In pious memory of Father Andrew SDC, who died on this day in 1946, a passage from a Holy Week meditation on the death of self.
‘The whole reason of our Lord’s death was that there might be life more abundant.
We have to try to die with our Lord if we would rise with Him. Our Lord’s life was in a mystical sense a daily dying. There came the day when He completely died, in darkness, shame, and pain, and in proportion to the completeness of His death was the completeness and the perfection of His Resurrection.
All of us have some particular weakness of our own, a quick temper, laziness, or some kind of selfishness. It is to this that we must learn to die daily, if we would live the new life in Christ. If we allow our bodies by their desires to dull our devotion and obscure our spiritual vision, then we live to the flesh and die to Christ, but if we keep them in subjection, then we die to the flesh and live to Christ.
We must die to our own self-will. The reason we do things should be because we believe them to be in harmony with the will of God. We must die to our own self-love. The saints have always been at peace with themselves, because they have never thought about themselves. Only out of the death of self-love can there be a resurrection to the love of God’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
The framer called to say that the print was ready for collection, and so off into the strong winds of Vancouver Island it was. There is no lockdown here (yet), and so long as folk observe the requisite social distance and keep to under 50 then British Columbians are free to move around and pick up their much-anticipated framed prints. I began to collect these 1970s Church Literature Association reproductions of the works of the artist Martin Travers (background here, especially in the comments) after an initial benefaction by Mgr W. This copy comes via Glastonbury and, appropriately, has made its home on the wall on this Monday of Passion Week, thus lending itself to an excerpt from Mgr Ronald Knox’s sermons on the Cross, preached four years after the creation of the original Travers image. Hard to beat the heady fusion 1920s Catholic art and homiletics...
‘In the words of the Imitation of Christ, we have to live a dying life. A life from which the thought of our death-bed is never wholly absent, giving us a contempt of worldly things, giving us a sense of urgency and haste, because our time is so short. “Ye are dead” (St Paul tells us), “and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. As the children of Israel passed to their deliverance through the dark waters of the Red Sea, so Christ, our Leader, delivered us by passing, on Good Friday, through the dark gates of the tomb. In baptism, we have all mystically achieved that ordeal by water, we have all been mystically identified with Christ’s death – buried with him (St Paul says again) in baptism. “As dying, and behold we live”; it is only in proportion as we are dead to the world that we live to him.
As Christ upon the Cross in death reclined,
Into his Father’s arms his parting soul resigned,
So now herself my soul would freely give
Into his sacred charge to whom all spirits live;
So now beneath his eye would calmly rest
Without a wish or thought abiding in the breast;
Save that his Will be done, what e’er bedite,
Dead to herself, and dead in him to all beside’.
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
Today’s historic Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary – centred naturally on the Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, the premier Marian shrine in that realm - brought to mind memories of many happy and peaceful pilgrim visits to Our Lady’s sanctuary there. Walsingham has long held a special place in my devotional and spiritual life; a place that offers safe harbour, protection, respite from the busyness of the world, and the sense of home beyond home. Entering into the Holy House – which remains the first pilgrim port of call in the village for those of us in the Ordinariate, as it did in our Anglican days – is an act to be accompanied by deep sigh of relief. Words from the 43rd Psalm, fittingly part of the Introit for today’s Mass for Passion Sunday, mark every pilgrim’s First Visit – ‘I will go into the house of the Lord, even the house of my joy and gladness’ – echoing and underlying that sense of homecoming and also of the joy – Mary’s joy – in the mystery of the Incarnation, to which Walsingham bears witness.
A fourth Canadian pilgrimage was planned for the spring of next year but, as with much else, that has had to be put on hold until a clearer path can be discerned in the wake of evolving circumstances due to the global pandemic. So for now, and for a little while longer, as with the Eucharistic fast, may we be content with and comforted by many spiritual visits to Walsingham, pledging our love and devotion to Our Blessed Lady, under that ancient title, and pleading to her for the conversion of England (and wherever else we may live), the restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, and peace for the departed.
