30 November 2019

"...He shall come again..."


Throughout the New Testament there is the eager note sounded again and again about “waiting for the coming our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some of the very earliest Christians made the mistake of trying to pin down the time of Christ’s return, as there have been those throughout history who have made the same mistake — forgetting that our Lord taught us that “no man knows the day or the hour” of His return.

But we do believe that Christ will return to us, “we believe that he shall come again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead.” We do live in the “last days,” and they began with the conception, birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the time of His ascension into heaven, the promise was given to the apostles that “this Jesus, whom you have seen taken from your sight, will return in the same way as you have seen Him go.” The second coming of Christ is a doctrine of our faith, and it is the underlying theme of the season of Advent, that time before the Feast of His Nativity when we commemorate Christ’s first coming into the world.

27 November 2019

My Thanksgiving memories...

My childhood home at the Phillips Farm in New Hartford, Connecticut.

I wrote this a few years ago, but I post it nearly every year because I love to remember.

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For me it’s impossible to think of Thanksgiving without thinking of Grandpa and Grandma Phillips when they lived at the farm in Connecticut. Of course, childhood memories may change with the passing of years. Some of the details may get blurred. But there are so many happy memories of family gatherings, with Grandpa presiding at the head of it all and Grandma seeming to move constantly between her stove, the pantry, and her place at the table.

Could it have been normal to have had snow by Thanksgiving? When I was little it always seemed as though there was snow on the ground at that time, but maybe it’s my imagination. I do remember how warm it would seem when I went into Grandma’s kitchen, especially on Thanksgiving morning. No matter how early I went in, she would already have been working for hours on what always seemed like the biggest turkey I’d ever seen. I don’t know how she did it with that ancient wood-burning stove she had. Of course, everyone would bring more food when they came – different vegetables, various desserts – but the centerpiece was always Grandma’s turkey. And the heavenly smell which all of that made – it never seemed to be able to be duplicated at any other time of the year.

How did we all fit in their kitchen and living room? There were loads of us, but we found room. And Grandpa was always insistent that we all had to be at the same table, so the big oval kitchen table would get other tables added to it, stretching through the double door into the living room and turning the corner down to the far end. We may not have been able to see everyone at the same time, but we were all at the same table – and Grandpa loved that. I’ve tried to remember how many of us there would have been in those days – certainly more than fifty, with all the grandchildren.

Other than the big oak table, the most important piece of furniture in Grandma’s kitchen was the china cabinet. It was from there that we took out the treasures we used on Thanksgiving Day. Nana’s beautiful Bavarian china set would be used. The little green candy dishes, with gold leaf on the edges, would be filled with mints and placed at different places on the table. Of course, I’d try to figure out where I’d be sitting, so that one of those little green dishes would be near my place. And I remember my Aunt Alice’s fruit arrangements! As a little boy, I was amazed that she seemed to be able to build the fruit up so high that it looked like it was balancing in mid-air.

I can picture it all, and it seems almost like yesterday that we were all together. I can see Grandma at the stove, and I can picture her pantry with the sink at the end of it. I can hear the sound of their little dog Chippy, his nails clicking on the linoleum floor, trying to keep out of the way. I can see Grandpa in his chair, so happy that his family was all together in one place on his favourite holiday. I can see all of us cousins together – lots of little children excited and wanting to help, but really getting underfoot. And I can remember Grandma trying to come up with jobs to keep some of us busy, and she’d go through all the names until she got to the one she wanted. I used to laugh so hard – and she would, too – when she would start in with “George… Johnny… Earl… Denny… I mean, Chris, why don’t you run outside and see if you can find some pretty berries to make a centerpiece for the table, and Alice… I mean Linda, you can go and help.” And out we’d go, thinking we were on an important mission – not realizing that it was her way of clearing a couple of little ones out of the kitchen so she could have a bit more room to get things prepared. And when we’d come back with some orange berries on a branch and a couple of dried milkweed stalks, Grandma would exclaim about what a beautiful arrangement it would make!

What wonderful times those were, and I think we knew it, even then. How God blessed us as a family. Of course, there have been difficult times, and we miss those whom God had called to be with Him. But we have known God’s love through the love of our family, and we must continue to make memories so that today’s little children can recall them when they are grown with grandchildren of their own.

The family has expanded tremendously, and although miles separate us, the bonds of love keep us together. And when I pray for those of our family who have died, it reminds me that we are all still one family – whether on this earth or in God’s eternal keeping. Even though we may not be able to see everyone whom we love, God sees us all – and He keeps each and every one of us in His divine heart.

