02 August 2015

The Beauty of Holiness


Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas

St. Peter Julian Eymard


This account of the life of St. Peter Julian Eymard is excerpted from the Saint of the Day by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

Born in La Mure d'Isere in southeastern France, Peter Julian's faith journey drew him from being a priest in the Diocese of Grenoble (1834) to joining the Marists (1839) to founding the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (1856). In addition to those changes, Peter Julian coped with poverty, his father's initial opposition to Peter's vocation, serious illness, a Jansenistic striving for inner perfection and the difficulties of getting diocesan and later papal approval for his new religious community.

His years as a Marist, including service as a provincial leader, saw the deepening of his Eucharistic devotion, especially through his preaching of Forty Hours in many parishes.

The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament began working with children in Paris to prepare them to receive their first Communion. It also reached out to non-practicing Catholics, inviting them to repent and begin receiving Holy Communion again. He was a tireless proponent of frequent Holy Communion, an idea given more authoritative backing by Pope Pius X in 1905.

Inspired at first by the idea of reparation for indifference to the Eucharist, Peter Julian was eventually attracted to a more positive spirituality of Christ-centered love. Members of the men's community, which Peter founded, alternated between an active apostolic life and contemplating Jesus in the Eucharist. He and Marguerite Guillot founded the women's Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.

Peter Julian Eymard was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1962, one day after Vatican II's first session ended.

O God, who didst adorn St. Peter Julian Eymard with a wondrous love for the sacred mysteries of the Body and Blood of thy divine Son; grant that we may be worthy to receive the same devotion he drew from this holy banquet; 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.

01 August 2015

St. Alphonsus Liguori


Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens:

Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.

In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.

The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata near Naples, and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.

In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

O God, who didst inflame St. Alphonsus Liguori, thy Confessor and Bishop with zeal for the salvation of souls, and didst thereby increase thy Church with a new offspring: grant, we pray thee; that we may in such wise be taught by his wholesome counsels, and strengthened by his example, that we may be counted worthy to attain in gladness unto 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.

31 July 2015

The Portiuncula Indulgence


On a night in July 1216, St. Francis was at prayer in the little church of Portiuncula, devoured by love for God and a thirst to save souls. He prayed for the forgiveness of sins of mankind. Suddenly a brilliant light shone all around. In great splendor Jesus and Mary appeared in the midst of a dazzling cloud surrounded by a multitude of radiant angels. ...Then Jesus said to him: "Francis you are very zealous for the good souls. Ask me what you want for their salvation." St. Francis was rapt in ecstasy before Our Lord. When he regained his courage, he said, "Lord, I, a miserable sinner, beg you to concede an indulgence to all those who enter this church, who are truly contrite and have confessed their sins. And I beg Blessed Mary, your mother, intercessor of man, that she intercede on behalf of this grace."

The Merciful Virgin at once began to beseech her Son on behalf of Francis. Jesus answered: "It is a very great thing you ask me; but you are worthy of even greater things, Friar Francis, and greater things you will have. So I accept your request, but I want you to go to my Vicar, to whom I have given the power to bind and loose in heaven and on earth, to ask him on my behalf for this indulgence."

The Pope granted this petition, and this indulgence has been extended to all parish churches throughout the world for one day each year. The date has been set from noon on August 1 until midnight August 2, the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. It is said that St. Francis was given this day by Our Lord because of the feast of the Chains of St. Peter, celebrated on August 1, commemorating Peter's being released from prison, his chains removed. This is an extraordinary demonstration of God's mercy in removing the chains of sin from those who devoutly and faithfully seek to gain the indulgence by completing its requirements.

The conditions to obtain the Plenary Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi (for oneself or for a departed soul) are as follows:

- Sacramental Confession (during eight days before or after).
- Participation in the Mass
- Recitation of the Apostle's Creed, Our Father, and a prayer for the pope's intentions.

30 July 2015

St. Ignatius of Loyola


St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball and a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he read the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith. Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.  He died at the age of 65.

- This account is from Catholic Online.

Almighty God, from whom all good things come: Thou didst call St. Ignatius of Loyola to the service of thy Divine Majesty and to find thee in all things. Inspired by his example and strengthened by his companionship, may we labour without counting the cost and seek no reward other than knowing that we do thy will; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

29 July 2015

St. Peter Chrysologus


In the fifth century, Ravenna, not Rome, was the capital of the Roman Empire in the West, and Ravenna itself became a metropolitan see. St. Peter Chrysologus was one of the most distinguished archbishops of that See.

Peter was born in Imola about the year 400 and studied under Cornelius, bishop of that city, who ordained him deacon. In 433, the archbishop of Ravenna died, and when a successor had been chosen by the clergy and people of Ravenna, they asked Bishop Cornelius to obtain confirmation of their choice from Pope Sixtus III. On his trip to Rome, Cornelius took his deacon, Peter, as his companion; upon seeing Peter, the pope chose him for the See of Ravenna instead of the one selected by the clergy and people of Ravenna.

