29 June 2010


"Hi.  My name is Fr. Phillips, and I have a problem with cell phone dependency."

Ok.  Maybe it's not as dramatic as that, but I left my cell phone in Pittsburgh, and it's a great big fat inconvenience.  It happened because I was careless.

I'd just preached at Fr. Noel's first Mass, and by the time the Mass was over I had to get straight to the airport.  There was a nice reception, but I didn't have time to go to it.  One of the seminarians was taking me to the airport, so I told him, "Dan, I'm running over to the rectory to get my things.  You can pack us up some food from the reception, and we'll eat it on the way."  When I jumped into his car, I put my bag in the back seat, and Dan handed me a plate with all sorts of goodies.  Since I hadn't eaten lunch, it looked darned good.  I had my cell phone in my hand, and instead of slipping it into my jacket pocket, I put it into the cup holder next to my seat.  Big mistake.  We were having a great conversation, and I was eating like there was no tomorrow, and before I knew it, we were at the airport.  I grabbed my things from the back seat, said my hasty good-bye, and ran into the airport to catch my flight.  As soon as the glass doors slid back into place, I remembered my phone.  I dashed back out, but of course Dan was gone.  I asked a security guard if there were any phones around, thinking I could call my number and get Dan to circle around.  Not only were there no public phones, but all the guard did was shrug her shoulders -- no offer was made to let me use her cell phone clipped to her belt in full sight.

I made it just in time for my flight, and the first leg of the trip was to Memphis.  Fortunately, I had a laptop computer with me, so I bought a little bit of wireless time and started to e-mail anyone I thought might be looking at e-mail on a Sunday evening.  I knew people would be worried -- I always let my family and others know where I am, and whether or not the flight is on time, etc.  I managed to get an e-mail through to someone to let them know that I was all right, and that the flight from Memphis to San Antonio was going to be an hour late.

I had no idea how crippling it is to be phone-less.  Even when a fellow passenger offered the use of his cell phone, I couldn't call anybody -- I couldn't remember a single telephone number!  We get so used to storing our contact list in our cell phones, there's no need to remember numbers anymore.  The whole experience was rather sobering.  There I was, a reasonably intelligent person, made helpless because I'd been careless enough to forget a device tiny enough to fit in the palm of my hand!

I'm still phone-less, but Dan's mom called me this morning and said that she'd sent it by Fed-Ex, and it should arrive before 3 p.m. tomorrow.  I couldn't thank her enough.

The whole experience showed me how dependent I am on that stupid little cell phone. 

Oh well, at least I had my laptop with me...  

Hmmm.  Maybe that's another dependency in the making...

28 June 2010

A Time of Grace in Pittsburgh

The Cathedral of St. Paul, Pittsburgh

I'd never been to Pittsburgh before this past weekend, but you can be sure I'm going to look for an excuse to return. 

The occasion was Fr. Brian Noel's ordination to the Sacred Priesthood in the gorgeous Cathedral of St. Paul.  The Mass of Ordination was absolutely beautiful -- there were three deacons who were ordained as priests, fine men all of them.  I spent some time at the seminary on Friday night, and the seminarians were very warm in their welcome.  Bishop David Zubik is most impressive, a real Father in God to his people. 

Fr. Noel celebrated his First Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday afternoon.  There were several concelebrants, and I had the great privilege of preaching on that occasion.  I'm not embarrassed to admit that I had to wipe my eyes a few times as I saw this fine young man who, years ago, had served at our altar and who had later returned to teach at the Academy, now offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  His parents, Bill and Kathy Noel, had the blessing of seeing their son celebrating Mass in the same place where they were married.

I stayed at the Cathedral rectory, and the hospitality I was shown was just wonderful.  The Cathedral Rector, Fr. Donald Breier, has been Brian's pastor for the past several years.  He and I shared justified pride in our spiritual son, now a priest in Christ's Holy Catholic Church.

St. Paul's Cathedral, interior

The von Beckerath Organ at the Cathedral

25 June 2010

End Times? Second Coming?

Here's an interesting article by Dr. Jeff Mirus, over on Catholic Culture:

Apocalypse, Again

It’s fascinating that so many Americans (41%, apparently) believe the Second Coming is imminent. This no doubt reflects two things: First, the importance of various forms of Protestant fundamentalism and Catholic apparitionism in the United States; and, second, a general feeling that all our problems are spiraling beyond our control.

