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

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+JMJ+

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

Blessed John Henry Newman to be Canonized

Blessed John Henry Newman by Sir John Everett Millais, public domain

Blessed John Henry Newman by Sir John Everett Millais, public domain

by Edward Pentin for NCRegister.com

13 February 2019

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman is to be canonized following a Vatican announcement on Wednesday that the Pope had formally approved a miracle attributed to his intercession.

The date of the canonization of Blessed John Henry, who will become England's first post-Reformation saint, has not yet been announced, but it is expected to take place later this year. “We are now hoping that it will be sooner rather than later,” Father Harrison said.

The founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England, Cardinal Newman was one of the most prominent converts to the Catholic Church from Anglicanism in the 19th century and was a renowned preacher and theologian. 

Read the entire article

Letter from Fr. Allen - January 31, 2019

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+JMJ+

Dear Friends,

I sometimes get called upon to tell my conversion story, but technically, it's a "reversion" story. I was born into a Catholic family, but my parents began attending a (very fine) Presbyterian church when I was about eleven years old. I have quite a few memories of Mass in those days, but one that particularly stands out is having my throat blessed on St Blase's Day. I don't know why that should be, except that perhaps we had been told the story of the holy martyr Blase having healed a boy who had a fish bone stuck in his throat, and that I loved to fish and eat my catch, and so having St Blase on my side seemed like a particularly good idea. 

In truth, we know very little about St Blase. He was certainly bishop of Sebaste (in Armenia) and martyred in 316. The story of the boy with the fish bone stuck in his throat comes some 400 years later. However, as early as the end of the fifth century, the intercession of St Blase was already being invoked for ailments of the throat. In time it became a custom throughout the Church to bless the throats of the faithful on St. Blase's Day, which is February 3rd. Candles are always used in this blessing, evidently due to the close proximity to Candlemas (also known as the Feast of the Presentation) the day before, with its blessing of candles for liturgical and devotional use.

This year, St Blase's Day falls on Sunday, which of course takes precedence, but we will indeed keep the tradition of blessing throats immediately following Mass. Following the final hymn, Deacon Rosenblum and I will make our way to the Sacred Heart Altar and bless the throats of those who present themselves.

This blessing of throats on St Blase's Day, brown scapulars, miraculous medals, holy water, and even homilies are "sacramentals;" that is, "sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments...they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church... by them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy" (CCCC 1667). Sacramentals do not communicate grace as sacraments do, but, properly and prayerfully used, they dispose us to receive that grace.

Well, at the intercession of St Blase, bishop and martyr, may we be disposed to receive all those graces of love and mercy and healing which flow from the wounded side of Christ. See you Sunday!

God bless you,
Fr Allen

image credit: Zvonimir Atletic, Shutterstock

image credit: Zvonimir Atletic, Shutterstock