What do we do with our Blessed Palms?

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What do we do with our Blessed Palms?

Blessed palms - like holy water, brown scapulars, devotional medals, and so on - are "sacramentals," and while they do not convey grace in the objective way the seven Sacraments do, but, "by the Church's prayer, prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it" CCC 1670). As such, they may not be disposed of like common trash, but should be disposed of in a dignified way, usually by being burned or buried. It is traditional - and indeed it is our tradition - to burn those blessed palms and use the ashes for Ash Wednesday. So hang on to your palms,  place them over a door or in some devotional nook of your home as an aid to prayer, and then bring them to Mass next Septuagesima Sunday (2/09/2020, but we'll remind you!), and you'll receive them back to help you remember that "thou art dust, and unto shalt thou return."

Letter from Fr. Allen: The Second Sunday in Lent & St Patrick’s Day, March 14, 2019



Dear Friends,

This Sunday is the Second Sunday in Lent, but it is also my "onomastico" - my Name Day, St. Patrick's Day. We associate St. Patrick with all things Irish, or at least with Irish-y marketing gimmicks - green beer, Shamrock Shakes (bless ye, McDonald's), and more or less anything that can be dyed green. But of course behind all of that, and behind the legends about snakes (or the absence thereof), there is an actual saint; that is to say, an actual man so transformed by the love of Christ that he himself was "conformed to the image of Christ" and made a remarkably faithful herald of the Gospel of Christ.

We know the outlines of Patrick's biography from his own hand, his Confession, a sort of defense of his methods, teaching, and intentions, written near the end of his life. He was born on the western coast of Roman Britain in the latter half of the 4th century. Patrick's father was a deacon, but Patrick himself was, he tells us, entirely uninterested in the things of God when, as a sixteen year old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he was set to work tending sheep in the wilderness. For six years he labored as a shepherd - cold, alone, hungry, and often brutalized. But in that time he began to pray - and pray and pray and pray. And even in the midst of his suffering he began to rejoice in the Lord's goodness and mercy. After six years, and goaded by an angel who spoke to him in a dream, he escaped, walking some 200 miles to the coast where he found passage on a boat to Gaul. There he entered a monastery where he lived for probably 20 years and was ordained a priest and discovered within himself a desire to return to Ireland, to the people who had enslaved and abused him, to share with the the good news of Jesus Christ. Patrick was then ordained a bishop and returned to Ireland, where his preaching - augmented by the holiness of his life and the goodness and beauty of Christian culture he came bearing - was remarkably effective. Without bloodshed, without martyrs, Ireland was converted to the Catholic faith by Patrick's ministry.

It is a remarkable thing: he returned to what was for him "the land of Egypt, the house of bondage." As he said himself, "I have sold my patrimony, without shame or regret, for the benefit of others. In short, I serve Christ on behalf of a foreign people for the ineffable glory of life everlasting which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Sadly, the situation in Ireland is very different today, and the slide back into paganism with its inevitable sacrifice of children is well advanced. But we cannot climb the high horse of self-righteousness: the failure of the Church to be the bearer of the truth, beauty, and goodness, and especially the horrible sins and crimes of priests and religious, have turned the Irish from Christ. Ireland awaits "another - doubtless very different" St Patrick to speak again the tender mercies of our God; indeed, the blood of her children cries out.

So, this St. Patrick's Day let us of course celebrate all those good and charming (intoxicatingly so!) aspects of Irish culture. You might even join me at St Patrick's Church at 8AM on Saturday morning where I will concelebrate with Bishop Guglielmone (I think it's O'Guglielmone this weekend) the St Patrick's Day Mass (transferred) and then enjoy the parade afterward. But let us also pray that, at the intercession of St. Patrick, the Lord will call Ireland back to himself, and also that we will grow in that same zealous love that compelled Patrick to "go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28.19)

God bless you,
Fr Allen

The Stations of the Cross

Join us at 12.30 on Fridays in Lent 2019 for the Stations of the Cross. In this simple and solemn devotion, walking hand-in-hand with the Blessed Virgin Mary, we retrace the steps of Jesus as he was led through Jerusalem on Good Friday, from Pilate's court to Calvary to the tomb. Short meditations and prayers are read at each of the fourteen stations. Click here to learn more about the history of this beautiful devotion.

