The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
from Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot OM, 1888-1965
‘[W]hat is the end of all Christ’s mysteries? To make of Himself the example of all our supernatural life, the ransom for our sanctification and the source of all our holiness; to create for Himself an eternal and glorious fellowship of brethren like unto Himself That is why Mary, like a new Eve, is associated with the new Adam; but much more truly than Eve, Mary is the “Mother of all the living”, the Mother of all who live by the grace of her Son. This association was not only outward. Christ, being God, being the omnipotent Word, created in the soul of His Mother the feelings she was to have towards those who being born of her and living by His mysteries, He willed to constitute His brethren. The Blessed Virgin, for her part, enlightened by the grace abounding in her, responded to this call of Jesus by a Fiat of entire submission and in union of spirit with her Divine Son. In giving her consent to the Divine proposition of the Incarnation, she accepted to enter into the plan of the Redemption in a unique capacity; she accepted, not only to be the Mother of Jesus, but to be associated in all the mission of the Redeemer. To each of these mysteries of Jesus, she had to renew this Fiat full of love until the moment when she was able to say: “All is consummated”, after having offered at Calvary, for the world’s salvation, this Jesus, this Son, this Body she had formed, this Blood which was her own. At this blessed hour, Mary entered so deeply into the mind of Jesus that she may truly be called Co-redemptress. Like Jesus, she, at this moment, achieved the act of love of bringing us forth to the life of grace.
Mother of our Head, according to the thought of St Augustine, in bearing Him corporally, she became spiritually the Mother of all the members of this Divine Head. And because here below she is thus associated in all the mysteries of our Redemption, Jesus has crowned her not only with glory, but with power. He has placed His Mother at His right hand that she may dispose of the treasures of eternal life by a unique title – that of Mother of God: “The queen stood on Thy right hand”.
Full of confidence, let us then say to her with the church: “Show thyself a Mother: Mother of Jesus by thy influence with Him; our Mother by mercy towards us. May Christ receive our prayers through thee, this Christ Who, born of thee to bring us life, willed to be thy Son”. Who, indeed, better than she knows the Heart of her Son?’
Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, 1858-1923
O risen Saviour, bid me rise with thee
and seek those things which are above;
not only seek, but set my whole heart upon them.
Thou art in heaven, ever raising lives to thyself;
O, by thy grace, may mine be making that ascent
not in dream, but in truth,
now, tomorrow, always.
Daily in spirit, in thy Holy Spirit,
let me behold thee on the throne of GOD,
thou King reigning in holiness,
thou Conqueror of all evil,
thou Majesty of love,
very GOD and very Man,
of glory unimaginable and eternal,
in whom all hope is sure.
So, longing for thy courts,
let me rise, ascend, seek;
finding in the nearer light of thy countenance
higher and yet higher things
to love, to do and to attain.
Until, through the open door of heaven,
that most blessed voice shall speak;
‘Enter thou into thy Lord’s joy’,
and thy servant comes;-
to sing of thy glory and honour all the day long
and tell of all thy wondrous works;
knowing no end thereof,
for there is no end thereof.
from My God, My Glory: Aspirations, Acts and Prayers on the Desire for God, 1959
by Eric Milner-White OGS CBE DSO, 1884-1963
Photos from a visit to Canterbury Cathedral in May 2015, for this Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury.
‘St Augustine, strengthened by the encouragement of St Gregory, in company with the servants of Christ, returned to the work of preaching the word, and came to Britain. At that time, Ethelbert, king of Kent, was a very powerful monarch… Over against the eastern districts of Kent there is a large island called Thanet which, in English reckoning, is six hundred hides in extent. It is divided from the river Wantsum, which is about three furlongs wide, can be crossed in two places only, and joins the sea at either end. Here Augustine, the servant of the Lord, landed with his companions, who are said to have been nearly forty in number. They had acquired interpreters from the Frankish race according to the command of Pope St Gregory. Augustine sent to Ethelbert to say that he had come from Rome bearing the best of news, namely the sure and certain promise of eternal joys in heaven and an endless kingdom with the living and true God to those who received it. On hearing this, the king ordered them to remain on the island where they had landed and provided with all things necessary until he had decided what to do about them.
…Some days afterwards the king came to the island and, sitting in the open air, commanded Augustine and his companions to come thither to talk with him… [T]hey came endowed with divine not devilish power and bearing as their standard a silver cross and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a panel. They chanted litanies and uttered prayers to the Lord for their own eternal salvation and the salvation of those from whom and to whom they had come.
