‘When he went into church he heard what the Lord said in the gospel, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow”. He could not wait any longer, but went out and gave away even what he had kept back to the poor. He left his sister in the care of some well-known, trustworthy virgins, putting her in a convent to be brought up, and he devoted himself to the ascetic life not far from his home, living in recollection and practising self-denial.
He laboured with his own hands, for he had heard that “If anyone will not work, let him not eat”. And of what he earned, part he spent on food, and part he gave to the poor.
He prayed frequently, for he had learned that one ought to pray in secret, and pray without ceasing. He was so careful in his reading of scripture that nothing escaped him, but he retained it all; so that afterwards his memory served him in place of books.
And so all the people of the village, and the good men with whom he associated saw what kind of man he was and they called him “The friend of God”. Some loved him as a son, and others as though he were a brother’.
From the ‘Life of St Anthony’ by St Anthanasius, 296-373
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; 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.
‘Bro. André Bessette, a native of Quebec in Canada, and a religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, experienced suffering and poverty at a very early age. They led him to have recourse to God through prayer and an intense inner life. As porter of the College of Notre Dame in Montreal, he demonstrated boundless charity and strove to relieve the distress of those who came to confide in him. With very little education, he had nevertheless understood where the essential of his faith was situated. For him, believing meant submitting freely and through love to the divine will. Wholly inhabited by the mystery of Jesus, he lived the beatitude of pure of heart, that of personal rectitude. It is thanks to this simplicity that he enabled many people to see God. He had built the Oratory of St Joseph of Mount Royal, whose faithful custodian he remained until his death in 1937. He was the witness of innumerable cures and conversions. “Do not seek to have your trials removed", he said, “ask rather for the grace to bear them well”. For him, everything spoke of God and of God's presence. May we, in his footsteps, seek God with simplicity in order to discover him ever present in the heart of our life! May the example of Bro. André inspire Canadian Christian life!’
from the homily at the Canonisation Mass, 17 October 2010, of St André Bessette
by Pope Benedict XVI
O Lord our God, who art friend of the lowly and who gavest to thy servant Saint André Bessette, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted: help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love, and so come to share with him in thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal
‘As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer’.
St Basil the Great, 330-379
Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to to know the power of thine unending love; 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.
‘It is a psychological fact that baffled wrath and baffled lust produce cruelty, but the whole revelation of love is that love is never baffled and has its own way of meeting and over-ruling the cruelties of sin. The slaughter of the Holy Innocents was due to the baffled wrath of Herod. But the same love that could conquer amidst all the cruelties of Calvary could conquer in ways that we may not understand, but can wholly trust, in this incident, in which the coming of the mysterious Child to His Maiden Mother brought such pain to so many little children and to so many mothers who were contemporaries of Blessed Mary.
The Church does not shirk stating the hard facts of life, but her liturgy twines the gold thread of faith, hope, and love amidst all the dark purple of her tapestries which portray for us life’s tragedies. The Festival of the Holy Innocents knits all child life to the sanctity of fellowship with the Holy Child, and the sufferings of little children are made to rank through this solemnity with the martyrdom of saints.
The fact that our Lord became a child must teach us that we cannot possibly think too sacredly of the responsibility of every kind of contact with child life, and in all our sadness at the knowledge of cruelties that have been done to the innocent and helpless we can comfort ourselves that there is a festival of the Holy Innocents. In the beautiful words of Baruch which form part of the proper lesson for the day we can say: “Be of good cheer, O my children… for my hope is in the Everlasting that He will save you… God will give you to me again with joy and gladness for ever”’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and nurslings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: mortify and kill all vices in us; and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith, even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; 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.
Saint of the Sacred Heart
Sweet Teacher of the Word,
Partner of Mary’s woes,
And favourite of thy Lord!
Thou to whom grace was given
To stand where Peter fell;
Whose heart could brook the Cross
Of Him it loved so well!
