‘Martha and Mary are two sisters; they also have a brother, Lazarus, but he does not appear on this occasion. Jesus is passing through their village and, the text says, Martha received him at her home. This detail enables us to understand that Martha is the elder of the two, the one in charge of the house. Indeed, when Jesus has been made comfortable, Mary sits at his feet and listens to him while Martha is totally absorbed by her many tasks, certainly due to the special Guest.
We seem to see the scene: one sister bustling about busily and the other, as it were, enraptured by the presence of the Teacher and by his words. A little later Martha, who is evidently resentful, can no longer resist and complains, even feeling that she has a right to criticise Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me”. Martha would even like to teach the Teacher! Jesus on the other hand answers her very calmly: “Martha, Martha”, and the repetition of her name expresses his affection, “you are anxious and troubled about many things; only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her”. Christ’s words are quite clear: there is no contempt for active life, nor even less for generous hospitality; rather, a distinct reminder of the fact that the only really necessary thing is something else: listening to the word of the Lord; and the Lord is there at that moment, present in the Person of Jesus! All the rest will pass away and will be taken from us but the word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily actions’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘[W]hy blood? Why so much emphasis on the death? Surely the life of our Lord had a significance of its own; he came to earth to live, not simply to die. Here, I think, we want to make the doctrine plainer than it is in many people’s minds. The life of our Lord on earth might have been a sufficient atonement for our sins, had God so willed, even if he had not crowned it by a death on the cross. If he had seen fit to ascend into heaven again, when he was still a little child in his Mother’s arms at Bethlehem, our redemption might still have been achieved. What made amends for our sins was not precisely his death, but that generous offering of himself to his eternal Father which began with Bethlehem and only ended on Calvary. If we use his blood as the symbol of that life-long generosity which redeemed us, it is only because the cross was the supreme test, the crucial experiment, which gave that generosity its perfect outward manifestation.
…[T]he doctrine of the Precious Blood certainly means this, for Catholic and Protestant alike – it means that you and I had something done for us which we could never have done for ourselves. Deny that doctrine, obscure that doctrine, and you have fatally altered the whole content of the Christian message. The love of God, St John tells us, resides not in our showing any love for God, but in his showing his love for us first, when he sent out his Son to be an atonement of our sins. Forget that, and you have forgotten how to be a Christian’.
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
‘The bride saint saw the Mother of God, Queen of the Heavens, wearing a priceless crown. Her beautiful shiny hair fell around her shoulders. The Virgin was wearing a brilliant golden tunic and a veil as blue as the sky; Bridget fell into a contemplative ecstasy, as if an internal life alienated her from herself.
All of a sudden Saint John the Baptist appeared and said to her, “Listen closely: I am about to reveal the meaning of all of this to you. The crown means that the Blessed Virgin is the Queen and Lady and Mother of the King of angels. Her hair signifies that she is the purist of virgins and absolutely perfect. Her sky blue veil denotes that all worldly things are dead to her. Her golden tunic symbolises that she has proved ardent love and charity, both inwardly and outwardly.
Her Son placed seven lilies in her crown, the first is her humility, the second is her fear; the third is her obedience; the fourth her patience; the fifth her serenity; the sixth her sweetness, because she is sweet and gives to all who invoke her when asking for something; the seventh is mercy when in need: because if anyone invokes her she will give them whatever they need.
The Son of God has placed among these seven lilies seven precious stones: the first is her eminent virtue, because there are no spirits that have virtue of a higher degree than that of the Blessed Virgin; the second is her perfect purity because the Queen of Heaven has been so pure that not even the minimal stain of sin has been on her, and no demon has ever managed to find any impurity in her. She is truly the most pure for it was opportune for the King of glory to be placed solely in the purest vessel chosen above all the angels and all mankind. The third precious stone is her beauty, because the saints praise God for the beauty of His mother and this completes the joy of all the angels and saints. The fourth precious stone on the crown represents the wisdom of the Virgin Mother because being adorned with splendour and beauty she is filled to the brim and endowed with every wisdom of God. The fifth precious stone is her strength because through God she is strong enough to destroy and dispose of everything that has been created. The sixth stone is her sparkle and light, because she illuminates the angels whose eyes are clearer than light and the demons heel to her beauty and do not dare look at her splendour. The seventh stone is the fulness of every delight, of all spiritual sweetness, present within her with such richness that there is no joy that does not grow from hers, nor any delight that is not completed by the vision of her beauty”’.
from the Revelations of St Bridget of Sweden, 1303-1373
O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women of all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ 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.
When blessed Marie wip’d her Saviours feet,
(Whose precepts she had trampled on before,)
And wore them for a jewell on her head,
Shewing his steps should be the street
Wherein she thenceforth evermore
With pensive humblenesse would live and tread:
She being stain’d herself, why did she strive
To make Him clean who could not be defil’d?
Why kept she not her tears for her own faults,
And not his feet? Though we could dive
In tears like seas, our sinnes are pil’d
Deeper then they in words, and works, and thoughts.