Peter was consecrated and was accepted somewhat grudgingly at first by both the clergy and the people. Peter, however, soon became the favorite of Emperor Valentinian III, who resided at Ravenna and was also highly regarded by Pope St. Leo the Great, the successor of Pope Sixtus.

There were still traces of paganism in Peter's diocese, and his first effort was to establish the Catholic faith everywhere, rooting out abuses and carrying on a campaign of preaching and special care of the poor. Many of his sermons still survive, and it is on the basis of these that he came to be known as "the golden word."

In his concern for the unity of the Church, Peter Chrysologus opposed the teaching of Eutyches, condemned in the East, who asked for his support. Peter also received St. Germanus of Auxerre to his diocese and officiated at his funeral.

Knowing that his own death was near, Peter returned to his own city of Imola and after urging great care in the choice of his successor he died at Imola about the year 450 and was buried in the church of St. Cassian. In 1729, Pope Benedict XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.

- This account of the life of St. Peter Chrysologus is taken from “The One Year Book of Saints” by the Rev. Clifford Stevens.
O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Peter Chrysologus, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

28 July 2015

St. Martha of Bethany


Our first thought upon hearing the name of St. Martha is probably the recollection of a woman preparing a meal for the Lord Jesus, upset that her sister Mary is not helping her, and who then is gently rebuked by Christ when He told her that “Mary has chosen the better portion.” What we should more readily recall, however, is her exchange with the Lord when He came to her house after the death of her brother Lazarus.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Here is Martha, the woman of great faith; the woman who professes Jesus as the Christ; the woman who professes the power of God in the coming resurrection. Is there any doubt that in her heart, Martha, too, had chosen “the better portion,” as Christ urged her to do?

O God, heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of St. Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love thee, open our hearts to hear thee, and strengthen our hands to serve thee in others for his sake; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

27 July 2015

Wisdom from C. S. Lewis


“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”

― C. S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

25 July 2015

Ss. Joachim and Anne


According to tradition, Joachim and Anne have come to us as being the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. There is no scriptural evidence, but this tradition dates back to the early years of the Church, as does the story which tells us that after many years of not having a child, an angel appeared to them and told them that God would be granting them this blessing.

What is undisputed is that the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary nurtured her, and taught her, and raised her up in such a way that she was prepared to respond in obedience to God at the time of the archangel Gabriel’s visit to her, announcing that Mary would miraculously conceive and bear a Son.

St. Joachim and St. Anne serve as examples and intercessors for all parents and grandparents.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

24 July 2015

St. James the Greater

Santiago de Compostela, hanging at the entrance to the Lady Chapel

Adapted from The One Year Book of Saints by the Rev. Clifford Stevens

St. James the Greater and his brother John were apparently partners with those other two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and lived in Bethsaida, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. How and where James first met Jesus, we do not know; but there is an old legend that makes Salome, his mother, a sister of Mary, and if this were the case, he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "son of thunder," the brother of John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

Along with Peter and his brother John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, who witnessed the Transfiguration, were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemani. Like his brother, he was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and one legend, very unlikely, even has him going to Spain after Jesus' resurrection.

His prominence and his presence in Jerusalem must have been well known, for scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection, he became involved in the political maneuverings of the day and was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat to Judaism.

Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. The two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him in a far different way than they expected.


Grant, O merciful God, that, as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him; so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

23 July 2015

St. Sharbel Makhluf


St. Sharbel Makhluf is a Maronite saint, a member of the ancient Eastern Catholic Church of Antioch.  It was in Antioch that Christ's followers were first called Christians, and St. Peter ministered there before going to Rome.  The Maronites have their own liturgy and discipline, and have always been in full communion with the See of Peter.  They take their name from St. Maron, a fifth century monk and patriarch of Antioch.

St. Sharbel lived in the 19th century and was a priest-hermit who was known for his great holiness, whose spiritual advice was sought by countless people.  When he died, his tomb became a place of pilgrimage for Christians and non-Christians alike.


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. Sharbel Makhluf, 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.

22 July 2015

St. Bridget of Sweden


St. Bridget was born in Sweden of noble and pious parents, and led a most holy life. While she was yet unborn, her mother was saved from shipwreck for her sake. At ten years of age, Bridget heard a sermon on the Passion of our Lord; and the next night she saw Jesus on the cross, covered with fresh blood, and speaking to her about his Passion. Thenceforward meditation on that subject affected her to such a degree, that she could never think of our Lord's sufferings without tears.

She was given in marriage to Ulfo prince of Nericia; and won him, by example and persuasion, to a life of piety. She devoted herself with maternal love to the education of her children. She was most zealous in serving the poor, especially the sick; and set apart a house for their reception, where she would often wash and kiss their feet. Together with her husband, she went on pilgrimage to Compostella, to visit the tomb of the apostle St. James. On their return journey, Ulfo fell dangerously ill at Arras; but St. Dionysius, appearing to Bridget at night, foretold the restoration of her husband's health, and other future events.

