25 July 2021

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 canonical 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 their daughter, 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 2021

Feeding the Five Thousand

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

- St. John 6:1-15


This Gospel tells us of the well-known miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with the five loaves and two fish. There are, of course, many miracles recorded in the Gospels. And it’s interesting to see how people have approached these accounts.

When it comes to Christ’s parables, there seems to be (for the most part) no issue, because they’re taken as the stories that they are. But when it comes to the miracles – actual historical events which took place – there are those who try to explain them in exclusively natural ways. When Jesus walked on the water, for instance, there are those who want to say that there was a sand bar right beneath the surface. When Christ stilled the storm, there are those who try to say that it was coincidental with the storm having run its course.

When it comes to today’s miracle, as we look at various biblical commentaries, some have tried to say it was a kind of collective illusion – that the people there only thought they had eaten their fill. Others have said that it wasn’t really a miracle, but that the people simply shared their food with one another, and that was the real miracle. I’ve always been astonished at those kinds of faithless theories. Either God is God, or He’s not. If He could create all things, if He could take human flesh upon Himself and come to us – if He is indeed the God of the universe – then taking elements of His creation, bread and fish, and multiplying them, is simply in keeping with who He is.

And in fact, when we look at the event, the details are so specific: Jesus asks how they could feed this crowd. Andrew is clear in saying that there are five loaves and two fish. Our Lord instructed the disciples to have the people sit down, after which He gave thanks to His Father, and then distributed the food to the crowds. And further details are given to us: there were twelve baskets full of bread left over. Everything about it tells us this was an actual event. The details are spelled out; it was an act done by Jesus Christ to make a particular point, and to teach us something. So what was it all about?

We should start out by noticing that the people had come there with no forethought of preparation, and this is clear from the Gospel account. This crowd had been following Jesus for some time, listening to him, having their hopes raised higher and higher as He taught them the things of God. They weren’t thinking about anything else other than the fact that they wanted to stick close to Him. They wanted to see Him and hear Him. So there they are, gathered at the place to which He had gone.

Time passes. Jesus had been speaking quietly with his apostles, but the people were still there, waiting. It’s obvious they have no thought of leaving him. As that becomes evident, the apostles show their concern. The people had come out there completely unprepared; it was getting late; they were far from any town. Even though He knew what He was going to do, Jesus asks Philip, “How are we to buy bread, that these people may eat?” His question is certainly an indication to us yet again that the people hadn’t come with their own food. Andrew mentions the little boy who happened to have some bread and fish with him, but it seemed pretty obvious to the apostles that five loaves and two fish weren’t going to feed this crowd. Nonetheless, Jesus takes the available food, He blesses it and distributes it, and the surplus is so great that they fill twelve baskets with the leftovers.

In hearing this account, notice the central place of our Lord Jesus Christ in all of this. The people had come to Him, without anything specific in mind – they just wanted to hear Him. The apostles are there simply to assist Jesus in whatever way He asks; and the crowd is there to accept whatever Jesus provides to them – but it’s the Lord Jesus Christ who holds center stage. And it’s His pure and complete love for each and every person which is demonstrated in this miracle. Through the loaves and the fish Christ made the Father’s love a reality to the people.

In the midst of the literal reality of what’s taking place in this miracle, there’s the important spiritual message, too. There are aspects of this story that, when we look closely, communicate something to us. We weren’t there, so we didn’t receive the immediate benefit of the food itself, but God preserved this account for us so that when we look at it, we get the message He wants us to get. And a central message is that God’s love is abundant, and it’s available to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

All this looks forward to the fact that God’s love comes through the Living Bread which we receive at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If we miss this spiritual point, and look only at the aspect of the physical abundance of bread and fish, we begin to ask the wrong question. We fall into the trap of asking, “If He multiplied the loaves for these people, how can He let so many people die of hunger today all over the world?” But that’s missing the point. Isaiah asks the question, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” In other words, we can get so caught up in the things of this world, that we miss what God has determined to be more important. Yes, we need to be concerned for those who are hungry and homeless and in need, just as the apostles were concerned for the people who had gone that day out into the wilderness; but Jesus wanted His apostles to go further than that. He wanted to show the people there that day what the power and love of God is like.

