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.

08 August 2014

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.

Almighty and everlasting God, who dost choose those whom the world deemeth powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of thy holy martyr St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

07 August 2014

St. Dominic, Priest and Founder


Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:

The Martyrology gives the following: "At Bologna (upper Italy) the holy confessor Dominic, the saintly and learned founder of the Order of Preachers. He preserved his virginity inviolate and gained for himself the grace of raising three dead persons to life. By his word he crushed heresy in the bud and led many souls to piety and to religious life."

Born about 1175 in Castile (Spain), Dominic hailed from the illustrious Guzman family. First he was a canon regular at Osma; then he founded the Dominican Order, which was approved in 1216. Alongside the Franciscans, it became the most powerful Order in medieval times, giving the Church illustrious preachers — St. Vincent Ferrer, and contemplatives, Sts. Thomas of Aquinas and Pius V — and contributing immeasurably to maintaining the purity of the faith. Through the example of apostolic poverty and the preaching of the word of God the Friar Preachers were to lead men to Christ. To St. Dominic is attributed the origin and spread of the holy rosary.

The two contemporaries, Dominic and Francis, effected a tremendous spiritual rejuvenation through their own spiritual personalities and through their religious foundations. Of the two, Dominic was the realist who surpassed the other intellectually and in organizational talent. His spirit of moderation, clarity of thought, and burning zeal for souls have become the heritage of the Dominican Order. Legend has contributed the following rare anecdote as preserved in the Breviary: "During pregnancy, Dominic's mother dreamed she was carrying in her womb a little dog that held a burning torch between its teeth; and when she had given birth, it set the whole world on fire. By this dream it was made manifest beforehand how Dominic would inflame the nations to the practice of Christian virtue through the brightness of his holy example and the fiery ardor of his preaching." He died at Bologna upon hearing the liturgy's prayer for the dying: "Come, ye saints of God, hasten hither, ye angels!"

O God of the prophets, who didst open the eyes of thy servant Saint Dominic to perceive a famine of hearing the word of the Lord, and didst move him, and those he did draw about him, to satisfy that hunger with sound preaching and fervent devotion: Make thy Church, dear Lord, in this and every age, attentive to the hungers of the world, and quick to respond in love to those who are perishing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

06 August 2014

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 2014

The Transfiguration of Our Lord


At the time of the transfiguration 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. Not far off on a mountaintop would it be built, but a tabernacle which is to be 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 to make the most glorious tabernacle.


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 thy well beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.

04 August 2014

Dedication of St. Mary Major


From The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch:

St. Mary Major is important to Christendom for three reasons.

- It stands as a venerable monument to the Council of Ephesus (431), at which the dogma of Mary's divine Motherhood was solemnly defined; the definition of the Council occasioned a most notable increase in the veneration paid to Mary.

- The basilica is Rome's "church of the crib," a kind of Bethlehem within the Eternal City; it also is a celebrated station church, serving, for instance, as the center for Rome's liturgy for the first Mass on Christmas. In some measure every picture of Mary with the divine Child is traceable to this church.

- St. Mary Major is Christendom's first Marian shrine for pilgrims. It set the precedent for the countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honor our Blessed Mother throughout the world. Here was introduced an authentic expression of popular piety that has been the source of untold blessings and graces for Christianity in the past as in the present.

The beginnings of St. Mary Major date to the Constantinian period. Originally it was called the Sicinini Basilica; it was the palace of a patrician family by that name before its transformation into a church by Pope Liberius. The story of its origin is legendary, dating from the Middle Ages. The Breviary gives this version: "Liberius was on the chair of Peter (352-366) when the Roman patrician John and his wife, who was of like nobility, vowed to bequeath their estate to the most holy Virgin and Mother of God, for they had no children to whom their property could go. The couple gave themselves to assiduous prayer, beseeching Mary to make known to them in some way what pious work they should subsidize in her honor.

Mary answered their petition and confirmed her reply by means of the following miracle. On the fifth of August — a time when it is unbearably hot in the city of Rome — a portion of the Esquiline would be covered with snow during the night. During that same night the Mother of God directed John and his wife in separate dreams to build a church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the site where they would see snow lying. For it was in this manner that she wanted her inheritance to be used.

John immediately reported the whole matter to Pope Liberius, and he declared that a similar dream had come to him. Accompanied by clergy and people, Liberius proceeded on the following morning in solemn procession to the snow-covered hill and there marked off the area on which the church in Mary's honor was to be constructed.

