‘Aidan, to my way of thinking, was the perfect pastor. Even though he could not speak the language of the people of Northumbria, he found a way to preach. He went around with the king, and the king did the translating and interpreting for him.
There must have been something very compelling about Aidan. He was clearly a man of God and a man of prayer. That was the secret of his evangelising. When reading the lives of Aidan, Paulinus and other monk-bishops, it becomes more and more apparent that these men lived their faith. Their faith was so strong, so deep, that it flowed into their preaching and their actions. We often hear that the cathedrals of medieval England express the story of Christianity in their magnificent statuary and stained-glass windows. In their vaulted ceilings and soaring towers they move people towards God, towards something beyond the daily preoccupations of their lives in the world. The lives of Saints Paulinus and Aidan did the same. There was such a continuity between what they believed and what they preached, and between what they preached and what they lived, that people immediately saw and felt the living presence of God in their midst.
...All of us today are challenged by Aidan’s authenticity and simplicity. Such simplicity of life has two levels: the first is single-mindedness, being so concentrated on God and serving him that other things are subordinate to that; the second level is simplicity of life-style, trying to live lives of material simplicity. This what speaks to people outside the Church. As Paul VI says, “Modern man listens more readily to witnesses than to teachers; if they listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses”.
Aidan died in 651, near Bamburgh, having spent sixteen years working for the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity. When Aidan first arrived in Northumbria, little remained of Paulinus’ endeavours. However, during the years of Aidan’s mission, Lindisfarne was firmly established as a monastery from which monks were sent out to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Lindisfarne became, then, not only a centre for its community of monks, but also a centre for the spiritual life of Northumbria’.
from Footprints of the Northern Saints, 1996 by Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB OM, 1923-1999
O everlasting God, who didst send thy gentle Bishop Aidan to proclaim the Gospel in Britain: grant that, aided by his prayers, we may live after his teaching in simplicity, humility, and love for the poor; 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 Saint Aidan, Bishop, and the Saints of Lindisfarne, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Margaret was born in York about 1553, the fourth child of Thomas and Jane Middleton. She married John Clitherow, a widower, with two young sons, at St Martin-le-Grand in Coney Street on July 1st, 1571, and they settled in the Shambles, the traditional butchers’ district.
Margaret’s parents and husband had conformed to the new religion, but soon after her marriage Margaret asked for instruction and became a Catholic in 1574. Between 1577 and 1584 she was imprisoned for long periods for refusing to conform the the new religion. (Recusancy had been made a treasonable offence in 1576). When not in prison Margaret secretly instructed local children in the Catholic faith, sheltered priests and allowed Mass to be said in her home.
Her step-father, Henry May, became Lord Mayor of York on January 15th, 1586. In this office he pursued the policies of the Council of the North in rounding up and punishing recusants. As a result of a raid and search by the Sheriff’s men, and on the evidence of a twelve-year-old Flemish boy, Margaret was arrested.
She was put on trial at the Guild Hall March 14th, 1586 for harbouring priests and attending Mass. Asked what her plea was, she replied: “Having made no offence, I need no trial. I will be tried by none but God and your own consciences”. Condemned to death on March 15th she was held in prison on Ouse Bridge until March 25th, 1586, when she was taken to the Toll Booth where a door was laid on her and weights added. Her last words were: “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me”.
On 25th October 1970 Margaret was canonised together with 39 other martyrs of England and Wales’.
from a plaque erected in the Shrine of St Margaret Clitherow, York, 1986
commemorating the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Margaret Clitherow
Steadfast God, as we honour the fidelity in life and constancy in death of thy holy Martyrs Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line, and Margaret Ward: we pray thee to raise up in our day women of courage and resource to care for thy household the Church; 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 Ss Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line, and Margaret Ward, Martyrs, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today is the Passion of Saint John the Baptist (the ‘Decollation’ in old money), and on account of Saint John being the patron of the Ordinariate deanery in Canada (because St John is the older patron of (French) Canada; being officially proclaimed so by Pope St Pius X in 1908) today is observed as a feast in those communities of the Dominion. So a very blessed feast day to the Ordinariate clergy and faithful in the True North. May the prayers of St John Baptist keep you strong in that faith once delivered to the saints.
‘Dance for me’, time
says. ‘Half of my kingdom
if you dance well’.
The machine does so
Coming with its request
At the end not
For humanity’s head but
Its heart on a platter.
