‘Our goal is God, the source of all good. As we say in our prayer, we are to place our trust in God and in no one else. In His kindness, our Lord wished to strengthen your faith, for without it, as the evangelist points out, Christ could not have performed many of His miracles. He also wished to listen to your prayer, and so He ordained that you experience poverty, distress, abandonment, weariness and universal scorn. It was also His desire to deprive you of my physical presence, even though I am with you in spirit as your poor, dear, beloved father. God alone knows the reasons for all this, yet we can recognise three causes. In the first place, our blessed Lord is telling you that He desires to include you among His beloved sons, provided that you remain steadfast in His ways, for this is the way He treats His friends and makes them holy. The second reason is that He is asking you to grow continually in your confidence in Him alone and not in others. For God, as I said before, does not work in those who refuse to place all their confidence and hope in Him alone. But he does impart the fullness of His love upon those who possess a deep faith and hope; for them he does great things. So if you have been endowed with faith and hope, He will do great things for you; He will raise up the lowly. In depriving you of myself and everyone else you have loved, He will offer you an opportunity to choose one of these alternatives; either you will forsake your faith and return to the ways of the world, or you will remain steadfast in your faith and pass the test. Now there is a third reason. God wishes to test you like gold in the furnace. The dross is consumed by the fire, but the pure gold remains and its value increases. It is in this manner that God acts with His good servant, who puts his hope in Him and remains unshaken in times of distress. God raises him up and, in return for the things he has left out of love for God, He repays him a hundred-fold in this life with eternal life hereafter. This is the way God has dealt with all His saints. So it was with His people Israel after their period of trial in Egypt. He not only led them out of Egypt with many miracles and fed them with manna in the desert, He also gave them the promised land. If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next’.
From a letter to his brothers by St Jerome Emiliani, 1486-1537
O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; 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.
‘For we brothers who were able to know that man remember to tell with frequent instruction those whom after his death the blessing of heaven has gathered into the fellowship of our brotherhood, that so long as he was in physical health he used to lend every effort to work for the glory of the Holy Church of God and especially for the peace, the honour, and the tranquility of this monastery. Having crossed the sea so many times he never returned empty-handed or profitless, as is the habit of some, but once brought back a goodly store of holy books, then the venerable gift of blessed relics of Martyrs for Christ, then masons to build a church, then glaziers to decorate and also to secure its windows, then again he brought teachers for the singing and for ordering the service in the church for the whole year, next he carried with him a letter of privilege sent from the lord pope by which our freedom might be kept safe from any outside interference, then he brought pictures of holy stories which could be displayed not just to beautify the church but also to teach those who looked upon them, inasmuch as those who are not able to read might learn the works of Our Lord and Saviour through beholding the images themselves’.
from a homily on St Benedict Biscop by St Bede the Venerable, c.672/673-735
O God, by whose gift the blessed Abbot Benedict left all things that he might be made perfect: grant unto all those who have entered upon the path of evangelical perfection; that they may neither look back nor linger in the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may lay hold on life eternal; 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.
‘Brother André became a saint because of his intimacy with God. He became a saint because he loved God and placed himself entirely at the Lord’s service. He also became a saint because he loved the men and women he met on the journey of life, especially the suffering. He prayed for them, and placed himself entirely at their service as well. Brother Andre was permeated by the “constant love” mentioned in the first letter of Peter. He also made his own these subsequent words of the epistle: “serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” And these gifts were many. Brother André was a very welcoming and compassionate man. For dozens of years he went to his office on the mountain and listened to those who came to confide in him their sufferings, their worries, their hopes, their little and great troubles, their distress, their cries and their hopelessness. He listened. He invited them to pray. He prayed himself. He encouraged them to have confidence in God, to commit themselves to Him. He confided in St Joseph the intentions he wanted to present to God. Once his prayers were answered he would say openly: “I’ve done nothing; it is St Joseph who wanted it. He’s the only landlord around here, and God wanted it as well.” Brother André belonged to the kind of saints who want to help the lowly, the poor, the most unfortunate, the most sick among the men and women who live on earth. Is it not through the intercession of these saints that God accomplishes the greatest of deeds?’