Ulfo became a Cistercian monk, but died soon afterwards. Whereupon Bridget, having heard the voice of Christ calling her in a dream, embraced a more austere manner of life. Many secrets were then revealed to her by God. She founded the monastery of Vadstena under the rule of our Savior, which was given her by our Lord himself. At his command, she went to Rome, where she kindled the love of God in very many hearts. She made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; but on her return to Rome she was attacked by fever, and suffered severely from sickness during a whole year. On the day she had foretold, she passed to heaven, laden with merits. Her body was translated to her monastery of Vadstena; and becoming illustrious for miracles, she was enrolled among the saints by Boniface IX.

- Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Almighty God, by whose grace thy servant St. Bridget of Sweden recognized and honoured Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 July 2015

St. Mary Magdalene


St. Mary Magdalene -- a woman of mystery!  Was she one and the same as Mary of Bethany?  Had she been an immoral woman in her past life, or simply a woman from Magdala who was delivered from evil spirits?  Whatever the case, we know she stood with the Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the cross; we know she was the first witness of the risen Lord Jesus Christ; and it was St. Mary Magdalene who ran to tell the apostles this Good News. Pope St. Gregory writes about it:


When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.


Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored St. Mary Magdalene to health of body and mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by thy grace we may be healed of all our infirmities and know thee in the power of his endless life; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Holy Water Font


Just inside the main doors of the church, in the narthex, is a simple marble holy water font. On a typical day during the year, hundreds of the faithful dip their fingers into its water to make the sign of the cross upon themselves, both as a blessing and as a reminder of their own baptism. This means that over the course of an average week, thousands have taken water from this font, and yet few know the rich history of where it had been and how it came to be in our church.

It was in the year 1895 that a young woman, Lurana Mary White, began a correspondence with an Episcopal cleric, Lewis Wattson (later known as Fr. Paul of Graymoor), because of their mutual interest in the life and spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi. Both of them were Episcopalians at the time, although both were searching for the fullness of the Catholic faith. They felt a call to the religious life, and had the sense that God was calling them to found a Franciscan community within Anglicanism.

Through various circumstances, Lurana White (with a few companions) was able to pioneer this effort, with Fr. Paul joining her soon after. An unused chapel called St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness in Graymoor, New York, was put at her disposal, along with a building in some disrepair, called Dimond House, which was about half a mile from the chapel. Now known as Sister Lurana Mary, she arrived there on a bitterly cold day in December, 1898, and so began the foundation of the Society of the Atonement.

In Lent of 1899 funds were raised to begin building a convent near St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness. Combined with donations from others, Sister Lurana (now known as Mother Lurana) gave the totality of her own personal funds for the purpose of building and furnishing the convent, along with its chapel, known as the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels. One of the items chosen and purchased by Mother Lurana was a simple marble holy water font.

The Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels has seen a number of historic events. It was there that the first Atonement Sisters made their religious profession; it was there that Fr. Paul spent the night in prayer before being clothed in his Franciscan habit, becoming the first Friar of the Atonement; it was there that the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity was prayed for the first time; it was there that the members of the Society of the Atonement were received into the Catholic Church; and it was at the Oratory altar that Fr. Paul celebrated his first Mass as a Catholic priest. Through all those events, and more, the simple marble holy water font stood at the entrance.

Sadly, when the misguided ideas of “renewal” after Vatican II swept through the various religious communities, the Society of the Atonement was not spared. Things which had been given for the glory of God were ruthlessly tossed aside, and one of the casualties was the holy water font which had stood guard for so many years inside the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels. It was thrown outside behind the convent, where the erstwhile font became a makeshift birdbath – and there it remained until I happened to be visiting Graymoor shortly after my ordination as a Catholic priest.

One of the aged Sisters pulled me aside, and asked to talk to me. Sr. Cyril, S.A., was one of the last of “Mother Lurana’s girls” – members of the Sisters of the Atonement who had been formed as a religious by their Mother Foundress – and she told me how she was heart-broken to see “Mother’s holy water font” thrown outside in the garden. Sr. Cyril asked if I would consider giving it a home in our parish, and I told her that if her superiors approved, I would happily have it transported back to Texas. She asked; her superiors gave permission, and so I set about finding a way of getting it shipped to San Antonio. One of my father’s old friends, who happened to own a long-distance trucking company, was able to accommodate my request, and in due time the font arrived at the church.

After all the history it had seen, the holy water font was for a time put to yet another use – we had no baptismal font when we first built our church, and so Mother Lurana’s holy water font became our baptismal font for some years.  In fact the first child baptized in it was my own daughter, Lurana, named after the Mother Foundress of the Sisters of the Atonement. For several years all the children of our parish were “born again in the waters of baptism” using that simple marble holy water font, which had come so far from its original home.

It was not until the church was expanded to its present size that we were able to have a proper baptistry, and a real baptismal font, which finally allowed us to return Mother Lurana’s font to its original purpose. So it stands at the entrance of Our Lady of the Atonement Church, more than a hundred years after it was lovingly chosen by Mother Lurana to stand at the entrance of her little Oratory, now serving the same purpose of providing holy water for the Faithful who come to give worship and glory to Almighty God.

The Altar in the Oratory of Our Lady of the Angels.

