‘He cultivated peace and love, purity and humility; he was above anger and greed, and despised pride and conceit; he set himself to keep as well as to teach the laws of God, and was diligent in study and prayer. He used his priestly authority to check the proud and powerful; he tenderly comforted the sick; he relieved and protected the poor. To sum up in brief what I have learned from those who knew him, he took pains never to neglect anything that he had learned from the writings of the evangelists, apostles and prophets, and he set himself to carry them out with all his powers.
I greatly admire and love all these things about Aidan, because I have no doubt that they are pleasing to God; but I cannot approve or commend his failure to observe Easter at the proper time, whether he did it through ignorance of the canonical times or in deference to the custom of his own nation. But this in him I do approve, that in keeping his Easter he believed, worshipped, and taught exactly what we do, namely the redemption of the human race through the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven of the Man Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and man’.
from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, c.731, by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
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. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
In honour of one of the three York Martyrs whom the Church celebrates today, two photos from August 2018 of the Shrine of St Margaret Clitherow on the medieval street, The Shambles, in York, now happily under the care of the Fathers of the Oratory, and a photo from May 2019 of the relic of St Margaret’s hand, located in the reliquary house at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fernyhalgh, Ladyewell in Lancashire.
The following is from a plaque erected St Margaret’s shrine at York in 1986, commemorating the 400th anniversary of her martyrdom:
‘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’.
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. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Dear brothers and sisters, celebrating the martyrdom of St John the Baptist reminds us too, Christians of this time, that with love for Christ, for his words and for the Truth, we cannot stoop to compromises. The Truth is Truth; there are no compromises. Christian life demands, so to speak, the “martyrdom” of daily fidelity to the Gospel, the courage, that is, to let Christ grow within us and let him be the One who guides our thought and our actions. However, this can happen in our life only if we have a solid relationship with God. Prayer is not time wasted, it does not take away time from our activities, even apostolic activities, but exactly the opposite is true: only if we are able to have a faithful, constant and trusting life of prayer will God himself give us the ability and strength to live happily and serenely, to surmount difficulties and to witness courageously to him. St John the Baptist, intercede for us, that we may be ever able to preserve the primacy of God in our life’.
from a general audience, 29 August 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God who didst send thy messenger, Saint John the Baptist, to be the forerunner of the Lord, and to glorify thee by his death: grant that we, who have received the truth of thy most holy Gospel, may bear our witness thereunto; and after his example and aided by his prayers, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; 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.
The Ladder of St Augustine
Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!
All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.
The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;
The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;
All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will; --
All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.
The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before --
A path to higher destinies,
Nor deem the irrevocable Past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882
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.
At the Cross thy station keeping
With the mournful Mother weeping,
Thou, unto the sinless Son,
Weepest for thy sinful one.
Blood and water from His side
Gush; in thee the streams divide:
From thine eyes the one doth start,
But the other from thy heart.
Mary, for thy sinner, see,
To her Sinless mourns with thee:
Could that Son the son not heed,
For whom two such mothers plead?
So thy child had baptism twice,
And the whitest from thine eyes.
The floods lift up, lift up their voice,
With a many-watered noise!
Down the centuries fall those sweet
Sobbing waters to our feet,
And our laden air still keeps
Murmur of a Saint that weeps.
Teach us but, to grace our prayers,
Such divinity of tears,--
Earth should be lustrate again
With contrition of that rain:
Till celestial floods o’er-rise
The high tops of Paradise.
Francis Thompson, 1859-1907
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.
‘Father Dominic of the Mother of God was a most striking missionary and preacher and he had great part in my own conversion and in that of others. His very look had a holy aspect which when his figure cam in sight in my circle most singularly affected me, and his remarkable “bonhomie” in the midst of his sanctity was in itself a real holy preaching. No wonder, then, I became his convert and penitent. He was a great lover of England. I grieved at his sudden death, and I thought and hoped he would receive from Rome the “aureola” of a Saint as is now to be’.
from a deposition, 1889, to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
concerning the cause for the beatification of Blessed Dominic Barberi, 1792-1849
O God, who didst choose thy Priest Blessed Dominic Barberi to be a minister of thy salvation, so that his teaching and example might help many to find peace and reconciliation in thy Church: mercifully guide our steps, we humbly pray, along that same way of love and truth, until by thy grace we gain its eternal reward; 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.
Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants: and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through 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. - Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Prayer is the effort we make to take advantage of the open-handedness of God. If the open ear and the open hand belong to God, the open mind must belong to us. We need to learn what kind of gifts we should ask for, and what sort of petition is better left unsaid. Therefore we must have a mind ready to receive instruction so that we can learn what things are most pleasing to him.
Solomon won his way to God’s heart by abstaining from any selfish petition and asking only that he might have the wisdom necessary for the good ordering of God’s people. We who belong to the Christian Church and have the revelation of Christ behind us are in still better case, for we can judge God’s character so much more easily and accurately through knowing Christ. “Let this mind be in you”, says St Paul, “which was also in Christ Jesus”.
If we must possess the mind of Christ, what is foreign to him will be impossible for us. We shall instinctively reject what is bad and cultivate what is good. We shall be guided to understand better our own needs, and so to ask for the things that are really worthwhile. We shall not be afraid to ask in the name, that is, in the person of Jesus. We shall know that what is important is not the manner of asking but the thing asked for. We shall have special confidence in our petition being answered because we shall be saying the right prayer, and shall thus be observing the protocol of heaven’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘[T]he Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man... in whose spirit there is no deceit”, but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: “How do you know me?”
Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.
His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.
Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognised both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognise only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.
We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael’s subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew’s presence even in India.
In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.
St Bartholomew’s relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.
To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary’.
from the general audience of 4 October 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI
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.
‘Patroness of Peru, ever watch over the interests of thy fatherland. Respond to its people’s confidence in thee by warding off from them the calamities of even this present life: the earthquakes which spread terror through the land, and political convulsions such as have already so severely tried its independence. Extend thy guardianship to the neighbouring young republics; for they too love and honour thee. Hide from them and from thy native land the Utopian mirages which rise from the old world. Preserve them from the rash impulses and illusions to which their youth is liable. Guard them against the poisonous teachings of condemned sects, lest their hitherto lively faith should be corrupted. Lastly, o thou our Lord’s beloved Rose, smile upon the whole Church, who is enraptured today at the sight of thy heavenly beauty. Like her, we all desire to, as the Collect of the Mass says, “run in the fragrancy of thy sweetness”.
Teach us to let ourselves be prevented, like thee, by the dew of heaven. Show us how to respond to the advances of the divine sculptor, who one day allowed thee to see him making over to his loved ones the different virtues in the form of blocks of choice marble, which he expects them to polish with their tears, and to fashion with the chisel of penance. Above all, fill us with love and confidence. All that the material sun accomplishes in the vast universe, causing the flowers to bloom, ripening the fruits, forming pearls in the depth of the ocean, and precious stones in the heart of the mountains; all this, thou didst say, thy divine Spouse effected in the boundless capacity of thy soul, causing it to bring forth every variety of riches, beauty and joy, warmth and life. May we profit, even as thou didst, of the coming of the Sun of Justice into our hearts in the Sacrament of union; may we lay open our whole being to the influence of his blessed light; and may we become, in every place, the good odour of Christ’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
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 worthy to be made a sweet savour unto Christ 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.
Grant to us, we beseech thee, O Lord: that we, who celebrate the festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary our Queen, being defended by her succour, may obtain peace in this world, and glory in that which is to come; through 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.
‘Pius X paid considerable attention to the reform of the Liturgy and, in particular, of sacred music in order to lead the faithful to a life of more profound prayer and fuller participation in the Sacraments. In the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), the first year of his Pontificate, he said that the true Christian spirit has its first and indispensable source in active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.
For this reason he recommended that the Sacraments be received often, encouraging the daily reception of Holy Communion and appropriately lowering the age when children receive their First Communion “to about seven”, the age “when a child begins to reason”.
