30 September 2020

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus


Marie Thérèse Martin was born into a family of very faithful Catholics, and she was the youngest of five daughters. Her father was a watchmaker, and her mother, Zelie, who died when Thérèse was four, was a lace maker.  While still a child she felt the attraction of the cloister, and at fifteen obtained permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux, taking the name of Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. 

For the next nine years she lived a very ordinary religious life. There are no miracles or exceptional experiences recorded about her. She attained a very high degree of holiness simply by carrying out her ordinary daily duties with perfect faithfulness, having a childlike confidence in God's providence and merciful love and by being ready to be at the service of others at all times. She also had a great love of the Church and a zeal for the conversion of souls, and she prayed especially for priests.

She died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized in 1925. She has never ceased to fulfill her promise: "I will pass my heaven in doing good on earth." Her interior life is known through her autobiography called The Story of a Soul.  In 1997 Pope St. John Paul II declared her to be a Doctor of the Church.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast said, except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven: grant us, we beseech thee, in meekness and lowliness of heart to follow the footsteps of blessed Thérèse thy Virgin; and so at last to come unto thine everlasting kingdom; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 September 2020

St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor


Most saints are remembered for some outstanding virtue or devotion which they practiced, and St. Jerome certainly had those qualities, but he also is frequently remembered for his bad temper! It is true that he came across as a bit of a grouch and could use a vitriolic pen, but his love for God was extraordinarily intense. St. Jerome considered that anyone who taught error was an enemy of God and truth, and he went after such a person with his mighty and sometimes sarcastic pen.

He was above all a Scripture scholar, translating most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. He also wrote commentaries which are a great source of scriptural inspiration for us today. He was an avid student, a thorough scholar, a prodigious letter-writer and a consultant to monk, bishop and pope. St. Augustine said of him, "What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known." 

His love for scripture lead him to the Holy Land – he wanted to see the places of scripture. He began work on his greatest achievement, which was the Latin Vulgate version of the scriptures. 

He took up residence in Bethlehem, and the cave in which he lived was in close proximity to the cave in which Jesus was born. It was where he studied and worked for many years, eventually dying there. His body is now in St. Mary Major in Rome. 

Here are some quotes from the inimitable Jerome: 

On the study of Hebrew he wrote, “From the judicious precepts of Quintilian, the rich and fluent eloquence of Cicero, the graver style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny, I turned to this language of hissing and broken-winded words.” 

On worldly women, he railed against those who “paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony, whose plastered faces, too white for human beings, look like idols; and if in a moment of forgetfulness they shed a tear it makes a furrow where it rolls down the painted cheek; women to whom years do not bring the gravity of age, who load their heads with other people's hair, enamel a lost youth upon the wrinkles of age, and affect a maidenly timidity in the midst of a troop of grandchildren.” 

Even the clergy of Rome didn’t get a break. He said, “All their anxiety is about their clothes.... You would take them for bridegrooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies.”


No wonder he ended up living in a cave.

The cave of St. Jerome in Bethlehem.  
We have offered the Anglican Use liturgy on this altar a few times.

O God, who hast given us the holy Scriptures for a light to shine upon our path: grant us, after the example of thy servant Saint Jerome and assisted by his prayers, so to learn of thee according to thy holy Word; that we may find in it the light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day; 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 September 2020

The Holy Archangels


O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: mercifully grant that as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven; so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; 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.

----------------
Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs or classes are 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.


St. Michael
The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, “who is like unto God?” and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host." He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.


St. Gabriel
St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachariah when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation. The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.


St. Raphael
Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveler with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. "God has healed" is the meaning of his name.

27 September 2020

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions


The mixed-race child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, Lawrence Ruiz grew up in Manila and married a local Catholic girl. They had three children, and lived a simple life on his modest salary as a clerk working for the local parish. What they lacked in material things they more than made up for in their deep Catholic faith. Living something of an anonymous life, known only to their immediate circle of family and friends, life was good but not extraordinary. That is, not until a false accusation was made. And then, life as Lawrence Ruiz and his wife knew it, no longer existed. Everything was turned upside down as he made the nearly-impossible decision to run from his accusers. He was completely innocent, but he paid a very heavy price, which involved leaving his beloved wife and children and the only home he knew.

Lawrence made his way to a ship which was headed for Japan, and his travelling companions were three Dominican priests, a Japanese priest, and a layman who suffered from leprosy. They arrived in Okinawa and made no secret of their Catholic faith. And for that, they were arrested and tortured mercilessly. They were dragged off to Nagasaki, where further sport was made of Lawrence and the others, in an attempt to get them to deny Christ. They remained steadfast in professing their love for God and His Church. Lawrence had already had a false accusation made against him, but this accusation - that he was a Catholic - was an accusation he was happy to confirm, no matter what the consequences. And the consequences were brutal. He and his companions were hung upside down while having heavy stones tied to them; they were held under water until the moment before they would drown; they had wood splinters driven under their fingernails. But through it all, their hearts were filled with love for God and forgiveness for their persecutors.

When they finally died from their tortures, the bodies of Lawrence and his companions were burned and the ashes were thrown into the sea. Their faithful witness, however, fed that great burning fire of God's love, which continues to burn to this day.

Grant us, we pray, Lord God, the same perseverance shown by thy Martyrs Saint Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions in serving thee and their neighbour: even as those persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed in thy 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.

