Letter from Fr. Allen: July 12, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

In the image [below], our Infant Lord, seated in the lap of our Lady, holds an orb surmounted with a cross. This is not, as has been suggested by one or two of our parishioners, the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch." Rather, it is properly known as a globus cruciger, which simply means "cross-bearing orb." From the middle ages, it has represented Christ's lordship over the orb of the world. Iconography in which Jesus is depicted holding the globus cruciger is called a Salvator mundi ("Savior of the World"). Last year an idiot (I use the term advisedly) paid $450 million dollars for a Salvator mundi that may, or may not, be the work of Leonardo DaVinci. In fact much of the argument among art historians centers on the orb in that picture, which some experts feel is not up to Leonardo's usual standard.

In any case, images of Christ as Salvator mundi depict an important truth, which we need always before our eyes, straining as we sometimes do to see God's kind providence in this dark and fallen world. Christ is Redeemer of the world and reigns over the world, and he is bringing all things to their perfect consummation. Christ is, as St Paul writes to the Ephesians, "head over all things for the Church" (Eph 1.22).

In other words: he's got the whole world in his hands.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

 Our Lady of the Atonement 

Our Lady of the Atonement 

A Prophet is Not Without Honour, Except in His Own Country: a Homily Thread

Fr. Allen tweeted a portion of this morning's homily, for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B), the Gospel reading for which is Mark 6.1-6. 

Jesus came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.  And he went about among the villages teaching.

Homily thread (Trinity 6; OT 14b):

We have to acknowledge that the people of Nazareth were right; or, their expectations wrong but - kind of - justified.

After all, Jesus was fully human. He was a man like other men. He really was the carpenter from Nazareth, whose mother and half-brothers and sisters and cousins they all knew. St. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians said, “Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands,” and it seems that is exactly how our Lord lived in Nazareth, before he went down to present himself to John for baptism in the river Jordan.

In other words, he was normal, not that impressive; indeed, in some sense even unimpressive. As the prophet Isaiah had said, “He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

That is how he came, and that is how he comes among us still. St. Augustine said, “I am afraid of Jesus passing,” because he might pass without my realizing it, without my being ready to receive him. He comes to us still in ways that are familiar, normal, even unimpressive.

A carpenter, who constructed the world. A poor Nazarene, but King of the Universe. A crust of bread, but his sacred Body. A sip of wine, but his precious Blood.

And the poor who, as he Jesus said, “are always with us,” and in whom he presents himself, wounded and in need, for our love and adoration. We have a great addiction to “new and improved” - in our technology, in our vehicles, in our toys, sometimes in theology and liturgy.

We want to be impressed. But our Lord comes to us along old and familiar pathways: the Bible; Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be; the 10 Commandments; Confession and penance; as we visit the sick and help our neighbor in need.

But, you know, that itself is an expression of his love for us, his respect for our freedom. He does not trick us, does not manipulate our feelings and energy with novelty, but invites our love.

In a sense, he is still among us leading a quiet life and working with his hands, and does not want us so much to be dazzled by him, as to know him, to seek friendship with him.

And friendship grows from companionship, from shared work, from conversation, from the patterns of relationship that are, in a sense, old and familiar, but - in a living relationship animated by love, are always new.

And this morning, on this Altar, across this rail, Jesus returns to his own country, to you and me, clothed in the humble and familiar robes of bread and wine, and presents himself to us - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Let us learn the lesson of the people of Nazareth, and give him honor, and receive him when comes.

[Leaned on this homily by Fr Cantalamessa: https://zenit.org/articles/father-cantalamessa-on-a-prophet-without-honor/ ]

 

Letter from Fr. Allen: July 5, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

As you will see, there are lots of ordination-related items in this week's newsletter. This past Friday, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul (6/29), Bishop Lopes ordained three priests for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (two of whom are establishing a revived form of religious life). Friday, 6 July, is the 27th anniversary of Fr West's priestly ordination, and this Saturday is the 5th anniversary of my own ordination as a Catholic priest. 

I serve on the "Vocations Team" for the Ordinariate, and it has been a great privilege and an encouragement to talk and pray with so many men seeking to discern God's call on their lives. We currently have five men in seminary (including of course our own Robb Lester), a dozen or so former Anglican clergy in formation, and a lovely backlog of applications and inquiries to work through. As of this month, the Ordinariate has a new Director of Vocations and Clergy Formation, Fr. Rick Kramer. Fr. Kramer's wife, Kathi, is also a former Episcopal priest who has embraced the Catholic faith, and she will be taking up a post as Assistant Director of Pastoral Formation at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.

