26 May 2019

Memorial Day


ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

25 May 2019

Rogationtide


"Rogation" comes from the Latin "rogare," which means "to ask." The Sixth Sunday of Easter and the following three days leading up to the Solemnity of the Ascension are days during which we beg God's mercy for the avoidance of natural disasters, and it is a time to ask for His blessings, particularly with regard to farming, gardening, and all things related to agriculture.

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers: and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy most gracious and ready help; 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.

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: we humbly pray that thy gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labour to gather them; that we, who constantly receive good things from thy hand, may always give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

O Almighty God who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; 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.

24 May 2019

St. Bede in the Triptych


St. Bede is one of the five major figures depicted on the large triptych which is over the High Altar at Our Lady of the Atonement Church. The following is taken from the fuller description of the triptych, which can be found in its entirety at this link.

SAINT BEDE THE VENERABLE (673-735)

Although very little is known about Saint Bede, we do know that he was a monk of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth and Jarrow, where at the age of seven he had been given into the care of the abbot. His monastic life was uneventful, and we can sum it up in his own words: “I have spent the whole of my life devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and, amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily task of singing in the church, it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write.”

It was as a teacher and writer that Bede was supreme. He wrote both theological and secular works, prose and poetry. He was interested in science and the natural order. His historical writings are perhaps the best remembered. His chief work was The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, one of the most important historical writings of the early Middle Ages. It is the sole source for much information about the early Saxon history.

Saint Bede died at his work. On the Tuesday before Ascension Day he summoned the priests of the monastery, made them little gifts of paper and incense, and begged their prayers. At intervals during the next forty-eight hours, propped up in bed, he dictated to the last sentence an English rendering of the Gospel of Saint John upon which he was engaged at the onset of his illness. Finally, asking to be laid on the floor he sang the anthem “O King of Glory” from the Office of Ascension Day and died with the doxology, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” on his lips.

Bede is the only Englishman who was named by Dante in the Paradiso. Saint Boniface, when he learned of Bede’s death, said “The light, lit by the Holy Spirit for the good of the whole Church, has been extinguished.” In the reredos Saint Bede appears in his simple monastic garb. He was dedicated to the monastic office and to the life of prayer, thus his red prayer beads are shown in the folds of his habit. He carries the crosier, though he was never a bishop, to recall the bishop’s role of teacher and scholar, characteristics of Bede. He also carries an opened copy of his Ecclesiastical History, and the picture on the frontispiece is of the original small church of Our Lady of the Atonement, before its expansion. Next to him is the extinguished candle, recalling Saint Boniface’s words. At the top of the candlestick is the inscription of the doxology Bede was praying at the moment of death.

“Remember,” writes Cardinal Gasquet, “what the work was upon which Saint Bede was engaged upon his deathbed – a translation of the gospels into English …” But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing is now extant.

O God, who hast caused thy Church to shine with the learning of blessed Bede thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant that we thy servants may ever be enlightened by his wisdom, and holpen for his merits’ sake; 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.

21 May 2019

St. Rita of Cascia


St. Rita was born into a happy and faithful Catholic family, and from the time of her childhood she had a very deep desire to live a life pleasing to God. In fact, her parents gave her a little room in their home as an oratory, where she spent all her spare moments. At the age of twelve, however, she wanted to consecrate herself to God by joining a religious community. As pious as her parents were, they pleaded with Rita not to do that, and instead they arranged for her to be married, at the age of eighteen, to an impulsive, disagreeable young man, who was a great trial to young Rita. They had two sons who had both inherited their father's quarrelsome nature. Throughout that time, however, Rita continued in her devotional life, and eventually her holiness and prayers won her husband's heart, so that he was not only willing for her to continue her religious practices, but he himself began to turn towards God.

They had been married for eighteen years, when her husband was murdered. No sooner had that happened, than both of her sons died shortly after. Rita's former desire to consecrate herself to God in the religious life came back even more strongly. Three times she tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia, but her request was refused each time, and each time she returned to her home. But God had plans for her. One night as Rita was praying in her home she heard herself called by name, while someone knocked at the door. In a miraculous way she found she was in the nuns’ enclosure, even though it was completely locked. Needless to say, the nuns were astonished at this miracle, and took her in as a member of the monastery.

St. Rita's hidden, simple life in religion was defined by her obedience and charity, and she lived a life filled with penances. One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell. Kneeling before the crucifix, she asked the Lord to let her share in His sufferings. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached from the image on the cross, and embedded itself in her forehead so deeply that she couldn’t remove it. The wound became worse, and it became horribly infected. Because of the foul odor coming from the wound, she wasn’t allowed to be near the other sisters, and this went on for fifteen years.

One day the Pope proclaimed a jubilee at Rome. Rita wanted nothing more than to attend. She was given permission, but only if the wound in her forehead had healed. Miraculously, it was healed, but only for as long as the pilgrimage lasted. When she returned to the monastery, the wound reappeared, and remained until her death.

As the time of her death approached, St. Rita asked for a rose from the garden of her old home. Although it wasn’t the season for roses, a rose was found in full bloom and it was brought to her. After St. Rita's death in 1457, her face took on a radiance, and the odor from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The smell of roses spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. At the time of her death, witnesses saw her cell fill with light, and the bells in the tower rang by themselves. Immediately there were miracles of healing, and the world then knew that a saint had lived in their midst.

Bestow upon us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which thou wert pleased to endow Saint Rita: so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery; 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.