Faithful to the task of strengthening his brethren in the faith, in confronting certain trends that were manifest in the theological context at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Pius X intervened decisively, condemning “Modernism” to protect the faithful from erroneous concepts and to foster a scientific examination of the Revelation consonant with the Tradition of the Church.
...The last months of his life were overshadowed by the impending war. His appeal to Catholics of the world, launched on 2 August 1914 to express the bitter pain of the present hour, was the anguished plea of a father who sees his children taking sides against each other. He died shortly afterwards, on 20 August, and the fame of his holiness immediately began to spread among the Christian people.
Dear brothers and sisters, St Pius X teaches all of us that at the root of our apostolic action in the various fields in which we work there must always be close personal union with Christ, to cultivate and to develop, day after day. This is the essence of all his teaching, of all his pastoral commitment. Only if we are in love with the Lord shall we be able to bring people to God and open them to his merciful love and thereby open the world to God’s mercy’.
Pope Benedict XVI
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.
‘St Bernard was not only a remarkable preacher of grace, he was also a preacher of truth. “The fulness of grace”, he declared, in an astonishing phrase in Song of Songs, Sermon 74, “does not consist of grace alone”. The Word, it is true, delights to come to us as our redeemer and friend, and even sometimes, in prayer, as our bridegroom. But, when he comes, Bernard says, he comes to us as truth as well as grace, as judge as well as friend. “[B]y the movement of my heart... did I perceive his presence”. There is, first of all, then, an awakening to grace and a profound sense of consolation. But there is also, Bernard notes at once, an experience of purification and a new awareness of truth. Things within us, which are opposed to the new life, are “plucked out”, we’re told, and even “destroyed”. And the heart that was as “hard as stone and diseased” finds itself pierced through. “I knew”, Bernard says, “the power of his might because my faults were put to flight and my human yearnings brought into subjection. I have marvelled at the depth of his wisdom when my secret faults have been revealed and made visible”. Effectively, what St Bernard is saying here is that if, in prayer, we experience only and always a sustained series of spiritual consolations and delights, but never what he calls “the truth of our condition in God’s sight”, then what we are experiencing is certainly not God. For this reason, in Sermon 74, Bernard implores the Word to come to him “full of grace and truth”.
“I need both of these: I need truth that I may not be able to hide from him, and grace that I may not wish to hide. Indeed, without both of these his visitation would not be complete, for the stark reality of truth would be intolerable without grace, and the gladness of grace might appear lax and uncontrolled without truth”.
Clearly, all that applies to prayer in this context, applies also to preaching. Bernard is well aware that, in the hands of the preacher, truth without grace, is a harsh, fundamentalist weapon. But he is also equally aware that grace without truth, is a mere sentimentality. “How many people”, he writes, “have received grace without profit because they have not also accepted a tempering measure of truth? In consequence they have luxuriated in it too much, without reverence or regard for truth.... To them it could be said... ‘Go, then, and learn what it means to serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice in him with awe’”.’
Fr Paul Murray OP
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.
On this memorial of St John Eudes, falling as it does within the traditional Octave of the Assumption, a fitting passage from his great work ‘The Admirable Heart of Mary’.
‘Mary appears in heaven because she comes from heaven, because she is heaven’s masterpiece, the Empress of Heaven, its joy and its glory, in whom everything is heavenly. Even when her body dwelt on earth, her thoughts and affections were all rapt in heaven.
She is clothed with the eternal Sun of the Godhead and with all the perfections of the Divine Essence, which surround, fill and penetrate her to such an extent that she has become transformed, as it were, into the power, goodness and holiness of God.
She has the moon under her feet to show that the entire world is beneath her. None is above her, save only God, and she holds absolute sway over all created things.
She is crowned with twelve stars that represent the virtues which shine so brightly in her soul. The mysteries of her life are as many stars more luminous by far than the brightest lights of the sky. The privileges and prerogatives God has granted to her, the least of which is greater than anything shining in the firmament of heaven, as well as the glory of the saints of Paradise and of earth, are her crown and her glory in a much fuller sense than the Philippians could be said to be the crown and joy of St Paul’.