We know not all thy gifts;
But this Christ bids us see,
That He who so loved all
Found more to love in thee.
Dear Saint! I stand far off,
With vilest sins opprest;
Oh may I dare, like thee,
To lean upon His breast?
His touch could heal the sick,
His voice could raise the dead!
Oh that my soul might be
Where He allows thy head.
The gifts He gave to thee
He gave thee to impart;
And I, too, claim with thee
His Mother and His Heart.
Ah teach me, then, dear Saint!
The secrets Christ taught thee,
The beatings of His Heart,
And how it beat for thee.
Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church: that she being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that she may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; 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’s feast can easily be harmonised with Advent themes. The very name Lucy pulsates with light, a living symbol amid the season’s darkness (the days are now the shortest of the year). As a wise virgin Lucy advances with a burning lamp to meet the Bridegroom. She typifies the Church and the soul now preparing their bridal robes for a Christmas marriage.
That the famous Sicilian martyr really lived may be deduced from the great popular veneration accorded her since most ancient times. The Acts detailing her sufferings, however, merit little credence. According to these she made a pilgrimage to Catonia with her mother, who suffered from haemorrhage, to venerate the body of St Agatha. After praying devoutly at the tomb, Agatha appeared to her in a dream and consoled her: “O virgin Lucy, why do you ask of me what you yourself can procure for your mother? For your faith too has come to her aid and therefore she has been cured. By your virginity you have indeed prepared for God a lovely dwelling”. And her mother actually was healed.
Immediately Lucy asked permission to remain a virgin and to distribute her future dowry among Christ’s poor. Child and mother returned to their native city of Syracuse, and Lucy proceeded to distribute the full proceeds from the sale of her property among the poor. When a young man, to whom Lucy’s parents had promised the virgin's hand against her will, had heard of the development, he reported her to the city prefect as a Christian. “Your words will be silenced”, the prefect said to her, “when the storm of blows falls upon you!” The virgin: “To God’s servants the right words will not be wanting, for the Holy Spirit speaks in us”. “Yes”, she continued, “all who live piously and chastely are temples of the Holy Spirit”. “Then”, he replied, “I shall order you put with prostitutes and the Holy Spirit will depart from you”. Lucy: “If I am dishonoured against my will, my chastity will secure for me a double crown of victory”.
Aflame with anger, the judge imposed the threatened order. But God made the virgin solidly firm in her place and no force could move her. “With such might did the Holy Spirit hold her firm that the virgin of Christ remained immovable”. Thereupon they poured heated pitch and resin over her: “I have begged my Lord Jesus Christ that this fire have no power over me. And in testimony of Him I have asked a postponement of my death”. When she had endured all this without the least injury, they pierced her throat with a sword. Thus she victoriously ended her martyrdom’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Lord our Saviour, who art the true Light that lighteneth every man: graciously hear us; that like as we do rejoice in the festival of blessed Lucy, thy Virgin and Martyr, so we may learn to follow her in all godly and devout affections; who liveth and reigneth with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[St Damasus] occupied the Chair of Peter from 366 to 384. The Church had recently acquired liberty and now it was the task of the popes to develop her potentialities, especially in matters pertaining to divine worship. Damsus proved himself equal to the task. It is to his credit to have given the Church a good translation of the Sacred Scriptures. He called upon St Jerome to render the Bible into Latin, the version later called the Vulgate. This translation is still used in the liturgy. On his feast day Damsus tells us: Read the Bible zealously.
He was also much interested in the liturgy. He is said to have introduced the chant of the psalms into all the Roman churches; the singing was to be by alternating choirs with the “Glory be to the Father…” added at the end of each psalm. In imitation of a custom at Jerusalem he introduced the Alleluia into Sunday Masses. Pope Damsus also provided honourable burial for the bodies of many martyrs and composed inscriptions in verse for almost all of the then-known martyrs, thereby becoming their highly distinguished panegyrist. St Jerome said of him: “He was the virgin teacher of a virgin Church”. A splendid encomium for any priest’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Grant, we pray thee, O Lord: that we may constantly exalt the merits of thy Martyrs, whom Pope Saint Damasus so venerated and loved; 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.
