15 October 2018

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 2018

St. Teresa of Avila


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

12 October 2018

St. Edward, King and Confessor


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

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

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

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

He died on 5 January 1066, leaving no children, and he was buried in the great abbey church which he had founded.

O God, who hast crowned thy blessed Confessor King Edward with eternal glory: grant that we who venerate him on earth, may be found worthy to reign with him 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.

11 October 2018

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 2018

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 2018

Blessed John Henry Newman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 2018

St. Denis and Companions, Martyrs



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 2018

Our Lady of the Holy 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.

04 October 2018

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos


The priestly zeal of Francis Xavier Seelos took him to many places, but always with the same purpose; namely, to help people know the great love and compassion of God. And not only did he preach, but he put his words into practice, even to the point of risking his own life in caring for the sick and the dying.

Francis Xavier Seelos was born in southern Bavaria in the year 1819. He studied philosophy and theology in Munich as part of his preparation for the priesthood, but while still a student he became fascinated with the missionary work of the Redemptorists, which they were carrying out amongst the German-speaking immigrants in the United States. He arrived in America in 1843 and was ordained in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore at the end of 1844. He was assigned for six years to the parish of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh, where he served as an assistant to St. John Neumann, who would become one of our great missionary bishops.

During the several years he was engaged in parish ministry throughout the state of Maryland, Fr. Seelos also had the responsibility of training Redemptorist students for the priesthood. In fact, during this time the Civil War broke out, and he went went to Washington, D.C. to appeal to President Lincoln that his students not be drafted for military service, although eventually some were.

For several years Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos preached in English and in German throughout the Midwest and in the Mid-Atlantic states. Eventually he was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption Church in New Orleans, where he served faithfully as pastor. In 1867 he died of yellow fever, being only forty-eight years old, having contracted the disease while visiting the sick in his parish. He was described as a priest with a constant smile and a generous heart. He was beatified in 2000, and his cause for canonization is moving forward.

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly feast of blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, thy Priest and Confessor: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may follow him in all virtuous and godly living; 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.

03 October 2018

St. Francis of Assisi


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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, who dost ever delight to reveal thyself to the childlike and lowly of heart: grant that, following the example of blessed Francis, and aided by his prayers; we may count the wisdom of this world as foolishness and know only Jesus Christ and him crucified; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

01 October 2018

Holy Guardian Angels


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

From our birth until our death, we are surrounded by the protection and intercession of angels, particularly our guardian angel who remains beside each one of us and who stands as protector and shepherd leading us to life with God. We should ask our Guardian Angel for help, and when we are praying for others, we can ask our Guardian Angel to cooperate with the Guardian Angel of another person, to keep them safe and to guide them.

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

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

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

30 September 2018

Follow Christ!

On October 1st, thirty-nine years ago, I was standing on the Boston Common with about 600,000 others. I was a young Episcopal cleric, and a Catholic priest friend of mine had encouraged me to go to Boston "to see the Pope." It rained for most of the day, and I was standing in it with no umbrella. An excited community of religious sisters was in front of me, screaming their heads off and waving their signs to no one in particular. I didn't know a single person around me, and after standing in the mud and rain for nearly seven hours, I didn't think I'd ever want to do this again.

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

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

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

Follow Christ. That says it all.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus


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

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

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

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

On a personal note, with the Commemoration of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus - the Little Flower - come remembrances of occasions when she has sent a rose into someone's life at just the right time.

My own experience was several years ago, during a time of great trial, when I very much needed a sign of God's love and something which would indicate I was acting in accordance with His Divine Will. It was at about 4:45 a.m., when I was walking from my car to offer Mass at the Carmelite convent where I was chaplain. It was a winter morning, and the temperature was near freezing. I had been asking St. Thérèse and the Blessed Mother for their intercession. Just before opening the gate to the convent I looked down, and on the sidewalk was a fresh rose with some drops of water on the petals. When I got inside I asked the nuns if they had been bringing roses in from someplace, but they assured me that they hadn't. I took it as a sign of God's love, sent by the Little Flower, and it was all I needed at that important time.

