29 August 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the blessed martyrs St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Anne Line and St. Margaret Ward, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

28 August 2014

Our Deacons' Anniversary Day


August 29th 2014 is the seventeenth anniversary of the ordination of our two deacons, Dn. Michael D'Agostino and Dn. James Orr, and we give thanks to God for their faithful witness and ministry.

ALMIGHTY God, who by thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church, and didst inspire thine Apostles to choose into the Order of Deacons the first Martyr Saint Stephen, with others; Mercifully behold these thy servants called to the like Office and Administration: so replenish them with the truth of thy Doctrine, and adorn them with innocency of life, that, both by word and good example, they may faithfully serve thee in this Office, to the glory of thy Name, and the edification of thy Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.

Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist


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

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

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

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

St. Augustine and the Trinity


The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise De Trinitate [about the Holy Trinity], endeavouring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

Augustine was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

The Bishop of Hippo approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”

“I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.

“But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.

The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.

Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Christ Child Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding before the great mysteries of our Faith.

27 August 2014

St. Augustine of Hippo


After Augustine's conversion and baptism through the teaching and example of St. Ambrose, this son of the devout and patient St. Monica went back to his native Africa in 387, where he was ordained a priest in 391 and consecrated bishop of Hippo in 396. Actually, the furthest thing from Augustine's mind was to become a priest. He was visiting the town of Hippo. He was listening to a sermon by the Bishop of Hippo. The bishop, without any warning whatsoever, said, "This Church is in need of more priests, and I believe that the ordination of Augustine would be to the glory of God." Augustine was shocked to hear his name mentioned during the sermon itself. Suddenly, there were those around him who dragged Augustine forward, and the bishop together with his council of priests laid hands on him and ordained him to the priesthood. He scarcely had time to adjust to being a priest when, a few years later, Augustine was chosen to succeed the bishop who had ordained him, and so was from that time until his own death, the bishop of Hippo.

He was a faithful and hard-working shepherd to his people, but he also found time to write extensively. He was an admirer of Jerome, the great translator of Scripture, and Augusting wrote him a letter hoping to establish a friendship. Unfortunately, the letter went astray. Jerome did not receive the letter, and its contents became public knowledge before Jerome even knew it had been written. Because it was a personal letter, Augustine, in addition to saying how much he admired Jerome, had mentioned some criticisms of something Jerome had written. Jerome was furious, thinking Augustine had been publicly speaking against him, and Jerome was willing to make his response into a public argument with the Bishop of Hippo. However, Augustine wrote him another letter, deeply apologizing and explaining what had happened, and Jerome was calmed. Over the ensuing years they had a long, intellectual and friendly correspondence.

St. Augustine was a very productive writer. The works we have (and it is generally assumed that much of his work did not survive) include 113 books and treatises, more than 200 letters, and over 500 sermons. Among the most famous of his writings are his “Confessions,” and “The City of God,” in which he discusses the work of God in history, showing the relationship between the Christian as citizen of an earthly society and the Christian as citizen of Heaven. His third great work is his “De Trinitate” ("On the Trinity"), in which he discusses the doctrine of the Trinity by comparing the mind of man with the mind of God, based upon the fact that man is made in the image of God. He speaks of a Trinitarian structure in the act of knowing something, a Trinitarian structure in the act of self-awareness, and a Trinitarian structure in the act of religious understanding through which man sees himself as made in the image of God.

Perhaps St. Augustine’s most famous attack on heresy was against the Pelagians. There was a man from Britain named Morgan, or in Latin, Pelagius (meaning "islander"), who began to preach about what he saw as a deterioration of moral standards. Pelagius saw Christians living lives which were sometimes immoral, or at least less than exemplary, and who blamed their actions on human frailty. Pelagius gave the reply to this: "No, God has given you free will. You can follow the example of Adam, or the example of Christ. God has given everyone the grace he needs to be good. If you are not good, you simply need to put in more effort." In his argument with Pelagius, St. Augustine asked him about original sin, and he received the reply that there is no such thing. Augustine asked him why, in that case, it was the universal custom to baptize infants, and Pelagius had no answer. St. Augustine saw the teaching of Pelagius as undermining the doctrine that God is the ultimate source of all good, leading the virtuous Christian to feel that he had earned God's approval by his own efforts. The teaching of Pelagius was condemned by the Church because of the clear argumentation put forward by St. Augustine.