The world is hungry, but not just hungry for food. The world is hungry for the truth; it’s hungry for spiritual fulfillment; it’s hungry for God. Certainly, we’re to minister in Christ’s name to those who are poor and hungry, but we must remember that, more important than bread, is the Bread of Life.

In many ways, the world has become a twisted and sour place; but Christ holds out to the world what is true and eternal. He holds out forgiveness; He holds out everlasting life. And He asks us to assist Him in distributing what he’s holding out to the world. So we’ve got to be careful that we don’t try to hand out a false gospel that doesn’t see past the things of this world.

Notice at the end of today’s Gospel passage, Jesus withdraws. Why? Because the people were missing the point, and they were trying to make Him an earthly king. We need to make sure we get the point here that God wants us to get; namely that it’s the deep and abiding love of God which transforms us, and because of that, there is nothing that can ever conquer us. When we stand with Christ and with His truth, we can stand firm in the face of anything that threatens us, because God in Christ loves us and supports us, so we need to fear nothing.

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Pictured: In the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, showing the stone under the altar, where Christ placed the loaves and fish.

St. James the Greater, Apostle


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

Along with Peter and John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, the ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who were witnesses to certain of His miracles, such as the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Like his brother, James was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after our Lord's resurrection.  In fact, the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela witnesses to that probability.

St. James' prominence and his presence in Jerusalem was well known.  Scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection he 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.

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. Along with their mother's request, 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, but it turned out to be 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 2021

St. Sharbel Makhluf


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


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. He was beatified in 1965, and canonized 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.

22 July 2021

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.

21 July 2021

St. Mary Magdalene


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


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


We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ.  Even though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and as she looked, she wept.  Burning with the fire of love, she longed for him whom she thought had been taken away. The woman who stayed behind, was the only one to see him. Perseverance is essential to any good act, as the Scriptures tell us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.


At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. Even in our own lives, when our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger those feelings make us try even harder. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has had to burn with such a great love for the truth.


O Almighty God, whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene to be a witness to his Resurrection: mercifully grant that by thy grace, and assisted by her prayers, we may be healed of all our infirmities, and always serve thee in the power of his endless life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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 Painting: “The Sorrows of Mary Magdalene” by Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911)

20 July 2021

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 2021

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 2021

Like Sheep Without A Shepherd

The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

- St. Mark 6:30-34

St. Mark describes the scene when our Lord arrived at what was supposed to be a “quiet place apart,” but where He “saw a great throng, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd…”

People often think of compassion as being a kind of sympathy, feeling sorry for someone. But in the original Greek, compassion isn’t so much describing a feeling or an emotion, but rather, it indicates a thought or feeling leading to an action. It is probably best translated as having a love so deep that it is almost like an inner pain – a love which moves a person to actually do something for someone in need.

What was it that caused this compassion – this “painful love” – which Jesus had? He saw the crowds of people, ordinary men and women who had come out to hear what He had to say. Some were looking for comfort in their otherwise difficult lives; many were looking for something to fill the spiritual emptiness they felt. Their own religious leaders should have been giving them spiritual strength to live by, but instead were simply bewildering them with subtle and intricate arguments about the Law – arguments which contained no comfort, no spiritual help. These spiritual leaders should have been helping the people to face the difficulties of their daily lives, but instead they were weighing them down under the intolerable demands of countless man-made laws. They were making religious demands which served as a handicap instead of a support.

At the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry, religious teaching within Judaism had, for the most part, become a discouragement to the people, rather than an inspiration to grow closer to God. The people had become, in the sad words of today’s Gospel, like “sheep without a shepherd.”