At the king’s command, they sat down and preached the word of life to himself and all his counts there present. Then he said to them, “The words and the promises you bring are fair enough, but because they are new to us and doubtful, I cannot consent to accept them and forsake those beliefs which I and the whole English race have held so long. But as you have come on a long pilgrimage and are anxious, I perceive, to share with us things which you believe to be true and good, we do not wish to do you harm; on the contrary, we will receive you hospitably and provide what is necessary for your support; nor do we forbid you to win all you can to your faith and religion by your preaching”. So he gave them a dwelling in the city of Canterbury, which was the chief city of all his dominions; and, in accordance with his promise, he granted them provisions and did not refuse them permission to preach’.
from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, c.731, by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
O God, who by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine, thy Confessor and Bishop, hast enlightened the English people with the light of the true faith: mercifully grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that have gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth; 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.
Scenes from visits to the five canonically established English Oratories - Manchester, Oxford, London, York, and Birmingham - on this Feast of St Philip Neri. Prayers for all Oratorian Fathers and Brothers, with much gratitude for their ministry and charism; a light shining in the darkness of this world.
‘[St Philip’s] apostolate was neither of the pen nor, chiefly at any rate, of the pulpit; if you came under his influence, it was because he plucked you by the sleeve, folded you to his heart. And he was always there; as well expect to find Ars without St John Vianney, as Rome without St Philip. In this, above all, he has bequeathed his own spirit to his children. The sons of St Ignatius are ready to be sent off, at a moment’s notice, on some perilous mission; the sons of St Philip, called to a different form of self-sacrifice, are always at home. Nor is their love of room like the Benedictine’s love of his cell; the Benedictine’s abbey is his fortress, the Oratorian’s house is an open town, where all the world may pass through. He gives you that freedom which of all others is today most lacking: freedom of access.
Reverend Fathers, you do not keep St Philip to yourselves; you share him with the world. Pray for us others, that we too may learn something of his spirit’.
from a sermon by Mgr Ronald Knox, preached at the London Oratory, Feast of St Philip Neri, 26 May 1951.
‘When Jesus had gone up from them, Mary and the apostles met and prayed. Their master, and her Son, was still the leader in their praying; they used his words, they shared his mind, they prayed with him as though they said the words after him. He was now, indeed, somewhat further from them than he used to be; further, even, than he had been from Peter, James and John in Gethsemane. There they had overheard his prayer, though he knelt beyond them up the hill. Now he was further still ahead, they could not see or hear him. But the further he was from them, the nearer he was to the heart of God; further from those who prayed, but nearer to the Mercy to whom all prayer ascends. Not nearer simply, it was not a matter of degree. He was there, had reached the goal, was one with the fountain from which all things always come. In Jesus they were there too, for he was one of them. They turned their faces upwards and stretched up their hands, and what he inspired them in his name to ask was asked by God from God’.
from The Crown of the Year: Weekly Paragraphs for the Holy Sacrament, 1952
by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman, the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.
In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. In fact the former says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at the hour of the cross.
Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross, accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.
As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ; and also as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.
Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.
Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar... and be now celebrated every year.
This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God’.
from the decree by Robert, Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 11 February 2018
‘[W] hat does the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord mean for us? It does not mean that the Lord has departed to some place far from people and from the world. Christ’s Ascension is not a journey into space toward the most remote stars; for basically, the planets, like the earth, are also made of physical elements.
Christ’s Ascension means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death that conditions our life. It means that he belongs entirely to God. He, the Eternal Son, led our human existence into God’s presence, taking with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form.
The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God. And since God embraces and sustains the entire cosmos, the Ascension of the Lord means that Christ has not departed from us, but that he is now, thanks to his being with the Father, close to each one of us for ever. Each one of us can be on intimate terms with him; each can call upon him. The Lord is always within hearing. We can inwardly draw away from him. We can live turning our backs on him. But he always waits for us and is always close to us.