20 July 2015

St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Born on 22 July 1559, and dying on 22 July 1619, St. Lawrence of Brindisi lived exactly sixty years. In that time he became a brilliant scholar, a devout and holy priest, a renowned linguist, an outstanding diplomat – and for many of those years he served as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchins.

His writings fill fifteen volumes, and his knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to preach so effectively to the Jewish people in Italy that the rabbis were certain that Lawrence must have been a Jew who had become a Christian. His skills in dealing with people meant that he served as a papal emissary to many countries, but he never forgot that he was first and foremost a priest.

There is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints, who are named “Doctor of the Church,” and this title indicates that the writings and preaching of such a person are useful to Christians "in any age of the Church." Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was given this title, and he is one of the thirty-three saints to be named “Doctor.”

For some reason, his father insisted that his baptismal name was to be Julius Caesar, and that was done shortly after his birth at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins, and it was upon entering the monastery that he was given the name Lawrence. During his studies at the University of Padua, he showed an aptitude for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and he also showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible.

While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination captured the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. He was sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses. While there, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims who were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to unify Catholics for the purpose of strengthening the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.

His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having earned "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."

Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

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

19 July 2015

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


St. Apollinaris was one of the great martyrs in the early years of the Church. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter. The miracles he conducted in Ravenna soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the faith. However, at the same time, his words and works brought upon him the fury of the pagan people, who beat Apollinaris viciously on several occasions.

During one beating, Apollinaris was cut with knives, and scalding hot water poured over his wounds.  In this state of suffering he was then put on a ship to be sent to Greece.

In Greece St. Apollinaris carried on the same course of preaching, and miracles, and sufferings. In fact, after a cruel beating by Greek pagans, he was sent back to Italy.

When Emperor Vespasian issued a decree of banishment against the Christians, Apollinaris was kept hidden for some time, but as he was leaving, passing through the gates of the city, he was attacked and savagely beaten. He lived for seven days, foretelling that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Apollinaris triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to 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.

Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Ravenna, 6th century.

16 July 2015

The story of the Rood




One of the striking features when entering our church is the almost life-sized crucifix (in earlier English usage, known as the "rood") surmounting the rood screen. It marks the boundary between the nave and the sanctuary. How it came to be here is a story which must be passed along as something which should be remembered.

When the church was built in 1987 there was but a simple wrought iron rail where people knelt to receive Holy Communion. When it was installed it was thought of as temporary, because the plan all along was to construct a rood screen with a communion rail incorporated into it. I found the right carpenter to build it, and plans were started. The search began for the great crucifix which would crown the screen. Catalogues were scoured, but I found nothing suitable. Word came that there was a large crucifix stored in the basement of a local convent. I went to look at it, but it wasn’t the right size. One day the idea came to me to call the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement in Graymoor. I spoke to Sr. Alexis Joseph, S.A., who was a good friend of the parish, and the godmother of one of my daughters.

“Sister, you don’t know of any large crucifixes looking for a home, do you?” I asked. “No, I don’t,” Sister replied, “but if I hear of anything I’ll let you know.” I hung up the phone, not feeling very hopeful. Scarcely had the receiver been replaced, and the phone rang. It was Sister Alexis Joseph. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said, and then went on to tell me, “I had just hung up the phone from our conversation, and when I happened to look out the window there was a truck with a trailer behind it coming into the convent driveway. I could see there was something wrapped up on the trailer, and when I went out to greet the two men in the truck, they told me that they had salvaged something from their church in upstate New York, which was undergoing ‘renovations.’ When I asked them what it was they told me that it was a really big crucifix.”

Apparently these faithful Catholic men couldn’t bear the thought of it being thrown out, so they decided to load it onto a trailer and drive to Graymoor because, in their words, “the Sisters will know what to do with it.” Sister Alexis Joseph went on to tell me, “I shouldn’t have been surprised that it arrived just as you were looking for it!”

So the Sisters shipped it to Texas, where it had a short wait for the screen to be built. When it was installed in the church it was as though it was put in the home for which it was always intended. Sister Alexis Joseph died several years ago, but I think of her frequently as I pass under the great crucifix into the sanctuary, and I pray for the repose of her soul. She was such a delightful woman and a faithful religious, and she told me that her role in finding our crucifix was one of her truly unexpected joys. And I offer an occasional prayer of thanksgiving for those men, too, who like Simon of Cyrene, helped to carry the cross to where it belonged.

15 July 2015

Our Lady of Mount Carmel


O God, who didst adorn the Order of Mount Carmel with the especial title of thy most blessed Mother the Ever-Virgin Mary: mercifully grant; that as we do this day remember her in our solemn observance, so by the help of her succor we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Flower of Carmel, vine blossom laden,
Joy of heaven, who yet a maiden,
Bore God's Holy One.
Gentlest Mother, who never man did know,
On Carmel's children your privilege bestow,
Star of Ocean.

Root of Jesse, flower in the cradling bud,
Take us to you, keep us with you in God,
His together.
All chaste lily, rising despite the thorn,
Strengthen, help us, so feeble and forlorn,
Great Protectress!

