31 March 2018

A well-traveled crucifix


This crucifix has special meaning for me. Having been raised in a protestant family, it is the very first crucifix I ever had.  It felt almost an act of daring when I purchased it at the old S.P.C.K. shop on the High Street in Salisbury, England. I had it in my College study there, and it then was in my office at the Anglican parish I served in Bristol, England. It was brought back to America when we returned, and it was in my office at both Episcopal parishes in which I served. It hung in the first parish office when we came to Texas to found Our Lady of the Atonement (the office shared the rectory laundry room). Finally I had it embedded with this relic of the True Cross in 1987, when we began using it for the Veneration of the Cross.

26 March 2018

Tuesday in Holy Week


When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.' A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times."

- St. John 13:21-38

O God, who by the passion of thy blessed Son didst make an instrument of shameful death to be unto us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday in Holy Week


Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.  Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

- St. John 12:1-11
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; 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.

24 March 2018

Palm Sunday


(The Second Sunday of the Passion)

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the Cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: mercifully grant that we may follow the example of his patience, and so be made partakers of his Resurrection; 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.

23 March 2018

St. Mary in Passiontide


O Lord in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, the sword of sorrow did pierce the most loving soul of thy glorious Virgin Mother Mary: mercifully grant that we, who devoutly call to mind the suffering whereby she was pierced, may, by the glorious merits and prayers of all the Saints who have stood beneath the Cross, obtain with gladness the benefits of thy Passion; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 March 2018

"...and I, if I be lifted up..."


From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food." Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
 -Numbers 21:4-9

19 March 2018

St. Joseph, Just and Kind


Very little is known concerning Joseph, and yet enough is known to reveal what his character was. All that we know of him for certain, we know from the Gospels, and it is there that we see him to be a man who was determined to do what is right in the sight of God, and to do it in a kindly way. He was betrothed to Mary, and according to Jewish practice, betrothal was as sacred as marriage. Because of that, any infidelity before the actual marriage was treated in the same way as infidelity after marriage: death by stoning was the punishment for such sin. By all human appearance, Joseph's beloved betrothed was in just such circumstances, and he had to act in the way that seemed best. He was a just man, but he was a kind man, too, and surely what Mary told him made a great demand on his faith. But that is the point: Joseph was, above all, a man of faith and completely obedient to the divine will of Almighty God. When it was revealed to him that Mary was to bear the Incarnate Son of God he took her to be his wife. There was no hesitation, no consideration of what others might think or how they might judge. It mattered little to him that it was assumed he was the human father of this Child – not that he would have encouraged others to believe such a thing, for he knew the truth – but it was better than having people think that Mary had shamefully conceived with someone else, and so Joseph took the responsibility, knowing one day the truth would be known, and that Truth "would make men free." It is in this very situation, brought about by God Himself, that Saint Joseph's justness and kindness are both revealed.

His justness is shown in that he was a devout servant of God, and he ordered his life according to the standard of that law which had been revealed to the Jewish nation. He sought to please God in all things, even when it meant that he would be misunderstood or even harshly judged by the world. And because justness does not exclude kindness, his response to the revelation that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit was one of deep gladness and joy, and so he took his place in God's plan without fear or hesitation. This place was not one of glory; rather, it was one of quiet reserve. Whether on the way to Bethlehem, or in the stable, or at the Child's circumcision on the eighth day, or in the Temple when He was presented, or in everyday life in Nazareth, Joseph simply was there. Loved and respected both by the Incarnate Son of God and by the Mother of God, he was a man of deep piety and gracious character.

In honour of St. Joseph


O God, who from the house of thy servant David didst raise up Saint Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son, and spouse of his Virgin Mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; 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.

+   +   +   +   +

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.


+   +   +   +   +


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!

17 March 2018

First Sunday in Passiontide


Our Lord Jesus said, “And I, when I be lifted up, will draw all men unto myself...” When He is lifted up upon the Cross, He accomplishes the atonement. The great gulf is bridged, and mankind is once more made “at one” with God, just as we were before the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The gates of heaven are opened to us, all through the lifting up of Christ and His death upon the Cross. We live in the light of the fact that Christ is “the Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,” and in “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” there was made “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” As we labor in this world in the midst of the evil which surrounds us, we know our need for a true atonement - not just a good example, but an eternal, godly, and forceful healing of our broken lives, which have been maimed and crippled by sin.

There is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to merit God’s love, or earn our own salvation. The purpose of seeking spiritual growth is only so that we can better serve the One who has earned our salvation for us, Jesus Christ. He was lifted up upon the Cross so that we can be lifted up to heaven. He was broken so that we can be made whole. The lesson we need to learn is to be learned at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ - that even though we are sinful and fall short of the glory of God, in spite of it all, God loves us with that yearning, passionate love which led Him to give Himself to be lifted up for us. And because of that, our hearts cannot help but be broken open to receive the Love which knows no rest and which never tires until it has found us, and has brought us to our true home in Christ’s kingdom.

15 March 2018

A heavenly patron...

It was a month ago that I was privileged to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the tomb of Pope St. John Paul II, nearly thirty-four years after concelebrating a Mass with him in his private papal chapel.


O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 March 2018

Answering prayers...


In today’s Gospel the official, whose son was ill, makes a trip from Capernaum to Cana to request a cure. In fact, he even suggests to Jesus how to do it: "Sir, come down before my child dies." But then our Lord does something unexpected. He lets the father know that it is not necessary for Him to be physically present to affect the cure, but that it will simply be done by His command.

