20 November 2019

The Presentation of Mary


St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had prayed for a child, and part of their prayer was the promise that they would dedicate their child to the service of God. Little did they know at that time what great service would be given by their infant daughter.

When Mary reached the age of three, her parents fulfilled their vow. Together with their family and friends, they took her to the Temple. The High Priest and other Temple priests greeted the procession, and tradition says that the child was brought before the fifteen high steps which led to the sanctuary. It is said that the child Mary made her way to the stairs and, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, ascended all fifteen steps, coming to the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. Tradition then says that the High Priest, acting outside every rule he knew, led the Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, astonishing everyone present in the Temple. So it was that she, whose own womb would become the Holy of Holies, came into the presence of the God Whom she would bear.

St. Joachim and St. Anne returned to their home, but the Handmaid of the Lord remained in the Temple until her espousal, where she was prepared by God and protected by angels.

O God, who on this day didst vouchsafe that blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost, should be presented in the Temple: Grant, we beseech thee; that by her intercession we may be found worthy to be presented unto thee in the temple of thy glory; 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.

19 November 2019

St. Edmund, King and Martyr


On November 20th we commemorate St. Edmund, King and Martyr, who lived in the 9th century. He was the king of East Anglia, an independent kingdom within the confederation of kingdoms which comprised England at that time. His name, Edmund, meant “noble protection,” and as an earthly king he certainly lived up to his name. He had a reputation for compassion and the protection of the weak, of widows and of orphans. His greatest challenge, however, was the invasion of his kingdom by the Danish Vikings. They weren’t complete foreigners to the people of East Anglia. They were of the same race, and in fact, their languages were so similar that they were able to understand one another. No, there was only one essential difference between the Danish Vikings and the English - the Vikings were heathens, and the English were Christians.

The Vikings attacked and destroyed churches and monasteries, homes and villages, all throughout the kingdom. King Edmund fought side by side with the great Christian King Alfred. Edmund did his best, but he was finally overwhelmed by the huge numbers of Danes. At Hoxne in the north of Suffolk, King Edmund was captured. The Danes made him an offer: he could renounce his faith and become a puppet-king under them, or he could die. For King Edmund that was no choice at all. He would never renounce his Catholic faith, and so he chose death. There is an eyewitness report from that time, and it tells how he was scourged and bound, then tied to an oak-tree where the Danes fired arrows at him as for target practice. Finally, after suffering immensely from his many wounds, King Edmund was beheaded. His body was thrown to the wild beasts, but his loyal subjects secretly found his body, entombed him in a small chapel, and there he rested among his people. As they sought his heavenly intercession, God sent blessings upon them, and Edmund continued to be king in their hearts, as their faith in Christ the King grew stronger and stronger.

O God of ineffable mercy, thou didst give grace and fortitude to St. Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for thy Name: Bestow on us thy servants, we beseech thee, the shield of faith, wherewith we may withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

17 November 2019

Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter & Paul


Defend thy Church, O Lord, by the protection of the holy Apostles: that, as she received from them the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine; so through them she may receive, even to the end of the world, an increase in heavenly grace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

15 November 2019

St. Margaret of Scotland


St. Margaret lived in the 11th century, and she was the great-niece of St. Edward the Confessor. She was a Saxon princess, but she was raised in Hungary in exile. Eventually, she and her parents returned to England, but she was forced flee once again after the Battle of Hastings. She went to the court of Malcolm, who was the King of Scotland.

Malcolm was an unrefined man, and Scotland was a wild place – but Margaret and Malcolm fell in love, and they were married. Margaret, in her gentle way and through her exemplary life, lived her Catholic faith in such a way that Malcolm and the people of Scotland gradually changed their ways to be more conformed to Christ’s teaching.

Margaret was a model mother and queen who brought up her eight children in an atmosphere of great devotion and she continued to work hard to improve the lives of the people of Scotland. She had a particular love for the poor, and provided for them out of her own resources, very often serving them herself.

O God, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst endue her with zeal for thy Church and charity towards thy people: mercifully grant that we who ask her prayers and commemorate her example may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious fellowship of thy Saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 November 2019

St. Albert the Great


The life of St. Albert covered almost all of the 13th century. His father was a very wealthy German nobleman, and Albert was able to receive an excellent education at the best universities of his day. He was a philosopher, a bishop, a prolific writer, and one of the most influential scientists of the Middle Ages. We all know the phrase, “a know-it-all” – but St. Albert really was, and in the best sense. He was able to compile a complete system of all the knowledge of his day. The subjects he encompassed included astronomy, mathematics, economics, logic, rhetoric, ethics, politics, metaphysics and all branches of natural science. It would take him more than 20 years to complete this phenomenal presentation.

