26 May 2015

St. Augustine, Apostle to the English


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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, who by the preaching and miracles of St. Augustine of Canterbury hast caused the light of the true faith to shine forth among the peoples of England; grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that are gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth, and that we may dwell together in peace according to thy will; 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.

25 May 2015

St. Philip Neri


If we had to choose the one saint who always had a funny story to tell, or a harmless practical joke to play, it would be St. Philip Neri, who lived in the 16th century. His sense of humor was for a reason – he said there were plenty of gloomy saints – he wanted to use laughter and good-natured fun as a way of growing closer to God.

Philip’s life wasn’t always easy. His father was a financial failure, and when he was a young man of eighteen, Philip was sent to work with an older cousin who was a successful businessman. During this time, Philip found a favorite place to pray up in the fissure of a mountain that had been turned into a chapel. We don't know anything specific about his conversion but during these hours of prayer he decided to leave worldly success behind and dedicate his life to God.

After thanking his cousin, he went to Rome in 1533 where he was the live-in tutor of the sons of a fellow Florentine. He studied philosophy and theology, but he really wanted to live a life of prayer. During one of his times of prayer, he felt as though a globe of light had entered into him. This experience gave him so much energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking to others about God, everyone from beggars to bankers.

In 1548 Philip formed a kind of confraternity with other laymen to minister to pilgrims who came to Rome without food or shelter. The spiritual director of the confraternity convinced Philip that he could do even more work as a priest, so after completing his studies, Philip was ordained in 1551.

At his new home, the church of San Girolamo, he learned to love to hear confessions. Young men especially found in him the wisdom and direction they needed to grow spiritually. But Philip began to realize that these young men also needed guidance during their daily lives. So Philip began to ask the young men to come by in the early afternoon when they would discuss spiritual readings and then stay for prayer in the evening. The numbers of the men who attended these meetings grew rapidly. In order to handle the growth, Philip and a fellow priest Buonsignore Cacciaguerra gave a more formal structure to the meetings and built a room called the Oratory to hold them in.

Philip understood that it wasn't enough to tell somebody not to do something – they had to have something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when crowds were involved in all sorts of things that could lead to trouble, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a picnic accompanied by instrumental music for the mid-day break. After walking twelve miles in one day everyone was too tired to be tempted!

Eventually, Philip’s success with young people started to make some of the other priests jealous, and the good work he was doing was threatened. But eventually Philip and the others who worked with him were seen to be doing God’s work, so they were able to continue. In fact, St. Philip wouldn’t allow a single bad thing to be said about the people who had tried to destroy him. Eventually he and the others who worked with him realized they needed a center for their activities, and they were able to take up residence at what was known as “Chiesa Nuova,” or the “New Church.”

Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself. Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they always had a humorous side. When one priest gave a beautiful sermon, Philip ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so people would think he only had one sermon. When one man asked Philip if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip gave him permission -- if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes and name-calling he received.

And Philip carried out his own mortifications to learn humility. There are stories of him wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he wanted to seem. When some people came from Poland to see the great saint, they found him listening to another priest read to him from joke books.

But Philip was very serious about prayer, spending hours in prayer. He was so easily carried away that he refused to preach in public and could not celebrate Mass with others around. But he when asked how to pray his answer was, "Be humble and obedient and the Holy Spirit will teach you."

St. Philip Neri died in 1595 after a long illness, at the age of eighty years.

_________________________________


Whenever we have a parish pilgrimage to Rome, we always visit the magnificent but charming Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, better known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. This served as the center of operation for St. Philip Neri, the fun-loving saint who combined humor with holiness, and whose work resulted in the foundation of the Oratorians.





O God, who didst exalt thy blessed Confessor St. Philip Neri to the glory of thy Saints: mercifully grant that we, who rejoice in his festival, may learn to follow rightly the pattern of his godliness; 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.

24 May 2015

St. Bede the Venerable


A man venerated as an example of holiness even before his death, the name of St. Bede describes his life. From the Old English word bēd, which means prayer, he was devoted to God, to His worship, and to the study of His truth. Living from about the year 672 until 26 May 735, Bede was born on the lands of the Northumbrian monastery in which he died. Brilliant by the standards of any age, he was regarded for his goodness as much as for his scholarship. He died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips, and some time before, he had written what is known as his Death Song:

Fore there neidfaerae naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnotturra than him tharf sie
to ymbhycggannae aer his hiniongae
huaet his gastae godaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege doemid uueorthae.