St. Wenceslaus, Martyr


St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, was born about the year 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was young, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his pagan mother. Wenceslaus was educated by his grandmother, Ludmilla, also a saint. She taught him to be a Christian and to be a good king. She was killed by pagan nobles before she saw him king, but she left him with a deep commitment to the Christian faith.

Throughout his life he lived as a completely faithful Catholic. As duke he was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. He himself frequently carried wood to the houses of the needy. He often attended the funerals of the poor.  He ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy. With his own hands he planted the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints.

Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia.

His brother Boleslaus, however, turned to paganism. One day he invited Wenceslaus to his house for a banquet. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus struck him down at the door of the church. Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Although he was killed for political reasons, he is listed as a martyr since the dispute arose over his faith. This king, martyred at the age of twenty-two, is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.

O God, who through the victory of martyrdom didst exalt thy blessed Saint Wenceslaus from his earthy principality to the glory of thy heavenly kingdom: we pray thee, at his intercession, to defend us against all adversities; and to suffer us to rejoice in his eternal fellowship; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

26 September 2020

Infallibility is NOT Impeccability


Amongst the Catholic doctrines most troublesome to many Protestants (and many Orthodox, too) is that of papal infallibility. Perhaps it conjures up visions of flabella and the sedia gestatoria, or a not-so-subtle Vatican form of mind control, or even an abuse of our valued freedom of conscience.

Actually, it’s a rather straightforward sign of God’s love for His Church.

First of all, papal infallibility is not to be confused with impeccability. Most people understand this, but there are some who think Catholics are supposed to believe that the Pope cannot sin. Infallibility has nothing to do with the absence of sin, nor does it mean that the pope cannot err in ordinary conversations, or even say silly or foolish things. Infallibility is a charism – a gift – which God imparts. Although it is rightly referred to as “papal infallibility," nonetheless it is something shared with the whole body of Catholic bishops. Although they do not have this charism individually, they do exercise the gift when they teach in doctrinal unity with the Successor of St. Peter. This is defined in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith.

Despite the misconceptions held by some, the Pope doesn’t wake up in the morning and say to himself, “I think I shall proclaim something infallibly today,” nor are Catholics inhabitants of an ecclesiastical Wonderland in which they are required to believe “six impossible things before breakfast.”

So what is papal infallibility? It is defined in the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4, n. 9:
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

This was confirmed by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium, n. 25:
And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.

The doctrine of papal infallibility did not abruptly appear in the 19th century. It was found implicitly from the earliest days of the Church, and indeed has its foundation in Holy Scripture itself. In St. John’s Gospel (21:15-17) Christ makes it clear to St. Peter that he, Peter, is to tend the flock and feed the sheep; in St. Luke’s Gospel (22:32) our Lord tells Peter that He will pray for him, so that his faith will not fail, and for him to strengthen the other apostles; in St. Matthew’s Gospel (16:18) Christ proclaims Peter to be the Rock on which He would build His Church.

The Church, founded by our divine Saviour, was commanded by Him to teach everything that He had revealed to His apostles (St. Matthew 28:20), and He promised them that they would be guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (St. John 16:13). As the teaching authority of the Church, along with the primacy of St. Peter and his successors, was more and more comprehended, there came a clearer understanding of the protection God provides through the gift of infallibility. From the scriptural testimony, on through such witnesses as St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Augustine of Hippo, it is clear the Church has always understood that God reveals and safeguards His truth through this charism.

There is an erroneous idea that a formal statement of infallible truth marks the occasion when the Church only began to teach a particular doctrine – in other words, that belief in papal infallibility began in only in 1870. However, infallible pronouncements are usually made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics, and so have never required a formal and infallible statement. We see this even with a cursory reading of the Catechism, where most of the doctrines outlined in its pages require no corresponding papal document to confirm what is simply part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.

If we scratch the surface of most arguments against the doctrine of papal infallibility, we will often find that there is confusion between infallibility and impeccability (“look at the sinful popes in history”), along with an independent streak of protestantism (“no one is going to tell me what I have to believe”). I find it to be both amazing and amusing, that those who are most vociferous against papal infallibility present their arguments with a certitude which could only be described as infallible.

It takes no great leap of faith to accept the fact that the God who created the universe and raises the dead, would also ensure that His children are given the truth. That He protects His Vicar on earth from solemnly defining something as true, if it’s really false, not only harmonizes with Scripture, but it is reflected in the unbroken history of the Church. We should derive great comfort from the doctrine of infallibility, because it’s a beautiful act of God’s divine love.

25 September 2020

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs


The commemoration of St. Cosmas and St. Damian is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, and these two martyrs have been honored in the East and West in many ways, including the building and dedication of churches in their honor in many places, including Rome and Constantinople. Along with St. Luke, they are the patron saints of doctors. Although we cannot be certain of the details of their lives, the information that has come down to us is of very early origin.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they practiced medicine at no charge. They were twin brothers, born in Cilicia (in what is now Turkey). They studied in Syria and became skilled physicians.

Since they were prominent Christians, they were among the first arrested when the great persecution under Diocletian began. Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, ordered their arrest, and they were beheaded in about the year 287. Their bodies, it was said, were carried to Syria and buried at the ancient Syrian city of Cyrrhus, which then became known as Hagioupolis – the City of the Holy Ones.

