25 July 2017

Ss. Joachim and Anne


According to tradition, St. Joachim and St. Anne have come to us as being the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. They are not named in the Scriptures, but this tradition dates back to the early years of the Church, as does the story which tells us that after many years of not having a child, an angel appeared to them and told them that God would be granting them this blessing.  They had prayed for a child, and part of their prayer was the promise that they would dedicate their child to the service of God. Little did they know at that time what great service would be given by their infant daughter.

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

St. Joachim and St. Anne returned to their home, but the Handmaid of the Lord remained in the Temple until her espousal, where she was prepared by God.  As the grandparents of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they serve as examples and intercessors for all parents and grandparents.

O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy lovingkindness; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 July 2017

St. James the Greater

Santiago de Compostela, hanging at the entrance to the Lady Chapel


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

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

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

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

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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. Pope Paul VI beatified Sharbel in 1965, and canonized him 12 years later.

O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Sharbel Makhluf, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 July 2017

St. Mary Magdalene


St. Mary Magdalene -- a woman of mystery!  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. Pope St. Gregory writes about it:


When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed 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; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells 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. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.


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.

20 July 2017

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 2017

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 2017

Fr. Peter J. Scagnelli, 1949-2017


A good friend and brother priest, Fr. Peter J. Scagnelli, died this past Wednesday. This is a picture of him when I was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. The ceremony called for a priest to present the one to be ordained to the bishop, and he did that for me.

It was just a year ago that God gave me the overwhelming feeling that I should go to Massachusetts and visit him. Although we kept in constant touch by telephone and text, we hadn't actually seen one another in several years. It was a wonderful visit. We had three days together, and although conversation was difficult because of his illness, we knew exactly what we were wanting to say. We shared old times, and we talked about God and about how good He has been to both of us. We prayed together, and I offered Mass in his little chapel.

As I looked at him sitting in his chair, with his precious companion Rex (a Siamese cat) by his side, he looked physically frail but I knew him to be a spiritual giant whom God had used to change my life.  When it was time for me to leave he stood on the porch and made the sign of the cross in my direction.  We both knew it was the last time we would see one another in this life.

I'm not exactly certain about the finer details of how the cleansing of purgatory works, but I'm thinking that he won't need much more than a quick brush-up, and he'll be good to go. It was a brain tumor that took him, and the suffering he endured was unimaginable to me. I don't mean the physical suffering so much, but the distress of having a brilliant mind and being unable to put into words what he wanted to say. It must have been terrible for him.

I have often recounted the story of how we first met:

I was a young Episcopal cleric just returned to Rhode Island from a stint of serving in the Anglican Diocese of Bristol, England. The parish I had come to was middle-to-high: vestments, occasional incense, a few statues strategically placed.

There was a parishioner who wanted us to have a new statue of St. Joseph. The old statue was small and not in terribly good shape. I was deputized to find a new one, but there were a couple of requirements. It had to be two feet tall and it had to be cheap. The only solution was to go to a local religious goods store and look for something that might look half-way acceptable if the lights were dim.

I found one. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was acceptable. “Wrap it up and I’ll take it,” I told the clerk. “Sorry, sir, but this is the last one and we don’t have a box for it,” was the reply. A dilemma. I was driving a Volkswagen, and the back seat was already fairly full with a child’s car seat and other assorted items. The only option I could see was to stand it up in the passenger’s seat and strap the seat belt around it, which I did.

I was just closing the passenger door. St. Joseph was safely strapped in, facing ram-rod straight ahead. I heard a voice behind me. “You might want to let him drive.” I turned around to see a young priest about my age, with a grin on his face. We exchanged quips about the statue with the seat belt, and then began to chat about other things. We quickly discovered that my Episcopal parish and his Catholic parish were located fairly close to one another. We seemed to click, we made lunch plans, and one of the most important friendships of my life began.

We got together regularly to talk. It didn’t take long for our discussions to turn into question and answer sessions – me asking the questions, and him giving the answers. I wanted to know about the Catholic faith. And he told me. He was always gentle in his answers, but he never watered down the truth. Even if the issue was a difficult one, he always told me what the Church teaches. I was grateful for that. I would have resented it if I had discovered that he was tailoring what he said to make it fit what he might have thought I wanted to hear. I learned Catholic truth, and when it was presented to me in its fullness and in its beauty, I knew I had to embrace it. I believed it completely.

How grateful I am to St. Joseph. Without saying a word, he helped bring me into the Catholic Church by introducing me to a faithful Catholic priest. The statue may not have been very beautiful, but everything else in the story is.


