30 April 2013

St. Joseph the Worker

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life learned from Saint Joseph to share our toil, and thus hallowed our labor: Be present with thy people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of the world responsive to thy will; and give us all a pride in what we do and a just return for our labor; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Joseph, Intercessor
Unto thee God’s children sing;
Be our Patron and Protector,
To God’s throne our praises bring.

Faithful Spouse of faithful Virgin,
Lover of God’s purity;
From thy worthy place in heaven,
Pray that we may faithful be.

Guardian of the Word Incarnate,
Silent guide of God’s own Son;
Guard our hearts and lead us onward
To the life that Christ has won.

Humble man in lofty station,
God has shed His grace on thee;
Pray such grace to us be given,
That we live eternally.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715

28 April 2013

St. Catherine of Siena

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

Catherine, the youngest of twenty-five children, was born in Siena on March 25, 1347. During her youth she had to contend with great difficulties on the part of her parents. They were planning marriage for their favorite daughter; but Catherine, who at the age of seven had already taken a vow of virginity, refused. To break her resistance, her beautiful golden brown tresses were shorn to the very skin and she was forced to do the most menial tasks. Undone by her patience, mother and father finally relented and their child entered the Third Order of St. Dominic.

Unbelievable were her austerities, her miracles, her ecstasies. The reputation of her sanctity soon spread abroad; thousands came to see her, to be converted by her. The priests associated with her, having received extraordinary faculties of absolution, were unable to accommodate the crowds of penitents. She was a helper and a consoler in every need. As time went on, her influence reached out to secular and ecclesiastical matters. She made peace between worldly princes. The heads of Church and State bowed to her words. She weaned Italy away from an anti-pope, and made cardinals and princes promise allegiance to the rightful pontiff. She journeyed to Avignon and persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. Even though she barely reached the age of thirty-three her accomplishments place her among the great women of the Middle Ages. The virgin Catherine was espoused to Christ by a precious nuptial ring which, although visible only to her, always remained on her finger.

Everlasting God, who didst so kindle the flame of holy love in the heart of St. Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of thy Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Peter Chanel triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens:
On April 18, 1841, a band of native warriors entered the hut of Father Peter Chanel on the island of Futuna in the New Hebrides islands near New Zealand. They clubbed the missionary to death and cut up his body with hatchets. Two years later, the whole island was Catholic. St. Peter Chanel's death bears witness to the ancient axiom that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians." He is the first martyr from Oceania, that part of the world spread over the south Pacific, and he came there as the fulfillment of a dream he had had as a boy. Peter was born in 1803 in the diocese of Belley, France. At the age of seven, he was a shepherd boy, but the local parish priest, recognizing something unusual in the boy, convinced his parents to let him study in a little school the priest had started. From there Peter went on to the seminary, where it was said of him: "He had a heart of gold with the simple faith of a child, and he led the life of an angel." He was ordained a priest and assigned to a parish at Crozet. In three years he had transformed the parish. In 1831, he joined the newly founded Society of Mary, since he had long dreamed of being a missionary; but for five years he was assigned to teach at the seminary in Belley. Finally, in 1836, his dream was realized, and he was sent with other Marists to the islands of the Pacific. He had to suffer great hardships, disappointments, frustration, and almost complete failure as well as the opposition of the local chieftain. The work seemed hopeless: only a few had been baptized, and the chieftain continued to be suspicious and hostile. Then, when the chief's son asked for baptism, the chief was so angry that he sent warriors to kill the missionary. Peter's violent death brought about the conversion of the island, and the people of Futuna remain Catholic to this day. Peter Chanel was beatified in 1889 and canonized in 1954.

27 April 2013

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)

25 April 2013

The Pulpit Crucifix

The crucifix at the back of the pulpit at Our Lady of the Atonement Church has an interesting but somewhat obscure history. For us, it goes back to about 1986, when the original church was being constructed.

Even in those early days, as our congregation was growing with the steady addition of remarkable converts and many solid families, our parish managed also to attract a certain number of eccentrics - people who didn't fit well into general society, but who found a spiritual home with us in which they felt safe and accepted. One such person was a man who called himself Brother Tony. He identified himself as a hermit.

I have no idea if he was a refugee from some religious community, or simply an individual who was fed up with society and wished to live a life of solitude. Whatever his background, he appeared harmless enough, and was able to profess a refined and completely Catholic understanding of the Faith. Regular in attending Mass, from time to time he would even mix a bit with the congregation; however, when he wanted to be left alone he let it be known.