Under Pope Sixtus III (432-440) the basilica was rebuilt, and upon the occasion of the definition of Mary's divine Motherhood by the Council of Ephesus, consecrated to her honor (432). He decorated the apse and walls with mosaics from the lives of Christ and His blessed Mother, which even to this day beautify the church and belong to the oldest we possess. As early as the end of the fourth century a replica of the Bethlehem nativity grotto had been added; on this account the edifice became known as "St. Mary of the Crib." To the Christian at Rome this church is Bethlehem. Other names for the basilica are: Liberian Basilica, because it dates to the time of Pope Liberius; St. Mary Major (being the largest church in Mary's honor in Rome); Our Lady of the Snow, because of the miracle that supposedly occasioned its erection.

We could point out how the divine Motherhood mystery dominates all Marian liturgy; for the Theotokos doctrine has kept Mariology Christo-centric in the Church's worship. Although recent popular devotion to Mary has become to a certain extent soft and sentimental and has, one may say, erected its own sanctuary around Mary as the center, devotion to our Blessed Mother in the liturgy has always remained oriented to Christ. In the liturgy the divine Motherhood has always been the bridge from Mary to Jesus. One need only examine Matins in honor of Mary or the Masses from her Common to be reassured. Everywhere Christ takes the central position, and Mary is the Christbearer.

Pope Liberius tracing the outline of the basilica in the August snowfall.

The High Altar.
Reliquary containing the major relic of the Manger.

An account from the Anglican Breviary...

"THIS feast is in commemoration of the first church to be dedicated in Rome under the invocation of our Lady, and the third of those Christian temples in the City known as Patriarchal Basilicas. The origin of this building, according to an old story, popular in ancient times, was as followeth. In the middle of the fourth century, during the pontificate of Pope Liberius, there lived at Rome a certain nobleman named John, and a noble lady his wife, who had no children to whom to leave their substance, and who vowed that they would make the holy Virgin Mother of God their heiress. And earnestly they besought her in some way to make known to them upon what godly work she would have their money spent. And thereupon (so saith the story) the blessed Virgin graciously listened to the heart-felt earnestness of their prayers, and by a wondrous sign assured them of her will.

"ON the fifth day of August, which is the time when the heat of summer waxeth greatest in Rome, a part of the Esquiline Hill was covered at night with snow. And some scholars think that such a strange and unseasonable fall of snow did take place, and so gave rise to the old tale, which goeth on to say on this same night the Mother of God appeared in a dream to John and his wife separately, and told them that on that spot, which in the morning they could see clad in snow, they should build a church, to be dedicated under the name of the Virgin Mary, for that this was the way in which she chose that they should make her their heiress. Then John went and told it to Pope Liberius, who declared that he also had been visited by a like dream.

"THEREFORE Pope Liberius went in a solemn procession of clergy and people to the snow-clad hill, and traced upon that spot the plan of the church, which same was afterwards built with the money of John and his wife. And later it was rebuilt by Saint Pope Sixtus III. At the beginning it was called by divers names, sometimes the Liberian Basilica, sometimes the Church of Saint Mary-at-the-Manger (because of the presence there of a relick revered as the Manger in which our infant Lord lay), and so on. Howbeit, since there are in Rome many churches called after the holy Virgin Mary, and this church, both in age and dignity, doth excel them all, it is commonly called St. Mary Major. And the memory of the dedication there of is kept every year by this feast-day that taketh name from the strange fall of snow which is said to have taken place on this day."

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of thy heavenly grace: That like as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us thy servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of the dedication of her Basilica may avail for the increasing of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

03 August 2014

St. Jean-Marie Vianney


St. Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé d'Ars, was born near Lyons, France, on 8 May, 1786.  He was an unremarkable student and his bishop was reluctant to ordain him.  He did so only because there was a shortage of priests.  He was sent to the parish of Ars, a place which showed little promise for any kind of religious revival.  Through his simple sanctity, long hours of hearing confessions, and forthright preaching, St. John Vianney was used by God to transform the lives of those under his pastoral care.  Here is an excerpt from one of his sermons on "The Lukewarm Soul."

A lukewarm soul is not yet quite dead in the eyes of God because the faith, the hope, and the charity which are its spiritual life are not altogether extinct. But it is a faith without zeal, a hope without resolution, a charity without ardour....

Nothing touches this soul: it hears the word of God, yes, that is true; but often it just bores it. Its possessor hears it with difficulty, more or less by habit, like someone who thinks that he knows enough about it and does enough of what he should.

Any prayers which are a bit long are distasteful to him. This soul is so full of whatever it has just been doing or what it is going to do next, its boredom is so great, that this poor unfortunate thing is almost in agony. It is still alive, but it is not capable of doing anything to gain Heaven....

For the last twenty years this soul has been filled with good intentions without doing anything at all to correct its habits.

