30 June 2008

St. Paul, pray for us...

Yesterday, at the conclusion of each of the Masses, we offered public devotions to St. Paul. Next to the image which we placed in the Lady Chapel, we also had relics for veneration. The reliquary contains first class relics of St. Paul, St. Peter and the other holy apostles.

28 June 2008

The Year of St. Paul

The Year of St. Paul proclaimed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, begins with the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, and following is the decree outlining how you may obtain the available indulgences. Although most of us will not be able to travel to Rome to visit the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, we may avail ourselves of this blessing by fulfilling the requirements locally in our own dioceses and parishes, and the instructions for doing that are given in this decree.


Special Indulgences are conceded to faithful on the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul the Apostle.

In the imminence of the liturgical Solemnity of the Princes of the Apostles, motivated by pastoral solicitude the Supreme Pontiff intends to provide promptly for spiritual treasures to be granted to the faithful for their sanctification, so that on this pious and happy occasion, from First Vespers of the Solemnity mentioned, they may renew and reinforce with even greater fervour intentions of supernatural salvation, principally in honour of the Apostle to the Gentiles, the 2000th anniversary of whose birth on earth is now approaching.

The gift of Indulgences which the Roman Pontiff offers to the universal Church, truly smoothes the way to attaining a supreme degree of inner purification which, while honouring the Blessed Apostle Paul, exalts the supernatural life in the hearts of the faithful and gently encourages them to do good deeds.

Therefore, this Apostolic Penitentiary, to which the Holy Father has entrusted the task of the preparation and compilation of the Decree on the granting and obtaining of Indulgences that will be valid for the duration of the Pauline Year, benevolently bestows with this Decree issued in conformity with the desire of the August Pontiff, the following graces listed:

I. Each and every truly repentant individual member of the Christian faithful, duly absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and restored with Holy Communion, who devoutly makes a pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St Paul on the Ostian Way and who prays for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions, will be granted the Plenary Indulgence from temporal punishment for his/her sins, once sacramental forgiveness and pardon for any shortcomings has been obtained.

The Christian faithful may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence both for themselves and for the deceased, as many times as they fulfil the required conditions but without prejudice to the norm stipulating that the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day.

In order that the prayer raised on this holy visit may lead and invite the souls of the faithful to venerate more intensely the memory of St Paul, the following has been established: the faithful, in addition to raising their own supplications before the altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament, each one according to his own devotion, must go to the altar of the Confessio and devoutly recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding pious invocations in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Paul. And may this devotion always be closely united to the memory of the Prince of the Apostles, St Peter.

II. The Christian faithful of the various local Churches, having fulfilled the required conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, prayers for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions) and in a spirit of total detachment from any inclination to sin, may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence if they take part devoutly in a sacred function or in a pious public exercise in honour of the Apostle to the Gentiles; on the days of the solemn opening and closure of the Pauline Year, in all the sacred places; on other days specified by the local Ordinary, in holy places dedicated to St Paul and, for the convenience of the faithful, in other places designated by the same Ordinary.

III. Lastly, the faithful prevented by illness or another legitimate and important cause, always in a spirit of detachment from any inclination to sin, with the intention of fulfilling the usual conditions as soon as possible, will also be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence, as long as they spiritually join in a Jubilee celebration in honour of St Paul, offering their prayers and sufferings to God for Christian unity.

In order that the faithful may more easily share in these heavenly favours, may the priests approved by the competent ecclesiastical authority for hearing confessions prepare promptly and generously to receive them.

This Decree is effective for the whole of the Pauline Year. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

Given in Rome, at the Offices of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 10 May, in the Year of the Incarnation of the Lord 2008, on the eve of Pentecost.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford
Major Penitentiary

+ + +

Tu es vas electiónis, sancte Paule Apóstole, prædicátor veritátis in univérso mundo.

