31 December 2015

Mary, Mother of God


O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary, hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been accounted worthy to receive the Author of our life, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, December 31st
Vigil Mass at 6:30 p.m.


Friday, January 1st
Low Mass at 8:00 a.m.
Sung Mass at 10:00 a.m.

30 December 2015

St. Sylvester, Pope and Confessor


St. Sylvester was born in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood by Pope St. Marcellinus. This took place during a brief time of peace for the Church, immediately preceding the persecutions of Diocletian. Sylvester was one of the clergy who survived the cruelties during the reign of terror which ensued, and eventually saw the triumph of Constantine in the year 312. Two years later he succeeded St. Melchiades as Bishop of Rome.

The Council of Nicaea was assembled during Pope St. Sylvester's pontificate, in the year 325. By that time he was advanced in years, and so was not able to attend personally. He sent legates to the Council, and because they were the Pope's personal representatives, their names appear first among the signatories of the Decrees, preceding the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. St. Sylvester was Pope for twenty-four years and eleven months, and he died in the year 335.

Be merciful to the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd of our souls: and keep us in thy continual protection at the intercession of Saint Sylvester, whom thou didst raise up to be shepherd of the whole Church; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 December 2015

Lullaby to the Infant Jesus


Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Dear Mary, his Mother, sang sweet lullabies,
as Jesus, awaking, gazed into her eyes.
The most holy Virgin, with loving caress
embraced the world’s Saviour with Love’s tenderness.

Good Joseph stood guarding the Mother and Child,
his soul filled with awe and his heart undefiled.
The birth of young Jesus made angels to sing,
but Joseph in silence kept watch o’er his King.

What once was a stable may our hearts become;
may God’s holy fam’ly in us find a home.
With Mary and Joseph and angels above
we worship the Infant, the gift of God’s Love.

Text: V.1, Traditional,
vv. 2-4, Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1995
Music; CRADLE SONG, William James Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921)

28 December 2015

A good friend and intercessor...

St. Thomas Becket (of Canterbury) has a special place in the devotional life of our parish.  Not only does his image (in the form of a lovely old English statue) keep watch at the tabernacle, but his relics are contained under the stone in our high altar.

O God, for whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas Becket fell by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all who call upon him for succour may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Tabernacle at the High Altar, flanked by St. Stephen (l.) and St. Thomas Becket (r.)


St. Thomas Becket guarding the tabernacle

Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket


The murderers of St. Thomas Becket entered Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170.  They called out for the archbishop, and finding him, they came at him with their swords.  When one of the swords was brandished at the head of Thomas, a young cleric named Edward Grim reached out to protect the archbishop.  As the sword came down, Edward's arm was severed.  He survived, however, and left this account of that terrible day.

After the monks took [Thomas] through the doors of the church, the four aforementioned knights followed behind with a rapid pace. A certain subdeacon, Hugh the Evil-clerk, named for his wicked offense and armed with their malice, went with them - showing no reverence for either God or the saints because by following them he condoned their deed. When the holy archbishop entered the cathedral the monks who were glorifying God abandoned vespers - which they had begun to celebrate for God - and ran to their father whom they had heard was dead but they saw alive and unharmed. They hastened to close the doors of the church in order to bar the enemies from slaughtering the bishop, but the wondrous athlete turned toward them and ordered that the doors be opened. "It is not proper," he said, "that a house of prayer, a church of Christ, be made a fortress since although it is not shut up, it serves as a fortification for his people; we will triumph over the enemy through suffering rather than by fighting - and we come to suffer, not to resist." Without delay the sacrilegious men entered the house of peace and reconciliation with swords drawn; indeed the sight alone as well as the rattle of arms inflicted not a small amount of horror on those who watched. And those knights who approached the confused and disordered people who had been observing vespers but, by now, had run toward the lethal spectacle exclaimed in a rage: "Where is Thomas Becket, traitor of the king and kingdom?" No one responded and instantly they cried out more loudly, "Where is the archbishop?" Unshaken he replied to this voice as it is written, "The righteous will be like a bold lion and free from fear," he descended from the steps to which he had been taken by the monks who were fearful of the knights and said in an adequately audible voice, "Here I am, not a traitor of the king but a priest; why do you seek me?" And [Thomas], who had previously told them that he had no fear of them added, "Here I am ready to suffer in the name of He who redeemed me with His blood; God forbid that I should flee on account of your swords or that I should depart from righteousness." With these words - at the foot of a pillar - he turned to the right. On one side was the altar of the blessed mother of God, on the other the altar of the holy confessor Benedict - through whose example and prayers he had been crucified to the world and his lusts; he endured whatever the murderers did to him with such constancy of the soul that he seemed as if he were not of flesh. The murderers pursued him and asked, "Absolve and restore to communion those you have excommunicated and return to office those who have been suspended." To these words [Thomas] replied, "No penance has been made, so I will not absolve them." "Then you," they said, "will now die and will suffer what you have earned." "And I," he said, "am prepared to die for my Lord, so that in my blood the church will attain liberty and peace; but in the name of Almighty God I forbid that you hurt my men, either cleric or layman, in any way." The glorious martyr acted conscientiously with foresight for his men and prudently on his own behalf, so that no one near him would be hurt as he hastened toward Christ. It was fitting that the soldier of the Lord and the martyr of the Savior adhered to His words when he was sought by the impious, "If it is me you seek, let them leave."

