30 June 2015

Blessed Junipero Serra

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Blessed Junipero Serra to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


On Wednesday, September 23rd, during his visit to the United States, the Holy Father will celebrate a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., when he will declare the canonization of St. Junipero Serra. Here are some details of his life and ministry, excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.:
In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Asking the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra for vocations to the Sacred Ministry of the Church:
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to lay hands upon men to serve thee as Sacred Ministers in thy Church: Grant that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Church may choose men wisely and in accordance with thy Will for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through Him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

29 June 2015

The First Martyrs of Rome

These are the holy men and women who are called the "Protomartyrs of Rome." They were accused of burning Rome by Nero , who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called "disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles' death."

Pope Clement I, third successor of St. Peter, writes: “It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith... Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented... suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize.”

O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; 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.

28 June 2015

The SCOTUS decision...

With a decision handed to us by a slim majority, the Supreme Court of the United States has imposed a strange thing upon all the states; namely, that marriage licenses must be issued for those in same-sex relationships, and these relationships must be given equal standing with traditional marriage.

Of course, this settles the matter no more than the Roe v. Wade decision settled the issue of legal abortions. It will tear at the fabric of our nation for generations to come, and we Catholics will have to take our place at the front line of battle.

There are some preliminary thoughts about the SCOTUS decision which I have posted elsewhere, but have put together here.



So a man can enter into a legal contract with another man and call it a marriage. A woman can enter into a legal contract with another woman and each state must recognize it. Call it whatever you want. Call it a marriage if you wish. But calling it by that name doesn't make it so.

The Supreme Court ruling has not affected the sacrament of Holy Matrimony one bit. In fact, the state's part in the sacramental marriage of a man and a woman has nothing to do with its sacramental nature. The only reason it is there is for the legal protection of the persons involved, including subsequent children. But that's not what makes it sacramental. It's not what makes it a marriage.

So enter into as many legal contracts as you want, homosexual men. Demand your legal rights, lesbian women. But what you will have is not marriage. It's simply a legal contract which the vast majority of you will probably want to break at some point anyway.

With their recent decisions, some of the Supreme Court justices have shown that they believe words have no meaning other than what they themselves decide such words mean. They have taken the word "marriage" and have applied it to relationships which manifestly are not marriages.

Saying that a cow is a horse doesn't mean you can throw a saddle on it and head off to the Kentucky Derby.



I think it is inevitable that Catholic priests will have to get out of the business of being agents for the state. After all, it's really for the sake of convenience that a priest signs the "marriage license" after witnessing a sacramental marriage. It simply means that the couple didn't need to take care of the legal part of things by going together down to the courthouse; we make it easier by taking care of the legal formality after the Nuptial Mass. But everyone should understand - signing the license isn't what makes it a marriage. The couple's free consent and exchange of vows before God and His Church accomplishes that.

I'm ready to give up my role as "state's witness" in this regard, and let the state do its own thing. In fact, it might help people come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony if we were to untie it from the "legal contract" aspect of things. Let's face it, all too many people see contracts as being easily broken -- and the state certainly has made it easy when it comes to the legal contract called marriage.

It was fine when the legal contract and the sacramental union were each considered binding, but having these two things hooked together in today's circumstances is rather like driving a car with patched, under-inflated tires on one side, and brand new, perfectly inflated tires on the other. It makes for an uneven ride, and eventually the bad side will cause undue wear on the good side.



It's about words again, friends. Over and over the question is asked, "Will churches lose their tax exemption if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages?"

I cannot guess what crazy thing the federal government will try next, but if they try to take tax exemption away from churches, it won't be because of a refusal to perform a same-sex marriage. The government would be asking us to do some that is utterly impossible. It's not a refusal if you're being asked to do something that simply can't be done.

They might as well ask us to turn lead into gold. We're unable to do it.

What'll they do to us? Take away our tax exemption? If they do, it'll be for some reason other than that we're not alchemists.