V. Ora pro nobis, sancte Paule Apóstole,
R. Ut digni efficiámur promissiónibus Christi.


Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui beáto Apóstolo tuo Paulo quid fáceret, ut implerétur Spíritu Sancto, divína miseratióne præcepisti; eius dirigéntibus mónitis et suffragántibus méritis concéde, ut serviéntes tibi in timóre et tremóre, cæléstium donórum consolatióne repleámur. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

Thou art the Vessel of election, Saint Paul the Apostle, the Preacher of truth in the whole world.

V. Pray for us, Saint Paul the Apostle,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, Who, of Thy Divine mercy, didst instruct Thy blessed Apostle Paul what he should do that he might be filled with the Holy Ghost; by his admonitions directing us and his merits interceding for us, grant that we may serve Thee in fear and trembling and so be filled with the comfort of Thy heavenly gifts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

23 June 2008

Sheer beauty...

I'd forgotten how beautiful this trailer is from the DVD of the Anglican Use Mass. We'll be producing a new one soon, but the original is still available here.

21 June 2008

Update on the Poor Clares

As most of you know, a new monastery for the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration is being established here. Both they and we hoped they would be here by now, but work is still being done in the house where they will be living. The first thought was that there would be minor repairs and upgrades done before they took up residence. But once work began, one thing led to another, and the house basically has been gutted and rebuilt from the wall studs out. Some major reconfiguring of the floor plan has been done, and all of this work has changed their move-in date to sometime in July.

We're all eager to have them move in, and they're excited about beginning their new foundation here. Please continue to pray. I'll keep you updated.

19 June 2008

A Hymn of Praise

Almighty God, majestic King,
with joyful hearts thy people sing: Alleluia, alleluia.
For all good gifts we offer praise,
and ask thy blessings all our days:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Son,
who on the cross salvation won: Alleluia, alleluia;
through thy great sacrifice of love
we join our song with saints above:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

O Holy Spirit, Light divine,
dwell in these hearts and souls of thine: Alleluia, alleluia.
Keep us in peace and unity
that with one voice our chant may be,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1996
Music: LASST UNS ERFREUEN, from Geistliche Kirchengesang, 1623

17 June 2008

Priestblock 25487

What courage and what faith! I just finished reading Priestblock 25487 by Fr. Jean Bernard. His account of what our priests endured in Dachau will stick with me for a very long time. As I celebrated Mass this morning in the beauty and comfort of the Sacred Heart Chapel, I thought about what he and others endured:

From now on we gather every morning after breakfast at a quiet end of the barrack street and pray together as inconspicuously as we can. If someone approaches too closely, we start speaking of trivial matters.

Then Father de Coninck proposes some points for consideration, which we try to discuss informally. As we talk we sit on our clogs in pairs, leaning up against one another's backs.

After that "Mass" begins. Each of us knows some of it by heart. The one we like to pray best is the Luxembourg Mass of the Virgin, "Ave spes nostra."

One morning Father de Coninck pulls out a cellophane bag labeled "vitamin C" from a fold in his shirt. In the good old days it was possible to buy such vitamins pills at the camp store.

Through the cellophane the shimmer of a piece of consecrated Host was visible, barely half an inch long. We all had difficulty hiding our excitement.

"Don't give us away," said de Coninck. "A German priest from barrack 26 has sent the Lord to us."

We decide to keep this most precious treasure among us for the time being and then to divide it among ourselves for the day when each of us is put on a transport.

Those were days of celebration. Now when we spoke the prayers of the Mass together, Father de Coninck held the Host inconspicuously in his hand. How much consolation that brought to the hearts of the tormented priests, how much courage and readiness to sacrifice, cannot be expressed in words."

Of course, Fr. Bernard writes of the horrible tortures he and other went through. The inhumanity almost defies description. But for me, the most moving parts of the book are when he speaks of the comfort of his faith, and those times when our Eucharistic Lord could be smuggled to them. The smallest crumb of the Host meant that God was with them in a unique way, and their thankfulness was boundless.

What men these priests were.

14 June 2008

Humanae Vitae: A prophetic word...

The Very Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas was the preacher at our Sunday Masses on 8 June 2008, and here is the text:

An Italian proverb says, “Ogni traduttore, traditore.” Which roughly translates as, “Every translator is a traitor.” That dilemma comes into full bloom in today’s Gospel and First Reading. St. Matthew tells us that Our Divine Master quotes the prophet Hosea speaking for the Lord God, “It is mercy that I desire, not sacrifice.” But if you paid attention to the First Reading, you heard the text from Hosea sound a bit different: “It is love that I desire, not sacrifice.” The problem is one of translation. So, before launching into the heart of the matter, let me offer a little lesson in scriptural composition.

When the Jews of old committed Divine Revelation to writing, they did so in Hebrew. As many Jews moved out of the Holy Land proper, losing touch with their mother tongue, it was deemed necessary to put the Sacred Scriptures into a more universally accessible language – Greek. That first translation of what we Christians call “the Old Testament” is known as the Septuagint, which was the version most used by the early Christians. And so, when the inspired writers of the New Testament quote Scripture, they rely on the Septuagint and not on the Hebrew original. Therefore, in Matthew’s quoting of Jesus quoting Hosea, the Evangelist uses the Greek translation of Hosea’s Hebrew – because Matthew is writing his Gospel in Greek and, even if largely for a Jewish audience, one that is probably more conversant in Greek than in Hebrew.

The two words in question are the Hebrew hesed and the Greek eleos. You will recognize eleos as meaning “mercy” from the Kyrie of the Mass, as in “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy). Hesed is a bit more difficult to translate since it is a concept more than a mere word. When the one performing hesed is a human being, it involves doing favors for others or having an affectionate feeling for God. When Almighty God is the doer of hesed on behalf of men, it concerns deliverance from enemies, preservation from death, redemption from sin, keeping the covenants. A short-hand expression attempting to capture these various aspects might be “covenant loyalty” or “covenant fidelity.” So, both Jesus and Hosea centuries before Him are saying that a loving response to God’s overtures in the covenant are God’s fondest desires and, if we do that, we’ll not have to offer propitiatory sacrifices, which can be rather cheap and insincere. How often Catholics today use the Sacrament of Penance (if they use it at all) as a kind of magic wand to wave over their sins with no intention of amendment of life or attend Sunday Mass while living the rest of the week on their own terms. We are reminded this morning that God is not pleased by such hollow forms of religious observance, just as He was not pleased with similar performances by the Jews of old.

This morning we also hear St. Paul cite Abraham as the model of faith and the first recipient of the covenant promises The Apostle to the Gentiles, the 2000th anniversary of whose birth we shall shortly commemorate, informs us that the father of the Chosen People “hop[ed] against hope.” For what? For children – and many of them. And poor Sarah thought herself cursed by God. Why? Because she had been unable to conceive a child. My, how the times have changed.

These thoughts arising from the table of scriptural wisdom placed before us by Mother Church today coalesced in my mind around another anniversary on the horizon. Next month marks the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, which taught that each and every act of sexual intercourse must be open to new life. That document, time has proven, was truly a prophetic teaching. The Pope’s wisdom is more apparent today than anyone could have dreamed in 1968 as he warned that unbridled access to artificial contraception would result in an explosion of pornography, exploitation of women, fornication and adultery. By no means the Cassandra that many accused him of being, he was right on target and, in fact, rather measured in his prognostications. Indeed, likewise flowing from artificial contraception have been abortion-on-demand, in vitro fertilization, cloning, and justification for same-sex relations and marriage.

Unfortunately, response to that encyclical both within the Church and in society-at-large has been almost uniformly negative, so that it hangs like a dark shadow over everything for four decades. The dissent coming in its wake in the Church has created a climate of unbelief and what we have come to label “Cafeteria Catholicism.” And ecclesiastical failure to deal with the disobedience effectively has set up in the minds of many – both within the Church and without – the supposition that this teaching is not really all that important. I want to dispute that theory today and to say, on the contrary, that it is very important and, in truth, central to our life of faith. If you are confused by just what the Church teaches on this topic, if you reject it, or if you accept it but find it hard to explain, kindly allow me to attempt to elucidate this moral teaching for you. Particularly for those who find this moral norm hard or uncomfortable, I would invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to guide both me and you over the next five minutes – that I might speak words that would rouse you to what St. Paul calls the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5).

