Yet earth was very good in days of old,
And earth is lovely still:
Still for the sacred flock she spreads the fold,
For Sion rears the hill.
Mother she is, and cradle of our race,
A depth where treasures lie,
The broad foundation of a holy place,
Man’s step to scale the sky.
She spreads the harvest-field which Angels reap,
And lo! the crop is white;
She spreads God’s Acre where the happy sleep
All night that is not night.
Earth may not pass till heaven shall pass away,
Nor heaven may be renewed
Except with earth: and once more in that day
Earth shall be very good.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘How wonderfully Lourdes proclaims the gospel. One cannot but be tempted to compare the simple and clear words of the apparition with the simplicity and clarity of the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel – the announcement to Mary, and to the world, of the incarnation.
One cannot go wrong here, for the words are all of the same source and inspiration, of the same Spirit. The one guarantees the other. It is the same heart and soul, the same Mary, who listens to the angel and who speaks to Bernadette. It is the same Spirit who gives Mary the grace to understand the angel’s message, and who moves her to speak to Bernadette according to God’s will.
The faithful and simple response of Bernadette is a replica of Mary’s. An innocent girl, ignorant of evil and wishing to know none, unpretentious and simple, putting herself at God’s disposal, strong in humility and, because of her humility, strong and firm in reacting to the divine Word: such was Mary and so was Bernadette to be’.
Gabriel, Cardinal Garonne, 1901-1994
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling-place meet for thy Son: we humbly beseech thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Scholastica, like her brother, dedicated herself to God from early youth. Information on the virgin Scholastica is very scanty. In his Second Book of Dialogues Pope St Gregory has described for us the last meeting between brother and sister:
“His sister Scholastica, who had been consecrated to God in early childhood, used to visit with him once a year. On these occasions he would go to meet her in a house belonging to the monastery a short distance from the entrance. For this particular visit he joined her there with a few of his disciples and they spent the whole day singing God’s praises and conversing about the spiritual life.
When darkness was setting in they took their meal together and continued their conversation at table until it was quite late. Then the holy nun said to him, ‘Please do not leave me tonight, brother. Let us keep on talking about the joys of heaven till morning’. ‘What are you saying, sister?’ he replied. ‘You know that I cannot stay away from the monastery’. The sky was so clear at the time, there was not a cloud in sight.
At her brother’s refusal Scholastica folded her hands on the table and rested her head upon them in earnest prayer. When she looked up again, there was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder accompanied by such a downpour that Benedict and his companions were unable to set foot outside the door. By shedding a flood of tears while she prayed, this holy nun had darkened the cloudless sky with a heavy rain. The storm began as soon as her prayer was over. In fact, the two coincided so closely that the thunder was already resounding as she raised her head from the table. The very instant she ended her prayer the rain poured down.
Realising that he could not return to the abbey in this terrible storm, Benedict complained bitterly. ‘God forgive you, sister!’ he said. ‘What have you done?’ Scholastica simply answered, ‘When I appealed to you, you would not listen to me. So I turned to my God and He heard my prayer. Leave now if you can. Leave me here and go back to your monastery’.
This, of course, he could not do. He had no choice now but to stay, in spite of his unwillingness. They spent the entire night together and both of them derived great profit from the holy thoughts they exchanged about the interior life. The next morning Scholastica returned to her convent and Benedict to his monastery.
Three days later as he stood in his room looking up toward the sky, he beheld his sister’s soul leaving her body and entering the heavenly court in the form of a dove. Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God in hymns of praise. Then, after informing his brethren of her death, he sent some of them to bring her body to the abbey and bury it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. The bodies of these two were now to share a common resting place, just as in life their souls had always been one in God”’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who for a testimony to the path of innocency didst cause the soul of blessed Scholastica, thy Virgin, to enter heaven in the appearance of a dove: grant unto us; that by her merits and intercession, we may walk in such innocency of life; that we may be worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Agatha went to prison radiant with joy and with head held high as though invited to a festive banquet. And she commended her agony to the Lord in prayer. The next day, as she again stood before the judge, she declared: “If you do not cause my body to be torn to pieces by the hangmen, my soul cannot enter the Lord’s paradise with the martyrs”. She was then stretched on the rack, burned with red-hot irons, and despoiled of her breasts. During these tortures she prayed: “For love of chastity I am made to hang from a rack. Help me, O Lord my God, as they knife my breasts”. Agatha rebuked the governor for his barbarity: “Godless, cruel, infamous tyrant, are you not ashamed to despoil a woman of that by which your own mother nursed you?”