St. Albert taught that there was no discrepancy between theology and science; rather, they were simply different aspects of a harmonious whole. Among his most important contributions to the development of scientific thought in the Middle Ages was helping the scholarly community to recognize the value of Aristotle’s philosophy, and he had as one of his chief students, St. Thomas Aquinas. It was Thomas who carried St. Albert’s teaching out to its logical conclusions.

St. Albert is the only scholar of his time to have earned the title "Great" -- a title that was applied to him even during his lifetime.

O God, who gavest grace unto blessed Albert, thy Bishop and Doctor, to become truly great in the subjection of human wisdom to divine faith: grant us, we beseech thee, so to follow in the footsteps of his teaching; that we may enjoy the perfect light in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 November 2019

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized. She was a naturalized citizen, having been born in Italy in 1850. Her parents were simple farmers, accustomed to hard work and little money, but always ready to welcome another child. In fact, St. Frances was the thirteenth child, and her mother was fifty-two years old when she was born. It was a devout Catholic family in which she was raised, and at night after the day’s work was done, the children would listen to their father read them stories of the saints. Young Frances was especially fascinated by the saints who went on missions to foreign countries.

St. Frances had a great desire to help others, and after she finished school she assisted in the local parish by teaching catechism, and visiting the sick and the poor. She also taught school, and supervised the running of an orphanage, where she was assisted by a group of young women. Their work became so well-known that the bishop in a neighboring diocese heard of their work, and he asked Frances to establish a missionary institute to work in the area of education. Frances did as the bishop requested, and she called this new community the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. They opened an academy for girls, and before long the work spread with the establishment of new houses.

One day Frances was contacted by Bishop Scalabrini, an Italian bishop who had a great concern for the many immigrants who were leaving Italy for a new life in the United States. It was not easy for these immigrants, and upon their arrival in America they would endure tremendous hardships, and were not being given adequate spiritual care. As Bishop Scalabrini described the situation to Frances, she was very moved by what he said, but it did not occur to her that she might have a part in the solution. It was not until she had an audience with Pope Leo XIII about the future of her religious foundation that she changed her plans. It was her intention to receive papal permission to go to the missions of the orient, but the Holy Father had another suggestion. “Not to the East, but go to the West,” he said to her. “Go to America.”

Now known as Mother Cabrini, she had no hesitation when she heard the Pope’s words. To America she went, and she landed in New York in 1889, immediately establishing an orphanage, and then set about her life’s work – that of seeing a need, and then working for a solution. She built schools, places for child care, medical clinics, orphanages, and homes for abandoned babies. The poor had no place to go when they became seriously ill, so she built a number of hospitals for the needy. At the time of her death, there were more than five thousand children receiving care in the various institutions she built, and her religious community had grown to five hundred members in seventy houses throughout North and South America, France, Spain, and England.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was a frail woman, of a very small stature, but she amazed others with her energy and imagination. She was constantly traveling, sailing the Atlantic twenty-five times to visit her various religious houses and institutions. It was in 1909 that she adopted the United States as her country and formally became a citizen.

As she reached the end of her life, she had given thirty-seven years to the works of charity she loved so much. In her final illness she was admitted to a hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She died while making dolls to be given to orphans at an upcoming Christmas party, her last activity a simple act of charity. Mother Cabrini was beatified in 1938, and canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

God our Father, who didst call Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini from Italy to serve the immigrants of America: by her example, teach us to care for the stranger, the sick, and all those in need; and by her prayers help us to see Christ in all whom we meet; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 November 2019

St. Josaphat, Martyr for Unity


St. Josaphat was born about the year 1580 in what was the Polish province of Lithuania and was raised as an Eastern Rite Catholic. He had a deep devotion to the suffering of Christ, and looked at the schism between East and West as a wound in the Church as the Sacred Body of our Lord. As a young man in his mid-twenties he entered religious life, joining the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (known as the Basilians), and as a monk he gave himself over to penance and mortification, going barefoot even in winter, and eating only the poorest food.

In 1618, after living as a monk for nearly fifteen years, he was appointed to be archbishop of the Eastern Rite Diocese of Polotzk, and he devoted his energies to work for the reunion of the Church, all the while deepening the faith of his people through his preaching and his example. There were those in the Orthodox Church, not in union with Rome, who were very much against his work towards unity, and a group of them decided he must be stopped, making plans to assassinate him. In fact, St. Josaphat knew there were many who did not want unity, and he knew his life was in danger; however, he pressed forward in his work to heal the rift between East and West.

