22 October 2014

The Holy Mass - St. John Paul II

You may view a videotape here of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated on 22 October 2014 with the students of The Atonement Academy.

Holy Mass with a saint...


Concelebrating the Mass with Pope John Paul II in this chapel was by far the most moving and memorable experience of my priestly ministry.

It was in November of 1983. Ordained only three months before, I was at the Vatican as a member of the Special Commission working on the Book of Divine Worship. An unexpected invitation was extended to join the Holy Father at Mass in his private chapel. How does one describe such an experience? To stand with the successor of St. Peter, to pray intimately with the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, to share the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood with the Vicar of Christ, is almost beyond description.

Upon arriving in the chapel, after vesting for Mass, I was privileged to kneel immediately to the right of the praying Pope. After some twenty or so minutes of praying before the tabernacle, we began the Mass. Including the Holy Father, there were five of us concelebrating, and the congregation consisted of members of the papal household staff. The Mass was celebrated in Latin according to the Missal of Paul VI (now known as the Ordinary Form), and the Holy Father preached a brief homily.

After the Mass was concluded we returned to our places for prayer, and once again I had the privilege of an extended time of prayer immediately next to him. One would think it would be difficult to pray in such a situation, that one constantly would be thinking, "I'm kneeling next to the Holy Father!" But not at all. I found that the time flew by as I offered up prayers of thanksgiving and petition for my family, for my parishioners, and for the one by whose side I was kneeling.

Infallibility is NOT Impeccability


Amongst the Catholic doctrines most troublesome to many Protestants (and many Orthodox, too) is that of papal infallibility. Perhaps it conjures up visions of flabella and the sedia gestatoria, or a not-so-subtle Vatican form of mind control, or even an abuse of our valued freedom of conscience.

Actually, it’s a rather straightforward sign of God’s love for His Church.

First of all, papal infallibility is not to be confused with impeccability. Most people understand this, but there are some who think Catholics are supposed to believe that the Pope cannot sin. Infallibility has nothing to do with the absence of sin. It’s a charism – a gift – which God imparts. Although it is rightly referred to as “papal infallibility," nonetheless it is something shared with the whole body of Catholic bishops. Although they do not have this charism individually, they do exercise the gift when they teach in doctrinal unity with the Successor of St. Peter. This is defined in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith.

Despite the myths held by some, the Pope doesn’t wake up in the morning and think to himself, “I think I shall proclaim something infallibly today,” nor are Catholics inhabitants of an ecclesiastical Wonderland in which they are required to believe “six impossible things before breakfast.”

So what is papal infallibility? It is defined in the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4, n. 9:
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

This was confirmed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.

The doctrine of papal infallibility did not abruptly appear in the 19th century. It was found implicitly from the earliest days of the Church, and indeed has its foundation in Holy Scripture itself. In St. John’s Gospel (21:15-17) Christ makes it clear to St. Peter that he, Peter, is to tend the flock and feed the sheep; in St. Luke’s Gospel (22:32) our Lord tells Peter that He will pray for him, so that his faith will not fail, and for him to strengthen the other apostles; in St. Matthew’s Gospel (16:18) Christ proclaims Peter to be the Rock on which He would build His Church.

The Church, founded by our divine Saviour, was commanded by Him to teach everything that He had revealed to His apostles (St. Matthew 28:20), and He promised them that they would be guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (St. John 16:13). As the teaching authority of the Church, along with the primacy of St. Peter and his successors, was more and more comprehended, there came a clearer understanding of the protection God provides through the gift of infallibility. From the scriptural testimony, on through such witnesses as St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Augustine of Hippo, it is clear the Church has always understood that God reveals and safeguards His truth through this charism.

There is an erroneous idea that a formal statement of infallible truth marks the occasion when the Church only began to teach a particular doctrine – in other words, that belief in papal infallibility began in only in 1870. However, infallible pronouncements are usually made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics, and so have never required a formal and infallible statement. We see this even with a cursory reading of the Catechism, where most of the doctrines outlined in its pages require no corresponding papal document to confirm what is simply part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.

If we scratch the surface of most arguments against the doctrine of papal infallibility, we will often find that there is confusion between infallibility and impeccability (“look at the sinful popes in history”), along with an independent streak of protestantism (“no one is going to tell me what I have to believe”). I find it to be both amazing and amusing, that those who are most vociferous against papal infallibility present their arguments with a certitude which could only be described as infallible.

It takes no great leap of faith to accept the fact that the God who created the universe and raises the dead, would also ensure that His children are given the truth. That He protects His Vicar on earth from solemnly defining something as true, if it’s really false, not only harmonizes with Scripture, but it is reflected in the unbroken history of the Church. We should derive great comfort from the doctrine of infallibility, because it’s a beautiful act of God’s divine love.

21 October 2014

St. John Paul II


Karol Josef Wojtyla was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. His mother died when he was just a young boy, and he was raised by his father. Even as a boy he was known for his athletic ability, and was in addition to his studies, he was active in all kinds of sports. As a young man, Karol worked as a laborer in factories and at a variety of physically demanding jobs. It was after the death of his father, in 1942, that he felt the call to ordination. The Nazis had come to power, and seminaries were suppressed, but he studied in secret, and after the liberation of Poland by Russian forces in January of 1945 he was able to study openly at the University. He graduated with distinction, and was ordained on All Saints Day in 1946.

After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Krakow and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich teaching on the human person and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully after whispering "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you."

O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst appoint St. John Paul II to be Pastor of the universal Church; Grant, we beseech thee, that being so instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

My morning with a saint...