With rapid motion they laid sacrilegious hands on him, handling and dragging him roughly outside of the walls of the church so that there they would slay him or carry him from there as a prisoner, as they later confessed. But when it was not possible to easily move him from the column, he bravely pushed one [of the knights] who was pursuing and drawing near to him; he called him a panderer saying, "Don't touch me, Rainaldus, you who owes me faith and obedience, you who foolishly follow your accomplices." On account of the rebuff the knight was suddenly set on fire with a terrible rage and, wielding a sword against the sacred crown said, "I don't owe faith or obedience to you that is in opposition to the fealty I owe my lord king." The invincible martyr - seeing that the hour which would bring the end to his miserable mortal life was at hand and already promised by God to be the next to receive the crown of immortality - with his neck bent as if he were in prayer and with his joined hands elevated above - commended himself and the cause of the Church to God, St. Mary, and the blessed martyr St. Denis.

He had barely finished speaking when the impious knight, fearing that [Thomas] would be saved by the people and escape alive, suddenly set upon him and, shaving off the summit of his crown which the sacred chrism consecrated to God, he wounded the sacrificial lamb of God in the head; the lower arm of the writer was cut by the same blow. Indeed [the writer] stood firmly with the holy archbishop, holding him in his arms - while all the clerics and monks fled - until the one he had raised in opposition to the blow was severed. Behold the simplicity of the dove, behold the wisdom of the serpent in this martyr who presented his body to the killers so that he might keep his head, in other words his soul and the church, safe; nor would he devise a trick or a snare against the slayers of the flesh so that he might preserve himself because it was better that he be free from this nature! O worthy shepherd who so boldly set himself against the attacks of wolves so that the sheep might not be torn to pieces! and because he abandoned the world, the world - wanting to overpower him - unknowingly elevated him. Then, with another blow received on the head, he remained firm. But with the third the stricken martyr bent his knees and elbows, offering himself as a living sacrifice, saying in a low voice, "For the name of Jesus and the protection of the church I am ready to embrace death." But the third knight inflicted a grave wound on the fallen one; with this blow he shattered the sword on the stone and his crown, which was large, separated from his head so that the blood turned white from the brain yet no less did the brain turn red from the blood; it purpled the appearance of the church with the colors of the lily and the rose, the colors of the Virgin and Mother and the life and death of the confessor and martyr. The fourth knight drove away those who were gathering so that the others could finish the murder more freely and boldly. The fifth - not a knight but a cleric who entered with the knights - so that a fifth blow might not be spared him who had imitated Christ in other things, placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr and (it is horrible to say) scattered the brains with the blood across the floor, exclaiming to the rest, "We can leave this place, knights, he will not get up again."

But during all these incredible things the martyr displayed the virtue of perseverance. Neither his hand nor clothes indicated that he had opposed a murderer - as is often the case in human weakness; nor when stricken did he utter a word, nor did he let out a cry or a sigh, or a sign signaling any kind of pain; instead he held still the head that he had bent toward the unsheathed swords. As his body - which had been mingled with blood and brain - laid on the ground as if in prayer, he placed his soul in Abraham's bosom. Having risen above himself, without doubt, out of love for the Creator and wholly striving for celestial sweetness, he easily received whatever pain, whatever malice, the bloody murderer was able to inflict. And how intrepidly - how devotedly and courageously - he offered himself for the murder when it was made clear that for his salvation and faith this martyr should fight for the protection of others so that the affairs of the church might be managed according to its paternal traditions and decrees.
Below: the site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket.

26 December 2015

Revelation in a cave...


Although St. John's Day is replaced this year with the Feast of the Holy Family, our path usually has us travelling from the Feast of young St. Stephen to the Feast of the aged St. John. And what a journey St. John made, being taken from tending his fishing nets by the Galilean sea to a cave of exile on the island of Patmos. In both places he was called by the Lord Jesus; first, to listen to the Divine Word so he could follow, and second, to record the Divine Word so those of us who have come later can also follow.

It was during a parish pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey a some years ago that we visited the cave in which St. John received the apocalyptic vision. As many holy places as I have visited, rarely have I been as affected as I was while standing in that place. It was there that the Risen Lord spoke to John with a power so overwhelming that a fissure was left overhead, dividing the rock into three pieces as a reminder that the Trinity had revealed the truth on that spot. Every place one looked, there was a reminder of John: the hollow in the rock where he rested his head when he grew so tired he could no longer stand upright; the sloping shelf on which the Revelation was recorded. It was all I could do to keep my shoes on my feet, so clearly was this "holy ground." It seemed as though the breath of history was held in that place, and that the apostle would at any moment appear once again to take up his pen to continue recording the living and awe-full word of the Lord. But of course, that could not be.

Just as the Incarnate Word was born in a cave, so it was in another cave on Patmos that the final word was spoken. What St. John heard there was the last word of truth. There is no more to be revealed.  All we can pray for now is for our increased understanding of what Christ has spoken once for all. Here are the last words the Lord spoke to the last living apostle, recorded with trembling hand:

I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star." The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen.

The Holy Family


Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, who was espoused to St. Joseph.  Because Jesus was part of a family, this provides a singular blessing for each one of our families, because now we have the Holy Family as a model and an inspiration. Of course, the celebration of the Holy Family is much more than just a kind of "patronal feast" for families. It really provides a picture of the Church itself, which is the true Family founded by Christ. The Holy Catholic Church is that family in which St. Joseph is the paternal Guardian, the Blessed Virgin is the maternal Heart, and Jesus is mystically present as the Divine Son. It is the Church which is our true and abiding Family, and our own earthly families can be strengthened by imitating and being consecrated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Almighty God, grant us so to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love, that we might come to the joy and peace of thine eternal home; 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.