Letter from Fr. Allen: The First Sunday in Lent, March 7, 2019



Dear Friends,

We are off again on our annual Lenten pilgrimage to the upper room, to Calvary, and to the empty Tomb - those "mighty works whereby our Lord God hast given us life and immortality." In the Gospel for today (the Thursday after Ash Wednesday) that agenda is set for us. Jesus announces to his disciples that “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” But then Jesus tells us that his disciples, if they - if we! - will truly be his disciples - cannot be mere spectators in the Lord's journey to Jerusalem, but must actually be participants: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it." Lent is a time in which we sharpen and intensify our participation in the Lord's Passion by taking up the little training crosses of our self-denial and disciplines, so that we may deepen our joyful participation in his mighty Resurrection, dying to ourselves so that Christ might live in us.

In addition to the Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, our Lenten pilgrimage is marked in our liturgy in ways that have become familiar to us: purple vestments, the absence of the Gloria and any "Alleluia" from Mass, the subdued use of the organ. We will also keep the old traditions of chanting the Litany in procession at the beginning of Mass on this the first Sunday of Lent, and of using unbleached candles, which denote sorrow and penitence, on the altar.

Another and more obtrusive alteration to the liturgy during Lent will be the use of the Merbecke setting of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). John Merbecke (1510 - 1585) composed this simple setting for the first edition (1549) of the Book of Common Prayer on a one-note-per-syllable principle. The result is serviceable rather than beautiful, but appropriately stark for Lent and a way to mark the season with our singing. For some of you these settings will be immediately familiar as they used very commonly to be sung in Episcopal/Anglican churches (and often in Lutheran and Methodist churches as well). In any case, you may (re-)familiarize yourself with those tunes below.

We will also be singing the Merbecke setting of the Our Father. Because of the high percentage of tourists with us each Sunday (bless them), singing the Lord's Prayer has been something of a challenge - they know and default to the Roman Missal setting and concluding doxology, which is just close enough to our chant setting and text to cause deep confusion. The music director and I are hoping that a using the completely different Merbecke setting will put us all, literally, singing from the same page of music. We'll see.

Have a sober Lent!

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Click the above image to launch a recording of Merbecke's Mass setting, including the Kyrie, the Sanctus & Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei. 

A pdf of the sheet music is available here for those who are interested. The sheet music will be printed in the Sunday bulletin as well. 

Homily on Quinquagesima

Fr. Allen's homily on Sunday, 3 March, Quinquagesima, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday

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We continue today through this little season of Pre-Lent, once common throughout the Church but now given a new life amongst us in the Ordinariates. It is a season of preparation, of stretching and warming up to the rigors of a holy Lent with its abstinences and penances so that we may worthily and fitly celebrate a glorious Easter with its joy and feasting.

And today is the third and last Sunday of Pre-Lent, the Sunday called Quinquagesima - which simply means “fifty days” - we are now fifty days, counting in round numbers from Easter. And just three days, counting in precise numbers, from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The object of these Pre-Lenten days is to prepare ourselves so that we may hit the ground running on Ash Wednesday. As John Betjeman’s humorous little poems has it,

The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc

Mean Lent is near, which makes you think…

And that’s all I want to do in this morning’s homily, to think with you just a bit about Lent and remind you and myself, in very practical terms, just what the Church calls us to in keeping a holy Lent. And so this will perhaps be less homily and more Sunday School lesson, but I do want to at least start from this morning’s Gospel.

Jesus points out a peculiar thing with regard to human perception - what we notice, and what we miss: Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Why, indeed? And of course the answer is implicit in the question: our own vision is obscured, our perception is distorted, by the log of our own sin. It makes us notice and magnify the faults of others, but minimize or overlook altogether our own.

But charity, love, in our hearts works, clarifies, and corrects our vision, so that the faults of others seem small and our awareness of their virtues increases. St Therese of Lisieux writes about applying the medicine of charity to improve her perception of her sisters in the convent:

“If, when I desire to increase this love in my heart, the demon tries to set before my eyes the faults of one or other of the Sisters, I hasten to call to mind her virtues, her good desires; I say to myself that if I had seen her fall once, she may well have gained many victories which she conceals through humility; and that even what appears to me a fault may in truth be an act of virtue by reason of the intention.”

By very intentionally looking with the eyes of love and humility, like putting on a pair of glasses, Therese is able to see her sisters in a new way: she can see the good in them, what is lovely in them.

Which brings me back around to Quinquagesima, and preparing for Lent. Because Lent itself is a kind of preparation, forty days of prayer and fasting, so that we may see clearly the love of God poured out for us in Christ. It is taking us to Good Friday, when our Lord, for us men and for our salvation, put out into the deep of the great sea of love so that we might share in the great miracle of Easter Sunday.

