13 August 2018

St. Maximilian Kolbe


On August 14th we commemorate a very brave priest who gave his life for his faith in that terrible and dark place, Auschwitz. St. Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, and when he was sixteen he entered the Franciscan Order. He was sent to study in Rome where he was ordained a priest in 1918.

Maximilian returned to Poland in 1919 and began spreading the Gospel and devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whom he called the “Immaculata.” He founded a religious community of Franciscans to do this work, and by 1939 it had expanded from just eighteen friars, to 650 all living in one place, making it the largest Catholic religious house in the world.

To spread the Gospel and devotion to the Immaculata, St. Maximilian used the most modern printing equipment, and he not only published catechetical and devotional tracts, but also a daily newspaper with a circulation of almost a quarter of a million, and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. He started a radio station and planned to build a Catholic movie studio--he was a true "apostle of the mass media."

In 1939 Nazis invaded his homeland of Poland, and his religious house was severely bombed. He and his friars were arrested, although they were released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. But in 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis wanted to get rid of anyone who could be considered a leader, and St. Maximilian was taken to the internment camp in Auschwitz. He was there for three months before he was killed, after undergoing terrible beatings and humiliations.

The circumstances of his martyrdom were these: a prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that ten men would die. He was an especially cruel man, and as he walked through the ranks of the prisoners he would say “This one. That one,” as he pointed. As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, St. Maximilian, who was only known as Number 16670, stepped from the line. Maximilian pointed to one of the prisoners who had been chosen to die. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” He gave no name, even though he was one of the best-known priests in all of Poland. There was silence for a moment, and then the commandant, wanting to show his power of life and death over the prisoners, removed the condemned man out of line and ordered St. Maximilian to go with the other nine. They were taken to the “block of death.” They were ordered to strip naked and they were locked in a building where their slow starvation began in complete darkness. But there was no screaming — instead, the prisoners sang hymns together. By the eve of the Assumption, only four were left alive. The jailer came to finish them off, and St. Maximilian was in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm for the needle, which was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and in 1982 Pope St. John Paul II canonized Maximilian as a "martyr of charity," because, out of his love for Christ, he had laid down his life for another.

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy holy martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, and aided by his intercession, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we with him attain to thine eternal joy; through him who is the author and finisher of our faith, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus

        St. Pontian
Have you ever become friends with someone you never thought you would? Sometimes we might write someone off, but then, if we let ourselves, we may very well find that they’re not so bad after all – that, in fact, they’re really a pretty good friend. That's what happened with Pontian and Hippolytus.

Pontian was a Roman who served as pope from 230 to 235. He was a faithful and holy man, and upheld the Catholic faith even when there were those around him who were trying to change it. But he happened to live at a time when the Roman emperor was persecuting the Church horribly, and killing as many Christians as he could find. Pontian was treated in a very cruel way: he was banished to the island of Sardinia, where they mined silver and lead, and where prisoners were forced to work in horrible conditions. Pontian was not only exhausted from the work, but he was constantly beaten by his jailers, and his life was one long torture.

St. Hippolytus
While Pontian was enduring all that, he met another Christian who had been exiled to Sardinia – Hippolytus – who had been a Catholic priest in Rome. Actually, this wasn’t the first time they had met; in fact, Hippolytus was a fierce rival to Pontian. Hippolytus thought that Pontian the pope was too easy on those who had been trying to water down the faith. He spoke out against Pontian whenever he could, and in fact, Hippolytus gathered around him a group of followers who said that Pontian wasn’t really suitable to be the pope, so they proclaimed Hippolytus to be the pope. Hippolytus led many Christians into schism, claiming that only the really good people could be members of the Church. He taught that Christians should be completely separate from the world, and should have nothing to do with anyone who might sin – naturally, Hippolytus and his followers never thought that they were sinners. This, of course was a heresy.

The emperor didn’t care what differences these two men might have – as far as he was concerned, they were both part of the Church, and since Hippolytus seemed to be a trouble-maker, he was sent off to Sardinia to work in the mines. As Pontian and Hippolytus were brought together as two prisoners, Hippolytus came to realize how wrong he had been about Pontian. He confessed his errors to Pontian, and the two became friends and companions in their suffering. Both of them were worked to exhaustion, and beaten unmercifully, until both of them died – rivals and enemies when they were free, but friends and fellow Catholics when they were facing death. Both of them are numbered with the martyrs of the Church – Catholic who refused to deny Christ, and whose death gave witness to the power of God.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who on this day devoutly observe the festival of thy holy Martyrs, blessed Pontian and Hippolytus, may thereby increase in godliness to the attainment of everlasting salvation; 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 August 2018

St. Clare of Assisi


St. Clare was born in 1194 to a well-to-do family in Assisi. As with all girls at that time, she was expected to marry at a young age, and spend her life being a wife and mother. However, Clare refused to marry, even though her family had chosen a suitable young man for her. Instead, she began listening to another young man, Francis, who had given his life over to God, and was living a life based on the Gospel, and in complete poverty. St. Francis and St. Clare became life-long friends, and he served as her spiritual guide.