from a homily at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Canonisation of St André Bessette, 2010
by Jean-Claude, Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal
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
‘The actual, first nativity of Christ, His actual birth from all eternity in the bosom of His Father, must be venerated in silence. We should never permit our mind to investigate this mystery. Since time and space did not exist, since no form of expressions had yet been created, since there is not a single eyewitness, nor anyone who can describe this eternal birth, how can reason form any concept for reflection? How can the tongue give expression to thoughts that cannot be formulated? The Father was, and the Son was born! Do not say: “when?” but rather leave that question unasked. Do not ask “how?” for there is not answer! For the word “when” suggests time, and “how” suggests birth in the flesh... God is on earth, He is among men, not in the fire nor amid the sound of trumpets; not in the smoking mountain, or in the darkness, or in the terrible and roaring tempest giving the Law, but manifested in the flesh, the gentle and good One dwells with those He condescends to make His equals! God is in the flesh, not operating from a distance, as did the prophets, but through Him human nature, one with ours, He seeks to bring back all mankind to Himself’.
from On the Incarnation, by 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.
Hail the love and power amazing
Of the incarnate living Word!
Year by year the song upraising,
Join we all with one accord,
Blessed saints and martyrs praising,
Who have died for Christ, their Lord.
Sing we now, for naught esteeming
Tyrant’s rage, Saint Thomas dies,
How the murderer’s weapon gleaming,
Place of prayer and praise defiles;
Yet the martyr’s life-blood streaming
Still for pardoning mercy cries.
How he lived a life laborious,
Be the wondrous story told;
How he died a martyr glorious,
Bishop wise, confessor bold;
How he reigns with Christ victorious
Clothed in white with crown of gold.
To the Lord of all creation,
In whose love the martyrs rest,
To the God of our salvation,
Whom their dying breath confessed,
Honour, praise and adoration,
Father, Son and Spirit blest.
They scarcely waked before they slept,
They scarcely wept before they laughed;
They drank indeed death’s bitter draught,
But all its bitterest dregs were kept
And drained by Mothers while they wept.
From Heaven the speechless Infants speak:
Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear,
For swords nor sorrows come not here.
Now we are strong who were so weak,
And all is ours we could not seek.
We bloom among the blooming flowers,
We sing among the singing birds;
Wisdom we have who wanted words:
Here morning knows not evening hours,
All’s rainbow here without the showers.
And softer than our Mother’s breast,
And closer than our Mother’s arm,
Is here the Love that keeps us warm
And broods above our happy next.
Dear Mothers, come: for Heaven is best.
by Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
As it was earlier in the year, in Lent and Eastertide, so public Masses have once more been suspended in British Columbia since late November. We hope to resume just after the Epiphany. The worship of God, however, did not cease. The Mass continues to be offered daily by the clergy of the parish, and I am blessed to have room to accommodate a small domestic oratory at home. Masses since Christ the King have been offered here and live streamed to parishioners. The photos above show Mass offered today for the Feast of St Stephen, Protomartyr. The poem, St Stephen, below, is written by the Anglican priest and academic, Leighton Pullan (1865-1940).
I see that I must die.
O Christ, how shall I bear the cruel stones
E’en though there be a place among the thrones
At thy right hand for me? Create again
The very sinews of my soul:
I asked not for an aureole,
But strength to bear the pain.
Help me, for life is dear:
The growing rapture of the summer morn,
The cedarded hills, and soft-cheeked roses born
Within the cooling breath of Hermon’s snow,
The rare reluctant shaded streams,
The sea that sings, and weeps, and dreams;
I love them: Thou dost know.
I loved my father’s faith:
The synagogue with all its sacred gear,
The feasts that guard the march of every year,
The trumpets, lamps, and waving of the palms,
The azure fringe on robes like milk,
The yellow scrolls wrapped round with silk,
The triumph of the psalms.