From the readings of today’s liturgy we also learn something more about the concrete way the Lord makes himself close to us. The Lord promises the disciples his Holy Spirit. The first reading that we heard tells us that the Holy Spirit will give “power” to the disciples; the Gospel adds that he will guide them to the whole truth. As the living Word of God, Jesus told his disciples everything, and God can give no more than himself. In Jesus, God gave us his whole self, that is, he gave us everything. As well as or together with this, there can be no other revelation which can communicate more or in some way complete the Revelation of Christ. In him, in the Son, all has been said to us, all has been given’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Dunstan… at an early age co-ordinated his many gifts and activities into a single channel, that of the direct service of God in England. There are even now many ways in which we, a thousand years later, are influenced by his creative mind and his practical genius. You may like to hear the church bells across the fields on a summer day or from the cathedral tower on a winter’s night: Dunstan ruled that all monasteries were to use the English custom of ringing bells, especially prolonging them on festivals, and it appears that all the great national functions graced by the King, his Court and the prelates were marked by much bell-ringing; and he himself, with his great collaborator, Bishop Ethelwold, cast two bells for Abingdon monastery. You may like to hear a lunch-hour organ recital: organs were probably known earlier, but they had ceased to be made in the ninth century; Dunstan and Ethelwold re-introduced and popularised them, taking a personal hand in their actual construction. One of the parts of a Gregorian setting of the Mass which is still sung, the Kyrie ‘Rex Splendens’, is the composition of Dunstan; the daily prayers for the royal family in the Prayer-book services go back to the ruling of Archbishop Dunstan; and if you ever slip into vulgar slang and refer to a person as having ‘been taken down a peg or two’, you may (says one tradition) all unconsciously be paying tribute to Dunstan, who, finding that dangerous quarrels in taverns often arose because customers drank more than their share or less than their boast, ordered that ale-pots should be fitted with metal pegs, which would show the level of the liquor and the fair share of each drinker. He has been called a dreamer of dreams and a visionary; if so, that condition made no difference to his practical commonsense and his vigorous power of furthering reforms. He is a man of such diversity of gifts and richness of character, possessing that super-abundance of vitality and energy which is not infrequently married to great abilities’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this festival of thy Bishops Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and governing thy Church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; 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.
On this Rogation Sunday, words from the George Herbert on the usefulness of the Rogation Procession.
‘The Countrey Parson is a Lover of old Customes, if they be good, and harmlesse; and the rather, because Countrey people are much addicted to them, so that to favour them therein is to win their hearts, and to oppose them therin is to deject them. If there be any ill in the custome, that may be severed from the good, he pares the apple, and gives them the clean to feed on. Particularly, he loves Procession, and maintains it, because there are contained therein 4 manifest advantages. First, a blessing of God for the fruits of the field: Secondly, justice in the Preservation of bounds: Thirdly, Charity in loving walking, and neighbourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there be any: Fourthly, Mercy in releeving the poor by a liberall distribution and largesse, which at that time is, or ought to be used. Wherefore he exacts of all to bee present at the perambulation, and those that withdraw, and sever themselves from it, he mislikes, and reproves as uncharitable, and unneighbourly; and if they will not reforme, presents them. Nay, he is so farre from condemning such assemblies, that he rather procures them to be often, as knowing that absence breedes strangeness, but presence love’.
from Chapter XXXV, The Parson Condescending
in A Priest to the Temple by George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘Learning, if it puffs up the mind, or inspires any secret self-sufficiency, is an impediment to the communications of the Holy Ghost: simplicity and sincere humility being the dispositions which invite him into the soul. By these was Isidore prepared to find him an interior instructor and comforter. His earnestness in seeking lessons and instructions of piety made him neglect no opportunity of hearing them; and so much the more tender and the deeper were the impressions which they left in his soul, as his desire was the stronger and the more pure. His patience in bearing all injuries and in overcoming the envy of fellow-servants by cordial kindnesses, his readiness to obey his masters, and in indifferent things to comply with the inclinations of others, and humbly to serve every one, gave him the most complete victory over himself and his passions. Labour he considered as enjoined him by God in punishment of sin, and for a remedy against it. And he performed his work in a spirit of compunction and penance. Many object that their labours and fatigues leave them little time for the exercises of religion. But Isidore, by directing his attention according to the most holy motives of faith, made his work a most perfect act of religion. He considered it as a duty to God. Therefore he applied himself to it with great diligence and care, in imitation of the angels in heaven, who in all things fulfil the will of God with the greatest readiness and alacrity of devotion. The more humbling and the more painful the labour was, the dearer it was to the saint, being a means the more suitable to tame his flesh, and a more noble part of his penance. With the same spirit that the saints subdued their bodies by toils in their deserts, Isidore embraced his task. He moreover sanctioned it by continual prayer. While his hand held the plough, he in his heart conversed with God, with his angel guardian, and the other blessed spirits; sometimes deploring the sins of the world, and his own spiritual miseries, at other times in the melting words of the royal prophet, raising his desires to the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. It was chiefly by this perfect spirit of prayer, joined with, or rather engrafted upon a most profound humility and spirit of mortification, that St Isidore arrived at so eminent a degree of sanctity as rendered him the admiration of all Spain’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
I am Matthias; I am he who covers
The cloudy opening of the uttermost prison,
Where on went down - and is not re-arisen,-
Out of the Twelve who were the Lord Christ’s lovers,
About my name upon this day there hovers
A rumour of despair and desolation;
And even the Holy City’s glad salvation
Sighs for the memory of its exciled rovers.
