30 June 2016

The essential work of education

As you can see, good progress is being made on the expansion project. With the steel girders being put in place, the three stories of the building become more evident, as does the sheer size of the facility. We are building not only for our immediate needs, but just as importantly for the future growth of The Atonement Academy.

Never has there been a greater need for a classical Catholic education for our children, and our school is an acknowledged and award-winning institution which provides exactly that. We do our best to keep tuition at a reasonable level, and even with that, we provide nearly one-half million dollars in financial aid each year so that no child needs to forego a Catholic education. It requires dedication and sacrifice on the part of all of us, but with the evident disintegration of the moral fabric of society, and with our nation moving further away from its Christian roots, there is no greater investment we can make than to form our children in solid, godly, no-nonsense intellectual and spiritual truth.

Our students today will make the difference in the years to come, which is why – whether or not we personally have children in school – we should all make an investment in Catholic education. The aid we provide and the facility we are building need your support. Consider making a gift to The Atonement Academy as a way of building up Christ’s Kingdom.

Have things changed so little?

In commemorating the First Martyrs of Rome I recounted the story that in the summer of 64, Rome suffered a terrible fire that burned for six days and seven nights consuming almost three quarters of the city. The Emperor Nero was a perverted creep, and the fact that he began the construction of his Golden House where much of the destruction had taken place led people to believe that he himself had arranged for the fire. To deflect these accusations and to pacify the people, Nero laid blame for the fire on the Christians and carried out the vicious and inhuman killing spree, sending untold numbers of the Faithful to horrific tortures and death.

Fast forward a few thousand years. A gunman opens fire in a nightclub which is a gathering place for homosexual persons. It’s not just any gunman. It’s a man who goes out of his way to pledge his allegiance to a militant Islamic terrorist organization, but we’re supposed to pay no attention to what he said and why he did it. Instead, in our politically correct age, with some political leaders who seem hell-bent on sparing radical Islam from receiving any bad press, and media which are willing to prostitute themselves, who are we to think is to blame for the carnage? Why, the Christians of course! The Christians with their up-tight attitudes trying to force their narrow standards on the rest of society, they’re the ones who let loose the shower of bullets.

Nero Claudius Caesar lives!

24 June 2016

A contrast...

When first entering the parish property on the east side, this is the scene...

...giving no hint of what's happening on the west side!

18 June 2016

Thoughts on Fathers' Day

How many times do we see advertisements which make Dad look like an incompetent buffoon who needs to be corrected either by his wife or by his children? Or how many times have we heard a mother refer to “her kids” and she’s including her husband in that group?

We know it shouldn’t be like that, but much of our society has fallen into a form of disrespect for husbands and fathers. I’m sure it’s not intentional in most cases, but we see it sometimes even in Catholic families, where there should be a much better understanding of God’s plan for men and women in Holy Matrimony, and for the children which are the fruit of that sacrament.

Some of it may be self-inflicted on the part of some men, who have not taken up their proper role as husband and father, even neglecting their all-important task of being the spiritual leader of their family. Some of it may have seeped in from a society which often denigrates the traditional understanding of marriage.

One thing is for certain. It’s up to us as faithful Catholics to uphold marriage as God intends it, and that means having husbands who treasure their wives, and wives who respect their husbands. It means raising our children with the understanding that their parents are the ones responsible for guiding the family in its values and its choices, and those parental choices are to be obeyed. It means having fathers who lead the spiritual lives of their families, loving their families as Christ loves the Church with a love so deep that He actually laid down His life in sacrifice.

If your father is departed, pray especially for the repose of his soul, giving thanks for what was good and forgiving anything that might have been less than good. If your father is living, let him know you love him by telling him, by respecting him each day, and by understanding how difficult fatherhood can sometimes be. Fathers, ask St. Joseph to pray for you. He is your patron saint. Wives and children, be to your husband and father as Mary and Jesus were to Joseph. In that way, may our families become more and more like the Holy Family in Nazareth.

17 June 2016

The Atonement Academy Expansion

These are some pictures and a video of the erecting of the walls for our 117,000 sq. ft. expansion. The method of construction is called "tilt wall construction," with the walls being formed of concrete on site, and then "tilted" up using a large crane.  Our original church was built this way in 1985-87, and we were among the pioneers in using this method for buildings other than warehouses.

12 June 2016

St. Anthony of Padua

The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua is on June 13th, and it's a pretty big deal for us here in the city that bears his name. It was on St. Anthony's Day in 1691 that the Franciscan fathers arrived at a small Indian village near the river, and named the settlement after him. From that tiny beginning, San Antonio is now the seventh largest city in the United States, and as far as I'm concerned, a wonderful place to live.

St. Anthony was born in Portugal and entered the Augustinian monastery of Sao Vicente in Lisbon when he was fifteen. When news of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco reached him, he joined the Franciscans at Coimbra. At his own request, he was sent as a missionary to Morocco, but he became ill, and on his return journey his boat was driven off course and he landed in Sicily. He took part in St. Francis' famous Chapter of Mats in 1221 and was assigned to the Franciscan province of Romagna.

He became a preacher by accident. When a scheduled preacher did not show up for an ordination ceremony at Forli, the Franciscan superior told Anthony to go into the pulpit. His eloquence stirred everyone, and he was assigned to preach throughout northern Italy. Because of his success in converting heretics, he was called the "Hammer of Heretics" and because of his learning, St. Francis himself appointed him a teacher of theology.