R.S. Thomas, 1913-2000
‘This heavenly city… while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognising that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, so far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and makes this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God. When we shall have reached that peace, this mortal life shall give place to one that is eternal, and our body shall be no more this animal body which by its corruption weighs down the soul, but a spiritual body feeling no want, and in all its members subjected to the will. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses this peace by faith; and by this faith it lives righteously when it refers to the attainment of that peace every good action towards God and man; for the life of the city is a social life’.
from Book 19, Chapter 17, What Produces Peace, and What Discord, Between the Heavenly and Earthly Cities in The City of God by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
O merciful Lord, who didst turn Saint Augustine from his sins to be a faithful Bishop and teacher: grant that we may follow him in penitence and godly discipline; till our restless hearts find their rest in thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘When the day of her death was coming - a day you, Lord, knew but we did not - she and I were alone, leaning out of a window that overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house where we were staying, there at Ostia on the Tiber, where we waited, away from the crowds, after our long journey by land, and prepared for our sea voyage.
Our conversation led us to conclude that no bodily pleasure, however great and whatever earthly light might shed lustre upon it, could be compared, or even noticed, by contrast with the happiness of the life of the saints. And so we went on by interior thinking, and speaking to one another with wonder at your works, O Lord, and finally came to our own minds and passed beyond them to reach the land of unfailing plenty where you feed Israel eternally with the fodder of truth, where life is wisdom through whom all things were made, all that have been and ever will be; but she herself is not made but only is, since she is eternal: for to have been and to be in the future, are not to be in eternity. And while we spoke of her, and strained after her with the whole of our heart-beat, we touched her for a moment.
That was the burden of our talk, although we did not speak in these precise words or exactly as I have set them down. Yet you know, Lord, that as we talked that day the world, with all its pleasures, seemed a paltry place compared to the life of which we spoke. And then my mother said, "My son, for my part I find no further point in being in this life. What I am still to do and why I am here in this world I do not know, for I have no more to hope for on this earth. I had one reason alone for wishing to remain a little longer in this life, and that was the wish to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. God has granted me this and more beside, for I now see you as his servant, despising any happiness that the world can give. What is left for me to do in this world?”’.
from The Confessions by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
O God, who art the Comforter of them that mourn, and the Salvation of them that hope in thee, who didst graciously regard the tearful pleading of blessed Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine: grant, we beseech thee, at their united intercession; that we may truly lament our sins and be made worthy to obtain thy gracious pardon; 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.
Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do thee true and laudable service: grant, we beseech thee; that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of 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 Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is most certainly a prayer that assumes that human beings are made in the image of God to be his servants not only in this life but in the age to come. They are creatures who by God’s mercy look forward to a rich, full and everlasting life in the kingdom of God, where their service of the Lord will be richer and fuller and progress from glory to glory. However, in this prayer is also the biblical assumption that the fulness and quality of the life to be enjoyed in the age to come is related to the type of life that is lived in this evil age.
The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is addressed as the “Almighty” (the Sovereign, All-powerful) and as “merciful” (showing pity and love to the undeserving). Then, in bowing before his presence (by the device grammatically of the relative clause) his people remember that their vocation in this world, as Christians in the Household of God, is that they serve God fruitfully even as they daily pray, “Thy will be done”. Also they remember that their right serving of their God and Father is dependent upon his gift to them of grace, mercy, wisdom and strength. The little word “only” emphasises that they are wholly dependent on God’s help to serve him aright.
If the vocation of the creature is to serve the Creator, who is the Father and the Judge, in the name and merits of Christ Jesus, then it is most appropriate for the people of God to ask for spiritual strength to offer this service daily in the right mind and attitude and with appropriate fervour and consecration. “Grant, we beseech thee,” is an emphatic way of showing total dependence and asking for total help with the intention of offering complete service.
The end of man is to enjoy and glorify God for ever. The Gospels and Epistles place before Christian believers an array of promises of eternal life with rewards for those who, in this world and life, faithfully serve the Lord and their fellow men. Implied in the words of petition is a warning that we may fail to attain to the enjoyment of the content of the promises of heavenly bliss.
This prayer is offered not only through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, but specifically through “the merits” of the same Lord, for the attainment of the promises is only possible by what he has done for us and for our salvation’.
Peter Toon, 1939-2009
‘As son, husband, father, ruler and Crusader, Saint Louis strove, in everything, to embody his holding on to God by faith. If we read the account of his daily life, written by Jean de Joinville, who knew the King most personally and fought alongside the King in the Crusades, beginning in 1248, we discover the source of the faith and good works by which Saint Louis held on to God, steadfastly remaining in the company of our Lord. Jean de Joinville writes:
“He so arranged the business of governing his country that every day he heard the hours of the Office sung, and a Requiem Mass without chant, and then a sung Mass of the day or the feast, if there was one. Every day after dinner he rested on his bed, and when he had slept and rested he said the Office of the Dead privately in his room with one of his chaplains, before hearing Vespers. In the evening he heard Compline (The Life of St. Louis, p. 36, n. 54)”.
Clearly, every day of the life of Saint Louis was centred in the Sacred Liturgy, above all, the Holy Eucharist.
When we consider the richness of virtue in the life of Saint Louis, for example, his daily and generous provision for the poor, his establishment of institutions to educate the young and to care for the sick and those in need, and his devotion to the sacred places of our Lord unto the giving of his last energies, we ask how it is possible that so many Christ-like qualities could be embodied in one man, in one lifetime.
