28 April 2015

Our young men sing...

The young men in the Upper School of The Atonement Academy sang this setting of "Tantum Ergo" during Holy Communion on the commemoration of St. Peter Chanel.

You may also go to this link for the video.

St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr

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.

O God, who for the spreading of thy Church didst crown Saint Peter Chanel with martyrdom: grant that, in these days of Paschal joy, we may so celebrate the mysteries of Christ’s Death and Resurrection as to bear worthy witness to newness of life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

27 April 2015

The Atonement Academy

The parish school of Our Lady of the Atonement Church...

The Good Shepherd

Shepherd! who with thine amorous, sylvan song
Hast broken the slumber that encompassed me,
Who mad'st Thy crook from the accursed tree
On which Thy powerful arms were stretched so long!
Lead me to mercy's ever-flowing fountains;
For Thou my shepherd, guard, and guide shalt be;
I will obey Thy voice, and wait to see
Thy feet all beautiful upon the mountains.

Hear, Shepherd Thou who for Thy flock art dying,
Oh, wash away these scarlet sins, for Thou
Rejoicest at the contrite sinner's vow.
Oh, wait! to Thee my weary soul is crying,
Wait for me: Yet why ask it, when I see,
With feet nailed to the cross, Thou'rt waiting still for me!

Lope de Vega (1562 – 1635)
Spanish poet and playwright

Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)
American poet and educator

23 April 2015

St. Fidelis, Priest and Martyr

St. Fidelis was born Mark Rey and took the name of "Fidelis" when he joined the Capuchin Order at the age of 35 in 1612. He was born at Sigmaringen, a town in modern-day Germany. He studied law and philosophy at Freiburg. St. Fidelis subsequently taught philosophy at the University of Freiburg, ultimately earning a "doctor of laws". During his time as a student he did not drink wine, and wore a hair-shirt. He was known for his modesty, meekness, and chastity. In 1604, he and three friends travelled through Europe, and during his travels he attended Mass very frequently; in every town where he came, he visited the hospitals and churches, passed several hours on his knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and gave to the poor sometimes the very clothes off his back.

After he returned home, he took up the practice of law, and was known for his great fairness, and his dislike of ruining anyone’s reputation. He didn’t hesitate to offer his legal help to those who couldn’t afford the cost of a lawyer, and his charity earned him the name of "counsellor and advocate for the poor". He became disenchanted with some of the bad practices associated with many lawyers, and he decided to join the Capuchin friars.

When he entered the Franciscan Order of the Capuchins, he was given the religious name of "Fidelis," meaning Faithful. He finished his novitiate and his studies for the priesthood, offering his first Mass on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4), in 1612. As soon as St Fidelis finished his course of theology, he was immediately employed in preaching and in hearing confessions. He was named to be Superior of one of the Capuchin Convents, and many people in the area were renewed in their faith, and several Protestant Calvinists were converted. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith commissioned Fidelis specifically for work among the Protestants.

The Protestants were very angry at this attempt to convert them. They made threats against Fidelis' life, and he began to prepare himself for martyrdom. It was on April 24, 1622, that St Fidelis made his confession, said Mass, and then went out to preach. During the sermon, leaders of the Protestants called for his death. One of them discharged his musket at him in the Church, but missed him, and the Catholics begged him to leave the place, but he was ready to lay down his life. As he went out and was on the road, a group of about twenty Calvinists started to harass him, calling him a false prophet. One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on the head with his sword. Fidelis rose again on his knees, and stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, and prayed to God for their pardon. Another sword struck him in the head, and he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. His attackers continued to stab him, and they hacked off his left leg, saying it was punishment for him coming to preach to them. He was buried by the Catholics the next day, and many who had participated in St Fidelis' martyrdom, were converted, and received into the Catholic Church.

O God, who didst enkindle blessed Fidelis with seraphic ardour of spirit in the propagation of the true Faith, and didst vouchsafe to adorn him with the palm of martyrdom, and with glorious miracles: we beseech thee; that, by his merits and intercession, thou wouldest so confirm us through thy grace in faith and charity; that in thy service we may be worthy to be found faithful, even unto death; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 April 2015

A Catholic Education

When it comes to our children's education, we get one chance at it. As I have said frequently, "This isn't a dress rehearsal." Not every family has access to a solid, truly Catholic school, but where there is one, the Church strongly encourages parents to enroll their children, so that the Church and the family can be cooperators in this most important endeavour.

Sometimes there is a temptation to entrust children to a charter school rather than a good Catholic school. The reasoning of some parents is, "Well, it's free, and they say they give a classical education." Actually, it's not free -- they're paid for by tax dollars. Why? Because charter schools are public schools, with all the baggage that entails. The advertisements give an optimistic picture, and in many ways they are often (not always) better than a regular public school down the street, but the bottom line is, they are public schools. Teachers cannot speak of God, or the saints, or our faith, or anything else that is barred from public schools, nor can the teachers and students ever pray together.

One of our teachers said it very effectively:
"I thought about the difference a true Catholic School can make in the life of a child...Parents might not know how much of the day is interwoven with theology. They might only think their child is missing one 30 minute religion class a day and Mass if they leave and go to a non-Catholic school. This is a great deal to miss out on from my view point, but perhaps not from theirs...in a school which can’t speak of Jesus Christ as Savior and Mary as Our Blessed Mother, there is a limit to what can be shared about Truth, Goodness, and Beauty…”

To talk about truth, goodness, and beauty is wonderful, but when those lofty and essential things are divorced from their Source they are diminished. We all want the best for our children, and a solid, truly Catholic education is exactly that - the best.

