‘Between 64 and 314 every single day held for the faithful believer the ever-present threat of a frightful death: the period is divided fairly evenly into the years of active bloodshed and those of relative quiet. And every so often, during those two hundred and fifty years of history, we shall hear that cry of distress and agony rising heavenwards again, just as it had risen from the gardens of the Vatican glade in Nero’s day. But from the moment of the first tortures the faith had known how to transform that cry into a cry of hope’.
from The Church of Apostles and Martyrs, by Henri Daniel-Rops, 1901-1965
O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; 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.
‘As our Lord built the house of his life upon the foundation of faith in the Divine Love, so he could only build the house of his Church on the foundation of faith in himself. When Peter by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost cried, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’, our Lord felt that he had found the rock faith on which he could begin to build.
If we consider the three typical names by which our Lord called his apostles – Simon, Peter, and Satan – Simon may stand for the natural man, Peter for the redeemed man, and Satan for the rebellious man. All of us are in our first natural beginning Simon, born into this world with natural desires and the power of choice. But right at our birth the Church of Christ meets and puts us into the supernatural order by baptism; and as our minds develop and our wills become more definitely our own, there is presented to us more and more clearly the Gospel and the Person of Christ, that we may make our personal choice. All of us who have felt the spell of his beauty have cried out at some time, ‘Thou art the Christ!’ and so passed from the state of Simon to the state of Peter. Each one of us has to make that confession of faith. But when we have made that personal acceptance of our Lord, then we have to learn the lesson of the Cross, and to accept him as the crucified, suffering Messiah, taking up our cross for his sake, that we may not fall into condemnation and merit the rebuke of the name of Satan, the Adversary’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O God, who hast hallowed this day by the martyrdom of thine Apostles Peter and Paul: grant unto thy Church, in all things, to follow the precepts of those through whom she received the beginning of religion; 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.
‘“The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasising above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”.
Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotokos, and in abundance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; 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.
‘St John the Baptist [is] the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the divine promises: John is that “prophet”, identified with Elijah, who was destined to be the immediate precursor of the Messiah, to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (cf. Matthew 11.14; 17.10-13). His Feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are (cf. John 1.1, 23; 1.7-8; 3.29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30): the Baptist’s words are a programme for every Christian’.
from his Angelus, 25 June 2006, by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; 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.
Photos from two pilgrimages from Calgary to Ely, in 2009 and 2015, to mark today’s feast of St Etheldreda, otherwise known as St Audrey.
‘Ely: it is a dull man who is not thrilled by his first sight, from rail or road, of this unexpected “isle” which rises out of the flat Fenlands like a tall ship riding calm seas. It is blown upon by winds of wine-like quality, encircled by the high dome of the East Anglian sky, broader and more luminous than the skies of other parts. The excitement which stirs the traveller on his first visit does not fade, but ever afterwards quickens his pulse when he remembers Ely, as do similar heights of the English landscape, age-old, crowned with ancient churches with a wealth of history, often prehistoric; Glastonbury, Lincoln, Durham, Ludlow.
…In the seventh century England was a land of small warring kingdoms whose chiefs, whether pagan of Christian, lived in constant warfare with each other. In the mid-century the King of East Anglia was Anna, a devout Christian who brought up his family most religiously. One of his daughters was Etheldreda, of great beauty, given early in marriage to a chief of the wide Fens, who died soon after, settling upon her the Isle of Ely.
…[Etheldreda] is the brightest of a constellation of royal and related ladies of the Saxon race, who left their noble homes for the simplicity and devotion of monasteries, where they reveal remarkable powers of government and a genius for organisation and for pioneering in the ways of spirituality: so that in venerating her we can, in one mental sweep, give thanks for all these strenuous women who consented to follow God in the most challenging and startling way of the three vows, and by this single-hearted fervour presented the newly-learnt faith in the boldest and plainest manner. Those years were the golden age of our national saints’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Fisher and More! in you the Church and State
Of England—England of the years gone by--
Her spiritual law, her civil equity,
Twins of one justice, for the last time sate
On equal thrones. ’Twas England’s day of fate:
Ye kenned the omens and stood up to die:
State-rule in Faith, ye knew, means heresy:
That truth ye wrote in blood, and closed debate
By act, not words. A blood as red, as pure,
They shed, that brave Carthusian brotherhood,
St Bruno’s silent sons. Martyrs! be sure
That o’er the land, thus doubly dyed and dewed,
The Faith your death confessed, shall rise renewed--
A tree of peace for ever to endure.