At the then-advanced age of seventy-five, St. Augustine, the great and distinguished Bishop of Hippo, died on 28 August 430.

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

Almighty God, Majestic King


Almighty God, majestic King,
with joyful hearts thy people sing: Alleluia, alleluia.
For all good gifts we offer praise,
and ask thy blessings all our days:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Son,
who on the cross salvation won: Alleluia, alleluia;
through thy great sacrifice of love
we join our song with saints above:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

O Holy Spirit, Light divine,
dwell in these hearts and souls of thine: Alleluia, alleluia.
Keep us in peace and unity
that with one voice our chant may be,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1996
Music: LASST UNS ERFREUEN, from Geistliche Kirchengesang, 1623

26 August 2014

St. Monica, Widow and Confessor


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

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

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

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

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

O Lord, who through spiritual discipline didst strengthen thy servant St. Monica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we beseech thee, and use us in accordance with thy will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Prayer to the Blessed Mother


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

24 August 2014

St. Louis, King and Confessor


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

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

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

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

23 August 2014

St. Bartholomew, Apostle


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


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

21 August 2014

Mass at the Academy

This Mass was recorded on the Memorial of Pope St. Pius X.  The Academy Honors Choir provides music.

The Queenship of Mary


Our understanding of the queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary has grown over the centuries, but it has its roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship, and when it comes to her queenship, we can go all the way back to the Old Testament to see why it’s true: in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court. All the things we know about the Blessed Virgin Mary always flows from what we know about the Lord Jesus Christ.

As early as in the fourth century, St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and referred to her as “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Church’s devotional life reflects our belief: one of the mysteries of the Rosary, for instance, is the crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. In several of the Church’s prayers and litanies, the Blessed Virgin is assigned the title of Queen.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In 1954, Pope Pius XII established this feast, and he wrote an encyclical titled “To the Queen of Heaven.” In that encyclical, the Pope teaches that Mary deserves the title of Queen because she is Mother of God, and because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work. As Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary shows us the highest state of perfected humanity, and she intercedes for us in our own growth in holiness.

Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness: That we who celebrate the memory of the holy Mother of God, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, may, by her intercession, be delivered from our sins; 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.

20 August 2014

Pope St. Pius X


A young boy named Joseph Sarto grew up in Venetia on June 2, 1835. He was the son of a cobbler – someone who repairs shoes – and he grew up in a loving family, but a poor one. He was educated only in the village school, and received a vocation to the priesthood. He did so well, and was so suited to the ordained life, special permission was given for him to be ordained at the age of 23. He worked for seventeen years as a parish priest, and when he arrived as curate in the parish of Tombolo he worked tirelessly amongst the people, especially the poor, organizing evening courses to bring a higher level of education to the parish, as well as training the parishioners in the singing of Gregorian chant, all in the context of his sacramental ministry. His pastor, Fr. Constantini, wrote of young Fr. Sarto: "They have sent me as curate a young priest, with orders to mould him to the duties of pastor; in fact, however, the contrary is true. He is so zealous, so full of good sense, and other precious gifts that it is I who can learn much from him. Some day or other he will wear the mitre, of that I am sure. After that—who knows?"

He was obvious marked for great things, and he was appointed as bishop of a small diocese, and in 1892 was advanced to the metropolitan see of Venice with the honorary title of patriarch. On August 4, 1903, he was elected Pope, "a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everybody.

The primary aim of his pontificate Pius X announced in his first encyclical letter, which was "to renew all things in Christ." To accomplish this, he encouraged early and frequent reception of Holy Communion; he called for a renewal and improvement of church music; he encouraged daily Bible reading and the establishment of various Biblical institutes; and he is known for his very strong stand against Modernism, which he called the "synthesis of all heresies." All these were means toward the realization of his main objective of renewing all things in Christ.