One day when he was visiting part of his diocese in territory which is now in Russia, his enemies made an attack on the place where he was staying, and many of those who were traveling with St. Josaphat were killed. Quietly and with humility, St. Josaphat went toward the attackers and asked them why they had done such a thing, saying to them, “If you have something against me, see, here I am.” The crowd screamed at him saying, “Kill the papist!” They ran towards him with their weapons, killing him with an axe-blow to his head.

St. Josaphat's body was thrown into the river, but it remained on the surface of the water, surrounded by rays of light, and was recovered. Those who had murdered him, when they were sentenced to death, repented of what they had done. Through the gentle example of St. Josaphat and helped by his heavenly intercession, through the grace of God they became Catholics.

Stir up in thy Church, we pray, O Lord, the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat: that, as he laid down his life for the sheep; so through his intercession we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit and not fear to lay down our life for our brethren; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 November 2019

St. Martin of Tours


When he was merely a boy, Martin became a Christian catechumen against his parents' wishes, and at the age of fifteen he was forced by his father, a pagan soldier, to be enrolled in the army.

It was on a winter's day, while stationed at Amiens, that Martin met a beggar almost naked and frozen with cold. Having nothing to give him, Martin cut his cloak in two and gave poor man half.

That night in a dream Martin saw Our Lord clothed in the half cloak, and heard Him say to surrounding angels: "Martin, yet only a catechumen, has wrapped Me in this garment." He decided to be baptized, and shortly after this he left the army.

Martin succeeded in converting his mother, but he was driven from his home by the Arian heretics who were powerful in that place, and he took shelter with the bishop, St. Hilary. Near Poitiers they founded first monastery in France, and in the year 372 St. Martin was made Bishop of Tours. The people of that area, though Christian in name, were mostly still pagan in their hearts and in their daily practice. Unarmed and attended only by his monks, St. Martin destroyed the heathen temples and groves, and then completed this courageous act by preaching the Gospel. After witnessing many miracles at the hand of their bishop St. Martin, there was a complete conversion of the people. St. Martin’s last eleven years were spent in the humble work of travelling throughout Gaul, preaching and manifesting the power of God through his works and by the purity of his life.

O God, who seest that we are not able to stand in our own strength: mercifully grant that, through the prayers of blessed Martin thy Confessor and Bishop, we may be defended from all adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Veterans Day


November 11th is Veterans Day and was known originally as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I. It is a day on which we honor all military veterans living today, which should not be confused with Memorial Day which we keep in May, when we remember all those who gave their lives in defense of our nation.
O Lord, we give You thanks for our veterans, for their willingness to risk all so that our nation might dwell in peace and safety. May they receive the honor and recognition they deserve. We pray for those who suffer from physical, spiritual, and psychological wounds, that they might know Your healing presence. We pray for our nation, that it may treasure the freedoms which have been won through the sacrifices and courage of those who have given themselves for the protection of others. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

08 November 2019

Dedication of St. John Lateran


On November 9th the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour in the city of Rome, known also as St. John Lateran. On the façade is carved the proud title “Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput” – “The Mother and Head of all Churches of the City and of the World.” It is the cathedral of Rome – it is the Pope’s Cathedral, and so is, in a sense, the Cathedral of the world – senior in dignity even to St. Peter’s Basilica.

One of the reasons we celebrate this Feast is because the Church wants us to remember the importance of consecrated places in which the worship of God takes place. It reminds us of the importance of the consecration of every Catholic Church throughout the world. It is a reminder to us of the Incarnational principle on which our faith is based – that God extends His spiritual blessings to us through the use of physical things. He took human flesh upon Himself. He has instituted seven sacraments which use outward forms to communicate inward grace. He has established a hierarchical Church, with a physical presence in the world, to be a sign of His own presence with us.

O Most blessed Saviour, who didst vouchsafe thy gracious presence at the Feast of Dedication: be present with us at this time by thy Holy Spirit, and so possess our souls by thy grace; that we may be living temples, holy and acceptable unto thee; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

04 November 2019

An old friend, close at hand...



I keep a copy of Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua on my desk. In fact, it’s the copy I obtained when I was in college some fifty years ago – a fact betrayed by the price of $1.45 which appears on the cover. It’s a soft-covered, dog-eared book, with underlinings in it from my college days when I first read it. In fact, I can remember snatching odd moments between classes just to read a few pages and to savour one point or another he was making. Ultimately, this book would be instrumental in my own conversion to the Catholic Church, and some things I wrote on the title page bear that out.

The first thing I wrote was, “I, too, am following the steps of Cardinal Newman – I left the Episcopal Church on 12th January 1982.” Beneath that I wrote, “I was made deacon in the Catholic church on Aug. 7, 1983.” Under that, “ordained Priest – Aug. 15, 1983.” And then finally, “ad Jesum per Mariam.”