23 November 2019

Christ the King of the Universe


The Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, was dragged before a minor earthly ruler, Pilate, and was asked the question, “Are you a king, then?” It was a simple question, and yet so fertile. As a seed bursting with the beginning of life when it falls into good soil is able to produce a harvest beyond imagining, so Christ’s answer to Pilate's question (if it had been met with some glimmer of grace, some hint of human charity) might have lifted the life of that petty potentate into the upper reaches of God’s glory, for our Lord told him “My kingdom is not of this world...” But that, Pilate could not grasp, and so instead has been immortalized with the phrase, “...suffered under Pontius Pilate...” which describes the death of the King he could never understand. We, however, have been given to know that kingdom “not of this world,” and so have been spared the blindness which afflicted Pilate. In the cross we see a throne; in the thorns we see a crown; in the wounded side we see a gateway to Christ’s kingdom, which is eternal.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in thy well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 November 2019

St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr


St. Cecilia is one of several martyrs in the early Church who were young girls, and very serious about their faith. Cecilia was of noble birth. At an early age, she dedicated her life to God with a vow that she wouldn’t marry, but would give herself completely to Christ. However, her family wanted her to marry, and she was engaged to a young nobleman named Valerian. On her wedding day, she prayed to the Lord and asked Him to help Valerian to understand that she couldn’t live with him as his wife. History records, "The day on which the wedding was to be held arrived and while musical instruments were playing she was singing in her heart to God alone saying: Make my heart and my body pure that I may not be confounded." St. Cecilia's prayers were answered, and Valerian understood the importance of her vow to God. In fact, not only did he accept it, but he and his brother Tiburtius were both converted to the Christian faith, and were baptized.

At this time, Christianity was still illegal in Rome. Both Valerian and his brother Tiburtius were soon discovered to be Christians, and they were martyred. Cecilia was discovered soon after, and she was condemned to death. It required two attempts, however, before the death of Cecilia was successful. She was first locked in a bath in her own home to be suffocated by the steam. When she emerged from the bath unharmed, she was then beheaded. The stroke of the axe failed to sever her head from her body, however, and she lived for three days. During this time, she saw to the disbursment of her assets to help the poor, and she donated her home to be used as a church, and there is a great church on that site to this day, which bears her name. When Cecilia finally died, she was buried in the Catacombs of Callixtus. In the 9th century Pope Paschal I had St. Cecilia's remains unearthed from the catacombs and reported that her body was incorrupt and that her hands signaled the Trinity, with one extending three fingers and the other a single finger.

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Cecilia thy Virgin and Martyr: grant that we who venerate her in our service, may also follow the example of her godly life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 November 2019

St. Edmund, King and Martyr


On November 20th we commemorate St. Edmund, King and Martyr, who lived in the 9th century. He was the king of East Anglia, an independent kingdom within the confederation of kingdoms which comprised England at that time. His name, Edmund, meant “noble protection,” and as an earthly king he certainly lived up to his name. He had a reputation for compassion and the protection of the weak, of widows and of orphans. His greatest challenge, however, was the invasion of his kingdom by the Danish Vikings. They weren’t complete foreigners to the people of East Anglia. They were of the same race, and in fact, their languages were so similar that they were able to understand one another. No, there was only one essential difference between the Danish Vikings and the English - the Vikings were heathens, and the English were Christians.

The Vikings attacked and destroyed churches and monasteries, homes and villages, all throughout the kingdom. King Edmund fought side by side with the great Christian King Alfred. Edmund did his best, but he was finally overwhelmed by the huge numbers of Danes. At Hoxne in the north of Suffolk, King Edmund was captured. The Danes made him an offer: he could renounce his faith and become a puppet-king under them, or he could die. For King Edmund that was no choice at all. He would never renounce his Catholic faith, and so he chose death. There is an eyewitness report from that time, and it tells how he was scourged and bound, then tied to an oak-tree where the Danes fired arrows at him as for target practice. Finally, after suffering immensely from his many wounds, King Edmund was beheaded. His body was thrown to the wild beasts, but his loyal subjects secretly found his body, entombed him in a small chapel, and there he rested among his people. As they sought his heavenly intercession, God sent blessings upon them, and Edmund continued to be king in their hearts, as their faith in Christ the King grew stronger and stronger.