It is like someone who is envious of anyone who is on top of the world but who would not deign to lift a foot to try to get there himself. It would not, however, wish to renounce eternal blessings for those of the world. Yet it does not wish either to leave the world or to go to Heaven, and if it can just manage to pass its time without crosses or difficulties, it would never ask to leave this world at all. If you hear someone with such a soul say that life is long and pretty miserable, that is only when everything is not going in accordance with his desires. If God, in order to force such a soul to detach itself from temporal things, sends it any cross or suffering, it is fretful and grieving and abandons itself to grumbles and complaints and often even to a kind of despair. It seems as if it does not want to see that God has sent it these trials for its good, to detach it from this world and to draw it towards Himself. What has it done to deserve these trials? In this state a person thinks in his own mind that there are many others more blameworthy than himself who have not to submit to such trials.

In prosperous times the lukewarm soul does not go so far as to forget God, but neither does it forget itself. It knows very well how to boast about all the means it has employed to achieve its prosperity. It is quite convinced that many others would not have achieved the same success. It loves to repeat that and to hear it repeated, and every time it hears it, it is with fresh pleasure. The individual with the lukewarm soul assumes a gracious air when associating with those who flatter him. But towards those who have not paid him the respect which he believes he has deserved or who have not been grateful for his kindnesses, he maintains an air of frigid indifference and seems to indicate to them that they are ungrateful creatures who do not deserve to receive the good which he has done them....

If I wanted to paint you an exact picture, my brethren, of the state of a soul which lives in tepidity, I should tell you that it is like a tortoise or a snail. It moves only by dragging itself along the ground, and one can see it getting from place to place with great difficulty. The love of God, which it feels deep down in itself, is like a tiny spark of fire hidden under a heap of ashes.

The lukewarm soul comes to the point of being completely indifferent to its own loss. It has nothing left but a love without tenderness, without action, and without energy which sustains it with difficulty in all that is essential for salvation. But for all other means of Grace, it looks upon them as nothing or almost nothing. Alas, my brethren, this poor soul in its tepidity is like someone between two bouts of sleep. It would like to act, but its will has become so softened that it lacks either the force or the courage to accomplish its wishes.

It is true that a Christian who lives in tepidity still regularly -- in appearance at least -- fulfils his duties. He will indeed get down on his knees every morning to say his prayers. He will go to the Sacraments every year at Easter and even several times during the course of the twelve months. But in all of this there will be such a distaste, so much slackness and so much indifference, so little preparation, so little change in his way of life, that it is easy to see that he is only fulfilling his duties from habit and routine .... because this is a feast and he is in the habit of carrying them out at such a time. His Confessions and his Communions are not sacrilegious, if you like, but they are Confessions and Communions which bear no fruit -- which, far from making him more perfect and more pleasing to God, only make him more unworthy. As for his prayers, God alone knows what -- without, of course, any preparation -- he makes of these.

In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul; he is quite taken up with thoughts of work. His mind is so wrapped up in the things of earth that the thought of God has no place in it. He is thinking about what he is going to be doing during the day, where he will be sending his children and his various employees, in what way he will expedite his own work. To say his prayers, he gets down on his knees, undoubtedly, but he does not know what he wants to ask God, nor what he needs, nor even before whom he is kneeling. His careless demeanour shows this very clearly. It is a poor man indeed who, however miserable he is, wants nothing at all and loves his poverty. It is surely a desperately sick person who scorns doctors and remedies and clings to his infirmities.

Almighty and merciful God, who didst wonderfully endue Saint John Vianney with pastoral zeal and a continual desire for prayer and repentance: 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 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 importance of the pulpit...

I've long thought that one of the more elegant pieces of ecclesiastical furniture is a well-made pulpit.  Of course, living as we do in the age of Fr. Bob Polyester wandering the aisles with a cordless microphone, it's made the grand pulpits of yesteryear into something quite unfamiliar to many people.  In fact, I've had visitors to the church point and ask what it is.

When we built the church I looked long and hard for someone capable of building a fine pulpit, and was delighted to have been successful in my search.  I remember asking if he could build a wineglass pulpit, and he said that if I'd tell him what it is, he'd try.  I drew a rough sketch on a scrap of paper, and I think the result is very pleasing indeed.

The preacher climbs seven steps, passing a small statue of St. John Vianney midway, and stands beneath a traditional sounding-board.  I find that a formal pulpit such as ours accomplishes a couple of things.  First, it reminds the preacher that he's doing something important; that it's not enough to throw together a few random thoughts, and call it a sermon.  Second, it reminds the congregation that they're hearing something important; namely, the exposition of Holy Scripture and an elucidation of the Catholic Faith.

Our pulpit is in the traditional location, outside the altar rail and on the Gospel side of the nave.  In this way, what Christ did, and what the Church continues to do, is shown by symbol: the Gospel is to be taken to the people and preached in the midst of them.

Here are some pictures of the pulpit at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.  The shape is called "wineglass" for obvious reasons, and there are many examples of this style throughout Europe dating back several hundred years.