20 May 2019

Holy Martyrs of Mexico


“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”). This was the cry of the “Cristeros,” Catholics who took up arms in the 1920’s in Mexico against the anti-Catholic government led by an evil man named Plutarco Calles, who had instituted and enforced laws against the Church in an attempt to completely erase the Catholic faith in Mexico. Baptisms had been declared illegal; celebrating Mass was illegal; training men for the priesthood was illegal, and the list went on and on.

There were others who resisted peacefully, and today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Christopher Magallanes and 21 other priests as well as three lay companions, who were martyred between 1915 and 1937. They were executed by shooting or hanging, although they themselves had not taken up arms against the government. Their only crimes were that they were Catholic and they stood up for their faith. St. Christopher was a young man who was the pastor of the parish where he had been raised. When the seminaries were outlawed, he began a clandestine seminary. They had to do everything in secret, hiding from the government and moving from place to place. Young priests were trained, and bishops ordained them wherever they could find a hidden place to do it. As these priests were discovered, they would be arrested. They would be given either no trial, or a mock trial, and then they would be killed. Very often their bodies would be displayed as a warning to other Catholics. But before they died, they would cry out those words which gave hope and courage to those around them: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!,” (“Long live Christ the King!”).

The faith was not destroyed in Mexico. In fact, the Church continued to grow and continues on to this day. The lively faith among the Catholics in Mexico today was bought by the blood of these brave men, who would rather die than deny their faith in God.

This is a list of the Holy Martyrs of Mexico who were canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on 21 May 2000:

St. Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, St. Román Adame Rosales, St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, St. Julio Álvarez Mendoza, St. Luis Batis Sáinz, St. Agustín Caloca Cortés, St. Mateo Correa Magallanes, St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado, St. Miguel De La Mora De La Mora, St. Pedro Esqueda Ramírez, St. Margarito Flores García, St. José Isabel Flores Varela, St. David Galván Bermudes, St. Salvador Lara Puente, St. Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, St. Jesús Méndez Montoya, St. Manuel Morales, St. Justino Orona Madrigal, St. Sabas Reyes Salazar, St. José María Robles Hurtado, St. David Roldán Lara, St. Toribio Romo González, St. Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo, St. Tranquilino Ubiarco Robles, and St.David Uribe Velasco.

Almighty and eternal God, who madest Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions faithful to Christ the King even unto martyrdom: grant us, through their intercession; that, persevering in confession of the true faith, we may always hold fast to the commandments of thy love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 May 2019

St. Bernardine of Siena

In the year 1400, there was a terrible plague going throughout what we now know as Italy. In the city of Siena, dozens of people were dying each day, and many of those who were dying were the very ones who were caring for the sick. It was a terrible situation – more and more people getting sick, but fewer and fewer people to care for them. It was then that a young man came to the door of the largest hospital in Siena. He had not come because he was sick, but because he wanted to help. And there were several young men whom he’d brought with him – again, not because they were sick, but like him, they were willing to tend the sick. For four months Bernardine and his companions worked day and night not only to comfort the patients but to organize and clean the hospital. Only at the end of the plague did Bernardine himself fall ill – not of the plague, but of exhaustion.

After he recovered, he returned to his aunt, who had raised him, and he nursed her in her final illness. After his aunt died, Bernardine started to think about where his life should be going. He was the son of a noble family, but he had been orphaned at seven and raised by the aunt whom he had cared for. As a young man, he hated indecent talk so much that he would blush when he heard it. Even his schoolmates hesitated to make him so uncomfortable. One day in the marketplace, a man thought it would be a great joke to tease Bernardine, and in a public place he started to talk to Bernardine in a shameful way. He was surprised when Bernardine slapped him in the face. The man slunk away, shamed in front of the very crowd he'd been trying to impress.

Bernardine, who had come to Siena to study, threw himself into prayer and fasting to discover what God wanted him to do. One might have expected him to continue his work with the sick but in 1403 he joined the Franciscans and in 1404 he was ordained a priest.

The Franciscans were known as missionary preachers, but Bernardine did very little preaching with because he had a very weak and raspy voice. For twelve years he remained in the background, spending his time in prayer. At the end of that time, he went to Milan on a mission. He was told by his superior to preach, but he didn’t want to, because his voice was so weak. But when he got up to preach his voice was strong and commanding, and his words were so convincing that the crowd would not let him leave unless he promised to come back.

Thus began the missionary life of this friar, who came to be called a “second St. Paul.” He crisscrossed Italy on foot, preaching for hours at a time, several times a day. We are told he preached on punishment for sin as well as reward for virtue but focusing in the end on the mercy of Jesus and the love of Mary. His special devotion was to the Holy Name of Jesus. In fact, even when it was clear he was dying, he preached on fifty consecutive days. He died in 1444 when he was almost 64 years old.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst endue St. Bernardine of Siena, thy holy Confessor, with preeminent love of thy most holy Name: we beseech thee, that, by the virtue of his merits and intercession: thou wouldest graciously pour into our hearts the spirit of love towards thee; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 May 2019

St. John I, Pope and Martyr


Pope John I became pope in 523, and inherited the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. The Western Empire had been ruled for 30 years by the Emperor Theodoric, who had embraced the heresy himself, even though he treated the empire’s Catholics with toleration. His policy changed at about the time John was elected pope. Theodoric didn’t like the fact that there was peace between east and west, because he thought it would be a threat to his reign – he really wanted to rule over everything.