When she was 18, Clare left her father’s house one night in secret, and she was met on the road by some of the religious brothers of St. Francis. Together they went to the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula – the “Little Portion” – where Clare was clothed in a rough woolen habit, and she exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it. Her beautiful long hair was cut and a veil was placed over her head. St. Francis placed her temporarily in a Benedictine convent, where her father and her brothers came – very angry – and they tried to drag her back home. She clung to the altar of the church, and she threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair and remained absolutely adamant that she was giving her life over to God.

Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, and in complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order (Poor Clares). Francis obliged her under obedience at age 21 to accept the office of abbess, and she remained abbess until her death in 1253, when she was nearly 60 years old.

The nuns went barefoot, they slept on the ground, they ate no meat and they observed almost complete silence. They possessed no property, even in common, subsisting on daily contributions. When even the pope tried to persuade her to mitigate this practice, she showed her characteristic firmness: "I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation of following Jesus Christ."

Clare and her community of nuns lived in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi, which is still there today. She served the sick, waited on table, and washed the feet of the nuns who went out to beg. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals and bishops often came to consult her—but she never left the walls of San Damiano.

A well-known story concerns her prayer and trust. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed on the walls of the convent when it faced attack by invading Saracens, who were Muslims. She prayed for Christ to protect them, and she told her sisters not to be afraid. In the face of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, the invaders ran away, and the sisters were safe.

In 1958 Pope Pius XII designated St. Clare as the patron saint of television. One Christmas Eve, when she was too sick to get up from her bed to get to Mass, she was very disappointed. She prayed that God would allow her to take part in the Mass. Although she was more than a mile away she saw Mass on the wall of her dormitory. So clear was the vision that the next day she could name the friars at the celebration.

Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation: that we who rejoice in the festival of blessed Clare, thy Virgin, may grow in the knowledge and love of true devotion; 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.

Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi.

09 August 2018

St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr


Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons in Rome in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. In fact, during the first centuries of the Church, the number of deacons for any bishop was limited to seven, following the precedent of Jerusalem.  It was said of Lawrence that he was to Rome, what Stephen was to Jerusalem.

When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" he said. "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. "in three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr's reward. Saint Lawrence's feast day is August 10th.

Almighty God, who didst endue blessed Lawrence with power to overcome the fires of his torments: give us grace, we beseech thee, to quench the flames of our sins; 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.



The Holy Deacon Lawrence before the Emperor Valerius.



The grill on which St. Lawrence was martyred.



The stone on which the body of St. Lawrence was laid after his martyrdom.

08 August 2018

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross


The story of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, born in the world as Edith Stein, is the story of one of the most brilliant converts to enter the Church. Her subsequent martyrdom came about because of the evil of the Holocaust.

Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Germany on October 12, 1891. She was the youngest of eleven children, and was raised in the Jewish faith. In 1913 she began her university studies, and as too often happens, she rebelled against the faith of her childhood, and gave up on religion.  While at the university she became a student of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, and later immersed herself in the philosophy of Max Scheler, a Jewish philosopher who became a Catholic in 1920. It was what seemed to be a chance reading of the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila which opened her heart to the God of love whom she had denied as a young girl. She responded to this action of the Holy Spirit by entering the Church in 1922.

For eight years after her conversion, Edith lived with the Dominicans while teaching at Saint Magdalene’s, which was a training institute for teachers, but during the time immediately following her baptism, she felt the call to religious life as a Carmelite. She set it aside for as long as she could, mostly out of respect for her mother, who was devastated by Edith’s baptism. Even after Edith’s baptism she had, in fact, continued to attend the synagogue with her mother. But by 1933 she could postpone it no longer, and she entered the Carmel of Cologne in Germany. It was at that time that she found an overwhelming attraction to the person and the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In the Little Flower she saw a life which had been utterly transformed by the love of God, and it was her deepest desire to incorporate as much as possible into her own life, this simple but profound spirituality.