Returning to prison, she prayed: “You have seen, O Lord, my struggle, how I fought in the place of combat; but because I would not obey the commands of rulers, my breasts were lacerated”. In the night there appeared to her a venerable old man, the apostle Peter, with healing remedies. Agatha, ever delicately modest, hesitated to show him her wounds. “I am the apostle of Christ; distrust me not, my daughter”. To which she replied: “I have never used earthly medicines on my body. I cling to the Lord Jesus Christ, who renews all things by His word”. She was miraculously healed by St Peter: “Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, I give you praise because by Your apostle You have restored my breasts”. Throughout the night a light illumined the dungeon. When the guards fled in terror, her fellow prisoners urged her to escape but she refused: “Having received help from the Lord, I will persevere in confessing Him who healed me and comforted me”.
Four days later she was again led before the judge. He, of course, was amazed over her cure. Nevertheless, he insisted that she worship the gods; which prompted another confession of faith in Christ. Then, by order of the governor, Agatha was rolled over pieces of sharp glass and burning coals. At that moment the whole city was rocked by a violent earthquake. Two walls collapsed, burying two of the governor’s friends in the debris. Fearing a popular uprising, he ordered Agatha, half-dead, to be returned to prison. Here she offered her dying prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, good Master, I give You thanks that You granted me victory over the executioners’ tortures. Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never-ending glory”. Thereupon she died’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the gentleness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom: grant, we beseech thee; that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of Saint Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The glory of righteousness arises and lights every man who comes into this world and wishes him to come to knowledge of His name; at its setting it has cast rays of new brilliance upon the western lands of the western world. When its radiance had been cast into our midst from on high, there shone in the darkness of our night like a heavenly star brought among us a man of exemplary life called Gilbert. Chosen to be God’s servant in the land of England, he was born in a place called Sempringham of a distinguished family (something that usually and properly acts as an encouragement to virtue); but by the special nature of his life this man overcame both the world and his worldly origin’.
from The Book of St Gilbert (edited by Raymonde Foreville and Gillian Keir), Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we remember before thee all thy servants who have served thee faithfully in their generation, and have entered into rest, especially Gilbert of Sempringham, beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow in their steps; that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
I’m asking very nicely now. Please help, Saint Blaise.
I can remember childhood days,
white candles held in front and crossed on my frail neck,
how from behind them I would look,
a roe behind two branches, apprehensively.
Mid-winter, and Saint Blaise’s Day,
my eyes were blinking, fixed upon the aged priest
wholly intent on praying just
to you, but bending over me kneeling before
the altar; true to sacred lore,
he muttered in a learned language neither I
nor he well understood. Yet my
health was preserved; you understood the formula;
you kept from me diptheria,
and inflammation of the tonsils, even croup,
with this result: I have grown up,
keeping, for half a century, so very well
that I’ve not thought of you at all.
O Bishop of Sebasta, don’t be hurt by my
ingratitude. Help me today!
You know the childish way in which we all go on:
we don’t look back, we cut and run
away along the drifting highway, letting go
the hands of higher beings; you
just smile at us as adults do, being wise, not hurt
by what is simply lack of thought,
smiling at us once more when, troubled, we return,
as I, I must admit, have done
today with beating heart… Please smile at me, Saint Blaise!
Yes, smile at me, upon my knees
before your simple altar-stone, a whimpering whelp –
smile if you like, Saint Blaise, but help!
The trouble is, you see, a treacherous disease
is killing me, starting to squeeze
my larynx tighter, and my air is running out,
just as a climber’s breath comes short
and climbing gets more difficult, or like a ton-
weight on my back; so I go on
in everlasting panting, while the surgeon’s knife
is threatening to preserve my life
by cutting up my wretched throat, that very throat
which I, farsightedly, held out
(remember, Blaise!) between your candles long ago…
Your consecrated larynx too,
when those so-wicked heathen were intent on killing,
blunt knives cut: so you know the feeling!
