31 July 2019

St. Alphonsus Liguori


Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.

In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.

The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata near Naples, and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.

In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

(Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens)


O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be enabled to attain in gladness unto 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.

30 July 2019

St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Shrine of St. Ignatius
at the Church of the Gesu in Rome.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born at Loyola in the mountains of northern Spain in 1491. A member of the minor nobility, Ignatius spent his youth and early adulthood as a courtier and soldier. He occasionally vowed to dedicate himself more fully to God, but never quite followed through. It was only after he read the lives of the saints while convalescing from a leg wound incurred during a battle that he finally began his spiritual pilgrimage with real intent at the age of 30.

Soon after this, St. Ignatius began to experience ecstatic visions, but within a year suffered a period of intense spiritual dryness (what St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night of the soul”), which nearly drove him to despair. He persevered, however, and out of this was born Spiritual Exercises, one the most important Catholic spiritual works of all time. Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of the Faith - the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam - “for the greater glory of God.” 

In spite of his noble origins, St. Ignatius lived an astonishingly humble lifestyle, which others often resented. Yet he attracted several followers (including St. Francis Xavier), and in 1540 received approval from Pope Paul III for his new order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. In a very short time, this order would go on to become one of the best known of all Catholic religious orders, taking the Gospel to the four corners of the world.

O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; 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.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

29 July 2019

St. Peter Chrysologus


In the fifth century it was Ravenna, and not Rome, which was the capital of the Roman Empire in the West, and Ravenna itself became a major metropolitan See. St. Peter Chrysologus was one of the most distinguished archbishops of that See.

Peter was born in Imola about the year 400 and studied under Cornelius, bishop of Imola, who ordained him deacon. In 433, the archbishop of Ravenna died, and when a successor had been chosen by the clergy and people of Ravenna, they asked Bishop Cornelius to obtain confirmation of their choice from Pope Sixtus III. On his trip to Rome, Cornelius took his deacon, Peter, as his companion for the journey to Rome. For some reason known only to God, when the Pope met Peter, he chose him for the See of Ravenna instead of the one who had been selected by the clergy and people of Ravenna.

Peter was consecrated and was accepted somewhat grudgingly at first by both the clergy and the people. Peter, however, soon became the favorite of Emperor Valentinian III, who resided at Ravenna and was also highly regarded by Pope St. Leo the Great, the successor of Pope Sixtus.

There were still traces of paganism in Peter's diocese, and his first effort was to establish the Catholic faith everywhere, rooting out abuses and carrying on a campaign of preaching and special care of the poor. Many of his sermons still survive, and it is on the basis of these that he came to be known as Chrysologus, or "the golden word." In his concern for the unity of the Church, Peter Chrysologus opposed heresy wherever he found it.

When he knew his death was near, Peter returned to his own city of Imola and after urging great care in the choice of his successor he died at Imola about the year 450 and was buried in the church of St. Cassian. In 1729, Pope Benedict XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.

O God, who madest the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an illustrious preacher of thy incarnate Word: grant, through his intercession; that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of thy salvation and faithfully manifest them in our lives; 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 July 2019

St. Martha of Bethany


Our first thought upon hearing the name of St. Martha is probably the recollection of a woman preparing a meal for the Lord Jesus, upset that her sister Mary is not helping her, and who then is gently rebuked by Christ when He told her that “Mary has chosen the better portion.” What we should more readily recall, however, is her exchange with the Lord when He came to her house after the death of her brother Lazarus.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Here is Martha, the woman of great faith; the woman who professes Jesus as the Christ; the woman who professes the power of God in the coming resurrection. Is there any doubt that in her heart, Martha, too, had chosen “the better portion,” as Christ urged her to do?

Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; 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.

Pater noster


Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation." - Luke 11:1-4


It was an ordinary practice for a rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they could use on a regular basis, and it would be a prayer that encapsulated the teaching they had imparted to their followers. The prayer Jesus gives to his apostles teaches everything necessary to know about how to pray, and for what to pray.

It begins by addressing God as Father, indicating to us that in prayer we are not coming to someone out from whom we must try and extract gifts, but to a Father who takes delight in supplying His children's needs.

In Hebrew thought the idea of “name” means more than just the name by which a person is called. The name means the whole character of the person as it is revealed and known to us, and this is why Jesus teaches that God’s Name is a holy name. Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee." To know the name of God is to know the whole character and mind and heart of God, and makes us willingly put our trust in Him.

The order of the Lord's Prayer is important. Before we ask anything for ourselves, the first order of business is that of God and His glory, and the reverence which is due to Him. Only when we give God His proper place will other things fall into proper order.