God, in thee have I trusted,
Saint Nicholas, to thee I entrust my prayers,
Upon thee both I cast my care,
even upon thee I throw my soul.
This is what thou exact from me
Thee, by thy commands, thee, by thy counsels.
Receive him who throws himself upon thee both,
Hast him who is prostrate before thee.
Keep me when I sleep, help me in what ever I do,
Inspire me in whatever I think,
Thee, Lord, by thy grace,
Thee, Nicholas, by thy intercession
Thee for the merits of thy so loved confessor,
Thee according to the name of thee and my Creator,
who is blessed for evermore. Amen.
St Anselm of Canterbury, c.1033-1109
O God, who didst adorn thy blessed Bishop Saint Nicholas with power to work many and great miracles: grant, we beseech thee; that by his prayers and merits, we may be delivered from the fires of everlasting torment; 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.
Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate’s severest rage disarm:
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please:
Our joys below it can improve,
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found,
And to her Maker’s praise confin’d the sound.
When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,
Th’immortal pow’rs incline their ear;
Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,
While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
And Angels lean from heav’n to hear.
Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater pow’r is giv’n;
His numbers rais’d a shade from hell,
Hers lift the soul to heav’n.
from Ode on St Cecilia’s Day by Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
On this memorial of St Edmund, King and Martyr, photographs from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk (Anglican cathedral and St Mary’s Church, formerly part of the dissolved abbey), taking during two pilgrimages from St John the Evangelist, Calgary to England in 2010 and 2015.
‘No Christian can be surprised that innocence should suffer. Prosperity is often the most grievous judgment that God exercises upon a wicked man, who by it is suffered, in punishment of his impiety, to blind and harden himself in his evil courses, and to plunge himself deeper in iniquity. On the other hand, God, in his merciful providence, conducts second causes, so that afflictions fall to the share of those souls whose sanctification he has particularly in view. By tribulation a man learns perfectly to die to the world and himself, a work which without its aid, even the severest self-denial, and the most perfect obedience, leave imperfect. By tribulation we learn the perfect exercise of humility, patience, meekness, resignation, and pure love of God; which are neither practised nor learned without such occasions. By a good use of tribulation a person becomes a saint in a very short time, and at a cheap rate. The opportunity and grace of suffering well is a mercy in favour of chosen souls; and a mercy to which every saint from Abel to the last of the elect is indebted for his crown. We meet with sufferings from ourselves, from disappointments, from friends and from enemies. We are on every side beset with crosses. But we bear them with impatience and complaints. Thus we cherish our passions, and multiply sins by the very means which are given us to crucify and overcome them. To learn to bear crosses well is one of the most essential and most important duties of a Christian life. To make a good use of the little crosses which we continually meet with, is the means of making the greatest progress in all virtue, and of obtaining strength to stand our ground under great trials. St Edmund’s whole life was a preparation for martyrdom’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God of unspeakable mercy, who didst give thy blessed Saint Edmund grace to overcome the enemy by dying for thy Name: mercifully grant to us thy servants; that by his intercession we may be found worthy to conquer and subdue the temptations of our ancient adversary; 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 example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.
Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy. In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3.1).
It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.
Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, “losing ourselves”, and it is precisely this that makes us happy’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Conference between Christ, the Saints, and the Soul
I am pale with sick desire,
For my heart is far away
From this world’s fitful fire
And this world's waning day;
In a dream it overleaps
A world of tedious ills
To where the sunshine sleeps
On th’ everlasting hills.
Say the Saints – There Angels ease us
Glorified and white.
They say – We rest in Jesus,
Where is not day nor night.
