29 January 2017

The Beatitudes

The Basilica on the Mount of the Beatitudes

Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven."


28 January 2017

Old things now new...


I had an old friend with me as I offered Mass this morning. Well, perhaps "friend" is too strong a word, but "companion" would fit.

I'm referring to my chalice. It had belonged originally to a Catholic priest whose name is now lost. It had found its way into an estate sale and a very close friend of mine obtained it and gave it to me. I was an Episcopal priest at the time. It was at that same time that I was considering seriously the possibility of entering the Catholic Church, and if God willed it, to become a Catholic priest under the terms of the Pastoral Provision.

The chalice itself is beautiful - gold, rather ornate, quite old, and very graceful in its design. I used it as an Episcopalian, and it came with us when we moved to Texas to begin the work of nurturing the small community while we waited to enter into full Catholic communion.

The great day came on 15 August 1983. I was ordained as a Catholic priest and the Catholic parish of Our Lady of the Atonement was brought into being. The next day I offered my first Mass as a Catholic priest using my beautiful chalice and thus restoring it to its proper place as a chalice on a Catholic altar, holding the Precious Blood of Jesus, in the hands of a Catholic priest.

It continued to be used for all our Masses in the early years of the parish. But then, as happens over time, we obtained more chalices. Two of them came back with us from two different pilgrimages to Rome. Another was a gift to the parish. Soon my trusty companion found its way behind other chalices. It was safely stored in its cloth cover, but like its place in the back of the cabinet, it drifted into the back of my mind.

But recently I remembered it. Memories flooded into my mind of all the adventures and situations that chalice had seen with me. When I took it out of its cloth bag, its beauty struck me. It needed a little cleaning, which I happily did. When I offered the Mass this morning my chalice was restored to its proper place - not stored in a bag at the back of a shelf, but at the center of the celebration of the Mass.

As I was preparing it with the wine and water all the memories of where it had been with me flashed through my mind. My conversion, my first Mass, ministering to the little community at the beginning of our parish - all of it, and all of the wonderful people with me at those times, came into my heart.

When the chalice was elevated, containing Christ's Precious Blood, everyone who had been with me through everything up to that moment was lifted up. And with the lifting up, so God's blessings come down.

"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." -St. Luke 21:32

27 January 2017

St. Thomas and the Crucifix


This large oil painting of St. Thomas Aquinas before the Crucifix hangs in the nave of the Church of Our Lady of the Atonement, and it depicts the occasion on which St. Thomas perceived a change in the crucifix before which he was praying. He heard Christ's voice saying, "You have written well of Me, Thomas. What would you desire as a reward?" Tearfully, Thomas replied, "Nothing, Lord. I do it all for you."

I was very moved by the story when I had first heard it, and was delighted to find an old painting which captured that conversation between Christ and His saint. It was on one of my adventures in "junk-shopping" several years ago. My family and I were visiting relatives in Connecticut, and I decided to poke around some of the local establishments calling themselves "antique shops." 99.9% of the stuff in those places is usually pretty awful, but there's always the chance of finding a treasure which I call "junque amongst the junk." This painting was one such piece of "junque," and I couldn't resist.

Unframed, covered with dust, and held on the wall with a couple nails in the top corners, it had come from a Catholic church in the area which had been "renovating." I asked the shop owner how much he wanted for it, and we began the bargaining ballet which is required in such places. "Too much," I said. Of course, he knew his initial price was too much. "How much will you give?" he asked. The dance was on. We went back and forth. He came down a little, but I wanted him to come down a lot. I feigned indifference about it, thanked him for his time, and went on my way. The shopkeeper knew what I was up to, but it was part of the choreography, and we both knew I'd be back. The next day when I entered his shop I asked him if he'd had people lined up to buy the painting. With a big smile, he said, "No," so I gave him my final offer, which he accepted -- high enough for him to make a profit, low enough for me to consider it a bargain.

The canvas was carefully rolled for transportation back to Texas. When we got home I gently cleaned it, and took it to Hobby Lobby (they do a great job of framing, in my opinion) to choose just the right frame to complement the painting. When I picked it up it came to the church to be placed in the spot where it now hangs. I'd chosen the location carefully, so that when a preacher is in the raised wineglass pulpit the image of St. Thomas Aquinas is directly across the nave. His image is there, as a reminder that he's always ready to intercede and to inspire as the word of God is preached.

