest and imprisonment. Perpetua was arrested with four other catechumens including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, along with Saturninus and Secundulus. Their catechist, Saturus, had already been imprisoned before them.

She was baptized before taken to prison. Perpetua was known for her gift of "the Lord's speech" and receiving messages from God. She tells us that at the time of her baptism she was told to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials.

The prison was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. There was no light anywhere and Perpetua "had never known such darkness." The soldiers who arrested and guarded them pushed and shoved them without any concern. Perpetua had no trouble admitting she was very afraid, but in the midst of all this horror her most excruciating pain came from being separated from her baby.

The young slave, Felicity was even worse off, not only suffering from the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling, but she was eight months pregnant.

Two deacons who ministered to the prisoners paid the guards so that the martyrs would be put in a better part of the prison. There her mother and brother were able to visit Perpetua and bring her baby to her. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her, she said "my prison suddenly became a palace for me." Once more her father came to her, begging her to give in, kissing her hands, and throwing himself at her feet. She told him, "We live not in our own power but in the power of God."

Meanwhile Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom and her companions would go on their journey without her. Her friends also didn't want to leave so "good a comrade" behind.

Two days before the execution, Felicity went into a painful labor. The guards made fun of her, insulting her by saying, "If you think you suffer now, how will you stand it when you face the wild beasts?" Felicity answered them calmly, "Now I'm the one who is suffering, but in the arena there will be Another with me, suffering for me, because I will be suffering for him." She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage.

There was a feast the day before the games so that the crowd could see the martyrs and make fun of them. But the martyrs turned this all around by laughing at the crowd for not being Christians and exhorting them to follow their example.

The four new Christians and their teacher went to the arena (the fifth, Secundulus, had died in prison) with joy and calm. Perpetua in usual high spirits met the eyes of everyone along the way. We are told she walked with "shining steps as the true spouse of Christ, the darling of God."

When those at the arena tried to force Perpetua and the rest to dress in robes dedicated to their gods, Perpetua challenged her executioners. "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods." She and the others were allowed to keep their clothes.

The men were attacked by bears, leopards, and wild boars. The women were stripped to face a rabid heifer. When the crowd, however, saw the two young women, one of whom had obviously just given birth, they were horrified and the women were removed and clothed again. Perpetua and Felicity were thrown back into the arena so roughly that they were bruised and hurt. Perpetua, though confused and distracted, still was thinking of others and went to help Felicity up. The two of them stood side by side as all five martyrs had their throats cut.

Perpetua's last words were to her brother: "Stand fast in the faith and love one another."
O God the King of Saints, who didst strengthen thy martyrs St. Perpetua and St. Felicity to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

05 March 2014

The Closed Triptych Explained


The triptych at the High Altar is in its closed position for Lent. It depicts the Annunciation, the mystical beginning of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE FRONT PANELS
(when the triptych is in the closed position)

The front panels of the triptych are painted in the traditional grisaille, a technique using only shades of gray.

The mystery of our salvation begins with the Good News of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. It is this scene that occupies the top register of the work. The Archangel Gabriel is announcing the tidings of Great Joy. He carries the staff of his authority, an iconographic symbol that has roots deep in antiquity. He is vested with a cope and the crossed stole of a priest. His stole bears the following inscriptions:

MATER AMORIS, DOLORIS ET MISERICORDIAE, ORA PRO NOBIS.
Mother of love, of sorrow and of mercy, pray for us.

GAUDE, MARIA, CUNCTAS HERESES SOLA INTEREMISTI IN UNIVERSO MUNDO.
Rejoice, Mary, thou alone has put down all heresies in the whole world.

The inscription honors the title under which this parish honors the Virgin Mary: Our Lady of the Atonement. The stole of the Archangel ends in the coat of arms of Pope John II, the Cross of Jesus, and the initial “M” of the Mother of God.

The Archangel announces “Ave Maria, Dominus Tecum.” The script for this inscription is based on early Gothic capitals of the late 11th century found in manuscripts on the Oxford Collections.