They were venerated very early and became patrons of medicine, known for their miracles of healing. The Emperor Justinian asked the heavenly aid of these saints and was cured by their intercession, leading the emperor to give special honor to the city of Cyrrhus where their relics were enshrined. Their basilica in Rome, decorated with beautiful mosaics, was dedicated in the year 530. They are named in the Roman Martyrology and in the Canon of the Mass, testifying to the antiquity of the celebration of their feast day.

Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine as an act of Christian charity, but they also testify to God's blessing upon the science and art of healing, affirming the Christian understanding of the physical and spiritual unity of each person.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we who celebrate the heavenly birthday of Saints Cosmas and Damian, thy Martyrs, may by their intercession be delivered from all evils that beset us; 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 September 2020

"The Parting of Friends"


On 25 September 1843, in the little church he had built at Littlemore, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Nicholas, John Henry Newman preached his last sermon as an Anglican. It was titled “The Parting of Friends.” He then retired, living a quiet and cloistered life. After two years he was received into the Catholic Church. 

His final sermon spoke of the steadfastness of God, and of how changes come into the lives of His children. He spoke on that occasion of the many great men and women in the scriptures whose circumstances were foreshadowings of that time when Christ’s work on earth would be complete, and He, too, would have to part from those who loved Him. The future Cardinal ended his final Anglican sermon with these words: 
"And, O my brethren, O kind and affectionate hearts, O loving friends, should you know any one whose lot it has been, by writing or by word of mouth, in some degree to help you thus to act; if he has ever told you what you knew about yourselves, or what you did not know; has read to you your wants or feelings, and comforted you by the very reading; has made you feel that there was a higher life than this daily one, and a brighter world than that you see; or encouraged you, or sobered you, or opened a way to the inquiring, or soothed the perplexed; if what he has said or done has ever made you take interest in him, and feel well inclined towards him; remember such a one in time to come, though you hear him not, and pray for him, that in all things he may know God's will, and at all times he may be ready to fulfil it."

One of those who was there on the occasion, later wrote: 
"How vividly comes back the remembrance of the aching blank, the awful pause which fell upon Oxford when that voice had ceased, and we knew that we should hear it no more. It was as when, to one kneeling by night, in the silence of some vast cathedral, the great bell tolling solemnly overhead has suddenly gone still… Since then many voices of powerful teachers may have been heard, but none has ever penetrated the soul like his."

Cardinal Newman’s voice did continue, and continues still. As Christ’s departure from the world was for the greater good of God’s divine plan of salvation, so John Henry Newman’s departure from Anglicanism was for that great good of giving witness to the truth of the Catholic faith, and his voice continues to guide and comfort. Even more now, with his canonization, does Cardinal Newman intercede and lead others into the grace he himself experienced. The “parting of friends” has helped in the healing of Christ’s Body, the Church. 

23 September 2020

Our Lady of Walsingham


In the year 1061 the lady of the manor of Little Walsingham in Norfolk, a widow named Lady Richeldis, prayed to our Lady asking how she could honour her in some special way. In answer to this prayer Mary led Lady Richeldis in spirit to Nazareth and showed her the house in which she had first received the angel's message. Mary told Richeldis to take the measurements of this house and build another one just like it in Walsingham. It would be a place where people could come to honour her and her Son, remembering especially the mystery of the Annunciation and Mary's joyful 'yes' to conceiving the Saviour.

The late eleventh century and all through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was the era of the crusades, which saw a growing interest in the sites consecrated by the human presence of Jesus in the Holy Land. But now pilgrims need not go so far; in England itself there was a 'new Nazareth' built by one of their own countrywomen.

The actual house from Nazareth was moved – perhaps even miraculously – to Loreto, and we find that the measurements of the house in Loreto and the house in Walsingham are the same.

Why venerate a house? Because it reminds us that the Word-made-Flesh lived as Man with mankind.

O God, who, through the mystery of the Word made flesh, didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary: do thou grant that we may keep aloof from the tabernacle of sinners, and become worthy indwellers of thy house; 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 September 2020

St. Pius of Pietrelcina


St. Pius was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town in southern Italy. His family were farmers, and his father worked also as a shepherd to support the family. In fact, when St. Pius was a boy his father was gone for periods of time because he had come to America looking for work, sending money back to his family. When St. Pius was 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars and made his first vows when he was 19. He suffered several health problems, but he was eventually ordained at age 22 on 10 August 1910, and was known after that as Padre Pio.

He had been a priest for about eight years. One morning he was praying before a crucifix, when he received the stigmata, the physical marks Christ's crucifixion.  Because this became a source of curiosity for so many people, Padre Pio was forbidden from having any public ministry for some years, even having to say Mass privately. This was a tremendous burden for him; however, he accepted it in complete obedience to his superiors. But as word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch, although he himself never understood or emphasized these gifts.

People always seem to be most fascinated with these dramatic gifts, but the foundation of St. Pius’s life was his total love for Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament, and his life of prayer for others, especially prayer for healing – both spiritual and physical healing. In fact, in 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that today serves about 60,000 patients a year.

St. Pius died in 1968, and people continued to report many miracles and healings that had come through his intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999, and then in 2002 he was canonized in the presence of more than 300,000 people who gathered in Rome for the Mass.

Almighty everliving God, who, by a singular grace, didst give the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of thy Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of thy mercy: grant that, through his intercession, we may be united constantly to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the Resurrection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, 

21 September 2020

"Thy will be done..."