Approaching the feast day of St. John Paul II has triggered the memory of one of the most amazing times of my life. It was in November of 1983 that I was in Rome, taking part in the meetings which would result in the Book of Divine Worship, which serves as the foundation of the Anglican Use liturgy in the Catholic Church.

It was my first time in Rome. I had been ordained as a Catholic priest only a few months before. They were rather heady days for a young priest, walking each morning from the Casa del Clero to the Vatican offices where we were working.

On my first morning in Rome, I needed to find an altar where I could say Mass. There was a concelebrated Mass at the Casa, but I was ready for an adventure, so I headed on foot to St. Peter’s Basilica. I knew I needed to get there early, and I knew I should head immediately to the sacristy. Beyond that, I was completely ignorant about making arrangements for celebrating Mass there.

Arriving in the sacristy, and after being overwhelmed by my walk through the basilica, I was fortunate that the man at the desk was patient (and by Vatican standards, even somewhat merciful). He directed me to the vesting area, summoned an altar boy for me, and before long I was following the young server down the long corridor out into the basilica.

In my mind I can still hear the murmur of Masses being said at altar after altar, some with small congregations, others with a solitary priest. Eventually I was taken to one of the many side altars, and I began the celebration of the Mass, my first in Rome.

It was strangely comforting to hear the low hum of the other Masses proceeding, as I made my way through the liturgy. Everything seemed to be at a concentrated level as I began the Eucharistic prayer.  At the consecration of the Host, when I genuflected, my eyes happened to catch the inscription on the front of the altar: S. Gregorius Magnus. It was overwhelming for me as I continued with the Mass, knowing that I was celebrating Holy Mass at the tomb of Pope St. Gregory, who had sent St. Augustine to England.

After Mass, as I made my way out of the basilica, reality returned with the work at hand. All of us serving on the special commission spent a brief time getting to know one another, and the discussions began. Although I threw myself into the work, and felt the excitement of participating in something historic, the recurring thought came to me that I would very much like to attend the upcoming Wednesday general audience with the Pope. It was a few days before that when I began to drop subtle hints, but the work was keeping us very busy. One of the kindly bishops also serving in the group knew what I was thinking, and he spoke to me during one of our breaks. He expressed his regret that our work would keep me occupied during the Wednesday audience, and then he said something which seemed rather mysterious. “On Thursday morning, if you will be in the Piazza San Pietro just to the right of the obelisk at 5:00 a.m., there will be a surprise for you,” he said.

I couldn’t imagine what he meant, but I was there by 4:00 a.m. because I could hardly sleep with the anticipation of this mystifying appointment I was keeping. It was still dark as I was saying the rosary, with the moon hanging over St. Peter’s Basilica, and when 5:00 a.m. came, I caught sight of a sliver of artificial light coming from an opening door off to my right. Being summoned to the open door by a guard, a most wonderful pilgrimage began at the bottom of a long flight of stairs.

I still was unaware of what was waiting for me – perhaps a glimpse of some great art treasure, I thought, or maybe a private visit to the basilica – whatever it was to be, it was still a mystery to me. We reached a landing on the staircase, and entered an elevator. The elevator went up a few floors and then stopped. When we exited, we were asked to turn to the right and go down another corridor. After walking several yards, I happened to glance to my left through some open doors. The mystery was solved.

There in front of me was the Holy Father’s private chapel. A familiar white-cassocked figure was kneeling before the altar, and the realization of where I was nearly took my breath away. After being escorted into the sacristy, I was told to vest for Mass. My mind was in a blur as I put on the vestments, and when I was ready I was taken to my place in the papal chapel, which was at a kneeler right next to the Holy Father himself.

There were only a few of us there – the Sisters who served in the papal household, a couple of priests, and a bishop. We spent a good deal of time in silent prayer before the Mass began, and at first I was distracted by the thought that I was kneeling immediately next to the Vicar of Christ. Soon, however, the Holy Spirit took over and I found that I was able to enter deeply into prayer. From time to time a deep sigh would come from the Holy Father, and I was reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Romans, when he wrote about “sighs too deep for words.”

After nearly a half-hour of prayer, it was time for the Mass to begin. The Pope’s vestments had been laid on the altar, and after he was vested we began the liturgy. I remained at my place during the Liturgy of the Word, but after the altar was prepared at the Offertory, I joined the Holy Father at the altar. At the time of Holy Communion, he held the paten from which I received a portion of the Host, and when he had received from the chalice he passed it to me. Certainly every time we receive Holy Communion it is a special encounter with God, but I must say that it was a unique experience for me to receive the Body and Blood of Christ while standing next to the Vicar of Christ, having concelebrated with him in his own chapel.

At the conclusion of the Mass, we spent a good amount of time in thanksgiving. It was once again my privilege to kneel next to the Holy Father for this, and I had much for which to be thankful – but there would be more.

Having been escorted to a reception room, there was now the opportunity to speak briefly with the Pope. When I was presented to him, he took my hands in his, and then made what could only be described as an extraordinary statement. “I know you,” he said to me. The puzzled look on my face, and my faltering question, “How, Holy Father…?” prompted him to continue. He went on to describe how my dossier had been given to him. Because mine was the first case of a married former Episcopal priest to be considered for the position of being the canonical pastor of a parish (rather than simply a parish administrator or chaplain) it was decided that such approval should be reserved to the Pope himself, rather than simply being processed through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as others were.

With my eyes widening, Pope John Paul II described to me how my dossier was placed on his desk. He then told me how he had some uncertainty about approving a married man as an actual pastor, so he placed the dossier in his desk drawer. He then got it out again, only to put it back in the drawer. “Finally,” he said, “I once more put it on my desk, and I prayed, and the Holy Spirit told me to say ‘yes’.”

