30 September 2013

Embraced by a saint...

Near the pulpit is a very special window. It's special, not because it's of rare artistic value or of great age.  In fact, as stained glass, it's very nice but not remarkable.  No, it's special because of the occasion it commemorates.  This is the story:
In 1983 I was a newly-ordained priest. In November of that year, it was my privilege to be in Rome to take part in developing The Book of Divine Worship. During that time an invitation was extended to celebrate Mass with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his private chapel. After we had said Mass, and in those few moments I had with the Holy Father, he told me that he remembered considering the request for my ordination, and he described how he came to an affirmative decision. For me, our brief conversation was an experience which will be treasured forever. At the conclusion of our time together, I asked him if I could take his blessing back to the people of my parish. His very simple words remain precious to me: "With all my heart, I bless you and your people." He then embraced me, and I knew that I was forever "home in my Father's house."
The world has now learned that Bl. John Paul II will be canonized next April, on Mercy Sunday, forever to be known as St. John Paul II.  

Here are a few pictures showing the details of the window.
 
The Coat of Arms of Bl. John Paul II is at the top,
connected by the grape vine to our parish symbol of the Pelican.
 
 
The words spoken to me by the Holy Father:
 

The date and place:

 
Detail showing the Pelican (a symbol of the Atonement):
 

The name of the parish and the date of its founding:

 

And here is the picture of the occasion which is commemorated in the window.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus


Marie Thérèse Martin was born into a family of very faithful Catholics, and she was the youngest of five daughters. Her father was a watchmaker, and her mother, Zelie, who died when Thérèse was four, was a lace maker.

While still a child she felt the attraction of the cloister, and at fifteen obtained permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux, taking the name of Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. For the next nine years she lived a very ordinary religious life. There are no miracles or exceptional experiences recorded about her. She attained a very high degree of holiness simply by carrying out her ordinary daily duties with perfect faithfulness, having a childlike confidence in God's providence and merciful love and by being ready to be at the service of others at all times. She also had a great love of the Church and a zeal for the conversion of souls, and she prayed especially for priests.

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

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

29 September 2013

St. Jerome the Grouch


St. Jerome's Cave, Bethlehem.

I deeply admire St. Jerome, the great biblical scholar, monk, and grouch extraordinaire. He certainly didn’t hold back his thoughts.

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

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

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

No wonder he ended up living in a cave.

28 September 2013

The Holy Archangels


O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thine appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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


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


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


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

Newman's pulpit


Whenever I speak of my conversion to the Catholic Church, I always reference the great influence of Blessed John Henry Newman upon me, especially his "Apologia pro vita sua" which I read during my undergraduate studies.

While on our recent pilgrimage to England we were able to visit Littlemore, just outside of Oxford. It was there that Newman made his retreat when he resigned as Vicar of the University Church, St. Mary's, Oxford, and it was there that he was received into the Catholic Church on 9 October 1845, by Blessed Dominic Barberi. While we were there, I had the great privilege of saying Mass in the little chapel where Blessed John Henry Newman entered into full Catholic communion, and where he received his First Holy Communion as a Catholic layman.

While we were in Oxford we visited the great University Church where Newman served for some years as Vicar, and it was from the pulpit pictured here that he preached his magnificent sermons, which drew huge crowds and which led many people to say, "It was as though one of the ancient Church Fathers had come into our midst."

26 September 2013

St. Vincent de Paul


St. Vincent was born of poor parents in a little village in France, in about 1580. He was able to go to school, which was run by a community of Franciscans, and it was there that he learned the value of humility and poverty, and the importance of serving others. Young Vincent was a good student, and in fact, he made such good progress that when he was in his fourth year of school, a wealthy man chose him to be a tutor for his own children, and Vincent was able to continue his studies at the same time, using the money he earned to pay for his education. When he was about sixteen, he went to the University for his theological studies, and he was eventually ordained to the priesthood.

St. Vincent was a very young priest in 1605, and he was travelling on a ship off the coast of France, when the ship was attacked by a band of pirates. They were Muslims from north Africa, and they captured St. Vincent and carried him off to Tunis, where he was sold into slavery. He lived as a slave for about two years, but then he managed to escape. Having gained his freedom, he went immediately to Rome to give thanks to God, and he then returned to France. Once again he became a tutor for the children of a wealthy family, and it was during that time that he had an important experience which changed the direction of his life.

