20 August 2017

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.

18 August 2017

St. John Eudes, Priest and Confessor


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 didst wonderfully choose thy Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ: grant us, by his example and teachings; that, growing in knowledge of thee, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel; 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 August 2017

St. Stephen, King of Hungary


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.


Grant thy Church, we pray, Almighty God: that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary, who fostered her growth while a king on earth, as her glorious defender 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.



The Crown of St. Stephen.

Thirty-four years ago...

Thirty-four years ago on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, I was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood by Archbishop Patrick Flores in San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas.

My heart overflows with thanksgiving for this blessing, and I am grateful for the privilege of serving as a priest for God's people.

At this same Mass the Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement was canonically erected, and the founding members were received into full Catholic communion.





14 August 2017

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

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin


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.”

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst assume the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven: grant us, we beseech thee; that being ever intent on things above, we may be worthy to be partakers of her glory hereafter; 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.

13 August 2017

St. Maximilian Mary 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.

11 August 2017

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.

O God, who madest Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in divers paths of life in the way of perfection: grant us, through her intercession; that, walking faithfully in our vocation, we may ever be examples of thy shining light; 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.

09 August 2017

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 endue blessed Lawrence with power to overcome the fires of his torments: give us grace, we beseech thee, to quench the flames of our sins; 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.



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.

08 August 2017

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross


The story of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, born in the world as Edith Stein, is the story of one of the most brilliant converts to enter the Church. Her subsequent martyrdom came about because of the evil of the Holocaust.

Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Germany on October 12, 1891. She was the youngest of eleven children, and was raised in the Jewish faith. In 1913 she began her university studies, and as too often happens, she rebelled against the faith of her childhood, and gave up on religion.  While at the university she became a student of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, and later immersed herself in the philosophy of Max Scheler, a Jewish philosopher who became a Catholic in 1920. It was what seemed to be a chance reading of the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila which opened her heart to the God of love whom she had denied as a young girl. She responded to this action of the Holy Spirit by entering the Church in 1922.

For eight years after her conversion, Edith lived with the Dominicans while teaching at Saint Magdalene’s, which was a training institute for teachers, but during the time immediately following her baptism, she felt the call to religious life as a Carmelite. She set it aside for as long as she could, mostly out of respect for her mother, who was devastated by Edith’s baptism. Even after Edith’s baptism she had, in fact, continued to attend the synagogue with her mother. But by 1933 she could postpone it no longer, and she entered the Carmel of Cologne in Germany. It was at that time that she found an overwhelming attraction to the person and the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In the Little Flower she saw a life which had been utterly transformed by the love of God, and it was her deepest desire to incorporate as much as possible into her own life, this simple but profound spirituality.

When she made her first vows, she was known as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was encouraged to continue her writing, in which she expanded on the theme of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as being one and the same as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She was able to harmonize this with the importance of sacrifice in ancient Judaism, exploring more deeply the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was the culmination of all Old Testament sacrifices which had come before.

As the Nazis came to power, Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also converted to Catholicism, were transferred by their Carmelite superiors to a Carmel in Holland in 1938. This was done to preserve their safety, but when the Dutch bishops issued a letter condemning the racist policies of Nazism, the Nazis retaliated by seeking out and arresting all Jewish converts. It was on August 2, 1942, that Edith and her sister were taken from the convent by two S.S. officers, and were cast into the gas chambers of Auschwitz. On October 11, 1998, exactly fifty-six years, two months, and two days after her death at Auschwitz, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II, declaring her to be a saint.

O God of our fathers, who didst lead the blessed Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know thy crucified Son and imitate him even unto death: mercifully grant that, by her intercession, all men may know Christ as Saviour, and through him come to thine eternal vision; 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 August 2017

St. Dominic, Priest and Founder


Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Dominic Guzman, who helped the cause of orthodoxy in the medieval Church by founding the Order of Preachers, also known as Dominicans.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said of him: “This great saint reminds us that in the heart of the Church a missionary fire must always burn. The search for God's glory and the salvation of souls must go hand in hand.”

Dominic was born in Spain around the year 1170, and he received his early education from his uncle, who was a priest, before entering the University of Palencia where he studied for ten years. An indication of his holiness took place while he was a student, when he sold his entire collection of books to provide for the relief of the poor.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Dominic was asked by his bishop to assist him with various church reforms. While he was traveling in France with the bishop, Dominic observed the bad effects of the Albigensian heresy, which had taken hold in southern France during the preceding century. The Albigensians believed in a good spirit who created the spiritual, and in an evil spirit who created the material world, including the human body, which is therefore under his control. The good spirit created the soul but the evil one imprisoned it in the body, which is evil from its source.

The time of Dominic was much like our own – certainly the heresies were different, but it was a time when the world needed a new evangelism, and Dominic would have a major role of evangelizing through his Order of Preachers, who would come to be known as the Dominicans.