When the eastern emperor, Justin, began imposing severe measures on the Arians of his area, the western emperor forced Pope John to head a delegation to the East to soften the measures against the Arians. At first John refused, but then fearing that the king's anger would be taken out on Western Catholics, he agreed to do Theodoric's bidding on every count save one. He boldly told the king that he would not ask the emperor to allow converts to return to heresy.

The pope arrived in Constantinople shortly before Easter in 526, and since he was the first pope to leave Italy, his reception was more than he could have dreamed. He had been met by the entire city at the twelfth milestone, where the clergy led the procession carrying candles and crosses, and even the emperor prostrated himself before the Holy Father. On the day of Easter, Pope John was seated in a throne higher than the one occupied by the patriarch, in the church of Sancta Sophia, where he celebrated Mass in the Latin tradition. John was accorded the highest honor when he placed the customary Easter crown on the head of Emperor Justin.

After meeting with Justin on Theodoric's behalf, the pope made the exhausting trip back to Ravenna. The king's fury raged. Jealous of the pope's grand reception in the East, Theodoric accused the pope of failing his mission by not securing all of the demands put to Justin. The king then ordered John to remain in Ravenna at his disposal.

John was imprisoned when he reached Ravenna because the emperor suspected a conspiracy against his throne. Shortly after his imprisonment, John died, and because of the cruel treatment he had received, he is counted as a martyr for the faith.

O Everlasting Shepherd, mercifully look upon thy flock: and through blessed John, thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church, keep her with thy perpetual protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 May 2019

St. Isidore the Farmer

This 19th century oil painting of St. Isidore the Farmer
is located in Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

St. Isidore the Farmer, born into a poor but devotedly Catholic family, wouldn’t have appeared to be destined for much in life. His parents had high hopes for him, so it would seem. They named him after the great bishop of Seville, St. Isidore, but that was about all they could give him. As soon as he was old enough to labor in the fields, he was sent off to work. And there he stayed. The boy became a young man who fell in love with an equally devout young woman, Maria. They married, they had a child. They knew immense sorrow when their child died, but they never wavered in their faith.

Isidore attended Mass daily, always before he went to the fields to work. His devotion sometimes caused him to arrive late for his duties, but he always accomplished as much or more than the other workers. Out of jealousy, the others reported his daily lateness to the employer, who decided to keep an eye on Isidore. It became evident that Isidore was toiling faithfully and steadily, and as a sign from God of the goodness and honesty of Isidore, the employer saw the image of an angel working beside him.

I love this saint. As little as he had, he was always generous towards others, always willing to share his meager meal with anyone who had less. His love for God formed the foundation of his work. The manual labor which occupied all his years was dignified by his devotion.

All the saints are interesting, although some of them probably would have been difficult to have been around. But this one… this is a saint I would have liked to have known. Maybe it’s because I grew up working on the family farm, and I know the satisfaction that comes from honest labor on the soil. Maybe it’s my own childhood memories of having a team of oxen as St. Isidore did. Maybe it’s my recollection of feeling an especially close bond to the Divine when working the land. But whatever the cause, I love this saint.

O Almighty God, to whom dost belong all creation, and who dost call us to serve thee by caring for the gifts that surround us: inspire us, by the example of Saint Isidore, to share our food with the hungry, and to work for the salvation of all people; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

13 May 2019

St. Matthias, Apostle


St. Matthias had been a follower of Jesus and was probably one of the seventy-two disciples. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the nascent Church was gathered in prayer and St. Peter said that it was right to choose an apostle to replace Judas. He said it should be someone who had been with Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan until the ascension. Two names were proposed: one was Matthias, and the other was Joseph, called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus). Both of them were good men, but since the Church needed only one, they prayed and asked God to reveal the right choice. This is where the “casting of lots” came in. Sometimes people have the mistaken notion that this was akin to gambling, or some kind of game of chance, and there are those who think perhaps it wasn’t the most appropriate means of determining God’s Will in the matter.

Actually, casting lots was a fairly common way of making a decision. When we look back through Scripture, we come across it pretty often. It was the method used to choose the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:8); it was used to determine the priests’ duties in the temple (I Chronicles 24:5); during the terrible storm at sea, poor Jonah was determined to be the guilty one by the casting of lots (Jonah 1:7). For us, it has the unsavoury connection with the crucifixion, since it was by casting lots that the soldiers divided our Lord’s clothing (St. Matthew 27:35). In the case of choosing a replacement for Judas, it was settled in this way because of the very fact that both candidates were equally good. Casting lots was done in different ways, but a common way of doing it was to put the necessary number of polished stones of different colour in a container, and to shake it until one stone fell out, determining the choice. Whatever we might think of the method, it certainly worked. St. Matthias proved to be such a good apostle that after spreading the Gospel in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Egypt and Ethiopia, he was so successful he ended up being martyred for his efforts.

There are plenty of things we can get out of the account of the choosing of Matthias, but I like the thought that the dignity of apostleship seemed to hang by the thread of chance – and yet it wasn’t really chance, was it? God had His plan all worked out, and Peter (along with the others) knew that. They could have pushed their own human will and agenda into the situation: (“Hey, that Joseph Barsabbas is a really nice guy. Let’s choose him!”). In fact, the very fact that Christ’s original choice for that particular seat in the College of Apostles didn’t work out – at least by human standards – shows that God is very much in control of every detail. I mean, would we have planned things that way? The betrayal by Judas which led to the sacrifice which has atoned for man’s sin wouldn’t have been at the top of my list for a good plan. Finding an apostolic replacement by shaking some stones in a container isn’t something I would have thought of.