All of this ordination and vocations related news is simply the opportunity to ask you again to pray daily for vocations to the priesthood and religious life,  for our seminarians and those in formation for the priesthood, and for all bishops, priests, and deacons, "that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth [God's] true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer [his] holy Sacraments."
 

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

A Homily Thread for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Homily tweeting for the Feast of the Nativity of St John Baptist:

The Nativity of St John Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who prepares the way for Christ, who is in himself the hinge between the Old Testament and the New, culminating the ministries of the prophets by introducing to the world the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, feast of any saint in the Church’s calendar.  

But why today, June 24th? Well, for starters, we may work out the date by the information St Luke gives to us in his Gospel. Remember that when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to invite her to become the Mother of God’s Only-Begotten, after Mary had given her assent, her fiat, Gabriel told her also of John’s coming birth: “And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.” 

“It is the sixth month with her.” So John, we may infer, was born six months before Jesus. And the Church kept the feast of the Annunciation on March the 25th, and so of course also kept the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, Christmas, nine months later, on December 25th. 

And if Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John when our Lord was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then that would put the birth of John in late June, and so the Church already in the 5th century was keeping this great feast of John’s Nativity on June 24th. 

But again, the ancients were much closer to nature and her cycles than are we, and so they saw another significance in these dates. The Lord’s Nativity is, they knew, celebrated on - or about, close to - the Winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, after which the days slowly get longer; the light increases. And John’s nativity is celebrated on - or about, close to - the Summer solstice, technically this past Thursday, the longest day and shortest night of the year after which, after today, the days slowly grow shorter and the nights longer; the darkness increases and will do so all the way until, well, Christmastime, when the light will grow. 

So we keep John’s feast today because of the Biblical timeline, but liturgically, these feasts have a kind of cosmic significance. 

The change in the seasons, the growing darkness followed by the growing light, proclaim the Baptist’s own words to his disciples as he directed them to Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

Again, we don’t live so close to nature any more. Solstice and equinox pass without notice. We live in an electrified world; if it’s dark, we flip a switch and - hey, presto - it’s light again. 

But our forefathers and mothers in the faith were very much aware that each day, beginning today, would have a little less light and a little more darkness. 

For them, keeping St John the Baptist’s feast on this day, at the Summer solstice, was itself the beginning of an eloquent, year-long sermon. 

It was John the Baptist again preaching to us from the heavens, directing our attention, directing or hope, to the coming of Christ, the light of Christ coming in to the darkness of this world, and overcoming it. 

“He must increase, and I must decrease,” John is saying to us still, and so setting out the program for every Christian life, every year, every day.

By the example and at the intercession of St John the Baptist, and beginning this very day, may the light of Christ increase in each one of us, overcoming the darkness of pride and selfishness in our own hearts, so that we, like John, may become beacons of God love and mercy.

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 22, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

This Sunday the regular progression of Sundays after Trinity is interrupted by the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which takes precedence over the Sunday. In the Gospel we will hear again how John's father, Zechariah, who had lost the power of speech when he expressed his incredulity at the angel Gabriel's announcement that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son (for Elizabeth was "barren, and both were advanced in years"), regains his voice upon naming the child John, as Gabriel had instructed him. 

So, for nine months, Zechariah was silent. It was a punishment, of course, for his unbelief. A punishment, to be sure, but also a gift - at least I would think so. Certainly it would be frustrating not to be able to make yourself understood, your wishes known. But at the same time, that enforced silence must have given opportunity to reflect on the angel's visit, on the miracle (surely a miracle, and at least the great surprise) of his unborn child's conception, the visitation of his kinswoman Mary, bearing her own miracle Child, and then to give thanks, to turn his heart in praise to God, perhaps even to compose in his mind that great hymn of praise which came pouring out of him when his tongue was finally loosed: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, in the house of his servant David..."

Zechariah was granted (whether he wanted it or not) the gift of silence. But ordinarily for us, silence is a discipline we must undertake and develop: to let another speak and to attend to his or her words; not to respond to every internet provocation; to really think through a concern; and especially in prayer, not to fill the minutes with words but to be quiet and listen for God's still, small voice.

And of course, with Zechariah, after the silence comes praise. [Here] you may listen to a song my children and I love by Rain for Roots, a band that specializes in Bible story-songs for children (of all ages). It captures the building tension in Zechariah's heart as the day of John's birth approaches, and the wonderful release that comes when, in obedience, he names the child "John."