Aubrey de Vere, 1814-1902
‘Mary amazes us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’s light. Her soul is without sin, it is not weighed down by pride or selfishness. Elizabeth’s words enkindle in her spirit a canticle of praise, which is an authentic and profound “theological” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from the one whose faith is without shadow and without wrinkle.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. Mary recognises God’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith. It is the sentiment that gives security to human creatures and frees from fear, even in the midst of the tempest of history.
Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. This is why she is blessed, because she believed. By faith, in fact, she accepted the Word of the Lord and conceived the Incarnate Word. Her faith has shown her that the thrones of the powerful of this world are temporary, while God's throne is the only rock that does not change or fall.
Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world's wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us bring the same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of Mary to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence.
May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbour, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.
May the Blessed Mother, who invites us this evening to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart, obtain this grace for us’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst prepare an habitation meet for the Holy Spirit: mercifully grant that we, celebrating with devout mind the festival of the same Immaculate Heart, may be enabled to live after thine own Heart; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, 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.
‘My God, my Saviour, I adore thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the Seat and Source of all thy tenderest human affections for us sinners. It is the instrument and organ of thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all thy overflowing human affection, all thy Divine Charity towards us. All thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness, thou didst save me by thy divine strength, and thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith thou didst overflow’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘[T]he Father of Mercies had so amplified and enlarged the bowels of his mercy that, although restrained by the bounds of the three-fold poverty – that is to say the pressing obligations of his debts, the confiscation of the property of his diocese, and above all the pressures of dearth and famine – he could never restrain the natural kindness of his heart which was filled with the generosity of true charity. For instance, Sir Richard de Bagendon, a prudent man who belonged to a military order and who was the saint’s brother according to the flesh, was in trusted with the care of the bishop’s estates. On one occasion he remarked that the Bishop had scarcely enough to provide for his own and therefore should not give so lavishly to such great numbers of the poor; the bishop, however, overflowed in the bowels of his goodness and replied, “My dear brother Richard is it just or right in the sight of God that we should eat and drink from the vessels of gold and silver while Christ in his poor is crucified with hunger and the poor are faint and dying from lack of nourishment?” And he added, “I know very well how to eat and drink from a wooden bowl or platter, just as my father did. Therefore, let these gold and silver vessels be taken and sold and with the money feed the limbs of Christ who redeemed us and ours not with corruptible gold and silver but with his own precious blood. My horse, too, is a fine and valuable animal. Let him be sold as well and let the money he fetches be used to feed Christ’s poor”’.
from the Life of St Richard, Bishop of Chichester by Ralph Bocking
Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“Preach Christ as born, and set forth his death; so that both the heart may believe by imitating the one who is slain, and the mouth may receive the sacrament of his Passion for its cleansing”.
Today, this is what the universal Church does; [Jesus] established for her today on mount Sion a feast of fat things full of marrow, a two-fold richness, both inward and outward: he gave them his true body, inwardly and outwardly fattened with all spiritual strength and charity, and he bade them give it to those who believed in him. Whence, “It is firmly to be believed, and confessed with the mouth, that the very body which the Virgin bore, which hung on the Cross and lay in the tomb, which rose the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven: this body the Church truly makes daily, and gives to her faithful”. At the words: This is my body, bread is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, which confers an unction of double richness on whoever receives it worthily. It lessens temptation and stirs up devotion. And so it is called “a land flowing with honey and milk”, which makes sweet what is bitter and nourishes devotion. Unhappy he, who comes in to this banquet without the wedding garment of charity or penitence, because he who eats unworthily, eats damnation to himself. What fellowship has light with darkness?’
from a sermon on The Lord’s Supper by St Anthony of Padua, 1195-1231
Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found 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.
‘Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the most effective means of living always in the company of Our Lord Jesus whom we receive in Holy Communion. It consists of an ardent love for Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist with grief at seeing him so little honoured, and it includes acts of reparation for the contempt and offences committed against him. Our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an extended act of love for him who shows us the greatest possible love by offering his Body and Blood for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
In his fourth apparition to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Our Lord revealed his Sacred Heart, declaring: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that It spared nothing, even going so far as to exhaust and consume Itself, to prove to them Its love. And in return I receive from the greater part of men nothing but ingratitude, by the contempt, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness with which they treat me in this Sacrament of Love. But what is still more painful to me is that even souls consecrated to me are acting in this way”.
