31 October 2012

Indulgences for the Souls in Purgatory

One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray for the Faithful Departed, who can do no more for themselves. There are plenary indulgences assigned to this season, outlined in the Enchiridion, which you may obtain for the Holy Souls in Purgatory:

1. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or for those entitled to use it, a semi-public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

2. You may make a visit to a Cemetery or Columbarium. A plenary indulgence is applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. This work may be done each day between November 1 and November 8.

To obtain a Plenary Indulgence, one must fulfill the following requirements:

1. Make a Sacramental Confession,
2. Receive Holy Communion,
3. Offer prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.

All these are to be performed within days of each other, if not at the same time.

30 October 2012

Solemnity of All Saints

Thursday, November 1st
O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that, through their intercession, we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Masses at 7 a.m., 9:20 a.m. and 7 p.m.

This is a Holy Day of Obligation.

29 October 2012

Evensong and the Duruflé "Requiem"

There will be Masses on All Souls Day (Friday, November 2nd) at 7 a.m. and at 9:20 a.m., but we will continue our remembrance of the Faithful Departed as our parish Music Series continues next Sunday, November 4th at 4 o’clock with a service of Solemn Evensong in Commemoration of All Souls. This will include a performance of the Requiem, Op. 9 by Maurice Duruflé sung by the parish Festival Choir and The Atonement Academy Honor Choir. It promises to be a beautiful and fitting tribute to the memory of all our departed loved ones. A reception will follow in the Blessed John Paul II Library and a free-will offering will be received for the support of the Music Series.

Building for the future...



The Atonement Academy is the single most important apostolate of our parish. Together, we support pro-life efforts because we teach the sanctity of human life in our classrooms. Together, we support the dignity of the human person and the truth about Christ by teaching children the Catholic faith in its entirety. Together, we are changing the future of the Church and world through our children.

From its small beginning in 1994, The Atonement Academy has grown to be a regional attraction for students, drawing them from over 25 zip codes and six counties surrounding Bexar. We’ve developed a positive reputation even beyond our borders, too. Six percent of our population is carefully-selected international students from Mexico, South Korea, Italy, Peru and the Philippines who bring a charm all their own, and uniquely contribute to our strong Catholic and classical culture. We are a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and twice the recipient of the Cardinal Newman Society’s Honor Roll of Top 50 Catholic High Schools in the nation.

This attraction, though, has put a strain on our existing classrooms. At 577 students this academic year, (a 5% increase from last year), The Atonement Academy is at capacity in the current building, so the need to expand is a necessary one. After much study and the design of a Master Plan, our parish school will ultimately grow to a planned population of 750 students.

We are excited that the time has arrived to begin earnest preparations for “Phase 1 and 2” of the expansion plan. Phase 1 and 2 involves the construction of 19 new classrooms and four science labs, plus a dining hall, two practice gymnasiums, more offices and site preparations which include additional parking. We’ve revised our site plan and goal since the short 2010 Capital Campaign, making the design more cost-effective without sacrificing the needed classroom space. We’ve also now included “Phase 2” – the athletics expansion, because we are nearing the level of being able to pay for Phase 1 in cash.

Although we are doing well in our financial goal, your participation is vital to the success of this short campaign, and unlike many other Capital Campaigns which seem to endlessly drag on for years, ours has begun on October 28, 2012, and it will definitely end on May 26, 2013. That’s because we can’t wait too long for this expansion. The students need it as soon as possible. Our expectation is to begin construction in 2013 and to have it completed in 2015.

Here’s where we are and here’s how we’re going to do it…

Our current financial position is healthy for both the church and school. The church, originally built in 1983-85, and expanded in 2003-05, is totally debt free. The St. Joseph Parish House is debt free. The St. Anthony Hall, built in 1997, is debt free. The only debt we service is the school expansion (completed in 2005). Those payments are approximately $24,000 per month, and we owe about $1.9 million on the remaining note, at a 4.12% interest rate, to be completed in 2016.

Due in part to a rise in student enrollment over last two years and good fiscal stewardship, The Atonement Academy is self-sustaining without a parish subsidy and will contribute $350,000 towards the Capital Campaign this academic year, its second year in a row to do so.