Surely that must count as the most astonishing thing I had ever heard, that the Vicar of Christ was having a conversation about me with the Holy Spirit, Who then directed him to give his approval for my ordination and appointment as pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Church. If I hadn’t heard the story from the lips of the Pope himself, I would never have believed such a thing.

When I regained my voice, I asked the Holy Father if I could take his blessing back to my family and to the people of the parish. He threw his arms around me and drew me close while he said, “With all of my heart, I bless you and your people!” And what a blessing that has been throughout the years.

After all this, it is hardly possible to imagine there would be more, but there was yet another “once in a life-time” experience that morning. The Pope called upon one of the priests in his household to take me to “the chapel.” This confused me, because we had just come from his private chapel; however, I dutifully followed the priest, and we went off in a completely different direction down a long corridor, until we came to a large set of doors. He unlocked them and directed me in, saying to me, “Take as long as you like. I’ll wait for you out here.” He then shut the doors and left me alone without telling me where I was. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light, and as I looked around me I immediately knew where I was standing – it was in the Sistine Chapel.

The unexpected experience of being in a place so famous was, for a moment, disorienting. To look up at the magnificent ceiling (even though it was before the restoration), and to be able to explore the chapel all by myself, thinking about the papal elections which had taken place there, was overwhelming. I spent quite a bit of time taking it all in, offering thanks to God for such a blessed experience, and then I remembered the priest outside the door, patiently waiting for me.

He helped me find my way back to the stairs which I had climbed earlier that morning, and when I went through the doors leading into Piazza San Pietro, it was filled with the usual bustle of a day in Rome. It was all I could do to stop myself from rushing up to the first person I saw and asking him to guess where I’d just been! Instead, I headed across the Piazza to the office where we were working on the Book of Divine Worship, and I continued on the project which was the reason for my being there.

But I have to say, it had been quite a morning.

19 October 2014

St. Paul of the Cross


St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, January 3, 1694. His infancy and youth were spent in great innocence and piety. When he was still young he was inspired by God to found a religious congregation that would be dedicated to the Passion of Christ as we see it in the Cross, and in fact, God allowed him, in a vision, to see the habit which he and his companions were to wear. He spoke humbly to his bishop about this, and the bishop understood that this was an inspiration from God. On November 22, 1720, the bishop vested him with the habit that had been shown to him in a vision, the same that the Passionists wear at the present time. 

St. Paul of the Cross traveled throughout the Italy, preaching missions, and directing people’s attention to Jesus upon the Cross. God lavished upon him the greatest gifts in the supernatural order, but he treated himself with the greatest rigor, and believed that he was a useless servant and a great sinner. His saintly death occurred at Rome in the year 1775, at the age of eighty-one. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.


The Passionists continue their work, and a number of the members of this order have been beatified, perhaps the most famous being Blessed Dominic Barberi, notable for having received John Henry Newman into the Catholic faith.


O Lord Jesus Christ, who for the preaching of the mystery of the Cross, didst endue thy blessed confessor Saint Paul with singular gifts of charity, and didst likewise through him cause a new household of servants to flourish in thy Church: We beseech thee, that at his intercession we may learn so steadfastly to remember thy passion in this our life on earth, that we may be found worthy to attain to the benefits of the same in heaven; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 October 2014

Martyrs of North America


There are eight men whom we know as the Martyrs of North America, and they worked in the area of upstate New York and neighbouring Canada. St. Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. Isaac Jogues was a man of learning and culture, and he taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work amongst the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of St. John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly being attacked by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed.

An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands, saying "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues could have retired, thanked God for his safe return, and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his vocation to this missionary work. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons.

In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country, thinking that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at a village near Albany, New York.

The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children.

Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and laboured there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec (1629) and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture.

Father Anthony Daniel, Brother Gabriel Lalemant, Father Charles Garnier, and Father Noel Chabanel, were tortured and killed at different times, but all for the same reason – their love for God, their love for the Indians as God’s children, and their desire to bring them the love of God through life in the Church.

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

St. Luke the Evangelist


St. Luke is the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and was referred to by St. Paul as “our beloved physician.” We know a few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

Luke was most likely born a Greek Gentile. In his writings we can see an emphasis on Gentiles, and on the fact that Jesus came for Jew and Gentile alike. It is only in his Gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor would be fairly well to do, but it is more likely that Luke had been born as a slave, and later was able to secure his freedom. It was very common for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see that St. Luke was very often a companion to St. Paul in the missionary journeys, and very often in Acts he uses language which says “We did so and so,” indicating that he was there. Luke was a loyal friend who stayed with St. Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. After everyone else had deserted Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it was Luke who remained with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

St. Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with St. Paul. St. Luke also had a special connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and there are many things in his Gospel that could have come only through conversations with her. For instance, it is only in Luke's Gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, of Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, of the Presentation in the Temple, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is in Luke’s Gospel that we hear the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace," which was spoken at the Annunciation, and "Blessed are art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb," which was spoken by her cousin Elizabeth – all recorded by St. Luke.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners – Jew and Gentile alike – is the theme that runs through Luke’s Gospel. It’s only from St. Luke that we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's Gospel, we see Jesus welcoming those who seek God's mercy.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world. St. Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant St. Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son: Graciously continue in thy Church the like love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of thy Name; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

16 October 2014

St. Ignatius of Antioch


St. Ignatius was the second Bishop of Antioch, and had been a disciple of the Apostle St. John. There is a tradition which says that he was the young child whom Christ put in the midst of his disciples and said, “Unless you become as this little child, you cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Ignatius was consecrated bishop about the year 69 by the Apostle Peter. He was a holy man who was deeply loved by the Christian faithful, he always made it his special care to defend “orthodoxy” (right teaching) and “orthopraxy” (right practice) among the early Christians.