St. Stephen, Protomartyr


It’s only the second day of the octave of celebrating the birth of Our Lord, and already we’re commemorating the first one to die for his faith in that same Lord. St. Stephen – the great deacon, the compelling preacher, the martyr whose blood was a seed of faith in St. Paul – his was a life which showed very early that the Catholic faith isn’t for cowards.


Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

25 December 2015

A Visit to the Christmas Crib


In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

OUR FATHER.    HAIL, MARY.    GLORY BE.

V. The Word was made Flesh. R. And dwelt among us.

O Divine Redeemer Jesus Christ, kneeling before thy crib, I believe that thou art the God of infinite majesty, even though I see thee here as a helpless babe. Humbly I adore and thank thee for having so humbled thyself for my salvation as to will to be born in a stable. I thank thee for all thou didst wish to suffer for me in Bethlehem, for thy poverty and humility, for thy nakedness, tears, cold and sufferings.

Would that I could show thee that tenderness which thy Virgin Mother had toward thee, and love thee as she loved thee. Would that I could praise thee with the joy of the angels; that I could kneel before thee with the faith of Saint Joseph; the simplicity of the shepherds. Uniting myself with these first worshippers at the crib, I offer thee the homage of my heart, and I beg that thou wouldest be born spiritually in my soul. Give me, I pray thee, the virtues of thy blessed Nativity.

Fill me with that spirit of renuniciation, of poverty, of humility, which prompted thee to assume the weakness of our nature, and to be born amid destitution and suffering. Grant that from this day forward I may in all things seek thy greater glory, and may enjoy that peace promised to men of good will.

Sweet Babe of Bethlehem, I praise thee, I bless thee, I thank thee. I love thee with all my heart. I desire to worship thee, and to be like thee in all thy holy and blessed ways.

O Holy Mary, as I here adore thy Divine Son, pray for all little children, that they may be protected from all harm and danger, and that they may grow in grace and in favour with God and man.

We pray thee, O Father, that the holy joy of Christmas may fill our minds with thoughts of peace, and our hearts with a sense of thy great love: hasten the time when war being done away, we may love as brethren, and bring in the reign of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

24 December 2015

Salvation is born!


Lest the fact of the Incarnation and the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ become something saccharine, relegated to cards expressing the greetings of the season with stars and angels hovering over nothing, our Holy Mother the Church marks each day of of the year, including Christmastide, with the offering of the Mass, making the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ a present reality. The Child was born for that purpose. The wood of the cradle makes way for the wood of the cross. The infant in the arms of Mary is the Saviour reposed in her arms. The beginning of the Passion of our Lord was at the moment of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Shepherds came to adore the Lamb of God, and the Magi brought gifts in preparation for the death and resurrection of the King of the universe. Here is mysterium tremendum: salvation is born in the stable, salvation is born on the cross, salvation is born on our altars.

O precious Lord, once born for us
in stable small and poor;
be born again within our hearts,
and there let us adore.

As once our Savior thou didst come,
both Man and God divine,
so now thou givest Flesh and Blood
'neath forms of Bread and Wine.

Sweet Fruit of Virgin Mary's womb,
once hid from earthly sight,
may we thy children fruitful be,
and show the world thy Light.

Now stay with us, Lord Jesus Christ,
in solemn Mystery,
that when our work on earth be done
thy glory we may see.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips
Music: St. Botolph, by Gordon Slater

23 December 2015

Pure Love rested here...

Chapel of the Manger, Basilica of the Holy Nativity, Bethlehem.

One of my very earliest Christmas memories was learning to sing "Away in a manger" for a pageant.  I must have been very young indeed, because I can remember it hadn't been too long before that I had stopped sleeping in a crib, and I had the thought that we could probably give the one I had been using to the baby Jesus.  It was a child's charitable thought which never worked out, but I've always loved the lullaby that inspired it.

Here's the traditional first verse, with three other verses I wrote several years ago.

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Dear Mary, his Mother, sang sweet lullabies,
as Jesus, awaking, gazed into her eyes.
The most holy Virgin, with loving caress
embraced the world’s Savior with Love’s tenderness.

Good Joseph stood guarding the Mother and Child,
his soul filled with awe and his heart undefiled.
The birth of young Jesus made angels to sing,
but Joseph in silence kept watch o’er his King.

What once was a stable may our hearts become;
may God’s holy fam’ly in us find a home.
With Mary and Joseph and angels above
we worship the Infant, the gift of God’s Love.

Text: V.1, Traditional,
vv. 2-4, Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1995
Music; CRADLE SONG, William James Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921)

22 December 2015

Pray for Priests


It is particularly at the Masses of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ that I have the greatest understanding of the bond between the priest and the Blessed Mother. As she wrapped the Holy Infant in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger, I have an overwhelming sense of doing the same in a mystical way, as our Lord is made present on the altar.

Please pray for all priests, especially during this Christmastide, and commend them to the keeping of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the Face of Thy Christ, and for love of Him Who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop's hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray Thee for Thy faithful and fervent priests; for Thy unfaithful and tepid priests; for Thy priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Thy tempted priests; for Thy lonely and desolate priests; for Thy young priests; for Thy aged priests; for Thy sick priests; for Thy dying priests; for the souls of Thy priests in Purgatory.

But above all I commend to Thee the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Thy Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed or helped me and encouraged me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way. O Jesus, keep them all close to Thy heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us; obtain for us many and holy priests. Amen.

21 December 2015

Christmas Schedule for 2015


CHRISTMAS EVE

Sung Mass at 5:00 p.m.

Solemn Proclamation of Christmas,
Procession to the Creche, 
and Solemn High Mass 
at 11:30 p.m.