As I said, he died last Wednesday. That's the day of the week traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph, patron of a holy death. We always remembered that it was St. Joseph who had brought us together as friends and eventually as brother priests.

So it was a good day for him to die, and it was a good day for him to be born into eternal life.

16 July 2017

"Lantern of the Lothians"

One of the truly beautiful hymn tunes in the Church’s treasury is David Evans’ “Lucerna Laudoniae.” The name of the tune means “Lantern of the Lothians,” which was a Franciscan monastery at Haddington, East Lothian in Scotland. The monastery was destroyed in 1355, but in the fifteenth-century a church was built on the site – and it is now immortalized by this simple and dignified hymn tune.

There are several texts which have made use of the tune, perhaps the most famous being “For the beauty of the earth.” Some years ago I wrote the following words specifically for the tune.

Jesus Christ, our Saviour King,
unto thee thy people sing;
hear the prayers we humbly make,
hear them for thy mercy’s sake.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls, and make us thine.

Give us eyes that we may see;
give us hearts to worship thee;
give us ears that we may hear;
in thy love, Lord, draw us near.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In our darkness, shed thy light;
lift us to thy heav’nly height;
may we be thy dwelling-place,
tabernacles of thy grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In thy Kingdom grant us rest,
in Jerusalem the blest;
with the saints our lips shall sing,
with the angels echoing:
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
thou dost reign, and we are thine!


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips (1990)
Music: “Lucerna Laudoniae”

14 July 2017

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure is 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 honor 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.

13 July 2017

St. Kateri Tekakwitha


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

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

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

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

O God, who didst desire the Virgin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence: grant, through her intercession; that when all are gathered into thy Church from every nation, tribe, and tongue, they may magnify thee in a single canticle of praise; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 July 2017

St. Henry of Bavaria


St. Henry (973–1024) is a patron saint for those who are childless.  He was known also as Henry the Lame, and for that reason he is also counted as a patron saint for the disabled and handicapped.  Here's his story:
Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St. Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his see.

Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defense a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptized, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St. Cunigund, a virgin to her family.

He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odor of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity. At length his life's work was accomplished, and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify His servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the saints. 
- from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

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.

When small means big...


One of Christ’s best-known descriptions of the Kingdom of God likens it to a mustard seed, which, although among the smallest of seeds, grows up into a mighty shrub.  Not only is it an apt picture of the Kingdom, but it is well-suited to describe the actions of our own lives as Christians.  We may never know the wider ramifications of some small word or deed, how it might be just the catalyst for a dramatic change in someone's life.  God often uses a small action or a quiet word of encouragement to accomplish a great thing.



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10 July 2017

St. Benedict of Nursia

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

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

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

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

O Eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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

08 July 2017

Our Patronal Solemnity


July 9th is the Patronal Solemnity of Our Lady of the Atonement. The Mass schedule will be as usual: 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. (all Divine Worship Missal) and 6:00 p.m. (Latin, Ordinary Form).

The Collect:

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.

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.

Fr. Paul of Graymoor wrote these words about the title in 1919:

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.


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.

05 July 2017

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, and 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 2017

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.

America and Natural Law


“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As we celebrate once again the anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, we should take pride in those words. They can be interpreted in only one way – although they have been misinterpreted in innumerable ways – and that one way is in the light of Natural Law. To borrow the language of the Declaration of Independence, Natural Law stems from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The American Founders believed this. They followed it. We cannot understand our nation without understanding this. These words remind those in government, not just in this country but in all nations, of the limits of their power, a moral boundary that must never be violated if the government is to retain its legitimacy. The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God are the permanent things, the first things, the fixed order knowable by reason and observable by the rules of nature and nature’s God. Natural law is superior to, and precedes, political and governmental institutions.

For instance, the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — is a universally recognized ethic. It is referred to as the Golden Rule because it is universally true and just. That’s why to own and enslave someone, or purposely to maim or to kill innocent human life is always wrong because it is always wrong — we know it, we feel it — no matter what a majority of legislators or jurists say. There’s something in our heart, even in our gut, that knows certain things are right and certain things are wrong – that is the effect of natural law, or we could even say, it is the image of God in which we are all created.

That’s why our celebration today is so important – it’s doesn’t celebrate those times when our nation has diverged from its founding principles. No, we celebrate the fact that our nation is the only one on earth which is founded upon Natural Law – the “laws of nature and of Nature’s God.”