When the devotional life is neglected, there follows a loss of gratitude and reverence, and a coldness before Our Lord in the Eucharist. Our Lord asked Saint Margaret Mary to make known his desire for a renewed devotion to his Sacred Heart so that he might give his love ever more abundantly, and that we might respond with gratitude, returning our love for his divine love’.
Raymond, Cardinal Burke
‘St Barnabas shines out in the pages of the New Testament as an eminent example of that faithful priesthood which does according to that which is in the heart and mind of God. When, not unnaturally, the members of the Church he had come to persecute were afraid of Saul of Tarsus, it was Barnabas who had faith in the reality of his conversion and was prepared to trust his penitence. That which Ananias began in the life of his great convert, Barnabas helped to complete by his loving ministry to the one who became his great fellow apostle. The priesthood is for the uniting of souls to the Lover of souls. The priest only comes between the soul and God to make more short and clear to the soul her union with her Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue thy holy Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts of the Holy Ghost: leave us not, we beseech thee, destitute of thy manifold gifts, nor yet of grace to use them always to thy honour and 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.
On the occasion of the 99th birthday of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, some poignant words from The Coronation Service, 2 June 1953.
‘I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God’.
‘It was on his dear Iona that Columba found so many occasions for displaying that deep tenderness for all creation, that supernatural intimacy with creatures, that is so attractive in the lives of many saints. Numerous are the tales which reveal his power with Nature. One night in his hut he agonised in prayer over the pain of the world, the pain of evil, and of cruelty, and of a sinner’s death, holding it all against the pain of the Son of God on Calvary.
Columba had an especial devotion to the Cross of Christ, and through the dark hours he pondered on it. Worn out at last, he lay down on the stone that was always his bed, with his head on the stone pillow, and fell asleep. When he awoke he saw, sitting in the whole of the wall that did duty for a window, a robin. “Have you a song, red-breast?” asked Columba. At that the robin tilted his head, opened wide his shining eye on the saint, and sang a song so sweet that Columba, big man that he was, trembled at the beauty of it. And he understood the song of the birds, which told how he was in his nest near the great Cross upon which hung the Christ, how he saw Him white and bleeding, how the Christ looked at him with eyes so full of pain that he flew to Him and pressed his little brown breast on his forehead, trying to pull out one of the wounding thorns, trying to soften the suffering, so that his own breast was covered in blood. “My breast is red”, sang the bird, “for I saw Him die”. Columba felt his own heart enlarge with love for the Saviour as he listened to his tender song, and he at once wished to praise God for the bird and for its message. Carried away by his impetuous feelings, he knocked the wooden clapper which called the monks together for their services, and when they all came running, he told them of the bird’s song, and how even this tiny morsel of life and helped to ease Christ’s pain.
At the stone altar outside the church, Columba prepared to offer the praise of the Eucharist, his brethren all kneeling round; but first he raised his arms above his head and cried in his big, deep voice, “Come, all ye birds”. At once they came, flying through the air, which was just receiving its first glow of warmth from the sun climbing the eastern sky, flying in from all sides – little birds from the fields, big birds from the sea; larks and wrens, gulls and plovers, curlew and cormorants – all were there, and many others. “Peace to you from God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”, said Columba. And “Peace”, answered the birds. They stayed quietly to hear the Mass, and at the end the Abbot, turning, blessed not only the monks but also the birds. Then all flew off, except the robin, who again piped his tender notes. “Peace in the Name of the Trinity”, said Columba. “Peace in the Name of Christ”, sang the bird’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
‘The supreme revelation is that God is love: note the full meaning and significance of the words, not God does, can, will love, but the simple statement He is Love. We can only partially understand because the revealed truth and the fullest revelation is given in the Person, life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. From Him St John, the great apostle of the love of God, learnt the truth. In his Gospel and epistles he regards this as the primary fact in the revealing of truth. God is love, and in the Godhead Himself, which we try to explain by the doctrine of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Our Lord speaks of God not as a solitary being but as One. Within the oneness of the Godhead He thinks, acts, loves in a Trinity of personal relationships, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is this which Christians come to understand from the revelation of Jesus Christ. In the Holy Scripture there is not an exact definition, yet you find apostolic writers and ancient Fathers without any sense of contradiction speaking of one God, and of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led them all into truth and the best language that could be found for leading us to understand something of the Godhead is the Holy and Undivided Trinity’.
Raymond Raynes CR, 1903-1958
O Holy Ghost, whose temple I
Am, but of mud walls and condensed dust,
And being sacrilegiously
Half wasted with youth’s fires, of pride and lust
Must with new storms be weather-beat;
Double in my heart Thy flame,
Which let devout sad tears intend; and let
(Though this glass lanthorn, flesh, do suffer maim)
Fire, Sacrifice, Priest, Altar be the same.