When she made her first vows, she was known as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was encouraged to continue her writing, in which she expanded on the theme of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as being one and the same as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She was able to harmonize this with the importance of sacrifice in ancient Judaism, exploring more deeply the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was the culmination of all Old Testament sacrifices which had come before.

As the Nazis came to power, Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also converted to Catholicism, were transferred by their Carmelite superiors to a Carmel in Holland in 1938. This was done to preserve their safety, but when the Dutch bishops issued a letter condemning the racist policies of Nazism, the Nazis retaliated by seeking out and arresting all Jewish converts. It was on August 2, 1942, that Edith and her sister were taken from the convent by two S.S. officers, and were cast into the gas chambers of Auschwitz. On October 11, 1998, exactly fifty-six years, two months, and two days after her death at Auschwitz, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II, declaring her to be a saint.

O God of our fathers, who didst lead the blessed Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know thy crucified Son and imitate him even unto death: mercifully grant that, by her intercession, all men may know Christ as Saviour, and through him come to thine eternal vision; 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.

07 August 2018

St. Dominic, Priest and Founder


Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Dominic Guzman, who helped the cause of orthodoxy in the medieval Church by founding the Order of Preachers, also known as Dominicans.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said of him: “This great saint reminds us that in the heart of the Church a missionary fire must always burn. The search for God's glory and the salvation of souls must go hand in hand.”

Dominic was born in Spain around the year 1170, and he received his early education from his uncle, who was a priest, before entering the University of Palencia where he studied for ten years. An indication of his holiness took place while he was a student, when he sold his entire collection of books to provide for the relief of the poor.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Dominic was asked by his bishop to assist him with various church reforms. While he was traveling in France with the bishop, Dominic observed the bad effects of the Albigensian heresy, which had taken hold in southern France during the preceding century. The Albigensians believed in a good spirit who created the spiritual, and in an evil spirit who created the material world, including the human body, which is therefore under his control. The good spirit created the soul but the evil one imprisoned it in the body, which is evil from its source.

The time of Dominic was much like our own – certainly the heresies were different, but it was a time when the world needed a new evangelism, and Dominic would have a major role of evangelizing through his Order of Preachers, who would come to be known as the Dominicans.

It was in 1214 that Dominic's extreme physical asceticism caused him to fall into a coma, during which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to him and instructed him to promote the prayer of the Rosary. Its focus on the incarnation and life of Christ directly contradicted the Albigensian attitude towards matter as evil.

That year, Dominic received his bishop's approval to found an order dedicated to preaching. He and a group of followers gained local recognition as a religious congregation, and the Order of Preachers expanded throughout Europe with papal help in 1218.

The founder spent the last several years of his life building up the order and continuing his preaching missions, during which he is said to have converted some 100,000 people. After several weeks of illness, St. Dominic died in Italy on August 6, 1221.

Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 August 2018

St. Sixtus II and His Deacons


The Emperor Valerian (253-60) had a hatred for the Church, and he didn’t hesitate to vent his rage. He mandated that all Christians had to take part in state religious ceremonies, and not only that, he forbade them to assemble for any worship whatsoever in the catacombs. Although the catacombs were constructed as places for the burial of the dead, because even the pagans had respect for burial places, they did become locations where Christians could assemble in relative safety during times of persecution.

So it was that during the reign of Valerian, he issued a decree ordering the execution of all bishops, priests and deacons. The Bishop of Rome at this time was Sixtus II, who had been elected to succeed Stephen I. For nearly a year after the emperor’s decree, Sixtus managed to evade the Roman authorities. Pope Sixtus found that it was a bit safer to gather with his clergy and people in the small private cemetery of Praetextatus.  Although it was near the better-known and larger cemetery of Calixtus, the authorities tended not to watch it as closely; however, that could last only for so long.

Early in August of 258, while Sixtus was teaching from his episcopal chair, surrounded by four of his seven deacons and with a congregation of the faithful gathered to hear him, Roman soldiers burst in, arresting Sixtus and the deacons who were there. They dragged him off to force him to offer incense to the pagan gods, which of course he would not do. He was then returned to the place where he had been arrested, thrust brutally onto his chair, and was beheaded on the spot. The four deacons who were with him, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, also were martyred, and very soon afterwards (probably that same day) two other deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, were put to death – leaving only the chief deacon, Lawrence, whom the Romans spared temporarily in the hope of having him turn over anything in the Church’s treasury.

When we get to the story of St. Lawrence in a few days, we’ll see how that worked out for the Romans!