I am Matthias, yea, and am another,
Installed within the bishopric of my brother;
I who am his oblivion am his fame.
I am the dream, upon your strife attending,
That all things, bound to a most perfect ending,
Shall be made one by Christ’s invincible Name.
Charles Williams, 1886-1945
A few photos of a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, made with the Manchester Oratory in April 2018.
‘We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4.9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).
At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity’.
from his homily, 13 May 2010, delivered at Fatima, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst choose the Mother of thy Son to be our Mother also: grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Brethren, do not honour your fellow men for their earthly possessions, honour them for the image of God they bear in themselves. Do not esteem what you or what others have, but what you are. Look up to these saints at whose grave we are standing. The world lay invitingly before them, but they trampled upon it with disdain; a long life was before them, and health and wealth and children and comforts and good fortune. While the world was blossoming all about them, in their hearts it had already withered. You see, Christians, how the world shrivels and dies; should it then continue to bloom and blossom in your hearts?
Death is lurking everywhere, and grief, and trouble; from every quarter we are lashed at and sated with bitterness, we pursue the fleeting things of earth and cling to a sinking world. And because we cannot stop its fall, we perish with it. The very transitoriness of the world proves its worthlessness and the foolishness of adhering to it. Cling rather to eternal things, my dear brethren, so that you may come to the glory of heaven, a glory that you already possess through your faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns as King with the Father in union with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen’.
Pope St Gregory the Great, c.540-604
‘Why is May chosen as the month in which we exercise a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin?
The first reason is because it is the time when the earth bursts forth into its fresh foliage and its green grass after the stern frost and snow of winter, and the raw atmosphere and the wild wind and rain of the early spring. It is because the blossoms are upon the trees and the flowers are in the gardens. It is because the days have got long, and the sun rises early and sets late. For such gladness and joyousness of external Nature is a fit attendant on our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold.
A man may say, “True; but in this climate we have sometimes a bleak, inclement May”. This cannot be denied; but still, so much is true that at least it is the month of promise and of hope. Even though the weather happen to be bad, it is the month that begins and heralds in the summer. We know, for all that may be unpleasant in it, that fine weather is coming, sooner or later. “Brightness and beautifulness shall”, in the Prophet’s words, “appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it make delay, wait for it, for it shall surely come, and shall not be slack”.
May then is the month, if not of fulfilment, at least of promise; and is not this the very aspect in which we most suitably regard the Blessed Virgin, Holy Mary, to whom this month is dedicated?
The Prophet says, “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise out of his root”. Who is the flower but our Blessed Lord? Who is the rod, or beautiful stalk or stem or plant out of which the flower grows, but Mary, Mother of our Lord, Mary, Mother of God?
It was prophesied that God should come upon earth. When the time was now full, how was it announced? It was announced by the Angel coming to Mary. “Hail, full of grace”, said Gabriel, “the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women”. She then was the sure promise of the coming Saviour, and therefore May is by a special title her month’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny... There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? Were we down-hearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of Englishmen and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered”. Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle - a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgement and our mercy’.
Sir Winston Churchill, VE Day, 8 May 1945
A few shots of the progress thus far on the grotto for Our Lady at St Edward’s House; a practical and devotional way to spend some spare time in this Marian month of May, and to make use of the natural resource of the abundance of rocks and stones. The structure needs to be built up at the back and sides, a statue has been sourced, and after some proper landscaping and planting of roses (for the entrance arch) and Marian flowers (for the rockery), we will have a decent enough grotto in this relatively quiet and secluded part of the garden.