The answer to our wonderment is the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which Saint Louis participated daily and which transformed him more and more into Christ’s own likeness. When we consider the complexity of his life as father of a large family and as ruler of a nation, we marvel at his wisdom, truly wisdom from God, by which he formed his every activity in daily Mass and praying of the Liturgy of the Hours.
Recalling the memory of Saint Louis, let us ask him to intercede for us, so that we may become men and women of the Eucharist. May we imitate Saint Louis, finding in the Holy Eucharist the grace to live every moment of our lives in and with Christ for the glory of God the Father and for the good of our neighbour, especially our neighbour who is in most need.
Imitating our beloved patron, Saint Louis, let us, each day, lift up our poor, sinful and doubting hearts to the Lord, placing them into His glorious pierced Heart. May we live every moment of our lives in the communion with the Lord, which is ours in the Holy Eucharist’.
from a homily, 2007, by Raymond, Cardinal Burke (Archbishop of St Louis, 2004-2008)
O God, who didst exalt blessed Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of thy heavenly kingdom: grant, we pray thee, through his intercession; that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we made be made heirs of the King of kings, even 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.
‘At the time when the author of the Book of Job lived, there was an idea that to suffer was to be in God's bad books. This thinker and poet, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a drama in which he represented Job meeting every kind of trial and tribulation and in them all glorifying God. All the suffering of Job becomes a revelation of the steadfastness of faith, proved and justified.
The story of St Bartholomew is that after the Lord’s Ascension he travelled far in the East. St Gregory of Tours tells us that a certain saint was preaching in India, expecting to find only heathen, but he found Christians there who had a copy of St Matthew’s Gospel, and he was able to trace the teaching of the Gospel to St Bartholomew, who had been in those parts. In the end the wanderings of the apostle took him to Armenia, where the people were very barbarous, and there he was condemned to be flayed alive. So he answered literally the Satanic challenge of the Book of Job (Job 2:4-6) - “skin for skin”. The story of Bartholomew, like the story of Job, tells us that through the fire of pain and suffering a man may still give glory to God.
Suffering is a great mystery, but there are things we could never know without it. If we consider how the apostles preached the Faith, it is not that they were eloquent but that they were utterly sincere men. One of the things necessary to prove their sincerity was their suffering, and so they took suffering to their hearts. Even as the Cross of Christ revealed the love of God in the beauty of suffering, so the suffering of Bartholomew revealed to the heathen the Cross of Christ’.
from Meditations for Every Day by Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine Apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church; to love that Word which he believed, and both to preach and to receive 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.
‘Our Lord and Saviour lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven”.
When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul”.
That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace. It pressed me so that my breath came slow and forced me to sweat and pant. I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:
“If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men”’.
St Rose of Lima, 1586-1617
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who didst will that Saint Rose, bedewed with heavenly graces, should blossom forth among the peoples of the Americas as a flower of virginity and suffering: grant to us thy servants, so to run after her in the fragrance of her sweetness; that we may be found a sweet savour unto 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.
No eye hath seen what joys the Saints obtain,
No ear hath heard what comforts are possessed;
No heart can think in what delight they reign,
Nor pen express their happy port of rest,
Where pleasure flows, and grief is never seen.
Where good abounds, and ill is banish’d clean.
Those sacred Saints remain in perfect peace.
Which Christ confessed, and walked in His ways,
They shine in bliss, which now shall never cease.
And to His Name do sing eternal praise:
Before His throne in white they ever stand,
And carry palms of triumph in their hand.
Above them all the Virgin hath a place.
Which caused the world with comfort to abound;
The beams do shine in her unspotted face,
And with the stars her head is richly crowned:
In glory she all creatures passeth far,
The moon her shoes, the sun her garments are.
Lo! here the look which Angels do admire!
Lo! here the spring from whom all goodness flows
Lo! here that sight which men and Saints desire!
LoI here that stalk on which our comfort grows!
Lo! this is she whom heaven and earth embrace.
Whom God did choose, and filled full of grace,
Next above her, and on a higher throne.
Our Saviour in His Manhood sitteth here;
From Whom proceeds all perfect joy alone.
And in Whose Face all glory doth appear:
The Saints’ delight conceived cannot be
When they a Man the Lord of Angels see.
O worthy place, where such a Lord is chief!
O glorious Lord, Who princely servants keeps!
O happy Saints, which never taste of grief!
O blessed state, where malice ever sleeps!
No one is here of base or mean degree,
But all are known the sons of God to be.
St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, 1557-1595
‘[T]he Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a Plenary Session held on December 16, 1905… determined and declared as follows:
1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.
2. A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.
3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.
4. Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one’s strength, circumstances and duties.
5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor’s advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.