It wouldn’t seem like my desk if that old book wasn’t there, close at hand, ready to be opened randomly just to delight in the thought and writing of one of the great men of the Church, one of the greatest contributors to our patrimony, and now a canonized saint for of the universal Church. His life marked out the path many of us have followed, and (Deo volente) his prayers will bring many more to the fullness of truth.

03 November 2019

St. Charles Borromeo

Charles Borromeo was born into a wealthy, very aristocratic Italian family. The family lived in a beautiful castle, and lived lavishly, with an extravagant life of entertaining a court of noblemen. Charles was very good at athletics, music, art, and he enjoyed all the fine things that went along with the life of a rich and famous family. His mother was one of the Medici family, and one of his uncles was the pope. As was usual in those days, his uncle the pope made Charles a cardinal when he was only twenty-three and gave him many honors and titles. He was appointed papal legate to Bologna, the Low Countries, the cantons of Switzerland, and to the religious orders of St. Francis, the Carmelites, the Knights of Malta, and others.

When Charles’ father died, everybody thought that Charles would give up his positions which had him working for the Church, and that he would marry some young noblewoman, and become the head of the Borromeo family. But Charles didn’t do that. Instead, he discerned a vocation to ordination, and he became a priest. Not long after, he was appointed bishop of Milan, a city that had not had a resident bishop for over eighty years.

Although he had been accustomed to a rich and extravagant life, when Charles was ordained and then became the Bishop of Milan, he spent much of his time dealing with hardship and suffering. There was a terrible famine in the year 1570 and he took on the responsibility of providing food to feed 3,000 people a day for three months. Six years later, another plague swept through the region. Bishop Borromeo organized his priests, religious, and lay volunteers to feed and care for the almost 70,000 people living in part of his diocese. He personally cared for many who were sick and dying, and he spent all his money doing it. In fact, he even ran up huge debts so that he could feed, clothe, and provide medical care, as well as build shelters for thousands of plague-stricken people.

He once ordered an atonement procession and appeared in it with a rope about his neck, with bare and bloody feet, a cross upon his shoulder, thus presenting himself as an expiatory sacrifice for his people to ward off divine punishment. He died, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, holding a picture of Jesus Crucified in his hands, in 1584 at the age of forty-six. His last words were, "See, Lord, I am coming, I am coming soon."

Keep, O Lord, thy Church by the continual protection of Saint Charles Borromeo: that as his zeal for thy flock did render him glorious; so his intercession may ever make us fervent in thy love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


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01 November 2019

Indulgence for the Holy Souls


One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray for the Faithful Departed, who can do no more for themselves. There are plenary indulgences assigned to this season, outlined in the Enchiridion, which you may obtain for the Holy Souls in Purgatory:

1. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or for those entitled to use it, a semi-public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

2. You may make a visit to a Cemetery or Columbarium. A plenary indulgence is applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. This work may be done each day between November 1 and November 8.

To obtain a Plenary Indulgence, one must fulfill the following requirements:

1. Make a Sacramental Confession,
2. Receive Holy Communion,
3. Offer prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.

All these are to be performed within days of each other, if not at the same time.

31 October 2019

Solemnity of All Saints

The Pantheon, built originally in 27 B.C. and rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian c. 126 A.D. to honor pagan Roman gods, was consecrated by Pope Boniface VI and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Martyrs ca. 609, thus beginning the commemoration of All Saints.

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.   Amen.

27 October 2019

Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles


Both Simon and Jude were ordinary men who were chosen by Jesus Himself to teach others about God’s love and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Their lives help us to understand that even the most ordinary people can become saints when they decide to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Both these men were known by other names during their lives. Simon was often called “the Zealot.” He firmly believed in the importance of people following Jewish law. Once he met Jesus, his life was changed and he became convinced that the most important thing was to follow the Lord and His teachings. We believe that another reason Simon had a nickname was to keep people from confusing him with the other Apostle named Simon, the one Jesus called Peter.

Jude was also known as “Jude Thaddeus.” People used this formal title so that he was not confused with Judas, the Apostle who betrayed Jesus and handed Him over to be arrested. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases. People often pray to Jude when they feel that there is no one else to turn to. They ask Jude to bring their problem to Jesus. Because Jude had such great faith, we know that nothing is impossible for those who believe in the Lord.

Simon and Jude traveled together to teach others about Jesus. Because of their eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles and His death and resurrection, many people became believers and were baptized. Simon and Jude died for their faith on the same day in Persia, the land we now call Iran. These two saints remind us to learn all we can about Jesus and to share it with others, as they did.

O God, we thank thee for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Ss. Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

25 October 2019

Our Lady, Queen of Palestine


Members of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre commemorate Our Lady, Queen of Palestine, who is the Patroness of the Order, each year on October 25th.