Before the unavoidable journey there, no one becomes
wiser in thought than him who, by need,
ponders, before his going hence,
what good and evil within his soul,
after his day of death, will be judged.


Heavenly Father, who didst call thy servant St. Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to thy service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship; Grant that as he laboured in the Spirit to bring the riches of thy truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make thee known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

George Herbert's "Whitsunday"

Pentecost by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1320


"Whitsunday"
by George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633)

Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and flie away with thee.

Where is that fire which once descended
On thy Apostles? thou didst then
Keep open house, richly attended,
Feasting all comers by twelve chosen men.

Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow,
That th’ earth did like a heav’n appeare;
The starres were coming down to know
If they might mend their wages, and serve here.

The sunne, which once did shine alone,
Hung down his head, and wisht for night,
When he beheld twelve sunnes for one
Going about the world, and giving light.

But since those pipes of gold, which brought
That cordiall water to our ground,
Were cut and martyr’d by the fault
Of those, who did themselves through their side wound,

Thou shutt’st the doore, and keep’st within;
Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
And if the braves of conqu’ring sinne
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.

Lord, though we change, thou art the same;
The same sweet God of love and light:
Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.

23 May 2015

Fr. Hunwicke on Pentecost

On the Solemnity of Pentecost last year, Fr. Hunwicke preached this sermon, which is well worth hearing again.



21 May 2015

St. Rita of Cascia


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

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

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

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

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

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. Rita of Cascia, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with her 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.

20 May 2015

The Holy Martyrs of Mexico


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

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

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

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

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

Almighty and Everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of St. Christopher Magallanes and the holy martyrs of Mexico: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example, and be aided by their intercession; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

19 May 2015

St. Bernardine of Siena

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 May 2015

Ss. Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald


In the middle of the 10th century there was a king in England whose name was Edgar the Peaceable. Not that he was a peaceable man himself – he wasn’t. But he brought peace to the English, and it is that for which he is remembered.

His elder brother, Eadwig, had been king before him. Eadwig was a rather disagreeable man who brought discord to the land. His reign was known most for the conflict between his noblemen and the Church, which Eadwig had fueled by exiling some of the prominent clergy, which included St. Dunstan.

Eventually people tired of the turmoil and disunity under Eadwig, and it was then that they switched their allegiance to Edgar the Peaceable. This opened up all sorts of opportunities for rebuilding a stable society, because Edgar saw the importance of the place of the Church in the nation. He immediately called St. Dunstan back from exile, requesting that he be made a bishop. St. Dunstan remained King Edgar’s advisor for the rest of his reign.

Having St. Dunstan at his side meant that King Edgar could repair the great damage that had been done to the monasteries throughout the land. A series of attacks from the Danes had all but destroyed these important centers of learning and pastoral care, and it was at St. Dunstan’s urging that King Edgar sought out St. Ethelwold and St. Oswald, petitioning also that they be made bishops. The combined efforts of these three saints meant that the monasteries were restored, which assisted in making England unified as a nation.

We see in the story of these three great British saints the importance of seeking cooperation between the Church, with her preaching of the Gospel and her work of teaching and sanctifying, and the State, with its responsibility to uphold the law and good order of society. When the Church and the State work in harmony, each respecting the God-given role of the other, the good fruits which come from that are undeniable. St. Dunstan, St. Ethelwold, and St. Oswald carried out God’s work faithfully. They sought no honour for themselves, but rather they brought honour to God and His Church by teaching the faith, providing the Sacraments, and showing that ultimately God must be the King of every nation.

We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this feast of thy bishops Ss. Dunstan, Ethelwold and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and administering thy church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; 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.

Pope St. John I, Martyr

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

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

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

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

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

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy Pope and Martyr St. John 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.

16 May 2015

The Ascension of Our Lord


Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thine only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with Him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


A hymn of glory let us sing;
New songs throughout the world shall ring:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ, by a road before untrod,
Ascendeth to the throne of God.

The holy apostolic band
Upon the Mount of Olives stand;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
And with His followers they see,
Jesus’ resplendent majesty.