Of course, the people in those days were not so different from people throughout the ages, or from us as we are today. People want and need something to live by. We want some authority which can inform us about what is right and what is wrong. We want an authority to help us as we make decisions for the direction of our lives.

But authority can often be twisted. It was twisted by the scribes and pharisees, and it is twisted by those who act like scribes and pharisees in our own day. The result is that authority comes to be viewed by many as being a negative, oppressive thing.

A selfish authority, an authority without compassion, an authority which is coercive, can become an oppressive yoke – a yoke which weighs people down, rather than lifting them up. That kind of authority can become a veil of darkness, rather than a guide to the light of truth. We need only to look at some of the totalitarian governments and political systems, not only in the past, but which we see in the world today. We see individuals who have positions of authority without an accompanying sense of loving responsibility, and it becomes evident just how easily authority can be abused, and so cause terrible suffering to those who labour under it.

But we do not have to look as far as political systems or totalitarian governments to consider the proper use of authority. We should look at the Church and at those who have spiritual authority over others.

Whether it be the authority we are bound to follow, or the authority we might have over others, it is Christ our Shepherd who gives us the model. He had compassion upon the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

And what kind of a shepherd is He? He is one whom we obey because we know He willingly sacrificed himself for us. He is one whom we follow because He gently leads us rather than impatiently shoving us along through life. He is the one we stay close to, because He is generous with His gifts to us, but then allows us to use them, rather than dictating our every thought and action.

Each one of us needs to look to the compassionate Christ for the model of what authority over others should be like – not like the scribes and pharisees, who bound great burdens upon others, but rather reflecting the depth of the gentle love and compassion we receive from God Himself.

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Painting by James Tissot (1836-1902)

15 July 2021

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

"The Virgin of Carmel" by Alessandro Bonvicino ( c. 1498 –1554)

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 I have offered Mass while on pilgrimage.

14 July 2021

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor


St. Bonaventure, known as "the seraphic doctor," was born in the Lazio region of central Italy in 1221. His baptismal name was John. He received the name of Bonaventure because of an exclamation which was made by St. Francis of Assisi, when little John’s mother took him to Francis, begging him to pray for her little boy who was very ill. Francis prayed, and little John recovered. When Francis foresaw the future greatness of the boy, he cried out "O buona ventura" - O good fortune! – and that was the name given to John when he entered the Franciscan order.

He was twenty-two when St. Bonaventure joined the Franciscans. Having made his vows, he was then sent to Paris to complete his studies. His main tutor was the celebrated doctor Alexander of Hales, who was an Englishman and a Franciscan. While he was in Paris, St. Bonaventure became a close friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. They received their doctoral degrees together, but St. Bonaventure, always a very humble man, insisted that at the ceremony Thomas Aquinas should have the honour of receiving it first. Both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure became well known throughout the Church for their great scholarship and brilliance, and both even became quite close to the holy king of France, St. Louis.

At the age of thirty-five St. Bonaventure was chosen to be the General of the Franciscan Order. It was a difficult time for the Franciscans, because of internal dissension. The friars had argued about the meaning and practice of poverty.  Already they were straying from the vision and teaching of their Founder, but St. Bonaventure restored peace to the Order. He worked tirelessly for the Franciscan Order, and composed an important work, The Life of St. Francis. He was nominated Archbishop of York in England by Pope Clement IV, but he begged the pope not to force him to accept. The next pope, Gregory X, obliged Bonaventure to take upon himself an even more difficult position, that of the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano, one of the six suffragan Sees of Rome, while still being General of his Order. However, before his death he resigned his office of General of the Franciscan Order. He died while he was at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274, working for the good of the Church until his very last breath. How right St. Francis was when he exclaimed “O buona ventura” – “O good fortune!” It was certainly good fortune for the Church when St. Bonaventure gave his life in service to Christ.

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

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

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O God, by whose providence blessed Bonaventure was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate 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.