03 July 2017

A Prayer For Our Country


ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

29 June 2017

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.

28 June 2017

Novena to Our Lady of the Atonement


The feast day of Our Lady of the Atonement is on July 9th, with the Novena beginning on June 30th. 

The Novena to Our Lady of the Atonement

To take part in the Novena:

On each day, if possible, assist at Holy Mass, and go to Confession and Communion at least once during the Novena. The following prayers are recommended to be said daily:

ONE DECADE OF THE ROSARY
(One Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory be.)

MEMORARE OF ST. BERNARD
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

THE THREE-FOLD SALUTATION

We salute thee, Holy Mary, Daughter of God the Father, and entreat thee to obtain for us a devotion like thine own to the most sweet Will of God.

We salute thee, Virgin Mother of God the Son, and entreat thee to obtain for us such union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that our own hearts may burn with love for God and an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls.

We salute thee, Immaculate Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, and entreat thee to obtain for us such yielding of ourselves to the Blessed Spirit, that He may, in all things, direct and rule our hearts, and that we may never grieve Him in thought, word, or deed.

THE LITANY
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, 
have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy upon us.

Our Lady of the Atonement, Daughter of God the Father, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of God the Son, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, standing by the Cross, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, given to us as a Mother, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, our Mediatrix, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, firm Hope, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, sure Refuge, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Divine Love, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Shepherdess of the wandering sheep, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, pillar of Unity, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Conversions, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of the outcast, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Star of the pagans, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of missionaries, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother most sorrowful, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Lily of Israel, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Model of resignation, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Haven of peace, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Comfort of the afflicted, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Guide of the doubtful, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Welcomer of the pilgrims, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Handmaid of the Father, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mirror of the Son, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Precious Blood, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, true Model, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, strong Protectress, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, hailed by the Archangel Gabriel, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Splendor of Heaven, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Delight of the Saints, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Strength of the weak, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Comfort of the dying, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, triumphant with Jesus, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Universe, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Children of the Atonement, pray for us.


Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
Pray for us, O Blessed Mother;
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. O God, who didst deign that we, thy children, shouldst invoke our Mother Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement; grant that through her powerful intercession we may obtain the fullness of thy blessings; through thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Holy Apostles, Ss. Peter and Paul

Ss. Peter and Paul by Bartolomeo Vivarini


"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 labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith."

St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 295

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 2017

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.

St. Cyril of Alexandria


Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:

St. Cyril is one of the great Greek fathers of the Church. He was chosen by divine Providence to be the shield and champion of the Church against Nestorius, who denied the unity of person in Christ. If this heresy had succeeded, Mary would not be called the Mother of God.

Excepting Sts. Athanasius and Augustine, his equal as a defender of orthodoxy, can hardly be found in the Church's history. His greatest achievement was the successful direction of the ecumenical council at Ephesus (431), of which he was the soul (Pope Celestine had appointed him papal legate). In this council two important dogmas were defined – that there is but one person in Christ, and that Mary (in the literal sense of the word) can be called the Mother of God (Theotokos). His successful defense of the latter doctrine is his greatest title to honor.

His writings show such depth and clarity that the Greeks called him the "seal of the fathers." He died in 444 A.D., after having been bishop for thirty-two years.

O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; 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.

23 June 2017

Nativity of St. John the Baptist


St. John the Baptist was a contemporary of our Lord who was known for preparing the way for Jesus Christ, and for baptizing Him. John was born through an act of God to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was otherwise too old to bear children. According to the scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John. Zachariah was skeptical and for this he was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will.

The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ praised St. John the Baptist so highly, saying that among those born of women there was none greater, encouraged a special veneration, and so we find a regular cycle of feasts in his honour among the early Christian churches.

It was the firm belief among the faithful from the time of the early Church that John was freed from original sin at the moment when his mother met the Blessed Virgin, when the child "leaped in the womb" of St. Elizabeth. Saint Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church, establishing that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" and, therefore, was born without original sin. Accordingly, the Church celebrates his natural birth by a festival of his "nativity," assigned some six months before the nativity of Christ, since John was six months older than the Lord.

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; 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.

22 June 2017

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: Grant that the devout homage of our hearts, which we render unto Him; may by thy mercy be deemed a recompense, acceptable in thy sight; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee;
on earth thou art an exile’s rest,
in heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
thou fount of contrite tears:
where’er those living waters flow,
new life to sinners they bestow,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
our trust is all in thee,
for though earth’s night be dark and drear,
thou breathest rest where thou art near,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
when shades of death shall fall,
receive us ‘neath thy gentle care,
and save us from the tempter’s snare,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
lead exiled children home,
where we may ever rest near thee,
in peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart.