It was in 1214 that Dominic's extreme physical asceticism caused him to fall into a coma, during which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to him and instructed him to promote the prayer of the Rosary. Its focus on the incarnation and life of Christ directly contradicted the Albigensian attitude towards matter as evil.

That year, Dominic received his bishop's approval to found an order dedicated to preaching. He and a group of followers gained local recognition as a religious congregation, and the Order of Preachers expanded throughout Europe with papal help in 1218.

The founder spent the last several years of his life building up the order and continuing his preaching missions, during which he is said to have converted some 100,000 people. After several weeks of illness, St. Dominic died in Italy on August 6, 1221.

Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 August 2017

St. Sixtus II and His Deacons


The Emperor Valerian (253-60) had a hatred for the Church, and he didn’t hesitate to vent his rage. He mandated that all Christians had to take part in state religious ceremonies, and not only that, he forbade them to assemble for any worship whatsoever in the catacombs. Although the catacombs were constructed as places for the burial of the dead, because even the pagans had respect for burial places, they did become locations where Christians could assemble in relative safety during times of persecution.

So it was that during the reign of Valerian, he issued a decree ordering the execution of all bishops, priests and deacons. The Bishop of Rome at this time was Sixtus II, who had been elected to succeed Stephen I. For nearly a year after the emperor’s decree, Sixtus managed to evade the Roman authorities. Pope Sixtus found that it was a bit safer to gather with his clergy and people in the small private cemetery of Praetextatus.  Although it was near the better-known and larger cemetery of Calixtus, the authorities tended not to watch it as closely; however, that could last only for so long.

Early in August of 258, while Sixtus was teaching from his episcopal chair, surrounded by four of his seven deacons and with a congregation of the faithful gathered to hear him, Roman soldiers burst in, arresting Sixtus and the deacons who were there. They dragged him off to force him to offer incense to the pagan gods, which of course he would not do. He was then returned to the place where he had been arrested, thrust brutally onto his chair, and was beheaded on the spot. The four deacons who were with him, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, also were martyred, and very soon afterwards (probably that same day) two other deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, were put to death – leaving only the chief deacon, Lawrence, whom the Romans spared temporarily in the hope of having him turn over anything in the Church’s treasury.

When we get to the story of St. Lawrence in a few days, we’ll see how that worked out for the Romans!

Almighty and Everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyrs Pope St. Sixtus and his Holy Deacons: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

05 August 2017

The Transfiguration of Our Lord


At the time of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, St. Peter wanted to build a tabernacle, a permanent dwelling place. He wanted to “capture the moment,” so to speak. By itself, that desire wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the time. There was still work to be done, still truth to be learned. The opportunity would afford itself later, after the passion and death, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. It would be later, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. It would be then that Peter would have the task. He would be asked to build the Church upon that Rock which was chosen by Jesus Christ Himself.

This would be the tabernacle which needed to be built: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. It would not be built far off on a mountain-top, but it would be a tabernacle which is in the midst of the world, allowing everyone to worship the One who lives within it. Christ gave St. Peter the desire to build and He gave him everything he would need.


Behold our Lord transfigured,
In Sacrament Divine;
His glory deeply hidden,
'Neath forms of Bread and Wine.
Our eyes of faith behold Him,
Salvation is outpoured;
The Saviour dwells among us,
by ev'ry heart adored.

No longer on the mountain
With Peter, James and John,
Our precious Saviour bids us
To walk where saints have gone.
He has no lasting dwelling,
Save in the hearts of men;
He feeds us with His Body,
To make us whole again.

With Moses and Elijah,
We worship Christ our King;
Lord, make our souls transfigured,
Let us with angels sing.
Lead us in paths of glory,
Give tongues to sing thy praise;
Lord Jesus, keep us faithful,
Now and for all our days.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: "Ewing" by Alexander C. Ewing, 1853


If you haven't visited the top of Mt. Tabor, I hope you'll have the opportunity. There's a cliché which says "getting there is half the fun," but that might not refer to the site of our Lord's transfiguration. I'm sure the taxi drivers have great fun at the pilgrims' expense, and no matter how many times I make the trip, taking hair-pin turns at break-neck speed is nerve-wracking. When you finally get to the top, the terra is reassuringly firma, and the walk to the basilica is a joy. The only dark cloud is remembering that what goes up must come down... that pesky return trip! No wonder St. Peter wanted to build three booths and stay there.

This basilica, built in 1924 over the ruins of more ancient churches, marks the traditional site of the transfiguration of Christ in the presence of Peter, James and John, along with the appearance of Moses and Elijah. There are depressions in the shape of two footprints in the rock. I'm not sure if this was the work of Jesus, or of some over-eager monks in an earlier age. But Mt. Tabor is the spot. It's been attested to from the earliest days of the Church. It's an inspiring place to visit and a most peaceful place to pray.