Deare soul, she knew who did vouchsafe and deigne
To bear her filth, and that her sinnes did dash
Ev’n God himself: wherefore she was not loth,
As she had brought wherewith to stain,
So to bring in wherewith to wash;
And yet, in washing one, she washed both.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘[T]he Lord asks us to be prudent people, as Paul says, who do not continue in ignorance but try to understand what is the will of the Lord, to discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. He wants to see us endowed with keen and right judgment, with neither a perverted nor inverted sense of values, lest we become like those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter. The Lord seeks a people undefiled by vices, but endowed and adorned with virtues. Lives there such a man who does not want others to think and speak well of him, who is not upset by some evil mark or remark levied against him? Even criminals detained in prison constantly profess their innocence and want others to concur in their opinion. They know that once their innocence is discounted, they have nothing to look forward to except continued incarceration or the galley of a slave ship. God desires us to be truly rich, truly noble, endowed with a lofty spirit and generous heart so that we will spurn the worthless goods of earth and strive only for those of heaven’.
from a Lenten sermon by St Lawrence of Brindisi, 1559-1619
O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; 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.
Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb.
John Donne, 1572-1631
On this memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a few photos of a 2015 parish pilgrimage from Calgary to Aylesford Priory in Kent, home of Carmelites from the 13th century to 1538, and once again from the 1930s.
‘Queen of Carmel, hear the voice of the Church as she sings to thee on this day. When the world was languishing in ceaseless expectation, thou wert already its hope. Unable as yet to understand thy greatness, it nevertheless, during the reign of types, loved to clothe thee with the noblest symbols. In admiration, and in gratitude for benefits foreseen, it surrounded thee with all the notions of beauty, strength, and grace suggested by the loveliest landscapes, the flowery plains, the wooded heights, the fertile valleys, especially of Carmel, whose very name signifies “the plantation of the Lord.” On its summit our fathers, knowing that Wisdom had set her throne in the cloud, hastened by their burning desires the coming of the saving sign: there at length was given to their prayers, what the Scripture calls perfect knowledge, and the knowledge of the great paths of the clouds. And when he who maketh his chariot and his dwelling in the obscurity of a cloud had therein shown himself, in a nearer approach, to the practiced eye of the father of prophets, then did a chosen band of holy persons gather in the solitudes of the blessed mountain, as heretofore Israel in the desert, to watch the least movements of the mysterious cloud, to receive from it their guidance in the paths of life, and their light in the long night of expectation’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
‘William of Malmesbury says that though this good bishop was a rich treasure of all virtues, those in which he took most delight were humility and charity to the poor; and in the discharge of his episcopal functions he omitted nothing belonging to a true pastor. He built divers churches, and repaired others; and made his journeys on foot, accompanied with his clerks, and often by night to avoid ostentation. Being to dedicate any church, he with all humility used to go barefoot to the place. His feasting was not with the rich, but with the needy and the poor. His mouth was always open to invite sinners to repentance, and to admonish those who stood to beware of falling. He was most severe to himself, and abstemious in his diet, never eating to satisfy his appetite, but barely to sustain nature; and as to sleep, he admitted no more than what after long watching and much labour was absolutely necessary. He was always delighted with psalms and spiritual canticles, and in conversation would bear no discourse but what tended to edification.
By his counsel and advice King Ethelwolf, in a Mycel synod, or great council of the nation, in 854, enacted a new law by which he gave the tithes, or tenth part of his land, throughout the kingdom to the church, exempt and free from all taxations and burthens, with an obligation of prayers in all churches for ever for his own soul, on every Wednesday, &c. This charter, to give it a more sacred sanction, he offered on the altar of St Peter at Rome in the pilgrimage which he made to that city in 855. He likewise procured it to be confirmed by the pope. He carried with him to Rome his youngest and best beloved son, Alfred, rebuilt there the school for the English, and ordered to be sent every year to Rome one hundred mancuses for the pope, one hundred for the church of St Peter, and as much for that of St Paul, to furnish them with lights on Easter Eve. He extended the Romescot, or Peterpence, to his whole kingdom. He reigned two years after his return from Rome, and died in 857. He ordained that throughout all his own hereditary lands every ten families shall maintain one poor person with meat, drink, and apparel; from whence came the corrodies, which still remain in divers places. St Swithin departed to eternal bliss, which he had always thirsted after, on the 2nd of July, 862, in the reign of King Ethelbert. His body was buried, according to his order, in the churchyard, where his grave might be trodden on by passengers’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the festival of thy servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness the people committed to his care; so we, rejoicing in our inheritance in Christ, may ever seek to build up thy Church in unity and 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.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee: that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance; that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; 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 Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘If we are to live in the world in peace how must we be governed? Peaceably. There must not be war. Nations must work together in industry, commerce, art, literature, and in every other way. We must work together as God’s children, seeing in every man… a brother for whom Christ died. This can only come about by all the peoples of the world thinking and behaving as though they believed God to be the Father of all men; letting Him rule in their hearts and lives: realising that He is their Maker and Redeemer, their Saviour and their God. He is desirous that all men should live together as brothers in love and goodwill. God must be allowed to govern.