6. But since it is plain that by the frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient, therefore, parish priests, confessors and preachers, according to the approved teaching of the Roman Catechism should exhort the faithful frequently and with great zeal to this devout and salutary practice.
7. Frequent and daily Communion is to be promoted especially in religious Institutes of all kinds; with regard to which, however, the Decree Quemadmodum issued on December 17, 1890, by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, is to remain in force. It is to be promoted especially in ecclesiastical seminaries, where students are preparing for the service of the altar; as also in all Christian establishments which in any way provide for the care of the young (ephebeis).
8. In the case of religious Institutes, whether of solemn or simple vows, in whose rules, or constitutions, or calendars, Communion is assigned to certain fixed days, such regulations are to be considered as directive and not preceptive. The prescribed number of Communions should be regarded as a minimum but not a limit to the devotion of the religious. Therefore, access to the Eucharistic Table, whether it be rather frequently or daily, must always be freely open to them according to the norms above laid down in this Decree.
Furthermore, in order that all religious of both sexes may clearly understand the prescriptions of this Decree, the Superior of each house will provide that it be read in community, in the vernacular, every year within the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
9. Finally, after the publication of this Decree, all ecclesiastical writers are to cease from contentious controversy concerning the dispositions requisite for frequent and daily Communion’.
from the Decree Sacra Tridentina (On Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion), 1905
by Pope St Pius X, 1835-1914
O God, who for the defence of the Catholic faith, and the restoring of all things in Christ, didst fill thy Supreme Pontiff Saint Pius the Tenth, with heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude: graciously grant that, following his teaching and example, we may attain unto eternal rewards; 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.
‘Thou, O man, hast two enemies, sin and death, that is to say, the death of the soul and the death of the body. Christ is come to conquer both, and from both will He save thee. Only be not afraid. Even already He has vanquished sin in His own Person by taking upon Himself our human nature, free from all defilement. For great violence was done to sin, and it manifestly sustained a heavy defeat, when that very nature which it boasted of having entirely corrupted and completely subdued, was found in Christ wholly reclaimed from it. After this first victory, He “will pursue after (thy) enemies and overtake them, and (He) will not turn back again till they are consumed”. Fighting against sin during His mortal existence, He will oppose it with His words and example; in His passion He will bind it, He will bind “the strong man and plunder his house”. Then, as regards death, He will in the same manner and order vanquish it first in Himself, when He rises from the tomb, “the first-fruits of them that sleep... the First-Begotten of the dead”. Afterwards He will overcome it in us also, when He will raise up again our mortal bodies: so shall our enemy, death, be at last destroyed. Therefore will He be “clothed with beauty” at His resurrection, not, as now in His nativity, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Therefore He whose Heart is now brimming over with mercy, Who now judgeth no man, will then, at His rising, gird Himself, and with the cincture of justice will seem to restrain, so to speak, the flowing robes of His mercy. For from that time He shall be prepared for the judgement, which is reserved for our resurrection. And therefore He comes now as a Little One, in order to give mercy the precedence, and that mercy, going before, may temper the severity of the final judgement which must follow’.
from the first sermon for Christmas Day by St Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153
O God, by whose grace the blessed Abbot Bernard, kindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: grant, at his intercession; that we may be inflamed with the same spirit of love, and ever walk before thee as children of light; 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.
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire, or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of 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 Twelfth Sunday after Trinity from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘God is always ready to take the initiative. That is where he differs so markedly from ourselves, and also is the distinguishing mark of his bounty. Of that bounty three distinct features are suggested by the collect: his benevolence, his forgiveness, and his generosity.
First, his benevolence, his goodwill, is shown markedly in the fact that his knowledge of our need is greater than ours and his giving is consequently more thoughtful than ours. He anticipates our wants like a mother choosing presents for her child. He knows our actual need and takes the earliest step in teaching us to realise it too. In fact, he induces us to want what we need.
He is even more ready to hear than we pray. One would have thought that we should have been quick enough to ask for anything we want, but God is quicker still, waiting for us to make our request.
This suggestion of readiness is contained in the term “mercy” which comprises the content of two Hebrew words, one meaning active benevolence and the other steadfast reliability. God is not kind by fits and starts, as were the old pagan gods and goddesses. He always continues in one stay: in him is no variableness nor shadow cast by turning. He is the same, good and kind, yesterday, today, and for ever’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘Mary is the most beautiful flower that ever was seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there have ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory. And Mary is the Queen of them. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore she is called the Rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers the most beautiful.
But moreover, she is the Mystical, or hidden Rose; for mystical means hidden. How is she now "hidden" from us more than are other saints? What means this singular appellation, which we apply to her specially? The answer to this question introduces us to a third reason for believing in the reunion of her sacred body to her soul, and its assumption into heaven soon after her death, instead of its lingering in the grave until the General Resurrection at the last day.