You know the blade’s edge and the taste of blood, you know
moments of desperation too
in the contraction of the torn windpipe, the fight
in terror as we suffocate.
Help! It is over now for you, you know it all,
you wise grown-up! You know quite well
what pain is bearable, how much is not too much
even for all the goodness which
is God, and what life’s worth… And even, maybe, that
death is nothing to write home about.
Mihály Babits, 1883-1941
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Blaise, thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may likewise rejoice in his protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘Don Bosco is a shining example of a life marked by apostolic zeal, lived at the service of the Church in the Congregation and in the Salesian Family. At the school of St Joseph Cafasso, your Founder learned to make his own the motto “Give me souls, take away all else”, as the synthesis of a model of pastoral action inspired by the figure and spirituality of St Francis de Sales. This model fits into the horizon of the absolute primacy of God’s love, a love that succeeds in shaping passionate personalities eager to contribute to Christ’s mission to set the whole earth ablaze with the fire of his love (cf. Lk 12.49). Besides the ardour of God’s love, another characteristic of the Salesian model is awareness of the inestimable value of “souls”. This perception by contrast generates an acute sense of sin and its devastating consequences in time and in eternity. The apostle is called to cooperate with the Saviour's redeeming action in order that no one be lost. “Saving souls”, precisely as St Peter said, was thus Don Bosco’s raison d’être. His immediate successor, Bl Michele Rua, summed up the life of your beloved Father and Founder in these words: “He did not give way, he did not speak, did not turn his hand to any task that did not aim at the salvation of young people.... He truly had only their souls at heart”’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
1. Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee,
Who in thy Sacrament art pleased to be;
Both flesh and spirit in thy presence fail,
Yet here thy presence we devoutly hail.
2. O blest memorial of our dying Lord,
Who living bread to men doth here afford!
O may our souls forever feed on thee,
and thou, O Christ, for ever precious be!
3. Fountain of goodness, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing blood;
Increase our faith and love, that we may know
The hope and peace which from thy presence flow.
4. O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see,
May what we thirst for soon our portion be,
To gaze on thee unveiled, and see thy face,
The vision of thy glory and thy grace.
St Thomas Aquinas, 1227-1274
translated by James Woodford, 1820-1885
‘The presence of the Risen Christ calls all of us Christians to act together in the cause of good. United in Christ, we are called to share his mission, which is to bring hope to wherever injustice, hatred and desperation prevail. Our divisions dim our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await in active hope and for which we pray trustingly, is no secondary victory but an important one for the good of the human family.
In the dominant culture today, the idea of victory is often associated with instant success. In the Christian perspective, on the contrary, victory is a long, and in our human eyes, not always uncomplicated process of transformation and growth in goodness. It happens in accordance with God’s time, not ours, and requires of us deep faith and patient perseverance. Although the Kingdom of God bursts definitively into history with Jesus’ Resurrection, it has not yet come about fully. The final victory will only be won with the Second Coming of the Lord, which we await with patient hope.
Our expectation of the visible unity of the Church must also be patient and trusting. Only in this frame of mind do our prayers and our daily commitment to Christian unity find their full meaning. The attitude of patient waiting does not mean passivity or resignation but rather a prompt and attentive response to every possibility of communion and brotherhood that the Lord gives us.
…I would like to entrust to St Paul’s intercession all those who, with their prayers and their commitment, are sparing no effort in the cause of Christian unity. Although, at times, one has the impression that there is still a long way to go to reach the reestablishment of communion and that the road is fraught with obstacles, I invite all to renew their determination to pursue, with courage and generosity, the unity which is God’s will, after the example of St Paul who, in the face of every kind of difficulty always firmly kept his trust in God which led to the fulfilment of his work.