Notice how this prayer covers everything in life. It covers our present need, in that it tells us to pray for our daily bread, and indeed it is bread for the day for which we ask, providing a link to the story of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-21). Only enough for the needs of the day could be gathered. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time, which is a reminder of our dependence on God.

The prayer refers to our sin. When we pray, all we can really do is pray for forgiveness, because even the best among us is a sinful man coming before the purity of God. And as we seek forgiveness, so we need to give forgiveness.

It covers future trials, asking that we not be brought to them. “Temptation” means any situation in which we are tested. It includes far more than seduction to sin. It covers every situation which is a challenge to us, and which tests a person's humanity and integrity and fidelity. We cannot escape it, but we can meet it with God. People have asked, “Why would God lead us into temptation?” That’s not really a helpful translation, because the Greek is really more like “Let us not be led into temptation.” In other words, in this prayer we are asking God to protect us from giving into temptation.

The Lord's Prayer is a public prayer of the Church, with its proper place in the liturgy. But it also is a private prayer, which stirs up all manner of holy desires which lead us on into right ways, while at the same time it sums up all we ought to pray for in the presence of God.

"Thy Kingdom Come..."


In the Lord's Prayer we pray for God to reign in our lives and in our world: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What do we mean when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? We are praying that something will come about, but which has not yet fully happened. We are praying that God will bring about his heavenly purpose on earth. We are praying that God would use us to do his will. We are making ourselves available to do the will of our heavenly Father, to fulfill his purpose.

This was the prayer of Mary after the angel Gabriel had revealed to her the will of God in bearing the Incarnate Word, Jesus. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” Mary prayed that God’s divine will might be done in her life, and the world was transformed because of her “yes” to God’s will.

Even our Lord Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, when He was in agony in Gethsemane, prayed to His Father, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”

When we pray, “Thy will be done” we are not simply resigning ourselves to whatever happens; rather, we are praying for triumph – that is, the triumph of God’s divine will. That prayer is not an invitation to passively stand by, to acquiescence to prevailing circumstances; rather, it is a means to buttress our resolution to fight for what is right, noble and true, for whatever is pure, lovely and admirable. It is to pray for the spirit of victory, the victory of God’s will, of God’s reign, of God’s kingdom – here on earth, as it already is in heaven.

25 July 2019

Ss. Joachim and Anne


According to tradition, St. Joachim and St. Anne have come to us as being the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. They are not named in the Scriptures, but this tradition dates back to the early years of the Church, as does the story which tells us that after many years of not having a child, an angel appeared to them and told them that God would be granting them this blessing.  They had prayed for a child, and part of their prayer was the promise that they would dedicate their child to the service of God. Little did they know at that time what great service would be given by their infant daughter.

When Mary reached the age of three, her parents fulfilled their vow. Together with their family and friends, they took her to the Temple. The High Priest and other Temple priests greeted the procession, and tradition says that the child was brought before the fifteen high steps which led to the sanctuary. It is said that the child Mary made her way to the stairs and, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, ascended all fifteen steps, coming to the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. Tradition then says that the High Priest, acting outside every rule he knew, led the Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, astonishing everyone present in the Temple. So it was that she, whose own womb would become the Holy of Holies, came into the presence of the God Whom she would bear.

St. Joachim and St. Anne returned to their home, but the Handmaid of the Lord remained in the Temple until her espousal, where she was prepared by God.  As the grandparents of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they serve as examples and intercessors for all parents and grandparents.

O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy lovingkindness; 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.

24 July 2019

St. James the Greater

St. James the Greater, depicted in the Cuzco style. 
This painting is near the entrance of the Lady Chapel
at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

St. James the Greater (meaning the Elder) and his brother John were partners in the fishing business with two other brothers, Peter and Andrew.  They all lived in Bethsaida, a village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. His mother was a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "sons of thunder," the brother of St. John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

Along with Peter and John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, the ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Like his brother, James was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after our Lord's resurrection.  In fact, the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela witnesses to that probably

St. James' prominence and his presence in Jerusalem was well known.  Scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection he was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat.

Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. The two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him, but it turned out to be in a far different way than they expected.

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; 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.

23 July 2019

St. Sharbel Makhluf


St. Sharbel Makhluf is a Maronite saint, a member of the ancient Eastern Catholic Church of Antioch.  It was in Antioch that Christ's followers were first called Christians, and St. Peter ministered there before going to Rome.  The Maronites have their own liturgy and discipline, and have always been in full communion with the See of Peter.  They take their name from St. Maron, a fifth century monk and patriarch of Antioch.

Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra where he was born, his influence has spread widely.

Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853, and was ordained six years later.

Following the example of the fifth-century Saint Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875, until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.

He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. He was beatified in 1965, and canonized 12 years later.

O God, who didst call the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion: grant us, we pray thee; that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be coheirs of his kingdom; 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 July 2019

St. Bridget of Sweden


On July 23rd the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden. Bridget was a mystic and a visionary, and she received visions of Christ’s suffering many times throughout her life. She was born in 1303 and her parents were highly respected people, her father being a local governor and provincial judge.

When Bridget was only ten, it is recorded that she had a vision of Jesus on the cross and heard him say, “Look at me, my daughter,” to which she responded, "Who has treated you like this?" The answer she heard from Jesus was, "Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” From that moment on, Bridget perceived it as her mission to try and stop people from offending Jesus.

When she was 14, Bridget married an 18-year old man named Ulf. Like Bridget, Ulf had set his heart on serving God. They had eight children, and their marriage of twenty-eight years was a very happy one. Bridget and Ulf also served the Swedish court, Bridget as the queen's personal maid.

All her life, Bridget had marvelous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them.

After her husband died, Bridget put away her rich clothes and lived as a poor nun. Later, in 1346, she began the order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as Bridgettines. She still kept up her own busy life, traveling about doing good everywhere she went.

Shortly before she died, Bridget went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the shrines there, she had visions of what Jesus had said and done in each place, and all of her revelations on the suffering of Christ were published after her death.

St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX just eighteen years later in 1391.

O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women in all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 July 2019

St. Mary Magdalene


Mystery surrounds St. Mary Magdalene. Was she one and the same as Mary of Bethany? Had she been an immoral woman in her past life, or simply a woman from Magdala who was delivered from evil spirits? Whatever the case, we know she stood with the Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the cross; we know she was the first witness of the risen Lord Jesus Christ; and it was St. Mary Magdalene who ran to tell the apostles this Good News.

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so she told the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ.  Even though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and as she looked, she wept.  Burning with the fire of love, she longed for him whom she thought had been taken away. The woman who stayed behind, was the only one to see him. Perseverance is essential to any good act, as the Scriptures tell us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. Even in our own lives, when our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger those feelings make us try even harder. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has had to burn with such a great love for the truth.

O Almighty God, whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene to be a witness to his Resurrection: mercifully grant that by thy grace, and assisted by her prayers, we may be healed of all our infirmities, and always serve thee in the power of his endless life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 July 2019

Our Lord's words in Bethany...


So what should we think of our Lord's words when He said, "Mary has chosen the good portion..."?

Christ did not say Martha had chosen the wrong thing and Mary had chosen the right thing. In fact, what Martha had been doing was a good thing. But it was a lesser thing than, at that moment, sitting at the feet of Christ and listening to Him.

Very often we find ourselves doing things which are not wrong in and of themselves, but they are things which can distract us from hearing the voice of God. And when we find ourselves distracted and worried by lots of things, it causes us to neglect the better thing. This is why God commands us to keep holy the Sabbath day. It is not so much for Him as it is for us.

We need a time of stopping our usual activities so we can concentrate on the things of God, and to find renewal in things that we enjoy. This is why it is important for us to make time for prayer, and to spend time before Christ in adoration, and simply to be quiet before God. God knows that we need those things, because it is the way He created us.

19 July 2019

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


St. Apollinaris was one of the great martyrs in the early years of the Church. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter. The miracles he conducted in Ravenna soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the faith. However, at the same time, his words and works brought upon him the fury of the pagan people, who beat Apollinaris viciously on several occasions.

During one beating, Apollinaris was cut with knives, and scalding hot water poured over his wounds.  In this state of suffering he was then put on a ship to be sent to Greece.

In Greece St. Apollinaris carried on the same course of preaching, and miracles, and sufferings. In fact, after a cruel beating by Greek pagans, he was sent back to Italy.

When Emperor Vespasian issued a decree of banishment against the Christians, Apollinaris was kept hidden for some time, but as he was leaving, passing through the gates of the city, he was attacked and savagely beaten. He lived for seven days, foretelling that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Apollinaris triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Ravenna, 6th century.

17 July 2019

St. Camillus de Lellis


By almost any standard, Camillus de Lellis wasn’t a very likely candidate for sainthood. His mother died when he was a child, his father neglected him, and he grew up with an excessive love for gambling. At 17, he was afflicted with a disease of his leg that remained with him for life. In Rome he entered the San Giacomo Hospital for Incurables as both patient and servant, but after nine months he was dismissed for his constant fighting. With no other alternative he served in the Venetian army for three years.

