Bring Truth or Bring Destruction

Constitution and Declaration of Independence on Grungy Betsy RosFour years ago we began this blog because we saw the need to add another authentically Catholic voice to the pre-election discourse, when the Catholic voice that dominated the mainstream media was coming from religious women who minimized the value of unborn life and aligned themselves with a very anti-life and anti-Catholic party.  That anti-Catholicism has become even more obvious with the recent WikiLeaks email releases documenting the unrelenting efforts to undermine Catholic teaching and practice by creating subversive groups within the Church.

All Catholics, both laity and religious, have a duty to bring Truth to the public square, to let the 2000 year tradition and teachings of the Church founded by Christ permeate every area of their lives.  But if we bring half-truths and distortions of the Church into the world, we bring nothing but destruction.  We are living in a culture of death, and leaving no one unscathed, it has become firmly entrenched even among Christians.  Pope Benedict XVI has called it “a schizophrenic situation”, this divided existence which so many Christians are living.  He says that being Christian can’t become something we live alongside modernity; since Christianity itself is alive and ever-new, it can embrace modernity:

It is important for us to try to live Christianity and to think as Christians in such a way that it incorporates what is good and right about modernity —and at the same time separates and distinguishes itself from what is becoming a counter-religion.”  

Msgr. Charles Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington, recently blogged about this, inspired by an animated short film called The Clocktower:  “The Church is a central part of the functioning of our times, our culture. But her role is not to become the same as the culture, but to inspire and to be a conduit of blessing that lights up the culture and helps it to move in productive directions. Instead, too many in the Church have joined the culture, becoming indistinguishable from it. In so doing we stop being a conduit of God’s grace; things grind to a halt and become bland, colorless, and dysfunctional.”

Here is his whole post:

This week I have been writing about the problems of our culture. Today I continue in that vein with a short reflection on the Church’s role, based on the animated short below. For indeed, the darkness and dysfunction of our times cannot be simply blamed on the world, the Church, too, bears a large share of the responsibility.

The video features a woman in a clock tower; it is she who keeps the clock running. As the video progresses, we see that the clock itself plays a pivotal role in keeping the world around it alive and colorful. Consider the woman as an image for the Church, and the clock as an image for our culture (note that “culture” also refers to the times in which we live).

The woman grows bored with sustaining the clock, longing to go out and see the world outside—and so she leaves the clock tower. But because she is the central cog of the entire clock, it grinds to a halt without her. As she emerges into the world, suddenly all goes gray and comes to a stop. Through her attempt to become part of the world she so desires, that very world loses its beauty and is no longer desirable.

This is the tale of the Church these past hundred years. The Church is a central part of the functioning of our times, our culture. But her role is not to become the same as the culture, but to inspire and to be a conduit of blessing that lights up the culture and helps it to move in productive directions. Instead, too many in the Church have joined the culture, becoming indistinguishable from it. In so doing we stop being a conduit of God’s grace; things grind to a halt and become bland, colorless, and dysfunctional.

For the culture to be truly what it is called to be, the Church must be what she is called to be. She is called to love the people of the world, to love the culture (but not be enamored of it). The Church must in a sense be above the culture and beneath the authority of God; she must be the conduit of God’s graces and act as a bridge between God and man.

When the Church leaves her place and shirks her role, the culture winds down and loses its color and life. When the Church is the Church, through her preaching and sacramental life, the culture is so much more alive with goodness, beauty, and truth.

Enjoy this beautiful video and consider its message for us.


The Power of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary with Saints, artist unknown, Brooklyn Museum

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as the feast of Our Lady of Lepanto, commemorating the decisive and miraculous victory of the Christian fleet over the large Turkish force.  Many of you have been participating in the 54 day Rosary Novena for our nation which concludes today.  We take hope from the many miracles Our Lady has wrought throughout history through the power of the rosary.  Here is another miracle story, which we originally posted a couple years ago:

In this month dedicated to the Holy Rosary we wanted to draw your attention to the power this prayer has in the most dire situations.  The rosary is one of the greatest weapons we have in the Catholic arsenal and stories of its power abound.  In fact, the reason we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Rosary on the seventh of this month is because the miraculous victory of the Christian fleet over the Turks at Lepanto is credited to the intercession of Our Lady through the rosary, which the whole Church was praying.