St John Eudes, 1601-1680
O God, who didst wonderfully choose thy Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ: grant us, by his example and teachings; that, growing in knowledge of thee, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel; 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 to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful: that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; 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 Ninth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is a powerful petition in which we ask God to conform us, both internally and externally, to his righteousness (to what is rightful). Further, there is the honest admission that, in and of ourselves, that is in our wisdom and strength, we cannot please God by seeking to live what we consider to be the righteous and good life. (Note that this Collect is true to the meaning of the original Latin prayer, which is so terse that a literal translation of the second part would be, “that we, who cannot even exist without thee, may have strength to live according to thee”.)
Today we learn from our society and in our education and culture that each of us is an autonomous being. That is, I am in charge of my life and destiny and so are you! We think of the human being as being the centre of the universe and if we think of God at all in relation to the world it is as an Extra.
In contrast, genuine Christian thinking sees a person in total dependence upon God for his creation, his existence, his sustenance, his salvation and his eternal destiny. Whatever measure of free will and free determination a person possesses is itself from God and is only beneficial if conformed to the known will of God.
True freedom is not known in the exercise of personal autonomy and pursuing one’s own selfish will, but rather in thinking according to God’s ways and purposes and in doing his will, assisted and guided by his revelation and his Spirit. That is, the genuine life of righteousness and goodness is following the Way of Jesus Christ as his Spirit indwells the heart and mind and directs the will.
This Collect helps us to move from the mindset and spirit of the fallen world and evil age into the mindset and spirit of the kingdom of heaven and of God’s righteousness. And it presupposes that we are diligent readers of the sacred Scriptures where the mind and will of God is revealed to the Church’.
Peter Toon, 1939-2009
They laid her down, all woman-hood’s crown, with holy Mass and prayer,
And they carved the sign of the Cross divine above her with loving care,
They deemed she would lie till the trumpet-cry should waken the dead from gloom;
But He Who in fight had quelled death’s might, hath opened His Mother’s tomb.
The body fair hath passed away from out that hallowed ground,
And roses bloom where Mary lay, and lilies spring around:
The winding-sheet which wrapped her feet no longer holds the dead,
And useless lies the wimple white which bound the Virgin’s head.
Yet not for her a robe of gold with broidered art is meet;
Christ clothes her with the radiant sun, the moon is at her feet;
A crown of beamy stars is set upon her maiden brow;
Her soul doth magnify the Lord, high is the lowly now!
Richard Frederick Littledale, 1833-1890
‘Stephen introduced into Hungary both the faith of Christ and the regal dignity. He obtained his royal crown from the Roman Pontiff; and having been, by his command, anointed king, offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. He built several houses of charity at Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople: and with a wonderfully munificent spirit of religion, he founded the archiepiscopal See of Gran and ten other bishoprics. His love for the poor was equalled only by his generosity towards them; for, seeing in them Christ himself, he never sent anyone away sad or empty-handed. So great indeed was his charity that, to relieve their necessities, after expending large sums of money, he often bestowed upon them his household goods. It was his custom to wash the feet of the poor with his own hands, and to visit the hospitals at night, alone and unknown, serving the sick and showing them every charity. As a reward for these good deeds his right hand remained incorrupt after death, when the rest of his body had returned to dust.
He was much given to prayer; and would spend almost entire nights without sleep, rapt in heavenly contemplation; at times he was seen ravished out of his senses, and raised in the air. By the help of prayer, he more than once escaped in a wonderful manner from treasonable conspiracies and from the attacks of powerful enemies. Having married Ghisella of Bavaria, sister of the emperor St Henry, he had by her a son Emeric, whom he brought up in such regularity and piety as to form him into a saint. He summoned wise and holy men from all parts to aid him in the government of his kingdom, and undertook nothing without their advice. In sackcloth and ashes, he besought God with most humble prayer, that he might not depart this life without seeing the whole kingdom of Hungary Catholic. So great indeed was his zeal for the propagation of the Faith, that he was called the Apostle of his nation, and he received from the Roman Pontiff, both for himself and for his successors, the privilege of having the Cross borne before them.