Here is Fr Alfred Hope Patten’s (Anglican) prayer ‘to Our Lady of Walsingham When Absent’, from an old copy of the Walsingham Pilgrim Manual.
Most holy Virgin! I prostrate myself in spirit before thy Shrine at Walsingham, that Sanctuary favoured by thy visits, favours and many miracles. I unite myself with all those who have ever sought thee, and do now seek thee, in that holy place, and join my prayers with theirs. But especially I unite my intentions with the intentions of the Priests who offer the holy sacrifice upon thy Altar there. I offer thee my love and devotion, asking thee to remember for all eternity that I am numbered among the pilgrims who have sought thy intercession in the Sanctuary of thy choice. I renew the promises and intentions I made when it was my privilege to salute thee at thy Shrine in the Vale of the Stiffkey. Dear Mother, Our Lady of Walsingham, remember me.
This evening my family and I completed our novena to Our Lady of Walsingham and recited the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary in preparation for tomorrow’s rededication of England as Our Lady’s Dowry. In normal circumstances, in the context of the parish’s Sunday worship, we would have done our bit to celebrate this historic occasion - the renewal of a personal promise of the English people, and of the entrustment vows made by King Richard II in 1381 - with formal devotions before the parish’s Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, and sprinkling with holy water from the village.
Alas, it is not to be. Instead, the rededication will now take place behind closed doors in churches and homes across England and the world, as indeed will be the case here in Victoria. Following the Noon Mass I will lead our prayers and conclude with the Act of Entrustment. It may, on the surface, seem the circumstances have rendered this day all a bit low key, but that would be to miss something of the essential nature of this timely consecration. The absence of a big ‘do’ should not be interpreted as a failure; rather it offers an opportunity to emphasise the personal and intimate character of this consecration; that it is about dedicating oneself and claiming Mary as my Queen and my Mother; that England, and its diaspora, are converted not by grand gestures but by small acts of witness and of love.
I’ll let Fr Christopher Hilton, Cong. Orat., a much-revered family friend and priest of the Manchester Oratory, have the last word on all of this. Listen to what he has to say. His memorisation of a section of Cardinal Newman’s introduction to his Second Spring sermon is a particular a joy to behold.
‘Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength into that north country, which once was thine own, and take possession of a land which knows thee not. Arise, Mother of God, and with thy thrilling voice, speak to those who labour with child, and are in pain, till the babe of grace leaps within them! Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies’.
St John Henry Newman, pray for us.
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.
Some encouraging words and practical advice from the late Cardinal Hume on the theme of pain and suffering. As we enter this Sunday into Passiontide and contemplate the reality of a church-less Holy Week, it will be especially important to draw as close as we can to the Crucified One and so lay before God all that does not make sense, all that seems lost, all that hurts. We can be honest with God about how we feel, but only if we seek, in exchange, to understand truly how God is always honest with us - especially in those difficult and often unwelcome moments of suffering and loss - about the reality of our lives, our loves, our very purpose in this life and the next.
‘Suffering comes to each one of us. We cannot escape it. The list is familiar: illness, mental anguish, old age, loneliness, heartbreak, disappointments, unkindnesses, the loss of a loved one – everyday problems no doubt, but painful experiences which can drain us of energy and take the joy out of living. It is easy to allow ourselves to become bitter and unhappy. We refuse to accept. We do not try to understand, and the pain is then worse. How do we escape from that danger?
It is, I suggest, by realising that every pain and each trial is a call from God to each one personally to become holy, to draw closer to him. God speaks clearly through pain. It is not that we should seek suffering for ourselves, that would be wrong. It is a gift from God rich in blessings and reward, but only if it makes us more Christ-like and greater lovers of our Father.
In times of trial we must never cease to pray… we can pray, as he did on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That is a powerful prayer when the trial is very great. Our Lord’s suffering was so intense that he felt that even his Father no longer cared.
There will be times when we shall feel incapable of using words or, even more difficult, of having fine thoughts. It is helpful then just to sit or kneel, gazing at the crucifix. That is an excellent way of praying. You may feel wretched, overcome, sad, bewildered – but go on looking at the crucifix and it will tell you its secret. We shall understand that suffering and pain, and death as well, have now a special dignity and value precisely because Christ, who is God, experienced them’.
Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB, 1923-1999
Some timely words by the great Father Andrew, a monk of the Anglican religious community, the Society of Divine Compassion.
‘In Lent we gaze at the divine figure of our Lord, and two things are brought specially before us, His temptation in the wilderness, and His suffering and death at Jerusalem. For Him, as for us and for every one, the real religious conflict must be fought in solitude... Lent calls each one of us personally to imitate our Lord’s retirement into the wilderness by the deepening of our own spiritual adventure, to honour His Passion by bringing into our lives deliberate self-denial, to expect that the reality of our faith and prayer will have its proving in the common contacts and experiences of life. The Christian’s faith issues in the Christian’s life; the Christian’s life is proved by the Christian’s sacrifice. We have to fight out our own spiritual battle in solitude and silence’.
- Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
A sunny and warm start to the afternoon today, which cheered the four of us gathered for Mass on the solemn feast of the Annunciation (‘of our Lady’, as the 1662 Prayer Book calls it), offered for the recovery of a parishioner following recent surgery. Daffodils were picked from the garden and placed next to the statue of the Madonna and Child, happily recused from their sad abode in a West Lancashire storeroom a few months ago. Last year I posted the following, by the essential Caryll Houselander. Her words this Lady Day - rich in the language of surrender, trust, and sacrifice - are worth repeating, not only today, but time and again as we seek meaning and pupose amidst the things we have involuntarily surrendered.
‘Our Lady said yes for the human race. Each one of us must echo that yes for our lives. We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life. The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation. What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life, our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows - to God. To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world - that is what we shall be asked. Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiat was for herself and for us, but if we want God’s will to be completed in us as it was in her, we must echo her fiat’.
Caryll Houselander, 1901-1954
First Evensong of Lady Day has been said and tea and cake enjoyed to celebrate, in more muted a manner than usual, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Our Lady of Walsingham, enthroned just to the left of where I say my Office, has been a great comfort in these days, especially as we’ve worked through the novena to her in preparation for Sunday’s rededication of England as her dowry. One of the prayers in the second form of the novena, as provided in the Ordinariate’s rather excellent St Gregory Prayer Book, addresses Our Lady with these words, ‘Our Lady of Walsingham, we commend to thy loving intercession our parish, its priests, deacons, and people. Guard us beneath thy loving protection from sin and sorrow, shield us against pride and envy, and all the snares of the devil; and teach us, loving thee, to love the Lord Jesus, and all souls for his sake’. Loving protection is absolutely what we all need at the moment, and Our Lady doesn’t disappoint in offering her loving maternal consolations and protection, especially in moments of great anxiety and distress.
Which is a nice segue to an e-mail received from my colleague Mgr Wilkinson this morning. He says that ‘one way we can keep our people focused on the season is through [the St Gregory Prayer Book]. There is of course a whole section on Lent and on Passiontide, and on Our Lady. People don’t know... what to say... this book would help them’. And he’s right. The book has proved indispensable on a number of liturgical and pastoral occasions; a treasury of our Anglican patrimony, user-friendly and full of gems not easily found elsewhere. I heartily recommend it, and even have a lead on a much-reduced offer. Contact me for details!
Lord, teach us how to pray aright
With rev’rence and with fear;
Though dust and ashes in thy sight,
We may, we must draw near.
We perish if we cease from prayer;
O grant us power to pray.
And when to meet thee we prepare,
Lord, meet us by the way.
James Montgomery, 1771-1854
Trying to settle into a new pattern I’m not altogether enthusiastic about is a challenge; especially for those of us who are priests, and particularly when one stumbles upon - or almost over - the large box propped up against the front door containing palms of varying dramatic size and purpose for two Sundays hence. It wasn’t the most welcome reminder of the weirdness of this time, or of the context-to-be of my first Holy Week in a new parochial setting. Oh well. Into the cool of the garage the box goes for now, its contents waiting to adorn - unintentionally and, I’m sure, flamboyantly - the inadequately sized domestic oratory on the second Sunday of the Passion.
