30 August 2018

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne


The Holy Island of Lindisfarne has a recorded history from the 6th century AD. It was an important center of Christianity not only under St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, but also is known for its association with St. Cuthbert, St. Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and St. Eadberht of Lindisfarne.

St. Aidan studied under St. Senan, one of the great Irish monk-saints, and he became a monk at Iona in about the year 630. His obvious virtues caused him to be selected as first Bishop of Lindisfarne in 635.

Lindisfarne is an island of about one thousand acres, and is off the northeast coast of England. It served as a home base for the evangelizing of the mainland, and in time St. Aidan became known as the "apostle of Northumbria," because the king of Northumbria, Oswald, asked him to come and spread the Christian faith among the people. St. Bede spoke highly of the spiritual care given by St. Aidan to his people. King Oswald had studied in Ireland and because of their common spiritual heritage he eventually became a close friend of St. Aidan, supporting him in his work to the end of his life.

St. Aidan died at Bamborough on 31 August 651, and his remains were taken to Lindisfarne. St. Bede writes that "he was a pontiff inspired with a passionate love of virtue, but at the same time full of a surpassing mildness and gentleness."

O loving God, who didst call thy servant St. Aidan of Lindisfarne from the peace of a cloister to reestablish the Christian mission in northern England, and didst endow him with gentleness, simplicity, and strength: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, following his example, may use what thou hast given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

29 August 2018

St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line, and St. Margaret Ward, Martyrs

The three martyrs we commemorate on August 30th are numbered amongst the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, who suffered death for the Catholic faith which had been outlawed in the kingdom. These three women – St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line, and St. Margaret Ward – were all martyred because they protected Catholic priests from the Elizabethan authorities, who were seeking out all Catholic priests for execution. During this dark time in history, it was illegal for priests to be in the country, as it was illegal for Catholics to receive the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

St. Margaret Clitherow was a convert to the faith. She became a Catholic when she was eighteen. Although her husband was not a Catholic, he supported her in the practice of her faith, along with their son Henry, who was studying for the priesthood. Margaret’s husband even went so far all to allow her to welcome priests into their home for the celebration of Mass, and 1586 she was arrested for giving shelter to a priest. She was condemned to the horrifying death of being slowly crushed to death, being made to lay upon a sharp stone with a door placed upon her while nearly eight hundred pounds of stone were gradually added on top of the door. This took place on Good Friday in 1586. She died with the name of Jesus upon her lips.

St. Anne Line was also a convert, and was completely disowned by her family. In 1586 she married a man who was also a convert to the faith, but who soon exiled from the country, leaving Anne by herself. She eventually managed two “safe houses” where travelling priests could hide, but was arrested on February 2, 1601, when she assisted a priest in escaping arrest. When she was brought to court, she fully admitted what she had done, and told the judge that her only regret was that she had not helped more priests. St. Anne Line was hung in London, and before her death she repeated what she had said in court, stating clearly that she did not repent for her actions, but that she wished she could have done it a thousand times.

St. Margaret Ward was an unmarried woman, and so is a virgin-martyr. She helped a priest escape from the prison where he was being held by smuggling him a length of rope with which he could lower himself over the prison wall. She was eventually accused of giving assistance to the priest because it was known that she was the last person to have visited him, and therefore was the most obvious person to have given the rope to the prisoner. St. Margaret Ward was bound by chains, hung up by her hands, and was brutally scourged, as the authorities demanded to know where the priest had gone. She steadfastly refused, and was hung publicly in London on August 30, 1588.

Although these three martyrs were canonized in 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, they are commemorated on a separate day because of the particular reason for their deaths; namely, their deep respect for the priesthood, and their zealous protection of priests.

Steadfast God, as we honour the fidelity in life and constancy in death of thy holy Martyrs Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line, and Margaret Ward: we pray thee to raise up in our day women of courage and resource to care for thy household the Church; 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.

28 August 2018

The Passion of St. John the Baptist


The circumstances surrounding the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist are pretty seedy – we have a drunken king who makes an oath and doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of others; we have a hateful queen who wants revenge; we have a young girl who is pushed into the situation by her mother, and made to do a seductive dance and then make a deal to have John murdered.