O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine Only Begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

03 August 2017

St. John Vianney, Priest and Confessor


St. John Vianney, also known as the Holy Curé de Ars, was born May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, near Lyon, France to a family of farmers. He was an unremarkable student and his bishop was reluctant to ordain him.  He did so in 1815 only because there was a shortage of priests.  He was then sent to the remote French community of Ars in 1818 to be a parish priest.

Upon his arrival, the priest immediately began praying and working for the conversion of his parishioners. Although he saw himself as unworthy of his mission as pastor, he allowed himself to be consumed by the love of God as he served the people.

St. John Vianney slowly helped to revive the community’s faith through both his prayers and the witness of his life. He gave powerful homilies on the mercy and love of God, and it is said that even staunch sinners were converted upon hearing him. In addition, he restored his church, formed an orphanage, and cared for the poor.

His reputation as a confessor grew rapidly, and pilgrims traveled from all over France to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Firmly committed to the conversion of the people, he would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Plagued by many trials and besieged by the devil, St. John Vianney remained firm in his faith, and lived a life of devotion to God. Dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, he spent much time in prayer and practiced much mortification. He lived on little food and sleep, while working without rest in unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness, until he was well into his 70s.

St. John Vianney died on August 4, 1859. More than a thousand people attended his funeral, including the bishop and priests of the diocese, who already viewed his life as a model of priestly holiness.

The Holy Curé of Ars was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron of priests. Over 450,000 pilgrims travel to Ars every year in remembrance of his holy life.

Almighty and merciful God, who didst wonderfully endue Saint John Vianney with pastoral zeal and a continual desire for prayer and penance: grant, we beseech thee; that by his example and intercession, we may win the souls of our brethren for Christ, and with them attain glory everlasting; 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.

01 August 2017

The Portiuncula Indulgence


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

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

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

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

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

St. Eusebius of Vercelli


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

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

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

Lead us, O Lord God, to imitate the constancy of Saint Eusebius in affirming the divinity of thy Son: that, by preserving the faith he taught as thy Bishop, we may merit a share in the very life of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

31 July 2017

St. Alphonsus Liguori


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

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

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

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

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

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


O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be enabled to attain in gladness unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

30 July 2017

St. Ignatius of Loyola


St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball and a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he read the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith. Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.  He died at the age of 65.

- This account is from Catholic Online.

Almighty God, from whom all good things come: Thou didst call St. Ignatius of Loyola to the service of thy Divine Majesty and to find thee in all things. Inspired by his example and strengthened by his companionship, may we labour without counting the cost and seek no reward other than knowing that we do thy will; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

28 July 2017

St. Martha of Bethany


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

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

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

Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

25 July 2017

Ss. Joachim and Anne


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

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

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

O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy lovingkindness; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 July 2017

St. James the Greater

Santiago de Compostela, hanging at the entrance to the Lady Chapel


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

Along with Peter and his brother John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, who witnessed the Transfiguration, were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemani. Like his brother, he was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after Jesus' resurrection.

His prominence and his presence in Jerusalem must have been well known, for scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection, he became involved in the political maneuverings of the day and was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat to Judaism.

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

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Sharbel Makhluf


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

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

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

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

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

O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Sharbel Makhluf, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 July 2017

St. Mary Magdalene


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


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

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.


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

20 July 2017

St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Born on 22 July 1559, and dying on 22 July 1619, St. Lawrence of Brindisi lived exactly sixty years. In that time he became a brilliant scholar, a devout and holy priest, a renowned linguist, an outstanding diplomat – and for many of those years he served as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchins.

His writings fill fifteen volumes, and his knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to preach so effectively to the Jewish people in Italy that the rabbis were certain that Lawrence must have been a Jew who had become a Christian. His skills in dealing with people meant that he served as a papal emissary to many countries, but he never forgot that he was first and foremost a priest.

There is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints, who are named “Doctor of the Church,” and this title indicates that the writings and preaching of such a person are useful to Christians "in any age of the Church." Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was given this title, and he is one of the thirty-six saints to be named “Doctor.”

For some reason, his father insisted that his baptismal name was to be Julius Caesar, and that was done shortly after his birth at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins, and it was upon entering the monastery that he was given the name Lawrence. During his studies at the University of Padua, he showed an aptitude for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and he also showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible.

While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination captured the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. He was sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses. While there, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims who were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to unify Catholics for the purpose of strengthening the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.

His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having earned "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."

Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 July 2017

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


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

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

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

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

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

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

17 July 2017

Fr. Peter J. Scagnelli, 1949-2017


A good friend and brother priest, Fr. Peter J. Scagnelli, died this past Wednesday. This is a picture of him when I was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. The ceremony called for a priest to present the one to be ordained to the bishop, and he did that for me.