The ‘work from home’ prescription doesn’t quite gel with the job description of a clergyman, especially beyond the confines of a monastic house... Nonetheless, like my cloistered brethren, I am grateful for the anchor that the Divine Office and Mass afford in gathering up into God not only the prayers and aspirations of my absent fold, but of my own desires and longings also. I feel kept on the straight and narrow: purposeful and useful, if only in the fulfilling of the very minimum of my priestly life.
How to find that anchor beyond the altar and the prie dieu, especially if, for a time, one no longer has access to it? Being creative with how to keep folk together - in touch, in communion, in sacris - is a test for priests and lay folk alike in these odd days of Minding the Gap. Social media helps to a degree, so too live streaming Masses and the like, but there may be a risk in the novelty of such things. I don’t know. Perhaps it will usher in a re-awakening of man’s lost love. We can certainly hope. All the same, we might, usefully, use this time - and its attendant hunger and thirst - for more intentional prayer, deeper self-examination and reflection of the things of the Spirit, inspired and out of the ordinary acts of charity, study, self-denial, sacrifice... in short, the things of Lent. Because seemingly in spite of all else, that hasn’t been cancelled. Our lives may yet be framed by its disciplines, themes, and challenges so that out of the chaos and confusion of those things to which we might it find difficult to adjust, accept, or believe, God may bring order, purpose, and meaning.
‘In order to try you, God puts before you things which are difficult to believe. St Thomas’ faith was tried; so is yours. He said “My Lord and My God”. You say so too. Bring your proud intellect into subjection. Believe what you cannot see, what you cannot understand, what you cannot explain, what you cannot prove, when God says it”. - St John Henry Newman.
An overcast Mothering Sunday today, in more ways than one, brightened a little by the use of an old rose Low Mass set in the Spanish style. This set, used only once a year, was given to me almost two decades ago by my then-Anglican parish priest in Manchester. He had, in turn, been given it by his confessor, a monk of the Anglican Benedictine community at Nashdom. So, a nice bit a patrimony on this most patrimonial of Sundays.
Had normal service been in operation we would have enjoyed the return of the organ, flowers at the altar, beautiful Marian hymns, rosa mystica incense, and the distribution of daffodils and simnel cake. Alas. Our opening hymn for the Solemn Mass was to have been The God of love my Shepherd is - the 23rd psalm - appointed for this ‘Refreshment Sunday’ in the English Hymnal. Words by Herbert, music by Dr Charles Collignon, who taught anatomy, of all things, at the University of Cambridge in the second half of the 18th century. His tune is thus called ‘University’. I think it sublime and deeply fitting for this time.
1. The God of love my Shepherd is,
And he that doth me feed;
While he is mine and I am his,
What can I want or need?
2. He leads me to the tender grass,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently pass:
In both I have the best.
3. Or if I stray, he doth convert,
And bring my mind in frame,
And all this not for my desert,
But for his holy name.
4. Yea, in death’s shady black abode
Well may I walk, not fear;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
To guide, thy staff to bear.
5. Surely thy sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my days;
And, as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
Under the watchful and maternal care of Our Blessed Lady, a Mass of Our Lady on Saturday was offered today for my absent parishioners, concluding with the Ave, Regina Caelorum. A number of penitents came for confession afterwards. Thoughts turned to Donne.
Absence, hear thou my protestation
Against thy strength,
Distance and length:
Do what thou canst for alteration,
For hearts of truest mettle
Absence doth join and Time doth settle.
Who loves a mistress of such quality,
His mind hath found
Beyond time, place, and all mortality.
To hearts that cannot vary
Absence is present, Time doth tarry.
My senses want their outward motion
Which now within
Reason doth win,
Redoubled by her secret notion:
Like rich men that take pleasure
In hiding more than handling treasure.
By Absence this good means I gain,
That I can catch her
Where none can watch her,
In some close corner of my brain:
There I embrace and kiss her,
And so enjoy her and none miss her.
‘That Time And Absence Proves Rather Helps Than Hurts To Loves’
by John Donne, 1572-1631
A view from my seat in my domestic oratory which also serves, following the daily private Mass, as a location for the faithful to come and make their confessions (albeit outside, duly observing the 6 ft required for proper social distancing!)