How can you help?


As the history of this parish shows, God provides. He provides, but we pray! Every parishioner, young or mature, should consider making this Campaign his or her prayerful intention over the next nine months. Prayer moves mountains. It moves people to stop and reassess their lives, and it moves people to be generous.

In addition to prayer, we need each member of the parish, and even beyond our community, to contribute financially. The gifts of each and every person are vital to the success of this Capital Campaign.

Reflect on how greatly God has blessed us as individuals and as a parish family, and give thanks to God for these blessings by prayerfully considering what you can do to help.

-- How to Pledge Support --

• PLEDGES OF CASH GIFTS • GIFTS OF STOCK. You may call our financial representative at USAA and he will assist you making a transfer from your portfolio to ours. Contact Mr. Vincent Knodell directly at 210-456-7012. • TITHING. If every parishioner with an income gave 10% - a biblical tithe to the Lord – we would put all that money into the building fund above basic operating costs for the parish.


A message from the Pastor…

Our Lady of the Atonement is a remarkable parish, and it occupies a unique place, not only in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, but far beyond our diocesan boundaries. Our parish has a leading role in the return of Anglicans to the unity of the Catholic Church, and it has distinguished itself in the areas of liturgy, music, and Catholic education.

God has given a vision for this parish, and over the years we have done all we can to remain faithful to that vision. Each of us can recount stories of how God’s grace has worked in our lives through this parish, and some of the greatest evidence of God’s love and care is seen in our parish school. Every day, children’s lives are affected in wonderful ways. Their love for God is increased; their souls are formed according to the mind of Christ; their minds are opened to the knowledge and mystery of God’s universe. A new generation of Catholics is being formed, and we have a responsibility to take part in that formation.

We have a most wonderful problem. Because of the overwhelming demand for what our school offers, we’re running out of room. I have no doubt whatsoever that God wants us to expand our facilities, and for that reason I do not hesitate in asking for your support. Please – give as generously as you possibly can, and you can be assured that it’s probably the best investment you’ll ever make.


This project has been placed under the spiritual patronage of St. Anthony of Padua. Please pray for God's blessing upon it, through his intercession:

O God, who didst endow thy servant St. Anthony of Padua with clarity of faith and holiness of life: Grant us, we beseech thee, to keep with steadfast minds the faith which he taught, and by his intercession, to bring this good work to fruition; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

26 October 2012

Our Judge and Advocate

"And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper."
- St. Luke 12:57-59

There’s something in what Christ says here which may escape us if we’re not paying attention. When He says that if we’re being taken before a judge, we should “make an effort to settle” with our accuser, because if we don’t, we’ll end up in prison. It sounds as though Jesus is assuming that we’re guilty even before having our case heard!

He is, of course, referring ultimately to that day when we will stand before Him as our Eternal Judge. In fact, every one of us – if we’re coming to judgement all by ourselves – will indeed stand guilty before God. But while Christ's perfect sinlessness accuses us of our own sinfulness, He is also our advocate. If we’ve made peace with Him in this life, then we need not fear the sentence given to us.

There are some things we just cannot afford to put off, and living in a peaceful relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important business for us to settle.

For more things of interest...

If you'd like to keep up with daily news, commentary, and various things of interest, you're welcome to go to Fr. Phillips' Facebook page.  This is my personal site, so it reflects my own interests and views on current issues.

These "social networking" sites seem to be very useful at the present time.  Who knows? Something will probably come along to replace them, but for the time being let's use everything available to us!

24 October 2012

Let's tell everyone the secret...

For the past thirty years one of the best-kept secrets of the Latin Rite has been the Anglican Use. Our liturgy preserves much of the best of Anglican liturgical life, but in full communion with the Holy See. The recently established Ordinariates are intended to carry the ball further, and have the freedom which comes from their separate jurisdictions. The Anglican Use, as a liturgical expression, will continue -- whether within the Ordinariates, or in parishes or groups which are part of local territorial Latin Rite dioceses.

I've been providing poster-type material intended to raise general awareness of the Anglican Use, and through social networking these have begun to spread around the internet. I'm putting them all together here, and am happy to have them copied and used wherever they might be useful.

22 October 2012

Blessed John Paul II

Today is the commemoration of Blessed John Paul II.  It's remarkable to me to be keeping the liturgical commemoration of someone whom I have met, with whom I have celebrated Mass, and with whom I have spoken.  There is a brief story of this on the side bar of this blog, which says:
"With all my heart, I bless you and your people..."
In 1983 I was a newly-ordained priest. In November of that year, it was my privilege to be in Rome to take part in developing The Book of Divine Worship. During that time an invitation was extended to celebrate Mass with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his private chapel. After we had said Mass, and in those few moments I had with the Holy Father, he told me that he remembered considering the request for my ordination, and he described how he came to an affirmative decision. For me, our brief conversation was an experience which will be treasured forever. At the conclusion of our time together, I asked him if I could take his blessing back to the people of my parish. His very simple words remain precious to me: "With all my heart, I bless you and your people." He then embraced me, and I knew that I was forever "home in my Father's house."
There is a window near the pulpit which commemorates this, and here are a few pictures showing the details.
The Coat of Arms of Ven. John Paul II is at the top,
connected by the grape vine to our parish symbol of the Pelican.
The words spoken to me by the Holy Father:

The date and place:

Detail showing the Pelican (a symbol of the Atonement):

The name of the parish and the date of its founding:

The blessing given to us by the Holy Father has been wonderfully fruitful over these past several years, and we ask for his continuing intercession.  Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.

18 October 2012

The latest Crusader Bulletin

Go to this link to read the October 18th edition of the Crusader Bulletin.  You'll find news about the recent accreditation visit, student honors, upcoming events, sports, music, academics...things which make The Atonement Academy the great school it is!

16 October 2012

Promises from the Sacred Heart

Of the many promises Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed to St. Margaret Mary for those who are devoted to His Sacred Heart, these are the principal ones:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

12 October 2012

A treat for St. Wilfrid's Day

Here’s a recipe for Wilfra tarts, a traditional pastry baked in Yorkshire in honour of St. Wilfrid. After they were baked, they’d be placed on a convenient windowsill, available for anyone who was walking by. A nice thought…but I doubt there’d be enough left to share once you taste them!

Prepare some shortcrust pastry and roll it very thin.

Line the bottoms of a muffin tray with pastry and lightly bake the empty pastry shells until the pastry slightly hardens.

Peel, core and gently cook 2 or 3 apples with a little sugar until tender.

Fill the pastry shells with the cooked apple, then top with a thin slice of Wensleydale cheese (actually, I like Cheddar…although a Yorkshireman would probably be shocked by that).

Using some more of the pastry, place lids on the tarts then brush a little milk on top of each one and carefully seal the lids to the rest of the tarts.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 375F until the tarts just begin to turn golden brown.

When I was growing up on the farm in Connecticut, we never had apple pie without some cheese to go with it – a throw-back to Wilfra tarts, I’m sure!

10 October 2012

Pater Noster

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation." - Luke 11:1-4

It was an ordinary practice for a rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they could use on a regular basis, and it would be a prayer that encapsulated the teaching they had imparted to their followers. The prayer Jesus gives to his apostles teaches everything necessary to know about how to pray, and for what to pray.

It begins by addressing God as Father, indicating to us that in prayer we are not coming to someone out from whom we must try and extract gifts, but to a Father who takes delight in supplying His children's needs.

In Hebrew thought the idea of “name” means more than just the name by which a person is called. The name means the whole character of the person as it is revealed and known to us, and this is why Jesus teaches that God’s Name is a holy name. Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee." To know the name of God is to know the whole character and mind and heart of God, and makes us willingly put our trust in Him.

The order of the Lord's Prayer is important. Before we ask anything for ourselves, the first order of business is that of God and His glory, and the reverence which is due to Him. Only when we give God His proper place will other things fall into proper order.

Notice how this prayer covers everything in life. It covers our present need, in that it tells us to pray for our daily bread, and indeed it is bread for the day for which we ask, providing a link to the story of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-21). Only enough for the needs of the day could be gathered. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time, which is a reminder of our dependence on God.

The prayer refers to our sin. When we pray, all we can really do is pray for forgiveness, because even the best among us is a sinful man coming before the purity of God. And as we seek forgiveness, so we need to give forgiveness.

It covers future trials, asking that we not be brought to them. “Temptation” means any situation in which we are tested. It includes far more than seduction to sin. It covers every situation which is a challenge to us, and which tests a person's humanity and integrity and fidelity. We cannot escape it, but we can meet it with God. People have asked, “Why would God lead us into temptation?” That’s not really a helpful translation, because the Greek is really more like “Let us not be led into temptation.” In other words, in this prayer we are asking God to protect us from giving into temptation.

The Lord's Prayer is a public prayer of the Church, with its proper place in the liturgy. But it also is a private prayer, which stirs up all manner of holy desires which lead us on into right ways, while at the same time it sums up all we ought to pray for in the presence of God.

08 October 2012

Blessed John Henry Newman

October 9th is the commemoration of Blessed John Henry Newman, and is the anniversary of his reception into the Catholic Church in 1845.

Almighty God, who didst bestow on thy Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow thy kindly light and to find peace in thy Church; grant, we beseech thee, that through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end.  Amen.

"God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about."

- John Henry Cardinal Newman.

The Good Samaritan

A lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." - Luke 10:25-37

Although it’s a parable being told by our Lord, everyone who heard his response to the young lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor,” knew exactly the stretch of road which Jesus was describing. The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho was on a narrow, rocky road. There were outcrops of rock and sudden turns, which made it a favorite place for thieves to hide. In the fifth century, St. Jerome tells us that it was still called "The Bloody Way." Even in the 19th century it was still necessary to pay safety money to the local sheiks before one could travel on it. When Jesus told this story, he was telling about the kind of thing that was constantly happening on the Jerusalem to Jericho road.

And we look at the characters in the story:

There was the traveler, who must have been reckless and not very prudent. People seldom attempted the Jerusalem to Jericho road alone. There would be some safety in numbers, so they travelled in convoys or caravans. This man, however, had set out by himself, so he really had no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he found himself.

There was the temple priest, who hurried past. He knew full well that if anyone touched a dead man, he was unclean for seven days, according to Jewish law. He couldn’t be sure, but it looked to him as though the man was dead, so to touch him would mean losing his turn of duty in the Temple, and he didn’t want to take that risk.

The Levite was fairly worldly-wise. He knew that the bandits on this road were in the habit of using decoys. One of them would act as though he were wounded, and when some unsuspecting traveler stopped to help, the others would rush in and overpower him. He wasn’t going to fall for that trick.

Then there was the Samaritan. Given the feelings of the Jews towards the Samaritans – a race of people who claimed Jewish roots, but who were half-breeds and so worse than Gentiles – there was no doubt in the minds of those hearing this parable that the real villain of the story had arrived.

But what a surprise! He was the only one prepared to help. He may have been a heretic and an enemy as far as the Jews were concerned, but the love of God was obviously in his heart.

So the young lawyer poses the question, “Who is my neighbor,” and Jesus asks him what is written in the law. And He expands it into a second question: "How do you read?" Why did Jesus ask it in that way? Strict orthodox Jews wore round their wrists little leather boxes called phylacteries, which contained certain passages of scripture, having to do with the love of God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.” So Jesus was saying to the scribe, "Look at the phylactery on your own wrist and it will answer your question." To that scripture, the scribes had added Leviticus 19:18, which teaches that a man should love his neighbor as himself. But this wasn’t enough for the strict Jew. With their absolute passion for defining things, the Rabbis tried to define who a man's neighbor was; and very often they confined the word “neighbor” to apply only to their fellow Jews. For instance, some of them said that it was illegal to help a Gentile woman at the time of childbirth, because that would only be bringing another Gentile into the world. So then, we can see that the scribe's question, "Who is my neighbor?" was an important one.

So we have some important points here. First, we must help a person, even when he has brought his trouble on himself, as this traveler had done. Second, any person who is in need is our neighbor. Our help doesn’t stop with our own people, with our own kind. Our charity must be as wide as the love of God. Third, the help we give must be practical and not consist only in feeling sorry. Compassion, to be real, has to show itself in deeds. This is part of what St. James means when he says: “faith without works is dead.” And what Jesus said to the scribe, he says to us – “Go and do the same."

06 October 2012

St. Bruno, Priest and Founder

St. Bruno founded a religious order, the Carthusians, which is the most demanding, the most strict and the most difficult in which to live – and yet many young men choose it as a way of making a life-long sacrifice for the glory of God.

Born in Cologne, Germany, St. Bruno became a famous teacher at Rheims and an important official the archdiocese. It was a time when many clergy were living lives that were incompatible with their calling, and when Pope Gregory VII brought about reforms, Bruno completely supported it. In fact, he took part in getting his own scandalous archbishop removed from office – of course, the archbishop had his friends, and they made life very difficult for Bruno.

After all this, St. Bruno had the dream of living in solitude and prayer, and persuaded a few friends to join him in a hermitage, and eventually was given some land which was to become famous for his foundation "in the Chartreuse" which described the color of the countryside (yellowish green, and from which comes the word “Carthusian”). The climate, desert, mountainous terrain and inaccessibility guaranteed silence, poverty and small numbers.

Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day, and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts.

The pope, hearing of Bruno's holiness, called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again, and spent his last years (after refusing becoming a bishop) in the wilderness of Calabria.

He was never formally canonized, because the Carthusians avoided all occasions of publicity. Pope Clement extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Bruno, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

05 October 2012

Hearing God's Word...

"Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
- St. Luke 10:13-16.

Our Lord has been speaking to the seventy disciples whom He had sent out two by two to announce the Kingdom of God. He tells them, “Whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’”

There are serious consequences to rejecting God's word. God speaks. He speaks through the Scriptures; He speaks through His Church; He speaks in many ways, all being rooted in His Word, Jesus Christ. Every promise, every revelation of God that man has ever heard, can actually become his condemnation. If God’s promises are embraced, they are man’s greatest glory; but each promise rejected becomes a witness against him.

In this Gospel, our Lord mentions certain towns: Chorazin and Bethsaida. God’s Word came to them, and great works were done in them, but they ignored what they saw and heard. The result? They are no more. They rejected Christ, and so were condemned. Our Lord speaks of Capernaum, which at this time was an active city in Galilee. It would have been impossible for Christ’s hearers to think of Capernaum no longer existing.  It was one of the centers of the fishing industry on the Sea of Galilee; it was the home town of Peter and Andrew; the synagogue was there where Jesus imparted some of His most important teachings; healings had taken place there. But the people of Capernaum did not submit themselves to Christ, and to visit it today is to visit ruins.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

04 October 2012

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi was actually baptized with the name Giovanni (John), but his father, who was a cloth merchant and who had lots of business in France, called him Francis. That's the name that stuck, although it's really a nickname. Francis was born in 1182 in the town of Assisi, and because his father was rather successful, Francis was raised with a love of fine clothes and good times. He led the other young men of the town in enjoying good food and drink, singing, and dancing.

When Francis was 20, he was taken prisoner in a war between Assisi and Perugia. For the year he was a prisoner, during which time he was very sick, he had some religious experiences which began to change him. After his release, he was praying in the decrepit little chapel of S. Damiano outside Assisi, and he heard a voice from the crucifix telling him, "Francis, repair my house, which is falling in ruins." He took the words literally, and he went quickly back to the city, sold his horse and some cloth from his father's shop, and came back to give some of the money to the priest at S. Damiano, and distributed some of it to the poor. Francis also, with his own hands, worked on repairing the little church.

His father was furious at Francis' squandering money on churches and beggars, and hauled him before the bishop to bring him to his senses. As he stood before the bishop, Francis calmly took off all his clothes, gave them to his father (the astonished bishop quickly covered Francis with a cloak), and said that he was now recognizing only his Father in heaven, not his father on earth. His life from this time on was lived without money or family ties.

The 13th century was also a time when the Christian religion was taken very much for granted, and Francis felt the need to return to the original spirit of Christ. This meant living in poverty, and it also meant showing Christ's love to other people. A number of the young men of Assisi, attracted by Francis' example, joined him in his new way of life. In 1209 Francis and his companions went to Rome, where they presented their ideas to Pope Innocent III and received his approval.

They found themselves influencing more and more people, including a young lady named Clare, whom Francis helped to enter a monastery of nuns, and who later began the "second order" of Franciscans, the order for women. Francis travelled to the Holy Land. He also went to Rome in 1223 to present the rule of his order to the Pope, who approved it wholeheartedly. Francis returned to Assisi and began to spend more and more time alone in prayer, leaving the decisions about his organization to others.

While he was praying on Mt. Alvernia in 1224, he had a vision of an angelic figure, and when the vision disappeared Francis felt the wounds of Christ in his hands, side, and feet. He was careful not to show the stigmata to others, but several close friends reported after his death that Francis had suffered in his body as Christ had suffered on the cross. His last 2 years were lived in almost constant pain and near-blindness. He died in 1226, and 2 years later he was canonized.

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant unto thy people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of Saint Francis, we may for love of thee delight in thy whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

03 October 2012

Transitus of St. Francis

The Transitus...a beautiful remembrance of the beautiful death of St. Francis.  

Some practical advice...

In today’s Gospel we hear the words of Jesus to three men who said they wanted to follow Him. Jesus gives them some very practical advice, applicable to all of us who want to be His disciples.

As they were going along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." - Luke 9:57-62

To the first man, his advice was, "Before you follow me, understand that there’s a cost to it – after all, even the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To follow Christ is demanding, but the demands are high for our own good. A religion consisting of “the lowest common denominator” moves nobody. In fact, it can leave a person worse off than having no religion, because it’s quite possible to settle into a non-demanding sense of vague spirituality, something of one’s own making, with no demands, no real worship except towards oneself.

Jesus' words to the second man sound harsh, but that probably has to do with translating a cultural expression. In fact, there was a great possibility that the man's father was not even dead. What he was most likely saying was, "I will follow you after my father has died." This was an Aramaic way of saying, “I’ll do it someday; I’ll get to it later.” The point Jesus was making is that in everything there is a crucial moment. If that moment is missed the thing most likely will never be done at all. The man in the Gospel had stirrings in his heart to get out of his spiritually dead surroundings, but if he missed that moment he would never get out. This is a reminder to all of us, that we need to be mindful about putting off the doing of some good thing or right act until later. If we take one simple example - sometimes we think we should write a letter, perhaps of sympathy, perhaps of thanks, perhaps of congratulations. What happens if we put it off? Probably it’ll never be written. Jesus urges us to act at once, when our hearts are stirred.

Christ’s words to the third man state a practical truth. No ploughman ever ploughed a straight furrow looking back over his shoulder. Any farmer can tell us that. If we’re always looking back over our shoulder, we aren’t looking where we’re going, and in fact we can actually lose sight of the goal God has put in front of us. If we spend our time remembering “what it was like,” we’re in danger of missing out on “what is supposed to be.”

02 October 2012


Not that I want to make our guardian angels into something too sweet for words, but this video is just lovely. About half-way through, the music goes into the gorgeous "Abendsegen" from Humperdinck's opera, "Hansel and Gretel." I still remember playing the part of Hansel in our Fifth Grade play, and got to sing this "Evening Prayer."

Why there are fourteen angels, I do not know; but the knowledge that God surrounds us with His love by appointing angels for our guidance and protection is one of the great comforts of our faith. Here's the English translation of the text of "Abendsegen."

When at night I go to sleep
Fourteen angels watch do keep
Two my head are guarding
Two my feet are guiding
Two are on my right hand
Two are on my left hand
Two who warmly cover
Two who o’er me hover
Two to whom ’tis given
To guide my steps to heaven

Sleeping sofly, then it seems
Heaven enters in my dreams;
Angels hover round me,
Whisp'ring they have found me;
Two are sweetly singing,
Two are garlands bringing,
Strewing me with roses
As my soul reposes.
God will not forsake me
When dawn at last will wake me.