A POSTSCRIPT: It’s important to understand that God does not condemn an individual simply because of being a homosexual or lesbian. It is the action which is sinful. Every single one of us has particular sins which are temptations to us, and when we succumb to those temptations we have recourse to the confessional, where we may express our sorrow and repentance, and receive God’s absolution.

Also, not every homosexual or lesbian person is clamoring to enter a legal marriage. Those who are, usually have a political motive and wish to break down traditional values and culture.

There are some faithful Catholics who happen to suffer from this condition who are leading chaste lives, just as there are countless Catholics who are unmarried heterosexual persons, also leading chaste lives. The orientation is less important than the desire to live in accordance with God’s divine Will, with the help of the holy sacraments given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

24 June 2015

An old and familiar voice...

I keep a copy of Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua on my desk.  It's old and dog-eared. It has underlinings in it from my college days when I first read it. In fact, I can remember snatching odd moments between classes just to read a few pages and to savour one or another point he was making. Ultimately, this book would be instrumental in my own conversion to the Catholic Church, and some things I wrote on the title page bear that out. The first thing I wrote was, “I, too, am following the steps of Cardinal Newman – I left the Episcopal Church on 12th January 1982.” Beneath that I wrote, “I was made deacon in the Catholic church on Aug. 7, 1983.” Under that, “ordained Priest – Aug. 15, 1983.” And then finally, “ad Jesum per Mariam.

For me, part of the brilliance of Cardinal Newman’s writing is the innocent faith that shines through. I can remember reading passages such as this, and then having a light go on in my mind:

"People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible to imagine, I grant - but how is it difficult to believe? Yet Macaulay thought it so difficult to believe, that he had need of a believer in it of talents as eminent as Sir Thomas More, before he could bring himself to conceive that the Catholics of an enlightened age could resist “the overwhelming force of the argument against it.” “Sir Thomas More,” he says, “is one of the choice specimens of wisdom and virtue; and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test, will stand any test.” But for myself, I cannot indeed prove it, I cannot tell how it is; but I say, “Why should not it be? What's to hinder it? What do I know of substance or matter? just as much as the greatest philosophers, and that is nothing at all;” - so much is this the case, that there is a rising school of philosophy now, which considers phenomena to constitute the whole of our knowledge in physics. The Catholic doctrine leaves phenomena alone. It does not say that the phenomena go; on the contrary, it says that they remain: nor does it say that the same phenomena are in several places at once. It deals with what no one on earth knows any thing about, the material substances themselves. And, in like manner, of that majestic Article of the Anglican as well as of the Catholic Creed, - the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. What do I know of the Essence of the Divine Being? I know that my abstract idea of three is simply incompatible with my idea of one; but when I come to the question of concrete fact, I have no means of proving that there is not a sense in which one and three can equally be predicated of the Incommunicable God."

He writes in the same way about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception:

"Let me take the doctrine which Protestants consider our greatest difficulty, that of the Immaculate Conception. Here I entreat the reader to recollect my main drift, which is this. I have no difficulty in receiving it: if I have no difficulty, why may not another have no difficulty also? why may not a hundred? a thousand? Now I am sure that Catholics in general have not any intellectual difficulty at all on the subject of the Immaculate Conception; and that there is no reason why they should. Priests have no difficulty. You tell me that they ought to have a difficulty - but they have not. Be large-minded enough to believe, that men may reason and feel very differently from yourselves; how is it that men fall, when left to themselves, into such various forms of religion, except that there are various types of mind among them, very distinct from each other? From my testimony then about myself, if you believe it, judge of others also who are Catholics: we do not find the difficulties which you do in the doctrines which we hold; we have no intellectual difficulty in that in particular, which you call a novelty of this day. We priests need not be hypocrites, though we be called upon to believe in the Immaculate Conception. To that large class of minds, who believe in Christianity, after our manner, -in the particular temper, spirit, and light, (whatever word is used,) in which Catholics believe it, - there is no burden at all in holding that the Blessed Virgin was conceived without original sin; indeed, it is a simple fact to say, that Catholics have not come to believe it because it is defined, but it was defined because they believed it."