He had the most ardent devotion towards the Mother of God, in whose honour he built a magnificent church, solemnly declaring her patroness of Hungary. In return the Blessed Virgin received him into heaven on the very day of her Assumption, which the Hungarians, by the appointment of their holy king, call “the day of the Great Lady”. His sacred body, exhaling a most fragrant odour and distilling a heavenly liquor, was, by order of the Roman Pontiff, translated, amidst many and divers miracles, to a more worthy resting place, and buried with great honour. Pope Innocent IX commanded his feast to be celebrated on the fourth of the Nones of September; on which day Leopold I, emperor elect of the Romans and king of Hungary, had, by the divine assistance, gained a remarkable victory over the Turks at the siege of Buda’.
from the Roman Breviary
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.
There was silence in heaven, as if for half an hour -
Isaiah’s coals of wonder sealed the lips
Of Seraph, Principality and Power,
Of all the nine angelic fellowships.
The archangels, those sheer intelligences,
Were silent, with their eyes on heaven’s door.
So must our fancy dower them with senses,
Make them incarnate in a metaphor.
There was silence in heaven as Mary entered in,
For even Gabriel had not foreseen
The glory of a soul immune from sin
Throned in the body of the angels’ Queen.
Blessed be God and Mary in whose womb
Was woven God’s incredible disguise.
She gave Our Lord His Body. In the tomb
He gave her hers again and bade her rise.
Bright from death’s slumber she arose, the flush
Of a chaste joy illumining her cheeks;
Among the motherless in heaven there was a hush
To hear the way a mother laughs and speaks.
Eye had not seen, nor ear of angel heard,
Nor heart conceived - until Our Lady’s death -
What God for those that love Him had prepared
When heaven’s synonym was Nazareth!
Her beauty opened slowly like a flower,
Beauty to them eternally bequeathed.
There was silence in heaven; as if for half an hour
No angel breathed.
Alfred Barrett, 1906-1985
Almighty and everlasting God, who didst assume the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven: grant us, we beseech thee; that being ever intent on things above, we may be worthy to be partakers of her glory hereafter; through 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.
‘Let us consider the tragic and sublime conclusion of Maximilian Kolbe’s innocent and apostolic life. It is mainly to this that we owe the glorification of the meek humble, hard working religious, exemplary follower of St Francis and knight in love with Mary Immaculate that the Church celebrates today. The circumstances of his departure from this life are so horrible and harrowing that we would prefer not to speak of them, and never to contemplate them again, in order not to see the depths of inhuman degradation to which the abuse of power can lead, an abuse which seeks to make a pedestal of grandeur and glory from the impassive cruelty it inflicts upon helpless beings that it has degraded to the rank of slaves and doomed to extermination. There were millions of these victims sacrificed to the pride of force and the madness of racism. Nevertheless it is necessary to scan this dark picture again in order to pick out, here and there, the gleams of surviving humanity. Alas, history cannot forget these frightful and tragic pages. And so it cannot but fix its horrified gaze on the luminous points that reveal, but at the same time overcome, their inconceivable darkness.
One of these points, perhaps the one glowing most brightly, is the calm, drained figure of Maximilian Kolbe. A serene hero, always pious and sustained by a paradoxical, yet reasonable confidence. His name will remain among the great; it will reveal what reserves of moral values lay among those unhappy masses, petrified by horror and despair.
Over this immense vestibule of death hovers a divine and imperishable word of life, that of Jesus revealing the secret of innocent suffering: to be the expiation, the victim, the burnt sacrifice and, above all, to be love for others. “There is no greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Jesus was speaking of himself in the imminence of his sacrifice for the salvation of men. Men are all friends of Jesus, if they at least listen to his words. Father Kolbe fulfilled his maxim of redeeming love in the fatal concentration camp of Oswiecim. And this by a double title’.
from the homily of Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
at the Beatification Mass for St Maximilian Kolbe, 17 October 1971
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.