The outbreak of the first World War, practically on the date of the eleventh anniversary of his election to the See of Peter, was the blow that occasioned his death. Bronchitis developed within a few days, and on August 20, 1914, St. Pius X succumbed to "the last affliction that the Lord will visit on me." He had said in his will, "I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor" — and no one questioned the truth of his words. He was one of those chosen few men whose personality is irresistible. Everyone was moved by his simplicity and his kindness. Yet it was something more that carried him into all hearts: and that 'something' is best defined by saying that all who were ever admitted to his presence had a deep conviction of being face to face with a saint.

O heavenly Father, Shepherd of thy people, we give thee thanks for thy servant Pope St. Pius X, who was faithful in the care and nurture of thy flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by thy grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux


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

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

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

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

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

18 August 2014

St. John Eudes


If ever you feel like you have too much work to do, look at the life of St. John Eudes. He can put most of us to shame.

He was born on a farm in northern France. He was 79 years old when he died, and with all he accomplished, at the end of his live he was living only in the next county. During his life he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. At that time, there were some severe outbreaks of terrible sickness which was taking the lives of thousands of people, and he volunteered to care for the sick. He didn't want to risk bringing the disease to his fellow religious, so he lived in a huge barrel that had been turned on its side in the middle of a field during the plague.

After that time, he became a parish missionary. His gifts as preacher and confessor meant that people flocked to hear him. He preached over a hundred parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months.

He had a great concern for the spiritual lives of the clergy, and he realized that the greatest need was for seminaries. He had permission from his general superior and the bishop to do this work, but the a new superior decided he didn't like St. John Eudes or his work, so John decided it was best for him to leave the religious community. He immediately founded a new community, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, which was devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries, but there were some who tried to ruin this effort, too, until John finally had to give up that work.

In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of women and young girls living on the streets, but who wanted to escape their terrible existence. Temporary shelters were found but arrangements were not satisfactory, until St. John, with the help of others, took on this work by founding another religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.

He is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness, Mary as the model of the Christian life. His devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is what formed his own spiritual life.

Holiness is the wholehearted openness to the love of God. It is visibly expressed in many ways, but the variety of expression has one common quality: concern for the needs of others. We see how St. John Eudes carried out this concern in very practical ways.

O God, who to spread abroad a knowledge of the meekness and lowliness of the hearts of Jesus and Mary, and of devotion to them both, didst wondrously kindle the zeal of St. John Eudes thy holy Confessor: grant, we beseech thee; that we who reverence his worthy deeds may ever find instruction from the example of his godliness; through the same 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.

The view from inside...


There is a mystery to stained glass.  When one views it during the day from outside, it appears to be nothing but darkness.  There is no beauty, no riot of color, no apparent reason for its existence.  But step inside, and what was darkness becomes a thing of beauty and meaning.  Mysteries of the faith are brought to life through the artisan's craft.  Things are seen that never could have been imagined when standing outside. 

This makes for an apt illustration of the Church itself.  To remain outside is to be cheated of so much of the beauty of what Christ has done for us, and to miss the fullness of the truth He teaches.  Just as natural light, when filtered through stained glass, becomes a thing of immense beauty, so when the Light of Christ is perceived through that "window" of His own creation -- the Church -- we come to know things that only the angels could have imagined.

15 August 2014

Lifted up with Mary...


There is a beautiful story about Pope St. John XXIII, who was once recalling his earliest childhood memory. He tells of being a four-year old boy, and of how his family had gone to Mass for the one of the feasts of the Blessed Virgin. When they arrived, the church was overflowing with people, and being just a little boy, he was not able to see the ceremonies or venerate the image of the Blessed Mother.

Seventy-seven years later when he was reminiscing, Pope St. John XXIII recalled it in this way: “My only chance of seeing the image of the Madonna was through one of the two windows of the main entrance, which were very high and covered with an iron grating. Then my mother raised me up in her arms and said, “Look, Angelo, look how lovely the Madonna is – I consecrate you entirely to her!”

The Assumption of the Blessed Mother is something like that: Mary our Mother lifts us up. She lifts us up, and she lifts our cares and our concerns, all up to her Divine Son. She lifts us up in her Immaculate Heart so that we can catch a glimpse of the glory that will be ours in heaven.