20 April 2015

St. Anselm of Canterbury

"As prior and abbot, Anselm made the Benedictine monastery of Bec the center of a true reformation in Normandy and England. From this monastery he exercised a restraining influence on popes, kings, the worldly great, and entire religious orders. Raised to the dignity of Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of England, he waged a heroic campaign in defense of the rights and liberties of the Church. As a result he was deprived of goods and position and finally banned from the country. He journeyed to Rome, and at the Council of Bari supported Pope Urban II against the errors of the Greeks. His writings bear eloquent testimony to his moral stature and learning, and have earned for him the title of 'Father of Scholasticism.'"

— from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Almighty God, who didst raise up thy servant St. Anselm to teach the Church to understand its faith in thine eternal Being, perfect justice, and saving mercy: Provide thy Church in every age with devout and learned scholars and teachers, that we may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

15 April 2015

"Thou shalt love..."

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Those are words we hear at the beginning of the Mass according to the Anglican Use. "Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith..." and then our Lord Jesus makes it clear to us: we cannot claim to love God if we don't love our neighbor. On these two commandments -- the love of God and the love of the neighbor -- the entire Law and the Prophets hang. They’re like twin hooks that hold up the entire Law of God. So Jesus teaches that the entire law of God can be boiled down to two simple commandments. Love God with your whole being. Love those whom God puts in your path as much as you love yourself.

Jesus distilled the Law down to one word: Love. St. Paul wrote to the Romans: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law…” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

People often misunderstand what love is. They think it's a particular feeling, something you “fall into.” But Jesus teaches us that love isn’t just a feeling. Love is an orientation of the will in action toward another. To love God and to love our neighbor doesn’t necessarily mean that we have particular feelings about God or our neighbor. That's not to say that love doesn't have feelings associated with it. Certainly, it does. But love itself -- in its essence -- is not a feeling.

In my Anglican days I was a curate serving with a wise rector.  He always asked couples when they came to him for marriage preparation why they wanted to get married. Almost invariably they would say something like, "Because we love each other." And his response would be, "That's nice. Now come up with a good reason why you want to get married."

It’s important for us to understand that love doesn't define or shape marriage. Rather, marriage defines and shapes love. It’s an orientation between husband and wife because they are husband and wife. The same could also be applied in the other direction, when couples want to end their marriage because they “don't love each other any more.” What should be said to them is, “That’s not good enough. Come up with a real reason for going your separate ways."

Popular culture and Hollywood notwithstanding, love isn't something that you “fall into.” We fall into holes and off cliffs. We don’t fall into love. It's a curious expression, "to fall in love." Falling means we’ve lost our balance, we’ve lost our control. When we fall we’re having an “out of control” experience.

That doesn’t describe love. Instead of a “falling” experience, love is really a deliberate act of the will. To love means deliberately to turn ourselves toward another, to give away something of ourselves to someone else without any regard for what we might get in return. The Scriptures describe love in self-sacrificing terms: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

To love is to be turned inside out, toward someone outside of yourself -- toward God, toward your neighbor. That’s not a “falling” experience. Instead, it’s something that raises us up to a higher and holier level.

13 April 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday Sermon

Why did Jesus treat the disbelief of St. Thomas so differently from his treatment of the unbelieving Jewish leaders of His day? What is required to receive God's mercy? Here's a look at some answers to these questions, and others...

You may click on the video, or view it at this link.

08 April 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday Indulgence

On DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY, a plenary indulgence, is granted to the Faithful under the usual conditions:

1.     Sacramental confession (within about 20 days before or after);
2.     Reception of Holy Communion;
3.     Prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff (Our Father and Hail Mary).

and who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin:

1.     either take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy,


2.     who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!").

You may obtain the plenary indulgence for yourself, or it may be applied to the soul of one who is departed, but it cannot be obtained for another person still living.

06 April 2015

The Day of the Resurrection

The High Altar, before the Vigil Mass of Easter, 2015

Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

03 April 2015

The well-traveled Crucifix

The Relic of the True Cross is embedded in this simple crucifix, and it is one of three relics of the True Cross we have at the parish.

This crucifix has special meaning for me. It is the first crucifix I had, and I purchased it at the old S.P.C.K. shop on the High Street in Salisbury, England, when I began my studies at the Theological College there. I had it in my College study, and it then was in my office at the Anglican parish I served in Bristol, England. It was brought back to America when we returned, and it was in my office at both Episcopal parishes in which I served. It was in the first parish office when we came to Texas to found Our Lady of the Atonement (the office shared the rectory laundry room). Finally it was embedded with this relic in 1987, when we began using it for the Veneration of the Cross.

01 April 2015


With the conclusion of the Spy Wednesday morning Masses, all will be made ready for the first service of the Sacred Triduum, with the chanting of Tenebrae this evening. In addition to all the other ceremonies of the season, we have (for more than thirty years) chanted Tenebrae on the eve of each of the three days. The psalms become almost hypnotic. The gradual extinguishing of the candles is a visual reminder of the death of Christ. The readings take us back to those events in Jerusalem, and all that led to them.

From the first antiphon we chant this evening, to the final prayer we offer on Friday night, Tenebrae provides a path into the Passion of Christ.