There was a poor servant in the household who was dying. St. Vincent went to him to hear his last confession and to prepare him for death, and as he visited him, St. Vincent realized that the poor and those who worked in service to others really hadn’t been receiving very much spiritual care. When he brought this to the attention of his employers, they urged him to do what he thought best to remedy the situation. He began to a great ministry to the poor, preaching missions so they could know the Gospel, and he founded a religious community for men and also another for women, whose purpose was to serve the poor.

St. Vincent’s work was recognized throughout the Church, and although many wanted to honor him, he himself remained completely humble, continuing his work for the poor. He became known as the Apostle of Charity, continuing his work, until he died at the age of eighty. His work continues through the communities of priests and sisters which he established, and also through the Church’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which encourages laypeople to join in the work of alleviating the needs of the poor.

O God, who didst endue thy blessed Saint Vincent with apostolic virtue, to the intent that he should preach thy Gospel to the poor, and stablish the honor of the priesthood of thy Church: Grant we beseech thee; that we may so hold in reverence his works of righteousness, that we may learn to follow the pattern of his godly conversation; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

25 September 2013

Ss. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs


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

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

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

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

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

Almighty and Everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of thy holy martyrs Saints Cosmas and Damian: 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 Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

24 September 2013

The latest "Crusader Times"


If you'd like to know what's going on at The Atonement Academy, have a look at the latest Crusader Times. You can read it at this link.

23 September 2013

Our Lady of Walsingham

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

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

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

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

O God, who through the mystery of the Word made flesh didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the blessed Virgin Mary, and wondrously place it in the bosom of thy Church: Grant that being made separate from the tabernacles of sinners, we may become worthy to dwell in thy holy house; 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.

20 September 2013

St. Matthew, Apostle and Martyr


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

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

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

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

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

19 September 2013

The Holy Martyrs of Korea


On September 20, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, the martyrs of Korea.

The Catholic faith came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Peking to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly about twelve years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom didn’t come until 1883.

In the meantime, there were horrible persecutions against the Christians. The major religion in Korea consisted of ancestor worship, and this was considered to be a cornerstone of their society. If anyone refused to take part in ancestor worship, they were considered traitors to the country, and would be killed. Obviously, Catholics would not be able to be part of that, and as a result, more than 8,000 of them were executed, and in unspeakable ways. Most of them were simple country people, whose names were known only to those closest to them. 103 of them were canonized by name, by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

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

17 September 2013

A return of the Old Faith


We arrived in Bury St. Edmunds and went directly to the Anglican Cathedral of St. James, where we were welcomed as though we were long-lost family. They had expressed the hope that we would celebrate our pilgrimage Mass there, which we did. The sacristan had prepared the Lady Chapel for our use, vestments were laid out, the chalice and ciborium were in place. The verger asked if he could ring the tower bell at the consecration, and I told him no doubt our Lord would be delighted!

And so a Catholic Mass was once more offered on this site of the ancient abbey which was once a great pilgrimage site protecting the relics of St. Edmund. The abbey is no more, and this Anglican cathedral stands in one of its former chapels, but we felt the grace of once more offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where it had been offered countless times before...a return of the Old Faith.

16 September 2013

Our pilgrimage continues...

I've been posting pictures of our pilgrimage through England at this link.  We were at the Shrine in Walsingham yesterday, and now we're in Oxford.  Later we're going on to Cambridge and eventually back to London.  We've celebrated Masses in wonderful places associated with the Catholic faith in England, and have visited many historic sites which are now Anglican, but with roots in the Catholic Church.

The Slipper Chapel at Walsingham

15 September 2013

St. Cornelius & St. Cyprian

Rome had been without a bishop for about a year because of the persecution of the Emperor Decius. Cornelius was elected Bishop of Rome in 251. Although it was a time of persecution, that wasn’t the biggest problem he had to face. Divisions in the Church had been taking place, stemming from the argument about whether or not the Church could forgive a person’s very serious sins – for instance, if someone had turned away from their faith, but then wanted to return to the Church, the question was whether the Church could give forgiveness and take that person back. A fairly popular priest during that time named Novatian was against the practice of giving forgiveness. He claimed that the Church had no power to pardon those who had lapsed during time of persecution. The same applied to cases of murder, and other serious sins. In fact, Novatian felt so strongly about this that he set himself up as a rival pope.

However, St. Cornelius, with the strong support of St. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage in North Africa, insisted that the Church did have the power to forgive apostates and other sinners, and that they could be re-admitted to Holy Communion after having performed an appropriate period of penance. Some letters of Cornelius to Cyprian together with Cyprian’s replies have survived.