This can never happen until every nation has heard the good tidings of great joy of which the angels told the shepherds on that first Christmas Day. The angels’ song said that His birth would bring peace to those who accepted Him, “Among men in whom is his good pleasure.” So what the world needs more than anything is the news of the glorious Gospel of peace. That must shine throughout the world before peace can reign in the hearts and minds of all men’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by HE Sheen
‘The founders of the great religious orders have picked up, each in his own characteristic way, that one life-giving message which our Lord Jesus Christ brought to earth. St Francis seized upon his poverty, St Philip Neri on his simplicity, St Paul of the cross on his love of suffering, St Ignatius on his untiring zeal to do the will of his heavenly Father. But the great saint whose memory we are celebrating today, the founder, directly or indirectly, of all our Western monastic institutions, caught up and preserved for ever as the watchword of his order a single word from that interview in the cenacle; the word “peace”. In a world so full of unruly agitations and turbulent emotions there should be cells - tombs, if you will - where men should live consciously striving to attain the peace of Christ... That motto, Pax, which you see written up everywhere in Benedictine monasteries, is the same motto you see written up in graveyards, and for the same reason. They have inherited the peace of the first Easter Day, the peace which came from a tomb’.
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; 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.
‘Father Paul Wattson, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, had a long and deep devotion to Mary, Mother of Christ. Even before he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, Fr Paul and Society of Atonement co-founder, Mother Lurana White, established the Rosary League of Our Lady of the Atonement. In 1903, he enclosed a pamphlet in the first issue of his publication, The Lamp, encouraging devotion to Our Lady by praying the Rosary.
Later, this devotion led Father Paul to give the title “Our Lady of the Atonement” to the Blessed Mother. He felt that the Society of Atonement’s goal to re-unify Christians could not be accomplished without the help of prayer and the intercession of Our Lady. He wrote an editorial in The Lamp in March of 1910, “God forbid that the Children of the Atonement should ever be strangers to the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ”. He adds, “The very name Atonement is a perpetual reminder of the Cross. Our Lord hanging there in mortal agony; Our Lady standing by, the sword, foretold by Simeon, piercing her heart. This is the central scene in the mystery of the Atonement.” Fr Paul believed that her claim to this high title rests most solidly on the fact that she consented to become the Mother of the Redeemer and that she suffered with Jesus during the Passion. In the September 1932 issue of The Lamp, Father Paul wrote, “When we, therefore, give to our Blessed Mother the title of ‘Our Lady of the Atonement’, we mean ‘Our Lady of Unity.’”
In 1919, Pope Benedict XV granted Father Paul’s fervent appeal to bless the Atonement community by recognising the Graymoor custom titling the Mother of Christ as Our Lady of the Atonement, and she was given a feast day of July 9. Father Paul composed a prayer to Our Lady of the Atonement which continues to be prayed by the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement today’.
from the Father Paul of Graymoor Guild
O God, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr, [was] a girl who, in spite of being very young, was able to show strength and courage against evil. I invoke her for you, dear young people, so that she may help you to choose good always, even when it is to your cost; for you, dear sick people, so that she may sustain you in bearing your daily suffering; and for you, dear newlyweds, so that your love may always be faithful and full of reciprocal respect’.
from a general audience, 7 July 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying thy commandments; 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.
‘Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest;
and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’. (St John 14.5-6)
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[L]ook at Calvary, and there is the glory of the divine self-giving love shining glorious. Jesus on the Tree is reigning as King. And there too, on Calvary, we see cleansing. Listen to Saint John: Jesus has died on the Cross, and the Roman soldier comes with the lance and pierces His sacred side, and there flows a stream of water and blood. And the Evangelist places the most intense emphasis on this incident. “He that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith true that ye also may believe”. Why this intense emphasis upon the flowing of the water and the blood? Of course, it is the emphasis of the historian, and the Evangelist wants his readers to know it is solid fact and history; and an eye witness was there and really saw these things happen; and the Son of God did, in truth, die; and the water and the blood flowed from His side. But, knowing Saint John, we are always sure that there is not only history but also symbol in the things that he shows us, and so it is here. Water – what is water? Water that cleanses, and cleansing does flow to our sad and sinful human race from Calvary. The humility of Calvary flows like a great stream to cleanse the pride of men and nations. And blood, what is blood? Blood is sacrificial life, not just life, but life that passed through death; and not just death, but death that has the mighty potency of true sacrifice about it. And it is this sacrificial life that flows from Calvary – flows as a gift, so that, first in the community of the redeemed Church, and then amongst all men who are brought within that community, there may be lived out a life that is sacrificial; offered to God and offered to the world in sacrificial service’.
A.M. Ramsey, Lord Ramsey of Canterbury, 1904-1988 (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1961-1974)
Cathedral of St John the Divine, NYC, 1962
Fr Lee Kenyon