The Walsingham Pilgrim Manual
Images from a May 2015 visit to Pugin’s Shrine Church of St Augustine, Ramsgate in Kent to accompany words from Dom Bede Camm, the Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey. Dom Bede went to Keble College, Oxford and was ordained in the Church of England in 1888, serving as Curate at St Agnes, Kennington before being received into full communion in 1890. He made his first profession as a Benedictine a year later and transferred to Downside Abbey in 1913. Dom Bede had a great devotion to the English Martyrs and, in 1904, published a two volume collection of their lives. He had an early hand in saving the newly-founded Tyburn nuns from financial ruin, helping them to secure their home, which they had put up for sale. He also designed the famous replica Tyburn Tree canopy above the altar of the shrine.
‘I was brought up, as are so many nowadays, in the firm belief that the Church by Law Established was the true representative of the old Catholic Church in England, the Church of Anselm, Dunstan, and More. It was the Beatification of our Martyrs in 1886 which first directed my attention to them, and in reading their history I soon found the whole fabric of this belief tumbling about my ears like a pack of cards. Why did these Martyrs suffer torture and death? Simply for clinging to the Faith of their Fathers. They had not changed their religion, they were not the innovators; they died because they held dearer than life the old Faith of old England. We cannot serve two masters; we must choose between the cause for which these men fought, that is the old religion, and the new religion of their persecutors. If we wish to have our part with More and Campion, we cannot serve the Church of Cranmer and Elizabeth.
...We have long ago forgiven the horrors of Tyburn: the only revenge that we desire is the divine vengeance of Christ’s Martyrs who cry beneath the Altar of God, “How long, O Lord, How long?” Their one desire on earth was the conversion of their dear England; that, we may be sure, is their prayer now. It is also our own’.
from A Book of English Martyrs, 1915, by Dom Bede Camm OSB, 1864-1942
‘In those countries of the East where our Lord appeared, the office of a shepherd is not only a lowly and simple office, and an office of trust, as it is with us, but, moreover, an office of great hardship and of peril. Our flocks are exposed to no enemies, such as our Lord describes. The Shepherd here has no need to prove his fidelity to the sheep by encounters with fierce beasts of prey. The hireling shepherd is not tried. But where our Lord dwelt in the days of His flesh it was otherwise. There it was true that the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep — “but he that is an hireling, and whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep”.
Our Lord found the sheep scattered; or, as He had said shortly before, “All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers”; and in consequence the sheep had no guide. Such were the priests and rulers of the Jews when Christ came; so that “when He saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd”. Such, in like manner, were the rulers and prophets of Israel in the days of Ahab, when Micaiah, the Lord’s Prophet, “saw all Israel scattered on the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, These have no Master, let them return every man to his house in peace”. Such, too, were the shepherds in the time of Ezekiel, of whom the Prophet says, “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherd feed the flocks?... They were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered”: and in the time of the Prophet Zechariah, who says, “Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock!”
So was it all over the world when Christ came in His infinite mercy “to gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”. And though for a moment, when in the conflict with the enemy the good Shepherd had to lay down His life for the sheep, they were left without a guide (according to the prophecy already quoted, “Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall he scattered”), yet He soon rose from death to live for ever, according to that other prophecy which said, “He that scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd doth his flock”. And as He says Himself in the parable before us, “He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out, and goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice”, so, on His resurrection, while Mary wept, He did call her by her name, and she turned herself and knew Him by the ear whom she had not known by the eye. So, too, He said, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” And He added, “Follow Me”. And so again He and His Angel told the women, “Behold He goeth before you into Galilee... go tell My brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me”.
From that time the good Shepherd who took the place of the sheep, and died that they might live for ever, has gone before them: and “they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”.
…My brethren, we say daily, “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture”. Again, we say, “We have erred and strayed from Thy ways, like lost sheep:” let us never forget these truths; let us never forget, on the one hand, that we are sinners; let us never forget, on the other hand, that Christ is our Guide and Guardian. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He is a light unto our ways, and a lantern unto our paths. He is our Shepherd, and the sheep know His voice. If we are His sheep, we shall hear it, recognise it, and obey it’.
from Sermon 16 by St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who - as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us”.
For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature “halfway” between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.
In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 AD He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 AD to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.
With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the “Symbol of faith” [“Creed”] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
In this fundamental text – which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration - the Greek term homooúsios is featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.
The fundamental idea of Athanasius’ entire theological battle was precisely that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God, he is the true God and it is through our communion with Christ that we can truly be united to God. He has really become “God-with-us”’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Be thou then O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my forward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
O God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer;
Worldmothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
Fr Lee Kenyon