28 September 2018

The Holy Archangels


O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: mercifully grant that as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven; so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; 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.

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


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


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


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

27 September 2018

St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions


The mixed-race child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, Lawrence Ruiz grew up in Manila and married a local Catholic girl. They had three children, and lived a simple life on his modest salary as a clerk working for the local parish. What they lacked in material things they more than made up for in their deep Catholic faith. Living something of an anonymous life, known only to their immediate circle of family and friends, life was good but not extraordinary. That is, not until a false accusation was made. And then, life as Lawrence Ruiz and his wife knew it, no longer existed. Everything was turned upside down as he made the nearly-impossible decision to run from his accusers. He was completely innocent, but he paid a very heavy price, which involved leaving his beloved wife and children and the only home he knew.

Lawrence made his way to a ship which was headed for Japan, and his travelling companions were three Dominican priests, a Japanese priest, and a layman who suffered from leprosy. They arrived in Okinawa and made no secret of their Catholic faith. And for that, they were arrested and tortured mercilessly. They were dragged off to Nagasaki, where further sport was made of Lawrence and the others, in an attempt to get them to deny Christ. They remained steadfast in professing their love for God and His Church. Lawrence had already had a false accusation made against him, but this accusation - that he was a Catholic - was an accusation he was happy to confirm, no matter what the consequences. And the consequences were brutal. He and his companions were hung upside down while having heavy stones tied to them; they were held under water until the moment before they would drown; they had wood splinters driven under their fingernails. But through it all, their hearts were filled with love for God and forgiveness for their persecutors.

When they finally died from their tortures, the bodies of Lawrence and his companions were burned and the ashes were thrown into the sea. Their faithful witness, however, fed that great burning fire of God's love, which continues to burn to this day.

Grant us, we pray, Lord God, the same perseverance shown by thy Martyrs Saint Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions in serving thee and their neighbour: even as those persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed in thy kingdom; 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.

26 September 2018

St. Vincent de Paul, Apostle of Charity


St. Vincent was born of poor parents in a little village in France, in about 1580. He was able to go to school, which was run by a community of Franciscans, and it was there that he learned the value of humility and poverty, and the importance of serving others. Young Vincent was a good student, and in fact, he made such good progress that when he was in his fourth year of school, a wealthy man chose him to be a tutor for his own children, and Vincent was able to continue his studies at the same time, using the money he earned to pay for his education. When he was about sixteen, he went to the University for his theological studies, and he was eventually ordained to the priesthood.

St. Vincent was a very young priest in 1605, and he was travelling on a ship off the coast of France, when the ship was attacked by a band of pirates. They were Muslims from north Africa, and they captured St. Vincent and carried him off to Tunis, where he was sold into slavery. He lived as a slave for about two years, but then he managed to escape. Having gained his freedom, he went immediately to Rome to give thanks to God, and he then returned to France. Once again he became a tutor for the children of a wealthy family, and it was during that time that he had an important experience which changed the direction of his life.

There was a poor servant in the household who was dying. St. Vincent went to him to hear his last confession and to prepare him for death, and as he visited him, St. Vincent realized that the poor and those who worked in service to others really hadn’t been receiving very much spiritual care. When he brought this to the attention of his employers, they urged him to do what he thought best to remedy the situation. He began to a great ministry to the poor, preaching missions so they could know the Gospel, and he founded a religious community for men and also another for women, whose purpose was to serve the poor.

St. Vincent’s work was recognized throughout the Church, and although many wanted to honor him, he himself remained completely humble, continuing his work for the poor. He became known as the Apostle of Charity, continuing his work, until he died at the age of eighty. His work continues through the communities of priests and sisters which he established, and also through the Church’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which encourages laypeople to join in the work of alleviating the needs of the poor.