In 107, during the reign of the brutal Emperor Trajan, St. Ignatius was sentenced to death because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken under guard to Rome where he was to be publicly executed by being devoured by wild beasts. During his journey from Antioch to Rome, he was taken through Asia Minor and Greece. As he traveled he wrote seven letters to encourage, instruct, and inspire the Christians in the communities along the way, and the texts of these letters survive to this day. They outline the orthodox Christian faith, and in these letter we find the term “catholic” being used to describe the whole Church. These letters connect us to the early Church and to the unbroken, clear teaching of the Apostles which was given to them directly by Jesus Christ.

St. Ignatius was not afraid of death, because he knew it had been defeated by Christ. He wrote to the disciples in Rome: "Permit me to imitate my suffering God ... I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”

Almighty God, we praise thy Name for thy bishop and martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present unto thee the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray thee, the willing tribute of our lives, and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Promises from the Sacred Heart

The Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of the Atonement Church

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.

15 October 2014

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


St. Margaret Mary was born on July 22, 1647 in Burgundy, France, and was the fifth child of seven in her family. When she was eight years old, her father died suddenly, and her mother had to be away from home quite often, so Margaret Mary went away to attend school and came under the care of nuns. At the age of nine, she received her first Holy Communion. Right after that she wrote, "This Communion made all the small pleasures and amusements so repellent to me, that I could no longer take pleasure in any . . . just when I wanted to begin some game with my companions, I would always feel something drawing me, calling me to some quiet corner, giving me no peace till I had followed and then setting me to pray.” It was at that time that she became seriously ill, and she was bedridden with paralysis. For four years she suffered, but she prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary for healing. The time stretched on, and she continued to pray, finding more and more comfort in receiving and adoring the Blessed Sacrament, as Christ made His presence known to her. At the age of fifteen, she was cured and was no longer bedridden.

Back at home with her family, Margaret Mary continued to grow in her spiritual life, and she experienced private visions of Christ, with an increasing sense of His overwhelming love. During this time her mother had been urging her to marry, but there was a developing vocation to religious life stirring within her.

In 1671, at the age of twenty-three, Margaret Mary entered the Convent of the Visitation Nuns, and it was there just two years later, when she was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, that she experienced a vision in which the Lord told her that He had a particular work for her to do. She later described what she saw in the vision, how our Lord’s Heart appeared to be on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns. Our Lord told her that the flames represented His love for humanity, and the thorns represented man’s sinfulness and ingratitude. Jesus revealed to her that her mission was to establish the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart.

Over the next year and a half, she had three more visions. In those visions, Jesus explained to her the spiritual exercises that have become part of devotion to Christ’s Sacred Heart. St. Margaret Mary informed her Mother Superior about the visions, who did not know what to think about them. St. Margaret Mary was examined by priests and other experts, who tried to convince her that these experiences were illusions.

All of this led to another time of serious sickness, but her Superior promised that if Margaret Mary were healed, she herself would believe the visions were real. So Margaret Mary prayed and was healed, and her Mother Superior believed her. However, many others did not. Nonetheless, she received some encouragement from a priest who served as her spiritual director, and St. Margaret Mary was given the confidence she needed to encourage others to see in the Sacred Heart of Jesus the great symbol of His love for mankind. The devotion began to spread, first among the nuns in her community, and gradually it was accepted throughout the world.

On October 17, 1690, St. Margaret Mary was approaching death. As she received the last rites of the Church, her final words were, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

O Lord Jesus Christ, who in a wondrous manner didst make known unto Saint Margaret Mary thy Virgin, the unsearchable riches of thy Heart: Grant us, by her merits and example; that we may love thee in all things, and far above all things, and so find in thy Heart an habitation wherein we may dwell for evermore; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 October 2014

St. Teresa of Avila


St. Teresa of Avila was born in 1515, and she lived at an exciting time in history. Columbus had sailed to the new world only about twenty years before. Things were happening in the Church, and during her life, Martin Luther started the movement of protestants out of the Church – and in the midst of all this change and turmoil, Theresa developed her great spirituality which leads to God’s peace.

Teresa's father was honest and pious, but very strict. Teresa's mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to what he considered to be trashy books, so she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle -- especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong. When she was five years old she convinced her older brother that they should, as she later wrote, "go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there." They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. After this incident she led a fairly ordinary life, though she was convinced that she was a horrible sinner. As a teenager, she cared only about boys and clothes and flirting and rebelling -- like other teenagers throughout the ages. When she was 16, her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she began to enjoy it -- partly because of her growing love for God, and partly because the convent was a lot less strict than her father.

Still, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She'd watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn't seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she though that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.

Once installed at the Carmelite convent permanently, she started to learn and practice mental prayer. Teresa prayed this way off and on for eighteen years without feeling that she was getting results. Part of the reason for her trouble was that the convent wasn’t really as it should have been. Many women who had no place else to go wound up at the convent, whether they had vocations or not. They were encouraged to stay away from the convents for long period of time to cut down on expenses. Nuns would arrange their veils attractively and wear jewelry. Prestige depended not on piety but on money. There was a steady stream of visitors in the parlor and parties that included young men. Everyone liked Theresa and she liked to be liked. She found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. For years she hardly prayed at all because she thought it showed humility. She thought as a wicked sinner she didn't deserve to get favors from God.