I say this because a certain type of Protestant is very keen on figuring out the exact timing of things from Scripture (which the Church knows is impossible), and because a certain type of Catholic eagerly mines alleged apparitions for signs of the Apocalypse (which the Church knows is impossible), and because Christians in general tend to understand from Scripture that the Second Coming will come after a time in which Christianity is hard-pressed and the anti-Christ, or at least the spirit of anti-Christ, is in the ascendancy. So when things are tough, people tend to think of the End.

This is always true in times of natural disaster, such as the Black Death, major wars, economic depression, and perhaps even global warming (thought faith in global warming seems to be more or less inversely proportionate to faith in God). And it is also true in times during which the reign of moral and spiritual evil seems particularly pervasive. In the late Roman Empire, for example, or…well…right now.

Since the latter part of the 20th century, two trends have been strongly associated with grave evil: Unbridled individual license and secular totalitarianism. Paradoxically, these two trends frequently work together, as modern Western elites are now in the habit of justifying an increasing totalitarianism by claiming to uphold our “rights” to the worst forms of personal moral licentiousness. Thus they use their power to restrict or eliminate those beliefs and counter-institutions which encourage in man a higher level of personal responsibility and self-control.

At the same time, American culture, like all human culture, is remarkably resilient. The extreme spiritual and moral damage done by the reigning ideologies of the past fifty years had once led me to guess that Western culture as a whole would be in a state of total collapse by now, not only spiritual collapse (which is largely true) but a corresponding social, economic and political collapse as well. While serious signs of social, economic and political erosion are all around us, however, our culture has not yet collapsed. In fact, even European culture has not yet completely gone, though it does appear to be in extremis.

Still, a great many Americans rightly see that Western culture has reached a very low point indeed, and so they presume that the end is near. It may be so, of course, but we simply can’t know, and it is useless to speculate. Instead, we do well to remember the extreme shortness of our own perspective, which gives us a largely unreasonable perception of how bad things are (or how good they are) compared with the problems people wrestled with in earlier periods. In any case, “the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Which of us is prepared to say that more souls are being lost today than at any time in history?

All of us, in fact, are deeply disfigured by sin, and that includes our perceptions as well, which are remarkably foggy. So caution is required: When we’re looking at reality through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12), perhaps it’s best not to predict the future.

24 June 2010

List of things to do...

Off to Pittsburgh...

I'll be travelling to Pittsburgh tomorrow, where the Reverend Brian W. Noel will be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on Saturday in St. Paul's Cathedral.  He will be offering his First Mass on Sunday at St. Paul's, and I will be preaching for that occasion. 

This article appears on the website of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

Deacon Noel was born Oct. 24, 1969. He is the son of William and Kathleen Noel, who are retired and living out of state, although they grew up in Pittsburgh. Deacon Noel is their only child.

As the child of a U.S. Air Force officer, Deacon Noel moved a number of times. He attended Stevens Forest Elementary in Dayton, Ohio; St. Peter Elementary in Huber Heights, Ohio; Gosnell Middle School in Gosnell, Ariz.; and Eisenhower Middle School and Winston Churchill High School, both in San Antonio, Texas.

Deacon Noel also attended Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh; San Antonio College in San Antonio; the University of Texas at San Antonio; Austin Community College in Austin, Texas; the University of Texas at Austin; and the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. He earned an associate’s degree in mathematics from Austin Community College and a bachelor’s in computer and information science from the University of Maryland.

His past employment has included work as a purchaser at Ginny’s Printing and Copying in Austin, Texas; assistant office manager at Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va.; teaching at Atonement Academy in San Antonio; and database coordinator at the Texas State Historical Association in Austin. Most recently, he was employed as a software engineer at CTR Systems in Pittsburgh.

In fall 2004, Deacon Noel was accepted into the priestly formation program and began studies at St. Paul Seminary and Duquesne University. He completed the pre-theology program and graduated with a master’s in philosophy in May 2006. He began theological studies at the North American College in Rome in fall 2006 and is in his fourth year.