St. Anthony of Padua was such a forceful preacher that shops closed when he came to town, and people stayed all night in church to be present for his sermons. He became associated with Padua because he made this city his residence and the center of his great preaching mission.

After a series of Lenten sermons in 1231, Anthony's strength gave out and he went into seclusion at Camposanpiero but soon had to be carried back to Padua. He did not reach the city but was taken to the Poor Clare convent at Arcella, where he died. He was thirty-six years old, and the whole city of Padua turned out in mourning for his passing.

Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; 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.

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

Trinity III

At that time: One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was sitting at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

- St. Luke 7:36-50

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us: and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; 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.

09 June 2016

Monthly Requiem Mass

We offer a monthly Requiem Mass for the faithful departed who are interred in the Sacred Heart Chapel columbarium, and for those whose names are enrolled in the book kept for that purpose. Everyone is welcome to include the names of their departed loved ones. It is one of the spiritual works of mercy to pray not only for the living, but also for the dead. There is a leather-bound book in the Narthex where names of the departed may be enrolled.

08 June 2016

St. Columba of Iona

St. Columba, or Columkill, apostle of the Picts, was of illustrious Irish descent. He was brought up in the company of many saints at the school of St. Finian of Clonard. Being an ordained priest, and having founded many churches in Ireland, he went to Scotland with twelve companions, and there converted many of the northern Picts to the faith of Christ. He founded the monastery of Iona which became the nursery of saints and apostles. He also evangelized the northern English. He died on June 9, 597 at the foot of the altar at Iona while blessing his people, and was buried, like St. Brigid, beside St. Patrick at Downpatrick in Ulster.

We pray thee, O Lord, inspire our hearts with the desire of heavenly glory: and grant that we, bringing our sheaves with us, may hither attain where the holy Abbot Columba shineth like a star before thee; 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.

07 June 2016

The Ambry

Located on the west wall in our baptistry, the ambry is where the holy oils are kept. Also known as the "aumbry" or "almery," there are examples found throughout England and continental Europe. Many of them date from about the 13th century, and they were often used for the storage of chalices and other sacred vessels, as well as the holy oils and even the Blessed Sacrament.

After the protestant reformation, the Tridentine reforms forbade the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the ambry, requiring a tabernacle or hanging pyx to be used for that purpose. It was at that time the ambry became a place exclusively for keeping the holy oils.

The ambry in our baptistry is constructed of oak, with the words "Olea Sancta" carved on it, and the panel in the door is a silver icon depicting the "Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

05 June 2016

The grave has no victory...

Jesus went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

Luke 7:11-17

Why did Jesus raise this young man from death? Was it just so that this widowed mother could have her son back? Certainly, that was the immediate result of Christ’s action -- but that wasn’t the primary purpose of it all. Rather, Jesus was using a very human and tragic situation to show the world that He is Lord of all -- that death is no match for his power, that death has no sting, that the grave has no victory, in the face of Christ’s divine power.

This is what we believe. We bring to God in prayer all those who have died, and we commend them to His merciful keeping, knowing that for those who are being cleansed in purgatory, they live with the sure hope of eternal life. And while the purgation may be difficult, nonetheless they live in the splendid hope that they are being prepared for the Beatific Vision, when they will see God face to face. We do not need folk tales and fables to soften the difficulty of handing our loved-ones over to God in death. Rather, we come to God in the clear knowledge that because of the power of Christ’s resurrection, all the faithful departed have that same promise, that Christ has prepared a place for them -- and with the help of our prayers, so our departed loved ones are being prepared to claim that place as their own.

03 June 2016

Our expanding Atonement Family...

WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE that Haig Aram Vosgueritchian, born in the Holy City of Jerusalem, will be arriving with his wife Gloria and their infant daughter Caterina on June 24th, when Haig will become a member of the Academy’s music faculty and also the assistant organist/choir director for the church.

Haig earned his first degree in Piano performance from the A. Pedrollo Conservatory, Vicenza, Italy, and soon after he returned to Jerusalem and became a Piano and Music Theory teacher at the Magnificat Music Institute in Jerusalem.

In 1998 he began serving as an organist at the St. Lazarus Church in Bethany, and in the year 2001 he started his service at St. Savior’s Church, which is the Mother Parish of Jerusalem. In 2004 Haig began assisting the Principal Organist at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and continued in that position until 2007, when he returned to the A. Pedrollo Conservatory in Italy to continue his Master’s degree in Organ Performance and another Master’s degree in Organ for the Liturgy. Haig returned to Jerusalem in 2010 and commenced his work as Organist and Choir Conductor at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. In that same year he also taught Gregorian chant at the Stadium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum.

In the year 2013 he began teaching music theory at the Armenian Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem and served as the seminary choir accompanist.

In 2015 he became the Organist for the Custody of the Holy Land, accompanying the various Solemn Masses, including the Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, Holy Week in the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and accompanying the Custody of the Holy Land Choir. Haig Aram Vosgueritchian is an internationally known concert organist, presenting concerts not only in Israel, but also in Italy, Lithuania, and the United States. He is the founder of the Basilica Children’s choir (Zanabek al Basilic), is the founder and artistic director of the Holy Land Organ Festival. He is active in writing music and musical arrangements for choirs and in composing children songs.

We are excited and happy to have Haig, Gloria, and Caterina as part of our Atonement family.  And I'm sure our organist and music director Brett Patterson, who has been doing the work of two, is happiest of all!