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

05 August 2018

The Transfiguration of Our Lord


At the time of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, St. Peter wanted to build a tabernacle, a permanent dwelling place. He wanted to “capture the moment,” so to speak. By itself, that desire wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the time. There was still work to be done, still truth to be learned. The opportunity would afford itself later, after the passion and death, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. It would be later, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. It would be then that Peter would have the task. He would be asked to build the Church upon that Rock which was chosen by Jesus Christ Himself.

This would be the tabernacle which needed to be built: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. It would not be built far off on a mountain-top, but it would be a tabernacle which is in the midst of the world, allowing everyone to worship the One who lives within it. Christ gave St. Peter the desire to build and He gave him everything he would need.

+  +  +

Behold our Lord transfigured,
In Sacrament Divine;
His glory deeply hidden,
'Neath forms of Bread and Wine.
Our eyes of faith behold Him,
Salvation is outpoured;
The Saviour dwells among us,
by ev'ry heart adored.

No longer on the mountain
With Peter, James and John,
Our precious Saviour bids us
To walk where saints have gone.
He has no lasting dwelling,
Save in the hearts of men;
He feeds us with His Body,
To make us whole again.

With Moses and Elijah,
We worship Christ our King;
Lord, make our souls transfigured,
Let us with angels sing.
Lead us in paths of glory,
Give tongues to sing thy praise;
Lord Jesus, keep us faithful,
Now and for all our days.


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: "Ewing" by Alexander C. Ewing, 1853


If you haven't visited the top of Mt. Tabor, I hope you'll have the opportunity. There's a cliché which says "getting there is half the fun," but that might not refer to the site of our Lord's transfiguration. I'm sure the taxi drivers have great fun at the pilgrims' expense, and no matter how many times I make the trip, taking hair-pin turns at break-neck speed is nerve-wracking. When you finally get to the top, the terra is reassuringly firma, and the walk to the basilica is a joy. The only dark cloud is remembering that what goes up must come down... that pesky return trip! No wonder St. Peter wanted to build three booths and stay there.

This basilica, built in 1924 over the ruins of more ancient churches, marks the traditional site of the transfiguration of Christ in the presence of Peter, James and John, along with the appearance of Moses and Elijah. There are depressions in the shape of two footprints in the rock. I'm not sure if this was the work of Jesus, or of some over-eager monks in an earlier age. But Mt. Tabor is the spot. It's been attested to from the earliest days of the Church. It's an inspiring place to visit and a most peaceful place to pray.

O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine Only Begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

03 August 2018

St.. John Vianney, Priest & Confessor


St. John Vianney, also known as the Holy Curé de Ars, was born May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, near Lyon, France to a family of farmers. He was an unremarkable student and his bishop was reluctant to ordain him.  He did so in 1815 only because there was a shortage of priests.  He was then sent to the remote French community of Ars in 1818 to be a parish priest.

Upon his arrival, the priest immediately began praying and working for the conversion of his parishioners. Although he saw himself as unworthy of his mission as pastor, he allowed himself to be consumed by the love of God as he served the people.

St. John Vianney slowly helped to revive the community’s faith through both his prayers and the witness of his life. He gave powerful homilies on the mercy and love of God, and it is said that even staunch sinners were converted upon hearing him. In addition, he restored his church, formed an orphanage, and cared for the poor.

His reputation as a confessor grew rapidly, and pilgrims traveled from all over France to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Firmly committed to the conversion of the people, he would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Plagued by many trials and besieged by the devil, St. John Vianney remained firm in his faith, and lived a life of devotion to God. Dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, he spent much time in prayer and practiced much mortification. He lived on little food and sleep, while working without rest in unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness, until he was well into his 70s.

St. John Vianney died on August 4, 1859. More than a thousand people attended his funeral, including the bishop and priests of the diocese, who already viewed his life as a model of priestly holiness.

The Holy Curé of Ars was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron of priests. Over 450,000 pilgrims travel to Ars every year in remembrance of his holy life.

Almighty and merciful God, who didst wonderfully endue Saint John Vianney with pastoral zeal and a continual desire for prayer and penance: grant, we beseech thee; that by his example and intercession, we may win the souls of our brethren for Christ, and with them attain glory everlasting; 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.

