31 March 2017

To Thee, O Gracious Father


To thee, O gracious Father, we lift our loving hearts;
to us the Bread of Heaven eternal life imparts.
We thank thee for thy favour that marks us as thine own;
Lord, keep us ever faithful, who come before thy throne.
What love thou hast bestowed on us,
a love which makes us free!
It cleanses us from ev'ry sin,
and keeps us close to thee.

To thee, O Christ our Saviour, we come for saving grace;
we see how tender love is, by looking on thy face.
Keep us from all things hurtful by the power of thy Cross;
and help us to remember our gain comes from thy loss.
What heav'nly Food is ours, Lord,
this Food which makes us free!
It fills our hearts and makes us whole,
and keeps us close to thee.

To thee, O Holy Spirit, we whisper our desire;
our lives are empty vessels: Lord, fill them with thy fire.
Make us thy faithful people who seek to do thy will;
give us thy gifts of power, our empty hearts to fill.
What peace that passes ev'ry thought,
that peace which makes us free!
It banishes each doubt and fear,
and keeps us close to thee.

From thee, O Triune Godhead, salvation is come down;
Atonement now is given, mankind receives his crown.
In Sacrament tremendous we touch eternity;
we love thee, God our Saviour: thou art our destiny.
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
our faith shall never cease!
In thee we have eternal life,
and never-ending peace.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: “Thaxted” by Gustav Holst, 1874-1934

30 March 2017

Children of the Atonement


As Passiontide draws near, this is an appropriate time for us to stand even closer to the Blessed Mother. It is her Son’s suffering and death which pierces her Immaculate Heart in a mystical way as she remembers with all of us the great price of our salvation. She consoles us throughout the year, but now especially our devotion should console her, because we are all Children of the Atonement.

Our Lord entrusted us to her at the same time as He spoke to Saint John from the cross, “Behold, thy Mother.” So let us be true sons and daughters. Walk with Mary as she follows her Son’s Via Dolorosa. Stand with her as she keeps her watch at the foot of the cross. Weep with her as she receives Christ's lifeless body into her waiting arms. Comfort her as she endures those three dark days, so that having endured with her, we may rejoice with her in the power and mystery of the Lord's resurrection.


25 March 2017

"Let it be..."


At the Annunciation, God sent His messenger, the archangel Gabriel, to announce to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Incarnate Son of God, and it would be Jesus who would take human flesh from her, to bring salvation into the world. When Mary heard these words, she was filled with awe and wonder, and she asked for clarification: “How can this be…?” When Gabriel told her that it would be by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded by saying, “Let it be unto me according to thy word.”

That is an important phrase, “Let it be…” It takes us back to creation itself, when by the word of God, all things came into being.

In the beginning, God said “Let there be light,” and there was. God brought into being everything there was – by His word there came into being all of creation, including man himself. In fact, creation itself is the larger context for the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As God spoke His creative word in the beginning, so today – at our remembrance of the beginning of the Incarnation – we call to mind Mary’s words, “Let it be…. Let it be unto me according to thy word.” The Virgin Mary’s words, “Let it be,” echo God’s words, “Let there be.” It is, in a way, the continuation of creation and the beginning of our salvation. God says, “Let there be…” and his word brings forth creation; Mary says, “Let it be,” and her words bring forth the Incarnate God into the world.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts: that, as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel; so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 March 2017

St. Turibius


Together with St. Rose of Lima, St. Turibius is among the first of the known saints of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for twenty-six years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge at Granada. He was a great success, but he was about to enter upon a surprising sequence of events.

When the archbishopric of Lima in Spain's Peruvian colony became vacant, it was decided that Turibius was the man needed to fill the post. It was generally agreed that he was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area. Turibius cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were wide-spread, and he devoted his energies (and his suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with no place to sleep, and little or no food. He made his confession every morning to his chaplain, and he would then celebrate Mass with tremendous devotion. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was Saint Rose of Lima, and most likely Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, Saint Francis Solanus.

His people, although they were very poor, also had a sense of personal pride, and they were unwilling to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them himself, anonymously.

When Turibius undertook the reform of the clergy, along with unjust officials, he encountered tremendous opposition. Some tried to "explain" God's law in such a way as to make it appear that God approved of their accustomed way of life. He answered them in the words of Tertullian, "Christ said, 'I am the truth'; he did not say, 'I am the custom."'

O God, who gavest increase to thy Church through the apostolic labours and zeal for truth of the Bishop Saint Turibius: grant that the people consecrated to thee may always receive new growth in faith and holiness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 March 2017

In honour of St. Joseph...


O God, who from the house of thy servant David didst raise up Saint Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son, and spouse of his Virgin Mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; 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.