To whom the angels, drawing nigh:
“Why stand and gaze upon the sky?”
Alleluia! Alleluia!
“This is the Savior,” thus they say,
“This is His noble triumph day.”

“Again shall ye behold Him so
As ye today have seen Him go,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
In glorious pomp ascending high,
Up to the portals of the sky.”

The Venerable Bede (673-735);
Trans. by Benjamin Webb, 1854


15 May 2015

St. Isidore the Farmer

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

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

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

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

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

O Almighty God, 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 the Farmer, 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.

14 May 2015

Novena to the Holy Ghost

The first novena was prayed by the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the small company of those who had been with the Lord Jesus. After His ascension, they "devoted themselves to prayer," until the coming of the Holy Ghost. 
This year the Novena should begin on Friday, May 15th. The prayers of the Novena may be abbreviated by using only the Proper Prayer each day, and the concluding Collect.
NOVENA TO THE HOLY GHOST

In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Each day, the Novena begins with this prayer:

O HOLY SPIRIT, our Lord and our God, we adore thee and humbly acknowledge here in thy sacred presence that we are nothing, and can do nothing, without thy operation within us. Come, great Paraclete, thou Father of the poor, thou Comforter of the blest, fulfill the promise of our Saviour, who would not leave us orphans, and enter our minds and hearts as thou didst descend on the day of Pentecost upon the Holy Mother of Jesus and upon His first disciples. Grant that we may have a part in those gifts which thou didst so graciously bestow upon them.

Take from our hearts all that is not pleasing to thee and make of them a worthy dwelling-place for Jesus. Illumine our minds, that we may see and understand the things that are for our eternal welfare. Inflame our hearts with the pure love of the Father, that, cleansed from attachments to all unworthy objects, our lives may be hidden with Jesus in God. Strengthen our wills, that they may be conformed to the will of our Creator and guided by thy holy inspirations. Aid us to practice the heavenly virtues of humility, poverty, and obedience which are taught to us in the earthly life of Jesus.

Descend upon us, O mighty Spirit, that, inspired and encouraged by thee, we may faithfully fulfill the duties of our various states in life, carry our particular crosses with patience and courage, and accomplish the Father's will for us more perfectly. Make us, day by day, more holy and give to us that heavenly peace which the world cannot give.

O Holy Spirit, thou Giver of every good and perfect gift, grant to us our special intentions of this novena of prayer. May the Father's will be done in us and through us; and mayest thou, O mighty Spirit of the living God, be praised and glorified for ever and ever. Amen.

Here is said or sung the Veni Creator Spiritus:

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire,
thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

Thy blesséd unction from above,
is comfort, life, and fire of love,
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soiled face
with the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
where thou art Guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but One;
that through the ages all along,
this may be our endless song:

Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

OUR FATHER, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Here is said the Proper Prayer for the Day:

FIRST DAY
Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up thy dwelling within our souls, and make of them thy sacred home. Make us live by grace as adopted children of God. Pervade all the energies of our souls, and create in us fountains of living water, springing up unto eternal life.

SECOND DAY
Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to our souls the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach us to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Show us the way by which we may be able to attain to them, and possess them, and hold them hereafter, our own forever.

THIRD DAY
Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in thy light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of thee and the Father and the Son.

FOURTH DAY
Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide us in all our ways, that we may always do thy holy will. Incline our hearts to that which is good, turn them away from all that is evil, and direct us by the path of thy commandments to the goal of eternal life.

FIFTH DAY
Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give courage to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil.

SIXTH DAY
Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, and make us to understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for thy glory and the salvation of thy creatures. May we always be faithful in putting thy rewards before every earthly gift.

SEVENTH DAY
Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess our hearts, and incline them to a true faith in thee, to a holy love of thee, our God. Give us thy grace, that we may seek thee and find thee, our best and our truest joy.

EIGHTH DAY
Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate our inmost hearts, that we may set thee, our Lord and God, before our faces forever; and shun all things that can offend thee, so that we may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of thy divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens.

NINTH DAY
Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a desire for holy things. Produce in our souls the fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness.

The following prayer concludes the Novena each day:

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

13 May 2015

Feast of St. Matthias


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

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

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

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

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

12 May 2015

Our Lady of Fatima


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, who in the blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling place meet for thy Son: We humbly pray that we, observing the appearing of the same blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing both in body and soul; 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.