O God, who didst strengthen blessed Vincent de Paul with apostolic power for preaching the Gospel to the poor, and for promoting worthiness in the clergy: grant, we beseech thee; that we who reverence his pious deeds may also be taught by the example of his virtues; 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.

25 September 2018

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs


The commemoration of St. Cosmas and St. Damian is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, and these two martyrs have been honored in the East and West in many ways, including the building and dedication of churches in their honor in many places, including Rome and Constantinople. Along with St. Luke, they are the patron saints of doctors. Although we cannot be certain of the details of their lives, the information that has come down to us is of very early origin.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they practiced medicine at no charge. They were twin brothers, born in Cilicia (in what is now Turkey). They studied in Syria and became skilled physicians.

Since they were prominent Christians, they were among the first arrested when the great persecution under Diocletian began. Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, ordered their arrest, and they were beheaded in about the year 287. Their bodies, it was said, were carried to Syria and buried at the ancient Syrian city of Cyrrhus, which then became known as Hagioupolis – the City of the Holy Ones.

They were venerated very early and became patrons of medicine, known for their miracles of healing. The Emperor Justinian asked the heavenly aid of these saints, was cured by their intercession, leading the emperor to give special honor to the city of Cyrrhus where their relics were enshrined. Their basilica in Rome, decorated with beautiful mosaics, was dedicated in the year 530. They are named in the Roman Martyrology and in the Canon of the Mass, testifying to the antiquity of the celebration of their feast day.

Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine as an act of Christian charity, but they also testify to God's blessing upon the science and art of healing, affirming the Christian understanding of the physical and spiritual unity of each person.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we who celebrate the heavenly birthday of Saints Cosmas and Damian, thy Martyrs, may by their intercession be delivered from all evils that beset us; 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.

23 September 2018

Our Lady of Walsingham

In 1061, so the story goes, the lady of the manor of Little Walsingham in Norfolk, a widow named Lady Richeldis, prayed to our Lady asking how she could honour her in some special way. In answer to this prayer Mary led Lady Richeldis in spirit to Nazareth and showed her the house in which she had first received the angel's message. Mary told Richeldis to take the measurements of this house and build another one just like it in Walsingham. It would be a place where people could come to honour her and her Son, remembering especially the mystery of the Annunciation and Mary's joyful 'yes' to conceiving the Saviour.

The late eleventh century and all through the twelfth and thirteenth century was the era of the crusades, which saw a growing interest in the sites consecrated by the human presence of Jesus in the Holy Land. But now pilgrims need not go so far; in England itself there was a 'new Nazareth' built by one of their own countrywomen.

The actual house from Nazareth was moved – perhaps even miraculously – to Loreto, and we find that the measurements of the house in Loreto and the house in Walsingham are the same.

Why venerate a house? Because it reminds us that the Word-made-Flesh lived as Man with mankind.

O God, who, through the mystery of the Word made flesh, didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary: do thou grant that we may keep aloof from the tabernacle of sinners, and become worthy indwellers of thy house; 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.

St. Pius of Pietrelcina


St. Pius was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town in southern Italy. His family were farmers, and his father worked also as a shepherd to support the family. In fact, when St. Pius was a boy his father was gone for periods of time because he had come to America looking for work, sending money back to his family. When St. Pius was 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars and made his first vows when he was 19. He suffered several health problems, but he was eventually ordained at age 22 on 10 August 1910, and was known after that as Padre Pio.

He had been a priest for about eight years. One morning he was praying before a crucifix, when he received the stigmata. He is the first priest ever to receive this outward mark of union with Christ Crucified – St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon. In fact, because this became a source of curiosity for so many people, Padre Pio was forbidden from having any public ministry for some years, even having to say Mass privately. This was a tremendous burden for him, but he accepted it in complete obedience to his superiors. But as word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch, although he himself never understood or emphasized these gifts.