CHRISTMAS DAY

Low Mass at 8:00 a.m.
Sung Mass at 10:00 a.m.

20 December 2015

St. Peter Canisius - Secret Agent!

In the year 1565 the Vatican was looking for a secret agent. It was right after the Council of Trent and the pope wanted to get the decrees of the Council to all the European bishops. That would seem pretty simple to us today, but it was a very dangerous assignment in the sixteenth century. The first one who tried to carry the decrees through territory of hostile anti-Catholics was robbed and the documents were taken. This was a time when some people had rebelled against the Church, and they didn’t want the Church to succeed, so they did everything in their power to stop the decrees and documents from the Pope to reach any of the bishops. What to do? Rome needed someone courageous, but also somebody who wouldn’t be suspected of carrying important documents. They chose Peter Canisius. He was a well-known Jesuit priest who had founded several schools and colleges – in fact, he was such a respected educator, everyone admired him – even those who had left the Church. As he travelled, the reason he gave was that he was the official "visitor" of the various colleges he had founded – and he did visit them, so it was the truth. But among his belongings and books, he had hidden the Decrees from the Council of Trent, and as he would go through a particular area, he was able to distribute these important documents to the bishops.

Why did the Vatican choose St. Peter Canisius for this dangerous and important job? He had worked hard as a priest – and his work included not only founding educational institutions, but he was a very faithful pastor of souls. A terrible plague swept across Europe, and St. Peter Canisius, with no thought for his own safety, went among the sick and the dying, ministering to them and bringing them comfort – whether they were Catholic or not, they received encouragement and comfort from him. People never forgot his bravery and his kindness. He saw people who were ignorant of the Faith, and he knew that they were easily swayed by convincing speakers who were leading them into error, so he compiled a simple but effective catechism, and countless thousands of people were taught the truth and so were able to leave error behind. Because of the success and the need, Peter quickly produced two more versions: a Shorter Catechism for young students which concentrated on helping them choose good over evil by concentrating on a different virtue each day of the week; and a Shortest Catechism for young children which included prayers for morning and evening, for mealtimes, and for other times of the day, to get them used to praying.

This was a time of confusion, and in their frustration, very often priests would speak harshly to people who were weak in their faith. But St. Peter Canisius was known for his gentle and strong way of speaking. He really was a conduit of God’s love, and his quiet and polite speech won many people back to the Catholic faith. Although he worked throughout Europe, much of his work was centered in Germany, and he came to be known as a “second St. Boniface,” who was considered to be the Apostle of the Germans. Even near the end of his life, he continued his work, communicating with people through letters, and always keeping them in his prayers. St. Peter Canisius died on December 21, 1597.

O God, who didst strengthen Saint Peter Canisius, thy Confessor, for the defence of the Catholic faith: mercifully grant that by his example and teaching, the erring may be made wise unto salvation, and the faithful may stand fast in the confession of truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Advent IV


Raise up, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us: that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sorely hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 December 2015

Bethlehem Ephrathah


It is a cliché, and it is true. Great things really do come in small packages.  The village of Bethlehem is proof. A place of little consequence became the focus of the universe, and in its most rude and humble spot the Savior of the world drew His first breath. We should remember Bethlehem not just at Christmas-time, but every time we're feeling that our own lives aren't all that great or productive. God found room in a mean stable for His miraculous work. Give Him room in our own hearts, and we might be amazed at what He will do.

18 December 2015

My annual rant...


This is the time of year when we come across tiresome statements about the Holy Family, all in an effort to make them into some kind of political symbol, I suppose.  If I could make it clear:
  • They were not homeless.  Joseph and Mary each came from perfectly good homes in Nazareth, and they were no more homeless than I was during the time we lived in England, when I had to travel from my home in Bristol up to the American Embassy in London to register the births of my children when they were born.  I'm quite tired of the stories that make them sound like vagrants, having to find shelter under the nearest interstate overpass.  The inn was full, yes.  All the inns were full.  Bethlehem was packed full of people.  It wasn't out of cruelty that the innkeeper offered them the stable.  It was probably done as a favour to them.  Inns were notoriously seedy places, and the stable was probably a whole lot cleaner and more private.  Homelessness in our society is a sad and tragic thing, caused by various circumstances.  But let's not use the Holy Family as a prop in the lobby for the homeless.
  • They were not illegal aliens.  Joseph and Mary were obeying civil authority when they went to the city of David, because Joseph was descended from King David. They weren't fleeing from an oppressive regime in Nazareth, and they weren't scrounging for work in Bethlehem so they could send some denarii back to the folks in the old country.  Whatever one's opinion is about illegal immigration, Joseph and Mary don't lend themselves as examples for any argument one way or the other.  The circumstances just don't fit.
  • They were not living in poverty.  Ok, they weren't wealthy.  But they weren't eating out of garbage cans or subsisting on food stamps, either.  Joseph, as a carpenter, had a perfectly respectable trade.  In fact, his occupation is described as tekton, which is more like a general contractor.  Mary's parents were respectable people.  Tradition hints that Anne was descended from one of the high priests of the Temple, and Joachim was well-off enough to have a flock of sheep, indicating that Mary's background was not one of grinding poverty, any more than was Joseph's.
The Holy Family is just that: the Holy Family.  Their place in history is unique.  But every year we're treated to shallow words by politicians and newspaper hacks who think they're expressing deep thoughts, using the Holy Family to make some point or other about social ills.  These usually are the very people who are horrified by the mention of religion at any other time of the year.

I used to read that stuff and then fire off a letter to the editor.  Now I give it a place of honour at the bottom of the bird cage.