A man who knew how to be king...


King Stephen, is a great national hero and the spiritual patron of Hungary – but he was, first of all, a devout Christian. We think of kings as being heads of state, great military leaders, commanders of armies and rulers over people, and he was all that, but Stephen did all those things in the light of his Christian faith, and made his decisions in accordance with the teaching of the Church.

During his early childhood he was pagan, but he was baptized around the age of 10, together with his father, who was the chief of the Magyar people. This was a group who migrated to the Danube area a little over a hundred years before. When young Stephen was 20 years old, he married Gisela, who was from a powerful and influential family. After the death of his father, Stephen became the leader of his people, and did all he could to turn his people into a Christian people. He put down a series of revolts by pagan nobles and through the banishment of paganism, and the establishment of the Church, Stephen made the Magyars into a strong national group. He asked the pope to send more clergy so that the Church could become more organized throughout Hungary, and he also made the request that the pope confer the title of king upon him – not because he wanted the honor for himself, but because he knew his people needed the dignity of being ruled by a Christian king, rather than just a leader with no title. He was crowned on Christmas day in 1001.

Stephen established a system of support for the local churches and priests, and he worked very hard to bring people out of poverty. Out of every 10 towns, one had to build a church and support a priest. He abolished pagan customs, and urged all his subjects to marry, except clergy and religious, because he knew that strong families make a strong society. He was easily accessible to all, especially the poor.

He had hoped that his son Emeric would succeed him as king, but in 1031 Emeric died, and the rest of King Stephen’s days were made very difficult by controversy over who should succeed him as king. His pagan nephews even attempted to kill him. King St. Stephen died in 1038. As he was dying, with his right hand he raised up the Holy Crown of Hungary, and prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to take the Hungarian people as her subjects and to become their queen. After his death, people made pilgrimages to his tomb, where many miracles were recorded, and soon he was canonized – the first king to be venerated as a confessor and saint of the Church.

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

 

The Crown of St. Stephen.

A holy place, set apart...

The consecration crosses are illuminated on this day, the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Dedication, setting the church apart as a holy place.

Our particular crosses are hand-made using wood which came from Wadowice, Poland, the birthplace of Pope St. John Paul II.

14 August 2014

The Assumption of Our Lady


On 1 November 1950, His Holiness Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. If you haven’t already read it, have a look at the whole document. It’s beautiful.

Here’s an excerpt:

“…after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma:
that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”

O God, who hast taken to thyself the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of thine Incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of thine eternal kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In honour of the Assumption...


On the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my mind wanders back to my days as a student in the Anglican Theological College of Salisbury & Wells, which was located in the Cathedral Close in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. The reason for remembering those days in the early 1970's is because the glorious cathedral there is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a fact unknown to most people, it was originally under the title of her glorious Assumption into heaven.

Scarcely a day went by that I didn't go into the cathedral for some purpose or other. The Theological College was mere yards away from it, and the cathedral dominated our lives. Whenever we could get away from college activities at 3:00 p.m., we knew there would always be Cathedral Evensong, done in the best English tradition. I was privileged to serve occasionally as organist on the great Willis organ. During the summer I would help out as a cathedral guide when the crowds of tourists would descend. A question once posed to me came from a large American man clad in bermuda shorts and a loud sports shirt, who asked in all seriousness, "Is this place open on Sundays?" I assured him it was.

I have so many happy and fond memories of my student days in that beautiful place. But they have become a little bittersweet, now that I am a Catholic. This architectural marvel (begun in 1220 and completed in 1258) was designed and built by Catholics. They dedicated it to Our Lady -- their Lady -- out of love for her, and to honour her Assumption. Approximately seventy years after the building was completed, they began to construct the magnificent spire, rising up 404 feet, as a testimony to their faith in God.  It was a monument pointing to heaven, and in the very top of the spire they placed a relic, a piece of cloth with which the Blessed Virgin had girded herself during her earthly life.