Every time I make a return visit to the Apologia I find myself nodding in agreement, confirming that my journey took the right path those many years ago.

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 Saviour 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.

21 June 2015

St. John Fisher & St. Thomas More

On the morning of 19 May 1935 in St. Peter's Basilica, this Solemn Proclamation was made by Pope Pius XI:

"In honour of the Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after mature deliberation and imploring the divine assistance, by the advice of our Venerable Brethen the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops present in the city, We decree and define as Saints, and inscribe in the Catalogue of the Saints, Blessed John Fisher and Thomas More, and that their memory shall be celebrated in the Universal Church on the anniversaries of their heavenly birth."

Although St. Thomas More was martyred on 1 July, two weeks after St. John Fisher, their respective feast days have been joined together and are celebrated on 22 June.

O God, who didst raise up amongst the English people thy blessed Martyrs John and Thomas to be defenders of the faith and to witness to the primacy of the Roman Church: grant by their merits and prayers; that in the profession of one faith we may all be made one in Christ, and in him continue to be at one with one another; through the same 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.

18 June 2015

A Complete Education: It's Catholic

In an article titled “The Goal of Classical Education is Truth” and published a few months ago in Crisis magazine, author and educator Tom Jay makes an important admission – a confession, really – when he writes, “Yet, one thing we may not do, since we are not a Catholic academy, is link the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty to the One Who is truth, goodness, and beauty. The full reformation and redemption of education in America can only be accomplished through a Catholic academy...”

To what is he referring when he writes about the “one thing we may not do”? He refers to the so-called “classical academies” which are popping up as charter schools. And why are these charter schools unable to make the link between the truth which they strive to teach, with the God Who is Truth? It is because charter schools are public schools.

There are parents who are enticed by these public charter schools, and understandably so. After all, they’re free, aren’t they? Well...yes...they are free in the sense that they are paid for by money which has been filtered through the government, with all the attached government restrictions about any mention of God and the Faith.

“But I can teach my kids their religion, and the school can teach them everything else,” is the response of many parents. Of course parents can teach religion to their children – and not only can they, but they should be teaching the Faith to their children – it is a great part of their parental responsibility! No, the bigger issue with a school which must exclude God and the Faith from what is taught, is that it is impossible to teach the full truth without God and the Faith being in the mix.

If you were required to eat food which had most of the vitamins and all the flavor boiled out of it before you ate it, would you think you were receiving a healthy diet? Probably not. If your child is being taught history and literature and the great thoughts of mankind, with all reference to God and to the revealed and living Catholic faith being eliminated, would that be a complete and balanced education? Definitely not. And even with conscientious parents filling in the gaps, it’s a bit like trying to add a missing ingredient after a cake has come out of the oven.

There is a short document with a long name which came out of the Second Vatican Council. It is called Gravissimum educationis and it was promulgated on October 28, 1965 by Pope Paul VI, following approval by the assembled bishops.

It is an important document because it contains the Church’s teaching about education – particularly the essential place of Catholic schools – and it discusses the combined responsibilities of the Church and of parents.

It begins by stating the universal right of everyone to receive an education, and this right is extended to the Faithful in a special way, in that it should be a Christian education. The Council Fathers make it clear that parents are to be recognized as “the primary and principal educators” with the particular responsibility of creating “a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered.” In fact, the document states that “the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.”