14 December 2015

Blessing of the Guadalupe Shrine

His Excellency, the Most Reverend Gustavo Garcia-Siller, Archbishop of San Antonio, visited the parish to bless the Shrine of Our Lady Guadalupe, with the students of The Atonement Academy in attendance.

13 December 2015

Gaudete.


Gaudete.  Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice: let your moderation be known unto all men: the Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. Ps. Lord, thou art become gracious unto thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.  Gloria Patri.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

09 December 2015

Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy


“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

- St. Luke 6:32-36


PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE YEAR OF MERCY
(8 December 2015 – 20 November 2016)

In a letter to the Bishops of the world, Pope Francis has laid out the following conditions for obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. The Jubilee Indulgence may be obtained by:

Those who make a pilgrimage to and pass through the Holy Door or ‘Door of Mercy’ at:
♦- St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome;
♦- Any of the other Papal Basilicas in Rome;
♦- Any Shrine or Jubilee Church in which the Door of Mercy is open; or
♦- The Holy Door in every Cathedral or church designated by the Diocesan Bishop.

The sick and the elderly who are unable to go on pilgrimage may receive the Jubilee Indulgence by “[l]iving with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial [and] receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication.”

Those who are incarcerated, “may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons.” The Holy Father adds: “May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”

Those who perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. (“Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one.”)

The Holy Father reminds us that we may gain the Jubilee Indulgence not only for ourselves, but for the deceased as well. He states: “...as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.”


Conditions for Obtaining an Indulgence

1. This is how an indulgence is defined in the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471): "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".

2. In general, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions (below, nn. 3, 4), and the performance of certain prescribed works.

3. To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed. [N.B. Thus, one must be a Catholic in communion with the Pope, i.e. not excommunicated or in schism.]

4. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:
—have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
—have sacramentally confessed their sins;
—receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);
—pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

5. It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.

6. For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin).

7. Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.

08 December 2015

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

The miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is expecting a child. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World.

Although we don’t know very much about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, we know that he was born in the year 1474 in part of what is today Mexico City. The Catholic faith was brought to Mexico in 1519 when Cortez landed on the coast of Mexico, and there were Catholic priests with him. Juan Diego was among the first of those the hear the Gospel, and in 1524, when he was 50 years old, Juan Diego was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Peter da Gand.

Juan Diego took his faith very seriously and attended Mass on a daily basis. He had a fifteen mile walk to Mass every morning, and on December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request that the bishop build a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who asked for her prayers. The Bishop at first didn’t believe Juan Diego, and he asked for some sign to prove that the apparition was true. On December 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. The Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and even though it was winter time, he found roses blooming. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to ask for Mary’s intercession.

Not only had Juan Diego been chosen as Our Lady's messenger, but he also received grace which helped him to have great spiritual growth, and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

O God, who in the blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling place meet for thy Son: We humbly pray that we, observing the appearing of the same blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing both in body and soul; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

02 December 2015

St. Francis Xavier

Jesus asked, "What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" The words were repeated to a young teacher of philosophy who had a highly promising career in academics, with success and a life of prestige and honor before him.

Francis Xavier, 24 at the time, and living and teaching in Paris, did not heed these words at once. They came from a good friend, Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless work and example finally won the young man to Christ. Francis then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius, and in 1534 joined his little community, known as the Society of Jesus. Together they vowed poverty, chastity and apostolic service according to the directions of the pope.

From Venice, where he was ordained priest in 1537, Francis Xavier went on to Lisbon. From there he sailed to the East Indies, landing on the west coast of India. For the next 10 years he labored to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans and the Japanese. He spent much of that time in India, and served as provincial of the newly established Jesuit province of India.

Wherever he went, he lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodations. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, particularly to lepers. Very often he had no time to sleep or even to say his breviary but, as we know from his letters, he was filled always with joy.

Francis went through the islands of Malaysia, then up to Japan. He learned enough Japanese to preach in a simple way, to instruct and to baptize, and to establish missions for those who were to follow him. From Japan he had dreams of going to China, but this plan was never realized. Before reaching the mainland he died.

It’s estimated that St. Francis Xavier baptized more than 100,000 people during his years as a missionary. The relic of his right forearm is at the Church of the Gesu in Rome, a remembrance of the power of the Gospel to bring people to new life in Christ through baptism.

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant St. Francis Xavier to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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29 November 2015

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr


Andrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a fisherman. He became a disciple of the great St. John the Baptist, but when John pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Andrew understood that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine Master. Jesus knew that Andrew was walking behind him, and turning back, he asked, "What do you seek?" When Andrew answered that he would like to know where Jesus lived, Our Lord replied, "Come and see." Andrew had been only a little time with Jesus when he realized that this was truly the Messiah.

From then on, he chose to follow Jesus, and became the first disciple of Christ. Next, Andrew brought his brother Simon (St. Peter) to Jesus and Jesus received him, too, as His disciple. At first the two brothers continued to carry on their fishing trade and family affairs, but later, the Lord called them to stay with Him all the time. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time, they left their nets for good. It is believed that after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Andrew went to Greece to preach the gospel. He is said to have been put to death on an X-shaped cross, to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days, still preaching the Gospel to those who gathered around him in his last hours.

Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Saint Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

19 November 2015

St. Edmund, King and Martyr

On November 20th we commemorate St. Edmund, King and Martyr, who lived in the 9th century. He was the king of East Anglia, an independent kingdom within the confederation of kingdoms which comprised England at that time. His name, Edmund, meant “noble protection,” and as an earthly king he certainly lived up to his name. He had a reputation for compassion and the protection of the weak, of widows and of orphans. His greatest challenge, however, was the invasion of his kingdom by the Danish Vikings. They weren’t complete foreigners to the people of East Anglia. They were of the same race, and in fact, their languages were so similar that they were able to understand one another. No, there was only one essential difference between the Danish Vikings and the English - the Vikings were heathens, and the English were Christians.