Moreover, on this journey there is no lack of positive signs of rediscovered brotherhood and of a shared sense of responsibility for the great problems that are afflicting our world. All this is a cause of joy and of great hope and must encourage us to continue in our endeavour to reach the final goal all together, knowing that in the Lord our effort is not in vain (cf. 1 Cor 15:58). Amen’.
from his homily on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI
‘Newman never changed from the view which he had expressed so forcefully in Lectures on Anglican Difficulties (1850) that Anglo-Catholicism was inherently illogical and inconsistent. In 1882, by now a cardinal, he wrote that what Anglo-Catholic ritualists lacked, for all their dedication and even heroism under persecution, was “an intellectual foundation - which, sufficient for practical purposes, the Evangelicals seems to me to have”. It was a devastating indictment, but there was also a damning corollary: the lack of any real authority for the Anglo-Catholic position, a position which seemed to fly so manifestly in the face of the historical facts of the English Reformation, also seemed to Newman to carry within itself the seeds of theological liberalism. For a religion without either the biblical authority of Evangelicalism or the Magisterium of the Catholic Church could only be “a form of liberalism”, however liturgical and sacramental it might be’.
from his chapter ‘C.S. Lewis, Newman, and Conversion’, in ‘The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church’, 2010, by Fr Ian Ker.
‘Something better and fuller awaits us, if we discern God’s will rightly, and have the courage to try to fulfil it... [T]he kaleidoscope is turning and entirely uncharted and unexpected territory will be coming into view. We have grown up against the background of an ecclesial view where we knew our place as Catholic Anglicans, and how we fitted, or hoped to fit, into the wider pattern of the Church militant. Now, it seems, the inadequacy of that view is being revealed, and we have to allow God to reveal something more to us. We all feel confused and disquieted and none of us likes to feel the rock we have stood on, with such surety, is shifting (and even proving to have certain sandy properties we have never wanted to admit), but Jesus’ prayer on the Cross is our surrender to the Father’s will, and that is where we must base our hope. In human terms, yes, so much we have worked for seems to have collapsed, for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. But, perhaps, this is God’s moment, and through the breakdown of what we have known and valued, something infinitely grander and closer to his Heart, is beginning to emerge’.
Fr Christopher Colven, writing in the wake of the 1992 decision of the Church of England to ordain women to the priesthood. Fr Colven was Priest Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (1981-1986), and has been the (Catholic) Rector of St James, Spanish Place, London, since 2009.
‘I accepted for a time the borderland of Anglicanism; but only on the assumption that it could really be Anglo-Catholicism. There is a distinction of ultimate intention there which in the vague English atmosphere is often missed. It is not a difference of degree but of definite aim. There are High Churchmen as much as Low Churchmen who are concerned first and last to save the Church of England. Some of them think it can be saved by calling it Catholic, or making it Catholic, or believing that it is Catholic; but that is what they want to save. But I did not start out with the idea of saving the English Church, but of finding the Catholic Church. If the two were one, so much the better; but I never conceived of Catholicism as a sort of showy attribute or attraction to be tacked on to my own national body, but as the inmost soul of the true body’.
from ‘The Catholic Church and Conversion’, 1926, by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936).
‘In my own case I was moved away from the rationalistic island mentality of a conservative Englishman, to a truly Catholic – that is universal – perspective. My mind, imagination, heart and soul were stretched. I had tried to package my God into being an English God: somewhat effete, consoling, and so understanding as to be undemanding. The relativism in faith and morals of many Anglican parishioners was summed up for me by one lady who had told me, “I love the Church of England, because it does not make any demands on you!” Like the National Health Service, the Church of England was the final state-approved emergency service to be used as and when you wished.
In my young arrogance [as an Anglican curate] I thought that I was not part of such a compromised Christianity and that I could change individual attitudes and whole congregations. Yet, I too had compartmentalised God and certainly thought I had my faith and my calling under decent middle-class control… How could I witness to truth and the universality of the faith in a denomination which had broken from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church? The institutionalised state Church here had more than stifled universality. The concept of authority had been rejected and thereby the teaching on faith and morals was Anglicised, almost in a politically correct way.
…It is not that I have rejected Anglicanism, only that Anglicanism wasn’t universal enough. Anglicanism is forever linked to England, and ecumenical work as an Anglican can only ever begin from that basis. As a Catholic, on the other hand, one works from a universal foundation… So I have come to understand more of our faith which I recognise now as the universal reconciliation and love offered by Christ on the Cross. The English cannot restrict such a Christianity to themselves and their own requirements, nor must I ever think again that I have got God boxed up, or figured out’.
from his chapter ‘Conversion and Ecumenism’, in ‘The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church’, 2010, by Neville Kyrke-Smith.