Every stone placed lovingly one on another spoke of the faith of those who had done it -- and that faith was the Catholic faith, the faith which found its fullness by being in communion with the Vicar of Christ, the Successor of St. Peter. I never thought of that while I was there, but I have many times since, and it reasserted itself when I visited last year.

So I pray. I pray for the return of this shrine to the Church of those who built it, and so many others throughout England, which was once a country with such devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that it was known as "Our Lady's Dowry."

13 August 2014

A Priest Forever...

With all the other events we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Assumption -- the canonical erection of the Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement, the dedication of the church and consecration of the altar, the founding of the parish school, and the blessing of the extended church -- there is also my ordination to the priesthood.

What an occasion that was! We were at San Fernando Cathedral in downtown San Antonio, and as soon as the archbishop had ordained me, he declared the canonical erection of the parish and appointed me to be the Founding Pastor. Thirty-one years later, and I'm still here...still with plenty to be done!

Here are some pictures of that happy and blessed occasion. I know I've said it before, but it really does seem as though it was yesterday.

The Procession into the Cathedral of San Fernando,
with my Presenter, Fr. Scagnelli, next to me


The Prostration during the Litany of the Saints


The Laying on of Hands
One more bishop, and it would have been a consecration!


The Promise of Obedience
to the Archbishop and his Successors


Administering Holy Communion to my wife, JoAnn
(expecting our daughter Catherine)


The Priest's First Blessing,
Archbishop Flores and Bishop Popp kneeling to receive it


Our little family at the time
(left to right) Sarah, Christian and Nathan

St. Maximilian Kolbe


On August 14th we commemorate a very brave priest who gave his life for his faith in that terrible and dark place, Auschwitz. St. Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, and when he was sixteen he entered the Franciscan Order. He was sent to study in Rome where he was ordained a priest in 1918.

Maximilian returned to Poland in 1919 and began spreading the Gospel and devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whom he called the “Immaculata.” He founded a religious community of Franciscans to do this work, and by 1939 it had expanded from just eighteen friars, to 650 all living in one place, making it the largest Catholic religious house in the world.

To spread the Gospel and devotion to the Immaculata, St. Maximilian used the most modern printing equipment, and he not only published catechetical and devotional tracts, but also a daily newspaper with a circulation of almost a quarter of a million, and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. He started a radio station and planned to build a Catholic movie studio--he was a true "apostle of the mass media."

In 1939 Nazis invaded his homeland of Poland, and his religious house was severely bombed. He and his friars were arrested, although they were released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. But in 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis wanted to get rid of anyone who could be considered a leader, and St. Maximilian was taken to the internment camp in Auschwitz. He was there for three months before he was killed, after undergoing terrible beatings and humiliations.

The circumstances of his martyrdom were these: a prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that ten men would die. He was an especially cruel man, and as he walked through the ranks of the prisoners he would say “This one. That one,” as he pointed. As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, St. Maximilian, who was only known as Number 16670, stepped from the line. Maximilian pointed to one of the prisoners who had been chosen to die. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” He gave no name, even though he was one of the best-known priests in all of Poland. There was silence for a moment, and then the commandant, wanting to show his power of life and death over the prisoners, removed the condemned man out of line and ordered St. Maximilian to go with the other nine. They were taken to the “block of death.” They were ordered to strip naked and they were locked in a building where their slow starvation began in complete darkness. But there was no screaming — instead, the prisoners sang hymns together. By the eve of the Assumption, only four were left alive. The jailer came to finish them off, and St. Maximilian was in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm for the needle, which was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and in 1982 Pope St. John Paul II canonized Maximilian as a "martyr of charity," because, out of his love for Christ, he had laid down his life for another.

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy holy martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, and aided by his intercession, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we with him attain to thine eternal joy; through him who is the author and finisher of our faith, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

12 August 2014

St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus

St. Pontian
Have you ever become friends with someone you never thought you would? Sometimes we might write someone off, but then, if we let ourselves, we may very well find that they’re not so bad after all – that, in fact, they’re really a pretty good friend. That's what happened with Pontian and Hippolytus.