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Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1991
Music: "Stuttgart" adapted by C. F. Witt, 1715

1. Holy Joseph, Intercessor,
Unto thee God's children sing;
Be our Patron and Protector,
To God's throne our praises bring.

2. Faithful Spouse of faithful Virgin,
Lover of God's purity;
From thy worthy place in heaven,
Pray that we may faithful be.

3. Guardian of the Word Incarnate,
Silent guide of God's own Son;
Guard our hearts and lead us onward
To the life that Christ has won.

4. Humble man in lofty station,
God has shed His grace on thee;
Pray such grace to us be given,
That we live eternally.


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Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1992
Music: "Bread of Heaven" by William D. Maclagan, 1875


1. Bless├ęd Joseph, Guardian mild,
Who didst love the Holy Child,
Show thy love to us who pray,
Shield us from all harm this day:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

2. Great Saint Joseph, Patron bold
Of the Church from days of old,
Give us courage strong and new,
To proclaim God's Gospel true:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us close to Christ our Lord.

3. He Whom thou didst guide in youth,
We receive in very truth;
In this Sacrament of love,
We are one with thee above:
Foster-father of the Word,
Keep us one with Christ our Lord!

18 March 2017

Stations of the Cross


Each Friday afternoon during Lent we walk the Stations of the Cross with the students at 2:15 p.m., and each Friday evening in Lent at 7:00 p.m. we have Stations for the whole parish, in conjunction with Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. However, you may make the Stations privately any time, and there is a plenary indulgence attached to this devotion. For you to gain the indulgence, these are the conditions:

EXERCISE OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS
PLENARY INDULGENCE

From The Enchiridion of Indulgences, 1968

A Plenary indulgence is granted to those who piously make the Way of the Cross. The gaining of the indulgence is regulated by the following rules:

A. Must be done before stations of the cross legitimately erected.
B. 14 stations are required. Although it is customary for the icons to represent pictures or images, 14 simple crosses will suffice.
C. The common practice consists of fourteen pious readings to which some vocal prayers are added.. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
D. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the stations are made publicly and it is not possible for everyone taking part to go from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their places.
E. Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence if they spend at least one half and hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
F. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death for the gaining of this indulgence.

A plenary indulgence MUST be accompanied by the three prerequisites of a plenary indulgence:

1. Sacramental Confession,
2. Communion, and
3. Prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time.

The Faithful have been retracing these steps of our Lord Jesus Christ from the earliest days of the Church. While the number and names of the Stations have varied over the centuries, our present order for them eventually was fixed, and the indulgence was attached to the Stations erected in Churches and Oratories. It was no longer required actually to go to Jerusalem to gain the great blessings which flow from this devotion.

17 March 2017

St. Patrick, Apostle to Ireland


St. Patrick is known as the Apostle to Ireland. We’re not sure exactly where he was born, except that it was someplace in Britain. Some claim he was born in England, others say he was born in Scotland, and still others claim he was born in Wales. Wherever his birth took place, the year was about 385, and his parents were Romans, living in Britain, because his father was overseeing the Roman colonies in Britain.

When Patrick was fourteen or so, he was captured during a raid being carried out by Irish invaders, and he was taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. During his time of captivity, he learned the language and practices of the people who held him, and even though he was among them as a slave, he began to love the Irish people.

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty years old, and he then escaped, after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. When he reached the sea, he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, and he was reunited with his family.

The time came when he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, "We beg you, Patrick, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood, and he was eventually ordained. Subsequently Patrick was consecrated to the episcopacy, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433, and he came upon a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted this chieftain, and he then began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

St. Patrick preached throughout Ireland for 40 years, working many miracles and writing of his love for God in his “Confessions.” After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring great suffering, he died on March 17, 461.

O Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be an apostle to the people of Ireland, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: grant us, by his intercession, so to walk in that light; that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; 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.

10 March 2017

Lenten thoughts...


This time of the year often takes my thoughts back to the Connecticut farm where I grew up, and the Spring causes me to think of the wonderful apple trees which would show their buds, and then burst into flower. I can remember the care my grandfather would lavish on them, pruning them with care. And the resulting fruit was simply grand! Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Golden Pippin...the varieties seemed almost endless.

As my grandfather aged, and as the demands of the farm increased, the pruning was missed one year, and then another. Soon the apples were smaller and fewer. Over the years unintentional neglect took its toll. Today where gorgeous trees once stood yielding bushel upon bushel of apples, now...nothing.

Our Lord Jesus said, "Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits."

His point is clear. What is true for trees is true for people. If we take care to prune away the things which keep us from God, and if we are fed with the spiritual food of the sacraments, we will produce the good fruits of the Spirit. But if we neglect the spiritual care which is essential to our health and growth, we will be not much more than a rotting stump producing nothing.