Then in the winter of 1574, when he was 24, Camillus gambled away everything he had – his savings, his weapons, literally down to his shirt. He accepted work at a Capuchin friary. One day he was so moved by a sermon of the superior that he began a conversion that changed his life. He entered the Capuchin novitiate, but was dismissed because of the apparently incurable sore on his leg. He went back to the San Giacomo hospital, and he gave himself completely to the care of the sick. He was so dedicated to the work that he was eventually made superintendent of the hospital.

Camillus devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. Along with Saint John of God he has been named patron of hospitals, nurses, and the sick. With the advice of his friend Saint Philip Neri, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained at the age of 34. He founded a congregation of his own, dedicated to the care of the sick. Unlike many hospitals of the day, St. Camillus insisted on cleanliness and that those who served the sick were trained in the basics of medical care.

Camillus himself suffered the disease of his leg through his life. In his last illness, he left his own bed to see if other patients in the hospital needed help. And so this unlikely saint was made holy by the grace of God, and he was able to bring that divine grace into the lives of countless people.

O God, who for the comfort of souls striving in their last agony, didst adorn Saint Camillus with singular gifts of charity: we beseech thee, by his merits, to pour upon us the spirit of thy love; that in the hour of our death, we may be worthy to overcome the enemy and to attain to the heavenly crown; 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 July 2019

Our Lady of Mount Carmel


Mount Carmel is closely associated with the Prophet Elijah. Located in northern Israel, it was and remains a place of great beauty. There is still a chapel called the Grotto of St. Elijah, which is most likely where he sheltered

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and have often been at the forefront of explaining and defending the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. St. Therese of the Child Jesus dedicated her life to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and during the last days of her life she frequently spoke of her.

There is a strong tradition that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. The scapular reminds us of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way.

O God, who didst adorn the Order of Mount Carmel with the especial title of thy most blessed Mother the Ever-Virgin Mary: mercifully grant; that as we do this day remember her in our solemn observance, so by the help of her succor we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Flower of Carmel, vine blossom laden,
Joy of heaven, who yet a maiden,
Bore God's Holy One.
Gentlest Mother, who never man did know,
On Carmel's children your privilege bestow,
Star of Ocean.

Root of Jesse, flower in the cradling bud,
Take us to you, keep us with you in God,
His together.
All chaste lily, rising despite the thorn,
Strengthen, help us, so feeble and forlorn,
Great Protectress!

Be our armor, valiant for Christ when war
Rages round us, hold high the Scapular,
Strong and saving.
In our stumbling, guide us on God's wise way,
In our sorrow, comfort us when we pray;
Rich your mercy.

Holy Lady, Carmel's great Friend and Queen,
Feast your people from your own bliss, the unseen
Grace, God's goodness.
Key and Gateway, opening on Paradise,
Mother, win us a place with you in Christ
Crowned in glory.


Elijah's Cave atop Mt. Carmel, where we have offered Mass while on pilgrimage.

14 July 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor

St. Bonaventure is known as "the seraphic doctor," was born in the Lazio region of central Italy in 1221. His baptismal name was John. He received the name of Bonaventure because of an exclamation which was made by St. Francis of Assisi, when little John’s mother took him to Francis, begging him to pray for her little boy who was very ill. Francis prayed, and little John recovered. When Francis foresaw the future greatness of the boy, he cried out "O buona ventura" - O good fortune! – and that was the name given to John when he entered the Franciscan order.

He was twenty-two when St. Bonaventure joined the Franciscans. Having made his vows, he was then sent to Paris to complete his studies. His main tutor was the celebrated doctor Alexander of Hales, who was an Englishman and a Franciscan. While he was in Paris, St. Bonaventure became a close friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. They received their doctoral degrees together, but St. Bonaventure – always a very humble man, insisted that at the ceremony Thomas Aquinas should have the honor of receiving it first. Both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure became well known throughout the Church for their great scholarship and brilliance, and both even became quite close to the holy king of France, St. Louis.

At the age of thirty-five St. Bonaventure was chosen to be the General of the Franciscan Order. It was a difficult time for the Franciscans, because of internal dissension. The friars had argued about the meaning and practice of poverty – already they were straying from the vision and teaching of their Founder – but St. Bonaventure restored peace to the Order. He worked tirelessly for the Franciscan Order, and composed an important work, The Life of St. Francis. He was nominated Archbishop of York in England by Pope Clement IV, but he begged the pope not to force him to accept. The next pope, Gregory X, obliged Bonaventure to take upon himself an even more difficult position, that of the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano, one of the six suffragan Sees of Rome, while still being General of his Order. However, before his death he resigned his office of General of the Franciscan Order. He died while he was at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274, working for the good of the Church until his very last breath. How right St. Francis was when he exclaimed “O buona ventura” – “O good fortune!” It was certainly good fortune for the Church when St. Bonaventure gave his life in service to Christ.