It is this:- if her body was not taken into heaven, where is it? how comes it that it is hidden from us? why do we not hear of her tomb as being here or there? why are not pilgrimages made to it? why are not relics producible of her, as of the saints in general? Is it not even a natural instinct which makes us reverent towards the places where our dead are buried? We bury our great men honourably. St Peter speaks of the sepulchre of David as known in his day, though he had died many hundred years before. When our Lord's body was taken down from the Cross, He was placed in an honourable tomb. Such too had been the honour already paid to St John Baptist, his tomb being spoken of by St Mark as generally known. Christians from the earliest times went from other countries to Jerusalem to see the holy places. And, when the time of persecution was over, they paid still more attention to the bodies of the Saints, as of St Stephen, St Mark, St Barnabas, St Peter, St Paul, and other Apostles and Martyrs. These were transported to great cities, and portions of them sent to this place or that. Thus, from the first to this day it has been a great feature and characteristic of the Church to be most tender and reverent towards the bodies of the Saints. Now, if there was anyone who more than all would be preciously taken care of, it would be our Lady. Why then do we hear nothing of the Blessed Virgin's body and its separate relics? Why is she thus the hidden Rose? Is it conceivable that they who had been so reverent and careful of the bodies of the Saints and Martyrs should neglect her - her who was the Queen of Martyrs and the Queen of Saints, who was the very Mother of our Lord? It is impossible. Why then is she thus the hidden Rose? Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
We’ll hew a highway through the skies
And pave it white with sheen
For pure must be the pathway
Where walks a stainless Queen.
We'll fuse the fairest rainbows
In one symphonic hue
And gaily tint the fabric
Of Our Lady’s avenue.
If heaven’s brightest beauties
Should dare her pathway bar
We'll cleave the sun in splinters
And shatter every star.
We’ll drain the fresh new dawning
Of all its dew drop spray
And with it soothe the roughness
That mars the maiden’s way.
Then all the angel choirs
With anthems swelling sweet
Shall lead the lovely Lady
Along her spangled street.
A destiny of glory
This roadway shall complete
When at its end the Mother
And the Son of God shall meet.
Thomas H. Cosgrove
‘My dearest son, if you desire to honour the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace – after the faith itself – the Church holds second place, first propagated as she was by our head, Christ; then transplanted, firmly constituted and spread through the whole world by his members, the apostles and holy fathers. And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.
However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.
My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favour not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbours or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.
Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honourable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death.
All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly kingdom’.
from a letter to his son by St Stephen of Hungary, c.969-1038
Grant thy Church, we pray, Almighty God: that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary, who fostered her growth while a king on earth, as her glorious defender in heaven, 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.
Hark! She is call’d. The parting hour is come.
Take thy farewell, poor world! Heav’n must go home
A piece of heav’nly earth, purer and brighter
Than the chaste stars, whose choice lamps come to light her
While through the crystal orbs, clearer than they,
She climbs and makes a fair more milky way.
She's called. Hark how the dear immortal dove
Sighs to his silver mate, ‘Rise up, my love!
‘Rise up, my fair, my spotless one!
‘The winter's past, the rain is gone.
‘The spring is come, the flowers appear.
‘No sweets but thou are wanting here.
‘Come away, my love!
‘Come away, my dove! Cast off delay.
‘The court of Heav’n is come
‘To wait upon thee home. Come, come away!
‘The flowers appear,
‘Our quickly would, wert thou once here.
‘The spring is come, or, if it stay,
‘Tis to keep time with thy delay.
‘The rain is gone, except so much as we
‘Detain in needful tears to weep the want of thee.
‘The winter’s past.
‘Or, if he make less haste,
‘His answer is, Why, she does so.
‘If summer come not, how can winter go?
On the golden wings
Of the bright youth of Heav’n, that sings
Under so sweet a burthen. Go,
Since thy dread son will have it so.
And while thou goest our song and we
Will, as we may, reach after thee.
Hail, holy queen of humble hearts!
We in thy praise will have our parts.
Thy precious name shall be
Thy self to us, and we
With holy care will keep it by us.
We to the last
Will hold it fast
And no Assumption shall deny us.
All the sweetest showers
Of our fairest flowers
Will we strow upon it.
Though our sweets cannot make
It sweeter, they can take
Themselves new sweetness from it.
Maria, men and angels sing,
Maria, mother of our King.
Live, rosy princess, live. And may the bright
Crown of a most incomparable light
Embrace thy radiant brows. O may the best
Of everlasting joys bath thy white breast.
Live, our chaste love, the holy mirth
Of Heav’n, the humble pride of earth.
Live, crown of women, queen of men.
Live mistress of our song. And when
Our weak desires have done their best,
Sweet angels, come and sing the rest.
On the Glorious Assumption of Our Blessed Lady
by Richard Crashaw, c.1613-1649
‘Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in a difficult and even humanly hopeless plight. Sacred Scripture teaches us this and Church history bears witness to this.