As I sit and wait, I pray and reflect on the dizzying events of recent days: the loss of life, the loss of employment, financial woes, families disrupted, normal friendships suspended, the fear of infection. And in my own sphere of godly work, the increased level of anxiety amongst the faithful, now travelling through the second half of this Lenten season in isolation, without opportunity to attend Mass, and facing the incomprehensible experience, for the first time in their lives, of Holy Week and Easter without the beauty, grandeur, and force of the ancient and sublime liturgies that signal the change in spiritual mood and tempo from Passiontide grief to Resurrection joy.
Recognising the great privilege I have in being able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the presence of my family, I’m equally cognisant, perhaps more now than at any time in my life of priestly ministry, that what I offer to God I offer with a responsibility more intense and demanding than I’m able to recall. The hopes and fears, the hearts and minds of the faithful and their intentions, are with me more sharply, more painfully, and I feel it. Achingly so.
These domestic surroundings will now replace, for a time and season, the familiar setting of the parish church. It’s not the same, of course, but that difference has brought into sharper focus, for me at least, the great privilege of this Eucharistic banquet we so often take for granted. Perhaps, then, we can hope that this period of unforeseen Eucharistic fasting will make hearts grow fonder, rekindling a longing to return to God, their first love, and joy of their youth.
Glancing, in between words and ritual actions in the Mass, through the window into the emerging spring garden beyond, I’m reminded by George Herbert that hope is never far behind; that even as I plead the Lord’s Passion and Death, he ‘turneth all to gold’.
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.
A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
from The Elixir by George Herbert, 1593-1633
The first of many, alas, private Masses to be offered following the suspension of all public Masses in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and the Diocese of Victoria. Today we honoured, with as much solemnity as could be mustered given the circumstances, Saint Joseph, Spouse of Our Blessed Lady and patron of Canada. This is indeed a painful time for those unable to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion; certainly a lot more than most intended giving up for Lent... As I go to the altar each day, though, I carry with me the hearts and intentions of those unable to be physically present with me in pleading the Holy Sacrifice. After today’s Mass we said the following prayer, apposite in its wording for our time, invoking the help of St Joseph.
To thee, O blessed Joseph, we fly in our tribulation and, after imploring the help of thy holy Spouse with confidence, we ask also for thy intercession. By the affection which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and by the paternal love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee to look kindly upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ acquired by his precious blood, and with thy powerful aid to help us in all our needs.
Protect, most careful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen people of Jesus Christ. Keep us, loving father, from all pestilence of error and corruption. From thy place in heaven be thou merciful with us, most powerful protector, in this warfare with the powers of darkness; and as thou didst once rescue the Child Jesus from imminent danger of death, so now defend the holy Church of God from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Guard each of us by thy constant patronage, so that, sustained by thy example and help, we may live a holy life, die a holy death, and obtain the everlasting happiness of heaven. Amen. - The English Ritual.
V. Abide in me, and I in you;
R. For without me ye can do nothing.
Merciful Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in us thy servants: inspire us with thy purity, strengthen us with thy might, make us perfect in thy ways, guide us into thy truth, and unite us to thyself and to thy whole Church by thy holy mysteries; that we may conquer every adverse power and be wholly devoted to thy service and conformed to thy will, by thy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Christ, the everlasting Son of the Father, the Catholic King: come thou thyself to rule in our hearts, that the hatred of sin, the love of thy presence, the light of thy truth, and the joy of the Holy Ghost, may be there enthroned; and then in thy mercy bring us to the Kingdom where thou reignest in the glory of the eternal Trinity, for ever and ever. Amen.
In union, dear Lord, with all the faithful at every altar of thy Church where the blessed Body and Blood are being offered to the Father, I desire to offer thee praise and thanksgiving. I believe thou art truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. And since I cannot now receive thee sacramentally, I beseech thee to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself unto thee, and embrace thee with all the affections of my soul. Let me never be separated from thee. Let me live and die in thy love. Amen.