01 August 2018

St. Eusebius of Vercelli


Eusebius was the founder of the canons regular, priests living under a religious rule and dedicated to pastoral work. The canons regular was the immediate result of the rise of monasticism in the East, and St. Eusebius of Vercelli saw the possibilities of this new movement for the clergy. His example was imitated all over the West and brought about a renewal of clerical life. He was born in Sardinia and as a child was taken to Rome, where he became a member of the Roman clergy under Pope Julius. Consecrated for the see of Vercelli in 344, he gathered his clergy into a community life, founding also the dioceses of Turin and Embrun. In 355, he attended the Council of Milan as legate of Pope Liberius, which defended St. Athanasius against those Western bishops intimidated by the emperor. When Eusebius was ordered along with other bishops to condemn Athanasius, he refused, insisting instead that they all sign the Nicene Creed. When threatened by the emperor, Eusebius stood his ground and told the emperor he had no right interfering in Church matters.

In anger, the emperor sent Eusebius into exile in Palestine, where he was severely mistreated by the Arians. He was moved around from place to place and after his release by the Emperor Julian he consulted with Athanasius in Alexandria on the Arian crisis. Returning to Italy, he joined with St. Hilary of Poitiers in opposing the Arian bishop of Milan and returned to Vercelli amid the rejoicing of his people.

Eusebius is considered by many to be the author of the Athanasian Creed, and a copy of the Gospels written in his own hand is preserved in the cathedral at Vercelli. He died on August 1, 371, his courage in suffering for the faith inspiring other bishops to oppose the Arian heresy.

(Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints)

Lead us, O Lord God, to imitate the constancy of Saint Eusebius in affirming the divinity of thy Son: that, by preserving the faith he taught as thy Bishop, we may merit a share in the very life of 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.

The Portiuncula Indulgence


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

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

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

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

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

St. Alphonsus Liguori


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

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

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

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

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

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


O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be enabled to attain in gladness unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

30 July 2018

St. Ignatius Loyola


St. Ignatius of Loyola was born at Loyola in the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain in 1491. A member of the minor nobility, Ignatius spent his youth and early adulthood as a courtier and soldier. He occasionally vowed to dedicate himself more fully to God, but never quite followed through. It was only after he read the lives of the saints while convalescing from a leg wound incurred as a result of his soldiering that he finally began his spiritual pilgrimage with real intent at the age of 30.

Soon after this, St. Ignatius began to experience ecstatic visions, but within a year suffered a period of intense spiritual dryness (what St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night of the soul”), which nearly drove him to despair. He persevered, however, and out of this was born Spiritual Exercises, one the most important Catholic works of all time. By now a major figure in Catholic intellectual circles, St. Ignatius dutifully finished his schooling at age of 43 and took a position teaching in Paris and later in Rome.

In spite of his noble origins, St. Ignatius lived an astonishingly humble lifestyle, which others often resented. Yet he attracted several followers (including St. Francis Xavier), and in 1540 received approval from Pope Paul III for his new order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. In a very short time, this order would go on to become one of the best known of all Catholic religious orders.

O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; 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.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

29 July 2018

St. Peter Chrysologus


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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, who madest the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an illustrious preacher of thy incarnate Word: grant, through his intercession; that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of thy salvation and faithfully manifest them in our lives; 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.

27 July 2018

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...


During his life a priest hears many thousands of confessions. It is one of the great privileges given to a priest, to pronounce the words of absolution which free a penitent from those chains which have bound him. There is perhaps no other time that the priest feels so deeply the sense of that fatherhood which gives him his title.

 A child of God speaks the words, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned…” and in the quiet of the confessional the power of Christ is stirred for the renewal of the soul. That which was broken is healed. What was so heavy at the time of coming is lifted. It is its own magnum mysterium as new birth is once more imparted to the penitent. The divine speaks through the human ear. The fruits of Calvary are applied, and the waters of baptism flow once again over the sullied soul.

 In the confessional we are made young again. As a child is brought to the font, so the soul is presented to our Lord for Him to do His work. And when it is done, those happy words: “Go in peace, for the Lord has taken away your sins.”

Put this on your calendar...


Help Catholics United for the Faith 
celebrate 50 years of apostolic service. 

Join others in Bloomingdale, Ohio 
for a weekend that will deepen your Faith, 
refresh your heart, and renew your spirit.

Eucharistic procession, 
Extraordinary and Ordinary Form Masses, 
Confession, and enriching talks! 

 Learn more and register at the Conference website.

25 July 2018

Ss. Joachim and Anne


According to tradition, St. Joachim and St. Anne have come to us as being the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. They are not named in the Scriptures, but this tradition dates back to the early years of the Church, as does the story which tells us that after many years of not having a child, an angel appeared to them and told them that God would be granting them this blessing.  They 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.  As the grandparents of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they serve as examples and intercessors for all parents and grandparents.