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.

20 September 2020

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

 

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
St. Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans didn’t care what the tax collectors got by collecting extra for themselves, and so they were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners.” So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of His followers.

Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more shocked. What business did this supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that it cannot be a substitute for loving others.

When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax office – no doubt counting his day's profit – Jesus spoke only two words – "follow me". Those two words changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving apostle who would bring the treasures of God's kingdom to the poor and needy. He turned from his sin, so that he could follow Jesus.

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Saint Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist: grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches; and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 September 2020

First and Last, Fairness and Mercy

 

[Jesus said] “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last."

-St. Matthew 20:8-16

The initial reaction of many to this parable of the landowner and the workers in the vineyard is “Unfair!” Equal pay for unequal work? Unfair. When we hear it, it immediately strikes us as unfair. One group of laborers got up at the crack of dawn, but when they saw the pay-packets being handed out, they just had to speak up: "These last worked only one hour, and you’ve made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat." It seems to go against every principle of justice and fair play.

But then we get to the heart of Christ’s lesson: the landowner said, “I haven't done anything wrong to you. I paid you what you bargained for. I've met the terms of your contract, so take what belongs to you and go. It's none of your business if I choose to pay these others what I paid you. It's my money and I can do what I choose with it. Are you envious because I'm generous?”

And they were indeed envious. Who wouldn't be envious of someone who received the same wage for working only one-twelfth as long, and in the cool of the day? Even a child could figure out the injustice of that. We couldn’t imagine anyone running a business like that.

But Jesus is telling us through this parable that the Kingdom of God isn’t run along sound business principles. He says that "the last will be first and the first will be last." He seems to be saying that all our hard work, our position, our credentials, count for little with God.

God isn’t bound by our method of judging one person's worth over against another's. There is another set of criteria at work. Our relationship with God can’t be seen in purely legalistic terms. He’s cutting the ground out from under the popular idea that a person can pray enough, or sacrifice enough, or work hard enough to earn himself a place in heaven.

There are those who try to make salvation into a mathematical formula. They think that at the end of life, God simply tallies up our good deeds and our bad deeds, and then determines what our reward or punishment should be. They see God as a great scorekeeper who’ll be, by our standards, objective and fair. And, to be honest, if this were God's way of dealing with humanity, it would be unjust for the person who entered God's service at the end of life to receive the very same reward as the person who toiled and sweated all his life.

But through this parable, Jesus is teaching His disciples that God isn’t just a dispassionate scorekeeper tallying up losses and gains; rather, God is also a caring Father concerned with our well-being. God is not a judging tyrant doling out rewards and punishments. He’s a loving Saviour offering abundant life, now and eternally.

And that’s very good news, because – let’s face it – we’re much better off if we’re not being judged on the basis of what we deserve. If we really think about it, we’re probably more like the workers who showed up toward the end of the day than those who began at dawn and worked diligently all day long. There are so many things that we meant to do, but never got around to doing; and so many things that we intended not to do, but did anyway. In reality, we’re probably somewhere toward the back of the line.

Thank goodness, God is not fair. God is merciful.

When Jesus went to the Cross, He didn’t ask what the world deserved; rather, He gave what the world needed. When we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, God doesn’t ask whether we deserve to receive this gift of Himself. God doesn’t ask whether we should receive only a small portion of salvation. The body and blood of Christ is offered to us in full measure. No matter whether we've known the joy of working in God's kingdom most of our lives or whether we’ve just accepted the invitation, the fullness of God's love in Jesus Christ is poured out as a reward for us all, and it is that reward which is the only thing we need.

Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall; keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; 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.

----------------------------

Painting: "Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard"
by Johann Christian Brand (1722-1795)
submitted to the Vienna Academy in 1769

18 September 2020

St. Theodore of Canterbury


St. Theodore was born in Tarsus, and after he became a priest, he came to the attention of the Pope, who decided to send him to Britain to become the seventh archbishop of Canterbury. He was consecrated in 668, and became the first archbishop to rule the whole English Church. After his consecration he set out from Rome with St. Adrian, who had been abbot of a monastery, and also St. Benedict Biscop, who would become one of the great English abbots.In 669 they reached Canterbury, where Theodore made Adrian the abbot of SS. Peter and Paul monastery, afterward named St. Augustine's. There they created a famous school influential in the lives of such brilliant scholars as the celebrated historian St. Bede the Venerable and the skilled church architect St. Aldhelm.

Theodore set about organizing the Church throughout England. Many of the sees had no bishops when he first arrived, and others sees needed to be divided. In 672 he called the first general synod of the bishops of the English Church to settle many important questions about the discipline and life of the Church in England.

Theodore's greatest achievement was to adapt the Roman ideal of a centralized church to English conditions. His establishment of a centralized church under the archbishopric of Canterbury in close alliance with secular rulers was maintained by his successors.

Theodore and Adrian brought organization and education to the English Church, and what they established there continue on to this day, even in parishes such as our own, which follow many of the traditions they began.

O God, whose Bishop Theodore was called to England to set the Church on a firm foundation: by his prayers, build us always anew on the rock that is Christ; and keep thy household faithful to the call we have received; 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.

Keeping the Ember Days


ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who through godly continency bestowest healing both of body and soul: we humbly beseech thy majesty graciously to look upon the devout prayers and abstinence of thy people, granting us in this world the succour of thy grace, and in the world to come life everlasting; 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.