One day he came to me and asked if he could live on the property, which at that time was heavily wooded. When I asked him what he would have for shelter, he told me he had an old metal shed which he would like to put on the far side of the property, very much out of the way and unable to be seen from the area where the church was being built. When I pointed out that there would be no electricity, he said he didn't need it. All he would need, he said, was to be able to fill a tank with water from our supply from time to time. He assured me he would be totally self-sufficient, would bother no one, and simply wanted to live out in the woods so he could pray. I agreed, and he lived that way for a couple of years, until one day he decided to move on, and he left as mysteriously as he had arrived.

Brother Tony's metal shed was the only indication he had ever been with us. After his departure I went into it and found only one thing: a crucifix. Why he left it behind, I do not know. He had very few (if any) belongings to speak of, and perhaps he decided he wanted to be completely free of any possessions whatsoever. Whatever the reason for leaving it, I decided to find a home for it in the church - and so it found its place, at the pulpit.

24 April 2013

St. Mark the Evangelist

O Almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark; Give us grace that. being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

23 April 2013

My experience with St. Fidelis

Mark Rey (1577-1622), a member of the Capuchins, was martyred as a result of his efforts in bringing Protestants back to the Catholic Church. He has been a man after my own heart for many, many years. Known now as St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, April 24th is his feast day.

And it was on this day thirty-seven years ago that I was ordained as an Anglican priest.

The date had been chosen for the convenience of the ordaining bishop, not because I had any particular devotion (nor any knowledge at that time) of St. Fidelis. I was serving in the Anglican parish of St. Stephen, Southmead in Bristol, England. Having gone there as a deacon, it was decided that my family and I would make a brief visit back to America where my presbyteral ordination could take place so that our wider family could be present. April 24th was the date which the ordaining bishop had available – a date which was more appropriate than I could have imagined at the time.

As I was kneeling before the bishop in St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island, the thought going through my mind was, “I wish he was a Catholic bishop.” I wouldn’t have admitted to anyone at the time that I had such a thought, but it’s true. As I later learned more about St. Fidelis, I am convinced that it was through his intercession that the thought came to me. Even then, at the moment of my Anglican ordination, my feet were set on the path to Rome.

At that time I didn’t know the circumstances of the martyrdom of St. Fidelis. He was devoted to the work of bringing Protestants back to the fullness of the Catholic faith because of the overwhelming Christian love he had for others. He could not bear the thought that there were those who were deprived of the many and wonderful gifts God gives through His Church.

What a marvelous act of charity this was by St. Fidelis, that even from his place in heaven his concern extended to a young man who yearned to be home. I have loved him ever since.

21 April 2013

St. Anselm of Canterbury

"I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this I believe--that unless I believe, I should not understand."
  - St. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogium, Chapter 1

...and please pray for our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Use Community of St. Anselm, Corpus Christi on this feast day of their Patron.

20 April 2013

The Good Shepherd

We know our Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He is the one who lays down His life for the sheep. We know also that the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church are called to bear the image of our Good Shepherd by giving themselves completely over to the service of God and His flock.

But the members of the laity need to remember something related to that. Each one has his own responsibility to be the Good Shepherd’s “good sheep.” Just as the Shepherd leads, so the sheep must follow. And by following the Shepherd faithfully, the sheep will reach pastures of heavenly joy. Good Shepherd Sunday should also be “Good Sheep Sunday,” a reminder that we must daily recommit ourselves to follow Christ, wherever He leads.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Pictured is the Good Shepherd window at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

19 April 2013

A singing Church

I was watching the video of Margaret Thatcher's funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral, and one of the immediately obvious things about it is that during the congregational hymns, everyone was singing. Men and women, old and young, royalty and commoner, everyone was singing. Not just moving their lips, but actually joining together as one voice.

This is one of the things people notice when they visit our parish, or a parish like it, which is filled with converts from Anglicanism and other more traditional mainline protestant denominations. Virtually everyone is singing. Eventually even the lifelong Catholics who join us get into the spirit of things, and start singing.

Why is this? Well, one of the immediate reasons (it seems to me) is that we sing real hymns. Not those pathetic "songs" which elbowed their way in during the sixties and seventies. Real hymns with strong lyrics and a tune you can hum later on. And in those places where the singing is robust, you'll find there's very often a decent organ and someone who knows how to use it to its best advantage. Few things put me off more than someone wailing at me through a microphone and flailing their arms in an attempt to get me to join in some tuneless piece of nonsense, with a piano tinkling in the background. It's something I'd picture at a cheap nightclub. Frankly, it makes me want to shut up and offer prayers that it ends quickly.

No, seeing and hearing that congregation at Mrs. Thatcher's funeral made me thank God for my Anglican roots, and it made me give double thanks that I'm in a parish filled with people who understand that singing is a serious part of worshipping God.