Prayer of St. Bonaventure.

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

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

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

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Painting: "St. Bonaventure holding the Tree of the Redemption"
by Vittorio Crivelli, born ca. 1440, died ca. 1502

13 July 2021

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

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

It has been said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. 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 2021

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 the Catholic faith, 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 as much by prayer as 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 2021

"He sent them out two by two..."

Jesus called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, "Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them." So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. 
-St. Mark 6:7-13 
Even before the Day of Pentecost, during His own earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ had sent His apostles out to do specific work. He had given them spiritual authority, along with directions about what they should take with them, and in these gospel verses we have a simple account of the work that they did, which was to bring Christ’s message to the people.

They didn’t create a message; rather, they brought a message. They didn’t tell people what they personally thought; rather, they simply told people what Jesus had told them. They didn’t bring their opinions; they brought God’s truth. The message they brought was that the people should repent.

To “repent” means to “change one’s mind” and then to fit one’s actions to this change. Repentance means a change of heart and a change of action.  Few people really want to hear that message, because it involves unpleasant things like admitting that maybe the way we were following was wrong. It’s always disturbing to have to change things. So, the first part of the message brought by the apostles was a difficult message.

But they also brought God’s mercy as part of the message. Yes, they brought God’s demands, but they also brought Christ’s help and healing. From the very beginning, the Christian faith has sought to bring health of body and soul. This is what salvation is about: it has to do with the soul, certainly, but salvation has to do with the whole person. That’s part of the sacrament of anointing which the apostles took with them, empowered by Christ to “anoint,” in the sense of applying a “soothing salve.” So it was, then, that the apostles took out into the world the message of Christ and the healing of Christ.

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Pictured: "Il les envoya deux à deux"
by James Tissot (1836-1902)

09 July 2021

A Beautiful Title for Our Lady


In 1919 Fr. Paul of Graymoor wrote these words about the title of Our Lady of the Atonement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother and His Mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saith unto His Mother: Woman, behold thy Son; then saith He to the disciple: Behold thy Mother.

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

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Pictured: "Our Lady of the Atonement" 
by Mother Margaret Mary Nealis, RSCJ (1876-1957)

08 July 2021

Our Lady of the Atonement


The Blessed Mother's title of Our Lady of the Atonement, commemorated each year on July 9th, 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 the 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 words which Simeon spoke to her came to pass: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

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. There upon the Cross Jesus gave us the greatest gift: His precious life. There He gave us His Blessed Mother. There Mary stood, and there we stand next to her as her children, at the foot of the Cross.

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

05 July 2021

St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr


Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Corinaldo, in the Ancona Province in Italy to a farming family. Her father died when she was still a girl, which left her mother, along with her and her brothers and sisters, to keep the farm going. Maria’s responsibility included cooking and keeping house along with preparing meals for everyone.


It was on July 5, 1902, that Maria was sitting outside the steps of her home mending a shirt while one of the neighboring young men named Alessandro was working in the barnyard. Everyone else was working in the fields. As she concentrated on her sewing, Alessandro surprised her and grabbed her from her steps. When he tried to rape her, Maria cried that it was a mortal sin and warned he would go to hell.


When Alessandro persisted, she fought him and begged him to stop, telling him over and over again that he was committing a sin. Alessandro began to choke her and pulled out a knife and stabbed her eleven times. When she attempted to reach the door, he stabbed her three more times then fled.


Maria's family returned home and found her bleeding on the floor. They quickly took her to the nearest hospital but it was too late to save her.


As she lay dying, Maria forgave Alessandro and said she wanted to see him in heaven with her. She died that day while looking upon an image of the Virgin Mary and holding a cross to her chest.


Alessandro remained unrepentant for his actions until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him lilies, which immediately burned in his hands. When he woke, he was a changed man. He repented his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released 27 years later, he went directly to Maria's mother and begged her forgiveness, which she gave.