In 1927, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Msgr. Louis Barlassina, because of his great concern about the political situation in the region, built a monastery, church, and orphanage in the village of Deir Rafat, and dedicated them to Our Lady, Queen of Palestine. In 1933, he instituted October 25 as a feast day in her honour under that title, and it was confirmed by the Holy See. Ever since, Deir Rafat has been a place of pilgrimage for this devotion, a much-needed source of solace for the Catholics of the Holy Land.

It is understood that this name designation, namely “Queen of Palestine” has not and has never had any political connotation since the entire Holy Land, at the time, was under the British Mandate, and was known as “Palestine." The title reflects that historical reality.

Please pray for the Christians of the Holy Land.
O Mary Immaculate, gracious Queen of Heaven and Earth, we are prostrate at your feet, sure of your goodness and confident in your power.

We beg you to look kindly on the Holy Land, which, more than any other country, belongs to you since you have honored it by your birth, your virtues and your pain, and that it is here where you gave the Savior of the World.

Remember that you were made Mother and dispenser of graces. Deign to grant special protection to your earthly homeland to dispel the darkness of the error, so that the sun of eternal justice may shine on it and that the promise, fallen from the lips of your divine Son to form one flock under the guidance of one shepherd, may be fulfilled.

Obtain us to serve the Lord in righteousness and holiness, every day of our lives, so that by the merits of Jesus, with your maternal protection, we can pass from the earthly Jerusalem to the splendors of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness: That we who celebrate the memory of the holy Mother of God, Our Lady Queen of Palestine, may, by her intercession, be delivered from our sins; 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.


23 October 2019

St. Anthony Mary Claret


Known as the "spiritual father of Cuba," St. Anthony Mary Claret was a missionary, a religious founder, a social reformer, Chaplain to the Queen of Spain, a writer and publisher, and an archbishop. Born in Spain, his work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and he was one of the Fathers of the First Vatican Council.

As a young man he worked as a weaver in the textile mills of Barcelona, and he was always looking for ways to improve himself. He learned Latin, and he also learned the printing trade – two things he would use during his ministry. He was ordained at the age of 28, but ill-health prevented him from entering religious life as he thought he wanted to, as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but nonetheless, he went on to become one of Spain’s most dynamic and well-known preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then at the age of 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. In fact, after his death, a group of his Claretians eventually came to San Antonio where they served in San Fernando Cathedral, and also continue to staff the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

St. Anthony Mary Claret was appointed to be the archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, which had been very much neglected by previous archbishops. The Catholic faith was at a low point there when he arrived. He began to reform things by almost constantly preaching and hearing confessions. He became hated because he told men and women that they needed to marry, rather than just live together, and he was also hated because he gave Catholic instruction to the many black slaves in the area. In fact, his enemies even hired an assassin who tried to stab him to death, and when he failed, St. Anthony forgave him, and managed to get the death sentence commuted to a prison term. Many of the Cubans were living in poverty, and he encouraged family-owned farms which could produce a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This made enemies out of the large sugar crop owners, who depended on the poor to work in the fields for them at very low pay.

He eventually returned to Spain to do a job he didn’t like — that of being chaplain for the queen, but in the revolution of 1868, he fled with the rest of the royal court to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At the First Vatican Council, he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, and he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

O God, who for the evangelization of peoples didst strengthen the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret with admirable charity and long-suffering: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things that are thine, we may earnestly devote ourselves to winning our brethren for Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 October 2019

St. John of Capistrano


From CatholicCulture.org
St. John was born in 1386 at Capistrano in the Italian Province of the Abruzzi. His father was a German knight and died when he was still young. St. John became a lawyer and attained the position of governor of Perugia. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, St. John tried to broker a peace. Unfortunately, his opponents ignored the truce and St. John became a prisoner of war. On the death of his wife he entered the order of Friars Minor, was ordained and began to lead a very penitential life.

John became a disciple of Saint Bernadine of Siena and a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420. The world at the time was in need of strong men to work for salvation of souls. Thirty percent of the population was killed by the Black Plague, the Church was split in schism and there were several men claiming to be pope. As an Itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, St. John preached to tens of thousands and established communities of Franciscan renewal. He reportedly healed the sick by making the Sign of the Cross over them. He also wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

He was successful in reconciling heretics. After the fall of Constantinople, he preached a crusade against the Muslim Turks. At age 70 he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Moslems.

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant St. John of Capistrano 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.

21 October 2019

Embraced by a saint...

Near the pulpit at Our Lady of the Atonement Church is a stained glass window which commemorates a special day in our parish history.