He spent summer 2006 at St. Alexis Parish in Wexford. In summer 2008, Deacon Noel was assigned to SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Beaver, and he returned there for summer 2009. He was ordained a deacon Oct. 8, 2009, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Deacon Noel’s first Mass of Thanksgiving will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 27, at St. Paul Cathedral. The homilist will be Father Christopher Phillips, pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Father Phillips was Deacon Noel’s pastor in high school and first got him thinking about the priesthood.

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant St. John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Savior by preaching 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 thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It's been a problem for some time...

23 June 2010

A beautiful June day...

It's 98 degrees outside, but the courtyard between the church and school is always a lovely spot, and it never seems quite so hot there, with the sound of the fountain and the small waterfall flowing into the fish pond.  The roses are blooming, but the blossoms do suffer from the heat.  The water lillies, however, seem to be thriving, and there are lots of buds just below the surface of the water getting ready to push up and bloom.  The shrine in the distance, marking the place where Mass was first offered on the site, always adds to the feeling of peace...

22 June 2010

Early pictures of the Apostles found...

Here's an exciting discovery that takes us back to the early years of our faith:

Lasers uncover first icons of Saints Peter and Paul

By Nicole Winfield
Associated Press Writer

ROME - Twenty-first century laser technology has opened a window into the early days of the Catholic Church, guiding researchers through the dank, musty catacombs beneath Rome to a startling find: the first known icons of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Vatican officials unveiled the paintings Tuesday, discovered along with the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew in an underground burial chamber beneath an office building on a busy street in a working-class Rome neighborhood.

The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were uncovered using a new laser technique that allows restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the brilliant dark colors of the paintings underneath.

The technique could revolutionize the way restoration work is carried out in the miles (kilometers) of catacombs that burrow under the Eternal City where early Christians buried their dead.

The icons were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb of an aristocratic Roman woman at the Santa Tecla catacomb, near where the remains of the apostle Paul are said to be buried.

Rome has dozens of such burial chambers and they are a major tourist attraction, giving visitors a peek into the traditions of the early church when Christians were often persecuted for their beliefs. Early Christians dug the catacombs outside Rome's walls as underground cemeteries, since burial was forbidden inside the city walls and pagan Romans were usually cremated.

The art that decorated Rome's catacombs was often simplistic and symbolic in nature. The Santa Tecla catacombs, however, represent some of the earliest evidence of devotion to the apostles in early Christianity, Vatican officials said.

"The Christian catacombs, while giving us value with a religious and cultural patrimony, represent an eloquent and significant testimony of Christianity at its origin," said Monsignor Giovanni Carru, the No. 2 in the Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, which maintains the catacombs.

Last June, the Vatican announced the discovery of the icon of Paul at Santa Tecla, timing the news to coincide with the end of the Vatican's year of St. Paul. Pope Benedict XVI also said tests on bone fragments long attributed to Paul "seemed to confirm" that they did indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint.

On Tuesday, Vatican archaeologists announced the image of Paul was not found in isolation, but was part of a square ceiling painting that also included icons of three other apostles - Peter, John and Andrew - surrounding an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd.

"They are the first icons. These are absolutely the first representations of the apostles," said Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent of archaeology for the catacombs.

Bisconti spoke from inside the intimate burial chamber, its walls and ceilings covered with paintings of scenes from the Old Testament, including Daniel in the lion's den and Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. Once inside, visitors see the loculi, or burial chambers, on three sides.

But the gem is on the ceiling, where the four apostles are painted inside gold-rimmed circles against a red-ochre backdrop. The ceiling is also decorated with geometric designs, and the cornices feature images of naked youths.

Chief restorer Barbara Mazzei noted there were earlier known images of Peter and Paul, but these were depicted in narratives. The images in the catacomb - with their faces in isolation, encircled with gold and affixed to the four corners of the ceiling painting - are devotional in nature and as such represent the first known icons.

"The fact of isolating them in a corner tells us it's a form of devotion," she said. "In this case, saints Peter and Paul, and John and Andrew are the most antique testimonies we have."

In addition, the images of Andrew and John show much younger faces than are normally depicted in the Byzantine-inspired imagery most often associated with the apostles, she said.

The Vatican's Sacred Archaeology office oversaw the two-year $73,650 (euro60,000) project, which for the first time used lasers to restore frescoes in catacombs, where the damp air makes the procedure particularly difficult.

In this case, the small burial chamber at the end of the catacomb was encased in up to two inches (five centimeters) of calcium carbonate. Restoration using previous techniques would have meant scraping away the buildup by hand, leaving a filmy layer on top so as not to damage the painting underneath.

Using the laser technique, restorers were able to sear off all the deposits by setting the laser to burn only on the white of the calcium carbonate; the laser's heat stopped when it reached a different color. Researchers then easily chipped off the seared material, revealing the brilliant ochre, black, green and yellow underneath, Mazzei said.

Similar technology has been used on statues, particularly metallic ones damaged by years of outdoor pollution, she said. However, the Santa Tecla restoration marked the first time lasers had been adapted for use in the dank interiors of catacombs.

Many of Rome's catacombs are open regularly to the public. However, the Santa Tecla catacombs will be open only on request to limited groups to preserve the paintings, she said.

New Shrine for St. Benedict

We now have a small but very beautiful shrine for St. Benedict, a gift from Mr. William Kirkpatrick in memory of his wife, Carole.  The statue is from Spain, and the shrine itself was made by our own Shayne Bernier.  It's located beside the St. Joseph Shrine, near the Pieta, in what was the original entrance to the church, before the expansion.  We will be placing a stand of devotional candles in front of it, and there will also be a hanging candle which will burn perpetually.

A Man For All Seasons...

One of the truly great films of all time...

Click on the arrow to watch the whole thing.

20 June 2010

Some clever humor...

These are from The Sacred Sandwich, one of the funniest blogs I've come across.  It's hard-core protestant, and there are many things on there which require a bit of knowledge about the "ins and outs" of the sometimes-wild-and-wacky-world of protestantism.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

And this brilliant "headline story" had me in stitches... but it does call for some knowledge of the sacred nature of pot-luck suppers among Baptists.

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

O Lord, we beseech thee, make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name, for thou never failest to help and govern those whom thou hast set upon the sure foundation of thy lovingkindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

17 June 2010

The Rood Screen

The word "rood" comes from the Saxon word "rode," which means "cross". The rood screen is so called because it is a screen surmounted by the Rood -- a large figure of the crucified Christ -- and it separates the sanctuary from the nave of the church.  The rood screen at Our Lady of the Atonement Church is a major architectural feature of the interior, with the central arch providing a frame for the tabernacle and altar.  The pictures below begin with our rood screen, followed by pictures of other screens (many of which are medieval in origin).

Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas
(Another view, below)

Our Lady of the Atonement Rood Screen
(above, decorated for Easter)

St. Brinius, Dorcester-on-Thames, near Oxford

All Saints Church, Turkdean, Gloucestershire

Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh

All Saints Church, Litcham, Norfolk
(The Rood was destroyed at the time of the Protestant Reformation)

The Minster, Boscastle, Cornwall
(This is a Rood Beam, instead of a full screen)

16 June 2010

It could've happened that way...

...and for those needing fund-raising ideas:

Papal Infallibility

I've posted another "Exploring Doctrine" article over on The Anglo-Catholic blog.  This one is a brief look at Papal Infallibility, which seems to be a real sticking point for many protestants. 

Since the gift of infallibility is really an expression of God's love for His Church, it's important for us to understand what it is, and what it isn't.  You can read it here.

15 June 2010

Congratulations, Fr. Schenck!

Wonderful news from the Catholic News Agency.

Married father of eight
ordained a Catholic priest
for Pennsylvania diocese

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 15, 2010 / 02:49 am (CNA).- A former Protestant pastor who is a married father of eight was ordained a Catholic priest on Saturday for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

The newly ordained Fr. Paul Schenck was raised Jewish and baptized a Christian when he was 16 years old. In 1994 he left the New Covenant Tabernacle, an evangelical church he founded, and then became a pastor in western New York for the Reformed Episcopal Church. He entered the Catholic Church in 2004.

He and his wife Rebecca have been married for 33 years.

While Latin-rite Catholic priests are ordinarily required to be celibates, a special provision instituted in 1980 by Pope John Paul II allows the ordination of married men in certain cases. Fr. Schenck is the Diocese of Harrisburg’s first married priest.