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he was the first New Testament prophet. Of course, he was treated like most of the prophets were – he was hated for speaking the truth. Sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah, his vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power he claimed was the Spirit of God. “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37), and so the life and death of St. John the Baptist had the great purpose of pointing the way to Christ.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy servant St. John the Baptist triumphed over suffering and despised death: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, enduring hardness and waxing valiant in fight, may with the noble army of martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

27 August 2018

St. Augustine of Hippo


St. Augustine was born in A.D. 354 in what is modern-day Algeria. His family was of some substance and highly respected. His father Patricius was a pagan, though he converted to Christianity on his deathbed. His mother St. Monica was a Christian and raised Augustine in the faith, though he was not baptized until he was an adult.

As a boy Augustine became conscious of sin in a special way when he participated in a pointless act of theft – an act which made a profound impression on him and he later wrote about and regretted it. He and some companions stole pears from a tree, not necessarily to eat, but just to steal for the fun of it. In his spiritual autobiography, the Confessions, he described the incident, and ended his account by writing, “Foul was the evil, and I loved it.”

When he was nineteen, Augustine began a long-term affair with a woman. We do not know her name, because Augustine deliberately didn’t record it. He never married her, but they did have a son. Despite his Christian upbringing, Augustine abandoned the Faith and became a Manichean, a gnostic sect, which crushed his mother.

So far it doesn’t sound much like the life of a saint, so how did he turn things around? He happened to take a position teaching rhetoric in Milan, Italy and, with the encouragement of his mother, began to have more contact with Christians and Christian literature, which brought him in contact with the great St. Ambrose, then the bishop of Milan.

One day, in the summer of 386, he heard a childlike voice chanting “Tolle, lege” (“Take, read”). He took this as a divine command and opened the Bible, randomly, to Romans 13:13-14, which reads: “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Applying this to his own life, Augustine was cut to the heart, and his conversion began in earnest. He was baptized, along with his son Adeodatus, at the next Easter Vigil by St. Ambrose. A few short years later his mother Monica and his son Adeodatus both died. Augustine returned to him home in North Africa, where he was alone on the family property. He sold almost all his possessions and gave the money to the poor and he turned the family home into a monastery. In 391, he was ordained a priest of the diocese of Hippo. In 395, he became the city’s coadjutor bishop and then its bishop. As bishop, he wrote extensively, and the value of his writings was such that he became a Church Father.

Augustine died on August 28, 430. He was canonized by popular acclaim and was subsequently proclaimed to be one of the four original Doctors of the Church.

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant St. Augustine of Hippo, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

26 August 2018

St. Monica, Widow and Confessor


The circumstances of St. Monica's life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of those temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and lived an immoral life. Monica also had to put up with an ill-tempered mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius constantly criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but he always respected her. Monica's prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law over to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his Baptism.

Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. At the time of his father's death, Augustine was 17 and a student of rhetoric in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy – which was a combination of gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with the basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, with matter (physical things) being regarded as dark and evil. At this point, Augustine was living an immoral life. For a while, Monica refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine's trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica's spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan, as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was nearing the end. She told Augustine, "Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled." She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

O God, who art the Comforter of them that mourn, and the Salvation of them that hope in thee, who didst graciously regard the tearful pleading of blessed Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine: grant, we beseech thee, at their united intercession; that we may truly lament our sins and be made worthy to obtain thy gracious pardon; 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.

24 August 2018

St. Louis, King and Confessor


St. Louis IX, (1215-1270) became King of France at the age of twelve. He had been brought up by his mother to be a faithful Catholic ruler, and during his whole life he remembered her words to him: "Never forget that sin is the only great evil in the world.” Then she went on to say, “No mother could love her son more than I love you. But I would rather see you lying dead at my feet than to know that you had offended God by one mortal sin."

Throughout his life he remained deeply devout and as a king his conduct was that of a real saint. He devoted himself to the people of his kingdom and he was a great peacemaker — kings and princes constantly sought his aid in settling disputes. He was a humble man, and was always helpful to the needy, inviting them to his own table to eat. He took time himself to care for lepers and the sick. St. Louis gave to all his people an example of a life that overflowed with charity and with justice for every single person.