In 1983 I was a newly-ordained priest. In November of that year, it was my privilege to be in Rome to take part in developing The Book of Divine Worship. During that time an invitation was extended to celebrate Mass with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his private chapel. After we had said Mass I had some time with the Holy Father. He told me that he remembered considering the request for my ordination, and he described how he came to an affirmative decision.

For me, our brief conversation was an experience which will be treasured forever. At the conclusion of our time together, I asked him if I could take his blessing back to the people of my parish. He embraced me and spoke these simple words: "With all my heart, I bless you and your people."

Here are a few pictures showing the details of the window.

The Coat of Arms of Bl. John Paul II is at the top,
connected by the grape vine to our parish symbol of the Pelican.

The words spoken to me by the Holy Father:

The date and place:


Detail showing the Pelican (a symbol of the Atonement):

The name of the parish and the date of its founding:



And here is the picture of the occasion which is commemorated in the window.

Pope St. John Paul II


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

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

O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 October 2019

Martyrs of North America


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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, who amongst the peoples of North America didst hallow the first-fruits of the Faith both in the preaching and in the blood of many holy Martyrs: graciously grant by the intercession of Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and Companions; that everywhere from day to day the harvest of souls may abound to the increase of thy faithful people; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

17 October 2019

St. Luke the Evangelist

 "St. Luke" by Master Theodoric (14th cent)
painted on the upper section of wall in the
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Karlstein Castle near Prague.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almighty God, who didst call Saint Luke, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist and physician of the soul: may it please thee; that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

16 October 2019

St. Ignatius of Antioch


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

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

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

Feed us, O Lord, with the living Bread and make us drink deep of the cup of salvation: that, following the teaching of thy Bishop Ignatius, and rejoicing in the faith with which he embraced the death of a Martyr, we may be nourished for that eternal life which he ever desired; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

15 October 2019

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


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

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

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

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

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

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

O Lord Jesus Christ, who unto thy holy Virgin Margaret Mary Alacoque didst reveal the unsearchable riches of thy Sacred Heart: grant us, by her merits and example, to love thee in all things and above all things, and so find in thy loving Heart an everlasting habitation; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 October 2019

St. Teresa of Jesus


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

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

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

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

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

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

Merciful God, who by thy Spirit didst raise up thy servant Saint Teresa of Jesus to reveal to thy Church the way of perfection: grant that her teaching may awaken in us a longing for holiness until, assisted by her intercession, we attain to the perfect union of love in Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

13 October 2019

St. Callistus, Pope and Martyr


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

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

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

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

O God, who didst raise up Pope Saint Callistus to serve the Church and attend devoutly to Christ’s faithful departed: strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith; so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

In 1492...


The second Monday in October is observed as Columbus Day – the anniversary of the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus and his men first sighted land in their amazing voyage across the ocean from Europe. Some people try to paint a very black picture of Columbus, and you might hear or read things that make him and his motives look very bad – all for the cause of political correctness. But the truth is, Columbus had two reasons and two reasons only for this adventure: one practical, and one spiritual.

Spain had just ejected the Muslims who had overrun huge parts of Europe, and these invaders had ravaged places like Spain, and had made it very poor. So one of the reasons for the voyage was to find another trade route to the Far East, where they hoped to find sources of revenue to rebuild what the Muslims had destroyed; but the other reason – the purpose closest to the heart of Columbus – was to bring the Catholic Faith to the native people in this new world, people who were living in the darkness of paganism.

So on August 2nd 1492 the three ships – the Niña, the Pinta , and the Santa Maria, carrying 120 men, set sail from the shores of Spain. Christopher Columbus was an experienced sailor, having served on ships from the time he was a boy. He was raised in the Catholic Faith, and always took the practice of his faith very seriously. When he received the inspiration for this voyage, he tried to convince the King of Portugal to sponsor him, but with no success. So he set off for Spain, spending years trying to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to support him, which he finally did, with the help of a holy Franciscan priest, Fr. Juan Perez. In fact, it was this priest who would eventually celebrate the first Mass in America on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and that is a reason our nation is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, which is commemorated by our national basilica in Washington, D.C.

Christopher Columbus also convinced the Pope, Alexander VI, to help with the cost of the voyage, because this was to be a great missionary journey. Columbus wrote to the Pope: “I trust that by God’s help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as possible.” It was a very difficult voyage. The men began to loose hope. Two months passed, and there was still no land to be seen. The crew grew restless and insisted that their captain turn back. But Columbus was certain that God was guiding them, and he told them that if no land was seen by the time of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, October 12th, he would do as they wanted. The men agreed, and land was sighted, on the very day of the great Feast of Our Lady.