For those to be ordained:

ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are (now) called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy 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.

For the choice of fit persons for the ordained ministry:

O GOD, who didst lead thy holy Apostles to ordain ministers in every place: grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable men for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, 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.

17 September 2020

Autumn Ember Friday


GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who year by year devotedly keep this holy ordinance of abstinence, may serve thee acceptably both in body and soul; 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.

16 September 2020

St. Robert Bellarmine


Born in the year 1542, Robert Bellarmine's family was large and relatively poor. His mother was especially devout and was given to works of charity, fasting, and regular prayer. Young Robert learned these things from her, and never forgot them. As a very young man he entered the Society of Jesus, and was eventually ordained. He had a tremendous gift for preaching, and was also a notable scholar, going on to teach at the University of Louvain. The Church recognized his faithfulness and his intellectual brilliance, and after a time he became a bishop, and was named a Cardinal.
He never forgot the lessons he learned at home, and his charity to the poor was manifested in the fact that even though he lived in a Cardinal’s palace, he ate the same food as the poor would eat, he dressed in rough clothing, and he even stripped the plush curtains and tapestries from the walls to sell them and gave the money to the poor. As he said, “The poor can catch cold; the walls cannot.”

He lived at the time when the Protestants were causing great dissension in the Church, and St. Robert Bellarmine used his considerable talents in presenting Catholic truth, and helping others to see the errors of protestantism.

He knew the best way to keep the Church strong was to make strong Catholics, and he compiled an important catechism for teachers and students. In fact, it was his work with the young that gave him the most satisfaction, and he had an immense effect on the lives of the students who learned from him. One the most famous of his students was a young man named Aloysius, who eventually was himself raised to the altar, and is known to us as St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

St. Robert Bellarmine – a great man who never forgot his humble beginnings, and who loved the Church and worked for her unity.

O God, who didst adorn blessed Robert Bellarmine, thy Bishop and Doctor, with wondrous learning and virtue, to banish the wiles of error and contend for the rights of the Apostolic See: grant by his merits and intercession; that we may grow in the love of truth, and that the hearts of those that err may return to the unity of thy 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.

15 September 2020

The Ember Days


The Ember Days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"). There are those who say that the word “ember” is a corruption of the Latin "tempora" from the title, but it is as likely that it comes from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle." As the year progresses and returns to its beginning, the ember days are part of the circle of the year. These days of prayer and fasting originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine with his arrival in the year 597.
The fasting is modified – basically no food between meals – and there are particular things for which we are to pray and give thanks. These days are to be used to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us -- for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it is a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us.

Another important aspect of the Ember Days is for us to pray for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during these four periods of time throughout the year.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants: that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings, may likewise fast from sin within our souls; 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.

Ss. Cornelius and Cyprian, Martyrs


The Church had been without a pope for about a year because of the persecution of the Emperor Decius when Cornelius was elected Bishop of Rome in 251. Although it was a time of persecution, that wasn’t the biggest problem he had to face. Divisions in the Church had been taking place, stemming from the argument about whether or not the Church could forgive a person’s very serious sins – for instance, if someone had turned away from their faith, but then wanted to return to the Church, the question was whether the Church could give forgiveness and take that person back. A popular priest during that time named Novatian was against the practice of giving forgiveness. He claimed that the Church had no power to pardon those who had lapsed during time of persecution. The same applied to cases of murder, and other serious sins. In fact, Novatian felt so strongly about this that he set himself up as a rival pope.
However, St. Cornelius, with the strong support of St. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage in North Africa, insisted that the Church did have the power to forgive apostates and other sinners, and that they could be re-admitted to Holy Communion after having performed an appropriate period of penance. Some letters of Cornelius to Cyprian together with Cyprian’s replies have survived.

A synod of Western bishops in Rome in October 251 upheld Cornelius, condemned the teachings of Novatian, and excommunicated him and his followers. When persecutions of the Christians started up again in 253 under Emperor Gallus, Cornelius was exiled and he died as a martyr.

His great friend and supporter, St. Cyprian was from a very wealthy pagan background, but he became a Christian, and was known as a great orator. After his baptism he distributed most of his wealth to the poor, and was eventually ordained as a priest, and then became the bishop of the city where he had grown up, Carthage. Just as Pope Cornelius faced persecution, so did Cyprian. He was a strong defender of the teaching of Cornelius, and even though they lived a continent apart, after they were both martyred, they were always linked together in the mind of the Church as having stood up for the mercy of God, and His desire to forgive the sins of those who repented.

O God, who didst give Saints Cornelius and Cyprian to thy people as diligent shepherds and valiant Martyrs: grant that, through their intercession, we may be strengthened in faith and constancy and spend ourselves without reserve for the unity of 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.

14 September 2020


Immediately following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Church commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. This primarily remembers Mary standing at the foot of the cross, keeping a sorrowful vigil as she saw her son dying. Over time it actually developed to include what are called the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, growing out of the prophecy of St. Simeon, who, at the time of the Presentation, told Mary that a sword should pierce through her own soul. 

These seven sorrows are: 
The Prophecy of Simeon concerning the Jesus, born for the rise and fall of many.
The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family.
The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days.
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary.
The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross.
The Descent from the Cross, with Jesus placed in Mary's arms.
The Burial of Jesus. 