Be our armor, valiant for Christ when war
Rages round us, hold high the Scapular,
Strong and saving.
In our stumbling, guide us on God's wise way,
In our sorrow, comfort us when we pray;
Rich your mercy.

Holy Lady, Carmel's great Friend and Queen,
Feast your people from your own bliss, the unseen
Grace, God's goodness.
Key and Gateway, opening on Paradise,
Mother, win us a place with you in Christ
Crowned in glory.


Elijah's Cave atop Mt. Carmel, where we have offered Mass while on pilgrimage.

St. Bonaventure


It was said of St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) that he was "...a unique personality. He was unsurpassed in sanctity, wisdom, eloquence, and gifted with a remarkable skill of accomplishing things, a heart full of love, a winning disposition, benevolent, affable, pious, charitable, rich in virtue, beloved by God and man. . . . The Lord endowed him with such a charming disposition that everyone who saw him was immediately attracted to him."

Considered to be a "second founder" of the Franciscans, he was an outstanding teacher, and a spell-binding preacher.  He was known for his virtue and wisdom.  He is known as the "Seraphic Teacher" because of his deeply mystical understanding of the Faith.

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

Prayer of St. Bonaventure.

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

13 July 2015

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

One of the earliest portraits of St. Kateri
by Fr. Claude Chauchetiere, S.J. (ca. 1696)

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 near the town of Auriesville, New York, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was baptized by Jesuit missionary Fr. Jacques de Lambertville on Easter of 1676 at the age of twenty. She devoted her life to prayer, penitential practices, and the care of the sick and aged in Caughnawaga near Montreal (where her relics are now enshrined). She incurred the hostility of her tribe because of her faith. She was devoted to the Eucharist, and to Jesus Crucified, and was called the "Lily of the Mohawks." She died in 1680.

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 Blessed Kateri, 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.

12 July 2015

St. Henry of Bavaria


St. Henry (973–1024) is a patron saint for those who are childless.  He was known also as Henry the Lame, and for that reason he is also counted as a patron saint for the disabled and handicapped.  Here's his story:
Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St. Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his see.

Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defense a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptized, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St. Cunigund, a virgin to her family.

He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odor of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity. At length his life's work was accomplished, and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify His servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the saints. 
- from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.
O God, who didst call thy servant St. Henry of Bavaria 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 July 2015

Our Patronal Solemnity



July 9th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Atonement; however, we are transferring its main celebration this year to Sunday, July 12th, so we can keep it with greater solemnity. The Mass schedule will be as usual: 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. (all Anglican Use liturgy) and 6:00 p.m. (Latin, Ordinary Form).

The Collect:

Deus, qui dispersa congregas, et congregáta consérvas: quæsumus, per intercessiónem beatíssimæ Vírginis Maríæ, Dóminæ nóstræ Adunatiónis, super ecclésiam tuam uniónis grátiam clementer infunde; et Spíritum Sánctum in totam múndi latitúdinem defunde ut omnes unum sint; per Dóminum nostrum Jésum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sáncti, Deus, per ómnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

O God, who dost gather together those who have been scattered, and who dost preserve those who have been gathered together: We beseech thee through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement, that thou wilt pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Fr. Paul of Graymoor wrote these words about the title in 1919:

I am writing this letter on the day which we are accustomed to observe at Graymoor in special honor of Our Lady of the Atonement. This particular name of Our Blessed Mother is very dear to us and we believe it is dear to Our Lady herself. We hold it as among the most treasured and sacred traditions of our Institute that it was the Blessed Virgin who first taught us to call her by that name and there are cogent reasons why she should give this title a favorite place among the many by which she is invoked.

First among these reasons must be her own devotion to the mystery of the Atonement, for it was by the death of her son on the Cross, which cost him the last drop of his blood and made her preeminently the mother of sorrows, that the wall of division between God and man was broken down and both were made one (Ephesians 2:14), through Christ's atoning sacrifice.

As the Blessed Virgin is inseparably associated with our divine redeemer in the mystery of his incarnation, so is she closely associated with him in the great act of the atonement. Thus, is she always represented in the Gospel and in the liturgy and thought of the Catholic Church as standing by the cross, when Christ was crucified there.

There is a second reason, hardly less weighty than the first, why the title, Our Lady of the Atonement, should powerfully appeal to the mother of God. It was through the Incarnation she become the mother of Christ, but through the atonement she became the new Eve and the mother of all the regenerate, who being redeemed by the precious blood are predestined to eternal life as the adopted sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. The third time Our Lord spoke upon the cross it was to emphasize this phase of the Atonement, when he said to his mother: "Woman, behold your son," and to St. John, "Son, behold your mother." [John 19:26-27] Thus by virtue of the atonement Mary is the mother of all who live through Christ. Can anyone therefore possibly conceive the depth of significance this title "Our Lady of the Atonement" must possess for Our Blessed Mother herself?