God’s Will can be accomplished in whatever way He sees fit. The man expected Jesus to go to Capernaum, but Jesus had another plan, and the father showed his great faith by simply accepting that. Let’s be prepared to accept in faith whatever way our Lord chooses to answer our prayers, knowing that He will fulfill His Divine Will in ways we cannot even imagine.

10 March 2018

Asking Our Lady's Intercession



GRANT, we beseech thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body: and, at the glorious intercession of the blessed and ever-Virgin Mary, may be delivered from present sadness, and may rejoice in continual gladness; 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.

08 March 2018

Via Dolorosa

Walking the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem...




Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy, but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking the Way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

07 March 2018

Mass In The Tomb

It was my privilege recently to lead thirty-one pilgrims to Rome and to the Holy Land.  Ours was a compatible band, and the experiences we shared helped to make this Lent an especially blessed season.

Among our many spiritual adventures, I'll begin with our final Mass of the pilgrimage.  We were roused from sleep at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre an hour later, to prepare for Mass at 5:00 a.m.  This Mass would be in the Edicule, the very tomb of our Lord, a Mass offered on the place where His lifeless Body was placed, and from where He rose from the dead triumphant in His glory.

The liturgy was, of course, from our own Divine Worship: The Missal.  To be in the most sacred place in all creation, and then to speak the familiar words, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid..." made my soul soar, and I know it affected the other pilgrims, too.

Here are some pictures from that blessed occasion:


Arriving at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
very early in the morning.

The pilgrims anticipate their entrance
into the basilica.

In the sacristy, vested and prepared for Mass.

Entering the Edicule
for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Edicule, or "Little House" which protects
the walls of the cave containing the Tomb.

Offering the Holy Sacrifice.

Mysterium Tremendum.

St. Perpetua and St. Felicity


With the lives of so many early martyrs shrouded in legend, we are fortunate to have the record of the courage of Perpetua and Felicity from the hand of Perpetua herself, her teacher Saturus, and others who knew them. This account, known as "The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity," was so popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies.

In the year 203, Vibia Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death during Septimus' persecution. Her surviving brother (another brother had died when he was seven) followed her leadership and became a catechumen as well.

Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. We can easily understand his concern. At 22 years old, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live -- including a baby son who was still nursing. We know she was married, but since her husband is never mentioned, many historians assume she was a widow.

Perpetua's answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, "See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?" Her father answered, "Of course not." Perpetua responded, "Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am -- a Christian."

This answer so upset her father that he attacked her. Perpetua reports that after that incident she was glad to be separated from him for a few days -- even though that separation was the result of her arrest and imprisonment. Perpetua was arrested with four other catechumens including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, along with Saturninus and Secundulus. Their catechist, Saturus, had already been imprisoned before them.

She was baptized before taken to prison. Perpetua was known for her gift of "the Lord's speech" and receiving messages from God. She tells us that at the time of her baptism she was told to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials.

The prison was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. There was no light anywhere and Perpetua "had never known such darkness." The soldiers who arrested and guarded them pushed and shoved them without any concern. Perpetua had no trouble admitting she was very afraid, but in the midst of all this horror her most excruciating pain came from being separated from her baby.

The young slave, Felicity was even worse off, not only suffering from the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling, but she was eight months pregnant.

Two deacons who ministered to the prisoners paid the guards so that the martyrs would be put in a better part of the prison. There her mother and brother were able to visit Perpetua and bring her baby to her. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her, she said "my prison suddenly became a palace for me." Once more her father came to her, begging her to give in, kissing her hands, and throwing himself at her feet. She told him, "We live not in our own power but in the power of God."

Meanwhile Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom and her companions would go on their journey without her. Her friends also didn't want to leave so "good a comrade" behind.

Two days before the execution, Felicity went into a painful labor. The guards made fun of her, insulting her by saying, "If you think you suffer now, how will you stand it when you face the wild beasts?" Felicity answered them calmly, "Now I'm the one who is suffering, but in the arena there will be Another with me, suffering for me, because I will be suffering for him." She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage.

There was a feast the day before the games so that the crowd could see the martyrs and make fun of them. But the martyrs turned this all around by laughing at the crowd for not being Christians and exhorting them to follow their example.

The four new Christians and their teacher went to the arena (the fifth, Secundulus, had died in prison) with joy and calm. Perpetua in usual high spirits met the eyes of everyone along the way. We are told she walked with "shining steps as the true spouse of Christ, the darling of God."

When those at the arena tried to force Perpetua and the rest to dress in robes dedicated to their gods, Perpetua challenged her executioners. "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods." She and the others were allowed to keep their clothes.

The men were attacked by bears, leopards, and wild boars. The women were stripped to face a rabid heifer. When the crowd, however, saw the two young women, one of whom had obviously just given birth, they were horrified and the women were removed and clothed again. Perpetua and Felicity were thrown back into the arena so roughly that they were bruised and hurt. Perpetua, though confused and distracted, still was thinking of others and went to help Felicity up. The two of them stood side by side as all five martyrs had their throats cut.

Perpetua's last words were to her brother: "Stand fast in the faith and love one another."

O Holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden of peace; 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.

04 March 2018

Back from our pilgrimage


As many of you know, I have been leading a pilgrimage in Rome and the Holy Land for thirty pilgrims.  We returned late on Saturday, March 3rd. 

I will be posting pictures and will have some commentary soon.