The title of Our Lady of Sorrows is very closely related to our own title of Our Lady of the Atonement – we see our primary image of the Blessed Mother holding her Son who holds the cross (St. Simeon’s prophecy), and we have the image of Our Lady of the Atonement as the Pieta, as she holds the lifeless body of her Son when he was taken down from the cross. 

This commemoration helps us to remember Mary’s sacrifice for our salvation, and also the importance of avoiding things in our own lives which would cause further sorrow to Mary, who is our Mother. 

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

13 September 2020

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

 
Site of the Crucifixion, Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the crucifixion of our Lord on the hill of Calvary, and after his subsequent resurrection from the nearby tomb where His body had been placed, there was a concerted effort by both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem to obliterate any physical evidence or reminder of these events. They didn’t want there to be any rallying-place for the disciples of Jesus to gather, so dirt was piled up over the general site, and with the passage of time there were pagan temples built on top of it. But a persistent story was passed from generation to generation; namely, that the Cross on which Christ had died had been hidden somewhere underneath the site which was subsequently covered by pagan places of worship.

Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, was nearing the end of her life. A devout Christian, she received the divine inspiration that she should journey to Jerusalem to excavate the area where the Holy Sepulchre was, and attempt to locate the True Cross. The year was 326, and she set off on her pilgrimage. When St. Helena arrived in Jerusalem she was able to find someone who was very familiar with the story of where the Holy Cross had been hidden, and she ordered the excavation to begin – obviously able to arrange such a project because she was the Emperor’s mother.

The excavation was a success, but the problem was that three crosses were found on the spot. How was St. Helena to determine which one was the True Cross of Jesus? What happened next has come to us down through history in a tradition which tells us that St. Helena, along with the Bishop of Jerusalem, devised an experiment. The three crosses were taken to a woman who was near death; when she touched the True Cross, she was healed. This confirmed to St. Helena that the actual Cross upon which our Lord was crucified had been found.

Such a discovery called for celebration, and along with the great rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving to God, the Emperor Constantine ordered that two churches be built – one at the site of the burial of Christ (the Holy Sepulchre) and one on the site of the crucifixion (Mount Calvary). Because the sites were very close to one another, the churches were actually connected by a great colonnade, and today they are fully incorporated as one structure. The solemn dedication of the churches took place on September 13 and 14, in the year 335. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was fixed on September 14th, spreading from Jerusalem, on to other churches, until by the year 720 the celebration was kept throughout the whole Church.

The story doesn’t end there. In the early seventh century, the Persians conquered Jerusalem. The Persian king looted the city and stole the True Cross, taking it to Persia. Eventually, however, the Emperor recaptured the True Cross and brought it back to Jerusalem. The tradition says that he carried the Cross on his own back, but when he attempted to enter the church on Mount Calvary, he was unable to take another step. Bishop Zacharias of Jerusalem saw that the emperor was having difficulty, and so advised him to take off his royal robes and crown, and to dress in a penitential robe instead. As soon as the Emperor took the bishop’s advice, he was able to carry the True Cross into the church, where it was enshrined for the veneration of the Faithful. Eventually, smaller pieces of the relic were distributed throughout Christendom.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

12 September 2020

Forgiveness

 

[At that time] Peter came up and said to Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

- St. Matthew 18:21, 22

Jesus goes right to the heart of the question of how many times forgiveness should be given.  His answer is like an arrow into the unbelieving, calculating, unforgiving heart. "Not seven times but seventy times seven." That’s the answer: give perfect forgiveness and multiply it without measure.

After all, that’s what we ask from God, isn't it? We who confess that we have sinned in “thought, word and deed…" We certainly don’t want limits on God's forgiveness, and so we’d better not place limits on the forgiveness required of us.

And then Jesus tells a parable about the king who forgave a servant’s huge debt, but that same servant refused to forgive a small debt owed to him by a fellow servant. When the king heard about it, he had that first servant thrown into jail until he paid off all the debt. And then Jesus makes His point: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

They sound like harsh words – startling words – and if we were harboring a grudge against someone and withholding forgiveness from someone, these words of Jesus are words that would convict us.

But we need to understand. With those words Jesus isn’t intending to hurt us or make us feel badly about ourselves; actually, He intends to stop us in our tracks; to crush those hardened, unforgiving hearts of ours so that His forgiveness can come first to us, and then through us to our neighbour. Jesus wants to rescue us from a lack of forgiveness.

Why is that important? An unwillingness to forgive hurts most the person who refuses to forgive. We may well think that we’re hurting those who have hurt us, but we wind up only hurting ourselves. It’s rather like punching yourself in the nose because someone insulted you. “That'll teach them,” as we wince in self-inflicted pain. Unwillingness to forgive is a spiritual cancer that eats away at our bones, it demeans us, it robs us of vitality and joy, it drives us to say and do things that are beneath our dignity as God's children. It diminishes us, it makes us small.

Marriages are diminished when husband and wife don’t forgive each another on a daily basis. Families are diminished when parents and children don’t forgive each another. Our schools and workplaces and communities are diminished when we don’t forgive our neighbors and co-workers. Parishes are diminished when those who come together to receive the Lord Himself are, at the same time, at each other's throats, trying to get even for some perceived slight or injustice.