People always seem to be most fascinated with these dramatic gifts, but the foundation of St. Pius’s life was his total love for Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament, and his life of prayer for others, especially prayer for healing – both spiritual and physical healing. In fact, in 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that today serves about 60,000 patients a year.

St. Pius died in 1968, and people continued to report many miracles and healings that had come through his intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999, and then in 2002 he was canonized in the presence of more than 300,000 people who gathered in Rome for the Mass.

Almighty everliving God, who, by a singular grace, didst give the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of thy Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of thy mercy: grant that, through his intercession, we may be united constantly to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the Resurrection; 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.

22 September 2018

Autumn Ember Saturday


Almighty and everlasting God, who through godly continency bestowest healing both of body and soul: we humbly beseech thy majesty graciously to look upon the devout prayers and abstinence of thy people, granting us in this world the succour of thy grace, and in the world to come life everlasting; 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.

[For those to be ordained]
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are (now) called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; 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.

[For the choice of fit persons for the ordained ministry]
O God, who didst lead thy holy Apostles to ordain ministers in every place: grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable men 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 thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 September 2018

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist


As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
St. Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans didn’t care what the tax collectors got by collecting extra for themselves, and so they were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners.” So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of His followers.

Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more shocked. What business did this supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that it cannot be a substitute for loving others.

When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax office – no doubt counting his day's profit – Jesus spoke only two words – "follow me". Those two words changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving apostle who would bring the treasures of God's kingdom to the poor and needy. He turned from his sin, so that he could follow Jesus.

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Saint Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist: grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches; and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 September 2018

The Holy Martyrs of Korea


On September 20, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, the martyrs of Korea.

The Catholic faith came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Peking to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly about twelve years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom didn’t come until 1883.

In the meantime, there were horrible persecutions against the Christians. The major religion in Korea consisted of ancestor worship, and this was considered to be a cornerstone of their society. If anyone refused to take part in ancestor worship, they were considered traitors to the country, and would be killed. Obviously, Catholics would not be able to be part of that, and as a result, more than 8,000 of them were executed, and in unspeakable ways. Most of them were simple country people, whose names were known only to those closest to them. 103 of them were canonized by name, by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

O God, who wast pleased to increase thy adopted children in all the world, and who made the blood of thy Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his Companions a most fruitful seed of Christians: grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example; 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.

18 September 2018

The Ember Days


With our Divine Worship Missal, we have a restoration of some of our traditions which had been temporarily lost to us, and the Ember Days are an example of this.

Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"). There are those who say that the word “ember” is a corruption of the Latin title, but it is as likely that it comes from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle." As the year progresses and returns to its beginning, the ember days are part of the circle of the year. These days of prayer and fasting originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine with his arrival in the year 597.

The fasting is modified – basically no food between meals – and there are particular things for which we are to pray and give thanks. These days are to be used to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us -- for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it is a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us.

Another important aspect of the Ember Days is for us to pray for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during these four periods of time throughout the year.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants: that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings, may likewise fast from sin within our souls; 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.

A sign in Nain...


[At that time, Jesus] went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
- Luke 7:11-17

Jesus comes upon a funeral procession. It’s the funeral of a young man, and he is the only son of a widowed mother. What unspeakable sadness and mourning must have marked that crowd in Nain. The men who were carrying the body to the burial site were probably thinking of the friend they had lost; the woman who had already buried her husband was now having to give her only son over to the grave; the family friends who were with her no doubt felt her deep loss. Jesus happened to be in the city of Nain on this particular day, and He chanced to be nearby when the procession was making its way to the cemetery. And He was obviously very moved by what He saw. St. Luke tells us that Jesus saw the bereaved mother, and “had compassion on her,” and He went to her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And they weren’t just empty words. They weren’t like the words which you and I say embarrassingly when we’re confronted by someone who has lost someone dear to them. No - our Lord was giving the woman a reason not to cry, because after He said it, He went to the coffin and he addressed the dead man, saying “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the gospel tells us that at that command the young man sat up, alive, and he began to speak!