May God grant us, as he did Zechariah, the twin gifts of silence and song.

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

A Homily Thread on the Parable of the Mustard Seed

 Parable of the Mustard Seed etching by Jan Luyken 

Parable of the Mustard Seed etching by Jan Luyken 

Homily thread [on the Parable of the Mustard Seed for the Third Sunday after Trinity]:

It is easy to lose patience, to become frustrated with injustice in the world, frustrated with sin and corruption and ineffectual leadership in the Church, frustrated with the slow-to-the-point-of backing up growth of holiness in our own lives.

It's really easy to be impatient with the impatience of others. We want it all to happen now. But listen to our Lord's parables of the Kingdom. God is doing the building, not us.

Even in the natural world, he takes the tiny, insignificant mustard seed and he turns it into a plant that becomes a home for birds. Our Lord dies, his battered body is planted in the grave, and his body, and with it our frail humanity, is raised to new and eternal life.

And he takes twelve insignificant, often fearful, often doubting men in an insignificant backwater outpost of the Roman empire and builds a Church that fills the whole world, and so many of us have found rest in its shade.

So, patience. We must never look at the world, or at the Church, or at our neighbor, or in the mirror, and lose hope. And no cup of water given in Jesus' Name, no word of encouragement spoken, no act of love, no matter how small, is given in vain.

These are seeds scattered in the Lord's garden, and he will give the increase. He who began this good work, this Kingdom of righteousness, will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.

And God, as he always has, will use the most unlikely-seeming, the most insignificant-appearing, means to do it: a splash of water, hands laid upon a head and smudge of oil, a bit of bread and a sip of wine; a kind word; a sign held on a sidewalk; a whispered prayer.

He will use even you and me. /Amen.

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 15, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

How do we treat things that are precious? With care, of course. I recently read a fascinating (to me, anyway) book with the quirky title, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel, in which the author takes the reader, as it were, on trips to libraries across Europe and North America where he examines twelve of the most precious medieval manuscripts in existence, and relates those experiences to the reader, telling not only the history and significance of the manuscript (for instance, a Book of Gospels produced in Rome in the 6th century and which is almost certainly the same volume sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury, the great missionary to England), but also the actual process and more tactile sensations of handling the book - what the manuscript feels like, what it smells like, and so on. 

But of course these are rare, fragile books and may only be viewed under careful conditions. So de Hamel describes his encounter with the famous 8th century Book of Kells, Ireland's most precious cultural artifact, which resides in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The book was brought from its vault to a specially secured room. A humidifier had been brought in earlier in the day to make sure that the atmosphere was at the optimum condition for preservations of the vulnerable parchment. There was a special table, "prepared in advance with foam pads, a digital thermometer, and white gloves." But even the white gloves were not for de Hamel, who was to keep his hands to himself. Instead, the library's chief keeper of manuscripts carefully turned the pages "with the extreme tips of his fingers, usually from top and bottom simultaneously."

I know that medieval manuscripts are not likely so fascinating to you as to me. But what should be common to us all is the careful, thoughtful handling of a rare and precious things. No doubt we all have our own personal objects which we treat with comparable care: children may look, perhaps, but certainly not touch.

And if we are so about an object, a thing, how much more so must we be careful in handling, in touching, a person - not just with thought and care but also with, if I can put it this way, "charity aforethought." I thought of this last Sunday as I held little Westy Miller and conferred upon him the sacrament of Baptism - what a gift to hold in my arms this little child, so tiny, so vulnerable, but willed and intended and redeemed by God, infinitely precious.

All of which is to say each time we make our Holy Communion, we are receiving not just something, but Someone, our Divine Redeemer, and so it is important that we do so with thought, with care, with love.

Below you will see a short video which is helpful for thinking about this - not only in what the Church requires, but also how those objective requirements serve and enhance our own devotion in faithfully receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. So watch, and then at Mass "taste and see that the Lord is good."

God bless you, 
Fr Allen

P.S.  Several of you have asked about the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States not to hear the appeal in the dispute within (between?) the local Episcopal/Anglican diocese(s). I will indeed have a little something to say about that soon, but for now, please do pray for these brothers and sisters and Christ, for many of whom this is a very painful and uncertain time, and let us resolve again to be a community always of joyful and peaceful Catholics, whose life together is a sign of the unity Christ desires for his Church.