But someone will ask, if so highly esteemed, why should it be kept hidden for nineteen hundred years, to be made known to the faithful in the twentieth century? Is it not the custom even of earthly mothers to preserve the choicest fruits in the summer time and hide them away under lock and key, to bring them forth to their children's delight in the depth of winter and did not the master of the wedding feast say to the bridegroom at Cana, "Every man at first brings forth good wine and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But you have kept the good wine until now." [John 2:10] "My ways are not your ways," [Isaiah 55:8] says the Lord of Hosts.


Stabant juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus, et soror matris ejus Maria Cléophæ, et Salóme, et María Magdaléne. Múlier, ecce filius tuus: dixit Jesus; ad discípulum autem: Ecce mater tua.


Consecration to Our Lady


Each year on our Patronal Solemnity, we consecrate ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary using this form:

O ever Immaculate Virgin, Our Lady of the Atonement; Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Ghost: we consecrate ourselves anew to thy service and to that of thy Divine Son. We beseech thee to enlighten our minds and inflame our hearts; to obtain for us a deep faith, a strong hope and a burning love; that through sanctifying grace, the source of our reconciliation with God, we may live the life of the Gospel as we have promised; that we may use the things of this world as though we used them not; that the great Atonement of thy Son upon the Cross may be more and more fruitful in our souls. We beseech thee to look ever more graciously upon the Church, which thy Son has founded, and upon His Vicar on earth, our Holy Father. Obtain light and strength for him in his many endeavors for the glory of God. We beseech thee to be gracious to our Parish which invokes thee under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. May it be ever pleasing to God and to thee. May it ever work for the glory of Christ and the salvation of mankind. May it grow and prosper. May it ever seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. May each and every member be fruitful in every good work and pleasing in all things to the Heart of thy Son. Lastly, we beseech thee to obtain for all men the grace of a true and lasting conversion to God; that the prayer of thy Divine Son may be the sooner fulfilled: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Amen.

10 July 2015

St. Benedict of Nursia

Shrine of St. Benedict
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas

St. Benedict was born about the year 480 in Nursia, Italy. His family was most likely of noble lineage, which afforded him the opportunity go to Rome, where he received his education. By the time of Benedict’s arrival there, Rome had entered into serious moral and political decay. Because the corruption around him so disturbed him, Benedict broke off his studies and withdrew from Rome to enter into a solitary life of prayer.

For three years Benedict remained by himself, living in a cave, seeking to grow closer to God through a life of prayer and fasting. His reputation as being a holy person grew, leading people to seek him out for spiritual guidance.

In the year 529, after having lived for many years as a monk, Benedict established a monastic foundation where men, who wanted to live the Christian life in common, could come together to draw closer to God. This new community found its home on a hill near Cassino in Italy, and so came to be known as Monte Cassino. After Benedict established his community, he wrote a Rule which was to be followed by the monks in their daily lives. Benedict guided the community as its spiritual father (abba), or “abbot,” until his death around the year 547. His feast day is kept on July 11.

Almighty and Everlasting God, whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of thy servant St. Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let thine ears be open unto our prayers; and prosper with thy blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

 
Mass at the tombs of St. Benedict & St. Scholastica, Montecassino.

09 July 2015

Receiving a beautiful name...


I remember that day in 1983 when I was summoned to the archbishop’s office. Now, getting a call from one's archbishop is not something priests especially look forward to – but this time was the exception. Word had been received from Rome; the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, after lengthy prayer, had made the decision to give his permission for my ordination, and the archbishop called me in to give me that wonderful news, and to set the date. I went to what was the old chancery office, where Archbishop Flores and I set the dates: August 7th was the day when I would be made Deacon; August 15th to be ordained as Priest. And then he said, “We’ll be formally erecting the parish on August 15th, too. Have you thought about what it will be named?"

Actually, I had thought about it, and I’d prayed about it, and I was a little hesitant about suggesting it, because there wasn’t another parish in the whole country dedicated under the name I was hoping for. The little group of us (eighteen people altogether, counting the children) who would comprise the founding families of this parish knew we wanted a title associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary – and there was only one name that would be suitable, as far as we were concerned. It’s a title of Mary which originated in Anglicanism – the same origin to which all of us who were founding the parish traced our spiritual roots.

The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, who had formed the Society of the Atonement in the Episcopal Church, entered into full Catholic communion in 1909, and brought with them the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary which had become so dear to them. And now it was our turn – so with a tentative tone, I asked the archbishop, “Could we be dedicated to Our Lady of the Atonement?” The look on his face told me that he wasn’t familiar with the title, but his immediate answer was, “Yes.”

I just knew it would be – after all, I was there, making the request on July 8th, the eve of the Feast of that title. And that’s how we came to be dedicated to the Lady with the red mantle, who holds in her arms the Divine Infant, who in turn holds out to us His cross.  Our Lady of the Atonement was now, truly, our Mother.

08 July 2015

The First Mass On Our Property

The original outdoor Shrine to Our Lady of the Atonement

The outdoor Shrine as it is today

In the courtyard between the church and the school is an outdoor altar which marks an important place on our church grounds – the site of “the finding of the crucifix,” and also the spot where the first Mass was celebrated here on the property thirty years ago. This is the story of how it came to be where it is.