‘St Jane… came from a noble family (born 1572), was married by her father to the Baron von Chantal (1592). As mother she most zealously instructed her children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.
The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she born with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Francis of Sales; with his approval she left her father and children and founded the Visitation nuns.
…Few days in St Jane’s life were more heartbreaking than that on which she said adieu to her family and entered the convent. “Her departure was set for the twenty-ninth of May, 1610. On that day all her relatives met and at the Fremiot home. It was a large gathering, and all were in tears. Frances Chantal alone seemed to retain composure, but in her eyes too glistening tears betrayed how much strength of will was needed to keep her heart from breaking. She went from one to the other, and clasping each in turn, pleaded for forgiveness and commended herself to their prayers; but her attempts to dry their tears only resulted in fresh outbursts’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who madest Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in divers paths of life in the way of perfection: grant us, through her intercession; that, walking faithfully in our vocation, we may ever be examples of thy shining light; through 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.
O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth: we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; 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 Eighth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect, Epistle and Gospel [in the Prayer Book] still follow the old English order of the Sarum Missal and are of ancient origin.
We admit that God’s providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth. Some people may say, why then pray? Why seek to alter what God has wisely ordered? The answer is that the arrangements of God’s providence leave room for prayer and its answer, that we may have the joy of being “fellow-workers with God” (2 Cor. 6:1). In the Collect therefore we pray that God may put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which be profitable for us.
…We pray, knowing that God’s providence will never fail. Each of us may need something different. What may be profitable for one may be useless to another, yet I think for all of us there are some things which will be profitable and which none of us can do without.
(a) Our Faith. Some people say that if God by His providence orders all things, then it is useless to try. That is foolish. God gave man a free will, so He limited Himself, and cannot force us to do His will. If man makes war, God cannot stop it, but He does bring good out of evil by His providence. Sin is war against God. Our faith in Him leads us to pray that He may give us things profitable for us, that our sin may not prevent Him from giving us these things.
(b) Our Hopes. When faced with difficulties or troubles, people lose not only their faith, but their hope. We hope for things unseen, not the things we can see. God will never let us down even though man may do so, because of His never-failing providence. That does not mean we shall not have to bear our troubles, which may be the Cross the Lord has called us to bear. Count your blessings, then you will bear your Cross cheerfully, knowing your hope is in God, and He will never fail us.
(c) Our Love. If we retain our faith and hope in God, then we are bound to love Him and for His sake we shall love others. Love begets love. The more love we give away, the more we shall receive in return, and so you see how God can give things profitable for us. We must use our free will aright, otherwise hurtful things may be our lot. God helps those who help themselves. Besides all this, we have the Church and Sacraments. They come through God’s never-failing providence, and they are profitable for us’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
‘On this day Blessed Laurence earned his triumph when he trod underfoot the noisy world and rejected its blandishments, thereby defeating the devil who sought his soul. Accordingly the Church of Rome commends this day to our observance. Laurence carried out the office of deacon in the Church, as you know. In that office he administered Christ’s sacred blood to the faithful; and for Christ’s sake he shed his own blood. The blessed apostle John clearly expounded the mystery of the Lord’s Supper when he said: “Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so should we lay down our lives for our brothers”. Saint Laurence understood this and acted accordingly. His self-sacrifice was similar in kind to that which he received at the altar. He loved Christ in his life and imitated him in death.
Brethren, let us imitate Laurence if we truly love Christ. We cannot show a better proof of our love than by imitating him. “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we might follow in his footsteps”. It is clear from these words that the apostle Peter understood that, since Christ suffered on behalf of those who follow his footsteps, his passion is of no avail to those who do not imitate him. The holy martyrs imitated him even to the point of shedding their blood in emulation of his passion. But it was not only the martyrs that imitated him. When they passed into eternity, the bridge was not broken down, nor did the fountain dry up after they drank from it’.
from a sermon by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
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.