O God of ineffable mercy, thou didst give grace and fortitude to St. Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for thy Name: Bestow on us thy servants, we beseech thee, the shield of faith, wherewith we may withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

17 November 2019

Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter & Paul


Defend thy Church, O Lord, by the protection of the holy Apostles: that, as she received from them the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine; so through them she may receive, even to the end of the world, an increase in heavenly grace; 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 November 2019

St. Margaret of Scotland


St. Margaret lived in the 11th century, and she was the great-niece of St. Edward the Confessor. She was a Saxon princess, but she was raised in Hungary in exile. Eventually, she and her parents returned to England, but she was forced flee once again after the Battle of Hastings. She went to the court of Malcolm, who was the King of Scotland.

Malcolm was an unrefined man, and Scotland was a wild place – but Margaret and Malcolm fell in love, and they were married. Margaret, in her gentle way and through her exemplary life, lived her Catholic faith in such a way that Malcolm and the people of Scotland gradually changed their ways to be more conformed to Christ’s teaching.

Margaret was a model mother and queen who brought up her eight children in an atmosphere of great devotion and she continued to work hard to improve the lives of the people of Scotland. She had a particular love for the poor, and provided for them out of her own resources, very often serving them herself.

O God, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst endue her with zeal for thy Church and charity towards thy people: mercifully grant that we who ask her prayers and commemorate her example may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious fellowship of thy Saints; 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.

14 November 2019

St. Albert the Great


The life of St. Albert covered almost all of the 13th century. His father was a very wealthy German nobleman, and Albert was able to receive an excellent education at the best universities of his day. He was a philosopher, a bishop, a prolific writer, and one of the most influential scientists of the Middle Ages. We all know the phrase, “a know-it-all” – but St. Albert really was, and in the best sense. He was able to compile a complete system of all the knowledge of his day. The subjects he encompassed included astronomy, mathematics, economics, logic, rhetoric, ethics, politics, metaphysics and all branches of natural science. It would take him more than 20 years to complete this phenomenal presentation.

St. Albert taught that there was no discrepancy between theology and science; rather, they were simply different aspects of a harmonious whole. Among his most important contributions to the development of scientific thought in the Middle Ages was helping the scholarly community to recognize the value of Aristotle’s philosophy, and he had as one of his chief students, St. Thomas Aquinas. It was Thomas who carried St. Albert’s teaching out to its logical conclusions.

St. Albert is the only scholar of his time to have earned the title "Great" -- a title that was applied to him even during his lifetime.

O God, who gavest grace unto blessed Albert, thy Bishop and Doctor, to become truly great in the subjection of human wisdom to divine faith: grant us, we beseech thee, so to follow in the footsteps of his teaching; that we may enjoy the perfect light 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.

04 November 2019

An old friend, close at hand...



I keep a copy of Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua on my desk. In fact, it’s the copy I obtained when I was in college some fifty years ago – a fact betrayed by the price of $1.45 which appears on the cover. It’s a soft-covered, dog-eared book, with underlinings in it from my college days when I first read it. In fact, I can remember snatching odd moments between classes just to read a few pages and to savour one point or another he was making. Ultimately, this book would be instrumental in my own conversion to the Catholic Church, and some things I wrote on the title page bear that out.

The first thing I wrote was, “I, too, am following the steps of Cardinal Newman – I left the Episcopal Church on 12th January 1982.” Beneath that I wrote, “I was made deacon in the Catholic church on Aug. 7, 1983.” Under that, “ordained Priest – Aug. 15, 1983.” And then finally, “ad Jesum per Mariam.”

It wouldn’t seem like my desk if that old book wasn’t there, close at hand, ready to be opened randomly just to delight in the thought and writing of one of the great men of the Church, one of the greatest contributors to our patrimony, and now a canonized saint for of the universal Church. His life marked out the path many of us have followed, and (Deo volente) his prayers will bring many more to the fullness of truth.

01 November 2019

Indulgence for the Holy Souls


One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray for the Faithful Departed, who can do no more for themselves. There are plenary indulgences assigned to this season, outlined in the Enchiridion, which you may obtain for the Holy Souls in Purgatory:

1. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or for those entitled to use it, a semi-public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

2. You may make a visit to a Cemetery or Columbarium. A plenary indulgence is applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. This work may be done each day between November 1 and November 8.

To obtain a Plenary Indulgence, one must fulfill the following requirements:

1. Make a Sacramental Confession,
2. Receive Holy Communion,
3. Offer prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.

All these are to be performed within days of each other, if not at the same time.