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

His great friend and supporter, St. Cyprian was from a very wealthy pagan background, but he became a Christian, and was known as a great orator. After his baptism he distributed most of his wealth to the poor, and was eventually ordained as a priest, and then became the bishop of the city where he had grown up, Carthage. Just as Pope Cornelius faced persecution, so did Cyprian. He was a strong defender of the teaching of Cornelius, and even though they lived a continent apart, after they were both martyred, they were always linked together in the mind of the Church as having stood up for the mercy of God, and His desire to forgive the sins of those who repented.
O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyrs St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them 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.

13 September 2013

St. John Chrysostom


St. John Chrysostom is known as one of the greatest preachers in the long history of the Church, and surely his homilies form a major legacy, but John lived at a time and in circumstances which demanded great holiness – something which God granted him in abundance.

John was born in 347, the son of Christian parents. His mother, Anthusa, was widowed at the age of twenty, soon after his birth. Anthusa gave all of her attention to her son. She gave him the best classical education available, and he was enrolled as a catechumen when he was eighteen. He came under the influence of Bishop Meletius of Antioch, who baptized him and ordained him lector.

At this time, John felt called to lead the life of a monk-hermit. He took up residence in a cave, spent his time studying the Scriptures, and put himself under the discipline of an elderly hermit named Hesychius. The discipline was demanding and austere, eventually breaking the health of John. He returned to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest, and he came to be known as a great preacher.

During the next twelve years the people of Antioch were enthralled with his sermons. He preached with a depth of knowledge and persuasiveness that were memorable to those who heard him. It was during this time that he received the nickname of Chrysostom, or “golden mouth,” because it was commonly said that “his words are like pure gold.” In the year 397, the Emperor Arcadius appointed John Chrysostom to the vacant See of Constantinople. It was feared that John’s humility would lead him to refuse the position, so he had to be lured to Constantinople, where he subsequently was consecrated bishop in 398.

It was not a peaceful or holy place in which John Chrysostom found himself. There was an abundance of political intrigue. Fraud and extravagance were the order of the day. Those around him were driven by their raw ambition to be advanced in their positions. John Chrysostom brought about immediate changes: he immediately cut back expenses; he gave generously to the poor; he constructed hospitals. He set about reforming the clergy, called the monks back to a life of discipline, and reminded all the people of the importance of leading faithful and moral lives.

As might be expected, his program of reforms made enemies – especially the Empress Eudoxia along with Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. With the city of Constantinople in an uproar and his life under threat, John was exiled by the emperor in the year 404.

The situation continued to deteriorate, with the papal envoys being imprisoned, and John (who was defended by the pope and who had ordered John to be restored to his See) was sent even further into exile. Eventually he found himself six hundred miles from Constantinople, across the Black Sea. St. John Chrysostom was weary and he was sick. He died in exile in the year 407, and yet his last words were, "Glory to God for all things."

O God, who didst give to thy servant St. John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


12 September 2013

Mass at Brompton Oratory

We continue our pilgrimage in England, and today we celebrated Mass at the wonderful London Brompton Oratory. If you'd like to follow our pilgrimage through the pictures I post daily, you'll find them at this Facebook link.


11 September 2013

We're on pilgrimage...

A group of us from the parish are on pilgrimage in England.  If you'd like to keep up with us, I'm posting pictures of our daily doings on my Facebook, which you are welcome to view at this link.

Offering Mass at St. James' Spanish Place, London.

08 September 2013

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy." – St. John Damascene
The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated as a universal liturgical feast at least from the sixth century. Its origin can be traced to the occasion of the consecration of a church in Jerusalem just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, near the Pool of Bethesda — a church built on the traditional site of the house of Ss. Joachim and Anne. There they lived as husband and wife. Their love for God and for each other brought them the precious gift of their daughter, Mary. From the earliest years, the Church venerated the place where Mary was born, and the liturgical remembrance began to spread beyond Jerusalem. Within a few years it was celebrated in Rome, having been introduced by monks from the East, and the celebration included a procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Although the actual date of Mary’s birth isn’t known, the Church settled on September 8th, and the celebration Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was fixed on December 8th, as the date corresponding to nine months before the celebration of her Nativity. The two feasts commemorating Mary's conception and her birth can be seen as forming a kind of bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin, God completed the new Ark – the living Temple – in which He would dwell. Because of that there is no more need for the old Temple, and through Mary, Jesus the Incarnate God has come to us to incorporate us into the New Israel.
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 her Nativity may avail for the increase 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.