The Crusader Times


Here is the link to the latest issue of The Crusader Times, which is a weekly publication from The Atonement Academy.

11 May 2015

Ss. Nereus and Achilleus

The story begins with a young woman named Flavia Domitilla. She was the niece of the emperor, she was very beautiful, and she was engaged to be married to a young man named Aurelianus. The young man was very much a product of society at that time – he had little respect for Domitilla, and was marrying her mainly because she was the niece of the emperor. He had relationships with other women at the same time, and had no intention of breaking them off.

Nereus and Achilleus were Roman soldiers in the household of Flavia Domitilla. They were instructed and baptized by St. Peter. These two soldiers admired Domitilla, and began to tell her about the Christian faith. They helped her to understand her own human dignity, and she decided that she really wanted to give herself to Christ completely, and that she wouldn’t marry. Aurelianus reported all three to the Roman authorities as being Christians. They were beheaded, martyred out of hatred for the Christian faith.

Domitilla owned some property outside the city of Rome, and she had given this land to the Christians as a cemetery, and to this day it is the site of one of the major catacombs. Nereus, Achilleus, and Domitilla were buried there.

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyrs St. Nereus and St. Achilleus: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

To Love As Christ Loves

This is the sermon preached on the Sixth Sunday of Easter.


(If there is no image, you may go to this link for the video.)

10 May 2015

Congratulations, Dr. Feulner!


Professor Hans-Jürgen Feulner, professor of liturgics at the University of Austria, and a very good friend of our parish, has been awarded a papal knighthood. He was awarded the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great for his work on the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission, which recently completed the revision of the Book of Divine Worship. This liturgy, now called simply Divine Worship, is to be used by the Ordinariates, and also the parishes of the Pastoral Provision. We are so pleased that the Holy Father has given Professor Feulner this honor, and we shout out our heartiest congratulations!

04 May 2015

A homily by Fr. Stravinskas


This homily was delivered as part of the twentieth anniversary of The Atonement Academy at Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio, Texas, on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 3 May 2015, by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.


In 1993 during the weekend of celebrations for this parish’s tenth anniversary, I stood in this church and observed that many of you were asking what more you could or should be doing as a parish community to become even “more Catholic.”  I challenged you: “Open a Catholic school.”  I used the rest of that homily to explain why the Church considers Catholic education to be so important and what I thought a new Catholic school could do for the life of your then-fledgling Anglican Use parish.  True pioneers, real men and women of faith, under the dauntless leadership of Father Phillips, and following the example of great American saints like Mother Cabrini, Mother Seton and Bishop John Neumann, you determined to walk by faith, not by sight.  Like the Psalmist with whom we sang today, you took as your guiding principle: “Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn that he has wrought it.” You were not content to love merely “in word or speech but in deed and in truth.”  Put bluntly, you put your money where your mouth was, having “confidence in God” that you would “receive from him whatever [you] ask.”

Now that we have come to the twentieth anniversary of The Atonement Academy, let’s take this opportunity to review the goal of a Catholic school and to renew our communal commitment.

“The days have come. . . in which the school is more necessary than the church.”  Does that statement startle you?  Who could say that?  The answer is that it did indeed startle people the first time it was said – and over 150 years ago – by Archbishop John J. Hughes of New York.  In many ways, it was his insight and foresight that launched the Catholic community in America on an endeavor unparalleled in the history of the Church.  Archbishop Hughes felt that if he lost the children, there would be little hope for the future of the Church in this country.

The rationale behind this stringent injunction was explained clearly by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri (On the Christian Education of Youth): “The so-called ‘neutral’school from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education.  Such a school moreover cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious.”  While this kind of thinking has been characterized as a “fortress” or “siege mentality,” few observers can doubt that the American so-called public school is a potent example of a “neutral” school system becoming “irreligious” de facto and, some would add, de jure.