He was a person whom it was easy to love; he was a kind husband, the father of eleven children. He took great care in practicing his faith and in receiving the sacraments. St. Louis was known also for his bravery in battle, going on two crusades to protect the Church in the Holy Land from the Muslims who were trying to destroy it. In fact, he was on his second crusade when he was taken ill by the plague. As a penance he asked to be laid on a bed of ashes, and his last words were from Psalm 5, "I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!"

O God, who didst call thy servant St. Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

23 August 2018

St. Bartholomew, Apostle


In St. John's Gospel, Bartholomew (son of Tolomai) is known by the name Nathaniel.  His home was Cana in Galilee, where the miraculous turning of water into wine took place, and he was one of the first disciples called by the Lord Jesus. It was of Bartholomew that Christ said, "Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile!" After the Resurrection of our Lord, he was blessed by being one of the few apostles who witnessed the appearance of the risen Saviour on the sea of Galilee (John 21:2). Following the Ascension the tradition is that he preached the Gospel in Greater Armenia, and it was there that he was martyred by being flayed, which means that while he was still alive, his skin was torn from his body. The Armenians honor him as the apostle of their nation. His relics were brought eventually to Rome to a small island in the middle of the Tiber, where there is a basilica and hospital.

O Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine apostle St. Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: Grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church to love what he believed and to preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tomb of St. Bartholomew, Tiber Island

19 August 2018

St. Bernard of Clairvaux


It was said of St. Bernard that his personality “was so attractive, his power of persuasion so difficult to withstand, that we are told that mothers hid their children and wives clung to their spouses lest he attract them into the monastery.” Who was this man? Bernard’s father was a knight who had died in battle and his mother also died when Bernard was still quite young. In the year 1098 Bernard felt called to join a monastic community of reformed Benedictines. In his excitement about entering the monastery, he also persuaded 24 of his friends, four of his brothers and two of his uncles to join with him. This shows the influence that he had at a young age! The community had been dwindling, so we can imagine what it meant when this zealous young man showed up with thirty other men, ready to learn and live the monastic life. Bernard really wanted to live a hidden life, spending his time doing simply manual work and praying to God. Instead, St. Bernard and 11 others were sent out to establish a monastery. Before the monastery was established the town was called Wormwood and was a haven for thieves; after the monastery was established the area was known as Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. It was here in Clairvaux where Bernard was positioned as abbot and became well-known throughout Christendom.

This newly established monastery grew fast and soon had 130 monks. At first St. Bernard was very strict about fasting and would allow the monks to eat very little, but an experience with serious sickness helped him to understand that God had created the body with a need for food, so he reformed the requirements, although life was still quite strict. He felt led to start preaching and became so famous for his preaching that he was sought from all over and people started flocking to hear Bernard of Clairvaux. The teachings brought a lot of people, but St. Bernard also prayed for the sick who came, and many of them were healed by God – sometimes when St. Bernard simply made the sign of the cross over them.

All St. Bernard wanted was a life of contemplation in Clairvaux, but his reputation was wide spread and his advice sought after by princes, popes, and other high ranking leaders in the religious and political arenas. St. Bernard used his influence to work for real justice and he did his very best to make sure that holy and righteous men were placed in positions of leadership. In fact, St. Bernard influenced many bishops and other leaders to change their ways and humble themselves.

As St. Bernard grew older, he began to tire from all his travelling and preaching, and settling disputes, but finally he was able to return to Clairvaux where he continued in his meditations and writings. He spent his last few years writing, and his works are still among the classic works on the Catholic faith. On August 20, 1153 he gathered those who were close to him and received the Last Sacraments. He died at the age of 63.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Bernard of Clairvaux, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

From Our History: First Construction

The original Church of Our Lady of the Atonement was built in 1986-87 for the grand sum of $500,000 (which seemed to be an absolute fortune at the time), and these pictures show the process of its construction.