Pontian was a Roman who served as pope from 230 to 235. He was a faithful and holy man, and upheld the Catholic faith even when there were those around him who were trying to change it. But he happened to live at a time when the Roman emperor was persecuting the Church horribly, and killing as many Christians as he could find. Pontian was treated in a very cruel way: he was banished to the island of Sardinia, where they mined silver and lead, and where prisoners were forced to work in horrible conditions. Pontian was not only exhausted from the work, but he was constantly beaten by his jailers, and his life was one long torture.

While Pontian was enduring all that, he met another Christian who had been exiled to Sardinia – Hippolytus – who had been a Catholic priest in Rome. Actually, this wasn’t the first time they had met; in fact, Hippolytus was a fierce rival to Pontian. Hippolytus thought that Pontian the pope was too easy on those who had been trying to water down the faith. He spoke out against Pontian whenever he could, and in fact, Hippolytus gathered around him a group of followers who said that Pontian wasn’t really suitable to be the pope, so they proclaimed Hippolytus to be the pope. Hippolytus led many Christians into schism, claiming that only the really good people could be members of the Church. He taught that Christians should be completely separate from the world, and should have nothing to do with anyone who might sin – naturally, Hippolytus and his followers never thought that they were sinners. This, of course was a heresy.

St. Hippolytus
The emperor didn’t care what differences these two men might have – as far as he was concerned, they were both part of the Church, and since Hippolytus seemed to be a trouble-maker, he was sent off to Sardinia to work in the mines. As Pontian and Hippolytus were brought together as two prisoners, Hippolytus came to realize how wrong he had been about Pontian. He confessed his errors to Pontian, and the two became friends and companions in their suffering. Both of them were worked to exhaustion, and beaten unmercifully, until both of them died – rivals and enemies when they were free, but friends and fellow Catholics when they were facing death. Both of them are numbered with the martyrs of the Church – Catholic who refused to deny Christ, and whose death gave witness to the power of God.

O Almighty God, who didst give to thy servants St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus boldness to confess the Name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Anniversary of the Dedication

The Dedication of the Church and the Consecration of the High Altar took place on the Solemnity of the Assumption in 1987. Here are some pictures of that wonderful occasion, and it's an opportunity for those who were not here in those early years to see how the interior of the church looked at the time.

Gathered before the High Altar, to prepare for its Consecration.


Praying the Litany, before the Consecration of the Altar.


The Prayer to Consecrate the Altar.


Placing the Relics of St. Thomas Becket, and Anointing the Altar stone.


The Archbishop giving his personal Rosary to be placed in the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Placing the linens on the newly-consecrated Altar.


Opening the Triptych.


Placing the crucifix and candles at the High Altar.


Celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the newly-consecrated Altar.

One of the Consecration Crosses

So many anniversaries at once!


On Friday, August 15th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. Not only is it a day to honor the Blessed Virgin, but it is also for us here a day of anniversaries:

- the thirty-first anniversary of the canonical erection of the parish;

- the thirty-first anniversary of my ordination to the Sacred Priesthood and appointment as pastor of this parish;

- the twenty-seventh anniversary of the blessing of the high altar and the dedication of the church;

- the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Academy;

- the eighth anniversary of the blessing of the expanded church building.

There are so many blessings which have come to us. We’re grateful to Our Lady of the Atonement for her constant intercession – and we give thanks to God for His abundant blessings!

11 August 2014

St. Jane Frances de Chantal


St. Jane Frances de Chantal was born in 1572 and came from a noble family, her father gave her in marriage to the Baron von Chantal in 1592. She was a loving wife and mother, and she brought up her children as faithful Catholics, teaching them the importance of obeying God's laws, and always showing kindness to others. She was extremely generous to the poor, and she made a personal vow that she would never turn away anybody who was in need.

Her family was a very happy one, and she deeply loved her husband, Baron de Chantal, and their children. But then, an unexpected tragedy came to them. One day in 1601 her husband was out hunting. A terrible thing happened – one of the men with whom he was hunting accidentally shot him, and he died. When she was told what happened, she was grief-stricken – but instead of reacting with anger towards the man who had killed her husband, St. Jane forgave him. In fact, she even agreed to be the godmother to one of his children. This heroic act of forgiveness shows her deep faith in Christ.