I loved to preach the truth,
To thrust and parry in a fair debate,
To trace God’s dayspring in His nation's fate,
To lift up Christ, who dying broke death’s bands;
I love to give men joy for sighs,
To win the thanks of widows’ eyes,
And children’s trustful hands.
‘The truth.’ Yes, I will die.
This chafing Sanhedrin shall not prevail
To check me. They shall see the truth full-sail;
They cannot sink truth, stone me though they can.
Lord, I am ready. By Thy grace
No shade of fear shall cross my face,
And I will play the man.
‘John did not ask direct questions concerning God’s existence. For him, a proof of God’s existence was not nonsensical, but it did not matter, because he lived so closely with God. When we love people we do not ask whether they exist, or whether their existence can be proved, for it is their very existence, the fact that they simply are, that draws us to them. And because John did not ask whether God existed, he assumed the question in its broadest sense. In studying him, we find his basic thoughts and attitudes encompassing everything, not only so-called religious themes.
But John’s God was not a vague God, he was the God of Jesus Christ, hence a God who speaks, or rather a God who has spoken in a revelation. But God’s Word produces a discourse, between itself and the person who receives it. God’s Word, as revealed in the Bible and the liturgy, penetrated John and took possession of him, and he in his turn spoke’.
from St John of the Cross, 1979, by Alain Cugno
O God, who didst inspire thy holy Confessor Saint John with an ardent love of self-denial and of the Cross: grant that by constantly following his example, we may attain to everlasting 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.
‘This great Pontiff comes before us in the Liturgical Year not to bring us tidings of Peace, as St Melchiades did, but as one of the most illustrious defenders of the great Mystery of the Incarnation. He defends the faith of the Universal Church in the divinity of the Word, by condemning, as his predecessor Liberius had done, the acts and the authors of the celebrated Council of Rimini. With his sovereign authority, he bears witness to the teaching of the Church regarding the Humanity of Jesus Christ, and condemned the heretic Apollinaris, who taught that Jesus Christ had only assumed the flesh and not the soul of man. He commissioned St Jerome to make a new translation of the New Testament from the Greek, for the use of the Church of Rome; here, again, giving a further proof of the faith and love which he bore to the Incarnate Word. Let us honour this great Pontiff, whom the Council of Chalcedon calls ‘the ornament and support of Rome’ by his piety. St Jerome, too, who looked upon St Damasus as his friend and patron, calls him “a man of the greatest worth; a man whose equal could not be found, well versed in the holy Scriptures, and a virgin Doctor of the virgin Church”’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
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.
‘At this decisive moment in Mexico’s history, having already crossed the threshold of the new millennium, I entrust to the powerful intercession of Saint Juan Diego the joys and hopes, the fears and anxieties of the beloved Mexican people, whom I carry in my heart.
Blessed Juan Diego, a good, Christian Indian, whom simple people have always considered a saint! We ask you to accompany the Church on her pilgrimage in Mexico, so that she may be more evangelising and more missionary each day. Encourage the Bishops, support the priests, inspire new and holy vocations, help all those who give their lives to the cause of Christ and the spread of his Kingdom.
Happy Juan Diego, true and faithful man! We entrust to you our lay brothers and sisters so that, feeling the call to holiness, they may imbue every area of social life with the spirit of the Gospel. Bless families, strengthen spouses in their marriage, sustain the efforts of parents to give their children a Christian upbringing. Look with favour upon the pain of those who are suffering in body or in spirit, on those afflicted by poverty, loneliness, marginalisation or ignorance. May all people, civic leaders and ordinary citizens, always act in accordance with the demands of justice and with respect for the dignity of each person, so that in this way peace may be reinforced.