So, on this Quinquagesima Sunday, we want to think about keeping a holy Lent, to be ready for Ash Wednesday. So what does the Church, first of all, require of us in Lent. And require, you know, is the right word. "You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church" is one of the seven precepts of the Church, binding on all Catholics - these “positive laws,” as the Catechism says, “decreed by the pastoral authorities … meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.”

So here is what the current code requires as our necessary minimum for Lent:

1.     A day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to fifty-nine years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country, one may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children are not required to fast, but their parents must ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting. Those with medical conditions requiring a greater or more regular food intake can easily be dispensed from the requirement of fasting by their pastor. The days of fasting are Ash Wednesday - that’s this coming Wednesday - and Good Friday.

2.     A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years or older are required to abstain from eating meat (under the current discipline in America, fish, eggs, milk products, and condiments or foods made using animal fat are permitted in the Western Rite of the Church, though not in the Eastern Rites.) Again, persons with special dietary needs can easily be dispensed by their pastor. Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence. Of course it used to be that abstinence was required all other Fridays during the year, except during Eastertide. Since the reforms after the Second Vatican Council, Catholics in America are currently to offer some kind of penance of their own choosing on Fridays.

Now, those days of fasting and abstinence are what is minimally required of us. But of course it is the custom as well - not a requirement but a custom - to “give up” something during Lent, or even to take on some spiritual discipline. And I want to encourage all of us to think between now and Ash Wednesday about how we and our families can enter fully into Lent, to have a plan, of how to approach this privileged time of preparation for memorial of our redemption. Self-denial of pleasures, things not wrong in themselves, is liberating - it trains our wills so that we are not slaves to our appetites and desires, so that in the circumstances of our lives when the law of love requires sacrifice, we will be ready to say no to ourselves so that we can say yes to our neighbor in need.

Self-denial, giving things up, also strengthens us in the battle against temptation. When we discipline our wills to refuse ourselves pleasures when they are not sinful, we strengthen ourselves to say no to pleasures and indulgences when they are sinful.

Denying ourselves some of our usual indulgences also teaches us solidarity with those who go without every day because of their poverty - it binds us to our neighbors in need. It is good for us to know what it is like to be hungry voluntarily, so that we will learn compassion for those who are in real and constant hunger.

And finally, denying ourselves these small pleasures, our usual indulgences, gives us just a glimpse into what our Lord gave up for us, what our redemption cost him, emptying himself for us and becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross. And when we understand our Lenten disciplines that way, we will find Lent to be a time of joy and gratitude, because it will allow us to see more clearly, to feel more deeply, God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

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Letter from Fr. Allen: Quinquagesima & Ash Wednesday - February 28, 2019



Dear Friends,

This Sunday is Quinquagesima, which means that the holy season of Lent is upon, and that it is also time for the Bishop's Annual Appeal.

In his message for Lent, Pope Francis encourages us to be urgent in our Lenten observance: "Let us not allow this season of grace to pass in vain! Let us ask God to help us set out on a path of true conversion. Let us leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and turn to Jesus’ Pasch. Let us stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them. In this way, by concretely welcoming Christ’s victory over sin and death into our lives, we will also radiate its transforming power to all of creation."

You will see [here] a schedule for special Lenten devotions, including the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, added times for Confessions, Stations of the Cross, and more. Don't let this season, a privileged time for growth in grace, slip away! Make a plan now for your own Lenten disciplines of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, and especially for how those disciplines will be lived out in the domestic church which is your home and family. Here's a helpful guide to keeping a holy Lent in preparation for the commemoration of the Lord's blessed Passion and precious Death, and the joy of his mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension. And here's my own favorite source of inspiration for Lenten meal planning!

Bishop's Appeal
The annual Bishop's Appeal for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter also begins on Quinquagesima. At Mass this Sunday I will read a letter from Bishop Lopes inviting you to participate, but here I will make my own appeal: give generously! As a member of the Ordinariate's Governing Council, I can assure you that your gifts to the appeal will be a real and fruitful investment, carefully husbanded, in our common mission and ministry of evangelism and unity. Even beyond the fiscal realities of our Ordinariate's youth and relatively small size, our chancery is an intentionally lean operation. Your gift will make a substantial difference in the chancery's services and the Bishop's ministry, which - and this bears emphasis - is our ministry, too. Your gift is a tangible expression of our unity.

Many of you will have received a pledge card and information about the appeal in your mailboxes this week, and if not, we will have more available at Mass. Ashley and I have already made our pledge and first payment, and I urge you prayerfully to consider your gift and to make your pledge as well (might as well do it now!). 

God bless you,
Fr Allen