Why did Jesus do this? Was it just so that this particular woman could have her son back? Certainly, that was the immediate result of Christ’s action - but that wasn’t the primary purpose of it all. No, Jesus was using a very human and tragic situation to show the world that He is Lord of all - that even death is no match for his power. And in this story is given to us a picture of the Gospel: those who were there in Nain on that day, and those of us who hear about it today, can see Jesus reach out and give life to a dead man. And this is the message which the Church has preached and taught ever since - that death has no sting, that the grave has no victory, in the face of Christ’s divine power.

16 September 2018

St. Robert Bellarmine


Born in the year 1542, Robert Bellarmine's family was large and relatively poor. His mother was especially devout and was given to works of charity, fasting, and regular prayer. Young Robert learned these things from her, and never forgot them. As a very young man he entered the Society of Jesus, and was eventually ordained. He had a tremendous gift for preaching, and was also a notable scholar, going on to teach at the University of Louvain. The Church recognized his faithfulness and his intellectual brilliance, and after a time he became a bishop, and was named a Cardinal.

He never forgot the lessons he learned at home, and his charity to the poor was manifested in the fact that even though he lived in a Cardinal’s palace, he ate the same food as the poor would eat, he dressed in rough clothing, and he even stripped the plush curtains and tapestries from the walls to sell them and gave the money to the poor. As he said, “The poor can catch cold; the walls cannot.”

He lived at the time when the Protestants were causing great dissension in the Church, and St. Robert Bellarmine used his considerable talents in presenting Catholic truth, and helping others to see the errors of protestantism.

He knew the best way to keep the Church strong was to make strong Catholics, and he compiled an important catechism for teachers and students. In fact, it was his work with the young that gave him the most satisfaction, and he had an immense effect on the lives of the students who learned from him. One the most famous of his students was a young man named Aloysius, who eventually was himself raised to the altar, and is known to us as St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

St. Robert Bellarmine – a great man who never forgot his humble beginnings, and who loved the Church and worked for her unity.

O God, who didst adorn blessed Robert Bellarmine, thy Bishop and Doctor, with wondrous learning and virtue, to banish the wiles of error and contend for the rights of the Apostolic See: grant by his merits and intercession; that we may grow in the love of truth, and that the hearts of those that err may return to the unity of thy Church; 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 September 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows



Immediately following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Church commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. This primarily remembers Mary standing at the foot of the cross, keeping a sorrowful vigil as she saw her son dying. Over time it actually developed to include what are called the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, growing out of the prophecy of St. Simeon, who, at the time of the Presentation, told Mary that a sword should pierce through her own soul.

These seven sorrows are:
The Prophecy of Simeon concerning the Jesus, born for the rise and fall of many.
The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family.
The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days.
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary.
The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross.
The Descent from the Cross, with Jesus placed in Mary's arms.
The Burial of Jesus.

The title of Our Lady of Sorrows is very closely related to our own title of Our Lady of the Atonement – we see our primary image of the Blessed Mother holding her Son who holds the cross (St. Simeon’s prophecy), and we have the image of Our Lady of the Atonement as the Pieta, as she holds the lifeless body of her Son when he was taken down from the cross.

This commemoration helps us to remember Mary’s sacrifice for our salvation, and also the importance of avoiding things in our own lives which would cause further sorrow to Mary, who is our Mother.

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

13 September 2018

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Site of the Crucifixion, Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the crucifixion of our Lord on the hill of Calvary, and after his subsequent resurrection from the nearby tomb where His body had been placed, there was a concerted effort by both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem to obliterate any physical evidence or reminder of these events. They didn’t want there to be any rallying-place for the disciples of Jesus to gather, so dirt was piled up over the general site, and with the passage of time there were pagan temples built on top of it. But a persistent story was passed from generation to generation; namely, that the Cross on which Christ had died had been hidden somewhere underneath the site which was subsequently covered by pagan places of worship.

Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, was nearing the end of her life. A devout Christian, she received the divine inspiration that she should journey to Jerusalem to excavate the area where the Holy Sepulchre was, and attempt to locate the True Cross. The year was 326, and she set off on her pilgrimage. When St. Helena arrived in Jerusalem she was able to find someone who was very familiar with the story of where the Holy Cross had been hidden, and she ordered the excavation to begin – obviously able to arrange such a project because she was the Emperor’s mother.

The excavation was a success, but the problem was that three crosses were found on the spot. How was St. Helena to determine which one was the True Cross of Jesus? What happened next has come to us down through history in a tradition which tells us that St. Helena, along with the Bishop of Jerusalem, devised an experiment. The three crosses were taken to a woman who was near death; when she touched the True Cross, she was healed. This confirmed to St. Helena that the actual Cross upon which our Lord was crucified had been found.

Such a discovery called for celebration, and along with the great rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving to God, the Emperor Constantine ordered that two churches be built – one at the site of the burial of Christ (the Holy Sepulchre) and one on the site of the crucifixion (Mount Calvary). Because the sites were very close to one another, the churches were actually connected by a great colonnade, and today they are fully incorporated as one structure. The solemn dedication of the churches took place on September 13 and 14, in the year 335. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was fixed on September 14th, spreading from Jerusalem, on to other churches, until by the year 720 the celebration was kept throughout the whole Church.

The story doesn’t end there. In the early seventh century, the Persians conquered Jerusalem. The Persian king looted the city and stole the True Cross, taking it to Persia. Eventually, however, the Emperor recaptured the True Cross and brought it back to Jerusalem. The tradition says that he carried the Cross on his own back, but when he attempted to enter the church on Mount Calvary, he was unable to take another step. Bishop Zacharias of Jerusalem saw that the emperor was having difficulty, and so advised him to take off his royal robes and crown, and to dress in a penitential robe instead. As soon as the Emperor took the bishop’s advice, he was able to carry the True Cross into the church, where it was enshrined for the veneration of the Faithful. Eventually, smaller pieces of the relic were distributed throughout Christendom.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

12 September 2018

St. John Chrysostom


St. John Chrysostom is known as one of the greatest preachers in the long history of the Church, and surely his homilies form a major legacy, but John lived at a time and in circumstances which demanded great holiness – something which God granted him in abundance.

John was born in 347, the son of Christian parents. His mother, Anthusa, was widowed at the age of twenty, soon after his birth. Anthusa gave all of her attention to her son. She gave him the best classical education available, and he was enrolled as a catechumen when he was eighteen. He came under the influence of Bishop Meletius of Antioch, who baptized him and ordained him lector.

At this time, John felt called to lead the life of a monk-hermit. He took up residence in a cave, spent his time studying the Scriptures, and put himself under the discipline of an elderly hermit named Hesychius. The discipline was demanding and austere, eventually breaking the health of John. He returned to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest, and he came to be known as a great preacher.

During the next twelve years the people of Antioch were enthralled with his sermons. He preached with a depth of knowledge and persuasiveness that were memorable to those who heard him. It was during this time that he received the nickname of Chrysostom, or “golden mouth,” because it was commonly said that “his words are like pure gold.” In the year 397, the Emperor Arcadius appointed John Chrysostom to the vacant See of Constantinople. It was feared that John’s humility would lead him to refuse the position, so he had to be lured to Constantinople, where he subsequently was consecrated bishop in 398.

It was not a peaceful or holy place in which John Chrysostom found himself. There was an abundance of political intrigue. Fraud and extravagance were the order of the day. Those around him were driven by their raw ambition to be advanced in their positions. John Chrysostom brought about immediate changes: he cut back expenses; he gave generously to the poor; he constructed hospitals. He set about reforming the clergy, called the monks back to a life of discipline, and reminded all the people of the importance of leading faithful and moral lives.