05 September 2013

"Icon of the Good Samaritan..."


On August 26, 1910 a baby girl was born to a couple of Albanian heritage in Skopje, Macedonia. She was baptized with the name of Agnes, and she grew up in a loving and devoutly Catholic household. When she was eight years old, her father died, leaving her mother with the responsibility of supporting the family, which she did by opening a shop which dealt in embroidery and fabric.

Young Agnes helped her mother, and was also deeply involved in the life of their parish church, but when she was eighteen she felt the call to religious life. She left home in September of 1928, travelling to Dublin, Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant at the Loreto Convent. It was there that she received the religious name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux, and she was known as Sr. Mary Teresa.

After her postulancy in Ireland, Sr. Teresa was sent to India, where she was to spend her novitiate. She arrived in Calcutta on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1929, and went immediately into the Loreto convent in Darjeeling. It was on May 24, 1937, that she professed her final vows, and during the 1930’s and 1940’s she taught at a Catholic girls’ school in Calcutta, and came to be known as Mother Teresa.

It was on September 10, 1946 that she was on the train going from Calcutta to Darjeeling. As she later recalled it, it was during that journey that she was given what she termed a “call within a call.” This was when she received the inspiration which would lead to the founding of the Missionaries of Charity. Within her call to religious life she felt the call to establish a new religious institute which would have as its mission, “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love of souls,” and this would be accomplished by “laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” This came to fruition on October 7, 1950, when the new congregation of the Missionaries of charity was erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

Her work had begun in a small way. She washed the sores of sick children; she nursed a woman dying of starvation and tuberculosis; she cared for a homeless man who was without any family, and near death. One by one, some of her former students joined her in the work. Their day would begin with Mass and Holy Communion, and then they would set out on the streets of Calcutta – they were recognizable by their white saris with blue borders – and they had the purpose of caring for the “poorest of the poor,” who had no one to care for them. They searched them out as though searching for Jesus Himself.

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s the work expanded, as did the number of those joining the Missionaries of Charity. They worked not only in Calcutta, but throughout India. Then, in 1965, Pope Paul VI raised the congregation from an archdiocesan institute to one of pontifical right, and they began to spread throughout the world, going first to Venezuela, then into Europe and Africa, eventually opening houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America.

In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and by that time there were 158 Missionaries of Charity foundations throughout the world, and its growth continued, until by 1997 there were nearly 4,000 Sisters in 600 foundations, in 123 countries of the world. In the summer of 1997, after an extensive trip to visit her sisters in Rome, New York, and Washington, Mother Teresa’s health was failing. She returned to Calcutta, and on September 5, 1997, she died at the Motherhouse, very near the Loreto convent where she had arrived some sixty-nine years earlier.

At her death she was mourned throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands came to Calcutta to pray and pay their respect to this remarkable woman. She was given a state funeral, and her body was taken in procession throughout the streets of Calcutta, where she herself had searched out the “poorest of the poor.” After only two years, in recognition of her sanctity, special permission was given to open her cause, and she was beatified on October 19, 2003 after the miraculous healing of an Indian woman through the intercession of Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. In speaking of her, Blessed John Paul II called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

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, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; 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.

03 September 2013

Pope St. Gregory the Great


St. Gregory, truly "the Great," served the Church as Supreme Pontiff from 590 until 604.  After serving the city of Rome as a senator and prefect, all by the age of thirty, he gave himself to God by entering religious life as a Benedictine monk.  It was during his time as abbot that this famous incident took place, recorded in The Golden Legend:

It happed afterward that as Saint Gregory passed through the market of Rome, and saw there two fair children white and ruddy of visage, and fair yellow hair which were for to sell. And Saint Gregory demanded from whence they were, and the merchant answered, of England. After Saint Gregory demanded if they were christian, and he answered: Nay, but that they were paynims. Then sighed Saint Gregory and said: Alas, what fair people hath the devil in his doctrine and in his domination. After he demanded how these people were called: he answered that they were called Angles men; then he said they may well be so called for they have the visage of angels.

Abbot Gregory eventually became Pope. In addition to his tremendous influence on the liturgical and musical life of the Church, he remembered the Angle children he had seen in the slave market. He sent forty Benedictine monks to England, and among their number was St. Augustine of Canterbury. The rest, as they say, is history...

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

02 September 2013

In our daily work...


Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who declarest thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men; for the sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.