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

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

As soon as I saw the land, I knew this was the place. On my first visit to it, I had to crawl through the underbrush, literally on my belly, to make any kind of exploration. I had a small medal of Our Lady of the Atonement with me, and I buried it in the earth as I was making my slow progress through the woods and brush, claiming it for our Lady and her parish. Shortly after burying the medal, I came into a small clearing, allowing me to stand up. With the thick undergrowth surrounding me, I saw in the middle of the clearing a wooden cross stuck into the ground, and fastened to the rough cross was a small crucifix. How it got there, and why it was put there, I do not know; however, I took it as a sign. It confirmed to me that this was the place. This was where our Lord and His Blessed Mother wanted us to be, and this confirmation came at exactly the right time, because at the same time as I had requested the possibility of getting the land for our parish, some Dominican priests had approached the archbishop about staffing a chaplaincy for the University of Texas, which is a short distance away. Even though we had asked first, the archbishop thought perhaps a better use for the land would be to give it to the Dominicans. I told the archbishop, “You can’t! I’ve already claimed it for Our Lady of the Atonement.” He expressed his regret, but told me his mind was set. I warned him that we would begin praying very seriously about this. And so we did.

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

I saved that little crucifix. We built a simple wooden shrine to Our Lady of the Atonement on the property where the crucifix had been found, and fastened it onto the peak of the shrine’s roof. In time we made plans to celebrate a Mass there, which we did on 9 July 1985, to prepare to break ground for a new church.

Today, on the spot where the first Mass was offered on the property stands the shrine, a copy of the original wooden one, but now in stone. Encased within the altar is the simple wood altar which stood there originally, now protected from the elements. And the little crucifix is there. It is mounted in the place where the tabernacle would normally be, if this were an indoor altar. So it reminds us of our beginnings, and of how God guided and protected us as new converts to the Catholic faith. There are plaques on either side of the shrine, briefly telling the story of the finding of the crucifix and the celebration of the first Mass, so our children and their children will never forget that the Lord and His Mother heard our prayers.

The first Mass offered on our property, 9 July 1985

The crucifix which was found on the parish land

Our Lady of the Unexpected Joy


In the sacristy there is a small icon which I see as I vest for Mass. It was obtained on one of our parish pilgrimages to the Holy Land some years ago. It is lovely, but at first glance it does not particularly catch one's attention.

It is called "Our Lady of the Unexpected Joy," and is a mid-19th century hand-painted copy of an older Russian Orthodox icon. It depicts the moment of repentance and forgiveness in the life of a man. He is a man whom we do not know, but the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child know him. His sinfulness was not extraordinary, but it was something he had not taken seriously, as is the case with so many people, who are quick to excuse themselves, but not so quick to seek true and divine forgiveness.

I find this little icon to be profound on many levels: the sinful man, the loving Mother, the forgiving Saviour -- an unknown life changed, a man prepared for eternity with God -- all done so quietly, and put before us by an unknown artist.

This is the story:

There was a man who, despite living a sinful life, nonetheless had a pious love and devotion to the Mother of God. Without fail, he prayed daily before her image, saying those words once spoken by the Archangel Gabriel, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace!”

It happened that as he was about to go off to engage in some sinful activity, he turned to pray before the icon of the Mother of God. Immediately he began to tremble, as he saw the image of the Mother of God appear to move. The wounds on the hands, feet and side of the Divine Infant opened, and from them blood began to flow. Falling down before the image, the man cried out, “O Lady, who has done this?”

The Mother of God answered, “You and other sinners once again are crucifying my Son. You call me merciful, but then why do you insult me with your lawless acts?” “O my Mistress,” answered the sinner, “may my sins not overcome your inexpressible goodness! You are the only hope of all sinners. Entreat your Son and our God on my behalf.”

Our Lady twice repeated her prayer to the Infant Christ, but He remained adamant, until finally He responded to the persistent entreaties of the Mother of God: “I will fulfill your request. May your wish be granted. Because of you, this person’s sins are remitted. Let him, in token of forgiveness, kiss My wounds.”

And so, the forgiven sinner, before whom the inexhaustible mercy of the Mother of God was manifest in such a wonderful manner, raised himself up from the ground, and with inexpressible and unexpected joy kissed the wounds of his Saviour. From that moment, he lived a clean and pious life.

On this icon is depicted the man, on his knees, praying before the image of the Mother of God. Below the image are written the opening words of the story, “There was a certain transgressor..."

This can be the story of each of us. We are called to repentance; Mary intercedes; Christ forgives, and we are changed.

07 July 2015

The American Madonna


The title of Our Lady of the Atonement is tied intimately to our own country in a way which cannot be said of any other title of the Blessed Virgin. In Rome Our Lady of the Atonement is known as the “American Madonna,” first of all because the title had its origins in this country, at Graymoor, New York; also, her colors are our national colors: red, white, and blue. The birthday of our country always falls within the Novena to Our Lady of the Atonement, reminding us to pray for our nation, that all may know that our hope and strength come from what is represented in this image of the Blessed Virgin: the loving Mother of God offering to us her Divine Son, who holds in His hands the holy Cross as the means of our salvation.