Now, pragmatic people will want to ask, "Has it been worth all the blood, sweat and tears?  Has this school really accomplished anything?"  If The Atonement Academy is no better and no worse than the average Catholic school in the United States, here's what you should have begun to see, according to all the sociological data available:  Its graduates will have picked up the basics of the Catholic Faith in a God-centered environment; they are more committed to the Catholic Church, demonstrated in better church attendance, more generous financial giving to their parish, greater involvement in the life and mission of the Catholic Church.  Not only do they excel in the three r's, but in that all-important fourth "r" – religion – because they were taught the lesson St. John never tired of repeating – that we are truly "children of God."

Unfortunately, most youngsters in our society are not taught that they have the inestimable dignity of being the adopted children of their Heavenly Father; that they are the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; that they, therefore, have both a natural and a supernatural dignity.  No, most other schools in our country do not and, even more sadly, cannot by law teach about how man is made in the image and likeness of God or about God's commandments which contain within them the blueprint for human happiness and fulfillment.  Those schools do not challenge children to greatness and to lives of virtue; they merely provide them with the techniques of so-called "safe sex."  Well, it seems to me that every penny spent by every parent and by this parish community has been a marvelous investment in human potential which seeks the good – indeed, the ultimate Good which is God Himself.  And so, I ask you, "Can you conceive of a better way to have expended so much time and energy?"  I can't.

Pope Paul VI's bicentennial message to the Church in the United States contained praise for the American Catholic school system and an encouragement to continue the tradition: “The strength of the Church in America (is) in the Catholic schools.”  Nor was it sheer coincidence that the two Americans Paul VI canonized in observance of our bicentennial, Bishop John Neumann of Philadelphia and Mother Seton of New York, were prime movers in the parochial school effort.

Pope John Paul II's esteem for the American Catholic school system was demonstrated with great regularity.  Just months after his installation, he sent a videotaped message to Catholic educators gathered in Philadelphia for the annual convention of the National Catholic Educational Association, in which he said that he hoped to give “a new impulse to Catholic education throughout the vast area of the United States of America.”  He went on to say: “Yes, the Catholic school must remain a privileged means of Catholic education in America. . . , worthy of the greatest sacrifices.”  Later that year during his first pastoral visit to the States, with 20,000 Catholic school students at Madison Square Garden, he seized the opportunity “to tell (them) why the Church considers it so important and expends so much energy in order to provide . . . millions of young people with a Catholic education.”  It is for no other purpose, he said, than to “communicate Christ” to them.  He likewise referred to the Catholic school as “the heart of the Church.” 

Pope Benedict XVI, at the Catholic University of America in 2008, weighed in on this topic as well:

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church's commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. . . . Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

How do Catholic schools “nurture the soul of a nation”?  It seems to me that believers must be convinced – and then must convince everyone else – that the Fathers of Vatican II got it right when they declared in Gaudium et Spes: “Without the Creator, the creature vanishes” (n. 36).  History supports that assertion.  Just look at the bloodshed of every godless movement of modernity from the French Revolution to the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War to the murderous campaigns of the Nazis and Communists.  Clearly, “without the Creator, the creature vanishes.”   And an education devoid of God is an anti-education. 

Nor has Pope Francis been silent on the importance of Catholic education.  Indeed, as a Jesuit and former high school teacher, he has repeatedly highlighted this issue.  Just last week, he applauded the bishops of Benin for their establishment of Catholic schools and encouraged them to continue along that path.

Has The Atonement Academy had its failures?  Probably.  Are all its alumni loyal sons and daughters of the Church?  Probably not.  But even our Divine Savior Himself did not bat 1000 when it came to selecting faithful apostles.  The test of Atonement is not whether or not every graduate has accepted the Gospel of Christ and lived it, but whether or not the saving message of Christ has been presented in all its truth, in its fullness, in its surpassing beauty.  After all, if we had no failures, perhaps we would be engaged in brain-washing more than evangelization.

Anniversaries, my friends, are joyous times of remembering, of rekindling the first fervor and enthusiasm, of re-committing to the original ideals.  And I hope everyone will do that this Sunday.  But anniversaries are also times to assume new challenges for the future.  In that spirit, permit me to offer a few challenges to all connected in any way with The Atonement Academy since this school is no longer an infant that needs to be nurtured but is moving toward full maturity; therefore, everyone has a right to expect some concrete, positive results.