It seems like we’re rarely prepared for the twists and turns which define God’s plan, and yet that’s the way He works. Why are we surprised when things don’t follow the meticulous plan we’ve worked out in our own minds? After all, even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself prayed in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not My Will, but Thine be done.” And isn’t it our universal experience that, in the end, God’s plan is always best? Quite so.

O Almighty God, who into the place of Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Saint Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: Grant that thy Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

12 May 2019

Our Lady of Fatima


The famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the children of Fatima took place during the summer of 1917, during the time of the First World War. The little Portuguese village where this took place was made up mostly of poor people, many of them farmers, and the children of the village traditionally were given the job of taking the sheep out to graze on the hillsides.

The three children who received the apparitions were Lucia, who was ten years old, and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. Together they tended the sheep and, with Lucia in charge, they would often pass the day by praying the Rosary. It was in the summer of 1916 that an Angel appeared to them several times and taught them a prayer to the Blessed Trinity.

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, toward noon, a flash of lightning caught the attention of the children, and they saw a bright, radiant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. They saw this figure only as “a Lady,” and the "Lady" asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and for an end to the war. Also, they were told to come back every month, on the 13th.

Further apparitions took place on June 13 and July 13. This began to get the attention of large crowds of people, and the local government authorities did not like the idea of people gathering together like this, fearing that the people might just turn into a mob. So on August 13, when the children tried to go to the Cova da Iria, they were stopped by local authorities from going. Even though they were stopped on the 13th, they saw the apparition on the 19th. On September 13 the Lady requested that the Rosary be prayed for the intention of an end to the war. Finally, on October 13, the "Lady" identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary," and again she asked for prayer and penitence.

On that day, something strange also took place: the sun seemed to tumble from the sky and crash toward earth. The children had been forewarned of it as early as May 13, the first apparition. The large crowd, which was estimated to be at 30,000 by reporters who were there, saw this phenomenon and came away astounded.

Official recognition of these visions which the children had at the Cova da Iria came on October 13, 1930, when the local bishop - after long inquiry - authorized devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary at the site. The two younger children had died: Francisco in 1919, and his sister Jacinta in 1920. Sister Lucia died in 2005.

Even though people seem more interested in the apparitions themselves, and the miracle of the sun, the important thing is the message brought by the Blessed Virgin Mary – namely, that we should pray, that we should repent of our sins, and that we should dedicate ourselves to being like Mary herself – obedient, and willing to do whatever God tells us.

On this day in 1981 an attempt was made on the life of Pope St. John Paul II, when he was shot while moving through the crowds at the Wednesday audience. He credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life. "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path," he said. He made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Fatima on this date in 2000, and presented one of the bullets which hit him. It is now incorporated into the crown of Our Lady.

O God, who didst choose the Mother of thy Son to be our Mother also: grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Entrustment of Priests to Our Lady


It was on 12th May 2010 that Pope Benedict XVI went to Fatima and prayed before the image of Our Lady, entrusting all priests to her maternal protection and guidance.  This is the prayer he offered:

Immaculate Mother, in this place of grace, called together by the love of your Son Jesus the Eternal High Priest, we, sons in the Son and his priests, consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart, in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus, we can do nothing good and that only through him, with him and in him, will we be instruments of salvation for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit, obtain for us the inestimable gift of transformation in Christ. Through the same power of the Spirit that overshadowed you, making you the Mother of the Saviour, help us to bring Christ your Son to birth in ourselves too. May the Church be thus renewed by priests who are holy, priests transfigured by the grace of him who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy, it was your Son Jesus who called us to become like him: light of the world and salt of the earth.

Help us, through your powerful intercession, never to fall short of this sublime vocation, nor to give way to our selfishness, to the allurements of the world and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity, guard us with your humility and enfold us with your maternal love that is reflected in so many souls consecrated to you, who have become for us true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church, we priests want to be pastors who do not feed themselves but rather give themselves to God for their brethren, finding their happiness in this. Not only with words, but with our lives, we want to repeat humbly, day after day, Our “here I am.” Guided by you, we want to be Apostles of Divine Mercy, glad to celebrate every day the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar and to offer to those who request it the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace, you who are fully immersed in the one universal mediation of Christ, invoke upon us, from God, a heart completely renewed that loves God with all its strength and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord your efficacious word: “They have no wine," so that the Father and the Son will send upon us a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Full of wonder and gratitude at your continuing presence in our midst, in the name of all priests I too want to cry out: “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Our Mother for all time, do not tire of “visiting us”, consoling us, sustaining us. Come to our aid and deliver us from every danger that threatens us. With this act of entrustment and consecration, we wish to welcome you more deeply, more radically, for ever and totally into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth in the desert of our loneliness, let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness, let it restore calm after the tempest, so that all mankind shall see the salvation of the Lord, who has the name and the face of Jesus, who is reflected in our hearts, for ever united to yours! Amen!

Good Shepherd, Good Sheep

"The Good Shepherd" by Philippe de Champaigne

We know our Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He is the one who lays down His life for the sheep. We know also that the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church are called to bear the image of our Good Shepherd by giving themselves completely over to the service of God and His flock.

But the members of the laity need to remember something related to that. Each one has his own responsibility to be the Good Shepherd’s “good sheep.” Just as the Shepherd leads, so the sheep must follow. And by following the Shepherd faithfully, the sheep will reach pastures of heavenly joy. Good Shepherd Sunday should also be “Good Sheep Sunday,” a reminder that we must daily recommit ourselves to follow Christ, wherever He leads.


Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion; that they may forsake those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; 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.

10 May 2019

Mary's month...