The Vikings attacked and destroyed churches and monasteries, homes and villages, all throughout the kingdom. King Edmund fought side by side with the great Christian King Alfred. Edmund did his best, but he was finally overwhelmed by the huge numbers of Danes. At Hoxne in the north of Suffolk, King Edmund was captured. The Danes made him an offer: he could renounce his faith and become a puppet-king under them, or he could die. For King Edmund that was no choice at all. He would never renounce his Catholic faith, and so he chose death. There is an eyewitness report from that time, and it tells how he was scourged and bound, then tied to an oak-tree where the Danes fired arrows at him as for target practice. Finally, after suffering immensely from his many wounds, King Edmund was beheaded. His body was thrown to the wild beasts, but his loyal subjects secretly found his body, entombed him in a small chapel, and there he rested among his people. As they sought his heavenly intercession, God sent blessings upon them, and Edmund continued to be king in their hearts, as their faith in Christ the King grew stronger and stronger.

O God of ineffable mercy, thou didst give grace and fortitude to St. Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for thy Name: Bestow on us thy servants, we beseech thee, the shield of faith, wherewith we may withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

11 November 2015

A Prayer for Veterans' Day


O Lord, we give You thanks for our veterans, for their willingness to risk all so that our nation might dwell in peace and safety. May they receive the honor and recognition they deserve. We pray for those who suffer from physical, spiritual, and psychological wounds, that they might know Your healing presence. We pray for our nation, that it may treasure the freedoms which have been won through the sacrifices and courage of those who have given themselves for the protection of others. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

08 November 2015

Dedication of St. John Lateran


On November 9th the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour in the city of Rome, known also as St. John Lateran. On the façade is carved the proud title “Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput” – “The Mother and Head of all Churches of the City and of the World.” It is the cathedral of Rome – it is the Pope’s Cathedral, and so is, in a sense, the Cathedral of the world – senior in dignity even to St. Peter’s Basilica.

One of the reasons we celebrate this Feast is because the Church wants us to remember the importance of consecrated places in which the worship of God takes place. It reminds us of the importance of the consecration of every Catholic Church throughout the world. It is a reminder to us of the Incarnational principle on which our faith is based – that God extends His spiritual blessings to us through the use of physical things. He took human flesh upon Himself. He has instituted seven sacraments which use outward forms to communicate inward grace. He has established a hierarchical Church, with a physical presence in the world, to be a sign of His own presence with us.


O Most blessed Saviour, who didst vouchsafe thy gracious presence at the Feast of Dedication: be present with us at this time by thy Holy Spirit, and so possess our souls by thy grace; that we may be living temples, holy and acceptable unto thee; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
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Here are some thoughts on the Gospel for this Feast:

 

The Gospel (St. John 2:13-22) appointed for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran puts before us the commanding figure of Jesus Christ striding into the great Temple in Jerusalem. He cleanses it, making a whip of cords and driving out the sellers of animals and the money-changers, overturning their tables and telling them, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” Christ did this, because those who were buying and selling within the temple of God were not doing it for the glory of God; they were not doing it for the worship of God or for the good of man; rather, it was for personal gain and for selfish reasons.

The Church teaches us that religion is more than just the vertical dimension of the spiritual life – it’s more that simply “God and me.” Ethics and morality must be the practical expression of a true and living faith. How we conduct ourselves in the marketplace reflects our relationship with God. Certain business practices may be legal but that doesn’t insure they are ethical. Certainly, making a profit isn’t condemned in Scripture, but accumulating great wealth by unjustly taking advantage of someone else is.

So, with the crack of a whip, Christ drove the money changers from the temple. And He did it not only because of the contempt that was being shown to the Temple – a place consecrated to God – but also because of the injustice being shown to the people who were there to worship the God in whose honor the Temple had been built. Christ was not kind and gentle that day.

When good people are faced with evil, it would seem that our Lord has given something of an example to follow. He did not limit himself to prayer or to talk; He also did something about it. “To everything there is a season,” the Scriptures tell us, and we can see that even in the life of Christ that there was a season to make a stand against evil by taking specific action.

It was necessary for Christ to drive the money-changers out of the temple because of the evil they had brought into the lives of honest people, and because of the dishonor those actions brought to the House of God. So it is necessary at times that evil must be faced squarely by taking positive action, so that the common good might be preserved. Sometimes, for the triumph of good, the whip must be cracked, and evil must be beaten back.

Whether it be civil leaders inflicting injustice on people; or whether it be those who steal the right to life from the unborn; or whether it be the unfaithful cleric who cheats people from knowing the fullness of the Gospel and from worshipping according to the mind of the Church; or whether it be the gossip who destroys the reputation of another – we are called to stand up for the good, and against the evil.

The Gospel tells us that after Christ had cleansed the Temple, “his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for thy house will consume me...’” And so should zeal for the things of God consume us. Zeal is the business side of love, whether it be love of God or love of man. “Zeal,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “is the energy of love.” Zeal, as an ardent love of God, is to be shown in our lives as a desire to promote the love of God, to promote the worship of God, to promote the praise of God, to promote the glory of God. It is to be shown in our spiritual lives as we perform those Christian works of mercy and love that we have been taught by our Lord. And zeal, also, is to be shown in practical ways, as we accept our responsibility for the support and work of Christ’s Body the Church. This is one of the reasons we have places of beauty, consecrated to the glory of God – so that you and I can be inspired to be zealous for God and for the things of God; so that we can work for justice in this world; so that we can spread the truth of the Gospel by our words and our actions – and also, to give us a glimpse of the eternity of heaven.