As might be expected, his program of reforms made enemies – especially the Empress Eudoxia along with Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. With the city of Constantinople in an uproar and his life under threat, John was exiled by the emperor in the year 404.

The situation continued to deteriorate, with the papal envoys being imprisoned, and John (who was defended by the pope and who had ordered John to be restored to his See) was sent even further into exile. Eventually he found himself six hundred miles from Constantinople, across the Black Sea. St. John Chrysostom was weary and he was sick. He died in exile in the year 407, and yet his last words were, "Glory to God for all things."

O God of truth and love, who gavest to thy Bishop John Chrysostom eloquence to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation, and courage to bear reproach for the honour of thy Name: mercifully grant to the ministers of thy Word such excellence in preaching; that all people may share with them in the glory that shall be revealed; 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.

11 September 2018

The Most Holy Name of Mary


We celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th and now on September 12th we commemorate the giving of her name by her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anne. They chose the Hebrew name of Miryãm, which means “lady” or “sovereign.” The feast of the Holy Name of Mary originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. It was Pope Innocent XI who extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683, and for a very special reason. It was an act of thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West.

What happened was this: the Turks had been hammering the city of Vienna for a couple of months, and finally enough was enough. Under the leadership of Poland’s king an army comprised of Germans, Austrians and Poles made their move against the Turks, routing them completely. It was such an important victory that the Pope was inspired to do something special – thus, what had been a localized commemoration was now an act of thanks from the whole Church. But there’s more to the story…

When the Turks made their hasty retreat there were all sorts of things left behind, including several sacks containing a strange bean unknown to the victors. Thinking it was food for the invaders’ camels, the Viennese were about to dump it all in the Danube. But there was a citizen of Vienna who had been a captive under the Turks. He knew these beans were roasted by the Turks, and after grinding them up they would put them in hot water, making a drink they really seemed to relish. This man, Kolinsky, received exclusive permission to make and sell this new and unfamiliar drink – coffee.

The Viennese people hated it. It was bitter. The grounds got stuck in their teeth. It didn’t seem much better than drinking a cup of mud. Then a friend of Kolinsky made a suggestion. Strain out the grounds. Put a little milk in it to lighten it up. Add some sugar to make it more palatable. After following that advice, the people flocked to buy it, and so the first coffee house was born.

But let’s face it – what’s a cup of coffee without something to go with it? And with that came a new pastry which not only tasted good, but poked a stick in the eye of the defeated Muslim invaders. The delectable comestible was formed into the shape of a crescent – that symbol which had become so hated during the Turkish occupation – and with every bite of these wonderful pastries the Viennese were able to have another small victory over their invaders.

So there we have it. There’s the story of how Turkish coffee was made drinkable, and how the croissant – the “Turkish crescent” – came into being. And it all happened as part of the victorious triumph achieved under the banner of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that thy faithful people who rejoice in the name and protection of the most holy Virgin Mary, may by her loving intercession be delivered from all evils on earth and be found worthy to come to everlasting joys 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.

10 September 2018

Remember and pray...

World Trade Center, 9/11

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Pentagon, 9/11

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord,
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die,
we are the Lord's.


Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

07 September 2018

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary

"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy." - St. John Damascene

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated as a liturgical feast at least from the sixth century. Its origin can be traced to the occasion of the consecration of a church in Jerusalem just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, near the Pool of Bethesda, on the traditional site of the house of Ss. Joachim and Anne. Within a few years the liturgy was celebrated in Rome, having been introduced by monks from the East, and the celebration included a procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Although the actual date of Mary’s birth isn’t known, the Church settled on September 8th, and the celebration Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was fixed on December 8th, as the date corresponding to nine months before the celebration of her Nativity.

These two feasts can be seen as a kind of bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin, God completed the new Ark – the living Temple – in which He would dwell. Through Mary, Jesus the Incarnate God has come to us.

O Lord, we beseech thee, bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace: that as our redemption began to dawn in the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so this festival of her Nativity may yield us an increase of peace; 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.