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Feast of St. Peter of Alcantra

Almighty God, Father of mercies
and giver of all good gifts,
we come before You to honor You
in your servant, Peter of Alcantara,
and to ask his help in our many needs.
You promised those who ask would receive,
those who seek would find, those who knock
would have doors opened to them.
Hear the prayers of Your church
and grant the requests we make
as we trust in Your love for us.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Amen.

Vision of Jesus

O Virgin Mother,
In the depths of your heart
you pondered the Life of the Son
you brought into the world.
Give us your vision of Jesus
and ask the Father to open our hearts,
that we may always see His presence in our lives,
and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
bring us into the joy and peace of the kingdom,
where Jesus is Lord forever and ever.

Amen.

Please Listen to My Story

More than one-sixth of the population of Venezuela, 5.6 million out of 30 million, has left the country since 2015. Previously one of the richest countries in Latin America with even larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, it now has one of its most depressed economies. Millions of Venezuelans have left in

Prayer to St. Anthony Mary Claret

St. Anthony Mary Claret, during your life on earth
you often comforted the afflicted
and showed such tender love and compassion
for the sick and sinful.
Intercede for me now that you rejoice in the reward
of your virtues in heavenly glory.
Look with pity on me and grant my prayer.
Make my troubles your own.
Speak a word for me to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
to obtain by her powerful intercession
the grace I yearn for so ardently,
and a blessing to strengthen me during life,
assist me at the hour of death,

Triumph Over Enemies of the Cross

O God, who through St. John of Capistrano
enabled Your faithful people
to triumph over the enemies of the Cross
by the power of the most Holy Name of Jesus:
grant, we ask You, that by His merits
and intercession we may overcome
the snares of our malicious and spiritual enemies,
keep Your Church in perpetual peace,
grant us the special graces we now implore.
And may we be found worthy to receive from You
the crown of justice.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Mother of the Church

O Immaculate Virgin,
Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church,
who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity
to all those who ask for your protection,
hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust,
and present it to Your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.

Mother of Mercy,
Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice,
to you, who come to meet us sinners,
we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love.
We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys,
our infirmities and our sorrows.

We Were All Strangers Once

Recently, I chanced upon an interview on YouTube that instantly grabbed my attention. A young Irish woman was speaking about her ordeal back in 2013 when she was arrested at the airport in Lima, Peru, along with a woman from Scotland, for carrying large quantities of drugs in her luggage. When

Free Me from Darkness

Father in Heaven,
You made me Your child
and called me to walk in the Light of Christ.
Free me from darkness
and keep me in the Light of Your Truth.
The Light of Jesus has scattered
the darkness of hatred and sin.
Called to that Light,
I ask for Your guidance.
Form my life in Your Truth,
my heart in Your Love.
Through the Holy Eucharist,
give me the power of Your Grace
that I may walk in the Light of Jesus
and serve Him faithfully.

Grant Me Your Grace

Grant me Your grace, most merciful Jesus,
that it may be with me, and work with me,
and continue with me even to the end.
Grant me ever to will and desire what is most pleasing to You.
Let Your will be mine.
Grant me, above all things, to rest in You,
and to still my heart to perfect peace in You.
For You are the true peace of the heart,
You are its only rest, and of the You there is no rest.
In this peace, that is in Yourself alone,
my chief and eternal good,
may I lie down and take my rest.

Amen.

“It Looks Like a Barn!”

I’d passed the church three times before recognizing it. The voice of the “satnav” lady kept insisting that, “you have arrived at your destination,” but all I could see was a collection of farm buildings set in open fields. Then I noticed a cross on top of one of the buildings. This is how I finally came upon the Catholic church of St. Mary’s, near the Lancashire village of Aughton.

I was welcomed by parish priest Fr. Des and, and after concluding the opening pleasantries, I explained the reason for my delayed arrival. “It’s your church,” I said. “It looks like a barn!”

“It looks like a barn because it is SUPPOSED to look like a barn,” came the reply. “It was built that way.”

Over a hot cuppa (cup of tea) Fr. Des explained the background. St. Mary’s is unusual in that it was built DURING penal times, not after. To avoid upsetting local sensibilities, and so as not to attract too much attention, it was constructed away from the village, set back from the road, shielded by trees and designed to look like a farm. “Camouflaged, in other words.” The church itself was built in the style of a barn. “That is why it has no windows.” The presbytery was given the appearance of a farmhouse.

“There are a few of these ‘barn churches’ around,” Fr. Des continued. “Not all of them are Catholic. Some are Nonconformist chapels. The Dissenters had to be discreet in those days as well.”

I’d come to St. Mary’s as part of the Columbans’ mission promotion and fundraising program and spent the weekend celebrating with the people. The parishioners are proud of their history and were eager to give me more details. It became clear that what had happened in Aughton had reflected events that occurred throughout south Lancashire during the Reformation.

In 1534 the Act of Supremacy declared Henry VIII to be head of the Church of England. Soon, Aughton’s beautiful old Parish Church of St. Michael’s was following the Protestant rite, leaving Catholics with nowhere to celebrate Mass. Indeed, it was now ILLEGAL to celebrate Mass.

Fortunately, much of the local gentry in south Lancashire kept to the “Old Faith.” They protected fellow Catholics and often arranged for secret Masses to be celebrated. Geography was a factor in this. Many villages such as Aughton were cut off from their surroundings by bogs and marshes (known locally as “mosses.”)

In Aughton’s case the lords of the manor were members of the famous Stanley family (see sidebar.) Th eir home at Moor Hall became a Catholic haven. Extensive renovation work carried out recently uncovered traces of a small chapel, where the Sacraments had probably been celebrated in secret. Nobility, isolation and some well-directed bribes kept the Stanleys free from arrest, although as “popish recusants” they were not immune from punishment. Local records indicate that in 1584, because his “family adhered to the old religion,” Peter Stanley was “required to furnish the cost of a light horseman accoutred” for Elizabeth I’s war in Ireland, to the tune of £24 – no mean sum at that time.

Eventually, fear of the “Catholic menace” began to abate, and in 1784 it was considered worth the risk to start celebrating the Eucharist out in the open on the site of the present church. Finally, in 1823 the faithful felt suffi ciently confi dent to be able to build St. Mary’s, a full six years before the passing of the Act for Catholic Emancipation – albeit building the church in its disguise, and even then, leaving the doors open so that passers-by could be sure that nothing “untoward” was happening during liturgies.

Today, the parish community continues to thrive, despite St. Mary’s isolated location. People come from all over the rural area, inspired by the parish’s illustrious past. Not bad, for a church that looks like a barn.

Columban Fr. John Boles spent over 25 years on mission in South America. He is now living and working in England.

The Stanley Family

The Stanleys are one of north-western England’s best-known families.

Most notable of all was Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby. He famously tipped the scales against Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 by changing sides at the last minute. Shakespeare has him finding the crown under a hawthorn bush and handing it to Henry Tudor, thus ending the Wars of the Roses. Little good it did him. Henry – by then Henry VII – had him executed anyway, later in the reign. Thomas is buried in the parish church of Ormskirk, just four miles down the road from Aughton.

Another Stanley that came to a sticky end was James, who served as a prominent commander of the defeated Royalist army during the English Civil War. He had remained loyal to Charles I, and for his pains was executed in 1651 at the nearby Lancashire town of Bolton.

Peter Stanley of Aughton fought with his relative James during the Civil War and must have feared he’d suffer a similar fate after being captured by Cromwell’s Roundheads. Fortunately, he escaped with a spell in prison and recovered his estates aft er the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.