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More


St. Thomas More was born in London, England and was Chancellor of King Henry VIII. As a family man and a public servant, his life was a rare synthesis of human sensitivity and Christian wisdom.

St. John Fisher studied Theology in Cambridge and became Bishop of Rochester. His friend, Thomas More, wrote of him, 'I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him.' He and his friend St. Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of Marriage.

On the morning of 19 May 1935 in St. Peter's Basilica, this Solemn Proclamation was made by Pope Pius XI:

"In honour of the Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after mature deliberation and imploring the divine assistance, by the advice of our Venerable Brethen the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops present in the city, We decree and define as Saints, and inscribe in the Catalogue of the Saints, Blessed John Fisher and Thomas More, and that their memory shall be celebrated in the Universal Church on the anniversaries of their heavenly birth."

Although St. Thomas More was martyred on 1 July, two weeks after St. John Fisher, their respective feast days have been joined together and are celebrated on 22 June.

O God, who didst raise up amongst the English people thy blessed Martyrs John and Thomas to be defenders of the faith and to witness to the primacy of the Roman Church: grant by their merits and prayers; that in the profession of one faith we may all be made one in Christ, and in him continue to be at one with one another; 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 June 2017

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


The time and place where Aloysius Gonzaga grew up - 16th-century Italy - was not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a kill-joy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left.

Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself.

Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a program he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director, St. Robert Bellarmine, to guide him.

Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervor was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint.

To his credit, Aloysius recognized that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, "I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight."

Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old.

In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St. Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace.

- Excerpted from "Saints for Every Occasion," by Thomas J. Craughwell

O God, the giver of all spiritual gifts, who in the angelic youth of thy blessed Saint Aloysius didst unite a wondrous penitence to a wondrous innocence of life: grant, by his merits and intercession; that although we have not followed the pattern of his innocence, yet we may imitate the example of his penitence; 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 June 2017

St. Alban, Protomartyr of Britain


THE STORY OF SAINT ALBAN
as recounted in the
Ecclesiastical History of the English People
by the Venerable Bede [672 - 735]

During this persecution St. Alban Suffered. Fortunatus in his Praise of the Virgins, in which he mentions the blessed martyrs, who came to the Lord from every quarter of the globe, calls him 'Illustrious Alban, fruitful Britain's child.'

When infidel rulers were issuing violent edicts against the Christians, Alban, though still a heathen at the time, gave hospitality to a certain cleric who was fleeing from his persecutors. When Alban saw this man occupied day and night in continual vigils and prayers, divine grace suddenly shone upon him and he learned to imitate his guest's faith and devotion. Instructed little by little by his teaching about salvation, Alban forsook the darkness of idolatry and became a wholehearted Christian. When this cleric had been staying with him for some days, it came to the ears of the evil ruler that a man who confessed Christ, though not yet destined to be a martyr, was hiding in Alban's house. He at once ordered his soldiers to make a thorough search for him there. When they came to the martyr's dwelling, St. Alban at once offered himself to the soldiers in place of his guest and teacher, and so, having put on the garment, that is to say the cloak, which the cleric was wearing, he was brought in bonds to the judge.

Now it happened that, when Alban was brought in to him, the judge was standing before the devils' altars and offering sacrifices to them. Seeing Alban, he immediately flew into a rage because this man of his own accord had dared to give himself up to the soldiers and to run so great a risk on behalf of the guest whom he had harboured. He ordered Alban to be dragged before the images of the devils in front of which he was standing and said, 'You have chosen to conceal a profane rebel rather than surrender him to my soldiers, to prevent him from paying a well-deserved penalty for his blasphemy in despising the gods; so you will have to take the punishment he has incurred if you attempt to forsake our worship and religion.' St. Alban had of his own accord declared himself a Christian before the enemies of the faith, and was not at all afraid of the ruler's threats; arming himself for spiritual warfare, he openly refused to obey these commands. The judge said to him, 'What is your family and race?' Alban answered, 'What concern is it of yours to know my parentage? If you wish to hear the truth about my religion, know that I am now a Christian and am ready to do a Christian's duty.' The judge said, 'I insist on knowing your name, so tell me at once.' The man said, 'My parents call me Alban and I shall ever adore and worship the true and living God who created all things.' The judge answered very angrily, 'If you wish to enjoy the happiness of everlasting life, you must sacrifice at once to the mighty gods.' Alban answered, 'The sacrifices which you offer to devils cannot help their votaries nor fulfill the desires and petitions of their suppliants. On the contrary, he who has offered sacrifices to these images will receive eternal punishment in hell as his reward.' When the judge heard this he was greatly incensed and ordered the holy confessor of God to be beaten by the torturers, thinking that he could weaken by blows that constancy of heart which he could not affect by words. Alban, though he was subjected to the most cruel tortures, bore them patiently and even joyfully for the Lord's sake. So when the judge perceived that he was not to be overcome by tortures nor turned from the Christian faith, he ordered him to be executed.

As he was being led to his execution, he came to a rapid river whose stream ran between the town wall and the arena where he was to suffer. He saw there a great crowd of people of both sexes and of every age and rank, who had been led (doubtless by divine inspiration) to follow the blessed confessor and martyr. They packed the bridge over the river so tightly that he could hardly have crossed it that evening. In fact almost everyone had gone out so that the judge was left behind in the city without any attendants at all. St. Alban, whose ardent desire it was to achieve his martyrdom as soon as possible, came to the torrent and raised his eyes towards heaven. Thereupon the river-bed dried up at that very spot and he saw the waters give way and provide a path for him to walk in. The executioner who was to have put him to death was among those who saw this. Moved by a divine prompting, he hastened to meet the saint as he came to the place appointed for his execution; then he threw away his sword which he was carrying ready drawn and cast himself down at the saint's feet, earnestly praying that he might be judged worthy to be put to death either with the martyr whom he himself had been ordered to execute, or else in his place.

So while he was turned from a persecutor into a companion in the true faith, and while there was a very proper hesitation among the other executioners in taking up the sword which lay on the ground, the most reverend confessor ascended the hill with the crowds. This hill lay about five hundred paces from the arena, and, as was fitting, it was fair, shining and beautiful, adorned, indeed clothed, on all sides with wild flowers of every kind; nowhere was it steep or precipitous or sheer but Nature had provided it with wide, long-sloping sides stretching smoothly down to the level of the plain. In fact its natural beauty had long fitted it as a place to be hallowed by the blood of a blessed martyr. When he reached the top of the hill, St. Alban asked God to give him water and at once a perpetual spring bubbled up, confined within its channel and at his very feet, so that all could see that even the stream rendered service to the martyr. For it could not have happened that the martyr who had left no water remaining in the river would have desired it on the top of the hill, if he had not realized that this was fitting. The river, when it had fulfilled its duty and completed its pious service, returned to its natural course, but it left behind a witness of its ministry. And so in this spot the valiant martyr was beheaded and received the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. But the one who laid his unholy hands on that holy neck was not permitted to rejoice over his death; for the head of the blessed martyr and the executioner's eyes fell to the ground together.

The soldier who had been constrained by the divine will to refuse to strike God's holy confessor was also beheaded there. In his case it is clear that though he was not washed in the waters of baptism, yet he was cleansed by the washing of his own blood and made worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then the judge, who was astonished by these strange heavenly miracles, ordered the persecution to cease and began to respect the way in which the saints met their death, though he had once believed that he could thereby make them forsake their devotion to the Christian faith. The blessed Alban suffered death on 22 June near the city of Verulamium which the English now call either Uerlamacaestir or Uaeclingacaestir (St. Albans). Here when peaceful Christian times returned, a church of wonderful workmanship was built, a worthy memorial of his martyrdom. To this day sick people are healed in this place and the working of frequent miracles continues to bring it renown.

* * * * *

St. Alban depicted in the Triptych at our High Altar



In this painting, Saint Alban is depicted as a triumphant warrior for the Faith. He wears the purple cloak of the priest – purple is the color of nobility – and stands next to his emblem, the holly bush. The eyes of his executioner can be seen on top of the bush. Saint Alban also wears the Order of the Garter of Saint George. This chivalric order, here executed in both the collar and garter, is one of the most coveted in Great Britain. It is given to those who have contributed greatly to the life of the nation. It is fitting that Alban should wear these emblems because he gave his life for the Faith, which has given much to the English people.




O Eternal Father, who, when the Gospel of Christ first came to England, didst gloriously confirm the faith of Alban by making him the first to win the martyr’s crown: grant that, assisted by his prayers and following his example in the fellowship of the Saints, we may worship thee, the living God, and faithfully witness to 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.