When she was 41, a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she still found it difficult. As she started to pray again, God gave her an increasingly deep spirituality.

At the age of 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. There was great resistance to this – everybody liked things the way they’d been. But she was determined, and going against all the resistance, she persevered. She died on October 4 at the age of 67, having brought about the Order of Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer.

O God, who by the Holy Spirit didst move St. Teresa of Avila to manifest to thy Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we beseech thee, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a lively and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

13 October 2014

St. Callistus, Pope and Martyr


Imagine if what anybody knew about you was information that came from someone who really didn’t like you at all. And imagine if there was the added difficulty that the person who didn’t like you was also a saint! That’s the situation with St. Callistus who lived at the end of the 2nd century and into the 3rd century – most of the information about him comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, who at first was kind of a troublemaker in the early Church, but who later, just like St. Callistus, became a martyr for the Faith.

Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. He was an educated slave, and because of his financial talent, he was put in charge of a bank by his master. Unfortunately, because he made some loans to people who didn’t pay them back, he lost almost all the money that had been deposited. Callistus panicked, and he ran away. Of course, he was eventually caught and was put in jail. After being imprisoned for a while, his master released him and told him to do everything he could to recover the money. Apparently Callistus got a little too carried away, and eventually he was arrested again because he had started a fight in a local synagogue when he went after someone there who hadn’t paid back a loan. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia, which usually was a death sentence because of the horrible conditions there. But through the intervention of an influential person who had pity on him, he even managed to be released from the terrible life in the Sardinian mines. So far, it doesn’t sound much like the life of a saint, does it?

After he won his freedom, he was put in charge of the place where Christians buried their departed loved ones – this cemetery was called a catacomb, and in fact this cemetery was the first land actually owned by the Church, and it still exists as the Catacomb of St. Callistus. He was so faithful in this work that the pope ordained him as a deacon, and Callistus became his trusted friend and adviser.

Callistus had such a changed life and had become so faithful that he was himself elected pope, and it was then that the rivalry between Callistus and Hippolytus became so bitter – in fact, Hippolytus himself wanted to be the pope because he didn’t agree with many of the decisions made by Callistus. This rivalry was healed eventually, however, and Hippolytus was eventually martyred, and these two former enemies are now saints together in heaven. St. Callistus was martyred in Rome during one of the persecutions of the Church in the 3rd century.

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

12 October 2014

St. Edward, King and Confessor


Born in c. 1003, St. Edward was the last Saxon king to rule for any meaningful length of time in England. The Saxons were a Germanic people who had moved into Britain around the 5th century and took over the rule of the people. He is called "Edward the Confessor," which distinguishes him from another King of England, who was his grandfather, St. Edward the Martyr (c. 962-979).

Edward was the son of a very difficult father, known as King Ethelred the Unready. This gives us a hint about Ethelred's temperament – “unready” does not mean that he was unprepared, but rather it means that he was stubborn and willful. "Rede" means “advice” or “counsel,” so “un-rede” indicates that Ethelred was unwilling to take anyone’s advice or counsel.

Ethelred was followed in quick succession by several Danish kings of England, and during that time young Edward and his mother took refuge in Normandy, but the last Danish king decided to name Edward as his successor, and he was crowned in 1042. Some historians consider him to have been a weak king, but that would be to misunderstand him. Edward took his Catholic faith seriously. He always sought to settle things peacefully, and he was concerned for the religious practice of his people. He provided priests and churches throughout his kingdom. His holy example and solid leadership meant that there were more than twenty years of peace and prosperity, with freedom from foreign domination, at a time when powerful neighbors might well have dominated a less capable ruler. He himself was very faithful in public and private worship. He was generous to the poor, and he made himself accessible to his people whenever they had some grievance that needed to be settled. 

He had wanted to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but his advisors told him that it would not be good for him to be gone so long out of the country. Accordingly, he spent his pilgrimage money instead on the relief of the poor and the building of Westminster Abbey, which stands today (rebuilt in the thirteenth century) as one of the great churches of England, burial place of her kings and of others who have been deemed worthy of special honor.

He died on 5 January 1066, leaving no children, and he was buried in the great abbey church which he had founded.
O God, who didst call thy holy confessor, St. Edward, to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

11 October 2014

Pope St. John XXIII


St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte, Italy, in the Diocese of Bergamo on 25 November 1881. He was the fourth in a family of 14. The family worked as sharecroppers. It was a patriarchal family in the sense that the families of two brothers lived together, headed by his great-uncle Zaverio, who had never married and whose wisdom guided the work and other business of the family. Zaverio was Angelo's godfather, and to him he always attributed his first and most fundamental religious education. The religious atmosphere of his family and the fervent life of the parish, under the guidance of Fr. Francesco Rebuzzini, provided him with training in the Christian life.

He entered the Bergamo seminary in 1892. Here he began the practice of making spiritual notes, which he continued in one form or another until his death, and which have been gathered together in the Journal of a Soul. Here he also began the deeply cherished practice of regular spiritual direction. In 1896 he was admitted to the Secular Franciscan Order by the spiritual director of the Bergamo seminary, Fr. Luigi Isacchi; he made a profession of its Rule of life on 23 May 1897.

From 1901 to 1905 he was a student at the Pontifical Roman Seminary. On 10 August 1904 he was ordained a priest in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Rome's Piazza del Popolo. In 1905 he was appointed secretary to the new Bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.

When Italy went to war in 1915 he was drafted as a sergeant in the medical corps and became a chaplain to wounded soldiers. When the war ended, he opened a "Student House" for the spiritual needs of young people.