‘Far from being a portrayal of Protestantism (as some might say), the Church of England’s reconciliation with Rome would be its vindication and fulfilment. It would be neither a triumph for Anglo-Catholicism, nor a defeat for Evangelicalism. Certainly it would fulfil many aspirations of the Oxford Movement leaders who began their work 150 years ago with reunion at the centre of their hopes and prayers, but it would also rejoice the hearts of the sixteenth century reformers to find their insights welcomed into, and acknowledged by, the Roman Catholic Church, through a union which leaves unharmed their cherished traditions.
John de Satgé has written: “If indeed Anglicanism is, as I hope, to lose its independence within the Catholic unity, it will be because its vocation is fulfilled. Rome has at last listened and learned. That which was held in trust for the whole Church within the Anglican boundaries has had its effect. Anglican return to Rome would signify not failure but success”.
We have come a long way: but one step more’.
from ‘One Step More between Rome and Canterbury’, 1982, by Fr Michael Rear
Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, originally conceived in the 1920s as an octave of prayer for the reunion of Anglicans with the Holy See.
‘For the “Anglican Papalists”, the Anglican tradition began with the mission of Pope St Gregory the Great. Because of his apostolic care in sending St Augustine of Canterbury to do what he could not do himself, the English Church can only be understood in relation to its Roman mother, even though for some centuries this has meant hostility rather than intimacy. England was evangelized from Rome, and historically the unity of the Church in England and the patriarchal jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury were both dependent on the link with Rome and the Pope’s grant of the pallium, as a sign and symbol of the authority that comes from Peter. England as a nation arose from the unity of the English Church, which, whatever distinctive features it may have had, was dependent on the Church of Rome’.
from his foreward to ‘Look to the Rock: The Anglican Papalist Quest and the Catholic League’, 2019
by John Hind, Anglican Bishop of Chichester, 2001-2012
‘When he went into church he heard what the Lord said in the gospel, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow”. He could not wait any longer, but went out and gave away even what he had kept back to the poor. He left his sister in the care of some well-known, trustworthy virgins, putting her in a convent to be brought up, and he devoted himself to the ascetic life not far from his home, living in recollection and practising self-denial.
He laboured with his own hands, for he had heard that “If anyone will not work, let him not eat”. And of what he earned, part he spent on food, and part he gave to the poor.
He prayed frequently, for he had learned that one ought to pray in secret, and pray without ceasing. He was so careful in his reading of scripture that nothing escaped him, but he retained it all; so that afterwards his memory served him in place of books.
And so all the people of the village, and the good men with whom he associated saw what kind of man he was and they called him “The friend of God”. Some loved him as a son, and others as though he were a brother’.
From the ‘Life of St Anthony’ by St Athanasius, 296-373
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
Jingle, jangle, star and spangle,
Over the wilderness wide,
Tall camels sway in the wilderness way
With their spacious, spongy stride.
And three grave kings with mystic things,
In search of the King Who is King of kings,
Three steadfast spectres ride.
Stars are shining, silver lining
Leaves of the palm trees grey -
If God should call, forsaking all,
Man must take the wilderness way;
And these must ride, nor ever abide,
On a road so long, through a world so wide,
To a Babe on a bed of hay.
‘Dearie, Dearie’, blessed Mary
Croons to her little Son.
And the three grave kings with their mystic things
Kneel low to Him, one by one;
And glad they are, though they came from far,
That they followed the light of the guiding Star
That led to Mary’s Son.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘How can we make a fitting recompense for so great a condescension? The one only-begotten God, born of God in an unutterable way, is enclosed in the shape of a tiny human embryo in the womb of the Virgin and grows in size. He who contains all things and in whom and through whom everything came into existence is brought forth according to the law of human birth; and he at whose voice archangels tremble, and the heavens, the earth and all the elements of the world dissolve is heard in the cries of a baby. He who is invisible and incomprehensible and is not to be judged by estimates of sight, sense and touch, is covered up in a cradle. If anyone considers these conditions unfitting for a God, he will have to admit that his indebtedness to such generosity is all the greater, the less they are suited to the majesty of God.
It was not necessary for him through whom man was made to become man, but it was necessary for us that God should be made flesh and dwell with us, that is to say, dwell within all flesh by assuming one fleshly body. His abasement is our glory. What he is, while appearing in the flesh, that we have in turn become: restored to God’.