07 November 2015

Solemn Evensong and Fauré Requiem


On Sunday, November 8, 2015, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church will celebrate Solemn Evensong for All Souls. We will be featuring the Gabriel Fauré "Requiem" sung by the Parish Festival Choir and The Atonement Academy Honors Choir. Please join us in praying for all the faithful departed.

This will be a time of prayer and exquisite music which you will not want to miss.

05 November 2015

Friendship


I'm teaching a scripture course at the parish on St. Mark's Gospel. The following story was part of what we covered this week.  As I was teaching, my mind flashed back to sixty years ago...

And when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"  - St. Mark 2:1-12

This is one of the Gospel stories that has captured my imagination from the time I was a child. I can still hear my old Sunday School teacher reading it to us. As she explained it to us, there wasn't any question about the miraculous healing itself -- Jesus had, of course, healed the man. The lesson she drew out of it (and this was what impressed my child's mind) was the obvious love the friends had for this man. They were so persistent! They couldn't get through the crowd, so they willingly put in the great effort of carrying their paralyzed friend up to the roof-top, making an opening large enough, and then letting him down into the presence of Jesus.

It was such a simple lesson she was imparting to us about friendship, as our young minds considered the effort these men were willing to make. I remember she asked us about how we treated our friends. Did we become impatient when someone couldn't keep up with us in a game? Were we cruel toward someone because they weren't part of our close circle of friends? Did we go out of our way to show kindness to others?

As those of us in that class of very young children listened to her, it formed new and unaccustomed thoughts of unselfishness in us (you know how self-centered children can sometimes be!) and I believe it was one of those moments that brought us a deeper idea of friendship. Suddenly in our minds we began considering the importance of befriending people not for what we could get, but rather, for what we could give.


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04 November 2015

"I absolve you..."


It is my privilege to spend many hours every week in the confessional. As I hear the low voices whispering the sins which are common to most of us, there's always a temptation to try and be "original and creative" in giving advice and guidance. But the confessional is the place for the tried-and-true. Our Holy Mother the Church has been dispensing medicine for these two thousand years, and She knows what is best: the truth, spoken gently but clearly, and then the comforting and liberating words of absolution. The penitent doesn't need or want the priest's creativity; the penitent needs and wants Christ's love and forgiveness.

01 November 2015

Venerating the Saints

The following is a list of the relics of saints which have been placed on the Lady Chapel Altar for your veneration:

The Holy Apostles, Ss. Peter, James the Greater, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the Lesser, Simon the Zealot, Jude Thaddaeus, Matthias.

St. Barnabas, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Luke the Evangelist, St. John Neumann, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Pius X, St. Dominic , St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Gregory the Great, St. Bede the Venerable, St. Laurence, St. Camillus, St. Anne, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine, St. Stephen Protomartyr, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Adrian, St. Margaret of Castello, St. Ambrose, Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, St. Clare of Assisi, St. John Bosco, St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Julia, St. Francis de Sales, St. Maria Goretti, Bl. John Henry Newman (2nd class).



29 October 2015

Real hope for the future...

We had our academic awards ceremony yesterday at The Atonement Academy (we refer to it, tongue-in-cheek, as The Academy Awards). We give Gold Arrow and Silver Arrow awards, and I am constantly impressed with these students. It's not easy to get an academic award here. Our standards are high and our demands are rigorous, but it's wonderful to see the number of students who manage to achieve academic excellence.

It's not just the high level of academic achievement which impresses me, however. These are students who also excel on the athletic field and in the choir loft. They're involved in pro-life activities and other works of charity. They're serious about their faith.  Are they perfect? Obviously not...but that's why I get a steady stream of them knocking on my office door and asking, "Father, do you have a few minutes to hear my confession?" They know there's always room for improvement, and they're eager to grow spiritually. They're at Mass daily, and these kids actually look forward to it. They come for spiritual advice, because they're concerned about pleasing God.

I love these kids, and I can't imagine what it would be like around here if the parish didn't have a school. I know there are some of my brother priests and some of our diocesan "professional educators" who think I'm overly protective and even a micro-manager because I insist on such things as having only practicing Catholics on our faculty, or because I won't adopt the government-school agenda, especially when it appeared as the incarnation called "Common Core."

I didn't have the advantage of a Catholic school education. Of course, public school education was a bit different fifty years ago from what it is today, but the seeds of destruction were already planted even then. The formation of children in the fullness of truth is all-important, and for us as Catholics it is by far the best when our children are formed through a seamless partnership between the Catholic home and the Catholic school.

We're in our twentieth year since the founding of the Academy, and although the devil has tried to destroy it from time to time, God has preserved it, and He continues to nurture it, and I absolutely love being part of it. As student after student came forward to receive the Gold and Silver Arrow Awards, I gave thanks to God, and I have absolute confidence that the Church will continue to provide, through the lives of these young Catholics, the much-needed medicine for our ailing society.


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27 October 2015

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.



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25 October 2015

"Lantern of the Lothians"


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

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


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

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

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

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


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips (1990)
Music: “Lucerna Laudoniae”
David Evans (1874-1948)



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22 October 2015

Remembering history...