08 March 2017

St. Frances of Rome

Lest we forget that God's plan for us is always best, just look at the life of St. Frances of Rome. She was a child born into privilege in the latter part of the 14th century, with parents who had the means to give her a very comfortable life. Young Frances was keenly aware of society's poor around her, and she had the good desire to give herself to the alleviation of their suffering by entering religious life and dedicating herself to this mission. Her parents had other ideas, and apparently so did God.

A young nobleman was selected by her family, and Frances was expected to marry him. She threw herself into prayer, asking God to deliver her from what she saw as a terrible fate. In fact, she was so persistent in this that her confessor asked her a difficult but important question: "Frances, are you really praying to do God's Will, or are you trying to make God bend to your will?"

That simple question brought about a profound change in Frances. With some reluctance, she married the young nobleman, and to her surprise the marriage turned out to be very happy. They had three children, and she found that her husband was perfectly willing for her to carry out an apostolate to the poor. In fact, she discovered that her sister-in-law had the same desire to serve, and the two were able to work together and pray together, eventually inspiring others to join in their good works. The group of women became a quasi-religious community, and when Frances was widowed she was able to go and live with them, sharing a common life of work and prayer.

St. Frances also had the great comfort of being able to see her Guardian Angel, and she was careful in following the angelic guidance she received.

Frances came to realize that God had given her far more than she had asked for. She had a happy marriage, and she was able to fulfill her desire for religious life, too. That's the way it is with God. He always gives in abundance, albeit in unexpected ways. All we need to do is follow Him in love, and pray as our Lord Himself did, "...not my will, but Thine be done."

O God, who amongst other gifts of thy grace, didst honour blessed Frances, thy handmaid, with the familiar converse of an Angel: grant, we beseech thee; that by the help of her intercession, we may be worthy to attain unto the fellowship of the Angels in thy heavenly kingdom; 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.

07 March 2017

St. John of God


St. John of God was born at the end of the 15th century. He tended to be a very impulsive person, from the time he was a child. When he was prompted to do something, he usually stuck with it, no matter what – which is fine, if the prompting comes from God, but it can make life difficult if it’s something from your own imagination.

When he was only eight years old, John heard a someone talking about all the adventures there were out in the world, and so young John took it into his head to run away to seek his fortune. He never saw his parents again, but instead spent time on the road, begging his way from village to town, until he became very sick. A kind man and his family nursed him back to health, and John stayed with them, working as a shepherd until he was 27 years old. Feeling the urge to travel again, John joined the Spanish army, which was at that time in a war against France. As a soldier, he was hardly a model of holiness, taking part in the gambling, drinking, and the wild life along with his comrades. One day, he was thrown from a stolen horse near French lines. Frightened that he would be captured or killed, he reviewed his life and vowed impulsively to make a change.

He took on all sorts of physically hard work – unloading ship cargoes, building fortifications, anything he could find to earn a living. He would work hard all day, but then in the evening he would visit churches, and spend time reading spiritual books. Reading gave him so much pleasure that he decided that he should share this joy with others. He quit his job and became a book peddler, traveling from town to town selling religious books and holy cards. Finally, when he was 41 years old, he came to Granada where he sold books from a little shop.

After hearing a sermon on repentance, he was so overcome by the thought of his sins that the whole town thought he had gone crazy. After hearing the sermon John rushed back to his shop, tore up any secular books he had, gave away all his religious books and all his money. With his clothes torn and constantly crying, he was the target of insults, jokes, and even stones and mud from the townspeople and their children.

Some friends took him to a hospital for the insane. Eventually, the priest who had preached the sermon that had affected John so much, came to see him, and told him that he had gone on like this enough, so John was moved to a better part of the hospital, and where he was free to move about. Although still a patient, he began to help the other sick people around him. In fact, this experience made him decide to start his own hospital for the poor and those who had no one to care for them. He had no money for a building, so he went to the poor and homeless wherever they were – in abandoned buildings or under bridges – and he called those places his hospital. He continued to beg for money, and eventually found a very poor house which gave him a location where he could bring the sick and nurse them.

One day he heard that the hospital where he had been a patient was on fire. He immediately ran there and found that no one was doing anything. He entered the building and carried out the patients one by one, and then went back in to get as much of the contents as he could. As the fire burned more fiercely, he fell through the weakened timbers, and everyone thought he was dead – but almost miraculously, he walked out of the flames, unhurt.

John was ill himself when he heard that a flood was bringing precious driftwood near the town. He jumped out of bed to gather the wood from the raging river. Then when one of his companions fell into the river, John without thought for his illness or safety jumped in after him. He failed to save the boy and caught pneumonia. He died on March 8, his fifty-fifth birthday, of the same impulsive love that had guided his whole life.

John of God is patron saint of booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick, and firefighters and is considered the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers.