The Council Fathers then observe that the family “which has the primary duty of imparting education needs the help of the whole community.” As parents carry out the duty of educating their children, they entrust a share of this work to others who can assist them, and it is made clear that “in a special way, the duty of educating belongs to the Church, not merely because she must be recognized as a human society capable of educating, but especially because she has the responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all men, of communicating the life of Christ to those who believe, and, in her unfailing solicitude, of assisting men to be able to come to the fullness of this life.” In fact, the bishops make it clear that “the Church is bound as a mother to give to these children of hers an education by which their whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ...”

In this sacred duty of the Church to assist parents with the education of their children, the Council Fathers state that “among all educational instruments the school has a special importance.”

The bishops go on to say: “The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.”

When it comes to the education of our precious children, there is no such thing as “free.” There is always a price to be extracted, and that price must not be at the expense of the fullness of Truth. Giving our children a Catholic education in a school which includes daily participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with ready access to a priest for the Sacrament of Confession as well as spiritual counsel, all in a setting in which God is not an external Unmentionable, but rather is the daily Presence which animates all that we do and say, is something that truly is priceless – that is, without price.

17 June 2015

Parables about the Kingdom

This sermon about the Kingdom of God was preached on the Second Sunday after Trinity.

If there is no image, you may go directly to this link.

15 June 2015

St. Richard of Chichester

Richard of Wyche was born in 1197 at Droitwyche, the son of a prosperous yeoman farmer. He and his brother were orphaned at an early age, and an incompetent guardian wasted the inheritance. Richard worked long and hard to restore the family property, and when he had succeeded, he turned it over to his brother and went off to Oxford to become a scholar. He was too poor to afford a gown or a fire in winter, but he did very well at his studies, with Robert Grosseteste among his teachers, and he established what would be a lifelong friendship with his tutor, Edmund Rich (Edmund of Abingdon). He studied canon law at Oxford (and probably also at Paris and Bologna) and, having acquired a doctorate, he became Chancellor of Oxford in 1235.

Meanwhile, his tutor had become Archbishop of Canterbury, and soon asked Richard to become his Chancellor. When the Archbishop rebuked King Henry III for keeping various bishoprics vacant as long as possible (because as long as they were vacant their revenues went to the Crown), Henry forced him into exile, and Richard accompanied him to France and nursed him in his final illness. After the Archbishop's death in 1240, Richard studied at the Dominican house in Orleans, and was ordained priest in 1243.

In 1244 he was elected Bishop of Chichester, but Henry would not recognize the election, locked him out of the bishop's residence, and pocketed the revenues. Richard accepted shelter with a village priest, and spent the next two years walking barefoot through his diocese, preaching to fishermen and farmers, and correcting abuses. He held synods to legislate, and insisted that the sacraments must be administered without payment, and the Liturgy celebrated with reverence and order. The clergy were required to be celibate, to wear clerical dress, and to live in the parishes they were assigned to and carry out their duties in person. The laity were required to attend services on all Sundays and holy days, and to know by heart the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed. After two years, Henry was pressured into recognizing Richard as Bishop, but Richard continued to live as he had before. He caught a fever and died in 1253.

A well-known prayer written by him reads in part as follows:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

14 June 2015

A word to parents...

A little story with a big message...
Second grade child, worried about receiving Holy Communion: "Father, I didn't go to Mass last Sunday."
Me: "Did you miss Mass on purpose?"
Child: "My Mommy and Daddy didn't want to go."
Me: "Well, it wasn't your fault. You couldn't drive yourself to Mass."
Child (with incredulous look): "Father, I don't even have my own car!"

Moral of the story: Parents, either get yourselves and your family to Mass on Sunday, or else buy a car for your second grader.

13 June 2015

The St. John Paul II Library

At The Atonement Academy we do all we can to surround our students with a setting which is beautiful and unmistakably Catholic. The St. John Paul II Library is open to all students, from Pre-Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. It has several thousand volumes, and also there is internet access to other libraries and centers of learning.