The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We set the month apart by presenting flowers and crowning her. We also sing special hymns and anthems which honour her throughout the month. The practice of dedicating the month of May to our Lady was popularized especially by Pope Leo XIII in the latter part of the 19th century, but the idea goes back to ancient times.

In classic western culture (both Greek and Roman), May was recognized as the season of the beginning of new life. In the Greek world, May was dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and although that cult was riddled through and through with immoral practices, it did establish a relationship for the month of May with fertility and motherhood. Roman culture linked the month of May to Flora, the goddess of bloom and blossoms, and this led to the custom of "ludi florales" (or floral games) which took place at the very end of April as a preparation for entering into the month of May.

It seems that this ancient tradition of connecting May with new life and fertility, led to a realization that May is very much the month of motherhood and likely is one of the reasons why Mother’s Day is celebrated during May not only in the United States but in many countries and cultures of both the East and the West. In the month of May, the winter comes to an end and the spring season begins. In fact the month of May was the official beginning of spring in Roman culture.

The connection between motherhood and May led the Church eventually to adopt May as Mary’s Month. May is the Month of our Lady precisely because she is the Mother of God and our mother, too.

St. Damien of Molokai


In the year 1840, Joseph De Veuster was born in Belgium, to a large family of farmers and merchants.  This was the future Father Damien.  When his oldest brother entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, his father planned that Joseph should take charge of the family business. Joseph, however, decided to become a religious.  When he was nineteen he entered the novitiate in the same house as his brother. It was there that he took the name of Damien.

In 1863, Damien’s brother was supposed to leave for the mission in the Hawaiian Islands, but he became seriously ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother's place. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19th, 1864, where he was ordained to the priesthood the following May 21st. He immediately devoted himself as a travelling missionary on the island of Hawaii.

At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on a very harsh measure which they thought would stop the spread of the dreaded disease of leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. It was decided that anyone who contracted this disease would be taken to the neighboring island of Molokai, where they would have to stay for the rest of their lives. The Catholic Church was deeply concerned about these abandoned lepers and the Bishop spoke to the priests about the problem. He didn’t want to send anyone "in the name of obedience," because he knew that whoever went would probably contract the disease. Four of the priests volunteered, and they would take turns visiting and ministering to the lepers. Fr. Damien was the first to leave, and at his own request and that of the lepers, he remained permanently on Molokai.

He brought hope to this place of despair. He became a source of consolation and encouragement for the lepers.  He became their pastor, the doctor of their souls and of their bodies, without any distinction of race or religion. He gave a voice to the voiceless, he built a community where the joy of being together and openness to the love of God gave people new reasons for living.  He saw the beauty and dignity of each person, no matter how deformed and grotesque their outward appearance.

After Father Damien contracted the disease in 1885, he was able to identify completely with them.  He spoke of "we lepers…" Father Damien was, above all, a witness of the love of God for His people. He got his strength from the Eucharist: "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation..." He said that he was "the happiest missionary in the world.”

Fr. Damian served for sixteen years among the lepers, and died on April 15th 1889.

O Father of mercy, who gavest us in Saint Damien a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned: grant that, by his intercession; as faithful witnesses of the heart of thy Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected; 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 May 2019

The English Martyrs


The English Martyrs include 284 men and women who gave their lives during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were martyred simply because they remained steadfast in their Catholic faith. What had happened?

King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects not only in civil matters, but also in spiritual things. He took to himself a spiritual power that can belong only to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter. The Catholics at that time wanted to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but their consciences could not allow them to grant the power of spiritual supremacy. It is as though, in the United States, the president and Congress took upon themselves the power to determine what we as Catholics believe, and how we worship. We could not allow Congress to pass laws that changed the Church’s teaching about the Mass, or what we believe about God. But this was what had happened in England and Wales. This was what led many people to face death courageously rather than act against their consciences and deny their Catholic faith.

This firm attitude in defense of their freedom of conscience and of their faith in the truth of the Holy Catholic Church is identical in all these Martyrs, although they were a diverse group of people – priests, religious, laymen, housewives and mothers, some highly educated, some very simple laborers. But they all shared the same faith, and the same determination to keep that faith – and for that, they were put to death. And this persecution was not only under Henry VIII, but it continued under Elizabeth I and her successors, all the way into the Commonwealth under Cromwell.

The torments they endured were horrible. Most of them were killed in extremely violent ways – the priests, for instance, were hanged, drawn and quartered. Others were tortured for long periods of time before their deaths. But every one of them remained steadfast in their Catholic faith, and they died praying for their executioners, and even praying for the monarch who had ordered their deaths.

O Merciful God, who, when thy Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, didst raise up men and women in England who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: give unto thy Church that peace which is thy will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven and be partakers together in the vision of thy glory; 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.

02 May 2019

St. Philip and St. James, Apostles


St. Philip was born in Bethsaida, Galilee. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist and is mentioned as one of the Apostles in the lists of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and in Acts. Aside from the lists, he is mentioned only in John’s Gospel in the New Testament. He was called by Jesus Himself and brought Nathanael to Christ. Philip was present at the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when he engaged in a brief dialogue with the Lord, and was the Apostle approached by the Hellenistic Jews from Bethsaida to introduce them to Jesus. Just before the Passion, Jesus answered Philip's request to show them the Father, but no further mention of Philip is made in the New Testament beyond his listing among the Apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. According to tradition he preached in Greece and was crucified upside down at Hierapolis under Emperor Domitian.