A lack of forgiveness is a hardening of the heart, a clog in the artery of faith. When we refuse to forgive, we put ourselves in opposition to God and we destroy our own desire to be forgiven. People who harbor grudges are not often found on their knees confessing their sins before God. People who try to settle the score for every wrong done to them rarely acknowledge the score God settled when He hung on a cross to pay the price for their sinfulness. Those who refuse to be reconciled with others ultimately refuse to be reconciled God.

We should remember this: Jesus forgave those who plotted to kill Him. He forgave the soldiers who spit on Him, He forgave those who slapped Him, who pulled at His beard and who whipped Him. He absolved those who crucified Him. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

And He forgives us. It’s in the strength of His forgiveness that He sends us out as instruments of His forgiveness, conduits of His undeserved kindness to sinners, to let His forgiveness flow freely to others through us, just as we have been forgiven by God.

11 September 2020

The Most Holy Name of Mary


Following upon the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary which was celebrated on September 8th, it is on September 12th that we commemorate the giving of her name by her parents, Ss. Joachim and Anne. They chose the Hebrew name of Miryãm, which means “lady” or “sovereign.” The feast of the Holy Name of Mary originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. It was Pope Innocent XI who extended its observance to the whole Church in 1683, and for a very special reason. It was an act of thanksgiving to our Lady for the victory on September 12, 1683 by John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening the West.What happened was this: the Turks had been hammering the city of Vienna for a couple of months, and finally enough was enough. Under the leadership of Poland’s king an army comprised of Germans, Austrians and Poles made their move against the Turks, routing them completely. It was such an important victory that the Pope was inspired to do something special – thus, what had been a localized commemoration was now an act of thanks from the whole Church. But there’s more to the story…

When the Turks made their hasty retreat there were all sorts of things left behind, including several sacks containing a strange bean unknown to the victors. Thinking it was food for the invaders’ camels, the Viennese were about to dump it all in the Danube. But there was a citizen of Vienna who had been a captive under the Turks. He knew these beans were roasted by the Turks, and after grinding them up they would put them in hot water, making a drink they really seemed to relish. This man, Kolinsky, received exclusive permission to make and sell this new and unfamiliar drink – coffee.

The Viennese people hated it. It was bitter. The grounds got stuck in their teeth. It didn’t seem much better than drinking a cup of mud. Then a friend of Kolinsky made a suggestion. Strain out the grounds. Put a little milk in it to lighten it up. Add some sugar to make it more palatable. After following that advice, the people flocked to buy it, and so the first coffee house was born.

But let’s face it – what’s a cup of coffee without something to go with it? And with that came a new pastry which not only tasted good, but poked a stick in the eye of the defeated Muslim invaders. The delectable comestible was formed into the shape of a crescent – that symbol which had become so hated during the Turkish occupation – and with every bite of these wonderful pastries the Viennese were able to have another small victory over their invaders.

So there we have it. There’s the story of how Turkish coffee was made drinkable, and how the croissant – the “Turkish crescent” – came into being. And it all happened as part of the victorious triumph achieved under the banner of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that thy faithful people who rejoice in the name and protection of the most holy Virgin Mary, may by her loving intercession be delivered from all evils on earth and be found worthy to come to everlasting joys 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.

10 September 2020

Remember and pray...

 
World Trade Center, 9/11

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Pentagon, 9/11

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord,
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die,
we are the Lord's.


Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

08 September 2020

St. Peter Claver


A native of Spain, the young Jesuit priest Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into what is now Colombia, and he was ordained there in 1615.

By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled "supreme villainy" by Pius IX, it continued to flourish.

Fr. Peter Claver's predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Fr. Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself "the slave of the Negroes forever."

As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, the young priest plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God's saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, he instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.

His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead. 

After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his kindness toward the slaves, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.

He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among those who are in slavery or any kind of forced servitude.

O God, who madest Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves, and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience as he came to their help: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things of Christ, we may love our neighbour in deeds and in truth; 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.

07 September 2020

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary



"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy." - St. John Damascene

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated as a liturgical feast at least from the sixth century. Its origin can be traced to the occasion of the consecration of a church in Jerusalem just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, near the Pool of Bethesda, on the traditional site of the house of Ss. Joachim and Anne. Within a few years the liturgy was celebrated in Rome, having been introduced by monks from the East, and the celebration included a procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Although the actual date of Mary’s birth isn’t known, the Church settled on September 8th, and the celebration Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was fixed on December 8th, as the date corresponding to nine months before the celebration of her Nativity.

These two feasts can be seen as a kind of bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin, God completed the new Ark – the living Temple – in which He would dwell. Through Mary, Jesus the Incarnate God has come to us.

O Lord, we beseech thee, bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace: that as our redemption began to dawn in the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so this festival of her Nativity may yield us an increase of peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

04 September 2020

Labor Day

Labor Day has become synonymous with barbeques and bargains, but it was instituted originally as a day to honor workers, and especially to feature the place of organized labor.  Labor unions have had an up-and-down place in the history of our nation, and at this particular time the stock of unions isn't terribly high.  It is a good thing, however, to honor workers and their labor.

The patron saint of laborers is St. Joseph the Worker. The actual commemoration falls on the first day of May, but it is appropriate to remember him on Labor Day too, as a way of accentuating the dignity of labor and as a reminder of the spiritual dimension of work.