05 July 2015

St. Maria Goretti


Maria was the daughter of Luigi and Assunta Goretti. In 1902, when she was only twelve years old, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm-hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought him.  She repeated to him that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her to make her submit, and when he was unsuccessful he stabbed her fourteen times. She managed to survive for two days.  Maria forgave her attacker, and asked God to forgive him.  She died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. During his imprisonment, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where the young girl was dressed in white, and gathering lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of the lilies. As he took them, each lily was transformed into a white flame, after which Maria disappeared. This vision led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he later testified at her cause for beatification.


She was beatified on 27 April 1947, and canonized on 24 June 1950.  These words are from the homily of Venerable Pope Pius XII on that occasion:

"It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl - I shall concern myself only with highlights - we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven."

O Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God's grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity; look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptness we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee, and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria


This account of the life of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria is taken from The Liturgical Year, by Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Anthony Mary Zaccaria was born of a noble family at Cremona in Lombardy, and even in childhood gave signs of his future sanctity. Very early he was distinguished for his virtues, piety towards God, devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and especially mercy towards the poor, who he more than once gave his own rich clothing for their relief. He studied the humanities at home, and then went to Pavia for philosophy and Padua for medicine, and easily surpassed his contemporaries both in purity of life and in mental ability. After gaining his degree in medicine, he returned home, where he understood that God had called him to the healing rather of souls than of bodies. He immediately gave himself to sacred studies. Meanwhile he never ceased to visit the sick, instruct children in Christian doctrine, and exhort the young to piety and the elders to reformation of their lives. While saying his first Mass after his ordination, he is said to have been seen by the amazed congregation in a blaze of heavenly light and surrounded by angels. He then made it his chief care to labor for the salvation of souls and the reformation of manners. He received strangers, the poor and afflicted, with paternal charity, and consoled them with holy words and material assistance, so that his house was known as the refuge of the afflicted and he himself was called by his fellow-citizens an angel and the father of his country.

Thinking that he would be able to do more for the Christian religion if he had fellow laborers in the Lord's vineyard, he communicated his thoughts to two noble and saintly men, Bartholomew Ferrari and James Morigia, and together with them founded at Milan a society of Clerks Regular, which from his great love for the apostle of the Gentiles, he called after St Paul. It was approved by Clement VII, confirmed by Paul III, and soon spread through many lands. He was also the founder and father of the Angelic Sisters. But he thought so humbly of himself that he would never be Superior of his own Order. So great was his patience that he endured with steadfastness the most terrible opposition to his religious. Such was his charity that he never ceased to exhort religious men to love God and priests to live after the manner of the apostles, and he organized many confraternities of married men. He often carried the cross through the streets and public squares, together with his religious, and by his fervent prayers and exhortations brought wicked men back to the way of salvation.

It is noteworthy that out of love for Jesus crucified he would have the mystery of the cross brought to the mind of all by the ringing of a bell on Friday afternoons about vesper time. The holy name of Christ was ever on his lips, and in his writings, and as a true disciple of St Paul, he ever bore the mortification of Christ in his body. He had a singular devotion to the Holy Eucharist, restored the custom of frequent communions, and is said to have introduced that of the public adoration of Forty Hours. Such was his love of purity that it seemed to restore life even to his lifeless body. He was also enriched with the heavenly gifts of ecstasy, tears, knowledge of future things, and the secrets of hearts and power over the enemy of mankind. At length, after many labors, he fell grievously sick at Guastalla, whither he had been summoned as arbitrator in the cause of peace. He was taken to Cremona, and died there amid the tears of his religious and in the embrace of his pious mother, whose approaching death he foretold. At the hour of his death he was consoled by a vision of the apostles, and prophesied the future growth of his Society. The people began immediately to show their devotion to this saint on account of his great holiness and of his numerous miracles. The cult was approved by Leo XIII, who solemnly canonized him on Ascension Day, 1897.

Grant us, O Lord God Almighty: that we, being filled with the spirit of thy blessed Apostle Saint Paul, may learn that preeminent knowledge of Christ Jesus; whereby thou didst wondrously teach St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria to establish in thy Church new households of priests and virgins; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

03 July 2015

A Prayer for our Nation


Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

02 July 2015

St. Thomas the Apostle


At that time: Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
- St John 20:24-31

Everliving God, who didst strengthen thine apostle St. Thomas with sure and certain faith in thy Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in thy sight; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

30 June 2015

Blessed Junipero Serra


Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Blessed Junipero Serra to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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On Wednesday, September 23rd, during his visit to the United States, the Holy Father will celebrate a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., when he will declare the canonization of St. Junipero Serra. Here are some details of his life and ministry, excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.:
In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Asking the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra for vocations to the Sacred Ministry of the Church:
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to lay hands upon men to serve thee as Sacred Ministers in thy Church: Grant that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Church may choose men wisely and in accordance with thy Will for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through Him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.