Last month we had the privilege of hearing Immaculee Illibagiza speak about her experience during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s.  If you aren’t familiar with her story you need to read her book, Left to Tell, which has made a deep impact on each of us Continue reading

On the Feast of Our Holy Father Francis

Let us all, brothers, consider the Good Shepherd who to save His sheep bore the suffering of the Cross. The sheep of the Lord followed Him in tribulation and persecution and shame, in hunger and thirst, in infirmity and temptations and in all other ways; and for these things they have received everlasting life from the Lord. Wherefore it is a great shame for us, the servants of God, that, whereas the Saints have practised works, we should expect to receive honor and glory for reading and preaching the same.

-From the Admonitions of Our Holy Father St. Francis, Of the Imitation of the Lord

A blessed Feast of Our Holy Father Saint Francis to everyone!  This solemnity of our founder has crept up on us this year, we have been so busy with unexpected travel, on img_4963top of the regular things that keep us busy. One of the mortifications of religious life is that you never get to finish anything – no matter what you are doing, when the bell rings calling you to the next duty, whether to prayer or recreation or meals, you must stop what you’re doing and go. This is always hard to adjust to.  And of course sometimes God rings a different kind of bell in our lives and we are forced to drop everything and go.  This happened to us recently and we found ourselves traveling out-of-state due to the unexpected passing of Sr. Mary Peter’s father, Jules.  Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and for the comfort and consolation of his family.

God brought many surprise blessings from this sorrow, one of them being this beautiful painting of St. Francis blessing his friars and sending them out two by two.  We don’t know the provenance of this work, but we are so thrilled to have it img_4971grace our little “monastery”.  We can’t wait for the day when it is it can adorn the wall in our permanent home.  As mentioned in our last blog, we have also obtained an incredible set of Stations of the Cross, all hand-carved a hundred years ago. They are stunning, and we can’t wait to share pictures of them with you.  It’s exciting to think that one day they will be installed in our chapel and the faithful can pray and meditate with them.  We spent yesterday cleaning a decade’s worth of dust off of them (they have been in storage for that long), which was kind of a fitting way to spend the vigil of Our Holy Father Francis, since the history of this devotion is closely linked to the Franciscans.

Looking for a hymn to include with this blog we came across an interesting article about the Franciscan chant in the medieval liturgy.  If you are musically inclined you might want to img_4966check it out.  There is also a beautiful hymn, though not well-known, to St. Francis, which focuses on his stigmata.  We were going to post Nos Autem, which would have been a fitting chant for today, but were excited to find a beautiful mp3 of Corda  Pia Inflammantum which we could share with you.  It might have been more appropriate for September 17, the Feast of the Stigmata of Our Holy Father Francis, but since this painting portrays his stigmata so well, we thought it would be great today, and that way we don’t wait to have to wait another year to share it with you.

Click here for a PDF of notation and words.

Tonight we will enjoy a special Mass celebrated in our chapel by our priest friend, Fr. Matthew, and a good dinner (Italian, of course, like our holy founder) – a small reflection on earth of the feasting and communion St. Francis and all the blessed now enjoy in the eternal light of the Blessed Trinity.

We’ll leave you with a couple verses from Corda Pia:

Fac ut nos in regno lucis Perfru ́amur fructu Crucis, Quo læt ́emur cæ ́litus.
Collaud ́etur Crucif ́ıxus, Franc ́ıscus prorsus inn ́ıxus Super mundi fœ ́dera.

Make us benefit from the fruit of the Cross in the kingdom of light where we may rejoice with the heavenly one.
Let the Crucified One be praised with Francis who is resting above the plottings of the world.



Thus we praise with veneration
All the armies of the sky;
Chiefly him, the warrior primate,
Of celestial chivalry,
Michael, who in princely virtue
Cast Abaddon from on high.

By whose watchful care repelling –
King of everlasting grace –
Every ghostly adversary,
All things evil, all things base,
Grant us of Thine only goodness,
In Thy paradise a place.

-From Tibi Christe, Splendor Patris, by Rabanus Maurus (776-856)

Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and since our monastery is dedicated to St. Michael, we tend to give him the spotlight.  After all, he is the Prince of the Heavenly Host.  Hopefully the other archangels understand our bias.

Seriously, though, whenever we meet someone and tell them our future monastery will be dedicated to St. Michael, they always say how much they love him, and how needed he is today.  So Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 4.11.01 PM.pngmany people we encounter are devoted to him, and so many saints have been close to him, too.  St. Francis’ devotion was well known, and it was during his fast leading up to the feast of St. Michael that the Poverello received the stigmata.  St. Michael being the patron of soldiers and police, we pray to him daily for the protection of all our police, firemen and armed forces.

