The Incarnation

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Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature. What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can anyone’s heart remain closed and hardened after this?

We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in a man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity. Only your love could so dignify the flesh of Adam. And so by reason of this immeasurable love I beg, with all the strength of my soul, that you freely extend your mercy to all your lowly creatures.

-St. Catherine of Siena

The Incarnation of the Lord, the central point of all human history, has been the source of countless songs, poems, art and meditations throughout the history of the Church.  We can never plumb the depths of this mystery, that God, moved by love for fallen man, would take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, to redeem us.  As Fulton Sheen famously said, Jesus Christ was the only man born to die.  The Incarnation is also the beginning of His Passion, so this mystery, like so many, holds joy tinged with sorrow that leads to the Resurrection.  This is the mystery of Christ’s earthly life, and it is also the mystery of our lives, that whether we are rejoicing or bearing the cross, we can be assured that it’s purpose is for our sanctification and salvation.

The Annunciation usually falls within Lent, a welcome reprieve, and this year it falls on the day before Laetare Sunday, another moment to relax our Lenten discipline a bit before we enter into the final weeks of our Lenten journey towards Calvary and Our Lord’s Passion.  The sorrow and the joy, rather than contradicting each other, actually serve to deepen and sweeten each other. By God’s grace we can grow to understand this more and more, adding a depth and authenticity to our lives and our relationships, both with God and each other.  When we can learn to endure suffering, rather than run from it, to not just endure it but grow from it, become more Christ-like and docile to His Will, then we can, like Our Lord and the saints, eventually come to find some joy in it – not some kind of masochistic dysfunction, which is how the world characterizes the Catholic understanding of suffering, but a peace and joy that comes from being conformed to God’s Will, that comes from bearing a part of the Cross with Our Lord.  Like the saints and martyrs, we can then experience the Resurrection, even in the midst of the Crucifixion.

[Well, we didn’t intend to talk about suffering and the cross on such a joyful day, but we hope you can enjoy the beautiful song at the top of the page anyway.  It’s by The Medieval Baebes.]

A Prayer for the President

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LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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Blessed Thanksgiving

  

The gracious gifts of the most high God… should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and voice as by the whole American people.
-Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1863

Praying for you with grateful hearts on this day of Thanksgiving! May Our Lord supply your every need and fill your hearts with joy.

“My Daughter, I Want to Teach You About Spiritual Warfare”

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My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare…

Our Lord spoke these words to St. Faustina in 1938, directing her for three days while she was on retreat (full text at the end of this post).  Each of us is engaged, here on earth, with the spiritual battle which rages unseen all around us between satan and his demons, and us, the people of God, and His angels.  It’s an overwhelming thought, that all hell is waging war against us, against Christ’s Church, against the Kingdom of God, but it is true, and we must be aware and well-prepared.  Perhaps it’s not so hard to imagine spiritual warfare, when we can look around and see the wars and tensions Continue reading

Michaelmas

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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

The American Madonna

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We must understand by virtue of our new birth into the Kingdom of God that the Blessed Virgin is our real mother and not merely a mother that has just adopted us. By baptism we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and by that process of incorporation we are also brought into relationship with the Blessed Virgin, which is intrinsically similar to the relationship which Christ has to the Blessed Virgin as his mother. The Blessed Virgin is not our stepmother. She is our real mother as far as are the Sons and Daughters of the Atonement and members of the Mystical Body of Christ.               -Fr. Paul of Graymoor

On this Independence Day we wanted to remind you of a uniquely American title of Our Lady, one which is lesser known, but no less important, than many of her more well-known titles.  Devotion to the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of the Atonement began with an Episcopalian priest, Fr. Paul Wattson, who was inspired to found a religious congregation devoted to the work of unity, reconciling men with God, particularly by leading those outside the sheepfold home to Christ’s Church.  With the help of Mother Lurana Mary White they founded the Society of the Atonement in the late 1800s.  They eventually came to realize the they couldn’t wait for the entire Episcopalian church to reunite with the Chair of Peter, and so, they and the members of the society made their profession of faith in 1909 and were received into the Catholic Church.  They brought with them this devotion to Our Lady of the Atonement, whose feast day they celebrated on July 9th.

In Rome She is known as “the American Madonna”.  She is Our Lady suffering with her Son at the foot of the Cross.  She wears a red mantle to symbolize the Precious Blood of Jesus, the Blood which makes us at-one with God.  The red mantle is worn over a blue tunic, and together with her white veil, the colors remind one of the American flag.  Independence Day always falls in the middle of the novena leading up to her feast day, and so it is yet another reminder of her special connection with our nation.

May Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Unity, protect and guide our country, that we may truly be one nation under God, made at-one with Him by the Precious Blood of Jesus.

 

 

Fear Not, I Am the Angel of Peace

Ninety Nine years ago today, in 1917, Our Lady of Fatima first appeared to the three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria.  “Fear not! I will not harm you,” she said.  She asked them to return to that spot on the thirteenth day of each month, for five consecutive months.  Her messages to Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia were calls to prayer and penance, in reparation for sins and offenses against God. She asked them to pray and sacrifice for souls, many of whom were falling into hell.

But in 1916, the children had been visited three times by an angel, who was preparing them for the apparitions of the Mother of God.  The angel came to them in spring, summer  and autumn, and taught them two prayers. His very first words to the children were, “Fear not! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me!”

He also urged them, “Pray! Pray a great deal. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices continually to the Most High.” When the children asked,”How must we sacrifice ourselves?” he answered, “Make everything you do a sacrifice, and offer it as an act of reparation for the sins by which God is offended, and as a petition for the conversion of sinners. By this you will bring peace to your country. I’m its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all accept and bear with submission all the suffering the Lord will send you.”

The two prayers which the angel taught the children have been part of our own community’s morning prayers for many, many years.  When we gather for Office of Readings and Morning Prayer at 6am each day, we begin with the Angelus (or Regina Caeli, if it’s the Easter Season) and then pray the two Fatima prayers, as well as the Guardian Angel prayer.


My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I beg pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.

 

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He, Himself is offended. And I draw upon the infinite merits of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that You might convert poor sinners.

 

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard to rule and to guide.  Amen.