Maria Goretti was beatified in 1947.  Three years later Maria was declared a saint and Alessandro was present at her canonization. He later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, where he lived in a monastery and worked as its receptionist and gardener until his death.


Saint Maria is called a martyr because she fought against Alessandro's attempts at sexual sin; however, the most important aspects of her story are how she forgave her attacker – and her forgiveness brought about his conversion.


These words are from the homily of Venerable Pope Pius XII at her canonization:

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


O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying 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.

04 July 2021

St. Elizabeth of Portugal


Born in 1271, Elizabeth (or Isabel) was married to King Diniz of Portugal. Like her great-aunt St. Elizabeth of Hungary, for whom she was named, St. Elizabeth of Portugal dedicated her life to the poor. She established orphanages and provided shelter for the homeless. She also founded a convent in Coimbra.

Known for settling disputes, St. Elizabeth was called the Peacemaker. When her son Alfonso declared war on his father because he was jealous of the attention being paid by Diniz to his illegitimate sons, it was Elizabeth who rode between the armies, reconciling the two sides. On another occasion, she rode to Estremoz despite being ill to keep the army of Affonso, by then King Alfonso IV, from fighting that of Castile. Alfonso, angry at the mistreatment his daughter Maria was suffering at the hands of her husband, the king of Castile, had ordered an attack. St. Elizabeth stopped the fighting, but the exertion proved to be too much for her and she fell ill, dying shortly thereafter.

St. Elizabeth was buried in Coimbra, and she was canonized in 1625 by Urban VIII.

O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst adorn Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvellous grace for reconciling those in conflict: grant, through her intercession; that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God; 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 July 2021

"One Nation, Under God..."

 

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

- St. Mark 6:4-6

At the beginning of our nation’s history, its laws reflected its roots. Dependence upon God was acknowledged. There was no more an idea that our nation could exist without a dependence upon God, than a little child would think he could exist without his parents.

But as time went on, our laws began to reflect a tragic tendency to attempt to legislate an independence from God, until we have arrived at our present sad state of having outlawed the very mention of God’s Holy Name in most civic situations.  The law, which at first was so liberating, has in many cases become a yoke which oppresses the human spirit and human dignity, just as it had in Christ’s time.

But our Lord’s words still ring true: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Christ’s yoke is vastly different from that yoke of the law which denigrates human life, and which rewards evil, and which undermines individual dignity. Christ’s yoke is the yoke of faith, which says, “This I believe, and so will I live.” Christ’s yoke is the yoke of conscience – a conscience illuminated by the divine light of Christ, so that we strive to do what is right in His sight. It is the yoke of love – that love which comes from having a deep and personal allegiance to Christ.

We celebrate our national Independence Day. But it needs to be a time when we also remember our dependence – not dependence upon human cleverness or a human vision, but dependence upon the God who has revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ. We have to admit that we do not have all the answers, and that however much we know, it is insignificant in comparison with what we still do not know. We need to acknowledge that our greatest achievements in life would never have been possible without the gifts God has given to us. We need to admit that however high we might rise in life – whether individually or as a nation – we will fall pitifully short of the only standard worthy of being used as a measure: that is, the standard we see in the perfect God-Man, Jesus Christ.

Our Founding Fathers knew that the nation whose birth they had witnessed was only the sum of the lives of those who made up the nation. If her citizens were good and upright, having a respect and love for God and neighbor, then so the nation would be good and upright. What was true then is true now. Independence from oppression brought us the clean slate upon which our future could be written. Dependence upon God will ensure that our future will be one of real liberty and true happiness – liberty and happiness which can be found in Christ, and in Him alone.

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Pictured: "The Prayer at Valley Forge"
by Arnold Friberg (1913-2010)

02 July 2021

St. Thomas, Apostle


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

- St John 20:24-31


Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; 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.

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Pictured: "The Doubting of Thomas" by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1881)

30 June 2021

St. Junipero Serra

Statue of St. Junipero Serra,
located in the National Statuary Hall,
Washington, D.C.