There are all kinds of interesting traditions associated with his feast day.  In England tradition held that you should eat a goose on Michaelmas to ensure prosperity throughout the year.  This could have derived from the fact that September 29th was also one of the four “Quarter Days” of the year (the others are March 25th, June 24th, and December 25th – did you notice they’re all important feasts), when rents were due, new leases begun and servants hired.  Tenants would bring a stubble goose (a goose that had been fattened on the stubble leftover after harvest) to their landlord when paying their dues, in the hopes of making him more lenient.  This may be how the goose and prosperity came to be associated.

Michaelmas used to fall on October 11 (or 10th according to some) and the tradition was that you shouldn’t pick any blackberries after this date, since it was the day St. Michael cast Lucifer out of heaven, throwing him to earth where he landed in a blackberry bush.  The devil cursed the blackberry bush and its sharp brambles (or spat on it, depending on which region we’re talking about – or even worse, if you’re in Cornwall).  img_3121Although we’ve never encountered wild blackberries here in south central Texas, we did have the chance to pick some last year when on retreat in Washington state.  Don’t worry, it was before Michaelmas.

This feast of St. Michael, our friend and patron, is an auspicious day, because as you read this, an incredibly beautiful set of antique stations of the cross are on their way to us!  They are hand carved and quite large, and we can’t wait for the day when we can install them in a beautiful church.  Thanks to St. Michael, St. Anthony and some very generous benefactors, we were able to purchase these one-of-a-kind works of art.  And with our heavenly helpers’ continued assistance, we hope to keep collecting beautiful church antiques to adorn God’s house, so that when it is built it will be bursting with beauty everywhere you look.  Pray for that endeavor, and pray to St. Michael daily, if you don’t already, that he will guard and protect you, your loved ones, the Church and our nation from the snares of the enemy.  He has already won the war, but we’re still in the fight.

Here are the words from the poem in honor of St. Michael, which you heard sung so ethereally (see top of post) by the Ensemble Cosmedin.

Tibi Christe, splendor Patris by Rabanus Maurus (776-856)

Latin original

Tibi, Christe, splendor Patris
vita, virtus cordium
in conspectu Angelorum.
Votis, vocis psalimus
alternantes concrepando
melos damus vocibus.

Collaudamus venerantes
omnes coeli milites
sed praecipue primatem.
Coelestis exercitus
Michaelem in virtute
conterentem Zabulum.

Quo custode procul pelle
rex Christe piissime
omne nefas inimici.
Mundos corde et corpore
paradiso redde tuo
nos sola clementia.

Gloriam Patri melodis
personemus vocibus;
Gloriam Christo canamus,
Gloriam Paraclito,
Qui trinus et unus Deus
Extat ante saecula. Amen.

English translation

Thee, O Christ, the Father’s splendour,
Life and virtue of the heart,
In the presence of the angels
Sing we now with tuneful art,
Meetly in alternate chorus,
Bearing our responsive part.

Thus we praise with veneration
All the armies of the sky;
Chiefly him, the warrior primate,
Of celestial chivalry,
Michael, who in princely virtue
Cast Abaddon from on high.

By whose watchful care repelling –
King of everlasting grace –
Every ghostly adversary,
All things evil, all things base,
Grant us of Thine only goodness,
In Thy paradise a place.

Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son,
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever Three, and ever One,
Consubstantial, co-eternal,
While unending ages run.
Translation by John Mason Neale

A Flight to Remember

Mother Teresa and PCPAs

Left to right: Sr. Grace Marie, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Sr. Raphael, Sr. Margaret Mary

It was an October evening in the late 1980’s.  Mother Angelica, Bill Steltemeier, Sr Margaret Mary, Sr Raphael and myself were standing in JFK Airport in New York, waiting to board a Pan Am flight to Rome.  Seeing two Missionaries of Charity also waiting ahead of us, I pointed them out to Rev. Mother,  “Oh, look Mother they’ll be on the same flight as us!”  No sooner had I made the observation, then a PR person for Pan Am came up to Mother and said, “Aren’t you Mother Angelica?”  As soon as she answered in the affirmative the woman said excitedly “Wonderful! We also have Mother Teresa on this flight, and we would like to upgrade you and your group to first class, as we have done with Mother.  Mother doesn’t like it, but we don’t give her a choice.”  The lady spoke with a smile that said we didn’t have a choice either.

Before anything else could be discussed we found ourselves being ushered onto a fairly empty aircraft, and there sitting near the entrance of the plane was Mother Teresa of Calcutta!  She immediately got up and greeted Mother Angelica and the rest of us.  I couldn’t believe that these two amazing women were together on the same flight, one who attended to the corporal works of mercy, and the other the spiritual works and…that I was on the flight with them!  Needless to say, this was possibly the only journey in my life that I felt absolutely no fear of any mishap!