It was said of St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) that he was "...a unique personality. He was unsurpassed in sanctity, wisdom, eloquence, and gifted with a remarkable skill of accomplishing things, a heart full of love, a winning disposition, benevolent, affable, pious, charitable, rich in virtue, beloved by God and man. . . . The Lord endowed him with such a charming disposition that everyone who saw him was immediately attracted to him."

Considered to be a "second founder" of the Franciscans, he was an outstanding teacher and a spell-binding preacher.  He was known for his virtue and wisdom.  He is known as the "Seraphic Teacher" because of his deeply mystical understanding of the Faith.

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O God, by whose providence blessed Bonaventure was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven; 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.

Prayer of St. Bonaventure.

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

13 July 2019

The Good Samaritan


A lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." - Luke 10:25-37

Although it’s a parable being told by our Lord, everyone who heard his response to the young lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor,” knew exactly the stretch of road which Jesus was describing. The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho was on a narrow, rocky road. There were outcrops of rock and sudden turns, which made it a favorite place for thieves to hide. In the fifth century, St. Jerome tells us that it was still called "The Bloody Way." Even in the 19th century it was still necessary to pay safety money to the local sheiks before one could travel on it. When Jesus told this story, he was telling about the kind of thing that was constantly happening on the Jerusalem to Jericho road.

And we look at the characters in the story:

There was the traveler, who must have been reckless and not very prudent. People seldom attempted the Jerusalem to Jericho road alone. There would be some safety in numbers, so they travelled in convoys or caravans. This man, however, had set out by himself, so he really had no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he found himself.

There was the temple priest, who hurried past. He knew full well that if anyone touched a dead man, he was unclean for seven days, according to Jewish law. He couldn’t be sure, but it looked to him as though the man was dead, so to touch him would mean losing his turn of duty in the Temple, and he didn’t want to take that risk.

The Levite was fairly worldly-wise. He knew that the bandits on this road were in the habit of using decoys. One of them would act as though he were wounded, and when some unsuspecting traveler stopped to help, the others would rush in and overpower him. He wasn’t going to fall for that trick.

Then there was the Samaritan. Given the feelings of the Jews towards the Samaritans – a race of people who claimed Jewish roots, but who were half-breeds and so worse than Gentiles – there was no doubt in the minds of those hearing this parable that the real villain of the story had arrived.

But what a surprise! He was the only one prepared to help. He may have been a heretic and an enemy as far as the Jews were concerned, but the love of God was obviously in his heart.

So the young lawyer poses the question, “Who is my neighbor,” and Jesus asks him what is written in the law. And He expands it into a second question: "How do you read?" Why did Jesus ask it in that way? Strict orthodox Jews wore round their wrists little leather boxes called phylacteries, which contained certain passages of scripture, having to do with the love of God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.” So Jesus was saying to the scribe, "Look at the phylactery on your own wrist and it will answer your question." To that scripture, the scribes had added Leviticus 19:18, which teaches that a man should love his neighbor as himself. But this wasn’t enough for the strict Jew. With their absolute passion for defining things, the Rabbis tried to define who a man's neighbor was; and very often they confined the word “neighbor” to apply only to their fellow Jews. For instance, some of them said that it was illegal to help a Gentile woman at the time of childbirth, because that would only be bringing another Gentile into the world. So then, we can see that the scribe's question, "Who is my neighbor?" was an important one.

So we have some important points here:

First, we must help a person, even when he has brought his trouble on himself, as this traveler had done.

Second, any person who is in need is our neighbor. Our help doesn’t stop with our own people, with our own kind. Our charity must be as wide as the love of God.

Third, the help we give must be practical and not consist only in feeling sorry. Compassion, to be real, has to show itself in deeds. This is part of what St. James means when he says: “faith without works is dead.”

And what Jesus said to the scribe, he says to us – “Go and do the same."

12 July 2019

St. Henry, King and Confessor


St. Henry had great power in this world, but he used that power for the good of his people and for the spread of the Catholic Faith. Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but he realized that his temporal power was a gift from God, and he strove to gain an immortal crown, by putting himself always at the service of his eternal King, Jesus Christ.

As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt the churches which had been destroyed by Muslim invaders, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and was himself a Benedictine Oblate. When Pope Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was in danger from enemies of the Church, St. Henry received him and ultimately restored him to the Holy See.