Now that she was a widow, and as her children we growing up, St. Jane felt more and more that she wanted to spend her time in prayer, giving adoration to God and praying for the needs of others. She had a very holy priest as her spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales, and as St. Jane talked with him about her desire to give her life over to prayer, he encouraged her to form a community for herself and others like her. She founded the Community of the Visitation Nuns – reflecting the time when the Blessed Virgin Mary withdrew from her life in Nazareth, and went to visit her cousin St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Francis de Sales; with his approval she left her father and children and founded the Visitation nuns. She spent the rest of her life showing her love for God and for others by living a life of prayer until she died, in 1641 when she was nearly seventy years old.

St. Jane gave herself completely to God – first through the sacrament of marriage, then as a loving mother to her children, and finally in religious life.

Almighty and merciful God, who didst enkindle St. Jane Frances de Chantal with thy love, and endue her with wondrous constancy of spirit through all the paths of life in the way of perfection: Grant by her merits and prayers, that we who, knowing our infirmity, put our trust in thy power, may by the help of thy heavenly grace overcome all things that are contrary to thy Will; 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.

10 August 2014

St. Clare of Assisi


St. Clare was born in 1194 to a well-to-do family in Assisi. As with all girls at that time, she was expected to marry at a young age, and spend her life being a wife and mother. However, Clare refused to marry, even though her family had chosen a suitable young man for her. Instead, she began listening to another young man, Francis, who had given his life over to God, and was living a life based on the Gospel, and in complete poverty. St. Francis and St. Clare became life-long friends, and he served as her spiritual guide.

When she was 18, Clare left her father’s house one night in secret, and she was met on the road by some of the religious brothers of St. Francis. Together they went to the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula – the “Little Portion” – where Clare was clothed in a rough woolen habit, and she exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it. Her beautiful long hair was cut and a veil was placed over her head. St. Francis placed her temporarily in a Benedictine convent, where her father and her brothers came – very angry – and they tried to drag her back home. She clung to the altar of the church, and she threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair and remained absolutely adamant that she was giving her life over to God.

Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, and in complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order (Poor Clares). Francis obliged her under obedience at age 21 to accept the office of abbess, and she remained abbess until her death in 1253, when she was nearly 60 years old.

The nuns went barefoot, they slept on the ground, they ate no meat and they observed almost complete silence. They possessed no property, even in common, subsisting on daily contributions. When even the pope tried to persuade her to mitigate this practice, she showed her characteristic firmness: "I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation of following Jesus Christ."

Clare and her community of nuns lived in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi, which is still there today. She served the sick, waited on table, and washed the feet of the nuns who went out to beg. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals and bishops often came to consult her—but she never left the walls of San Damiano.

A well-known story concerns her prayer and trust. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed on the walls of the convent when it faced attack by invading Saracens, who were Muslims. She prayed for Christ to protect them, and she told her sisters not to be afraid. In the face of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, the invaders ran away, and the sisters were safe.

In 1958 Pope Pius XII designated St. Clare as the patron saint of television. One Christmas Eve, when she was too sick to get up from her bed to get to Mass, she was very disappointed. She prayed that God would allow her to take part in the Mass. Although she was more than a mile away she saw Mass on the wall of her dormitory. So clear was the vision that the next day she could name the friars at the celebration.

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of thy servant St. Clare, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi.

09 August 2014

St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr


Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons in Rome in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. In fact, during the first centuries of the Church, the number of deacons for any bishop was limited to seven, following the precedent of Jerusalem.  It was said of Lawrence that he was to Rome, what Stephen was to Jerusalem.

When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" he said. "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. "in three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"


In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr's reward. Saint Lawrence's feast day is August 10th.


Almighty God, who didst call thy deacon St. Lawrence to serve thee with deeds of love, and didst give him the crown of martyrdom: Grant we beseech thee, that we, following his example, may fulfill thy commandments by defending and supporting the poor, and by loving thee with all our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



The Holy Deacon Lawrence before the Emperor Valerius.



The grill on which St. Lawrence was martyred.



The stone on which the body of St. Lawrence was laid after his martyrdom.