With the hearing of the greeting and the assent of the Virgin Mary, Jesus enters into the world. Following the tradition of the Middle Ages, the tiny figure of the Christ is located above the Archangel. Jesus is carrying a scarlet cross signifying His Passion and Death. This figure is the only color found on these panels other that the grisaille. Jesus is the Light of Life. He cuts into the grayness and darkness of our world with His glory and His power. His is the only figure represented that does not cast a shadow, for there is nothing of darkness about Him.

Gabriel, the holy Archangel, is flanked by two small figures in niches at the tops of the pillars. The tips of his wings cover the image of Eve, our first mother, our earthly mother. His wings shadow her body. No longer are we bound by the fact of the sin that she brought into the world. There is a new life beginning here, not subject to sin and death. Thus her body, representing human birth, is covered in the light of this Annunciation mystery.

Across from Eve is Adam, her husband. The side of our first parent still bears the mark of his missing rib, through which God first created Woman.

The Most Holy Mother of God attends to the Angelic presence. She had been at prayer, as is evidenced by the opened book. However, even at prayer she was in darkness. Her prayer was based on the Old Testament. These scriptures are without the fullness of the Life and Light of Christ. At this very moment there is only one Light in the world, Jesus Christ. The extinguished candle bears mute testimony to the ineffectiveness of natural light when compared to the brilliance of the Christ.

The Virgin responds, “Ecce ancilla Domini.” Her response is painted in such a way that God the Father may “see” her answer. This upside-down painting was a common element of these Annunciation depictions.

The Blessed Mother also is flanked by two images in the pillar niches; the prophet Isaiah, holding his scroll of prophecy about the Virgin, and John the Precursor, who will prepare the way for the Infant brought into the world this day. Saint John holds the Lamb, the representation of the Christ. The Virgin Mary also learns that her kinswoman Elizabeth will bear a son, John, portrayed here. These two figures are different from Adam and Eve. They are not static. Moving out of their niches, taking an active part in the drama, they “rejoice” to see this day.

Above the Mother of God, the Holy Ghost hovers and overshadows. His wings stretch out and cover her with the love and favor of the Eternal God. Next to the Virgin are her traditional lilies, the symbol of her purity. These lilies are topped with three unopened buds, calling to mind the Most Holy Trinity, and with the birth of Christ this Trinity will burst forth into the world. Placed with the lilies are gladioli. The name “”gladiolus” is Latin for “the sword flower,” recalling the sword of sorrow which would pierce the heart of Mary, reminding us of her role in the Atonement of mankind as she stands at the foot of the cross. The angels in the lower registers call to mind the bitter, pain-filled death of Jesus.

They attend the Lord and carry next to their hearts the instruments of the Passion. Yet while they keep this redemptive death before us, they also remind us of the Risen and Glorious Lord, for their gaze and attention are fixed on the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament resides.

Behind both figures there is a repeated symbolic pattern. The center of the pattern is a stylized Tudor rose, a reference to the English roots of the liturgical traditions found at Our Lady of the Atonement Church. From this rose blossoms a lily, for out of the Anglican tradition blossomed the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement. This flower again calls to mind the patronage of Saint Joseph. The lily also reminds us of the generosity of Colonel and Mrs. Robert E. Joseph, Sr., whose gift provided this reredos for the church. Springing from this lily are three nails which refer to the atoning Sacrifice of Jesus and the congregation’s struggle to find a place in the Church. These symbols of pain are crowned with a shield bearing the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II. His coat of arms is wreathed in the laurel crown of victory. Then crowning all this are more lilies, bursting forth in glory and beauty.

The Angel of the Pillar clutches the pillar at which Christ was scourged. His vesture, and the vesture of the accompanying angel, have a distinctive pattern in the material: a cross. This cross is formed by two “Ts,” a reference to the motto of Pope John Paul II, “Totus Tuus.” In this particular context, the motto reminds us that the death of Christ was done all for us.

With sorrowful eyes, the Angel of the Crown of Thorns and the Whip of Flagellation bears the dread instruments of suffering and torture used in the Passion of Jesus.

The inscription across the center of the panels reads HIC EST DOMUS DEI ET PORTA COELI ALLELUIA. This refers both to the tabernacle and, by application, to the Blessed Virgin Mary.