I worship thee, Lord Jesus, and kneeling unto thee, as thou didst come to Mary, I pray thee come to me. O most loving Jesus, O most blessed Saviour, come to me, I beseech thee, and unite me to thyself. Thou I cannot now receive thee sacramentally, yet I believe that thou art able, even when received by faith and desire only, to heal, enrich and sanctify me. Come thou spiritually into my heart. I desire to unite myself to thee with all the affections of my soul. Possess me wholly; let the consuming fire of thy love absorb me, and thy presence abide so intimately in me, that it will be no longer I that live, but thou who livest in me. Come, Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart. Amen.
1. New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.
2. New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.
3. If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.
4. The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we need to ask,
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.
5. Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us, this and every day,
To live more nearly as we pray.
John Keble, 1792-1866
‘Life among other things is a great choice. Hell and heaven have to do with the individual will and that will’s choice. Each one must make his own choice. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light” (St John 3.19). There is a story of a tyrant who made a man forge the chain with which he bound him. Our fatal choices are links in the chain that our will forges. Again, each one in holding to his choice will grow like that which he has chosen. Forgiveness does not mean that God says, “We will let the matter drop”, but that the will of the penitent effectively chooses the will of God. God’s mercy can never be indulgence for sin. God will abide by that choice which He has revealed to us in the character of the Beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
It is my Lent to break my Lent,
To eat when I would fast,
To know when slender strength is spent,
Take shelter from the blast
When I would run with wind and rain,
To sleep when I would watch.
It is my Lent to smile at pain
But not ignore its touch.
It is my Lent to listen well
When I would be alone,
To talk when I would rather dwell
In silence, turn from none
Who call on me, to try to see
That what is truly meant
Is not my choice. If Christ’s I’d be
It’s thus I’ll keep my Lent.
‘For Lent, 1966’ by Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007
‘As E.L. Mascall points out, it is the devil’s work which is always manifested in useless activity. Who as “a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” He does not need to devour anything because he is not hungry; he just cannot keep still, and I suspect that we can get Satan into something of a diabolic panic if we show him that we can keep still. “Whom resist steadfast in the faith;” the stand-up fight has to come in the end, but it was Jesus’ forty days of silent preparation that got Satan bewildered and groggy in the first place.
…Lenten discipline is not for seeking the Lord, but for adopting the position where he can find us, in silence and solitude, in patient waiting not in hectic activity’.
Martin Thornton OGS, 1915-1986
‘Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual “lung” of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual “breath”, the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints’.
from a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, to the Benedictine Oblate Sisters
of the monastery of St Frances of Rome at Tor de’Specchi
O God, who amongst other gifts of thy grace, didst honour blessed Frances, thy handmaid, with the familiar converse of an Angel: grant, we beseech thee; that by the help of her intercession, we may be worthy to attain unto the fellowship of the Angels in 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. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘If there is one time in the Church Year when we ought to feel the need to exercise faith and to pray fervently in faith it is Lent.
The usual tendency in our prayers is to ask God to help us, to aid us, to assist us and to strengthen us. All well and good, but sometimes hidden in such verbal requests is the general idea that we can do so much for ourselves and we only need God to come along and give us the extra push, to top up our strength. But in this prayer we begin by recognising as we meditate before almighty God our Father, who is the Omnipotent One, that in fact we need more than a push and a topping up: we need his help, power, grace and strength completely and wholly. For we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves in the real battles of life against adversaries much stronger than we are.
Therefore, from the position of total dependency upon God’s gracious power we ask the Father in the name of his well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that in body and soul we may be daily preserved and protected from all forms of evil and sin. We cannot predict as each day begins what bad things can and will happen to our body, from accident, disease, carelessness, or the evil will of others. Further, and significantly, we cannot predict what can and will happen to our soul - our mind, emotions and will - as it is open to testing and temptation. Evil thoughts, desires and imaginations can be generated within our souls by all kinds of stimuli, by the world and the devil’.