It was Henry’s practice never to undertake anything without first praying. There were times that he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided in this way by God’s divine protection, he conquered barbarous nations more by prayer than by weapons.

He was married to a devoted wife, also a saint, St. Cunigund, although they remained childless. In fact, together they are patron saints of childless couples.

When Henry’s life's work was accomplished, he was called by God in 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg and immediately there were many miracles reported by those who prayed at his tomb. St. Henry was a man who had managed to lead his earthly kingdom with such responsibility that he never lost sight of the Kingdom of God.

We live in this world, but we are not to be of this world. In fact, we’re called to sanctify this world.

O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by thee in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms: grant, we pray, through his intercession; that amid the uncertainties of this world, we may hasten towards thee in perfect purity of heart; 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.

11 July 2019

A Prayer to Our Lady


O Holy Mary, blessed Mother of my God, who dost bear in thine arms He Who is the sacrifice for my sins, and Who rested His head upon thy breast; pray for me, that as thou did hold Him in His death, so He may hold me in the hour of my death in His everlasting arms. Amen.

10 July 2019

St. Benedict of Nursia

Shrine of St. Benedict
Our Lady of the Atonement Church, San Antonio, Texas

St. Benedict was born about the year 480 in Nursia, Italy. His family was most likely of noble lineage, which afforded him the opportunity go to Rome, where he received his education. By the time of Benedict’s arrival there, Rome had entered into serious moral and political decay. Because the corruption around him so disturbed him, Benedict broke off his studies and withdrew from Rome to enter into a solitary life of prayer.

For three years Benedict remained by himself, living in a cave, seeking to grow closer to God through a life of prayer and fasting. His reputation as being a holy person grew, leading people to seek him out for spiritual guidance.

In the year 529, after having lived for many years as a monk, Benedict established a monastic foundation where men, who wanted to live the Christian life in common, could come together to draw closer to God. This new community found its home on a hill near Cassino in Italy, and so came to be known as Monte Cassino. After Benedict established his community, he wrote a Rule which was to be followed by the monks in their daily lives. Benedict guided the community as its spiritual father (abba), or “abbot,” until his death around the year 547. His feast day is kept on July 11.

O Eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; 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.

 
Offering Mass at the tombs of St. Benedict & St. Scholastica, Montecassino.

08 July 2019

Our Title: A Call to Unity


July 9th is the Feast of our Patroness, Our Lady of the Atonement. For thirty-six years she has cared for us and guided us, supporting us with her prayers, and placing our needs at the feet of her Divine Son Jesus Christ. Although not as well-known as some of her other titles, ours has a depth and a beauty which is distinctive, and her call to unity (which is the foundation of the title) is especially needed in our day.

Our patronal title embraces two mysteries of our faith: first, the atonement itself – the complete and perfect at-one-ment which was achieved by our Lord Jesus Christ as He shed His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross at Calvary, through which came the reconciliation of man with God, and of man with man, making us "at one" in His Sacred Heart; and second, the role of the Virgin Mary in the perfect atonement given by God – her coöperation with the Divine Will at the annunciation, and her participation in her Son's sufferings and death as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The words which Simeon spoke to her came to pass: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The crowning act of redeeming love, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, is for all of us the means whereby mankind finds salvation, peace, and unity. There upon the Cross Jesus gave us the greatest gift: His precious life. There He gave us His Blessed Mother. There Mary stood, and there we stand next to her as her children, at the foot of the Cross.

O God, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Spirit upon all mankind, that they may be one; 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.

06 July 2019

Our Patronal Solemnity



July 9th is the Patronal Solemnity of Our Lady of the Atonement, with the celebration being transferred this year to Sunday, July 7th.

Fr. Paul of Graymoor wrote these words about the title in 1919:

I am writing this letter on the day which we are accustomed to observe at Graymoor in special honor of Our Lady of the Atonement. This particular name of Our Blessed Mother is very dear to us and we believe it is dear to Our Lady herself. We hold it as among the most treasured and sacred traditions of our Institute that it was the Blessed Virgin who first taught us to call her by that name and there are cogent reasons why she should give this title a favorite place among the many by which she is invoked.

First among these reasons must be her own devotion to the mystery of the Atonement, for it was by the death of her son on the Cross, which cost him the last drop of his blood and made her preeminently the mother of sorrows, that the wall of division between God and man was broken down and both were made one (Ephesians 2:14), through Christ's atoning sacrifice.