John Donne, 1572-1631
‘God calls all sorts of people to his Kingdom – literally all sorts. Our different gifts, like our differing degrees of virtue and sin, are inseparable from our common citizenship of Christ’s realm. God uses us as we are, that our virtues might be properly directed, and our sins, once acknowledged, forgiven. The Holy Spirit is the infusion of many gifts, and they match and correspond to the many types of talent, expertise and experience which men and women accumulate in life. Instead of being frustrated because the world does not appear to want them, it should be our joy to realise that the very essence of calling in the Spirit is all about different gifts being employed, not in earthly advancement, but in preparation for an eternal citizenship. As usual, we bring suffering upon ourselves when we trust our own evaluation of our worth. Whitsun is an occasion of great spiritual serenity, for the simplest person with the most residual gifts now finds that the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, that things of lowly recognition in the world are loved by God in eternity’.
Dr Edward Norman (Canon Chancellor of York Minster, 1999-2004)
now a layman in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
‘The heart of Pentecost is spontaneity. Pupils are always to be overshadowed by their tutor’s wisdom, and what if that tutor is divine? The disciples of Jesus had their learning first; the moments were all too few and precious in which they could study the words and ways of a divine master. Then like the good master that he was, he saw that he could teach them no more by word and presence; so he turned to another business he had on hand, he went and died for them; having told them of an inward teacher who would finish their education by a different sort of instruction; by truth springing from the heart, not entering through the ear. The loss of their first teacher left them powerless, without direction or aim, except to pray and wait for the new teacher from heaven. And then, and then when the day of Pentecost was fully come, their bodies and the air surrounding them trembled with spiritual thunder. A rushing wind sang in their ears, the fire ran out in tongues, their lips moved, and sound broke out as by a power not their own. This was the new teaching from heaven; but what did it say? To what did it move? The Spirit would show in due time; but meanwhile at least here was spontaneity, here was life’.
Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
‘When we pray “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire”, we had better know what we are about. He will not carry us to easy triumphs and gratifying successes; more probably He will set us to some task for God in the full intention that we shall fail, so that others, learning wisdom by our failure, may carry the good cause forward. He may take us through loneliness, desertion by friends, apparent desertion even by God; that was the way Christ went to the Father. He may drive us into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He may lead us from the Mount of Transfiguration (if he ever lets us climb it) to the hill that is called the Place of a Skull. For if we invoke Him, it must be to help us in doing God’s will, not ours. We cannot call upon the
Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world’s foundations first were laid
in order to use omnipotence for the supply of our futile pleasures or the success of our futile plans. If we invoke Him, we must be ready for the glorious pain of being caught by His power out of our petty orbit into the eternal purposes of the Almighty, in whose onward sweep our lives are as a speck of dust. The soul that is filled with the Spirit must have become purged of all pride or love of ease, all self-complacence and self-reliance; but that soul has found the only real dignity, the only lasting joy. Come then, Great Spirit, come. Convict the world; and convict my timid soul’.
from Readings in St John’s Gospel by William Temple, 1881-1944
(Archbishop of Canterbury, 1942-1944)
Come with birds’ voices when the light grows dim
Yet lovelier in departure and more dear:
While the warm flush hangs yet at heavens’ rim,
And the one star shines clear.
Though the swift night haste to approaching day
Stay Thou and stir not, brooding on the deep:
Thy secret love, Thy silent word let say
Within the senses’ sleep.
Softer than dew. But where the morning wind
Blows down the world, O Spirit! show Thy power:
Quicken the dreams within the languid mind
And bring Thy seed to flower!
from the Letters of Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941
For those able to join me, it was a joy to be to resume public Masses yesterday, the last day of Eastertide and the great solemnity of Whitsunday. We had good numbers for both Masses, with blustery wind blowing through my domestic oratory at the morning Mass to add to the atmosphere and drama of the occasion. The afternoon Mass - our first in church since mid-March - was a particularly special moment. The light was clear and bright, the air crisp, and there was an overwhelming sense of calm and peace over the whole church. The choir, assembled in their (socially distanced!) loft, sang Hassler’s Missa Secunda, and motets by Palestrina and Attwood, and the final Regina Caeli was sung lustily by all, with a palpable sense of joy and relief. And now the Octave - Whit Week - begins!
Whitsuntide by Emily Manning, 1845-1890
Fr Lee Kenyon