In 1919 he was made spiritual director of the seminary, but in 1921 he was called to the service of the Holy See. Benedict XV brought him to Rome to be the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1925 Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitator in Bulgaria, raising him to the episcopate with the titular Diocese of Areopolis. For his episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax, which became his guiding motto for the rest of his life.

On 19 March 1925 he was ordained Bishop and left for Bulgaria. He was granted the title Apostolic Delegate and remained in Bulgaria until 1935, visiting Catholic communities and establishing relationships of respect and esteem with the other Christian communities.

In 1935 he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. His ministry among the Catholics was intense, and his respectful approach and dialogue with the worlds of Orthodoxy and Islam became a feature of his tenure. In December 1944 Pius XII appointed him Nuncio in France.

At the death of Pius XII he was elected Pope on 28 October 1958, taking the name John XXIII. His pontificate, which lasted less than five years, presented him to the entire world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, enterprising and courageous, simple and active, he carried out the Christian duties of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: visiting the imprisoned and the sick, welcoming those of every nation and faith, bestowing on all his exquisite fatherly care. His social magisterium in the Encyclicals Pacem in terris and Mater et Magistra was deeply appreciated.

He convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council. The faithful saw in him a reflection of the goodness of God and called him "the good Pope." He was sustained by a profound spirit of prayer. He launched an extensive renewal of the Church, while radiating the peace of one who always trusted in the Lord. Pope John XXIII died on the evening of 3 June 1963, in a spirit of profound trust in Jesus and of longing for his embrace.

-Taken from L'Osservatore Romano, September 6, 2000.

Almighty and eternal God, who in Pope St. John XXIII, who didst give to the whole world the shining example of a good shepherd; grant that through his intercession, we may with joy spread abroad the fullness of Christian charity; 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 October 2014

Some Cardinal Newman videos...

These wonderful videos, giving us a glimpse into the environment in which Cardinal Newman lived, were made by Corpus Christi Watershed, and I've shamelessly lifted them for your enjoyment.





08 October 2014

Blessed John Henry Newman

The Shrine of Blessed John Henry Newman
in the Baptistry at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

John Henry Newman, the 19th century's most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer and eminent theologian in both Churches.

Born in London, England, he studied at Oxford's Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College and for 17 years was the Anglican vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin.

After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the links which the Church today must have with the Church at the beginning.

His study and research eventually convinced John Henry Newman that the Roman Catholic Church was indeed in continuity with the Church that Jesus established. He stopped his work in Oxford and retired to Littlemore. It was there, on October 9, 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by St. Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.

Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (his spiritual autobiography up to 1864) and Essay on the Grammar of Assent.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto "Cor ad cor loquitur" (Heart speaks to heart). He was buried in Rednal (near Birmingham) 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.

Three years after Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the University of Pittsburgh. In time, his name was linked to ministry centers at many public and private colleges and universities in the United States.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park (near Birmingham). The pope noted Newman's emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison.

"God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another."

"I have a mission; I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons; He has not created me for naught."

"I shall do good — I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace while not intending it if I do but keep his commandments. Therefore, I will trust him."

Almighty God, who didst bestow on thy Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow thy kindly light and to find peace in thy Church; grant, we beseech thee, that through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

07 October 2014

Our Lady of the Rosary Evensong

The students of The Atonement Academy sang Evensong on the Commemoration of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

06 October 2014

Victory through the Rosary


The commemoration of Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as Our Lady of Victory, recalls a very important event which took place on October 7, 1571. For some time the Muslims had attempted to conquer Europe, not only for political reasons, but also in an attempt to destroy the Church and impose Islam throughout the known world.

On that clear October morning a huge gathering of ships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, near the Greek port of Lepanto -- 280 Turkish ships, and 212 Christian ships. For years the Muslims had been raiding Christian areas around the Mediterranean and had carried off thousands of Christians into slavery. In fact, all of the ships gathered on that morning were powered by rowers – and the Muslim ships had nearly 15,000 Christian slaves in chains, being forced to pull the oars to guide the ships into battle. The Catholic fleet was under the command of Don Juan of Austria, but the Catholic fleet was at a great disadvantage in its power and military ability. This was a battle that would decide the fate of the world – either the Turks would be victorious and the Church destroyed, or the Catholics would be victorious and would put down the Muslim threat.

Pope St. Pius V knew the importance of victory. He called upon all of Europe to pray the rosary, asking for the intercession of Our Lady, that God would grant a Catholic victory. Although it seemed hopeless, the people prayed. Don Juan guided his battleships into the middle of the Turkish fleet; meanwhile, many of the Christian slaves had managed to escape their chains and poured out of the holds of the Muslim ships, attacking the Turks and swinging their chains, throwing the Muslims overboard. The combination of the attack by the Catholic fleet and the uprising of the Christian slaves meant that there was a great victory by the Catholics fleet over the mighty Turkish fleet.

We know today that this victory was decisive. It prevented the Islamic invasion of Europe at that time, and it showed the Hand of God working through Our Lady. At the hour of victory, Pope St. Pius V, who was hundreds of miles away in his Papal residence, is said to have gotten up from a meeting, went over to a window, and through supernatural knowledge exclaimed, "The Christian fleet is victorious!" and he wept tears of thanksgiving to God.

This day has been remembered throughout the Church, first as Our Lady of Victory, and then as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary – remembering the victory God granted, and also remembering the means by which that victory was achieved – that it was an intervention by God through the prayers offered by praying the Rosary... something we might consider in our own generation.

O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection, hath obtained for us the rewards of everlasting salvation: Grant, we beseech thee; that mindful of these mysteries, our devotion may ever bud forth as the rose, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and both follow the examples and attain to the benefits that thou dost show forth therein; 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.

