24 January 2018

Conversion of St. Paul


St. Paul was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, and was born in Tarsus, the capitol of Cilicia. Although he was a Roman citizen, he was brought up as a strict Jew, studied to be a rabbi, and later became a violent persecutor of the Christians. While on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians there, he was suddenly converted by a miraculous apparition of Our Lord. He became the great Apostle of the Gentiles, making three missionary journeys which brought him to the great centers of Asia Minor and southern Europe, making many converts as he travelled. He was beheaded in Rome in 66, and his relics are kept in the Basilica of St. Paul near the Ostian Way.

O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: grant, we beseech thee; that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; 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.

22 January 2018

Pray for the unborn



O God our Creator, we give thanks to thee, who alone hast the power to impart the breath of life as thou dost form each of us in our mother’s womb: grant, we pray; that we, whom thou hast made stewards of creation, may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human 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.

15 January 2018

What a trip!


Thirty-six years ago this week my family and I were on a journey unlike any we had ever been on before. It was on January 17th that we arrived in San Antonio from Rhode Island. We had driven for almost five days, having left New England in the midst of a near-blizzard.

As we were about to begin the road trip, I took our rather decrepit Volkswagen to a mechanic, and when I asked him if we’d make it to Texas his reply was, “Hell, Mister, I don’t think you’ll make it out of town!” We did, though. We arrived with our (then) three very young children, our dog and a hamster, along with whatever supplies we could pack in around them.

On the day we left Rhode Island I was removed from the clerical ranks of the Episcopal diocese – officially deposed by the Episcopal bishop, George Hunt. My salary was terminated, we were immediately stricken from all diocesan insurance policies, and even my small pension plan had been confiscated. As we approached San Antonio, we were entering the unknown. I wasn't sure even how to start a new work in the untested Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II, and I had no sense of a vocation to be a pioneer. Of course, God had a plan. It would have been nice at the time to have known what it was, but I suppose He wanted us to learn to walk in faith, which we did.

Looking back, those were some tough days. Fortunately, I was (and still am) blessed with a wife who understood as I did, that God had called us to become Catholics and to cooperate with Him in establishing the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement. And it was fortunate, too, that she was able to create a meal out of next to nothing, since in those early years we had an extremely small amount of money to live on, especially with three young children. But as difficult as those times were, they were exciting, too. We were doing something worthy, something that hadn't been done before. Big challenges led to little victories, as we worked and waited for a year an a half in the hope that the Holy Father would grant my petition and allow my ordination to the Sacred Priesthood. Happily, he did.

A lot of memories can get packed into thirty-six years, but of all of them perhaps the most vivid is when we caught sight of the sign that said "Entering San Antonio." Actually, it probably should have said, "Entering the most exciting and blessed time of your life!"

11 January 2018

The Right Use of Authority


When Jesus taught He spoke with authority. In fact, it was one of the things people commented upon when they heard Him. He didn’t support his statements with quotes from other authorities, as a rabbi would usually do. He was authority incarnate - the Word of God made flesh. When He spoke, God spoke. When He commanded even the demons obeyed.

So what about "authority"? The word comes from the Latin auctoritas, which is related to the word augere, which means "to increase; to make bigger.” A person who is given authority is not supposed to be someone who wields coercive power over others. The exercise of genuine authority is not to control, or to keep people in line; rather, to have authority is to be someone who helps people reach their full potential.

So, when parents exercise authority over their children, it should be done in such a way as to help them to become better. When the clergy exercise authority, it should be to help those under their charge to become more and more of what God intends them to be.

This is the kind of authority Jesus showed perfectly. He invited people to follow Him, and to be more like Him. He came to serve, and not to be served. He came to give life, life in its fullness. He came to lead people into the full development of all they were created to be.

We can tell the difference between the good exercise of authority and the bad exercise of authority. Is it making us better people? Is it helping us to become what God wants us to be?

Authority is not a weapon to inflict random decisions upon people. It is a tool, given by God, to help us know what is good and right and true, so that we may embrace and do those things.

St. Benedict Biscop, Abbot

I love telling the stories of the saints. Having Mass every day as we do at the school, it means our children get to know authentic heroes, men and women who show selflessness and genuine godliness in their lives. They are ordinary people made extraordinary by God’s grace. And as we meet them each year, it begins to dawn on many of the students, “if they could do it, maybe I can too.”

St. Benedict Biscop is not the best known saint, by any means. He didn’t suffer for his faith. He lived fairly comfortably when compared to his contemporaries. But he had a sense of destiny, not just for himself, but for his people. He was (as hagiographers are so fond of saying) “of noble birth." He served his king and he was rewarded with his own land grant. The typical “local lad makes good” story.

It could have stopped there. A young man, a property owner, a good Catholic boy, who might have settled down and married the maiden next door, have a passel of children, pass into old age and a quiet death, unknown except to those closest to him. And that would have been fine, if God hadn’t had other plans for him.

Benedict Biscop wanted to travel. He wanted to go to Rome. There was a deep desire within him to make his own kind of ad limina. Saints had lived there, and they had died there, and he wanted to see it, experience it, soak it in for himself. He wanted to pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. He wanted to take in the beauty of it all. And he did, not only once, but several times. In fact, much of his life was spent traveling back and forth to Rome, and what he saw there he wanted to carry back to his own people. And that he did too. Art, liturgy, theology, music, everything he experienced in that great city of faith was something he knew would benefit his people in cold, far-away Northumbria.

Here’s part of the spiritual genius of St. Benedict Biscop. Great music, great art, great architecture isn’t just for the great centers of civilization. God intends it for us all. He has created us with a hunger for such things. The good abbot built the first stone structure his people had ever seen. He brought the finest continental glaziers to wild Northumbria to give his monastery unheard-of glass windows. He filled the place with paintings which served as poor men’s books. He established the expectation of learning amongst his monks, astonishing even them with what they could accomplish. His work reached even a young boy named Bede who came and never left.

When it comes to fitting out God’s house, and the worship offered within it, it takes godly imagination, obedience to Catholic tradition, a readiness to reach higher than one thought possible, a desire to do all things well for God. It was done by Benedict Biscop then, and we can do it now.

O God, by whose gift the blessed Abbot Benedict left all things that he might be made perfect: grant unto all those who have entered upon the path of evangelical perfection; that they may neither look back nor linger in the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may lay hold on life eternal; 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.