Beloved Juan Diego, “the talking eagle”! Show us the way that leads to the “Dark Virgin” of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen’.
from the homily preached at the Canonisation Mass of St Juan Diego
31 July 2002, by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who by means of Saint Juan Diego didst show the love of the most holy Virgin Mary for thy people: grant, through his intercession; that, by following the counsels our Mother gave at Guadalupe, we may be ever constant in fulfilling 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. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘It is obvious that the preacher’s personal testimony and the level of exemplarity of the Christian community condition the effectiveness of the preaching. In this perspective, a passage from St Augustine's Confessions is relevant. He had come to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric; he was a sceptic and not Christian. He was seeking the Christian truth but was not capable of truly finding it.
What moved the heart of the young African rhetorician, sceptic and downhearted, and what impelled him to definitive conversion was not above all Ambrose’s splendid homilies (although he deeply appreciated them). It was rather the testimony of the Bishop and his Milanese Church that prayed and sang as one intact body. It was a Church that could resist the tyrannical ploys of the Emperor and his mother, who in early 386 again demanded a church building for the Arians’ celebrations. In the building that was to be requisitioned, Augustine relates, “the devout people watched, ready to die with their Bishop.” This testimony of the Confessions is precious because it points out that something was moving in Augustine, who continues: “We too, although spiritually tepid, shared in the excitement of the whole people” (Confessions 9, 7).
… Like the Apostle John, Bishop Ambrose - who never tired of saying: “Omnia Christus est nobis! To us Christ is all!” - continues to be a genuine witness of the Lord. Let us thus conclude our Catechesis with his same words, full of love for Jesus: “Omnia Christus est nobis! If you have a wound to heal, he is the doctor; if you are parched by fever, he is the spring; if you are oppressed by injustice, he is justice; if you are in need of help, he is strength; if you fear death, he is life; if you desire Heaven, he is the way; if you are in the darkness, he is light.... Taste and see how good is the Lord: blessed is the man who hopes in him!” (De Virginitate, 16, 99). Let us also hope in Christ. We shall thus be blessed and shall live in peace’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst set thy blessed Bishop Saint Ambrose in thy Church as a Doctor and defender of the Catholic faith and an example of apostolic fortitude: grant, we beseech thee; that aided by his intercession, we may escape the dangers of error, and never be ashamed to confess 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.
‘We must be glad and thank the Lord that so many embrace the Christian religion, who tell us of the fallacies of the Bonzes and of their books, and the mysteries of their sects, for those who have joined themselves to Christ were following the discipline of another. The most learned among their number each and all explain to us the institutes and precepts of their previous discipline. If it were not for my study of these I would not know enough of the false religions of the Japanese to be able to oppose them. How much the Christians love us is past believing. They come constantly to our house to be naturally courteous. The Christians indeed, certainly – bless them – show themselves most kind and obliging to us. God in his mercy reward and grant us the same happiness in heaven’.
from a letter, 1550, detailing his experience of Japan, by St Francis Xavier, 1506-1552
O God, who by the preaching and wondrous works of Saint Francis Xavier didst unite unto thy Church the peoples of India: mercifully grant that we who venerate his glorious merits, may likewise follow him in all virtuous and godly living; 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 blessed Andrew, on a day,
By fishing did his living earn,
Christ came, and called him away,
That he to fish for men might learn:
And no delay thereat he made,
Nor questions fram’d of his intent,
But quite forsaking all he had,
Along with Him that call’d he went.
Oh, that we could so ready be,
To follow Christ when He doth call!
And that we could forsake, as he,
Those nets that we are snar’d withal:
Or would this fisherman of men,
(Who set by all he had so light)
By his obedience shewed then
(And his example) win us might.
But precepts and examples fail,
Till Thou Thy grace, Lord, add thereto;
O grant it, and we shall prevail
In whatsoe’er Thou bidst us do:
Yea we shall then that bliss conceive,
Which in Thy service we may find,
And for Thy sake be glad to leave
Our nets, and all we have, behind.
George Wither, 1588-1667
‘[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.
‘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.
‘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.
Fr Lee Kenyon