At the entrance to the library there is a large clock, serving as a reminder that the Incarnate God entered into time and history, and inside there are artistic statements of that same truth. It is an inviting place, and a favourite space for our students, from the youngest to the most seasoned. The library encourages the exploration of Truth, and its physical location in the very center of the building reminds us all of the central place Truth and the Word must have in our lives.

Hymns for St. Anthony's Day

Several years ago I wrote two hymn texts in honour of the Patron of our City and our Archdiocese, and they are published here for anyone who would like to use them.

       1.    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.

            2.      Praise to Jesus Christ our Saviour, 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 favour, and the life which Christ had won.

      3.      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.

           4.      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

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

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

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

Tune: Bread of Heaven, by William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826-1910)
Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

11 June 2015

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of the Atonement Church
San Antonio, Texas

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: Grant that the devout homage of our hearts, which we render unto Him; may by thy mercy be deemed a recompense, acceptable in thy sight; through the same 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.

O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee;
on earth thou art an exile’s rest,
in heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
thou fount of contrite tears:
where’er those living waters flow,
new life to sinners they bestow,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
our trust is all in thee,
for though earth’s night be dark and drear,
thou breathest rest where thou art near,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
when shades of death shall fall,
receive us ‘neath thy gentle care,
and save us from the tempter’s snare,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
lead exiled children home,
where we may ever rest near thee,
in peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart.

10 June 2015

St. Barnabas and an old friend...

Each year when I celebrate Mass on St. Barnabas' Day, my thoughts always return to St. Barnabas Episcopal Parish in Warwick, Rhode Island, where I served as a curate many years ago. This was the parish to which we came when JoAnn and I returned from England with our (then) two children. Fr. Howard Olsen was the rector, and had been for nearly twenty-five years. Fr. Olsen was one of the last of a now non-existent breed of Anglican rector: extremely hard-working, 1928 Prayer Book religion, active in the wider community, known and respected by almost everyone.

I learned a lot from him. I can honestly say that I loved him as a second father. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when he expressed his desire that I be his successor at St. Barnabas. I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was to tell him that I couldn't accept the position because I was leaving to become a Catholic. I remember that morning, because he turned away and cried. Fr. Olsen never cried, and I felt terrible that my decision had affected him in that way.

 It was difficult between us for a while. But we managed to maintain our friendship, and he came to San Antonio for my priestly ordination. In fact, he read one of the lessons at the ordination Mass in San Fernando Cathedral. He started the tradition of visiting us once a year, and always told me how proud he was to see what was happening here.

 He died some years ago, and it was my turn to weep. I really miss him. But every year on St. Barnabas' Day I pray for him, and give thanks to God for a good friend and mentor. Much of what I know about being a pastor, I learned from him.

04 June 2015

The Atonement Academy Men's Schola

The Men's Schola at The Atonement Academy provides chant at our daily Masses, and other music suited to their combination of voices. The formation of the Schola took place some years ago and it came into being through the efforts of the students themselves. There was a growing interest in the traditional chant of the Church, and some of the young men in our Upper School got together on their own time to learn and to practice. What began with an earlier generation of students has been passed on from year to year. All the original members have long since graduated, but they handed things on to successive generations of students. Each year, with the graduation of our seniors, room is made for others to join, and a place in the Schola is seen as a coveted prize.

We won't hear this particular Schola again, because some of these young men are graduating this year. But there are others eager to join, and it's always a joy to hear what a new generation brings!

If there is no image, you may go directly to the links here and here.

03 June 2015

School's out...

Today was the last day of school at The Atonement Academy. All that's left now is the Eighth Grade graduation, the Seniors' Mass and Banquet, and their Commencement ceremony.

It's been a wonderful year, and much of the summer will be spent preparing for the new academic year. We'll see further progress on our 117,000 sq. ft. addition to the school facility, and maybe even get in a few days' break.

Thank you to all the administrators, faculty, and staff for all the great work done, and special gratitude to our faithful school families with whom we share the privilege and responsibility of conforming young lives to the image of Christ.