As we celebrate the Feast of Pope St. John Paul II it should be recognized by all who benefit from the establishment of the three existing Ordinariates that in him they have a pioneer and a heavenly patron. His place should be acknowledged. While it is true to say that these jurisdictions were the creation of Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI, it was St. John Paul II who first made a place for the Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church, and by his action the possibility of what we know as the Ordinariates was made clear.

In the Decree issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated July 22, 1980 (Prot. N. 66/77), regarding the care of the reconciled lay Faithful and speaking of the structure of what was called the "Common Identity" of the Pastoral Provision, it is stated that "the preference expressed by the majority of the Episcopal Conference for the insertion of these reconciled Episcopalians into the diocesan structures under the jurisdiction of local Ordinaries is recognized." There was no juridical reason to go further. However, it did. An important sentence immediately followed in the Decree: "Nevertheless, the possibility of some other type of structure as provided for by canonical dispositions, and as suited to the needs of the group, is not excluded."

With that statement the spade began turning the soil, preparing the ground for Anglicanorum Coetibus. The important place St. John Paul II has occupied in all this from the very beginning should not be forgotten.

History is clear. St. John Paul II was the first to give our Anglican Patrimony an honoured place in the Church, and it was his own trusted and beloved successor who brought to fruition "the possibility of some other type of structure..."

Sancte Ioannes Paule, ora pro nobis.



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20 October 2015

Scripture Study Series


We begin a new Scripture study series on Wednesday, October 20th, at 6:45 p.m. in the St. John Paul II Library.

I will be teaching a several-week course on the Gospel according to St. Mark. Bring yourself and your Bible, and get ready to explore the history, theology, and spirituality of this Gospel.

Each week's session will last just one hour, and I use the Ignatius Bible (RSV-Catholic edition).



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13 October 2015

St. Callistus, Pope and Martyr


Imagine if what anybody knew about you was information that came from someone who really didn’t like you at all. And imagine if there was the added difficulty that the person who didn’t like you was also a saint! That’s the situation with St. Callistus who lived at the end of the 2nd century and into the 3rd century – most of the information about him comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, who at first was kind of a troublemaker in the early Church, but who later, just like St. Callistus, became a martyr for the Faith.

Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. He was an educated slave, and because of his financial talent, he was put in charge of a bank by his master. Unfortunately, because he made some loans to people who didn’t pay them back, he lost almost all the money that had been deposited. Callistus panicked, and he ran away. Of course, he was eventually caught and was put in jail. After being imprisoned for a while, his master released him and told him to do everything he could to recover the money. Apparently Callistus got a little too carried away, and eventually he was arrested again because he had started a fight in a local synagogue when he went after someone there who hadn’t paid back a loan. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia, which usually was a death sentence because of the horrible conditions there. But through the intervention of an influential person who had pity on him, he even managed to be released from the terrible life in the Sardinian mines. So far, it doesn’t sound much like the life of a saint, does it?

After he won his freedom, he was put in charge of the place where Christians buried their departed loved ones – this cemetery was called a catacomb, and in fact this cemetery was the first land actually owned by the Church, and it still exists as the Catacomb of St. Callistus. He was so faithful in this work that the pope ordained him as a deacon, and Callistus became his trusted friend and adviser.

Callistus had such a changed life and had become so faithful that he was himself elected pope, and it was then that the rivalry between Callistus and Hippolytus became so bitter – in fact, Hippolytus himself wanted to be the pope because he didn’t agree with many of the decisions made by Callistus. This rivalry was healed eventually, however, and Hippolytus was eventually martyred, and these two former enemies are now saints together in heaven. St. Callistus was martyred in Rome during one of the persecutions of the Church in the 3rd century.

O God, who didst raise up Pope Saint Callistus to serve the Church and attend devoutly to Christ’s faithful departed: strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith; so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 October 2015

New life for an old pipe organ

We have obtained a 42-rank Reuter pipe organ for eventual installation in the auditorium we are building as part of our major school expansion.

The instrument has now been removed from an Episcopal church in Austin, and has been moved to the workshop of Curtis Bobsin, our incredibly talented organ builder and renovator (he accomplished the magnificent installation of our Casavant in the church).

The renovation of this organ will take some time (which is good, since the auditorium isn't built yet!), but the installation will provide us with a fine instrument for concerts, recitals, graduation events, etc. As you can see from the pictures, the former installation was a cramped one, with the pipes buried in enclosed chambers, along with a positiv at some distance away, with very little usefulness as part of a total instrument.

Our auditorium installation will be at the front, on a stage, with the pipes speaking out, rather than sideways and muffled. The present instrument is comprised of the following ranks:

GREAT
Principal 8'
Spitz Flote 8'
Octave 4'
Nacht Horn 4'
Fifteenth 2'
Mixture III
Trompette 8'


SWELL
Rohr Flute 8'
Viola 8'
Viola Celeste 8'
Principal 4'
Traverse Flute 4'
Doublette 2'
Mixture III
Trumpet 8'
Hautbois 4'


CHOIR
Gedeckt 8'
Erzhaler 8'
Koppel Flute 4'
Nazard 2-2/3'
Block Flute 2'
Tierce 1-3/5'
Basset 8'
Trompette 8'
Trompette 4'


POSITIV
Bourdon 8'
Principal 4'
Spillflote 4'
Gemshorn 2'
Cymbel II


PEDAL
Subbass 16'
Quintaten 16'
Principal 16'
Quintaten 8'
Octave 8'
Super Octave 4'
Mixture III
Trombone 16'
Trombone 8'


This instrument will be known as the Brown Memorial Organ, provided by a bequest from Bert and Beatrice Brown, founding members of Our Lady of the Atonement Church. Please pray for the repose of their souls.

Here are some pictures of the removal from its former location.