The first act by Columbus upon setting foot on this new land was to set up the Cross and claim it in the Name of Jesus Christ. He named the first island he arrived at “San Salvador” (Holy Savior). In all, Christopher Columbus led four excursions from the shores of Spain to America. He maintained his deep faith, even when things were difficult – and whatever his detractors might say, he accomplished what he set out to do – he brought the Catholic Faith to these new and distant lands, so that those living in darkness would know the Light of Christ. Indeed, his adventures paved the way for missionaries to continue the great work of taking the Catholic Faith to every part of the world.

11 October 2019

St. Wilfrid, Bishop and Confessor


St. Wilfrid was born in Northumberland in 634. We know something of his life from the writings of the Venerable Bede in the early eighth century. Wilfrid was born into a wealthy Christian family. His mother died when he was thirteen and he was sent to Lindisfarne to be educated under the Celtic St Aidan. Queen Enflaed of Northumbria was his patron. So, the young Wilfrid had a very good education, impressive connections and, having chosen a religious career, he was sent off to Rome to continue his education. He returned to England in 658 and settled with the Benedictine monks in Ripon Abbey.

It wasn’t long before Wilfrid was caught up in a power struggle in the church between those who favoured the new Roman practices and ideas brought by Augustine rather than some of the older Celtic traditions. There was something of a north-south divide, with the Roman practice centred at Canterbury and the Celtic tradition in the north. There were great arguments about the timing of Easter and whether monks should shave a tonsure, for example. Wilfrid was instrumental in a victory for the Roman view at the Conference of Whitby in 664. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed Bishop of York.

In the following years Wilfrid built magnificent stone churches at Hexham, Ripon and York. However, he was soon at the centre of conflict again, having fallen out with Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, over plans to divide York diocese into two. Wilfrid had to leave York for a while between the years 681 and 686 and it was during this time that he came to the Meon Valley to evangelise the Jutes and Saxons who had recently settled in the area. Wilfrid lived at an extraordinary time for the church. He encountered great controversy, accumulated huge landholdings, befriended kings and rulers across Europe and travelled to Rome three times on horseback and on foot. He suffered shipwreck and was nearly murdered several times – once by natives off the coast of Sussex. He had been a bishop for forty-five years and a pillar of the church during one of the most turbulent periods of its history as it sought to establish itself in a pagan land. Wilfrid died on 12th October 709 at the Minster church of St Andrew’s, Oundle.

St. Wilfrid is often shown holding fishing nets. According to St. Bede, the men of South West Sussex and the Meon Valley were “ignorant of the name and faith of God”. Just before Wilfrid’s arrival there had been the most terrible famine and the distress was so acute that often "forty or fifty, being spent with want, would go together to some cliff, or to the seashore, and there, hand-in-hand, miserably perish by the fall or be swallowed by the waves."

Although there were fish enough to eat in the rivers and sea, the poor country folk did not know how to catch them and could only fish for eels. Wilfrid borrowed these nets and, casting them into the sea, "by the blessing of God immediately took three hundred fishes of different kinds, which they divided into three parts, giving a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those who had lent them the nets and keeping a hundred for their own use. By this act of kindness the Bishop gained the affections of them all and they began more readily, at his preaching, to hope for heavenly goods; seeing that, by his help, they had received those which are temporal."

And so, Wilfrid followed the teaching of Christ himself, as he first fed the people of the Meon Valley and then went on to tell them all about God’s love and grace.

Almighty God, who didst call our forebears to the light of the Gospel by the preaching of thy servant Wilfrid: grant us, who keep his life and labour in remembrance, to glorify thy Name by following the example of his zeal and perseverance; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 October 2019

Pope St. John XXIII


On November 25, 1881 a baby was born to a very large and very poor family of sharecroppers in a little town in northern Italy. His name was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII.  As I said, the family was poor, and everyone including the children had to work, but their Catholic faith was central to their lives. The parish priest saw in young Angelo something outstanding, and so eventually the young boy was able to continue his education, eventually entering seminary.

From the time he was 10 or 11 young Angelo began the habit of making spiritual notes, kind of like a diary of his spiritual thoughts. Now, lots of people might begin a diary, but they don’t very often keep it going. He kept his going all his life, and these notes have been gathered together in a collection called “Journal of a Soul.” It shows the growth of faith from being a young boy, all the way to being pope.

In 1904 he was ordained a priest, and so he began a whole new phase in his life, including at time during World War I when he was near the front lines of the war being chaplain to the wounded soldiers.

Eventually the Pope at that time, Pope Benedict XV, recognized in this young priest not only a great pastoral heart, but also a great talent for getting things organized, and also a wonderful ability to bring people together, so he was put into a life of diplomacy. He was consecrated as a bishop and began serving as the pope’s delegate to different countries.