In fact, how many examples we could cite of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of Saints and of the Christian people! Among the testimonies of our epoch I would like to mention the examples of two Saints whom we are commemorating in these days: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated on 9 August, and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whom we will commemorate tomorrow, on 14 August, the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Their lives might seem to have been a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brightness of Love which dispels the gloom of selfishness and hatred shines forth. The following words are attributed to St Maximilian Kolbe, who is said to have spoken them when the Nazi persecution was raging: “Hatred is not a creative force: only love is creative”. And heroic proof of his love was the generous offering he made of himself in exchange for a fellow prisoner, an offer that culminated in his death in the starvation bunker on 14 August 1941.
“Hail Mary!” was the last prayer on the lips of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, as he offered his arm to the person who was about to kill him with an injection of phenolic acid. It is moving to note how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always a source of courage and serenity. While we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is one of the best-loved Marian feasts in the Christian tradition, let us renew our entrustment to her who from Heaven watches over us with motherly love at every moment. In fact, we say this in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”’.
from the general audience of 13 August 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, helped by the prayers of this devoted servant of the immaculate Mother of God; we too may strive to serve others for thy glory, and become like unto thy dear Son, who loved his own even unto the end; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The biography of [St Hippolytus] has been greatly obscured by legend, which has made him a soldier, the prison-warden of St Lawrence, and a martyr. Actually he was a disciple of St Irenaeus, a priest and an illustrious teacher in the Roman Church. Later, sorry to say, the first anti-pope. Because of his rigourism he became involved in a controversy with Pope Callistus I (217-222), but atoned for this failing by martyrdom. He is the author of numerous works and attained popularity even in the Eastern Church.
Happily the schism did not last long. Together with Pontian, the rival Pope, he was exiled to the "death island" of Sardinia, where both died. The remains of Hippolytus were accorded a special burial place near that of St Lawrence on the Tiburtinian Way. Later his body was transferred to the cloister of the Holy Redeemer upon the Leteninian Hill near Riezi. A marble statue of classic cast was found in the catacomb near St Lawrence.
...It may scandalise us moderns to learn that St Hippolytus fell into a quarrel with the lawful Pope. His contemporaries, however, did not judge him so harshly. Moreover, we may say with St Augustine: “Branches too numerous or luxuriant upon the Christian tree, the heavenly Surgeon cuts off with the knife of martyrdom”.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who on this day devoutly observe the festival of thy holy Martyrs blessed Pontian and Hippolytus, may thereby increase in godliness to the attainment of everlasting salvation; 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 God, who declarest thy almighty power most chiefly in shewing mercy and pity; mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace; that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ 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 Eleventh Sunday after Trinity from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Today’s Collect begins with a wonderful thought. God does not chiefly show His almighty power by the great and marvellous things that He does, but by His mercy and and pity towards us, whom He has created, and who have sinned so badly and so often. He desires above all things that we should be free from every taint and influence of sin. It is more wonderful to think of God forgiving the sinner than performing marvellous works. The chief way in which He declares His almighty power is by showing mercy and pity.
...We sometimes think that pity means being sorry for someone and saying so. That is not what God’s pity means. It goes with mercy, and means that God not only sympathises with us, but actually does something to relieve our suffering and sin. He shows mercy. The Publican in [the] Gospel shows how God's pity works. He prayed “God be merciful to me a sinner”. After his prayer he felt different. Jesus said, “He went down to his house justified rather than the other”. He felt in his heart God's mercy and pity. He felt God's pity, and so he was sure of His mercy’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
‘To the esteemed and most holy virgin, the Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia: Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and useless handmaid (Lk 17:10) of the Cloistered Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverent prayer that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness (Sir 50:5).
As I hear of the fame of your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord (Hab 3:18). I am not alone in rejoicing at such great news, but I am joined by all who serve and seek to serve Jesus Christ. For though you, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honour and dignity of the world, and could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with splendour befitting you and His Excellency, you have rejected all these things and have chosen with your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus you took a spouse of more noble lineage, who will keep your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ:
When you have loved Him, you shall be chaste;
when you have touched Him, you shall become pure;
when you have accepted Him, you shall be a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
Whose generosity is more abundant,
Whose appearance more beautiful,
Whose love more tender,
Whose courtesy more gracious.
In whose embrace you are already caught up;
who has adorned your breast with precious stones
and has placed priceless pearls in your ears
and has surrounded you with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on your head a golden crown
as a sign to all of your holiness.
Therefore, most beloved sister, or should I say, Lady worthy of great respect: because you are the spouse and the mother and the sister of my Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 11:2; Mt 12:50) and have been adorned resplendently with the sign of inviolable virginity and most holy poverty: Be strengthened in the holy service which you have undertaken out of an ardent desire for the Poor Crucified, who for the sake of all of us took upon himself the Passion of the cross (Heb 12:2) and delivered us from the power of the Prince of Darkness (Col 1:13) to whom we were enslaved because of the disobedience of our first parents, and so reconciled us to God the Father (2 Cor 5:18)’.
from the first letter to St Agnes of Prague by St Clare of Assisi, 1194-1253
Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation: that we who rejoice in the festival of blessed Clare, thy Virgin, may grow in the knowledge and love of true devotion; 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.