St. James the Less, the author of the first catholic Epistle (that is, addressed to the Church generally), was the son of Alphaeus (also known as Cleophas). His mother Mary was either a sister or a close relative of the Blessed Virgin, and for that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of the Lord. The Apostle held a distinguished position in the early Christian community of Jerusalem. St. Paul tells us he was a witness of the Resurrection of Christ; he is also a "pillar" of the Church, whom St. Paul consulted about the Gospel. According to tradition, he was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and was at the Council of Jerusalem about the year 50. St. James was martyred for the Faith by the Jews in the Spring of the year 62. He was held in great respect by everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, which earned him the of "James the Just."

O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; 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 May 2019

St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor


St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Catholic Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under Alexander, who became the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius made great progress in learning and virtue, eventually going into the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony.

In 319, Athanasius became a deacon, and as a young cleric, he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy being put forth by Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius.

In 325, he assisted his bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326.

His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373.

Everliving God, whose servant Saint Athanasius bore witness to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation: give us grace, with all thy Saints, to contend for the truth and to grow into the likeness 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.

30 April 2019

St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker
Statue in the Sacristy
Our Lady of the Atonement Church

The commemoration of St. Joseph the Worker falls on the first day of the month that is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was fixed in the calendar by Pope Pius XII in 1955. The pope expressed the hope that this feast would accentuate the dignity of labour and would bring a spiritual dimension to the work we do.

The teaching of the Church reaches back into the Old Testament, when we read in the Book of Genesis that God created man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend to it. From that time, God, who is the creator and ruler of the universe, has called men and women in every age to develop and use their talents for the good of others, and as a way of sharing in the creative work of God. In every kind of labour we are to remember that we are obeying the command of God to use our talents, and to receive the fruit of our labours. Our work allows us to provide for our own needs, and for the needs of those for whom we are responsible. It also allows us to show proper charity towards those who are in need.

The Church asks us to look to St. Joseph on this day, and follow his example of work, by which he showed his love and responsibility for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the Child Jesus. St. Joseph shows the dignity of work – and whether it is manual work, or any other kind of work, we are to do it in a spirit of cooperation with God, and as an offering to Him. Any task, well done, is an offering to God – when we work, we should see it as a work done for God, and it is part of what shows that we are created in His image. In creation itself, God worked for six days, and rested the seventh. So in our own lives, we are to keep that balance between using our energy for work, and then out of respect for our minds and bodies, give a day for our spiritual and physical renewal.

Holy Joseph, Intercessor
Unto thee God’s children sing;
Be our Patron and Protector,
To God’s throne our praises bring.

Faithful Spouse of faithful Virgin,
Lover of God’s purity;
From thy worthy place in heaven,
Pray that we may faithful be.

Guardian of the Word Incarnate,
Silent guide of God’s own Son;
Guard our hearts and lead us onward
To the life that Christ has won.

Humble man in lofty station,
God has shed His grace on thee;
Pray such grace to us be given,
That we live eternally.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life learned from Saint Joseph to share our toil, and thus hallowed our labour: Be present with thy people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of the world responsive to thy will; and give us all a pride in what we do and a just return for our labour; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

29 April 2019

"...a man of the Pharisees..."


There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

- St. John 3:1-8

Eucharistic miracle in Siena


In observing the feast of St. Catherine, my thoughts have gone back to the many pilgrimages to Italy we've made over the years, and we have gone frequently to the wonderful city of Siena on our way from Assisi back to Rome.  Not only is Siena a center of devotion to St. Catherine and St. Bernardine, but there is a Eucharistic miracle there.  We've often celebrated Mass in the chapel where the miraculous Hosts are reserved, and on more than one occasion I have had the privilege of giving Benediction with these Hosts.  To read an article about this miracle, go here.

28 April 2019

St. Catherine of Siena


St. Catherine was born in Siena in the year 1347, and she was the last of 25 children born to her parents. Her father was a wealthy man in the business of dying wool. From her earliest life, Catherine was a different kind of child, spiritually sensitive, and being part of such a large family, she liked to find times when she could be alone with God. It was at the age of six that she had some sort of vision near the Church of San Domenico in Siena. From that moment onward, she followed an even stricter path of devotion, and when she was only seven, she dedicated herself to Christ, taking a private and internal vow that she would never marry, but would live only to serve God.

She wanted very much to dedicate herself to Religious life, and although her parents initially resisted the idea, eventually her father gave in and allowed Catherine to follow whatever she felt God was calling her to do. In 1363, when she was just 15 years old, Catherine became a Dominican Tertiary, and wore the black cloak which designated her as a Dominican sister. She began to increase her charitable work, and spent a great deal of her time in a nearby hospital, caring for the sick.

Throughout this time she became known as someone who gave excellent spiritual guidance, as more and more people came to her, or wrote to her, for spiritual advice. In fact, she became well-known throughout the Church as a devout and gifted spiritual guide, and even as a mystic. It was during a visit to the city of Pisa that she received the stigmata in the presence of a crucifix hanging in the Church of Santa Cristina. As her spiritual fame grew, she was even asked to travel to different countries to act as a mediator for the papacy, which was at that time in exile at Avignon in France. She was very strong in voicing her opinion to Pope Gregory that he needed to bring the Papal Court back to Rome, and unify the Church. When the terrible situation arose with the false election of a second Pope, leading the Church to the edge of schism, she was instrumental in restoring the true Pope to his rightful place.