To the graduates:  If you had the gift of faith cultivated at Atonement, have you lived that faith fully?  Are you committed to Sunday Mass?  Are you a strong witness to Christ, His Gospel and His Church in the daily circumstances of your life?  Are you a credit to The Atonement Academy and to the holy Catholic Church which that school represents?  Having had the great privilege of an education grounded in Jesus Christ, are you any different from the pagans around whom and among whom you live and work and study?  Last Sunday, the Church Universal observed World Day of Prayer for Vocations, so I must also ask, "When will the first graduate enter the seminary or the convent?"  After all, one of the strongest indicators of a healthy Catholic school has always been the priestly and religious vocations it produces.  What a proud day it will be for Atonement when its first alumnus returns to celebrate Mass for the student body and the whole parish. 

To parents:  If you have not availed yourself of the opportunity for the Catholic education of your children, let me remind you – in the name of Christ's Church – how important the Church considers this to be.  As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, listen to what the bishops had to say in this regard:  "Catholic parents are reminded of their duty to send their children to Catholic schools. . . " (Gravissimum Educationis, n. 8).  And all the Popes since then, and the Code of Canon Law, and the American bishops in numerous pastoral statements have never ceased to teach this truth.

To the loyal and generous parishioners:  Please realize the tremendous possibilities for good which exist in your school – and it is “your” school.  Always deem it an honor to be part of that project; never see it as a burden.  Encourage as many parents as possible to send their children to this school; do all you can to keep this school within the financial reach of every parent and child.  Remember:  Catholic education is not the primary responsibility of parents who happen to have their children in a Catholic school; it is the concern of every devout Catholic.  Once more, the Council Fathers can help us understand this as we read:  "The sacred Synod earnestly exhorts the pastors of the Church and all the faithful to spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools to become increasingly effective, especially in caring for the poor, for those who are without the help and affection of family, and those who do not have the Faith" (GE, n. 9).

To the teachers:  The overwhelming majority of faculty and administration here have been lay people; never allow that to intimidate you into thinking that you are second-class teachers.  Recall that Mother Seton was a laywoman – not a nun – when she began the glorious parochial school movement in our land.  But do be sure that you appreciate in the deepest sense the tremendous confidence placed in you by the Church and by parents in confiding the formation of Catholic youth to you.  Therefore, know the Catholic Faith well and completely, and see it as your most sacred trust to impart that Faith and to live it in such a way that your students have the very finest teacher of Catholic doctrine and morality, setting for yourself no less a model than Christ the Divine Teacher Himself.  The personal and financial sacrifices you have made – and will continue to make – show that you have learned your lessons at the feet of Christ the Teacher; the Catholic community owes you a debt of gratitude, which debt shall be credited to your glory in the Kingdom.

Today, then, let us thank Almighty God for the gift of faith which gave birth to an institution which has been "communicat[ing] Christ" to young believers for twenty years.  I have always counted it a rare privilege to have been part of beginning a new Catholic school; it is an equally great privilege to have been able to share my reflections with you today as we have looked into the past and gazed into the future – all with one goal:  To put flesh and bones on the desire of Our Lord that “you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”  May Christ Jesus grant that every young Christian trained in this school of His, having been “pruned because of the word” spoken here, will always remain in Christ “the true vine,” “bear much fruit and become [His] disciples.”


Of all the Anglican Use parishes in our nation, bar none, Our Lady of the Atonement is the most successful.  I submit that the principal reason for its success has been the commitment of your pastor and you good people to your parish school.  With Saint Paul, I happily assert: “I am confident that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Ph 1:6).

The English Martyrs


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

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

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

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

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power the English Martyrs 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.

02 May 2015

Ss. Philip and James, Apostles


Saint Philip was one of the first chosen disciples of Christ. On the way from Judea to Galilee Our Lord found Philip, and said, “Follow Me.” Philip straightway obeyed; and then in his zeal and charity sought to win Nathaniel also, saying, “We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” And when Nathaniel in wonder asked, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” Philip simply answered, “Come and see,” and brought him to Jesus.

Another saying of this Apostle is preserved for us by Saint John. Christ in His last discourse had spoken of His Father; and Philip exclaimed, in the fervor of his thirst for God, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough!” The tradition of the ancients has established that he died a martyr at Hierapolis in Phrygia. There the remains of a church known to be dedicated to him have been identified, north of the entrance to the great necropolis. His relics were later transported to Rome, to the church of the Holy Apostles.