‘[N]o model is more useful in teaching God's people than that of the martyrs. Eloquence may make intercession easy, reasoning may effectually persuade; but yet examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.
And how gloriously strong in this most excellent manner of doctrine the blessed martyr Laurentius is, by whose sufferings today is marked. Even his persecutors were able to feel, when they found that his wondrous courage, born principally of love for Christ, not only did not yield itself, but also strengthened others by the example of his endurance. For when the fury of the gentile potentates was raging against Christ’s most chosen members, and attacked those especially who were of priestly rank, the wicked persecutor's wrath was vented on Laurentius the deacon, who was pre-eminent not only in the performance of the sacred rites, but also in the management of the church’s property, promising himself double spoil from one man's capture: for if he forced him to surrender the sacred treasures, he would also drive him out of the pale of true religion. And so this man, so greedy of money and such a foe to the truth, arms himself with double weapon: with avarice to plunder the gold; with impiety to carry off Christ. He demands of the guileless guardian of the sanctuary that the church wealth on which his greedy mind was set should be brought to him. But the holy deacon showed him where he had them stored, by pointing to the many troops of poor saints, in the feeding and clothing of whom he had a store of riches which he could not lose, and which were the more entirely safe that the money had been spent on so holy a cause.
The baffled plunderer, therefore, frets, and blazing out into hatred of a religion which had put riches to such a use, determines to pillage a still greater treasure by carrying off that sacred deposit, wherewith he was enriched, as he could find no solid hoard of money in his possession. He orders Laurentius to renounce Christ, and prepares to ply the deacon's stout courage with frightful tortures: and, when the first elicit nothing, fiercer follow. His limbs, torn and mangled by many cutting blows, are commanded to be broiled upon the fire in an iron framework which was of itself already hot enough to burn him and on which his limbs were turned from time to time to make the torment fiercer and the death more lingering.
You gain nothing, you prevail nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from your devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, you are vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by your flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within. You but served the martyr in your rage, O persecutor: you but swelled the reward in adding to the pain. For what did your cunning devise which did not redound to the conqueror’s glory when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, Who is wonderful in His saints, in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon’s light does shine, and Rome has become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, who wish to live holily in Christ suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), we may be strengthened with the spirit of love and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith’.
from Sermon 85 by Pope St Leo the Great, c.400-461
Almighty God, who didst endue blessed Lawrence with power to overcome the fires of his torments: give us grace, we beseech thee, to quench the flames of our sins; 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.
‘Dear brothers and sisters! The love of Christ was the fire that inflamed the life of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Long before she realised it, she was caught by this fire. At the beginning she devoted herself to freedom. For a long time Edith Stein was a seeker. Her mind never tired of searching and her heart always yearned for hope. She travelled the arduous path of philosophy with passionate enthusiasm. Eventually she was rewarded: she seized the truth. Or better: she was seized by it. Then she discovered that truth had a name: Jesus Christ. From that moment on, the incarnate Word was her One and All. Looking back as a Carmelite on this period of her life, she wrote to a Benedictine nun: “Whoever seeks the truth is seeking God, whether consciously or unconsciously”.
…This woman had to face the challenges of such a radically changing century as our own. Her experience is an example to us. The modern world boasts of the enticing door which says: everything is permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of discernment and renunciation. I am speaking especially to you, young Christians... Pay attention! Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface, but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was able to understand that the love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined, because love and truth have an intrinsic relationship. The quest for truth and its expression in love did not seem at odds to her; on the contrary she realised that they call for one another.
In our time, truth is often mistaken for the opinion of the majority. In addition, there is a widespread belief that one should use the truth even against love or vice versa. But truth and love need each other. St Teresa Benedicta is a witness to this. The “martyr for love”, who gave her life for her friends, let no one surpass her in love. At the same time, with her whole being she sought the truth, of which she wrote: “No spiritual work comes into the world without great suffering. It always challenges the whole person”.
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.’
from the homily for the canonisation of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 11 October 1998
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God of our fathers, who didst lead the blessed Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know thy crucified Son and imitate him even unto death: mercifully grant that, by her intercession, all men may know Christ as Saviour, and through come to thine eternal vision; 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.