In the year 1380, when she was just 33 years old, St. Catherine died. She was eventually proclaimed to be a saint, and along with St. Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Siena was proclaimed to be patron saint of Italy. Pope Paul VI conferred on her the title of Doctor of the Universal Church, and in 1999 she was proclaimed co-patron saint of Europe by Pope St. John Paul II.

O Merciful God, who gavest to thy servant Saint Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the Passion of Christ: grant that, through her prayers; we thy people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

26 April 2019

Divine Mercy


DIVINE MERCY
28 April 2019

Vigil Mass will be offered Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
and on Sunday at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.

DIVINE MERCY DEVOTIONS 3:00 p.m.

______________


On DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY, a plenary indulgence, is granted to the Faithful under the usual conditions:

1.     Sacramental confession (within about 20 days before or after);
2.     Reception of Holy Communion;
3.     Prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff (Our Father and Hail Mary).

and who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin:

1.     either take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy,

or

2.     who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!").


You may obtain the plenary indulgence for yourself, or it may be applied to the soul of one who is departed, but it cannot be obtained for another person still living.

25 April 2019

Friday in the Easter Octave


After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

-John 21:1-14

O God, who hast united the diversity of nations in the confession of thy Name: grant that they who are born again in the font of Baptism, may be of one mind in faith and in godliness of 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.

24 April 2019

Happy memories...

Forty-three years ago on April 24th, when I was a young man of twenty-six, I was ordained as an Anglican priest in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Providence, Rhode Island. I had been serving as a Deacon in St. Stephen’s Southmead, in Bristol, England, and would continue serving there as assistant curate. So that our families could be present, JoAnn and I, along with our infant daughter, made the journey to America for the occasion.

It was a grand affair. St. Stephen’s in Providence was known as “Smokey Steve’s,” and not without reason. Smack dab in the middle of the Brown University campus, it was (in those days) one of those wonderful Anglo-catholic ghettos, where those who went to “hear Mass” imagined that the whole world lived by the rubrics of the English Missal and sang from The English Hymnal, a world where the Thirty-nine Articles had more to do with the number of buttons on Father’s cassock than with the detestable enormities of Rome.

April 24th was a perfect spring day that year. Cliché as it sounds, it really did feel like the first day of the rest of my life. Little did I know what a fatal fall was waiting for the Episcopal Church – or maybe I just didn’t want to see it. But I do thank God for that day, forty-three years ago. It opened the door for my vocation to the Catholic priesthood, a gift that still astonishes me.

22 April 2019

Tuesday in the Easter Octave


Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

- St. John 20:11-18


O God, who by the glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; 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.

The Paschal Sacrifice


Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.
Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
- I Cor. 5:6b-8

Yeast (leaven) makes bread rise, but it is a kind of bacterium, so it also corrupts, and as St. Paul says, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” St. Paul’s point is that one sin can spoil the whole person, and even the wider community, both within and as seen by others.

The only way to assure that there is no corruption is to become a fresh batch of dough. Through baptism, we are unleavened – the stain of original sin is washed away, and we’re given grace to enable us to avoid sin. Through our baptismal consecration, we have been made a holy people, a people set apart for God. Because of that, we must constantly strive to become what God intends us to be, which means that we are to eliminate those corrupting influences which compromise the integrity of the consecration which took place at our baptism.

And what has made us “unleavened”? We are unleavened – we are like a fresh batch of dough – because the true paschal lamb, Jesus Christ, has been sacrificed. In the old rites during Passover the lambs were sacrificed, and St. Paul reminds us that in Christ’s death and resurrection, He is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover.

In fact, Jesus – the true Passover Lamb – is the perfection of the sacrificing of the lambs in the temple at Passover. The lambs which were sacrificed in the Temple were only a reminder that the time had come for the Jews to clean out all leaven from their homes; the sacrificing of the lambs did not actually accomplish the cleansing of the leaven. But the sacrifice of Christ the true Passover Lamb actually casts out the leaven – the corruption of sin – and makes us “a new creation.” By His sacrifice we are made into a kind of pure, unleavened bread, ready to serve Christ in this world, and finally to be with Him in heaven.

Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits 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.

21 April 2019

Monday in the Easter Octave


So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, "Tell people, `His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

- St. Matthew 28:8-15

O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith; that we may behold thee in all thy works; 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.

An Easter Hymn


God our Father, Lord of glory,
Thanks and praise we give to Thee;
In Thy mercy to our fathers,
Thou didst bring them through the sea.
So by water hast Thou saved us,
|: Now from Adam's sin set free. :|

Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour,
Of Thy sacrifice we sing;
As the lamb in ancient myst'ry
To Thy people life didst bring,
So in Eucharistic glory,
|: Thou, God's Lamb, art made our King. :|

Holy Spirit, Breath from heaven,
We Thy precious gifts embrace;
At creation all things living
Thou didst sanctify with grace.
So may we, creation's glory,
|: Be for Thee a dwelling place. :|

Loving mercy of the Father,
Sacrifice of Christ the Son,
Quick'ning power of the Spirit:
In us let Thy work be done!
May we rise to life eternal,
|: That our Paschal joy be won. :|

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips
Tune: Cwm Rhondda, John Hughes (1907)

20 April 2019

Easter Day

Offering Mass in the Tomb of Our Lord.

Our celebration of Easter tends to surround us with familiar things. We have commemorated all the events of Holy Week, and when we come to the Easter celebration, we know what to expect – the music, the flowers, the order of the Mass, even the sermon has the ring of the familiar.