To hear some people talk, one would get the impression that the prohibition against artificial contraception came out of the blue in 1968. However, even a brief review of history reveals a strong and consistent ban on all such activities from the earliest days of the Church in a direct line, right into the twentieth century, with statements to the same effect by Pope Paul VI’s three immediate predecessors, as well as Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes. Interestingly, all the Protestant Reformers roundly condemned artificial birth control. As a matter of fact, every Protestant body classified such activity as immoral and unbiblical, until the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion in 1930.

Pope John Paul II reiterated the case for the teaching of Humane Vitae with patience and regularity throughout his entire pontificate. Two statements, however, are particularly noteworthy because of their forcefulness. In 1983, the Holy Father declared: “Contraception is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.”

In 1987, Pope John Paul II asserted that “the Church’s teaching on contraception does not belong to the category of matter open to free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary amounts to leading the moral consciences of spouses into error.” If the polls are correct in observing that more than 80% of Catholic women of child-bearing age in the United States ignore this teaching, why not change it, or at least why bother to appear to “beat a dead horse”? Because the truth of the Gospel and the truth about the human person are at stake.

Very often even people of goodwill find the logic of Humanae Vitae difficult to understand. While they know the pronouncements of the Magisterium in this regard, they may feel the teaching has no grounding in Scripture.

That is why I have always wondered why no one seems to ground the core of Humanae Vitae’s teaching in the written Word of God. For me, one passage (which provides a basic theme for the whole of the Bible) is most instructive about the plan of God and the response He expects from those who would wish to be numbered among His Chosen People. I refer specifically to Genesis 17:10-13:

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you that you must keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the mark of the covenant between you and me. Throughout the ages every male among you when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including household slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is part of your blood. Yes, both the house-born slaves and those acquired with money must be circumcised. Thus my covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting pact.

You see, as Almighty God began to form a people uniquely His own, He established a covenant (that is, a pact, a contract) with Abraham as the father of that chosen nation. The Lord promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as “the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore” (Gn 22:17). And that from a man who was “as good as dead,” as St. Paul puts it so starkly in today’s Second Reading. All this showed that the Lord was God both in love and in power; He was truly Yahweh (I Am Who Am), Who thus revealed Himself to Moses as the very source of life (cf. Ex 3:14).

And so it was that when God was asked by Abraham to demonstrate His love, God spoke in terms of life; and, ever since, love and life have been inextricably linked to each other, for they are two sides of the same coin.

In ancient times, covenants were the normal means of doing business, and such agreements always had external signs. The Lord God said the sign for Abraham and every son of the covenant thereafter was to be that of circumcision. How strange! Why not a sign that would be visible to all at every moment? Why a sign seen only by the man and his wife? For a reason so simple that it is most profound: The act of sexual intercourse would thenceforth speak not only the language of love but equally the language of life, which is to say, that sexual intimacy would speak God’s language.

Therefore, every time a Hebrew man engaged in intercourse, he would be reminded that this particular act had been invested with a new meaning by God Himself, a point manifest in his very flesh and as enduring as God’s will, God’s love, God’s gift of life.

Whoever came up with the saying, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd,” knew nothing of the God of the covenant; His love is totally unrestricted and completely open. God says, “The more the merrier!” He says that in His own Godhead in that community of Persons Who love Each Other eternally and expansively in the Trinity; hence, not just one Person, nor two, but three. Thus does the Blessed Trinity serve as a model for human love and relationships, in which love between persons necessarily overflows into new life.

The connection between love and life reaches its apex in Jesus Christ, Who loves humanity so much that He gives His life that “we might have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). Like His Heavenly Father, Jesus offers a covenantal sign of His love in the life-blood of the Eucharist, that new and everlasting covenant.