The Shrine in the Courtyard

This outdoor Shrine altar marks the site on which the first Mass was offered on the parish property. It was celebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Patrick F. Flores, with several of us priests concelebrating. The original altar, constructed of wood, is now encased by this stone altar.

This picture was taken recently, showing the morning sun filtering through the surrounding trees, and forms what resembles the rays depicted in the picture of Divine Mercy.

18 April 2013

Scripture and the Church

“Saint Jerome recalls that we can never read Scripture simply on our own. We come up against too many closed doors and we slip too easily into error. The Bible was written by the People of God for the People of God, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God can we truly enter as a “we” into the heart of the truth that God himself wishes to convey to us. Jerome, for whom “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”, states that the ecclesial dimension of biblical interpretation is not a requirement imposed from without: the Book is the very voice of the pilgrim People of God, and only within the faith of this People are we, so to speak, attuned to understand sacred Scripture. An authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church.”

- Pope Benedict XVI, “Verbum Domini” I.30

Pictured above: the Lectern in the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio.

16 April 2013

The Columbarium

The Columbarium is located in the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are 660 niches of black granite arranged on the north and south walls of the Chapel, with the altar and tabernacle beneath a baldacchino at the east end. Just inside the entrance is a depiction of St. Francis with a reminder of our mortality. Mass is offered in the Chapel each weekday (Monday through Friday) at 7:00 a.m., and the souls of those interred here are prayed for each day. There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each week beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Friday and concluding at 7:15 a.m. on Sunday.

Message to Boston from Pope Francis

Vatican City, 16 April 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis, through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., has sent a telegram to Cardinal Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap, archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, USA in response to the attack that took place yesterday afternoon in that city during its annual marathon causing three deaths and leaving over 100 wounded.

“Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering, and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.”

Happy Birthday, Benedict XVI

13 April 2013

Parish Music Series


is presenting an afternoon of Chamber Music
featuring members of


Sunday, April 14, 2013
4 o’clock in the afternoon
at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

The program traces the history of Spanish dance music
from the Renaissance through the 20th century.
Included will be works for
violin, baroque guitar, classical guitar,
lute, theorbo, basso continuo, and mezzo-soprano.

Featuring musicians
Brian Delay, Morgen Johnson,
Angela Malek, and Andrew Small.

Suggested donation: $20 adults, $10 students, seniors, and military.

Reception to follow in the Blessed John Paul II Library.

11 April 2013

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou savest, Desiderio desideravi—"With desire I have desired." I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee, to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me, O make my heart beat with Thy Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it, but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace. Amen.

- John Henry Cardinal Newman

The image pictured is located over the altar in the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio, Texas.

The Angel of the Holy Eucharist

"We humbly beseech thee, almighty God, command these offerings to be brought by the hands of thy holy Angel to thine altar on high, in sight of thy divine majesty..."

St. Thomas Aquinas writes, "The priest does not pray that the sacramental species may be borne up to heaven; nor that Christ’s true body may be borne thither, for it does not cease to be there; but he offers this prayer for Christ’s mystical body, which is signified in this sacrament, that the angel standing by at the Divine mysteries may present to God the prayers of both priest and people..." (Summa, III, Q. 83, art. 4, Reply to Obj. 9.)

What a beautiful thought it is that God, in His extravagant generosity, has created an angel whose only task in all of eternity is to bear up to heaven the offering of one particular Mass.

10 April 2013

St. Stanislaus of Cracow

St. Stanislaus was born in 1030 and was educated at Gnesen and at Paris. After his ordination to the priesthood he was made a canon of the cathedral at Cracow as well as archdeacon and preacher. Upon the death of the bishop of Cracow, he was nominated bishop of the diocese by Pope Alexander II.

The king at the time, Boleslaus II, trying to strengthen his own power, began invading his neighbors, making himself very unpopular with the nobles of the country, who opposed his policies. St. Stanislaus of Cracow sided with the nobles, led by the king's brother, Ladislaus, and this brought him into conflict with the king.

Stanislaus had opposed the king before for his ruthless and cruel ways – the king was kind of a bully – and one time St. Stanislaus confronted the king face-to-face for his immoral behavior when Boleslaus had abducted the wife of a Polish nobleman and carried her off to his castle. No one seemed willing to face the king from a fear of his rage, but Stanislaus boldly went to the king and threatened him with excommunication if he did not change his ways. Furious, the king promised revenge on the bishop. Later, Stanislaus sided with the nobles in their opposition to the king's political policies, and the king accused him of being a traitor and condemned him to death.