That was not so for St. Mary Magdalene, as she made her sad journey to the tomb on that first Easter morning. She had kept watch with the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the cross on Friday afternoon. She had seen the lifeless body of Jesus placed in the arms of His Mother, and she knew He was dead. She had helped to make the hasty burial preparations, and now she was returning to finish what she thought would be her last act of love towards her Master. But it was then that things seemed to be disoriented, and not as she expected.

When Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb in the semi-darkness, what she saw was very disturbing. The massive stone had been rolled away from the opening, the entrance to the tomb was wide open, and she knew things were not the way they should be. Her first thought? Grave robbers! In fact, those were the first anguished words from her mouth when she ran back to tell the disciples, Peter and John. "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him!"

We can understand her panic and her grief. First they had crucified her Master. Now they had stolen His body – the body to which she had planned to give her final loving care. As soon as she tells them, Peter and John both run to the tomb.

John is faster; Peter is braver. John takes a tentative peek inside and sees the strips of burial linens. He hesitates. But Peter, never one to hesitate over anything, heads directly into the tomb. He sees the burial linens along with the cloth that covered Jesus' head. But something is strange here, out of the ordinary. Everything is neat and in order. The head cloth is folded up by itself, separate from the shroud. Whoever did this was not in much of a hurry. The grave-clothes are exactly as there were on Christ’s body, completely undisturbed. Whatever had happened, it was obvious that this was hardly the work of grave robbers.

John finally gathers up enough courage to go inside the tomb to take a good look for himself. And he records this solemn sentence about his own reaction: "He saw and he believed." He saw the empty tomb and the undisturbed linens, and he believed Jesus' word that He would rise from the dead on the third day. He saw and he believed. That’s where we get the phrase, “Seeing is believing.”

But we should understand that seeing is not necessarily believing. And conversely, believing does not necessarily involve seeing. When it comes to our faith, “seeing” puts the evidence before the eyes, but “believing” is trusting that Jesus is true to His word. It is quite possible to see and not believe.

The Pharisees saw with their own eyes the miracles Jesus performed, but they did not believe. Peter saw the same things in the tomb that John did, but Peter did not believe at first. Later that week, another apostle, St. Thomas said, "Unless I see His wounds and touch them, I will not believe."

It was not just what John saw, but it was also what Jesus had said, which led John to believe. And Jesus prepared us for the fact that it is possible to not see and yet believe, when He said to St. Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." That’s a direct reference to us. And St. John emphasizes this point when he writes, "They did not yet know from the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead."

Jesus would soon open their minds to see from the Scriptures that Christ must suffer and on the third day rise. That is why He gave them an empty tomb and undisturbed linens. It was to preach to them on that first Easter morning. They were not yet able to get it from the Scriptures, because it is later, near the end of his Gospel, that St. John writes, "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."

We do not see what those disciples saw on that first morning. In fact, we cannot see what they saw. The original sites are there, and we can visit them as places of prayer and devotion, but things no longer look as they did. If we travel to Jerusalem and visit the very site of the resurrection, the only reason we know it is the place is because others have told us that it is. There is nothing there now that would let us know what had happened.

Sometimes we might be tempted to think that it would have been easier to believe all this back then, at the time of Mary Magdalene, and Peter, and John. They were eyewitnesses to all that surrounded Jesus' death and resurrection. They saw all of this with their own eyes. Sometimes it seems as though it would be so much easier, if we could just see “with our own eyes!” Just to be able to peek into the open, empty tomb to glance at the linen burial cloths, maybe a glimpse of a bright angel or two, and a look at the face of the resurrected Jesus. It would be so easy for us to believe if only we could see, or at least we imagine it would be.

But the written record handed down to us tells us differently. Seeing is not necessarily believing. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus with her own eyes and she thought He was the gardener. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus saw Jesus; in fact, they walked and talked with Him for seven miles, but they didn’t recognize him until He broke the bread at the table with them. Seeing is not necessarily believing.

Look around at the people of any Catholic parish. There is little visible evidence to tell the world that it is a gathering of holy people, cleansed and claimed by the blood of Christ. But God has declared that it is so – and He expects us to live in such a way that this fact becomes evident to the world.

The next time you hear someone say, “Seeing is believing,” don’t accept that. It simply isn’t true. If we follow only what we see, we will end up racing from one tomb to the next, from one church to the next, from one preacher to the next, perhaps even from one religion to the next, – always searching for something that we can see with our eyes, but coming up empty. We will end up as Mary Magdalene started out on that first Easter morning when she said, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they have put him."

As believers and members of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, we do know where Jesus is. First of all, we know He is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, restored to His place of eternal glory. But we also know that He is in the midst of His Church, which is the living Body of Christ. And we know this: the same crucified and risen Jesus, who defeated death and crushed the head of Satan, and whom Mary saw in the garden that morning, is located in the tabernacle of every Catholic church, hidden yet really present, unseen yet truly and objectively with us. He calls each of us by name from the waters of baptism, making us new creatures by the power of His death and resurrection. We are buried in Him and He is buried in us. When we receive Holy Communion, He buries His crucified body and blood in us, and He remakes us by giving us new life. He could not be any clearer about it: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise Him up on the Last Day."

Jesus gave His life so that we could have eternal life.

When we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we are also claiming the promise of the resurrection of our own bodies on the Last Day. In rising from the dead, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the Last Day of the old creation on this day, which is the first day of the new creation. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty and orderly. Death has been swallowed up in victory. The disorder and darkness of death has been reordered by the Light of Christ. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Jesus Christ is risen, and in Him, we too will rise in glory.

19 April 2019

Holy Saturday


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; 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.


Stone of the Anointing
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem