We offered a very moving Solemn Requiem yesterday for Remembrance Sunday, concluding with the Absolution of the Dead, wherein we remembered and prayed for all those who gave their lives for others in the conflicts and wars of the past. On Saturday evening the annual Festival of Remembrance was broadcast on the BBC. One of the poems read aloud was the very moving High Flight, written by a 19 year-old RCAF pilot just a few months before his death over the skies of England. I’m surprised, after learning more about the fame of this poem, that I’d never come across it until this past weekend. I reproduce here.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee Jr, 1922-1941
‘[Y]ou must attach yourself to the eternal so that you belong to it, partake of its eternity. Hold fast to truth, and thereby belong to the One who is indestructible – that disposition now becomes quite real and quite close: Hold fast to Christ; he carries you through the night of death that he himself has overcome. In this way immortality comes to make sense. It is no longer an endless duplication of the present but rather something entirely new and yet still our eternity: to be in the hands of God and thereby one with all the brothers and sister he has created for us, to be one with creation – that is finally the true life, which we now can see only through the mist. Where there is no answer to the question of God, death remains a cruel puzzle, and every other answer leads into contradiction. If God exists, however, the God who has shown himself in Jesus Christ, then there is eternal life, and death is then also a way of hope’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all them that believe: grant unto the souls of thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins; that as they have ever desired thy merciful pardon, so by the supplications of their brethren they may receive the same; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
A wonderful celebration of Confirmation and First Holy Communion at St John Henry’s on Sunday. Mgr Peter Wilkinson conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation, as delegated by Bishop Lopes, and I was privileged to be able to give the children their First Communion. Given the difficulties of this year it was a great blessing to be able to spend time teaching and preparing the children for the Sacraments. Share in the hope, optimism, and joy of their growing faith has been a great and humbling privilege, as well as a deep source of encouragement.
‘Dearly beloved, by Holy Baptism, God our Father gave these his adopted sons and daughters new birth to eternal life. Let us therefore pray him to pour out upon them the Holy Ghost, to strengthen them in their faith, and to anoint them that they may be more like Christ the Son of God: that they may continue his forever, and daily increase in the Holy Ghost, more and more, until they come unto God’s everlasting kingdom.
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast brought these thy servants to new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, freeing them from sin: send upon them, O Lord, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete; give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety; fill them with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen’.
Divine Worship: Occasional Services
‘[W]ilfrid’s own authority came above all from his love of the gospel and his obedience to the word of God. The loyalty and love that he inspired in others – those crowds of his monks, for example, who came to greet him on his return from Rome in his old age – was based on the fact that they saw him as a rock, a man of ever-stable and unshakable faith, to be relied upon, even in the most adverse circumstances. He could sing the psalms with joy when thrown into solitary confinement in a dark cell. He could run to meet a martyr’s death as a young man in Lyon; fearless in the face of death, because he was confident in the risen Christ.
… On the first anniversary of his death, all the abbots and bishops from north, south, east and west gathered with the local people to celebrate the feast. At the end of the celebrations, which had begun with the vigil the evening before, they went out to sing compline in the twilight. “Suddenly a wonderful white arc shone out before them in the heavens, encircling the entire monastery.” The heavens bore witness to the light brought to many peoples by the first English apostle’.
from ‘Saint Wilfrid’, 2002, by Fr John Nankivell
Almighty God, who didst call our forebears to the light of the Gospel by the preaching of thy servant Wilfrid: grant us, who keep his life and labour in remembrance, to glorify thy Name by following the example of his zeal and perseverance; 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.
We kept our Solemnity of Title yesterday, the first time we have been able to celebrate the feast of Saint John Henry Newman on the calendar since his canonisation in Rome on 13 October last year. Veneration of our first class relic of the saint (some strands of his hair) - a gift from the Fathers of the Manchester Oratory - was not possible due to present restrictions, but we placed it before his image for the veneration of the faithful present at Mass in his honour.
‘On the spiritual plane, Newman never suffered disappointment. Nor did the faintest shadow of such a thing ever enter his head. What he had longer for, what he had striven so sorely to attain, he at last had gained – Jerusalem. The Vision of Peace, God with Us. In the letters he wrote following his conversion, there are repeated references to the ineffable joy and peace he felt in the knowledge that Christ is sacramentally present with His Church. That belief he held unwaveringly till his last hour. The Shekinah, the Blessed Presence, luminous and life-giving, which went with Israel hidden within the cloud, he had found again, though shrouded in the densest of clouds, and God knows how dense they can be – that Presence he had found, and never lost again’.
Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., 1913-2004
O God, who didst bestow upon thy Priest Saint John Henry Newman, the grace to follow thy kindly light and find peace in thy Church: graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The origin of the image [of Our Lady of Walsingham] and how it first came to the Stiffkey valley is lost in obscurity, but that it was venerated here from the eleventh century is well known, and it is not unlikely that it was an object of pious devotion long before the visions of Our Lady made Walsingham a household name in Europe. It has been suggested by some writers that Richeldis only renewed a long-standing cult in this place by building a chapel, or restoring an older one, according to the plan shown to her by Our Lady.
A great Augstinian Priory, with one of the most beautiful churches in the country, was raised to the south of the little church containing the Shrine. This was rebuilt on a more magnificent scale at least twice.
The Holy House was enclosed in a protecting chapel, which was being rebuilt, or at least transformed, in the early sixteenth century and was known as the “new work”. When it was visited by Erasmus in 1511 it seems to have still been waiting for its new windows which were under order from the king.
And then came the devastation of the Religious Houses, the shrines and most of the holy places of England, and with them Our Lady’s shrine in Walsingham was so utterly broken down that even the certain memory of its actual site was lost. But the tradition remained that God had worked many miracles at this places through the prayers of the Holy Virgin.
Silence settled over the lanes and byeways of the countryside; the roads were neglected. Walsingham slipped back into insignificance, and swift ruin overcame its magnificent precincts and churches. The song of vast concourses of pilgrims died on the air’.
from Mary’s Shrine of the Holy House, Walsingham, 1954
by A. Hope Patten, CSA, 1885-1958
O God, who, through the mystery of the Word made flesh, didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary: do thou grant that we may keep aloof from the tabernacle of sinners, and become worthy indwellers of thy house; 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.
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall; keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our 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. - Collect for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is a prayer with a double petition, for the Church and for our salvation. The juxtaposition of the two is not accidental but arises out of a logical necessity. We cannot think adequately of salvation without calling to mind the Church, for in any case we cannot be saved alone and the Church is the instrument of salvation.
…The Church is often described as the ark of salvation, not meaning that membership of it is a mechanical guarantee of ultimate heaven, but that, as St Cyprian said seventeen centuries ago, outside it there is really no safety. We pray that God will “keep” it, knowing that so long as the vessel remains unharmed there is always the chance that the passengers, one and all, may arrive safe at their journey’s end.
There is always, however, the chance of accident to the individual passenger, and so we repeat the word “keep” asking that not only the Church as a whole be kept in God’s perpetual mercy, but also that each several soul may be kept from all things hurtful and led to all things profitable for its salvation.
Salvation is thus a double process: negatively it is a rescue from every possibility of harm, and positively it is an introduction to all that is good. By derivation the word implies perfect health. Theologically it includes not only the well-being of the individual but also of his environment, and finally the ultimate bliss of heaven’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘My God, who could have imagined, by any light of nature, that it was one of Thy attributes to lower Thyself, and to work out Thy purposes by Thy own humiliation and suffering? Thou hadst lived from eternity in ineffable blessedness. My God, I might have understood as much as this, viz. that, when Thou didst begin to create and surround Thyself with a world of creatures, that these attributes would show themselves in Thee which before had no exercise. Thou couldest not show Thy power when there was nothing whatever to exercise it. Then too, Thou didst begin to show thy wonderful and tender providence, Thy faithfulness, Thy solicitous care for those whom Thou hadst created. But who could have fancied that Thy creation of the universe implied and involved in it Thy humiliation? O my great God, Thou hast humbled Thyself, Thou hast stooped to take our flesh and blood, and hast been lifted up upon the tree! I praise and glorify Thee tenfold the more, because Thou hast shown Thy power by means of Thy suffering, than hadst Thou carried on Thy work without it. It is worthy of Thy infinitude thus to surpass and transcend all our thoughts.
2. O my Lord Jesu, I believe, and by Thy grace will ever believe and hold, and I know that it is true, and will be true to the end of the world, that nothing great is done without suffering, without humiliation, and that all things are possible by means of it. I believe, O my God, that poverty is better than riches, pain better than pleasure, obscurity and contempt than name, and ignominy and reproach than honour. My Lord, I do not ask Thee to bring these trials on me, for I know not if I could face them; but at least, O Lord, whether I be in prosperity or adversity, I will believe that it is as I have said. I will never have faith in riches, rank, power, or reputation. I will never set my heart on worldly success or on worldly advantages. I will never wish for what men call the prizes of life. I will ever, with Thy grace, make much of those who are despised or neglected, honour the poor, revere the suffering, and admire and venerate Thy saints and confessors, and take my part with them in spite of the world.
3. And lastly, O my dear Lord, though I am so very weak that I am not fit to ask Thee for suffering as a gift, and have not strength to do so, at least I will beg of Thee grace to meet suffering well, when Thou in Thy love and wisdom dost bring it upon me. Let me bear pain, reproach, disappointment, slander, anxiety, suspense, as Thou wouldest have me, O my Jesu, and as Thou by Thy own suffering hast taught me, when it comes. And I promise too, with Thy grace, that I will never set myself up, never seek pre-eminence, never court any great thing of the world, never prefer myself to others. I wish to bear insult meekly, and to return good for evil. I wish to humble myself in all things, and to be silent when I am ill-used, and to be patient when sorrow or pain is prolonged, and all for the love of Thee, and Thy Cross, knowing that in this way I shall gain the promise both of this life and of the next’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Holy Cross Day, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Almighty and everlasting God: give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; 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 Trinity XIV, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Heaven’s great triad still abideth,
The divinely blended Three,--
Faith, Hope, and Charity,--
Over all supreme presideth.
Faith in Him whose love protecteth,
And through sorrow, sin, and strife,
As His power to all gave life,
All controlleth, all directeth.
Hope – that like a constellation,
Ever smiling from above,
Brings with ever-living love
God’s bright promise of salvation.
Charity – of all supremest,
Greatest, noblest of the three--
Beam upon us, Charity!
Bringing blessings as thou beamest.
John Bowring, 1792-1872
Blessed was the day
and welcome was the hour
whereon God’s Virgin Mother
was brought forth.
For of that birth
and said in prophecy
that a noble tree would spring
out of the root of Jesse,
and that this tree a bloom would bear
on which the Holy Spirit
of God himself would rest.
Blessed was the day
and welcome was the hour
whereon God’s Virgin Mother
was brought forth.
King Alfonsus of Castile, 13th century
O Lord, we beseech thee, bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace: that as our redemption began to dawn in the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so this festival of her Nativity may yield us an increase of peace; 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.
‘Whenever I am in Northumbria, I think about Cuthbert. He is, even today, a much-loved figure in the north, and I share with him a real love of the monastic life. Early in his youth he had entered the Monastery of Melrose, and, after being there for a while, became prior. He is fondly remembered for his visits to the neighbouring hamlets and cottages of the poor. He would gather the people around him, preaching, hearing confessions and doing whatever he could to alleviate their suffering.
He was asked to assume greater responsibilities and became Prior of Holy Island. I quite easily understand how, when he was at Holy Island, Cuthbert came to a crossroads in his life. He longed to be nearer to God, and his solution lay among the remote rocks, seven miles from Lindisfarne. Cuthbert became a hermit on Inner Farne, one of the Farne Islands.
A small cell and chapel were constructed for him on Inner Farne, where a spring supplied him with water and a small plot of land enabled him to grow barley for food. There he experienced peace and contentment in continual prayer and conversation with God’.
Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB OM, 1923-1999
Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Cuthbert from tending sheep to follow thy Son and to be a shepherd of thy people: in thy mercy, grant that we may so follow his example; that we may bring those who are lost home to thy fold; 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.
‘During the fourteen years that this holy Pope held the place of Peter, he was the object of the admiration of the Christian world, both in the East and West. His profound learning, his talent for administration, his position, all tended to make him beloved and respected. But who could describe the virtues of his great soul? that contempt for the world and its riches, which led him to seek obscurity in the cloister; that humility, which made him flee the honours of the Papacy, and hide himself in a cave, where, at length, he was miraculously discovered, and God himself put into his hands the Keys of Heaven, which he was evidently worthy to hold, because he feared the responsibility; that zeal for the whole flock, of which he considered himself not the master, but the servant, so much so indeed that he assumed the title, which the Popes have ever since retained, of Servant of the Servants of God; that charity which took care of the poor throughout the whole world; that ceaseless solicitude, which provided for every calamity, whether public or private; that unruffled sweetness of manner, which he showed to all around him, in spite of the bodily sufferings which never left him during the whole period of his laborious pontificate; that firmness in defending the deposit of the Faith, and crushing error wheresoever it showed itself; in a word, that vigilance with regard to discipline, which made itself felt for long ages after in the whole Church? All these services, and glorious examples of virtue have endeared our Saint to the whole world, and will make his name be blessed by all future generations, even to the end of time’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Almighty and merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Pope Gregory to be the servant of the servants of God, and didst inspire him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: preserve in thy Church the Catholic and Apostolic Faith they taught; that thy people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away; 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.
‘No admiring contemporary wrote Aidan’s biography, and there are therefore but a few personal stories of him. But Bede, who, although he deplored his peculiarly Celtic ecclesiastical customs, had a most loving respect for him and refers to him always as “the good”, relates to instances of his spiritual power, which he had learnt from men who is integrity he trusted. A deputation, headed by a trusted priest, was going to Kent to fetch the royal bride for Oswy, and he came first to Lindisfarne to ask for prayers for his journey. Aidan when he blessed him gave him a little cruse of oil, saying, “On your return sea-voyage I know you will meet with stormy weather, but remember to cast this oil on the sea, and then the wind will subside, you will have a pleasant calm, and return in safety”. And all fell out as Aidan had foretold. The second story is of the Mercian invasion, when the dread King Penda was ravaging Northumbria and had attacked royal Bamborough, which he was firing with the wind in his favour. From his island of prayer Aidan could see the terrible flames leaping the city walls. “Behold, Lord, how great mischief Penda does!” The words were hardly out of his mouth when those standing by saw the sudden veering of the wind so that the fierce fire turned back on the attackers; which so alarmed them that they withdrew, realising that the city was under a supernatural protection against which their weapons would be useless. And what a perfect form of intercession: simply, “Behold, Lord.”’
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
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.
‘There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: “I am the truth”? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptising, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men. He was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ.
To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”’
St Bede the Venerable, c.672-735
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.
‘In spite of this reluctance to give up a secular life, yet in proportion as the light of Christian truth opened on Augustine’s mind, so was he drawn on to that higher Christian state on which our Lord and His Apostle have bestowed special praise. So it was, and not unnaturally in those times, that high and earnest minds, when they had found the truth, were not content to embrace it by halves; they would take all or none, they would go all lengths, they would covet the better gifts, or else they would remain as they were. It seemed to them absurd to take so much trouble to find the truth, and to submit to such a revolution in their opinions and motives as its reception involved; and yet, after all, to content themselves with a second-best profession, unless there was some plain duty obliging them to live the secular life they had hitherto led. The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, the pomp of life, the pride of station, and the indulgence of sense, would be tolerated by the Christian, then only, when it would be a sin to renounce them. The pursuit of gain may be an act of submission to the will of parents; a married life is the performance of a solemn and voluntary vow; but it may often happen, and did happen in Augustine’s day especially, that there are no religious reasons against a man’s giving up the world, as our Lord and His Apostles renounced it. When his parents were heathen, or were Christians of his own high temper, when he had no fixed engagement or position in life, when the State itself was either infidel or but partially emerging out of its old pollutions, and when grace was given to desire and strive after, if not fully to reach, the sanctity of the Lamb’s virginal company, duty would often lie, not in shunning, but in embracing an ascetic life. Besides, the Church in the fourth century had had no experience yet of temporal prosperity; she knew religion only amid the storms of persecution, or the uncertain lull between them, in the desert or the catacomb, in insult, contempt, and calumny. She had not yet seen how opulence, and luxury, and splendour, and pomp, and polite refinement, and fashion, were compatible with the Christian name; and her more serious children imagined, with a simplicity or narrowness of mind which will in this day provoke a smile that they ought to imitate Cyprian and Dionysius in their mode of living and their habits, as well as in their feelings, professions, and spiritual knowledge. They thought that religion consisted in deeds, not words. Riches, power, rank, and literary eminence, were then thought misfortunes, when viewed apart from the service they might render to the cause of truth; the atmosphere of the world was thought unhealthy:—Augustine then, in proportion as he approached the Church, ascended towards heaven’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
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.
‘We are provided with a considerable amount of information about [St Monica] by her son in his autobiography, Confessions, one of the widest read literary masterpieces of all time. In them we learn that St Augustine drank in the name of Jesus with his mother’s milk, and that his mother brought him up in the Christian religion whose principles remained impressed upon him even in his years of spiritual and moral dissipation.
Monica never ceased to pray for him and for his conversion and she had the consolation of seeing him return to the faith and receive Baptism. God heard the prayers of this holy mother, of whom the Bishop of Tagaste had said: “the son of so many tears could not perish.” In fact, St Augustine not only converted but decided to embrace the monastic life and, having returned to Africa, founded a community of monks.
His last spiritual conversations with his mother in the tranquillity of a house at Ostia, while they were waiting to embark for Africa, are moving and edifying. By then St Monica had become for this son of hers, “more than a mother, the source of his Christianity.” For years her one desire had been the conversion of Augustine, whom she then saw actually turning to a life of consecration at the service of God. She could therefore die happy, and in fact she passed away on 27 August 387, at the age of 56, after asking her son not to trouble about her burial but to remember her, wherever he was, at the Lord’s altar. St Augustine used to say that his mother had “conceived him twice.”’
Pope Benedict XVI
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.
Today is the memorial of the Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist priest and missionary to England, who received our great patron, St John Henry Newman, into the one fold of the Redeemer on 9 October 1845 at Littlemore, just outside Oxford.
‘Have mercy then on England; and behold, O Lord, if thou wilt accomplish this, new temples shall be raised to the honour of thy name, and new altars: sacrifices also shall be offered acceptable unto thee, even the sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist; and in these holy temples shall thy infinite majesty be praised and adored; Jesus thy son shall once more be loved and praised; and Mary also shall be praised and invocated. Vouchsafe then, O Lord, to accomplish with thy powerful arm this thing, which thou hast inspired me to beg of thee. I shall never be fully happy until I behold the completion of these my desires; I shall not die contented unless I behold brought back to the fold of thy Church the nations which for many years and ages have dwelt far off from thee. But if it be thy will that I die before I see this accomplished, I shall die contented only if I am assured that it shall one day come to pass after my death. Yes, O Lord, I am ready to die this instant, or to suffer the heaviest temporal calamity, on this condition, that England shall return to the true faith. I ask not, O Lord, to be the instrument of so great a work, no, to thee I leave it to choose who shall be the minister of thy mercies; only do I beg of thee the salvation of my dear brethren’.
from The Lamentation of England by 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.
‘There are many of the Saints of whom it may be said that we know very little more than just their names. Of St Bartholomew we know even less, because we are not even sure that this really was his name. Some scholars think that he may have been the same Apostle whom St John, in the first chapter of his gospel, calls Nathanael, and who was introduced to Jesus by Philip in the very first days of our Lord’s ministry. But this is not much more than a guess, and so, perhaps, we may be inclined to wonder why someone of whom so little is known that we are not even sure who he really was, ever came to have a place in the Calendar of Saints and be commemorated by many thousands of Christian people on this day every year for so many centuries.
This suggests a thought which is well worth pondering. It is given to very few of us to leave behind a name which will appear in the history books of later generations. Most of us are just ordinary folk, destined neither for fame nor, let us hope, for infamy… [but] though there may never be a monument erected in our honour and our names may be forgotten in a comparatively short time, yet there are memorials more enduring than brass or stone; memorials that live and breathe in the lives that we have touched, either for good or ill on our journey down the years.
‘[A]lthough we know nothing of his life, or even who he really was, I like to think of St Bartholomew not as a particular person but rather as a type and representative, the Patron Saint, so to speak, of all those unknown, unremembered people to whose quiet influence and good example we owe all that is finest and best in our own characters. They are ordinary folk for the most part; but they too are the saints of God, even though no churches are dedicated to their names and they are not included in the Calendar of Saints. And, in the words of a favourite hymn, “They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still.”’
Harry N. Hancock
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.
‘St Bernard, solidly based on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by a profound relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming a futile intellectual exercise, and lose their credibility. Theology takes us back to the “science of the saints,” to their intuitions of the mysteries of the living God, to their wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, which become the point of reference for theological thought. Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognise that man seeks God better and finds him more easily “with prayer than with discussion.” In the end, the truest figure of the theologian and of every evangeliser is that of the Apostle John, who leaned his head on the heart of the Master’.
Pope Benedict XVI
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.
‘The Strange Case of the Elusive Patrimony started when Anglo-Catholicism lost its distinctive identity in the 1960s and 70s. I’m not sure about other countries but in [England] it certainly lost it. From the 1960s onwards, a great multitude of Anglo-Catholics, a great multitude which no man could number, all rushed forward like so many lemmings, in imitation of something they then called ‘modern Rome’. The lemmings rushed forward and then toppled headlong over the cliffs of de-sacralisation and secularisation, most of all in worship. If only Anglo-Catholics had kept their nerve when so many others were going mental. If only Anglo-Catholics had made greater efforts to preserve that exquisite treasury of faith and worship which we know as The English Missal.
The finest patrimony of Anglicanism is the treasure-trove of traditional Anglo-Catholic worship. The precious core of that treasure was forged when The English Missal came to birth in 1912. It then evolved, getting better and better with each subsequent edition. Its use of Sarum and Tridentine liturgical texts in Cranmerian English fired and sustained the Anglo-Catholic movement with remarkable success. The English Missal was the bedrock of those edifying decades when, in the words of Sir John Betjeman, the faith was taught, and fanned to a golden blaze. Then came the hasty reforms of the late 1960s and 1970s. The reformers piped and the lemmings jumped. But let us be fair. It wasn’t just Anglican lemmings who jumped. Roman lemmings also jumped. On both sides of the Tiber far too few had the courage or the honesty to question the glaring discontinuity and to ask: how on earth does this new tune harmonise with what we always heard before?
God is very good and mercifully brings order out of confusion. One particularly bright shaft of light has now emerged to lighten our darkness. That light is the publication of Divine Worship: The Missal. This Missal is a magnificent piece of work. It preserves a large portion of that traditional Anglo-Catholic patrimony which has so much to offer the modern Church in the modern world’.
from an address, ‘Blessed John Henry Newman: Our Guide for Tomorrow’, 15 October 2018, by Fr Ignatius Harrison, Cong. Orat. The full article can be read here.
‘Here she is, the Queen of all the Cinderellas in history: the humble peasant girl; the carpenter’s wife, brought to bed in a stable; the refugee in Egypt; the mother of whom ill-natured neighbours said she was no better than she ought to be (she was not spared that taunt); the poor widow, who watched her Son die in agony because the great ones of the world feared this young man and put him out of the way; the silent humble old woman of the people, whose life was over for all that mattered, praying in obscurity for twelve or twenty years after the Ascension; and then – the Queen of heaven’.
Dom Gregory Dix OSB, 1901-1952
‘On Friday, August 15, the feast of the Assumption, twenty-four hours after Father Maximilian Kolbe’s life had been “scientifically” terminated, Bruno Borgowiec and another prisoner, who served as the barber for the SS, came to remove his body from the washroom where they had placed it the day before. They put it in a rough wooden box and then carried it to the incinerator to be cremated.
Thus, of all the millions of human beings who lost their lives at Auschwitz, Father Maximilian Kolbe was probably the only one to be honoured with a coffin for his remains and something resembling funeral rites.
Here in a few rapid strokes of the brush is the story of a man who once told his brethren, in a meeting at Niepokalanow, “I insist that you become saints, and great saints! Does that surprise you? But remember, my children, that holiness is not a luxury, but a simple duty. It is Jesus who told us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. So do not think it is such a difficult thing. Actually, it is a very simple mathematical problem. Let me show you on the blackboard my formula for sanctity. Then you will see how simple it is. Do we have a piece of chalk?”
On the blackboard he wrote: w = W.
“A very clear formula, don’t you agree? The little “w” stands for my will, the capital “W” for the will of God. When the two wills run counter to each other, you have the cross. Do you want to get rid of the cross? Then let your will be identified with that of God, who wants you to be saints. Isn’t that simple? All you must do is obey!”’
