29 October 2015

Real hope for the future...

We had our academic awards ceremony yesterday at The Atonement Academy (we refer to it, tongue-in-cheek, as The Academy Awards). We give Gold Arrow and Silver Arrow awards, and I am constantly impressed with these students. It's not easy to get an academic award here. Our standards are high and our demands are rigorous, but it's wonderful to see the number of students who manage to achieve academic excellence.

It's not just the high level of academic achievement which impresses me, however. These are students who also excel on the athletic field and in the choir loft. They're involved in pro-life activities and other works of charity. They're serious about their faith.  Are they perfect? Obviously not...but that's why I get a steady stream of them knocking on my office door and asking, "Father, do you have a few minutes to hear my confession?" They know there's always room for improvement, and they're eager to grow spiritually. They're at Mass daily, and these kids actually look forward to it. They come for spiritual advice, because they're concerned about pleasing God.

I love these kids, and I can't imagine what it would be like around here if the parish didn't have a school. I know there are some of my brother priests and some of our diocesan "professional educators" who think I'm overly protective and even a micro-manager because I insist on such things as having only practicing Catholics on our faculty, or because I won't adopt the government-school agenda, especially when it appeared as the incarnation called "Common Core."

I didn't have the advantage of a Catholic school education. Of course, public school education was a bit different fifty years ago from what it is today, but the seeds of destruction were already planted even then. The formation of children in the fullness of truth is all-important, and for us as Catholics it is by far the best when our children are formed through a seamless partnership between the Catholic home and the Catholic school.

We're in our twentieth year since the founding of the Academy, and although the devil has tried to destroy it from time to time, God has preserved it, and He continues to nurture it, and I absolutely love being part of it. As student after student came forward to receive the Gold and Silver Arrow Awards, I gave thanks to God, and I have absolute confidence that the Church will continue to provide, through the lives of these young Catholics, the much-needed medicine for our ailing society.

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27 October 2015


There is a mystery to stained glass.  When one views it during the day from outside, it appears to be nothing but darkness.  There is no beauty, no riot of color, no apparent reason for its existence.  But step inside, and what was darkness becomes a thing of beauty and meaning.  Mysteries of the faith are brought to life through the artisan's craft.  Things are seen that never could have been imagined when standing outside. 

This makes for an apt illustration of the Church itself.  To remain outside is to be cheated of so much of the beauty of what Christ has done for us, and to miss the fullness of the truth He teaches.  Just as natural light, when filtered through stained glass, becomes a thing of immense beauty, so when the Light of Christ is perceived through that "window" of His own creation -- the Church -- we come to know things that only the angels could have imagined.

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25 October 2015

"Lantern of the Lothians"

One of the truly beautiful hymn tunes in the Church’s treasury is David Evans’ “Lucerna Laudoniae.” The name of the tune means “Lantern of the Lothians,” which was a Franciscan monastery at Haddington, East Lothian in Scotland. The monastery was destroyed in 1355, but in the fifteenth-century a church was built on the site – and it is now immortalized by this simple and dignified hymn tune.

There are several texts which have made use of the tune, perhaps the most famous being “For the beauty of the earth.” Some years ago I wrote the following words specifically for the tune.

Jesus Christ, our Saviour King,
unto thee thy people sing;
hear the prayers we humbly make,
hear them for thy mercy’s sake.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls, and make us thine.

Give us eyes that we may see;
give us hearts to worship thee;
give us ears that we may hear;
in thy love, Lord, draw us near.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In our darkness, shed thy light;
lift us to thy heav’nly height;
may we be thy dwelling-place,
tabernacles of thy grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In thy Kingdom grant us rest,
in Jerusalem the blest;
with the saints our lips shall sing,
with the angels echoing:
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
thou dost reign, and we are thine!

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips (1990)
Music: “Lucerna Laudoniae”
David Evans (1874-1948)

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22 October 2015

Remembering history...

As we celebrate the Feast of Pope St. John Paul II it should be recognized by all who benefit from the establishment of the three existing Ordinariates that in him they have a pioneer and a heavenly patron. His place should be acknowledged. While it is true to say that these jurisdictions were the creation of Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI, it was St. John Paul II who first made a place for the Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church, and by his action the possibility of what we know as the Ordinariates was made clear.

In the Decree issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated July 22, 1980 (Prot. N. 66/77), regarding the care of the reconciled lay Faithful and speaking of the structure of what was called the "Common Identity" of the Pastoral Provision, it is stated that "the preference expressed by the majority of the Episcopal Conference for the insertion of these reconciled Episcopalians into the diocesan structures under the jurisdiction of local Ordinaries is recognized." There was no juridical reason to go further. However, it did. An important sentence immediately followed in the Decree: "Nevertheless, the possibility of some other type of structure as provided for by canonical dispositions, and as suited to the needs of the group, is not excluded."

With that statement the spade began turning the soil, preparing the ground for Anglicanorum Coetibus. The important place St. John Paul II has occupied in all this from the very beginning should not be forgotten.

History is clear. St. John Paul II was the first to give our Anglican Patrimony an honoured place in the Church, and it was his own trusted and beloved successor who brought to fruition "the possibility of some other type of structure..."

Sancte Ioannes Paule, ora pro nobis.

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20 October 2015

Scripture Study Series

We begin a new Scripture study series on Wednesday, October 20th, at 6:45 p.m. in the St. John Paul II Library.

I will be teaching a several-week course on the Gospel according to St. Mark. Bring yourself and your Bible, and get ready to explore the history, theology, and spirituality of this Gospel.

Each week's session will last just one hour, and I use the Ignatius Bible (RSV-Catholic edition).