O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy lovingkindness; 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.

24 July 2018

St. James the Greater


St. James the Greater (meaning the Elder) and his brother John were apparently partners with those other two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and lived in Bethsaida, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. His mother was a sister of Mary, and he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "son of thunder," the brother of John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

Along with Peter and his brother John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, who witnessed the Transfiguration, were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemani. Like his brother, he was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after Jesus' resurrection.

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

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

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through 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 July 2018

St. Sharbel Makluf


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

Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra where he was born, his influence has spread widely.

Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853, and was ordained six years later.

Following the example of the fifth-century Saint Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875, until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.

He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Pope Paul VI beatified Sharbel in 1965, and canonized him 12 years later.

O God, who didst call the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion: grant us, we pray thee; that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be coheirs of his 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.

St. Bridget of Sweden


On July 23rd the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden. Bridget was a mystic and a visionary, and she received visions of Christ’s suffering many times throughout her life. She was born in 1303 and her parents were highly respected people, her father being a local governor and provincial judge.

When Bridget was only ten, it is recorded that she had a vision of Jesus on the cross and heard him say, “Look at me, my daughter,” to which she responded, "Who has treated you like this?" The answer she heard from Jesus was, "Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” From that moment on, Bridget perceived it as her mission to try and stop people from offending Jesus.

When she was 14, Bridget married an 18-year old man named Ulf. Like Bridget, Ulf had set his heart on serving God. They had eight children, and their marriage of twenty-eight years was a very happy one. Bridget and Ulf also served the Swedish court, Bridget as the queen's personal maid.

All her life, Bridget had marvelous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them.

After her husband died, Bridget put away her rich clothes and lived as a poor nun. Later, in 1346, she began the order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as Bridgettines. She still kept up her own busy life, traveling about doing good everywhere she went.

Shortly before she died, Bridget went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the shrines there, she had visions of what Jesus had said and done in each place, and all of her revelations on the suffering of Christ were published after her death.

St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX just eighteen years later in 1391.

O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women in all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 July 2018

St. Lawrence of Brindisi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; 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.

19 July 2018

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


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

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

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

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

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

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

17 July 2018

St. Camillus de Lellis


St. Camillus is the patron saint of hospitals, hospital workers and those who are sick. Here is his story, excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch.

St. Camillus' mother was nearly sixty years old when he was born in 1550. As a youth he gave himself to the sinful pleasures of this world. His conversion dates from the feast of the Purification, 1575. Two attempts to enter the Capuchin Order were frustrated by an incurable sore on his leg. In Rome St. Camillus was received in a hospital for incurables; before long he was put in charge because of his ability and zeal for virtue. He brought to the sick every imaginable kind of spiritual and bodily aid.

At the age of thirty-two he began studying for Holy Orders and was not ashamed of being numbered with children. After ordination to the holy priesthood he founded a congregation of Regular Clerics, the "Ministers to the Sick." As a fourth vow the community assumed the duty of caring for the plague-ridden at the risk of their lives. With invincible patience Camillus persevered day and night in the service of the sick, performing the meanest of duties. His love shone forth most brightly when the city of Rome was stricken by epidemic and famine, and when the plague raged at Nola. Having suffered five different maladies, which he called God's mercy, he died in Rome at the age of sixty-five. On his lips was the prayer for the dying: "May the face of Christ Jesus shine gloriously upon you." Pope Leo XIII declared him the heavenly patron of hospitals and added his name in the litany for the dying.


O God, who for the comfort of souls striving in their last agony, didst adorn Saint Camillus with singular gifts of charity: we beseech thee, by his merits, to pour upon us the spirit of thy love; that in the hour of our death, we may be worthy to overcome the enemy and to attain to the heavenly crown; 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.

16 July 2018

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel


Mount Carmel is closely associated with the Prophet Elijah. Located in northern Israel, it was and remains a place of great beauty. There is still a chapel called the Grotto of St. Elijah, which is most likely where he sheltered

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and have often been at the forefront of explaining and defending the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. St. Therese of the Child Jesus dedicated her life to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and during the last days of her life she frequently spoke of her.

There is a strong tradition that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. The scapular reminds us of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way.

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

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

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

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

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


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

14 July 2018

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Portrait from life of Catherine Tekakwitha, c. 1690,
by Father Chauchetière

It has often been said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of saints. Nine years after the Jesuits Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf were tomahawked by Iroquois warriors, a baby girl was born near the place of their martyrdom, Auriesville, New York.

Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. He hated the coming of the Jesuit missionaries,  but could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. She was moved by the words of three Jesuits who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. She refused to marry a Mohawk brave and at the age of nineteen she finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri (Catherine) on Easter Sunday. Now she would be treated as a slave. Because she would not work on Sunday, she received no food that day. Her life in grace grew rapidly. She told a missionary that she often meditated on the great dignity of being baptized. She was powerfully moved by God’s love for human beings and saw the dignity of each of her people.

She was always in danger, for her conversion and holy life created great opposition. On the advice of a priest, she stole away one night and began a 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal. For three years she grew in holiness under the direction of a priest and an older Iroquois woman, giving herself totally to God in long hours of prayer, in charity and in strenuous penance. At 23 she took a vow of virginity, an unprecedented act for an Indian woman, whose future depended on being married.

Her dedication to virginity was instinctive. She did not know about religious life for women until she visited Montreal. Inspired by this, she and two friends wanted to start a community, but the local priest dissuaded her. She humbly accepted an “ordinary” life. She practiced extremely severe fasting as penance for the conversion of her nation. She died the afternoon before Holy Thursday. Witnesses said that her emaciated face changed color and became like that of a healthy child. The lines of suffering, even the pockmarks, disappeared and the touch of a smile came upon her lips. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012.

O God, who didst desire the Virgin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence: grant, through her intercession; that when all are gathered into thy Church from every nation, tribe, and tongue, they may magnify thee in a single canticle of praise; 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 July 2018

St. Henry, King and Confessor


St. Henry had great power in this world, but he used that power for the good of his people and for the spread of the Catholic Faith. Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but he realized that his temporal power was a gift from God, and he strove to gain an immortal crown, by putting himself always at the service of his eternal King, Jesus Christ.

As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt the churches which had been destroyed by Muslim invaders, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and was himself a Benedictine Oblate. When Pope Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was in danger from enemies of the Church, St. Henry received him and ultimately restored him to the Holy See.

It was Henry’s practice never to undertake anything without first praying. There were times that he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided in this way by God’s divine protection, he conquered barbarous nations more by prayer than by weapons.

He was married to a devoted wife, also a saint, St. Cunigund, although they remained childless. In fact, together they are patron saints of childless couples.

When Henry’s life's work was accomplished, he was called by God in 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg and immediately there were many miracles reported by those who prayed at his tomb. St. Henry was a man who had managed to lead his earthly kingdom with such responsibility that he never lost sight of the Kingdom of God.

We live in this world, but we are not to be of this world. In fact, we’re called to sanctify this world.

O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by thee in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms: grant, we pray, through his intercession; that amid the uncertainties of this world, we may hasten towards thee in perfect purity of heart; 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 July 2018

St. Benedict of Nursia

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

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

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

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

O Eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; 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.

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

La Sagrada Familia

This is one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited, and I hope to be able to return one day.

09 July 2018

A bit of parish history...

Fr. Paul of Graymoor

One of the things that binds a family together is the shared heritage, the common tradition, the collection of stories from its history. We need to hear those stories that make up our past history, because it helps us to know who and what we are today. Some of you have heard parts of this story before; others of you are new to this parish; but how we, as a community of faith, came to be is an important part of our history which bears telling -- because it describes the living actions of a Living God who claims us and calls us and Who has set our feet upon the path of spiritual growth and holiness.

Our story begins with a young Episcopal clergyman named Lewis Wattson who was born in 1863 and lived until 1940. Who could have known that his willingness to seek and follow God’s Will for his life would have such deep ramifications for us.

Lewis Wattson (who would come to be known as Fr. Paul of Graymoor) was part of what was called the “Anglo-catholic” wing of the Episcopal Church. Those considered to be Anglo-catholics had a high regard for the Sacraments, especially for the Holy Eucharist and for the sacred priesthood. They knew that the sad separation of the Anglicans from the Catholic Church under the reign of King Henry VIII was a matter of great tragedy, and many of them tried to do all they could to bring about the reunion of Christendom under the headship of the Successor of Peter. Father Paul (as he would be known) actively sought God’s guidance for what he should do within his ministry to accomplish the Will of Jesus Christ.