St Hilary of Poitiers, c.315-367
Almighty, everlasting God, whose servant Hilary steadfastly confessed thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to be very God and very Man: grant that we may hold to this faith, and evermore magnify his holy Name; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal
‘This is the day which David sang of in the psalms: “All the nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and glorify your name”; and again, “The Lord has made his salvation known; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice”.
This indeed we know to be taking place ever since the three Magi were called from their far-off land and were led by the star to recognise and worship the king of heaven and earth. And surely their worship of him exhorts us to imitation; that, as far as we can, we should be at the service of this grace which invites all men to Christ.
You ought to help one another, dearly-beloved, in this zeal, so that in the kingdom of God, which is reached by right faith and good works, you may shine as children of the light, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen’.
from Sermon 3 by Pope St Leo the Great, c.400-461
The red king
Came to a great water. He said,
Here the journey ends.
No keel or skipper on this shore.
The yellow king
Halted under a hill. He said,
Turn the camels round.
Beyond, ice summits only.
The black king
Knocked on a city gate. He said,
All roads stop here.
These are gravestones, no inn.
The three kings
Met under a dry star.
There, at midnight,
The star began its singing.
The three kings
Suffered salt, snow, skulls.
They suffered the silence
Before the first word.
George Mackay Brown, 1921-1996
‘Bro. André Bessette, a native of Quebec in Canada, and a religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, experienced suffering and poverty at a very early age. They led him to have recourse to God through prayer and an intense inner life. As porter of the College of Notre Dame in Montreal, he demonstrated boundless charity and strove to relieve the distress of those who came to confide in him. With very little education, he had nevertheless understood where the essential of his faith was situated. For him, believing meant submitting freely and through love to the divine will. Wholly inhabited by the mystery of Jesus, he lived the beatitude of pure of heart, that of personal rectitude. It is thanks to this simplicity that he enabled many people to see God. He had built the Oratory of St Joseph of Mount Royal, whose faithful custodian he remained until his death in 1937. He was the witness of innumerable cures and conversions. “Do not seek to have your trials removed", he said, “ask rather for the grace to bear them well”. For him, everything spoke of God and of God's presence. May we, in his footsteps, seek God with simplicity in order to discover him ever present in the heart of our life! May the example of Bro. André inspire Canadian Christian life!’
from the homily at the Canonisation Mass, 17 October 2010, of St André Bessette
by Pope Benedict XVI
O Lord our God, who art friend of the lowly and who gavest to thy servant Saint André Bessette, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted: help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love, and so come to share with him in thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal
Sidney Godolphin, 1610-1643
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy Only Begotten Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may be led onward through this earthly life, until we see the vision of thy heavenly glory; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
‘This name has all things in it, it brings all good things with it, it speaks more in five letters than we can do in five thousand words, speaks more in it than we can speak today, and yet we intend today to speak of nothing else; nothing but Jesus, nothing but Jesus.
The angel tells us that he was the Son of the Highest, and so intimates that his was a name of the highest majesty and glory. And what can we say upon it, less than burst out with the psalmist into a holy exclamation, “O Lord our governor, O Lord our Jesus, how excellent is thy name in all the world”. It is all “clothed with majesty and honour”, it comes riding to us “upon the wings of the wind”, when the Holy Spirit breathes it upon us, covering heaven and earth with the majesty of its glory.
…[T]his happy name. We have been saved by it, been saved in it, and one day shall be saved through it; Jesus runs through all with us. So then remember we to begin and end all in Jesus. The New Testament begins so, “the generation of Jesus”; and “Come Lord Jesus”, so it ends. May we all end so too, and when we are going hence, commend our spirits into his hands; and when he comes, may he receive them to sing praises and alleluias to his blessed name, amidst the saints and angels, in his glorious kingdom for ever. Amen’.
Mark Frank, 1613-1664
‘As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer’.
St Basil the Great, 330-379
Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to to know the power of thine unending love; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘In the revised ordering of the Christian period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God. This celebration, placed on 1 January in conformity with the ancient indication of the liturgy of the City of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in the mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother… through whom we have been found worthy to receive the Author of Life”. It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the new-born Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace’.
Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been counted worthy to receive the Author of our life, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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