The new priest celebrated his first Mass with his mother at St. Francis Home in Williamsville, Penn. He was ordained by Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Fla. because the diocese’s former bishop Kevin C. Rhoades had been moved to the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend in Indiana.

Previously, Fr. Schenck served as the executive vice president of the American Center for Law and Justice. He moved to Baltimore in 1997 and opened the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill.

He is presently chairman of the National Pro-life Center and director of the Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

14 June 2010

It's a cathedral. It's Catholic.

Bishop Demetrio Fernández González of the southern Spanish city of Córdoba, once the seat of Muslim power in Spain, said that he will not permit Islamic worship at the city’s cathedral. The cathedral was formerly a mosque, which in turn had been built on the site of a Catholic church.  Read the brief article here, and you can read more by going to the links provided in the article.

13 June 2010

St. Anthony, Confessor and Doctor

Praise to God the mighty Father, who didst call Saint Anthony
from a life of sore temptation to the way of purity.
Humble work and meek obedience marked his holy way of love;
now, his earthly task completed, works his wonders from above.

Praise to Jesus Christ our Savior, who didst give Saint Anthony
grace to preach with zeal and boldness, giving truth new charity.
Men, once lost, who heard the Gospel from the lips of Francis' son
came to know God's grace and favor, and the life which Christ had won.

Praise to God the Holy Spirit, who inspired Saint Anthony
in the way of love and service, calling men to charity,
lifting up the fallen sinner, feeding them with Living Bread,
showing men the way to heaven, there to live with Christ their Head.

Gracious Doctor and Confessor, holy Priest with golden tongue,
joined with all the saints of heaven, praising God the Three in One;
help us in our earthly journey, keep our thoughts on God most high,
that with thee, Christ's saint and servant, we may live and never die.

Tune: Rustington, by Charles H. H. Parry (1848-1918)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

12 June 2010

"A sword shall pierce thine own Heart..."

The scriptures tell us that "Mary kept these things, and pondered them in her heart..."  Devotion to the Heart of Mary is based upon the love we have for her, and the virtues she exhibits.  There is, of course, a close connection between the Heart of Mary and Our Lady of the Atonement, the Woman who "stood beneath the Cross."  It was there that she was a kind of "living icon" in fulfillment of the prophecy of St. Simeon, that her own heart would be pierced by the spear of sorrow.  As St. Augustine wrote, through her presence at the crucifixion of her Son "she cooperated through charity in the work of our redemption."

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the Heart of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

10 June 2010

Exploring Doctrine...

I've posted on The Anglo-Catholic blog the first of what I think might be a series of brief articles called "Exploring Doctrine."  This first one is called "Exploring Doctrine: The Immaculate Conception," and you can read it here.  It's written with converts in mind, especially those Anglicans who are considering entering into full communion through Anglicanorum coetibus.  Although many of them have been eagerly studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and so have a grasp of Catholic teaching, there are many others who haven't had good leadership, and so have not explored the richness of our faith.  Sadly, there may be some who will reject being part of an Ordinariate, but it will be a rejection out of ignorance and ill-informed consciences.  Pray for those who are discerning, and may the Holy Spirit enlighten minds and move hearts.

More pictures...

Hope you're not getting tired of pictures from the Corpus Christi celebration, but here are a few more I received...

08 June 2010

The Father Willis Organ at Salisbury...

Here's an wonderful recording of the great Father Willis organ at the beautiful Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Salisbury.  When I was a student at the Theological College there, I had the privilege of playing this instrument many times.  I hasten to add, it didn't sound like Daniel Cook was at the console!

George Herbert, Anglican Priest and Poet

Over on The Anglo-Catholic blog, I've posted a brief article about George Herbert, which you can read by going here.  "Holy Mr. Herbert," as he came to be known, was an inspired and inspiring poet, and above all, a truly great pastor of souls.  Have a look at the article, and you'll find several links to be of interest.

Some of George Herbert's poems have been set to music, and one of his finest serves as the text of one of our favorite parish hymns, which is sung to the marvellous tune, General Seminary:

King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
and that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast,
thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
thou didst hear me.

Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll thee:
e’en eternity’s too short
to extol thee.

George Herbert, 1633

06 June 2010

More Corpus Christi photos...

Some images from today's celebration...