My Soul saith – I have sought
For a home that is not gained,
I have spent yet nothing bought,
Have laboured but not attained;
My pride strove to rise and grow,
And hath but dwindled down;
My love sought love, and lo!
Hath not attained its crown.
Say the Saints – Fresh Souls increase us,
None languish nor recede.
They say – We love our Jesus,
And He loves us indeed.
I cannot rise above,
I cannot rest beneath,
I cannot find out Love,
Nor escape from Death;
Dear hopes and joys gone by
Still mock me with a name;
My best beloved die
And I cannot die with them.
Say the Saints – No deaths decrease us,
Where our rest is glorious.
They say – We live in Jesus,
Who once died for us.
Oh, my Soul, she beats her wings
And pants to fly away
Up to immortal Things
In the Heavenly day:
Yet she flags and almost faints;
Can such be meant for me?
Come and see—say the Saints.
Saith Jesus – Come and see.
Say the Saints – His Pleasures please us
Before God and the Lamb.
Come and taste My Sweets – saith Jesus –
Be with Me where I am.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Today, the Feast of the Apostles Ss Simon and Jude, is a day of some personal significance. This was the day, in 1903, that the College of the Resurrection was founded by the Anglican monastic Community of the Resurrection, at Mirfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and this Foundation Day was always kept at the College with much rejoicing. Over the past hundred years a number of the men, myself included, who were formed for ministry in the Church of England at Mirfield eventually found their way into the full communion of the Catholic Church. One of the present members of the Community, Monsignor Robert Mercer CR (pictured above in a 1960s CR booklet entitled ‘Bread of Life’), the former Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland, is now a priest of the Ordinariate in England. Today, I give happy thanks for the invaluable contribution that Mirfield – College and Community – made in forming me for pastoral and sacramental ministry, and further teaching me the Catholic Faith within the Church of England. It was, though I’m sure unintended(!), for myself and many others, a great impetus towards communion with the See of Peter and, as such, the Collect for today is particularly fitting.
O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone: grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine; that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Chad governed his diocese of Lichfield two years and a half, and died in the great pestilence on the 2nd of March, in 673. Bede gives the following relation of his passage: “Among the eight monks whom he kept with him at Lichfield, was one Owini, who came with Queen Ethelred, commonly called St Audry, from the province of the East Angles, and was her major-domo, and the first officer of her court, till quitting the world, clad in a mean garment, and carrying an axe and a hatchet in his hand, he went to the monastery of Lestingay, signifying that he came to work, and not to be idle; which he made good by his behaviour in the monastic state. This monk declared that he one day heard a joyful melody of some persons sweetly singing, which descended from heaven into the bishop’s oratory, filled the same for about half an hour, then mounted again to heaven. After this, the bishop opening his window, and seeing him at his work, bade him call the other seven brethren. When the eight monks were entered his oratory, he exhorted them to preserve peace, and religiously observe the rules of regular discipline; adding that the amiable guest who was wont to visit their brethren had vouchsafed to come to him that day, and to call him out of this world. Wherefore he earnestly recommended his passage to their prayers, and pressed them to prepare for their own, the hour of which is uncertain, by watching, prayer, and good works”. The bishop fell presently into a languishing distemper, which daily increased, till, on the seventh day, having received the body and blood of our Lord, he departed to bliss, to which he was invited by the happy soul of his brother St Cedd and a company of angels with heavenly music. He was buried in the Church of St Mary, in Lichfield; but his body was soon after removed to that of St Peter, in both places honoured by miraculous cures, as Bede mentions. His relics were afterwards translated into the great church which was built in 1148, under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin and St Chad, which is now the cathedral, and they remained there till the change of religion’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of thy Bishops Chad and Cedd: grant to us, thy humble servants, the same faith and power of love; that, as we rejoice in their triumph, we may profit by their example and prayers; 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.
‘Driven by the fire of the Holy Spirit, the holy apostles travelled throughout the earth. Inflamed with the same fire, apostolic missionaries have reached, are now reaching, and will continue to reach the ends of the earth, from one pole to the other, in order to proclaim the word of God. They are deservedly able to apply to themselves those words of the apostle Paul: “The love of Christ drives us on”.
The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal. The zealous man desires and achieve all great things and he labours strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.
Because he is concerned also for his neighbour, the man of zeal works to fulfil his desire that all men be content on this earth and happy and blessed in their heavenly homeland, that all may be saved, and that no one may perish for ever, or offend God, or remain even for a moment in sin. Such are the concerns we observe in the holy apostles and in all who are driven by the apostolic spirit.
For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he deserves and works with all this strength to inflame all men with the fire of God’s love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labours strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate him by his prayers, his labours, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls’.
St Anthony Mary Claret, 1807-1870
O God, who for the evangelisation of peoples didst strengthen the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret with admirable charity and long-suffering: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things that are thine, we may earnestly devote ourselves to winning our brethren for Christ; 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 reality that John Paul II was a saint became increasingly apparent to me in the years I worked together with him… [He] did not ask for applause and never looked troubled when he was making difficult decisions. He acted in accord with his faith and beliefs, and he was willing to endure blows against him. I could and should not imitate him, but I did try to continue his legacy and his mission the best way I could. Without him, my spiritual and theological journey is not even imaginable’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy Universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
John Keble, 1792-1866
‘For it is not my desire to act towards you as a man-pleaser, but as pleasing God, even as also ye please Him. For neither shall I ever have such [another] opportunity of attaining to God; nor will ye, if ye shall now be silent, ever be entitled to the honour of a better work. For if ye are silent concerning me, I shall become God’s; but if you show your love to my flesh, I shall again have to run my race. Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour upon me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared; that, being gathered together in love, ye may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for from the east unto the west. It is good to set from the world unto God, that I may rise again to Him.
For it is not my desire that ye should please men, but God, even as also ye do please Him. For neither shall I ever hereafter have such an opportunity of attaining to God; nor will ye, if ye shall now be silent, ever be entitled to the honour of a better work. For if ye are silent concerning me, I shall become God’s; but if ye show your love to my flesh, I shall again have to run my race. Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour upon me than that I be sacrificed to God, while the altar is still prepared; that, being gathered together in love, ye may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for from the east unto the west, and to become a martyr in behalf of His own precious sufferings, so as to pass from the world to God, that I may rise again unto Him’.
from his Letter to the Romans by St Ignatius of Antioch, c.35-140
Feed us, O Lord, with the living Bread and make us drink deep of the cup of salvation: that, following the teaching of thy Bishop Ignatius, and rejoicing in the life with which he embraced the death of a Martyr, we may be nourished for that eternal life which he ever desired; 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.
‘Marguerite d’Youville appears to us as a woman who has heard the Lord say to her: “Console my people... prepare my way by going to look for the poorest, those whose lives are a long series of sufferings without a way out”. And here she is, a young widow, dedicated to the exclusive service of the poor of Montreal. Like her Lord who “gathers the lambs, carries them to his heart, and takes care of the sheep who breastfeed their young”, here she is seized by the dazzling light of the Father’s love.
... Saint Margaret of Youville, in the Advent of the Church, gives us with all the saints an image of the new world where Love, Truth, Justice, and Peace reign. St Peter says: “What we expect, according to the Lord’s promise, is a new heaven and a new land where justice will reside”. In her daily devotion, Marguerite brings to the most needy a little of this novelty: a community of love where the little ones are respected because the Lord is close to them, because he is present in their hearts. For the saint we honor, it is the concrete charity of each day that makes justice triumph according to God and reveals the presence of the new world: “His salvation is close to those who fear it and glory will inhabit our earth”.
...In God, Marguerite saw the Father who “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son”. In union with Our Lady of Providence, as she called the Mother of the Saviour, she would prayerfully contemplate the mystery of God’s universal fatherhood; she came to understand that all men and women are truly brothers and sisters, that their heavenly Father would never fail to be close to them, and that his love called them to an active life of service to others.
We thank God for the figure which he sets before our eyes this morning. Yes, we give him thanks. For the first time in history, a woman of Canadian birth is inscribed among the saints whom the Church has raised to the glory of the altars’.
from the homily at the Canonisation Mass, 9 December 1990
of St Marguerite d’Youville, 1701-1771, by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
‘In the first place, St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life, in particular, detachment from goods or evangelical poverty (and this concerns all of us); love for one another as the essential element of community and social life; humility as love of the truth; determination as fruit of Christian audacity; theological hope, which she describes as thirst for living water; without forgetting the human virtues: affability, veracity, modesty, courtesy, joy, culture.
In the second place, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical personalities and intense listening to the Word of God. She felt in consonance above all with the bride of the Canticle of Canticles and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with the Christ of the passion and with the Eucharistic Jesus.
The saint stressed how essential prayer is; to pray, she said, “means to frequent with friendship, because we frequent face to face the One whom we know loves us”. St Teresa’s idea coincides with the definition that St Thomas Aquinas gives of theological charity, as “amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum”, a type of friendship of humanity with God, who first offered his friendship to humanity; the initiative comes from God. Prayer is life and it develops gradually at the same pace with the growth of the Christian life. It begins with vocal prayer, passes to interiorisation through meditation and recollection, until it attains union of love with Christ and with the Most Holy Trinity. Obviously, it is not a development in which going up to the higher steps means leaving behind the preceding type of prayer, but is rather a gradual deepening of the relationship with God, which envelops our whole life. More than a pedagogy of prayer, St Teresa’s is a true “mystagogy”. She teaches the reader of her works to pray while praying herself with him/her; frequently, in fact, she interrupts the account or exposition to burst out in a prayer.
Another topic dear to the saint is the centrality of the humanity of Christ. In fact, for Teresa, the Christian life is a personal relationship with Jesus, which culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance that she attributes to meditation on the passion and the Eucharist, as presence of Christ, in the Church, for the life of every believer and as heart of the liturgy. St Teresa lived an unconditional love for the Church. She manifested an intense “sensus Ecclesiae” in face of incidents of division and conflict in the Church of her time. She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending better the “Holy Roman Catholic Church”, and she was prepared to give her life for it.
A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine that I would like to underscore is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole Christian life and the final end of it. The saint had a very clear idea of “fulness” in Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the course of The Interior Castle, in the last “stanza” Teresa describes this fulness, realised in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Merciful God, who by thy Spirit didst raise up thy servant Saint Teresa of Jesus to reveal to thy Church the way of perfection: grant that her teaching may awaken in us a longing for holiness until, assisted by her intercession, we attain to the perfect union of love in 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 this, then, we ought to be all of one mind, so that, according to apostolic teaching, we may all say the same thing, and that there be no divisions among us. Let us then be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgement; in ready zeal for which work we congratulate ourselves on having your affection as our partner. For it is not meet for the members to be at variance with the head; but, according to the testimony of sacred Scripture, all the members should follow the head. It is matter of doubt, moreover, to no one, that the church of the apostles is the mother of all the churches, from whose ordinances it is not right that you should deviate to any extent. And as the Son of God came to do the Father’s will, so shall ye fulfil the will of your mother, which is the Church, the head of which, as has been stated already, is the church of Rome. Wherefore, whatsoever may be done against the discipline of this church, without the decision of justice, cannot on any account be permitted to be held valid’.
from his First Epistle by Pope St Callistus I, d.222
O God, who didst raise up Pope Saint Callistus to serve the Church and attend devoutly to Christ's faithful departed: strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith; so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance; 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.
‘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.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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