Upon the death of Pope Pius XII, in October 1958, he was elected pope, and took the name of John, the 23rd pope to take that name. He was gentle and devout, and is especially known for convoking the second Vatican Council. He died in 1963, having been pope for only five years.

How does a young boy working in the fields become the Successor of St. Peter? By taking his faith seriously, by being faithful in his prayers, by studying hard and taking advantage of every opportunity God put in his path. His vocation eventually led him to the Chair of St. Peter because that was where God needed him. Of course, God needs each one of us for some particular work in some particular place, which is why each of us must look for God’s Will in our own lives.

Almighty and eternal God, who in Pope Saint John the Twenty-third didst give to the whole world the shining example of a good shepherd: grant, we beseech thee; that, through his intercession, we may with joy spread abroad the fulness of Christian charity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

08 October 2019

A simple writing desk...


It has been said that John Henry Newman "wrote himself into the Church." If there is any truth in that, then it took place on this desk, where he wrote his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. It was 1845, and he had been at Littlemore for the previous few years. He was undergoing spiritual suffering, and he was eating so little that he was described as "ghostly thin." He stood at this desk to write, the writing surface adjusted to be at a slight slope, and by the time he finished the work he knew he would enter the Catholic Church.

Is it possible to know something of the man simply from a piece of furniture? Objectively speaking, perhaps not; but I cannot deny the overwhelming sense of Newman's journey as I laid my hand on the surface of the desk where his own hand had laboured, and where his heart searched out and found its home.

It was on 9 October 1845 that John Henry Newman was received into the Church by Bl. Dominic Barberi. On 10 October 1845 an altar stone was placed on this very desk, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered -- the Mass at which John Henry Newman received his first Holy Communion as a Catholic layman.

He never again used this desk as a place to write. He said he could not, knowing that it had been used for so great a Mystery as the Mass.

Blessed John Henry Newman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park (near Birmingham). The pope noted Newman's emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison.  His canonization takes place on October 13, 2019, and from that time he will be known as St. John Henry Newman.

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

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

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

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

07 October 2019

St. Denis and his Companions


St. Dionysius (Denis, as he is known to us) was born someplace in Italy, sometime during the 3rd century. In fact, for years he was confused with another Dionysius, the Aereopagite who was converted when St. Paul visited Athens. As little as we know about St. Denis, it's evident that he had become known for living a virtuous and faithful life, because he was chosen by Pope Fabian (236-250) to be one of the missionary bishops to Gaul (modern-day France). It was a difficult mission. The Church of Gaul had suffered terribly under the persecution of the Emperor Decius, and these men were sent to do all they could to bring the Catholic faith to the people there. Denis was sent to the area of present-day Paris, along with his companions, the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius. When they arrived, they settled on an island in the Seine.

It was on this island that Denis built a church, and he and his clergy provided regular worship, with the Daily Offices and the Mass. He was a very powerful preacher, and there were many conversions to the faith. A great number of these converts came from local pagan religions, and when the pagan priests saw so many of their people being baptised, they started to make plans to get rid of the bishop Denis, along with his priest and deacon. They carried out their plan by going to the local Roman governor, Sisinnius, to convince him that what Denis was teaching was actually stirring up the people against the Roman Empire. Sisinnius believed what these pagan priests told him, so he had Denis and his companions arrested. They were told to stop preaching, or they would pay with their lives. Denis and his companions had no intention of stopping, so they were tortured horribly. First, they were scourged and stretched on the rack; finally they were tortured with fire and then thrown to wild beasts. Before they were actually killed by the wild animals, they were dragged away and beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the river. The bodies of the martyrs were retrieved by a holy Christian woman named Catulla. She buried them, and erected a small shrine to mark the graves. Over the years the people came to the site, asking for God's blessings through the intercessions of the three martyrs. Eventually this shrine was expanded and made more beautiful, and today it is a great basilica, one of the most famous churches in Europe. But it still marks the simple graves of these three brave men, who died willingly because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

O God, who didst strengthen blessed Denis, thy Martyr and Bishop, with the virtue of constancy in his suffering, and didst vouchsafe to join unto him Rusticus and Eleutherius, for the preaching of thy glory to the heathen: grant us, we beseech thee, by their example, to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 October 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary


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

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

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

We know today that this victory was decisive. It prevented the Islamic invasion of Europe at that time, and it showed the Hand of God working through Our Lady. At the hour of victory, 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... something we might consider in our own generation.

O God, whose Only Begotten Son by his life, death, and Resurrection, hath purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that meditating upon the mysteries of the Rosary, our devotion may bud forth as the rose in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and that we may so follow the pattern of their teaching, that we may finally be made partakers of thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.