“How to Receive the Eucharist” from the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 7, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

I read some time ago that when Pope St John Paul made an apostolic journey to his native Poland, a Mass was planned for the parish in which he grew up, in the town of Wadowice. As Mass began, there was some confusion as the people and clergy realized the Pope was not in the procession! It turned out that as everyone moved forward down the aisle, John Paul took a hard left, and was to be seen in the small baptistry, where he knelt, embraced, and kissed the font where he on 20 June 1920 had died with Christ and been raised with him in the waters of Baptism.

This Sunday we will baptize our community's newest and youngest member, Logan West Miller. It will be an opportunity for all of us, even as we rejoice for Westy, to recall our own baptisms, and, as we are sprinkled with the baptismal water and the Asperges me is chanted, to give thanks (even if we may not embrace and kiss the fonts in which we were reborn) for the union with Christ effected there, and for the "glorious freedom of the children of God" which is ours.

I thank all of you who attended last Saturday's parish meeting. You will be hearing more soon about our discussions that day, and especially about next steps and opportunities to lend a hand as we move forward together in faith.

And thanks also for the lovely reception and your many generous gifts on the occasion of my fiftieth(!?) birthday! It was very much appreciated, and your friendship will help me ward off the ever-encroaching senescence and decrepitude!

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen

 Pope Saint John Paul II at his baptismal font   image via  @ChurchinPoland

Pope Saint John Paul II at his baptismal font 

image via @ChurchinPoland

Letter from Fr. Allen: June 1, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

As you know - I hope! - this Sunday is our "Feast of Title," the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, more commonly known as "Corpus Christi." Further, it will be the fifth anniversary of our community's foundation. It was on this great feast when our original band of pilgrims was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the hands of Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, our first ordinary. 

As I recall that day five years ago, I recall that I had some ideas, even some confident ideas, about how things would unfold for our community from there. I was wrong in every respect! Just last week at Mass we heard St James warn us against being too certain in our future plans: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain'; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that' (James 4.12-15).

Well, God's plans are better than ours! His plans are for our sanctification, for our maturity, for our salvation. And while we may not know God's plans, we may be sure that he does. As he said by his prophet Jeremiah to Israel in their exile: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29.11,12). 

None of that means that we are to be passive or not to make plans. Not at all. Rather, it frees us to be faithful and bold, knowing that God cares for us, watches over us, and will lead us finally home to himself. This Saturday's parish meeting is precisely about being faithful and bold as we speak and pray together about next steps for our community and even make practical, concrete plans so that we may grow and this project to preserve and nourish the Anglican patrimony in the Catholic Church may be a means for many to discover the peace and joy of the Church's full communion. So please come! And if you cannot come, please pray!

And on Sunday afternoon, do not miss the Choral Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in celebration of our Fifth Anniversary! We will have a wonderful choir and the sacred music will be "Spoleto-worthy." A festive reception in the courtyard will follow. This will be the last of our monthly evensongs until September, so if you haven't yet attended, this your chance. Do come - and invite your friends!

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen

Letter from Fr. Allen: May 24, 2018

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+JMJ+

Dear friends,

Last Sunday's Solemnity of Pentecost brought to a close the great feasts of our redemption - those mighty acts of God whereby we are redeemed. They are summed up starkly for us in the Great Litany: 

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation....By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Spirit, Good Lord, deliver us. 

And with the mystery of our redemption in Christ laid before us, the Church invites us to meditate on that redemption in a smaller cycle of feasts beginning this Sunday with Trinity Sunday, then Corpus Christi (our Feast of Title!) next Sunday, and then the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart on the following Friday. Of this sequence of feasts, Pope Benedict once said,
 
Each one of these liturgical events highlights a perspective by which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: and that is, respectively the reality of the Triune God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine and human centre of the Person of Christ. These are truly aspects of the one mystery of salvation which, in a certain sense, sum up the whole itinerary of the revelation of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his death and Resurrection and, finally, to his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And so I urge you to be in Mass and give yourself over to this annual pattern of devotion, that the Holy Spirit may lead you "further up and further in" to the joy and freedom of our salvation in Christ.

As you know, Corpus Christi is a special celebration for us, and also an occasion to think and pray together about God's call to us as a community. Please do participate in the parish meeting on Saturday, June 2nd, and also do not neglect to give thanks, pray, and adore at Evensong & Benediction on Sunday the 3rd (festive wine and cheese reception to follow!). Also, your RSVP for the parish meeting would be a big help in our planning.

See you Sunday, and God bless you, 
Fr Allen