‘We remember St Dominic, and his order, in the first instance, for the intellectual protest which they opposed to that sinister outbreak of Oriental philosophy in the heart of Western Christendom. Heresies, after all, have their place in the elucidation of religious truth. The fine flower of Christian scholarship is fertilised, you may say, by the decaying corpse of false doctrine. Or perhaps you may say with greater accuracy that Christian theology has at all times been a reaction to the assaults of heresy, just as a living organism will develop a protective shell there, where a hostile stimulus from without has made itself felt. When the germs of the Manichean heresy sought to find a lodgement in the healthy body of Christendom, the reaction of that healthy body was the great Dominican tradition of learning. It developed, we may well believe, beyond the Saint's own hopes. Almost at the moment of his death another Saint was being born to carry on his work; St Thomas, destined like Elisesus to have a double portion of his Master's spirit. Who shall say what we owe to that Providential impetus which the Manichean peril gave to Christian thought? Just as a healthy body may gain immunity from a disease by being inoculated with a mild form of it, so Christian thought was immunised against the false doctrines which threatened to destroy it, three centuries later, by its inoculation with the dying germ of Orientalism which it had encountered, and triumphed over, at Toulouse.
...We expect of you that to-day, as seven hundred years ago, you should leaven human thought, by justifying the ways of God to men; by asserting the truth of our Lord’s Incarnation, and vindicating the honour of his Blessed Mother. We expect of you also that to-day, as seven hundred years ago, you should leaven human society, by showing us in your own lives, and in the lives of that great Third Order which derives its inspiration from you, the grand simplicity of former times. So will men learn to find, in the Catholic Church, the key to their disillusionment and the remedy for their despairs; learning will not do that, argument will not do that. May the prayers of your holy patron, raised so long ago by an infallible oracle to the altars of the Church, win such grace for you and for us; may the bewildered minds of our non-Catholic fellow-countrymen be led back, more and more, through the Dominicans to Dominic, and through Dominic to Christ’.
from a sermon preached at St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill, 1934, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy 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.
‘“Know that Sixtus has been beheaded in the cemetery on the 8th of the Ides of August”. These words of St Cyprian mark the opening of a glorious period, both for the liturgical cycle and for history. From this day to the feast of St Cyprian himself, taking in that of the Deacon St Laurence, how many holocausts in a few weeks does the earth offer to the Most High God! One would think that the Church, on the Feast of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, was impatient to join Her testimony as Bride to that of the Prophets, of the Apostles, and of God Himself. Heaven proclaims Him well-beloved, the earth also declares its love for Him: the testimony of blood and of every sort of heroism is the sublime echo awakened by the Father’s voice through all the valleys of our lowly earth, to be prolonged throughout all ages.
Let us, then, today salute this noble Pontiff, the first to go down into the arena opened wide by Valerian to all the soldiers of Christ. Among the brave leaders who, from Peter down to Melchiades, have headed the struggle whereby Rome was both vanquished and saved, none is more illustrious as a Martyr. St Sixtus was seized in the catacomb lying to the left of the Appian Way, in the very chair wherein, in spite of recent edicts, he was presiding over the assembly of the brethren; and after the sentence had been pronounced by the judge, he was brought back to the sacred crypt. There in that same chair, in the midst of the Martyrs sleeping in the surrounding tombs their sleep of peace, the good and peaceful Pontiff received the stroke of death. Of the seven Deacons and Subdeacons of the Roman Church, six died with him; St Laurence alone was left, inconsolable at having this time missed the palm, but trusting in the invitation given him to be at the heavenly altar in three days’ time.
Two of the Pope’s Deacons were buried in the cemetery of Praetextatus, where the sublime scene had taken place. St Sixtus and his blood-stained chair were carried to the other side of the Appian Way into the crypt of the Popes, where they remained for long centuries an object of veneration to pilgrims. In the Roman breviary we read:
“St Sixtus II, an Athenian, was first a philosopher, and then a disciple of Christ. In the persecution of Valerian, he was accused of publicly preaching the Faith of Christ; and was seized and dragged to the temple of Mars, where he was given his choice between death and offering sacrifice to the idols. As he firmly refused to commit such an iniquity, he was led away to martyrdom. As he went, St Laurence met him, and with great sorrow, spoke to him in this manner: “Whither goest thou, Father, without thy son? Whither art thou hastening, O holy Priest, without thy Deacon?” St Sixtus answered: “I am not forsaking thee, my son; a greater combat for the Faith of Christ awaiteth thee. In three days thou shalt follow me, the Deacon shall follow his Priest. In the meanwhile distribute amongst the poor whatever thou hast in the treasury.” He was put to death that same day, August 6, together with the Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, and the Subdeacons Januarius, Magnus, Vincent, and Stephen. The Pope was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus, but the other Martyrs in the cemetery of Praetextatus. He sat eleven months and twelve days; during which time he held an ordination in the month of December, and ordained seven Deacons, four Priests, and two Bishops”’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who dost vouchsafe unto us to celebrate the heavenly birthday of thy holy Martyrs blessed Pope Sixtus and his Companions: grant us to rejoice in the perpetual felicity of their fellowship in heaven; 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.
Fr Lee Kenyon