O God, who didst cause blessed John, by the fire of thy love, to pass unhurt amid the flames, and through him didst enrich thy Church with a new offspring: grant, by the pleading of his merits; that our vices may be healed by the fire of thy charity, and that we may obtain thine eternal healing; 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.

06 March 2017

St. Perpetua and St. Felicity


With the lives of so many early martyrs shrouded in legend, we are fortunate to have the record of the courage of Perpetua and Felicity from the hand of Perpetua herself, her teacher Saturus, and others who knew them. This account, known as "The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity," was so popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies.

In the year 203, Vibia Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death during Septimus' persecution. Her surviving brother (another brother had died when he was seven) followed her leadership and became a catechumen as well.

Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. We can easily understand his concern. At 22 years old, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live -- including a baby son who was still nursing. We know she was married, but since her husband is never mentioned, many historians assume she was a widow.

Perpetua's answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, "See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?" Her father answered, "Of course not." Perpetua responded, "Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am -- a Christian."

This answer so upset her father that he attacked her. Perpetua reports that after that incident she was glad to be separated from him for a few days -- even though that separation was the result of her arrest and imprisonment. Perpetua was arrested with four other catechumens including two slaves, Felicity and Revocatus, along with Saturninus and Secundulus. Their catechist, Saturus, had already been imprisoned before them.

She was baptized before taken to prison. Perpetua was known for her gift of "the Lord's speech" and receiving messages from God. She tells us that at the time of her baptism she was told to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials.

The prison was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. There was no light anywhere and Perpetua "had never known such darkness." The soldiers who arrested and guarded them pushed and shoved them without any concern. Perpetua had no trouble admitting she was very afraid, but in the midst of all this horror her most excruciating pain came from being separated from her baby.

The young slave, Felicity was even worse off, not only suffering from the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling, but she was eight months pregnant.

Two deacons who ministered to the prisoners paid the guards so that the martyrs would be put in a better part of the prison. There her mother and brother were able to visit Perpetua and bring her baby to her. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her, she said "my prison suddenly became a palace for me." Once more her father came to her, begging her to give in, kissing her hands, and throwing himself at her feet. She told him, "We live not in our own power but in the power of God."

Meanwhile Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom and her companions would go on their journey without her. Her friends also didn't want to leave so "good a comrade" behind.

Two days before the execution, Felicity went into a painful labor. The guards made fun of her, insulting her by saying, "If you think you suffer now, how will you stand it when you face the wild beasts?" Felicity answered them calmly, "Now I'm the one who is suffering, but in the arena there will be Another with me, suffering for me, because I will be suffering for him." She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage.

There was a feast the day before the games so that the crowd could see the martyrs and make fun of them. But the martyrs turned this all around by laughing at the crowd for not being Christians and exhorting them to follow their example.

The four new Christians and their teacher went to the arena (the fifth, Secundulus, had died in prison) with joy and calm. Perpetua in usual high spirits met the eyes of everyone along the way. We are told she walked with "shining steps as the true spouse of Christ, the darling of God."

When those at the arena tried to force Perpetua and the rest to dress in robes dedicated to their gods, Perpetua challenged her executioners. "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods." She and the others were allowed to keep their clothes.

The men were attacked by bears, leopards, and wild boars. The women were stripped to face a rabid heifer. When the crowd, however, saw the two young women, one of whom had obviously just given birth, they were horrified and the women were removed and clothed again. Perpetua and Felicity were thrown back into the arena so roughly that they were bruised and hurt. Perpetua, though confused and distracted, still was thinking of others and went to help Felicity up. The two of them stood side by side as all five martyrs had their throats cut.

Perpetua's last words were to her brother: "Stand fast in the faith and love one another."

O Holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden of peace; 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.

04 March 2017

Keep a holy Lent


Guidelines for Fasting and Abstinence.

Fasting is recommended by the Sacred Scriptures and is practiced by the Church as a means of atonement for sin and commending individuals and their prayers to God. The intent of fasting is penitential in nature and with the purpose of intensifying prayer. The current practice of the Church in the United States allows for one main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some food being allowed at the other two mealtimes, with no food at other times. Liquids do not break this fast. The law of the Church binds Catholics “from the day after their 18th birthday to the day after their 59th birthday.”

Abstinence is followed every Friday in Lent. Abstinence means that we refrain from eating meat or food prepared with meat (including chicken). This practice is to remind us of Jesus’ redeeming death, and to practice the virtue of penance. The law of the Church binds those who are 14 years of age or older.

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Lenten Devotions at
OUR LADY OF THE ATONEMENT CHURCH 

STATIONS OF THE CROSS
Fridays in Lent at 2:15 p.m. with the Academy students

SOLEMN EVENSONG, STATIONS OF THE CROSS,
BENEDICTION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
Fridays in Lent at 7:00 p.m.