Although Christians need not practice circumcision under the new covenant, they are still called to reflect those same values by which love and life are proclaimed in who we are and in what we do, an example provided in a preeminent manner by Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on our behalf.

Unlike any faith system before or since, the covenant way of the Lord sacralizes human sexuality by making of it a mirror image of God’s own gifts of Himself as Love and Life. Therefore, we deal here with the truth of God’s identity and man’s dignity at one and the same time. No wonder, then, that St. Paul could rhapsodize on the beauty of marital love as a great mystery, indeed the sign of Christ’s love for His Church (cf. Eph 5:32). Contraceptive intercourse, on the other hand, lies about both the God of the covenant and the children of the covenant.

Forty years after Humanae Vitae, the Church clings to this essential teaching with a tenacity that annoys and astounds most people, but she does so because of some fundamental convictions that underlie the whole vocation of being a part of the Chosen People. In a 1966 essay in Triumph magazine, Brent Bozell put it powerfully:

"The world deems the Church mad to have hitched its whole moral authority to this wretched piece of intransigence. Millions of Catholics and near-Catholics and apostate Catholics over the years have felt the same way: If only the Church would give ground on this one, the rest would be easy to take. But this wretched piece of intransigence is the key to the mighty mystery of sex, which unlocks the door to the even more awesome mystery of life, which in turn reveals the reality of the supernatural. If the Church does not own this key, it does not own any keys at all."

May the memory of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, be honored by a renewed willingness on the part of married couples, theologians, clergy – indeed anyone interested in the God-man relationship – to reflect on “the mighty mystery of sex” and on “the even more awesome mystery of life.” That, I would suggest, is the appropriate response of love to God’s invitation to the covenant, which response will never need a sacrifice.

13 June 2008

Pray for us, St. Anthony

Simple saint and faithful priest,
at this Eucharistic feast
we recall thy holy face,
and with thee our Lord embrace.
Give us true simplicity:
pray for us, Saint Anthony.

Word of God thou didst proclaim;
unto thee God's Spirit came,
bringing faith when thou didst preach,
showing truth when thou didst teach.
May we speak words truthfully:
pray for us Saint Anthony.

Error flees before God's Light:
through thy life Christ shineth bright,
showing men the way to peace,
evil's hold from them release.
Free from evil may we be:
pray for us Saint Anthony.

Tune: Bread of Heaven
Text: Fr. Christopher Phillips, 1992.

11 June 2008

Saddle up and head for Texas...

The Anglican Use Conference will be taking place at Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio, Texas on July 10th-12th.

"Texas in July??!!" you may be thinking. Don't worry about it. We've got plenty of air conditioning, and besides -- if this transplanted Yankee can take it, anybody can.

You can get more information -- and also register -- at this website.

09 June 2008

I hate to admit it...

...but I'm exhausted.

We had three days of graduation Masses, a banquet and various receptions, commencements and celebrations, followed immediately by the four Sunday Masses. I'll get back to posting things very soon, but right now I'm going home to a cold drink, a recliner, and something mindless on the telly.

03 June 2008

Back home, and it all begins...

I had a terrific time at St. Joseph's School in Greenville, SC. I was there on Friday and Saturday for their seniors' graduation, and I was privileged to speak at the commencement. It was a delight also to spend some time with Fr. and Mrs. Longenecker and their family. I thoroughly enjoyed my few days there.

Now we're getting ready for our own seniors' graduation. Today was the last Mass of the school year, and our senior boys served at the Mass. The Middle School choir knocked our socks off with the music, and we also had several visiting priests with us for the occasion.

Here's a picture of today's Mass at the time of the consecration:

After Mass the boys gathered for a photograph in the courtyard, along with our visiting priests: Fr. Peter Stravinskas, Fr. John Connors and Fr. Glen Mullan.

The Mass and banquet for the seniors will be on Thursday, and we're excited that our newly-consecrated Auxiliary Bishop will be with us that evening. Then on Friday evening, we'll have the commencement. I'll post pictures as things happen.