Beginning the foundation

Pouring the concrete slab

Placing the medal of Our Lady of the Atonement at the site of the high altar

Raising the first wall

Placing the butresses

Building the tower

The tower, and the wall of the Lady Chapel

The walls from inside the structure

The roof beams, looking toward the high altar

The entrance in the tower, looking toward the Lady Chapel

The building takes on its shape

The spire being assembled on the ground

The spire being placed on the tower

The spire almost in place

The spire in its place, and the exterior structure nearly completed

The original church, completed...

...and greatly expanded a few years later.

01 August 2018

St. Eusebius of Vercelli


Eusebius was the founder of the canons regular, priests living under a religious rule and dedicated to pastoral work. The canons regular was the immediate result of the rise of monasticism in the East, and St. Eusebius of Vercelli saw the possibilities of this new movement for the clergy. His example was imitated all over the West and brought about a renewal of clerical life. He was born in Sardinia and as a child was taken to Rome, where he became a member of the Roman clergy under Pope Julius. Consecrated for the see of Vercelli in 344, he gathered his clergy into a community life, founding also the dioceses of Turin and Embrun. In 355, he attended the Council of Milan as legate of Pope Liberius, which defended St. Athanasius against those Western bishops intimidated by the emperor. When Eusebius was ordered along with other bishops to condemn Athanasius, he refused, insisting instead that they all sign the Nicene Creed. When threatened by the emperor, Eusebius stood his ground and told the emperor he had no right interfering in Church matters.

In anger, the emperor sent Eusebius into exile in Palestine, where he was severely mistreated by the Arians. He was moved around from place to place and after his release by the Emperor Julian he consulted with Athanasius in Alexandria on the Arian crisis. Returning to Italy, he joined with St. Hilary of Poitiers in opposing the Arian bishop of Milan and returned to Vercelli amid the rejoicing of his people.

Eusebius is considered by many to be the author of the Athanasian Creed, and a copy of the Gospels written in his own hand is preserved in the cathedral at Vercelli. He died on August 1, 371, his courage in suffering for the faith inspiring other bishops to oppose the Arian heresy.

(Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints)

Lead us, O Lord God, to imitate the constancy of Saint Eusebius in affirming the divinity of thy Son: that, by preserving the faith he taught as thy Bishop, we may merit a share in the very life of 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.

The Portiuncula Indulgence


On a night in July 1216, St. Francis was at prayer in the little church of Portiuncula, devoured by love for God and a thirst to save souls. He prayed for the forgiveness of sins of mankind. Suddenly a brilliant light shone all around. In great splendor Jesus and Mary appeared in the midst of a dazzling cloud surrounded by a multitude of radiant angels. ...Then Jesus said to him: "Francis you are very zealous for the good souls. Ask me what you want for their salvation." St. Francis was rapt in ecstasy before Our Lord. When he regained his courage, he said, "Lord, I, a miserable sinner, beg you to concede an indulgence to all those who enter this church, who are truly contrite and have confessed their sins. And I beg Blessed Mary, your mother, intercessor of man, that she intercede on behalf of this grace."

The Merciful Virgin at once began to beseech her Son on behalf of Francis. Jesus answered: "It is a very great thing you ask me; but you are worthy of even greater things, Friar Francis, and greater things you will have. So I accept your request, but I want you to go to my Vicar, to whom I have given the power to bind and loose in heaven and on earth, to ask him on my behalf for this indulgence."

The Pope granted this petition, and this indulgence has been extended to all parish churches throughout the world for one day each year. The date has been set from noon on August 1 until midnight August 2, the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. It is said that St. Francis was given this day by Our Lord because of the feast of the Chains of St. Peter, celebrated on August 1, commemorating Peter's being released from prison, his chains removed. This is an extraordinary demonstration of God's mercy in removing the chains of sin from those who devoutly and faithfully seek to gain the indulgence by completing its requirements.

The conditions to obtain the Plenary Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi (for oneself or for a departed soul) are as follows:

- Sacramental Confession (during eight days before or after).
- Participation in the Mass
- Recitation of the Apostle's Creed, Our Father, and a prayer for the pope's intentions.