Sergius C. Lorit
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, holpen 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.
‘On went Mother de Chantal, preaching community, unanimity and the love taught in the Gospels, by her own example showing faithfulness in the smallest details, evangelical poverty and simplicity; in the monasteries where she stayed she discouraged every effort to make a fuss over her. Each morning she rose before everyone else to serve as “Caller” so that the community would be able to get all their prayers done before things became too hectic. When she was on the road, Mother could not stop to eat until three or four in the afternoon, and in poor villages all she could get would be milk, black bread and curd cheese, but even with that simple fare “she was quite content, sharing her happiness with everyone she met, so that all around her there was an atmosphere of peace and holy joy.” Peace, joy, contentment – those were the marks of Mother de Chantal’s pilgrimages among her spiritual daughters. The only thing that ever bothered her was those “cheers”, towns whose whole populations lined the route to wave and applaud or insisted on holding meetings and banquets in her honour, those “triumphal processions” fit for a queen that made her trips so long and arduous. She was so humble that all the praise cut her to the quick and caused her horrible interior suffering’.
Fr André Ravier SJ, 1905-1999
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 Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘History confirms to us how glorious is the name of this Saint... His concern for the poor, the generous service that he rendered to the Church of Rome in the context of assistance and charity, his fidelity to the Pope which he took to the point of desiring to follow him in the supreme trial of martyrdom and the heroic witness of pouring our his blood, which he suffered only a few days later, are facts well known to all. St Leo the Great, in a beautiful homily, thus comments on the atrocious martyrdom of this “illustrious hero”: “The flames of could not overcome Christ’s love and the fire that burned outside was less keen than that which blazed within.” And he adds: “The Lord desired to spread abroad his glory throughout the world, so that from the East to the West the dazzling brightness of his deacon’s light does shine, and Rome is become as famous through Lawrence as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen." (Homily 85, 4: PL 54, 486).
…[W]hat better message can we glean from St Lawrence than that of holiness? He repeats to us that holiness, that is, going to meet Christ who comes ceaselessly to visit us, does not go out of fashion, on the contrary as time passes it shines brightly and expresses the perennial striving for God of humankind... May Lawrence, a heroic witness of the Crucified and Risen Christ be for each person an example of docile adherence to the divine will, so that, as we heard the Apostle Paul remind the Corinthians, we too may live in such a way as to be found “guiltless” in the day of Our Lord (cf. 1 Cor 1.7-9).
Pope Benedict XVI
‘God has given to his Mother great privileges and a mighty power of intercession. No one need fear that she will misuse her gifts or her power. She will not attempt to divert us from God; she will not scheme to attract us to the worship of anything less than the Most Holy Trinity: she will not jealously capture our devotion and hug it to her own self; she will not eclipse or obscure the streaming light of the divine Christ; she will do nothing to detract from his supreme godhead or his perfect manhood. Her one and only wish is to remain the handmaid of the Lord, and that all things shall be according to his word. Her one desire for us is that we should be like her, and thereby like him, in hearing the word of God and keeping it, her one command to men is: “Whatsoever he saith unto thee, do it.”
There she sits enthroned at his right hand; a glorious suppliant Queen beside her Lord and King. Yet what a suppliant! So near to God, so understanding of his mind, so ready to co-operate with his will. Remember that the Christian must see the universe as a great fellowship of co-workers: all working together with God. It has pleased him to delegate much of his work; some to the holy angels, some to the saints, and some even to us sinners here below. And in our devotional life the perspective will be distorted (to say the least) if we do not give Our Lady thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands, it is only when we realise that upon the King’s right hand stands the Queen in vesture of gold, and that around them is the court of Heaven numbering ten thousand times ten thousands and thousands of thousands, it is only when we make contact with that glorious array that our minds are really opened to the full grandeur of God, who reigns not as a solitary tyrant in lonely state, but as the loving Parent of that most wonderful of families, from which every family on earth is named – the family of the Holy Catholic Church which is also the Communion of Saints’.
from an address in the Pilgrim Church, Walsingham, 1956, by SJ Forrest, 1904-1977
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
The Acolyte’s Toolbox