As the Blessed Virgin is inseparably associated with our divine redeemer in the mystery of his incarnation, so is she closely associated with him in the great act of the atonement. Thus, is she always represented in the Gospel and in the liturgy and thought of the Catholic Church as standing by the cross, when Christ was crucified there.

There is a second reason, hardly less weighty than the first, why the title, Our Lady of the Atonement, should powerfully appeal to the mother of God. It was through the Incarnation she become the mother of Christ, but through the atonement she became the new Eve and the mother of all the regenerate, who being redeemed by the precious blood are predestined to eternal life as the adopted sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. The third time Our Lord spoke upon the cross it was to emphasize this phase of the Atonement, when he said to his mother: "Woman, behold your son," and to St. John, "Son, behold your mother." [John 19:26-27] Thus by virtue of the atonement Mary is the mother of all who live through Christ. Can anyone therefore possibly conceive the depth of significance this title "Our Lady of the Atonement" must possess for Our Blessed Mother herself?

But someone will ask, if so highly esteemed, why should it be kept hidden for nineteen hundred years, to be made known to the faithful in the twentieth century? Is it not the custom even of earthly mothers to preserve the choicest fruits in the summer time and hide them away under lock and key, to bring them forth to their children's delight in the depth of winter and did not the master of the wedding feast say to the bridegroom at Cana, "Every man at first brings forth good wine and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But you have kept the good wine until now." [John 2:10] "My ways are not your ways," [Isaiah 55:8] says the Lord of Hosts.


Stabant juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus, et soror matris ejus Maria Cléophæ, et Salóme, et María Magdaléne. Múlier, ecce filius tuus: dixit Jesus; ad discípulum autem: Ecce mater tua.

Deus, qui dispersa congregas, et congregáta consérvas: quæsumus, per intercessiónem beatíssimæ Vírginis Maríæ, Dóminæ nóstræ Adunatiónis, super ecclésiam tuam uniónis grátiam clementer infunde; et Spíritum Sánctum in totam múndi latitúdinem defunde ut omnes unum sint; per Dóminum nostrum Jésum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sáncti, Deus, per ómnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

O God, who dost gather together those who have been scattered, and who dost preserve those who have been gathered together: We beseech thee through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement, that thou wilt pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

05 July 2019

St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr


Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Corinaldo, in the Ancona Province in Italy to a farming family. Her father died when she was still a girl, which left her mother along with her and her brothers and sisters to keep the farm going. Maria’s responsibility included cooking and keeping house along with preparing meals for everyone.

It was on July 5, 1902, that Maria was sitting outside the steps of her home mending a shirt while one of the neighboring young men named Alessandro was working in the barnyard. Everyone else was working in the fields. As she concentrated on her sewing, Alessandro surprised her and grabbed her from her steps. When he tried to rape her, Maria cried that it was a mortal sin and warned he would go to hell.

When Alessandro persisted, she fought him and begged him to stop, telling him over and over again that he was committing a sin. Alessandro began to choke her and pulled out a knife and stabbed her eleven times. When she attempted to reach the door, he stabbed her three more times then fled.

Maria's family returned home and found her bleeding on the floor. They quickly took her to the nearest hospital but it was too late to save her.

As she lay dying, Maria forgave Alessandro and said she wanted to see him in Heaven with her. She died that day while looking upon an image of the Virgin Mary and holding a cross to her chest.

Alessandro remained unrepentant for his actions until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him lilies, which immediately burned in his hands. When he woke, he was a changed man. He repented his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released 27 years later, he went directly to Maria's mother and begged her forgiveness, which she gave.

Maria Goretti was beatified in 1947, and three years later Maria was declared a saint and Alessandro was present at her canonization. He later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, where he lived in a monastery and worked as its receptionist and gardener until his death.

Saint Maria is called a martyr because she fought against Alessandro's attempts at sexual sin; however, the most important aspects of her story are how she forgave her attacker – and her forgiveness brought about his conversion.

These words are from the homily of Venerable Pope Pius XII at her canonization:
"It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl - I shall concern myself only with highlights - we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven."

O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying thy commandments; 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 July 2019

St. Elizabeth of Portugal


Born in 1271, Elizabeth (or Isabel) was married to King Diniz of Portugal. Like her great-aunt St. Elizabeth of Hungary, for whom she was named, St. Elizabeth of Portugal dedicated her life to the poor. She established orphanages and provided shelter for the homeless. She also founded a convent in Coimbra.