At first the king commanded his soldiers to kill the bishop when he was celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Chapel in Cracow, but the soldiers refused, fearing to bring down upon themselves the wrath of God. Undeterred, the king himself entered the church, drew his sword, and killed the bishop, ordering his soldiers to dismember the body.

Pope Gregory VII placed the country under interdict and Boleslaus fell from power, fleeing to Hungary, where he entered the monastery of Osiak to do penance for his crime. Stanislaus, canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, is one of the patron saints of Poland.
O God, who for thy sake didst suffer thy Bishop Saint Stanislaus of Cracow gloriously to be slain by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all they who call upon him for succor may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

09 April 2013

"And I, if I be lifted up..."

"...as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of man be lifted up..."

Almighty and everlasting God, who of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

07 April 2013

The Annunciation

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts, that we who have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Below: the triptych at the High Altar, closed for Lent, shows the Annunciation,
which is the beginning of the Lord's Passion.

04 April 2013

Catholic Architecture

"The fact that architecture plays a kind of sacramental role in Catholic worship is sometimes neglected, and at a great cost. The actual place of worship should be a place which serves as a mystical expression of the Incarnation, using the physical to communicate the eternal. The building in which Catholics worship is not simply a shelter from the elements; rather, liturgical architecture should have a numinous nature, to more capably communicate the profound truth of the worship taking place within its walls."

- from a talk I gave some years ago on

"The Importance of Catholic Art and Architecture."

02 April 2013

Eight years ago...

...our beloved Pope John Paul II entered into eternal life, where he intercedes for us.

01 April 2013

The "Christmas 'n' Easter" Crowd

We just came through the time when pastors and the other regulars make the usual observations about the “Christmas ‘n’ Easter” crowd. You can usually tell by the gum-chewing and cell phones and unaccustomed “nicer clothes,” along with the impression that they really don’t quite know what to do with the bulletin that was thrust into their hands. The cursory bobbing before sitting down, looking around to see what everyone else is doing, side-ways chatting when others are praying – these are all clues that church might not be the natural habitat for what seems to be a migratory flock that makes its way through twice a year.

I’ve been known to be guilty of threatening to mark them with ashes on their way in, give them a palm branch before they sit down, and wish them a Merry Easter on their way out. It’s easy to fall into that feeling of righteous indignation when strangers are filling up the place, and the regular crowd is reduced to sitting in folding chairs. “Who do they think keeps this place going when they’re not here?” is the thought in many minds. But I’ve finally gotten over that.

You don’t have to read very far in the Gospels before you see that there were crowds hanging around Jesus fairly often. Not all of them were His followers in any sincere or committed sense. In fact, plenty of them were there just because they thought He might do something amazing, or that He might give them some free bread, or that He might knock the Pharisees down a peg or two. They may have been following Him around because it was kind of a “day out,” a little break from otherwise humdrum lives. But whatever the reason, there were thousands of them. And once in a while – maybe not frequently, but once in a while – someone would stick with it. They’d hear something or they’d see something that would change their lives. Let’s face it, to be hearing and seeing the Incarnate Word of God just might have some sort of good effect on at least a few people.

And that’s what I’m thinking about the “Christmas ‘n’ Easter” crowd. There’s some cord, some thread however thin, which pulls them. Sure, it may be some nostalgia on their part. Maybe they think it’s “the thing to do,” and they can then put a check-mark next to it on their “to do” list. But maybe – just maybe – their coming is an attempt to fill a void, to satisfy a hunger they can’t define. At least, that’s what I’m thinking. And so it becomes a marvelous opportunity to give them some real spiritual food.

So no more snarky comments like, “Howdy stranger,” or “Gosh, I thought you’d died.” Just the Gospel. Just the rock-solid Catholic faith in an uncompromisingly Catholic setting. That’s what they need. Not watered down, but not hitting them over the head, either. And you know what? Some of them will stick.

A Hymn for Eastertide

God our Father, Lord of glory,
Thanks and praise we give to Thee;
In Thy mercy to our fathers,
Thou didst bring them through the sea.
So by water hast Thou saved us,
Now from Adam's sin set free.

Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour,
Of Thy sacrifice we sing;
As the lamb in ancient myst'ry
To Thy people life didst bring,
So in Eucharistic glory,
Thou, God's Lamb, art made our King.

Holy Spirit, Breath from heaven,
We Thy precious gifts embrace;
At creation all things living
Thou didst sanctify with grace.
So may we, creation's glory,
Be for Thee a dwelling place.

Loving mercy of the Father,
Sacrifice of Christ the Son,
Quick'ning power of the Spirit:
In us let Thy work be done!
May we rise to life eternal,
That our Paschal joy be won.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips
Tune: "St. Thomas"