He was the Rector of a little Episcopal Church named St. John’s, and one morning he knelt down before the altar in the empty church and opened the Scriptures three times. The date was July 9, 1893. The first time the pages opened, it was in the Gospel of St. John, at the words spoken by Jesus when He taught that the Holy Spirit must spring up in those who believe like a well of Living Water; the second time the pages opened it was in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, where he wrote, “We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the Atonement.”; the third time the pages opened, it was in St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, where he recounts the institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He made a notation of these passages, and took them as being God’s guidance to him in the foundation of the work which was to be his: he felt that God was calling him to found a religious community within the Episcopal Church which would have the Holy Spirit as its inspiration and guide, and that the doctrine he was to preach was to be the “atonement” -- the at-one-ment of man with God which was accomplished by Jesus Christ upon the Cross. But at the same time, God gave Fr. Paul the feeling that this would not be accomplished immediately, but that some years would need to pass before it would become a reality. Fr. Paul finished his time at St. John’s and was called to a new mission work in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was attached to the Episcopal parish of St. Barnabas – a parish which is now part of the Ordinariate. He continued very successfully in his work there, until finally God made it clear that the time had come. Fr. Paul was to return to the east and take up the foundation of this new work which was to be based upon those passages of Scripture which had been revealed to him, and which took the name of the Society of the Atonement... a new Franciscan community within the Episcopal Church which he was to co-found with a holy woman named Mother Lurana. So his path was set -- he and Mother Lurana founded their Community within the Episcopal Church with their work being the reunion of all Christians -- and finally they and their fellow Atonement Franciscans were received into the Roman Catholic Church on October 30, 1909. They brought with them the unique title by which they knew the Blessed Virgin -- that title which had God had entwined with the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross -- that title which recalled Mary standing beneath that Cross -- the title of Our Lady of the Atonement.

I knew nothing of this story when my family and I returned to the United States in 1978 from 5 years of living in England, where I had completed my theological studies and where I had been ordained and had served as an Anglican clergyman. But upon our return, my path was mysteriously united with the path of Fr. Paul. The Episcopal parish to which I had been called was another St. Barnabas Church. It was there that I found a little book which had been left by one of my predecessors... a book entitled “Our Lady and Reunion” which was one of the very few books in existence which was exclusively about Our Lady of the Atonement. I had never heard the title before, and was tempted to discard the book because I thought it was nothing which would interest me -- but for some reason I just couldn’t throw it away. So it remained on my book shelf, where I would look at it from time to time. For some reason the picture of Our Lady of the Atonement developed a stronger and stronger hold on me, and like Fr. Paul, while I was at St. Barnabas I began to realize that my spiritual journey was leading my family and myself to the Catholic Church. But how? My vocation was to the priesthood, but that wasn’t possible at the time. To be a married man excluded me from Catholic ordination -- until that day in 1980 when the Holy Father, Pope (now St.) John Paul II announced that he was establishing a Pastoral Provision for individuals just as myself -- married Episcopal clergy with a vocation to Catholic priesthood, and also it allowed for the establishment of parishes. So the door was opened. And another move was in store. We were to move to Texas where God would reveal what it was He wanted. We arrived in January of 1982 and set about building the foundation which would result in the establishment of this parish which had been waiting in the eternal mind of Almighty God.

The little book about Our Lady of the Atonement was one of the first volumes unpacked and placed on the bookshelves of that first modest house on the northeast side of San Antonio where our first parish office shared space with the washer and drier and our office equipment consisted of an old manual typewriter. It was there and in those earliest days that a promise was made to God; namely, that if He opened the door to us, then we would seek permission to erect the parish under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. God made good on His side of the bargain -- on August 15, 1983, I was ordained as a Catholic priest, and our parish was canonically erected under the patronage of Our Lady of the Atonement.

All that was thirty-five years ago. At that time we were a tiny and yet optimistic group of eighteen people, worshipping in a rented church, with an unknown future. None of this existed. We couldn’t see what you can see now. And an essential ingredient in getting us here has been the intercession of our Blessed Mother, known to us under her mysteriously beautiful title of Our Lady of the Atonement. So, what of this title?

It embraces two mysteries of our faith: first, the atonement itself – the complete and perfect at-one-ment which was achieved by our Lord Jesus Christ as He shed His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross at Calvary, through which came the reconciliation of man with God, and of man with man, making us "at one" in His Sacred Heart; and second, the role of the Virgin Mary in the perfect atonement given by God – her coöperation with God’s Divine Will at the annunciation, and her participation in her Son's sufferings and death as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The crowning act of redeeming love, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, is for all of us the means whereby mankind finds salvation, peace, and unity. It was there upon the Cross Jesus gave us the greatest gift: His precious life. It was there He gave us His Blessed Mother. It was there Mary stood, and there we stand next to her as her children – Children of the Atonement – one family, with one Mother, Mary, and with God as our Father, our Redeemer, and who calls us to live in holiness.