Saint James the Less (the Younger), author of the canonical Epistle, was the son of Alpheus, the brother of Saint Jude and a cousin of Our Lord, whom he is said to have resembled. Saint Paul tells us that he was favored by a special apparition of Christ after the Resurrection. (I Corinthians 15:7) On the dispersion of the Apostles among the nations, Saint James remained as Bishop of Jerusalem, where the Jews held in such high veneration his purity, mortification, and prayer, that they named him the Just. He governed that church for 30 years before his martyrdom.

Almighty God, who didst give to thine apostles St. Philip and St. James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

01 May 2015

St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor


St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Catholic Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under Alexander, who became the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius made great progress in learning and virtue, eventually going into the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony.

In 319, Athanasius became a deacon, and as a young cleric, he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy being put forth by Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius.

In 325, he assisted his bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326.

His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373.

Almighty God and Giver of Truth, uphold thy Church, as thou didst uphold thy servant St. Athanasius, to maintain and proclaim boldly the Catholic faith against all opposition, trusting solely in the grace of thine eternal Word, who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker
Statue in the Sacristy
Our Lady of the Atonement Church

The commemoration of St. Joseph the Worker falls on the first day of the month that is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was fixed in the calendar by Pope Pius XII in 1955. The pope expressed the hope that this feast would accentuate the dignity of labour and would bring a spiritual dimension to the work we do.

The teaching of the Church reaches back into the Old Testament, when we read in the Book of Genesis that God created man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend to it. From that time, God, who is the creator and ruler of the universe, has called men and women in every age to develop and use their talents for the good of others, and as a way of sharing in the creative work of God. In every kind of labour we are to remember that we are obeying the command of God to use our talents, and to receive the fruit of our labours. Our work allows us to provide for our own needs, and for the needs of those for whom we are responsible. It also allows us to show proper charity towards those who are in need.

The Church asks us to look to St. Joseph on this day, and follow his example of work, by which he showed his love and responsibility for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the Child Jesus. St. Joseph shows the dignity of work – and whether it is manual work, or any other kind of work, we are to do it in a spirit of cooperation with God, and as an offering to Him. Any task, well done, is an offering to God – when we work, we should see it as a work done for God, and it is part of what shows that we are created in His image. In creation itself, God worked for six days, and rested the seventh. So in our own lives, we are to keep that balance between using our energy for work, and then out of respect for our minds and bodies, give a day for our spiritual and physical renewal.

Holy Joseph, Intercessor
Unto thee God’s children sing;
Be our Patron and Protector,
To God’s throne our praises bring.

Faithful Spouse of faithful Virgin,
Lover of God’s purity;
From thy worthy place in heaven,
Pray that we may faithful be.

Guardian of the Word Incarnate,
Silent guide of God’s own Son;
Guard our hearts and lead us onward
To the life that Christ has won.

Humble man in lofty station,
God has shed His grace on thee;
Pray such grace to us be given,
That we live eternally.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life learned from Saint Joseph to share our toil, and thus hallowed our labour: Be present with thy people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of the world responsive to thy will; and give us all a pride in what we do and a just return for our labour; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

29 April 2015

Pope St. Pius V


Pope St. Pius V -- Michael Ghislieri -- was born into a poor family on 17 January 1504.  He spent his childhood working as a shepherd, until he entered the Dominican Order at the age of fourteen.  His keen intelligence served well, and eventually he was ordained as a bishop, ultimately occupying the Throne of St. Peter.

St. Pius V lived in times much like our own.  The Council of Trent took place during his lifetime, and as is the case with most Councils, there was a time of confusion following.  He spent much of his life -- before his time as pope, and then until his death -- working to implement the principles of the Council, and strengthening the witness of the Catholic Church.

A very important event took place on October 7, 1571.  It is associated with Our Lady, and also with Pope St. Pius V.

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, St. Pope 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... perhaps something we might consider in our own generation.


O God, who for the confusion of the enemies of thy Church, and for the restoring of the honour of thy worship, didst appoint thy blessed Saint Pius V to be Chief among thy Pastors: grant that we, being defended by his intercession, may so steadfastly follow after thy commandments, that we may overcome all the devices of our enemies, and rejoice in perpetual peace and security; 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.