How much did I pay for the painting? It wasn't cheap, but suffice it to say that the frame cost more than the picture.

20 January 2017

Pray for the President


O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 January 2017

We're growing...


To accommodate the growth of our parish - both church and school - our new expansion is nearing the completion of the first phase of the project.  Pictured here is what will be the main entrance to the building.

Thanks be to God, we will have more room for our growing student body, and expanded facilities which can serve the various apostolates of the parish.

07 January 2017

This week's parish email...


Dear Friends,

This past Friday, January 6th, would have been the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  However, the bishops in this country have transferred the celebration of Epiphany to Sunday.  As we enter Epiphanytide we should remember that the Epiphany involves more than the visit from the Wise Men. 

Epiphany means “manifestation,” and the Church has always linked three events as part of the “manifestation,” the “showing forth” of the Divine Incarnate Word:

- the visit of the Magi;
- the Baptism of Our Lord;
- Christ's first miracle at the wedding in Cana.

Together these are the Epiphany: the manifestation of the God-Man to the world.

Ultimately, of course, we ourselves are supposed to be the on-going epiphany of Jesus Christ.  Our own lives – our words and our actions – should show the presence of God in the world, and the power and the mercy of the God-Man.

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Sunday Masses at Our Lady of the Atonement are at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.  Mass is offered each weekday at 7:00 a.m. and at 9:15 a.m. The Mass on Saturday morning is offered at 10:00 a.m. followed by the rosary and confessions.

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Beginning on Wednesday, January 11th, I will be teaching a course titled “An Introduction to Holy Scripture.”  This course was offered some years ago, and many found it helpful in preparing to study the various books of the Bible in a deeper way.  The course lasts for a limited number of weeks (probably three or four) which makes it easier for you to commit to the whole course.

Join us on Wednesday, January 11th, when we will meet in the St. John Paul II Library from 6:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m.

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A new series of CATHOLIC INQUIRY CLASSES will begin on Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. in the Common Room.

Are you considering becoming a Catholic?   Are you an adult who wishes to be confirmed?  Are you returning to the practice of your faith after being away for a while?  These classes are for you! Please contact Alan Becker at 210-273-9426 or at alanmbecker@gmail.com.

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Enrollment for the new academic year at The Atonement Academy has begun for all students. Whether you are enrolling a student for the first time, or if you have returning students, go to the Academy website - http://school.atonementonline.com/ -  where you will find instructions for enrollment for the 2017/2018 academic year, or call (210) 695-2240 to arrange for a tour. There are some classes which will fill up early, so don't wait to begin the process!

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LOOKING FOR WORK?  We have two janitorial positions open at the church and school, and both would begin immediately.  If you would like to work in a friendly Catholic environment and be of help to the parish, please email sphillips@atonementonline.com for information and to arrange an interview.

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Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place in the Sacred Heart Chapel from 7:30 a.m. on Friday until 7:15 a.m. on Sunday each week. This is a wonderful apostolate which takes no special preparation or talent, but only having a simple love for God and a desire to spend time with Him in the Most Holy Sacrament.  Please consider giving an hour a week in this beautiful way.  Our Lord Jesus Christ waits for us, and He is more than ready to hear your prayers, intercessions, and petitions.

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May God bless you throughout this Epiphanytide.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

05 January 2017

Hymns in honour of St. Joseph

 

St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec, was founded by St. Andre Bessette, and grew out of his great devotion to the Foster-father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are two hymns in honour of St. Joseph:

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

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

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

3. 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.

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


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Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1992
Music: "Bread of Heaven" by William D. Maclagan, 1875


1. Bless├ęd Joseph, Guardian mild,
Who didst love the Holy Child,
Show thy love to us who pray,
Shield us from all harm this day:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

2. Great Saint Joseph, Patron bold
Of the Church from days of old,
Give us courage strong and new,
To proclaim God's Gospel true:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

3. He Whom thou didst guide in youth,
We receive in very truth;
In this Sacrament of love,
We are one with thee above:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us one with Christ our Lord!