05 October 2014

St. Bruno, Priest and Founder


St. Bruno founded a religious order, the Carthusians, which is the most demanding, the most strict and the most difficult in which to live – and yet many young men choose it as a way of making a life-long sacrifice for the glory of God.

Born in Cologne, Germany, St. Bruno became a famous teacher at Rheims and an important official the archdiocese. It was a time when many clergy were living lives that were incompatible with their calling, and when Pope Gregory VII brought about reforms, Bruno completely supported it. In fact, he took part in getting his own scandalous archbishop removed from office – of course, the archbishop had his friends, and they made life very difficult for Bruno.

After all this, St. Bruno had the dream of living in solitude and prayer, and persuaded a few friends to join him in a hermitage, and eventually was given some land which was to become famous for his foundation "in the Chartreuse" which described the color of the countryside (yellowish green, and from which comes the word “Carthusian”). The climate, desert, mountainous terrain and inaccessibility guaranteed silence, poverty and small numbers.

Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day, and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts.

The pope, hearing of Bruno's holiness, called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again, and spent his last years (after refusing becoming a bishop) in the wilderness of Calabria.

He was never formally canonized, because the Carthusians avoided all occasions of publicity. Pope Clement extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Bruno, 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.

03 October 2014

St. Francis of Assisi


St. Francis of Assisi was actually baptized with the name Giovanni (John), but his father, who was a cloth merchant and who had lots of business in France, called him Francis. That's the name that stuck, although it's really a nickname. Francis was born in 1182 in the town of Assisi, and because his father was rather successful, Francis was raised with a love of fine clothes and good times. He led the other young men of the town in enjoying good food and drink, singing, and dancing.

When Francis was 20, he was taken prisoner in a war between Assisi and Perugia. For the year he was a prisoner, during which time he was very sick, he had some religious experiences which began to change him. After his release, he was praying in the decrepit little chapel of S. Damiano outside Assisi, and he heard a voice from the crucifix telling him, "Francis, repair my house, which is falling in ruins." He took the words literally, and he went quickly back to the city, sold his horse and some cloth from his father's shop, and came back to give some of the money to the priest at S. Damiano, and distributed some of it to the poor. Francis also, with his own hands, worked on repairing the little church.

His father was furious at Francis' squandering money on churches and beggars, and hauled him before the bishop to bring him to his senses. As he stood before the bishop, Francis calmly took off all his clothes, gave them to his father (the astonished bishop quickly covered Francis with a cloak), and said that he was now recognizing only his Father in heaven, not his father on earth. His life from this time on was lived without money or family ties.

The 13th century was also a time when the Christian religion was taken very much for granted, and Francis felt the need to return to the original spirit of Christ. This meant living in poverty, and it also meant showing Christ's love to other people. A number of the young men of Assisi, attracted by Francis' example, joined him in his new way of life. In 1209 Francis and his companions went to Rome, where they presented their ideas to Pope Innocent III and received his approval.

They found themselves influencing more and more people, including a young lady named Clare, whom Francis helped to enter a monastery of nuns, and who later began the "second order" of Franciscans, the order for women. Francis travelled to the Holy Land. He also went to Rome in 1223 to present the rule of his order to the Pope, who approved it wholeheartedly. Francis returned to Assisi and began to spend more and more time alone in prayer, leaving the decisions about his organization to others.

While he was praying on Mt. Alvernia in 1224, he had a vision of an angelic figure, and when the vision disappeared Francis felt the wounds of Christ in his hands, side, and feet. He was careful not to show the stigmata to others, but several close friends reported after his death that Francis had suffered in his body as Christ had suffered on the cross. His last 2 years were lived in almost constant pain and near-blindness. He died in 1226, and 2 years later he was canonized.

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant unto thy people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of Saint Francis, we may for love of thee delight in thy whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

02 October 2014

The Transitus of St. Francis


The Commemoration of the Transitus, or the Death of St. Francis of Assisi, takes place each year on October 3rd in the evening.

The Commemoration will take place this year at the High Altar at Our Lady of the Atonement Church, with the Poor Clare Nuns.

The Holy Guardian Angels Bridge

Connecting the St. Anne Playground with the St. Nicholas Field is the Holy Guardian Angels bridge, which spans a creek bed (usually dry, but which can become raging with high water during storms). Since it was built nineteen years ago, there were repairs required, and the bridge was basically rebuilt over the past few months.

The bridge was rededicated and blessed on the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, with the children of the Lower School in attendance.


THE PRAYER OF BLESSING


Almighty and eternal Father, who hast appointed Holy Angels to watch over us and to keep us in the way of salvation; Bless, we pray thee, this bridge, in the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  

In thine eternal goodness, send thy Holy Angel from heaven to watch over it; protect it and support it, and keep in safety all those who shall pass over it.  Grant this, we pray thee, 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.






01 October 2014

Holy Guardian Angels

The Holy Guardian Angel,
located at the main staircase in
The Atonement Academy.

God shows His love to us in many ways, and one of the most comforting and constant expressions of this is that He entrusts each of us to a particular angel, who is our guide and our guardian. The statue pictured here is what greets our students every morning, a reminder of the protection and prayers of their Guardian Angel throughout the day.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "the existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith” (n. 328), and it goes on to say (n. 336) "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."  Our Lord Himself tells us, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father" (Matthew 18:10).