It was just a year ago that God gave me the overwhelming feeling that I should go to Massachusetts and visit him. Although we kept in constant touch by telephone and text, we hadn't actually seen one another in several years. It was a wonderful visit. We had three days together, and although conversation was difficult because of his illness, we knew exactly what we were wanting to say. We shared old times, and we talked about God and about how good He has been to both of us. We prayed together, and I offered Mass in his little chapel.

As I looked at him sitting in his chair, with his precious companion Rex (a Siamese cat) by his side, he looked physically frail but I knew him to be a spiritual giant whom God had used to change my life.  When it was time for me to leave he stood on the porch and made the sign of the cross in my direction.  We both knew it was the last time we would see one another in this life.

I'm not exactly certain about the finer details of how the cleansing of purgatory works, but I'm thinking that he won't need much more than a quick brush-up, and he'll be good to go. It was a brain tumor that took him, and the suffering he endured was unimaginable to me. I don't mean the physical suffering so much, but the distress of having a brilliant mind and being unable to put into words what he wanted to say. It must have been terrible for him.

I have often recounted the story of how we first met:

I was a young Episcopal cleric just returned to Rhode Island from a stint of serving in the Anglican Diocese of Bristol, England. The parish I had come to was middle-to-high: vestments, occasional incense, a few statues strategically placed.

There was a parishioner who wanted us to have a new statue of St. Joseph. The old statue was small and not in terribly good shape. I was deputized to find a new one, but there were a couple of requirements. It had to be two feet tall and it had to be cheap. The only solution was to go to a local religious goods store and look for something that might look half-way acceptable if the lights were dim.

I found one. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was acceptable. “Wrap it up and I’ll take it,” I told the clerk. “Sorry, sir, but this is the last one and we don’t have a box for it,” was the reply. A dilemma. I was driving a Volkswagen, and the back seat was already fairly full with a child’s car seat and other assorted items. The only option I could see was to stand it up in the passenger’s seat and strap the seat belt around it, which I did.

I was just closing the passenger door. St. Joseph was safely strapped in, facing ram-rod straight ahead. I heard a voice behind me. “You might want to let him drive.” I turned around to see a young priest about my age, with a grin on his face. We exchanged quips about the statue with the seat belt, and then began to chat about other things. We quickly discovered that my Episcopal parish and his Catholic parish were located fairly close to one another. We seemed to click, we made lunch plans, and one of the most important friendships of my life began.

We got together regularly to talk. It didn’t take long for our discussions to turn into question and answer sessions – me asking the questions, and him giving the answers. I wanted to know about the Catholic faith. And he told me. He was always gentle in his answers, but he never watered down the truth. Even if the issue was a difficult one, he always told me what the Church teaches. I was grateful for that. I would have resented it if I had discovered that he was tailoring what he said to make it fit what he might have thought I wanted to hear. I learned Catholic truth, and when it was presented to me in its fullness and in its beauty, I knew I had to embrace it. I believed it completely.

How grateful I am to St. Joseph. Without saying a word, he helped bring me into the Catholic Church by introducing me to a faithful Catholic priest. The statue may not have been very beautiful, but everything else in the story is.


As I said, he died last Wednesday. That's the day of the week traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph, patron of a holy death. We always remembered that it was St. Joseph who had brought us together as friends and eventually as brother priests.

So it was a good day for him to die, and it was a good day for him to be born into eternal life.

16 July 2017

"Lantern of the Lothians"

One of the truly beautiful hymn tunes in the Church’s treasury is David Evans’ “Lucerna Laudoniae.” The name of the tune means “Lantern of the Lothians,” which was a Franciscan monastery at Haddington, East Lothian in Scotland. The monastery was destroyed in 1355, but in the fifteenth-century a church was built on the site – and it is now immortalized by this simple and dignified hymn tune.

There are several texts which have made use of the tune, perhaps the most famous being “For the beauty of the earth.” Some years ago I wrote the following words specifically for the tune.

Jesus Christ, our Saviour King,
unto thee thy people sing;
hear the prayers we humbly make,
hear them for thy mercy’s sake.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls, and make us thine.

Give us eyes that we may see;
give us hearts to worship thee;
give us ears that we may hear;
in thy love, Lord, draw us near.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In our darkness, shed thy light;
lift us to thy heav’nly height;
may we be thy dwelling-place,
tabernacles of thy grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
fill our souls and make us thine.

In thy Kingdom grant us rest,
in Jerusalem the blest;
with the saints our lips shall sing,
with the angels echoing:
Lord Jesus Christ, O Lamb Divine,
thou dost reign, and we are thine!


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips (1990)
Music: “Lucerna Laudoniae”

14 July 2017

St. Bonaventure

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

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

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

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

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

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O God, by whose providence blessed Bonaventure was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Prayer of St. Bonaventure.

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

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

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