Peter Toon, 1939-2009
Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the 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. - Collect for The Second Sunday in Lent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘They are merry martyrs. “Thanks be to God”, said Perpetua, as she approached her martyrdom, “that I was merry in the flesh so am I still merrier here”. It’s reminiscent of our own Thomas More’s passing up Tower Hill to the place of his martyrdom, as merry as a bridegroom on the way to his wedding (so people reported). Felicity was so relieved that her daughter was born in prison and immediately adopted by a Christian: she had feared that as a consequence of her pregnancy she would be spared and lose the martyr’s crown.
Is it conceivable that sane young women, looking forward to motherhood, would die in such a spirit? It is conceivable to those for whom revelation sets forth the banquet of salvation, surpassing all other joys and endless in its festivity. We are the ones who should be pitied if we cannot make head or tail of their priorities’.
- Fr Aidan Nichols OP
O holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden of peace; 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
O Holy and ever-blessed Jesu, who being the eternal Son of God and most high in the glory of the Father, didst vouchsafe in love for us sinners to be born of a pure virgin, and didst humble thyself unto death, even the death of the cross: Deepen within us, we beseech thee, a due sense of thy infinite love; that adoring a believing in thee as our Lord and Saviour, we may trust in thy infinite merits, imitate thy holy example, obey thy commands, and finally enjoy thy promises; who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
John Wesley, 1703-1791
Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height’.
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.
Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900
‘After the Sacraments and liturgical worship I am convinced there is no practise more fruitful for our souls than the Way of the Cross made with devotion. Its supernatural efficacy is sovereign. The Passion is the “holy of holies” among the mysteries of Jesus, the preeminent work of our Supreme High Priest; it is there above all that his virtues shine forth, and when we contemplate him in his sufferings he gives us according to the measure of our faith, the grace to practise the virtues that he manifested during these holy hours… At each station Our Divine Saviour presents himself to us in this triple character: as the Mediator who saves us by his merits, the perfect Model of sublime virtues, and the efficacious Cause who can, through his Divine Omnipotence, produce in our souls the virtues of which he gives us the example’.
Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, 1858-1923
‘The time of Lent now approaching, which has been anciently and very Christianly set apart, for penitential humiliation of Soul and Body, for Fasting and Weeping and Praying, all which you know are very frequently inculcated in Holy Scripture, as the most effectual means we can use, to avert those Judgments our sins have deserved; I thought it most agreeable to that Character which, unworthy as I am, I sustain, to call you and all my Brethren of the Clergy to mourning; to mourning for your own sins, and to mourning for the sins of the Nation.
In making such an address to you as this, I follow the example of St Cyprian, that blessed Bishop and Martyr, who from his retirement wrote an excellent Epistle to his Clergy, most worthy of your serious perusal, exhorting them, by publick Prayers and Tears to appease the Anger of God, which they then actually felt, and which we may justly fear.
...That you may perform the office of publick Intercessour the more assiduously, I beg of you to say daily in your Closet, or in your Family, or rather in both, all this time of Abstinence, the 51st Psalm, and the other Prayers which follow it in the Commination. I could wish also that you would frequently read and meditate on the Lamentations of Jeremy, which Holy Gregory Nazianzen was wont to doe, and the reading of which melted him into the like Lamentations, as affected the Prophet himself when he Pennd them.
But your greatest Zeal must be spent for the Public Prayers, in the constant devout use of which, the Publick Safety both of Church and State is highly concerned: be sure then to offer up to God every day the Morning and Evening Prayer; offer it up in your Family at least, or rather as far as your circumstances may possibly permit, offer it up in the Church, especially if you live in a great Town, and say over the Litany every Morning during the whole Lent. This I might enjoyn you to doe, on your Canonical Obedience, but for Love’s sake I rather beseech you, and I cannot recommend to you a more devout and comprehensive Form, of penitent and publick Intercession than that, or more proper for the Season.
Be not discouraged if but few come to the Solemn Assemblies, but go to the House of Prayer, where God is well known for a sure Refuge: Go, though you go alone, or but with one besides your self; and there as you are God’s Remembrancer, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth’.
from ‘A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Thomas Ken) to his Clergy Concerning their Behaviour during Lent’, 1688.
Fr Lee Kenyon