I assumed that after the introduction that would be pretty much that for the rest of the trip, with perhaps these two spiritual giants speaking alone to each other.  Mother Angelica and Mother Teresa did sit together and speak for some time, but then, to my joy, in her kindness she sat with Sr Margaret Mary and myself and spoke to us. Her words, as always, were simple yet powerful, some things we had heard a hundred times before, but somehow, out of her lips, the words took on a new and greater meaning because of her great holiness.  She took her time and spoke to each one of us with a thoughtful attentiveness that made one feel regarded and loved.

During the remainder of the trip as she sat with her sisters ( and a brother), one felt her immense prayerfulness of heart, it was a great sense of the cloister that she carried with her. It was clear how she managed to accomplish so much: by her constant attention to and deep union with her Lord.  The Reverend Billy Graham once said of Mother Teresa, “When she walked into the room to greet me I felt that I was indeed meeting a saint.” He was of course right!

We arrived in Rome and said our good-byes. How grateful I was for the opportunity to have met this wonderful woman, a true daughter of the Church, who stopped at nothing to do God’s Will, bringing the light of Jesus to so many dark and hopeless places, just as He asked her, “Bring me into the dark holes of the poor. Come, carry me, I cannot go alone.

There is little doubt in my mind that she will be no less tireless in interceding in heaven for those who ask for her help than she was whilst on earth, for as she once said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”  She is another member of that great crowd of witnesses whom St Paul speaks about in Hebrews 12, praying for us and urging us ever forward. We join the Church and the world in thanking God for the canonization of this great intercessor for us.  St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

St. Augustine & Humility

St.-AugustineSomehow it didn’t seem so long, but we’ve been away from the blog for a while, so the feast of St. Augustine seems as good a time as any to dust the cobwebs from our digital parlor.

Though he’s been bumped today because his feast falls on a Sunday, it’s not difficult to tie this great Father of the Church into today’s Gospels, since he had so much to say about so many things.  It seems as though half of the patristic readings in the Office of Readings come from him, so we spend a good part of our lives listening to his sermons.  And while we didn’t find a specific homily on today’s reading from Luke (Lk 14:1,7-14), where Jesus encourages us to take the lowest place at the table because every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted, he did have a lot to say on humility.  In fact, he said it was central to the Christian faith and the first rung on the ladder to perfection.

It is significant that Augustine saw his moment of moral conversion in the garden at Milan as being prompted by a little child (he professed unawareness of the gender of the child, or even of the ditty the child was singing). (Confessions 8, 12, 29) It was not a conversion moment that happened in a dialogue with the Bishop [Ambrose], but through the unintended singing of an unseen child who was unaware of the impact being made.  This was a perfect vehicle of conversion for one sorely tempted by pride.   (From

Here is what St. Augustine himself said to us this morning in the Office:

Let us then follow Christ’s paths which he has revealed to us, above all the path of humility, which he himself became for us. He showed us that path by his precepts, and he himself followed it by his suffering on our behalf. In order to die for us—because as God he could not die— the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The immortal One took on mortality that he might die for us, and by dying put to death our death.

This is what the Lord did, this the gift he granted to us. The mighty one was brought low, the lowly one was slain, and after he was slain, he rose again and was exalted. For he did not intend to leave us dead in hell, but to exalt in himself at the resurrection of the dead those whom he had already exalted and made just by the faith and praise they gave him. Yes, he gave us the path of humility. If we keep to it we shall confess our belief in the Lord and have good reason to sing: We shall praise you, God, we shall praise you and call upon your name.

St. Augustine, bishop and doctor, pray for us!

Our Lady of Unity

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 2.50.41 PM

Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring.

-Bl. John Henry Newman


It was 20 years ago that I became a Catholic, and a couple years after that, when I first began attending the parish named after her, that I first came to know the Mother of God as Our Lady of the Atonement.  But even then, it wasn’t until I entered the monastery in Alabama that I actually began to take a greater interest in her.  I think it started with homesickness, and a longing for everything I was missing from Texas.  But then I came to know her story in much greater depth when I stumbled upon a book called Our Lady and Reunion, in the cloister library.  Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find Our Lady of the Atonement herself, looking up at me from the title page!IMG_6982

It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve read the book, but one thing that that’s always stuck with me is something that Cardinal Newman wrote about Our Lady’s role in the return of England to the Catholic faith.  Our Lady of the Atonement is the Mother of Unity – this is what her title denotes the At-One-Ment of man with God, and with all men in the Church founded by Christ.  It’s all there, even in the beginning of devotion to her under this new Continue reading