‘[T]hree days before her tragic end, Edith Stein approaching some Sisters in the monastery of Echt, in the Netherlands, said to them: “I am ready for anything. Jesus is also here in our midst. Thus far I have been able to pray very well and I have said with all my heart: ‘Ave, Crux, spes unica’”. Witnesses who managed to escape the terrible massacre recounted that while Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, dressed in the Carmelite habit, was making her way, consciously, toward death, she distinguished herself by her conduct full of peace, her serene attitude and her calm behaviour, attentive to the needs of all. Prayer was the secret of this Saint, Co-Patroness of Europe, who, “Even after she found the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, she was to live to the full the mystery of the Cross”’.
from the general audience of 13 August 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI
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.
Today’s memorial of St Dominic is always a happy one. It is my son’s onomastico, an expression of our family’s love of, and reliance upon, this great saint for our own Dominic’s spiritual growth and wellbeing. Happy memories today, also, of a visit in May 2016 to the splendid Dominican Church of the Holy Rosary, Portland, Oregon, pictured above.
‘So noble in character, so ardently on fire with divine love was Dominic that there can be no doubt that he was a chosen vessel of grace. Except when he was moved to pity and compassion he always displayed great firmness of mind. A joyous heart is reflected in the countenance, and Dominic revealed his tranquillity of soul by the joyful kindliness of his look.
Everywhere, in Word and in deed, he showed himself to be a herald of the gospel. By day no one was more affable, more friendly than he with his brethren and companions, no one more fervent than he in vigils and prayer at night. His conversation was always either with God or about God; rarely did he speak on other matters, and this practice he commended to his disciples.
Dominic’s frequent and special prayer for himself was to beg from God true and efficacious charity for the salvation of men, for he was convinced that just as our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, gave himself totally for our salvation, only when he, Dominic, had devoted himself to the winning of souls would he be truly a member of Christ. When he had pondered the matter long and deeply he founded the Order of Friars Preachers for this very purpose.
He often exhorted the friars, both in his writings and by his words, to study constantly the sacred scriptures, in the old and new testaments. He always carried a copy of the gospel according to Saint Matthew and the epistles of Saint Paul; these he had studied to such an extent that he almost knew them off by heart.
Several times Dominic was chosen as bishop, but he always refused the office, preferring to live in poverty with his brethren, than to possess any bishopric. All his life he preserved his purity intact. He longed ardently to be beaten, to be cut into little pieces, to die for his faith. Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a wholehearted follower of the apostolic way of life, and there is no doubt that he shares in heaven the glory of the apostles themselves”’.
from selected sources of the history of the Order of Preachers
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.
‘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 Roman Breviary
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.
‘It is one thing to see beauty and another thing to understand the secret of beauty. Let us ascend the Mount of Transfiguration and kneel with the apostles and see the face of Jesus shining, and let us try to understand the secret of His beauty.
If we may dare to use such language, the face of Jesus shone because He had found that for which He had been seeking all His life. He had found the Father’s will. All His life Jesus had been seeking His Father’s will. When the Blessed Mother and St Joseph found Him in the Temple, He was talking to the great Rabbis there about it. In His forty days of fasting in the wilderness He was seeking all the time to know it. Now He has spent the night in prayer, and that night was one of a succession of God know how many nights of profound and perfect prayer. As a result of this prayer came His perfect choice; as a result of that choice came the transfigured beauty of Jesus. He sees completely what the Father’s will is: that out of the human nature He has taken shall shine forth over the ages and over the whole universe the revelation of Love; and that that Love can only be shown by sacrifice, by going to the last length to which Love can go. In that long night of prayer on the mountain we may believe that all the circumstances that would surely lead up to Calvary became clear to Him, and He accepted them with His will. With His own will He chose the bitterest path a man can know. There is the secret of the beauty of our Lord’s face as He was transfigured – the unutterable loveliness of His choice’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine Only Begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold in the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon