29 August 2007

In service to the Truth...

Today’s commemoration of the beheading of St. John the Baptist has been a good day, a busy day. We’ve had two Masses. I’ve heard about thirty of the middle school students’ confessions. And today is the tenth anniversary of the ordination of our two deacons. We’re especially blessed to have these two fine men serving our parish. Deacon James Orr and Deacon Michael D’Agostino were ordained together at San Fernando Cathedral, and each one of them carries out a marvelous diaconal ministry. Frankly, I don’t know what we’d do without them. I spoke to our students at Mass about the importance of standing up for the truth, no matter what the cost, after the example of St. John the Baptist. And I couldn’t help but give special thanks for our deacons who follow that example so faithfully themselves.

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

24 August 2007

A touch of class

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise would say, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” Today we had our Upper School Tea, an annual event for our high school students in which they indulge in the delights of a cup of tea, cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam, and other sundries, both savory and sweet. It was an opportunity for everyone there to practice social graces, carry on polite conversations, and generally to experience a small but enjoyable aspect of civilized society.

We gathered in the academy’s Pope John Paul II Library. Several of the mothers prepared and served the tea, and it was one of those “nice traditions” that don’t necessarily change society, but certainly strengthen it. What a wonderful group of students we have, and now that some of them have begun their senior year here, I realize afresh just how difficult it’s going to be to say good-bye at the end of the academic year.

18 August 2007

Help for those who might need it...

With the advent of the motu proprio which allows the wider use of the extraordinary form of the Mass, it’s been interesting to follow the responses of our bishops. We’ve heard thoughtful, pastoral words from great numbers of them. However, some seem to have misread the words of our Holy Father, and few appear almost to be obstructionists.

I’m sure most of these misunderstandings will be worked out by the September 14th date. But in case there are those who experience difficulties in taking advantage of the provisions of the motu proprio, there is an organization which might be useful in giving advice and practical guidance. The St. Joseph Foundation has been around for some twenty-five years, and has lots of experience in helping to bring about a “meeting of the minds” when there have been misunderstandings between Catholics. Here’s a brief description of their work, taken from their website:

Catholics have rights in their Church just as they have rights under the federal and state constitutions here in the United States. Some of their rights in the Church, including the right of assembly, the right of petition, the right of free association, the right to privacy and reputation and the right to due process correspond to their civil rights. Other rights, especially the right to know the truth about God and His Church, the right to the spiritual goods of the Church and the right to worship according to the norms established by lawful authority have no counterparts in civil law.

The Saint Joseph Foundation serves Catholics who seek to know and vindicate their rights within the Church - rights that the Church herself recognizes and protects. Whenever individuals or groups believe their rights are threatened or have been violated, the Foundation assists them in using the means established by the Church to obtain remedies.

Certainly, when it comes to such things as the motu proprio, the approach must always be respectful and with the assumption that our bishops and other clergy have a sincere desire to carry out the mind of the Church. But sometimes a little advice can be helpful, and some professional guidance can go a long way.

16 August 2007

Rain, rain go away!

We’ve had some incredible rain today, with flooding like we haven’t seen in some time. This picture shows the St. Anne playground and the Holy Guardian Angels Bridge which leads to the St. Nicholas Field. As you can see, poor St. Anne is waist-deep in water – but she is standing steadfastly so far! More rain is due to come. Please do pray for the safety of those whose work takes them out into this. The occasional siren reminds me that there are rescue workers and others who have no choice. The rest of us should stay indoors until it lets up.

Thanking God and honoring Our Lady

What a gorgeous day it was yesterday, and I don’t mean just the weather. Three Masses, Solemn Evensong, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (twice!) – all of it made for a beautiful Assumption Day. This picture shows our academy students in the afternoon, all set for Evensong and Benediction.

11 August 2007

A picture for a friend...

One of the excellent blogs linked from this site is Canterbury Tales, written by Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopal clergyman and now a Catholic layman living in Fort Worth. He visited the parish a few days ago, and we had a wonderful time talking and comparing experiences. A little more time together and we probably would have solved all the problems of the Church, the world, and everything in between.

He writes very graciously about his visit and includes parish pictures on his blog, which you can see here. One of the pictures he wanted, but couldn’t find on our website, is of the library, so I’m posting it here. The picture above shows Archbishop Gomez blessing the Pope John Paul II Library at the academy. Of course, this shows only a portion of the library, but it gives an idea of why Taylor particularly liked it.

10 August 2007

More on "The Bishop's Return"

A few days ago I posted the story of Bishop Clarence Pope’s return to the Catholic Church. The following is an excerpt from an article in which he discusses the reasons for his mistaken decision in temporarily “drifting back” to Anglicanism:

Bishop Pope said he regretted his return to The Episcopal Church in 1995, after having spent a year as a Roman Catholic. He explained that shortly after he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, “I was discovered to have advanced prostate cancer and that because it had spread so aggressively, I probably would not survive.”

The series of chemotherapy treatments and radiation he underwent left him “very impaired in my thinking,” he explained. The toll of his treatment and his tepid reception from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, which had refused him ordination as a priest, provoked depression.

“In the midst of all this sense of losing any awareness of belonging, Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called to see how I was,” Bishop Pope said. His classmate from the 1954 seminary class at Sewanee encouraged him to return to The Episcopal Church.

“Needing some ground of belonging, I gave in to his nudging and, as he claimed never to have received my letter of resignation, I drifted back to The Episcopal Church,” Bishop Pope said. He asserts now that “being of sounder emotional stability and out from under a fog bank of severe depression, I would never have made such a return.”

Here is the whole article.

09 August 2007

An anniversary of anniversaries...

Next Wednesday we will celebrate with the whole Church the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. Not only is it a day to honor the Blessed Virgin, but it is also for us here a day of anniversaries:

- the twenty-fourth anniversary of the canonical erection of the parish;

- the twenty-fourth anniversary of my ordination to the Sacred Priesthood and appointment as pastor of this parish;

- the twentieth anniversary of the blessing of the high altar and the dedication of the church;

- the thirteenth anniversary of the founding of the Academy;

- the first anniversary of the blessing of the expanded church building.

We’ve got a lot to celebrate. We’re grateful to Our Lady of the Atonement for her constant intercession – and thanks be to God for His abundant blessings!

07 August 2007

An Anglican bishop finds his way home

It’s very good news that Clarence Pope, the former Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth, has come back home to the Catholic Church. He and his wife Martha had entered the Church in the mid-1990’s, but then turned back from the path and resumed their lives as Episcopalians for a time. Now, they have come home finally and for good. Perhaps the best account of the reason for their hesitant journey is found in the pages of the excellent blog, The Shrine of the Holy Whapping. After reading the story there, seeing the mishandling of the situation, it confirms that the Catholic Church really is the True Church – it must be, or it would have closed down years ago.

05 August 2007

A hymn for the Transfiguration...

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

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

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

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

04 August 2007

Anyone but a Catholic...

The grandson of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has fallen in love and wants to marry the young lady. Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne, is tenth in line to the throne, so there’s not much chance he’ll be wearing the crown anytime soon. But he needs to renounce his right if he wants to marry the girl. The problem is, she’s a Catholic. Now, if she happened to be a Muslim, that would be fine. Or she could be Hindu, or Jewish, or Mormon, or any other religion, and there’d be no problem. But she’s a Catholic.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 forbids the British monarch and the heirs of the monarchy from becoming or marrying Catholics. That’s the only class of people they’re forbidden to marry. And even with the recent attempts to repeal the Act, there is strong reluctance to do so. In fact, the British newspaper, the Telegraph, defends the Act as “the lesser of two evils.”

Here’s that article:

If Peter Phillips, the Queen's grandson, marries his Roman Catholic girlfriend, Autumn Kelly, he will have to give up his place in the line of succession to the throne; either that, or Miss Kelly will have to renounce her membership of the Catholic Church. That is not a very happy situation. The prohibition on the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic, when he or she is perfectly free to marry a member of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo or a militant jihadist, is hard to defend. None the less, this newspaper does defend it - reluctantly - as the lesser of two evils.

The greater evil is this: drastic constitutional change at a time when our historic national institutions, such as the monarchy and the Church of England, need to be left alone. The repeal of the Act of Settlement of 1701 that forbids monarchs and their heirs from becoming or marrying Catholics would bring us to the brink of the disestablishment of the Church of England. It would (at the very least) necessitate a long, agonising and eye-wateringly complex discussion about our constitutional settlement. Moreover, should Labour remain in power, all this would be taking place under a government whose enthusiasm for reform far outstrips its ability to implement it. Every constitutional change since 1997 - the abolition of hereditary peers, devolution, the emasculation of the office of Lord Chancellor - has been botched to some degree. The idea that this Government, with its uncertain feel for our heritage, could unpick the threads that bind the monarch to the Church and the Church to the English people and weave them into something better is simply ridiculous.

In any case, this is no time for any government to pull down constitutional architecture. It is hard to overstate the value of unchanging institutions to a country experiencing a mixture of terrorist threats and disorientating demographic change, as we are. Mr Phillips's dilemma is painful and will strike many people as unfair; but he is, after all, only tenth in line to the throne. What happens if Prince William or one of his heirs wants to marry a Catholic? Let us cross that bridge when we come to it.

Having been an Anglican clergyman in the Church of England, and working within the system of the “Established Church,” believe me, disestablishment couldn’t make the Church of England any weaker than it is. To think that the bonds of establishment between the Church of England and the English state are somehow beneficial to either one is to deny reality. In fact, maybe a Catholic monarch would be just the ticket.

02 August 2007

Ut unum sint

There have been many written reactions to the recent document “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church,” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Some of them have been juvenile, others hateful and purposely obtuse, and some have been thoughtful. Have a look at this article, and see if you find it as good as I think it is. Written by Christopher Wells, a doctoral candidate in theology at the University of Notre Dame, I was astonished to read it in the pages of an Episcopalian publication, “The Living Church.”

Back to school, believe it or not!

We started the teachers' in-service yesterday, preparing our faculty and staff for the return of our students on August 13th for the new academic year (we begin early, but we end early, too!). We have over fifty people as faculty and support staff for the school, all very talented people, dedicated to the Catholic faith. Most of them have been with us for some time, others are new to us this year. But all of them are real troopers, going through everything from discipline policies, preparation of lesson plans, helpful communication with parents, schedules, students’ comportment at Mass, the list goes on and on. Lots of notes are being taken, new friendships are being forged, final touches are being put on classrooms.

Each day of the in-service begins, of course, with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You should hear this crowd sing! In fact, the members of our music faculty commented that we need to form a “Faculty Schola,” they’re so good! Tomorrow is a retreat day for the whole staff. There’ll be Mass, confessions, spiritual talks from the clergy, time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and all ending with Solemn Evensong and Benediction. This is probably the most important day of the in-service, a reminder to each one of us that our Catholic faith is the most important tool we have in forming the spiritual, intellectual and physical lives of our students. In less than two weeks they’ll be here. First-time students and their somewhat-nervous parents will begin to blend with the seasoned families who have been here for years, and we’ll begin another school year. Pray, please, for all of us in this important apostolate.