The teaching of the Church reaches back into the Old Testament, when we read in the Book of Genesis that God created man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend to it. From that time, God, who is the creator and ruler of the universe, has called men and women in every age to develop and use their talents for the good of others, and as a way of sharing in the creative work of God. In every kind of labor we are to remember that we are obeying the command of God to use our talents, and to receive the fruit of our labors. Our work allows us to provide for our own needs, and for the needs of those for whom we are responsible. It also allows us to show proper charity towards those who are in need.

As we celebrate Labor Day, we should look to St. Joseph and follow his example of work, by which he showed his love and responsibility for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the Child Jesus. St. Joseph shows the dignity of work – and whether it is manual work, or any other kind of work, we are to do it in a spirit of cooperation with God, and as an offering to Him. Any task, well done, is an offering to God.  When we work, we should see it as a work done for God, and it is part of what shows that we are created in His image. In creation itself, God worked for six days, and rested the seventh. So in our own lives, we are to keep that balance between using our energy for work, and then out of respect for our minds and bodies, give a day for our spiritual and physical renewal.


O LORD Jesus Christ, who in thy earthly life didst share man’s toil, and thereby hallow the labour of his hands: prosper all those who maintain the industries of this land; and give them pride in their work, a just reward for their labour, and joy both in supplying the needs of others and in serving thee their Saviour; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


03 September 2020

St. Cuthbert, Bishop and Confessor


St. Cuthbert, one of the great saints of Britain, was born in Northumbria in about the year 635, at about the same year in which St. Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne. He was raised as a Christian, and in his youth he spent time in military service, and also seems to have spent time as a shepherd.

His life changed when he was about 17 years old. He was tending sheep out in the hills, and looking into the night sky he saw a great light descend to earth and then return, and he believed that a human soul was being taken to heaven at that moment. The date was August 31, 651, the night of the death of St. Aidan, who was the great bishop and monk of Lindisfarne. This became Cuthbert’s time of decision for the future of his life. He immediately went to one of the monasteries, Melrose monastery, which had been founded by St. Aidan, and requested admittance as a novice.

For the next 13 years he was with the Melrose monks. At that time Melrose was then given land to found a new monastery at Ripon, and Cuthbert went with the founding party and was made guestmaster of the new foundation. After serving in that capacity for a time, St. Cuthbert returned to his original monastery and was appointed as Prior of Melrose.

After a time, St. Cuthbert moved to Lindisfarne and settled into the life of the monastery. He became an active missionary, and he was very much in demand as a spiritual director. He was an outgoing, cheerful, compassionate person and no doubt became popular. But when he was about forty years old he believed that he was being called to be a hermit and to dedicate himself completely to prayer. He moved to a remote island, where he remained for another ten years.

He was not destined to remain in the life of a hermit. When he was about fifty years old, he was asked by the Church to leave his hermitage and become a bishop, and he very reluctantly agreed. For two years he was an active, travelling bishop, and he journey far and wide ministering to those under his spiritual care.

Finally, feeling that death was approaching, he retired to his old hermitage where, in the company of Lindisfarne monks, he died on March 20, 687.

St. Cuthbert is often depicted with otters because it is said that his practice was to pray while wading in the frigid North Sea, and when he emerged from the water he would be accompanied by otters that would dry his feet with their fur, and warm him.

The 4th of September is kept as a commemoration of St. Cuthbert in remembrance of the transference of his relics to Durham. With the invasion of the Vikings near the end of the 9th century, the body of St. Cuthbert was taken from Lindisfarne by the monks to a new location for safekeeping, until finally arriving at the place known as “Deer’s meadow,” or “Durham,” where a chapel was built for the relics, and this chapel marked the place where the great Durham Cathedral now stands.

Almighty God, who didst call St. Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of thy people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from thy ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

02 September 2020

Pope St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory, known as "the Great," served the Church as Supreme Pontiff from 590 until 604. Before this he had served the city of Rome as a senator and prefect, all by the age of thirty. He then dedicated himself to God by entering religious life as a Benedictine monk. It was during his time as abbot that a well-known incident took place.In about the year 573 A.D. the abbot Gregory, during a walk through the marketplace, saw some fair-skinned people being sold as slaves. When he asked about them he was told they were Angles. He responded, “Non Angli, sed angeli” (“Not Angles, but angels!”).  After he became the pope he decided he needed to send missionaries to their people, to bring them the knowledge of the Gospel. England had once known the faith, but the Angles and the Saxons had conquered the land and had driven the Christians out. But now the time had come to re-evangelize, and St. Gregory chose St. Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected and dangerous trip to England. Augustine and his monks had the task of finding what few Christians there were and bringing them back into the fullness of the Faith, and to convince the war-loving conquerors to become Christians themselves.

Pope St. Gregory also had a tremendous influence on the liturgical and musical life of the Church, and in an ancient account it says, “St. Gregory established at Rome two schools of song, that one beside the church of S. Peter, and that other by the church of S. John Lateran, where the place is yet, where he taught the scholars, and the rod with which he menaced them is yet there.”

Pope St. Gregory well-deserves to be called “the Great,” not just for his re-evangelization of England, but for his liturgical, musical, and spiritual influence upon the whole of the Western Church.

O God, the strength of them that put their trust in thee, who didst stablish thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Gregory with the strength of constancy to defend the freedom of thy Church: grant, we pray thee, that by his prayers and good example, we may manfully conquer all things contrary to our salvation; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.