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13 October 2015

St. Callistus, Pope and Martyr

Imagine if what anybody knew about you was information that came from someone who really didn’t like you at all. And imagine if there was the added difficulty that the person who didn’t like you was also a saint! That’s the situation with St. Callistus who lived at the end of the 2nd century and into the 3rd century – most of the information about him comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, who at first was kind of a troublemaker in the early Church, but who later, just like St. Callistus, became a martyr for the Faith.

Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. He was an educated slave, and because of his financial talent, he was put in charge of a bank by his master. Unfortunately, because he made some loans to people who didn’t pay them back, he lost almost all the money that had been deposited. Callistus panicked, and he ran away. Of course, he was eventually caught and was put in jail. After being imprisoned for a while, his master released him and told him to do everything he could to recover the money. Apparently Callistus got a little too carried away, and eventually he was arrested again because he had started a fight in a local synagogue when he went after someone there who hadn’t paid back a loan. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia, which usually was a death sentence because of the horrible conditions there. But through the intervention of an influential person who had pity on him, he even managed to be released from the terrible life in the Sardinian mines. So far, it doesn’t sound much like the life of a saint, does it?

After he won his freedom, he was put in charge of the place where Christians buried their departed loved ones – this cemetery was called a catacomb, and in fact this cemetery was the first land actually owned by the Church, and it still exists as the Catacomb of St. Callistus. He was so faithful in this work that the pope ordained him as a deacon, and Callistus became his trusted friend and adviser.

Callistus had such a changed life and had become so faithful that he was himself elected pope, and it was then that the rivalry between Callistus and Hippolytus became so bitter – in fact, Hippolytus himself wanted to be the pope because he didn’t agree with many of the decisions made by Callistus. This rivalry was healed eventually, however, and Hippolytus was eventually martyred, and these two former enemies are now saints together in heaven. St. Callistus was martyred in Rome during one of the persecutions of the Church in the 3rd century.

O God, who didst raise up Pope Saint Callistus to serve the Church and attend devoutly to Christ’s faithful departed: strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith; so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance; 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.

12 October 2015

New life for an old pipe organ

We have obtained a 42-rank Reuter pipe organ for eventual installation in the auditorium we are building as part of our major school expansion.

The instrument has now been removed from an Episcopal church in Austin, and has been moved to the workshop of Curtis Bobsin, our incredibly talented organ builder and renovator (he accomplished the magnificent installation of our Casavant in the church).

The renovation of this organ will take some time (which is good, since the auditorium isn't built yet!), but the installation will provide us with a fine instrument for concerts, recitals, graduation events, etc. As you can see from the pictures, the former installation was a cramped one, with the pipes buried in enclosed chambers, along with a positiv at some distance away, with very little usefulness as part of a total instrument.

Our auditorium installation will be at the front, on a stage, with the pipes speaking out, rather than sideways and muffled. The present instrument is comprised of the following ranks:

Principal 8'
Spitz Flote 8'
Octave 4'
Nacht Horn 4'
Fifteenth 2'
Mixture III
Trompette 8'

Rohr Flute 8'
Viola 8'
Viola Celeste 8'
Principal 4'
Traverse Flute 4'
Doublette 2'
Mixture III
Trumpet 8'
Hautbois 4'

Gedeckt 8'
Erzhaler 8'
Koppel Flute 4'
Nazard 2-2/3'
Block Flute 2'
Tierce 1-3/5'
Basset 8'
Trompette 8'
Trompette 4'

Bourdon 8'
Principal 4'
Spillflote 4'
Gemshorn 2'
Cymbel II

Subbass 16'
Quintaten 16'
Principal 16'
Quintaten 8'
Octave 8'
Super Octave 4'
Mixture III
Trombone 16'
Trombone 8'

This instrument will be known as the Brown Memorial Organ, provided by a bequest from Bert and Beatrice Brown, founding members of Our Lady of the Atonement Church. Please pray for the repose of their souls.

Here are some pictures of the removal from its former location.

08 October 2015

Relics of Cardinal Newman

I know of only two first-class relics of Blessed John Henry Newman, both of them located at the Birmingham Oratory. One of them is a lock of his hair, taken at the time of his death, and the other is a cloth which has a small stain of his blood. In fact, when an attempt was made to move his remains to the Birmingham Oratory, upon opening his grave it was found that there was nothing left of his body. The coffin had not been lead-lined, and the cemetery was in very damp land.

Our parish is blessed to have two second-class relics of Cardinal Newman. One of them is a small piece of a cope which belonged to him, and the other is a letter, hand-written by him. Of course, as inspiring as it is to have these physical links with him, the important thing is that we all have access to his prayers.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.

07 October 2015

We Can't Afford This Bargain

Some of the Synod Fathers are spending extraordinary energy in trying to find a way around the sin which weakens and can even sever man's relationship with God through the Church which He established, all in the cause of making people feel welcome in the Church.

As did our Lord, so must we all be welcoming and welcomed. But we are not simply the sum of our sins. When our Lord (and therefore the Church) welcomes us, the welcome does not and cannot include our sin.

I am not my sin. I am a child of God who sometimes falls into sin, and God has provided a remedy for that through the death and resurrection of His Divine Son.

In His love, God provides the medicine we need, but we need to take that medicine of repentance, confession, absolution, and amendment of life, so that we can enter into the Lord's merciful embrace and find the welcome which is waiting for us.

Mercy is not cheap. Christ paid for it with His sacrifice. Some of the Synod Fathers want to offer a "bargain basement" deal -- cheap grace, cheap mercy, cheap faith -- and all it accomplishes it to cheat God's children.