As America was being formed through its revolution in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in the west. Missions were being established under the direction of a grey-robed Franciscan, known to us as St. Junipero Serra. He was born in 1713 in Spain on the island of Majorca. Well into his adult life, until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom, first as a student of theology and then as a teacher. At the same time he was becoming famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed a vocation God had given him; namely, to preach the Gospel to the native people of the New World.


In 1750 he arrived by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico. He and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City, but on the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite. This would remain a difficult and often life-threatening illness for the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He then went to the area of present-day Monterey, California. The first mission was founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north in 1769. Other missions followed, making a total of nine missions being founded under the direction of St. Junipero, and twelve more were founded after his death.


Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic and prideful military commanders, and even with danger of death from the native people he had come to serve. During his ministry he baptized more than six thousand people and confirmed some five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought to the people of the New World not only the gift of faith but also the highest standard of living they had ever known. He was deeply loved by the people he served, which they showed by their outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.


He was beatified in 1987 and canonized on 23 September 2015.


O God, who by thine ineffable mercy hast been pleased through the labours of thy Priest Saint Junipero Serra to count many American peoples within thy Church: grant by his intercession; that we may so join our hearts to thee in love, as to carry always and everywhere before all people the image of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 June 2021

The First Martyrs of Rome


These are the holy men and women who are called the "Protomartyrs of Rome." They were accused of burning Rome by Nero , who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called "disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles' death."

Pope Clement I, third successor of St. Peter, writes: “It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith... Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented... suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize.”

O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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Pictured: "First Martyrs of Rome" by Henryk Siemiradzki (1843–1902)

28 June 2021

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles


On June 29th the Church celebrates the feast day of Ss. Peter & Paul. As early as the year 258 there is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day. Together, the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom there.

Peter, who was named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee. Jesus gave him the name Cephas (Petrus in Latin), which means ‘Rock,’ because he was to be the rock upon which Christ would build His Church. Peter was the first to recognize that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and pledged his fidelity until death.

Although he had his human weaknesses, Peter was chosen to shepherd God's flock. Peter led the Apostles as the first Pope and ensured that the disciples kept the true faith. St. Peter spent his last years in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually was martyred in the year 64. He was crucified upside-down at his own request, because he said he was not worthy to die as his Lord.

He was buried on Vatican hill, and St. Peter's Basilica is built over his tomb.

St. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles. His letters are included in the writings of the New Testament, and through them we learn much about his life and the faith of the early Church.

Before using his Gentile name of Paul, he was Saul, a Jewish pharisee who viciously persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Scripture records that Saul was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Saul's conversion took place as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christian community there. As he was traveling along the road, he was suddenly surrounded by a great light from heaven. He was blinded and fell from his horse. He then heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered: “Who are you, Lord?” Christ said: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul continued to Damascus, where he was baptized and his sight was restored. He spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world.

Paul was imprisoned and taken to Rome, where he was beheaded in the year 67. He is buried in Rome in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, "Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; And even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labours, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith."

O God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, that they were enabled to bear witness to the truth by their death: grant unto thy Church that, as in the beginning she was enlightened by their teaching, so by their intercession she may continue in the same unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City State



Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome

O God, who by the preaching of thy holy apostles Ss. Peter and Paul didst cause the light of thy gospel to shine upon the nations: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having their life and labour in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to thee for so great a gift, by following the example of their zeal and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

27 June 2021

St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr


St. Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor, probably around the year 125. It is not known when he came to Gaul. He was a priest of the Church of Lyons during the persecution of 177 when St. Pothinus, first bishop of the city and the first martyr of Lyons, was put to death. Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop and twenty-five years later was martyred in his turn during a fresh persecution.

As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus, thy Martyr and Bishop, grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to establish thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest give thy people constancy in thy true religion; and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; 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.