Known for settling disputes, St. Elizabeth was called the Peacemaker. When her son Alfonso declared war on his father because he was jealous of the attention being paid by Diniz to his illegitimate sons, it was Elizabeth who rode between the armies, reconciling the two sides. On another occasion, she rode to Estremoz despite being ill to keep the army of Affonso, by then King Alfonso IV, from fighting that of Castile. Alfonso, angry at the mistreatment his daughter Maria was suffering at the hands of her husband, the king of Castile, had ordered an attack. St. Elizabeth stopped the fighting, but the exertion proved to be too much for her and she fell ill, dying shortly thereafter.

St. Elizabeth was buried in Coimbra, and she was canonized in 1625 by Urban VIII.

O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst adorn Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvellous grace for reconciling those in conflict: grant, through her intercession; that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God; 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.

America and Natural Law


“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As we celebrate once again the anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, we should take pride in those words. They can be interpreted in only one way – although they have been misinterpreted in innumerable ways – and that one way is in the light of Natural Law. To borrow the language of the Declaration of Independence, Natural Law stems from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The American Founders believed this. They followed it. We cannot understand our nation without understanding this.

These words remind those in government, not just in this country but in all nations, of the limits of their power.  They mark a moral boundary that must never be violated if the government is to retain its legitimacy. The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God are the permanent things, the first things, the fixed order knowable by reason and observable by the rules of nature and nature’s God. Natural law is superior to, and precedes, political and governmental institutions.

For instance, the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — is a universally recognized ethic. It is referred to as the Golden Rule because it is universally true and just. That’s why to own and enslave someone, or purposely to maim or to kill innocent human life is always wrong because it is always wrong — we know it, we feel it — no matter what a majority of legislators or jurists say. There’s something in our heart, even in our gut, that knows certain things are right and certain things are wrong.  That is the effect of natural law.  We could even say it is the image of God in which we are all created.

That’s why our July 4th celebration is so important.  It certainly doesn’t celebrate those times when our nation has diverged from its founding principles. No, we celebrate the fact that our nation is founded upon Natural Law – the “laws of nature and of Nature’s God.”

03 July 2019

The Fourth of July


Like most Americans, I have wonderful memories of family picnics on the Fourth of July. When grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and various other relatives got together we’d have anywhere from seventy-five to a hundred people. Picnics on the farm meant setting up big plank tables under the large trees on the front lawn. It was a beautiful setting. Lots of lilacs, peonies and roses were on either side down to the road. It was a country lane and if someone drove by we always knew who it was, and the chances were that they’d stop by and join the crowd. And the food! The platters and bowls of things seemed to go on forever.  There would be dishes of blueberries and strawberries along with freshly whipped cream, because we had to have “red, white and blue.” We weren’t allowed to talk too much about the whipped cream in front of my grandfather, because that was a sore point for him. We lived on a dairy farm and when the milk was sold to the Cooperative, the price was determined by the level of butterfat content. My grandfather didn’t want us to take any of the cream from the milk, because he was convinced that even a little bit of missing cream would lower the price we could get. My mother or my grandmother would send me out to the milk house where the large cans of milk were kept in icewater, and I was supposed to skim some cream out of one of the cans, “but don’t let your grandfather see you.”

The Fourth was also a day when the family stories would come out, and we’d be reminded by the elders about our own American history. On my father’s side they were fairly recent immigrants from England. Around 1900 they began coming from Norwich where they had been owners of a mustard-grinding mill. Also, a great-grandfather on that side had moved from Wales to London, and then to Canada before coming to America. There were accounts of tough times and the willingness to work at most anything to make a living in their new country. On my mother’s side there were stories which captured my young imagination. It seemed to me they were almost royalty, because we would hear about our Revolutionary War ancestors. My grandmother’s maiden name was Adams, and she was descended from the famous family which produced John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams, and so many other great patriots.

When I was a child I had a copy of the Declaration of Independence on my bedroom wall. It was one of those that looked like the original document, printed on parchment. I convinced my mother that she should wallpaper my room with a pattern which I thought was wonderful. It had small pictures, including George Washington crossing the Delaware, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other historical scenes. So I grew up with these important reminders around me, along with family links to the Revolution. We were unashamedly patriotic, as were most people in those days. It didn’t take a 9/11 to make the patriotism rise up. And we’ve seen how quickly it fell away afterwards for all too many. No, the patriotism I experienced was simply part of life. We knew we were living in a marvelous country, and whether we were in peacetime or war, whether there was abundance or if things weren’t so good, no matter who was president and no matter what the inflation rate happened to be, we were proud to be part of our nation.  We were devoted to it.  And I still am.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

02 July 2019

St. Thomas the Apostle

Incredulity of St Thomas, by Giorgio Vasari
1572, Santa Croce, Florence

"At that time: Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
- St John 20:24-31

Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; 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.