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in writing to his spiritual sons (and equally applicable to all of us) says this: 
“Be alert in your every action as one should be who is accompanied by angels in all your ways, for that mission has been enjoined upon them. In whatever lodging, in whatever nook or corner you may find yourself, cherish a reverence for your guardian angel. In his presence do not dare to do anything you would not do in mine. Or do you doubt his presence because you do not see him? Would it really help if you did hear him, or touch him, or smell him? Remember, there are realities whose existence has not been proven by mere sight.
Brethren, we will love God's angels with a most affectionate love; for they will be our heavenly co-heirs some day, these spirits who now are sent by the Father to be our protectors and our guides. With such bodyguards, what are we to fear? They can neither be subdued nor deceived; nor is there any possibility at all that they should go astray who are to guard us in all our ways. They are trustworthy, they are intelligent, they are strong — why, then, do we tremble? We need only to follow them, remain close to them, and we will dwell in the protection of the Most High God. So as often as you sense the approach of any grave temptation or some crushing sorrow hangs over you, invoke your protector, your leader, your helper in every situation. Call out to him and say: Lord, save us, we are perishing.”

O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thine appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without. Amen.

A relic of St. Thérèse

A first-class relic of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face will be in the Lady Chapel throughout her feast day for the veneration of the Faithful.


"Follow Christ!"

Thirty-five years ago today I was standing on the Boston Common with about 600,000 others.  I was a young Episcopal cleric, and a Catholic priest friend of mine had encouraged me to go to Boston "to see the Pope." It rained for most of the day, and I was standing in it with no umbrella. An excited community of religious sisters was in front of me, screaming their heads off and waving their signs to no one in particular. I didn't know a single person around me, and after standing in the mud and rain for nearly seven hours, I didn't think I'd ever want to do this again.

But then... the Holy Father arrived. The Mass started. The memory of the long and uncomfortable wait we'd had melted away. I didn't hear anything but his voice.

When he began his sermon, my heart was ready. And when he repeated, "Follow Christ!" that's all I wanted to do. So I made my decision then and there. I would become a Catholic. I didn't know how, and I didn't know when, but to follow Christ meant that I had to become a Catholic.

Little did I know at the time that I was listening to a saint.  I thank God every day that I heard his words, and that the Holy Spirit urged me to respond.

Follow Christ.  That says it all.



30 September 2014

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus


Marie Thérèse Martin was born into a family of very faithful Catholics, and she was the youngest of five daughters. Her father was a watchmaker, and her mother, Zelie, who died when Thérèse was four, was a lace maker.

While still a child she felt the attraction of the cloister, and at fifteen obtained permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux, taking the name of Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. For the next nine years she lived a very ordinary religious life. There are no miracles or exceptional experiences recorded about her. She attained a very high degree of holiness simply by carrying out her ordinary daily duties with perfect faithfulness, having a childlike confidence in God's providence and merciful love and by being ready to be at the service of others at all times. She also had a great love of the Church and a zeal for the conversion of souls, and she prayed especially for priests.

She died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized in 1925. She has never ceased to fulfill her promise: "I will pass my heaven in doing good on earth." Her interior life is known through her autobiography called The Story of a Soul. Pope John Paul II declared her to be a Doctor of the Church in 1997.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast said, Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven: Grant us, we beseech thee; in meekness and lowliness of heart to follow the footsteps of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, thy holy virgin, and so at last to come unto thine everlasting kingdom; where thou livest and reignest, with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 September 2014

St. Jerome the Irritable


Most saints are remembered for some outstanding virtue or devotion which they practiced, but Jerome is frequently remembered for his bad temper! It is true that he came across as a bit of a grouch and could use a vitriolic pen, but his love for God was extraordinarily intense. St. Jerome considered that anyone who taught error was an enemy of God and truth, and he went after such a person with his mighty and sometimes sarcastic pen.

He was above all a Scripture scholar, translating most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. He also wrote commentaries which are a great source of scriptural inspiration for us today. He was an avid student, a thorough scholar, a prodigious letter-writer and a consultant to monk, bishop and pope. St. Augustine said of him, "What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known."

His love for scripture lead him to the Holy Land – he wanted to see the places of scripture.  He began work on his greatest achievement, which was the Latin Vulgate version of the scriptures.

He took up residence in Bethlehem, and the cave in which he lived was in close proximity to the cave in which Jesus was born.  It was where he studied and worked for many years, eventually dying there.  His body is now in St. Mary Major in Rome.

Here are some quotes from the inimitable Jerome:

On the study of Hebrew he wrote, “From the judicious precepts of Quintilian, the rich and fluent eloquence of Cicero, the graver style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny, I turned to this language of hissing and broken-winded words.”

On worldly women, he railed against those who “paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony, whose plastered faces, too white for human beings, look like idols; and if in a moment of forgetfulness they shed a tear it makes a furrow where it rolls down the painted cheek; women to whom years do not bring the gravity of age, who load their heads with other people's hair, enamel a lost youth upon the wrinkles of age, and affect a maidenly timidity in the midst of a troop of grandchildren.”

Even the clergy of Rome didn’t get a break. He said, “All their anxiety is about their clothes.... You would take them for bridegrooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies.”

No wonder he ended up living in a cave.


St. Jerome's Cave in Bethlehem,
where we have celebrated Mass according to the Anglican Use on a few occasions.


O God, who for the exposition of thy holy Scriptures didst bestow upon thy Church the wondrous teaching of St. Jerome thy Confessor and Doctor; grant, we beseech thee, that by the intercession of his merits, we may of thee be enabled to perform those thing which he taught in word and deed; 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.


28 September 2014

The Holy Archangels


O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thine appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs or classes are 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.


St. Michael
The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, “who is like unto God?” and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host." He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.


St. Gabriel
St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachariah when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation. The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.


St. Raphael
Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveler with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means "God has healed".