‘Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest;
and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’. (St John 14.5-6)
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Between 64 and 314 every single day held for the faithful believer the ever-present threat of a frightful death: the period is divided fairly evenly into the years of active bloodshed and those of relative quiet. And every so often, during those two hundred and fifty years of history, we shall hear that cry of distress and agony rising heavenwards again, just as it had risen from the gardens of the Vatican glade in Nero’s day. But from the moment of the first tortures the faith had known how to transform that cry into a cry of hope’.
from The Church of Apostles and Martyrs, by Henri Daniel-Rops, 1901-1965
O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; 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 our Lord built the house of his life upon the foundation of faith in the Divine Love, so he could only build the house of his Church on the foundation of faith in himself. When Peter by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost cried, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’, our Lord felt that he had found the rock faith on which he could begin to build.
If we consider the three typical names by which our Lord called his apostles – Simon, Peter, and Satan – Simon may stand for the natural man, Peter for the redeemed man, and Satan for the rebellious man. All of us are in our first natural beginning Simon, born into this world with natural desires and the power of choice. But right at our birth the Church of Christ meets and puts us into the supernatural order by baptism; and as our minds develop and our wills become more definitely our own, there is presented to us more and more clearly the Gospel and the Person of Christ, that we may make our personal choice. All of us who have felt the spell of his beauty have cried out at some time, ‘Thou art the Christ!’ and so passed from the state of Simon to the state of Peter. Each one of us has to make that confession of faith. But when we have made that personal acceptance of our Lord, then we have to learn the lesson of the Cross, and to accept him as the crucified, suffering Messiah, taking up our cross for his sake, that we may not fall into condemnation and merit the rebuke of the name of Satan, the Adversary’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O God, who hast hallowed this day by the martyrdom of thine Apostles Peter and Paul: grant unto thy Church, in all things, to follow the precepts of those through whom she received the beginning of religion; 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.
‘“The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasising above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”.
Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotokos, and in abundance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; 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 John the Baptist [is] the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the divine promises: John is that “prophet”, identified with Elijah, who was destined to be the immediate precursor of the Messiah, to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (cf. Matthew 11.14; 17.10-13). His Feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are (cf. John 1.1, 23; 1.7-8; 3.29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30): the Baptist’s words are a programme for every Christian’.
from his Angelus, 25 June 2006, by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; 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.
Photos from two pilgrimages from Calgary to Ely, in 2009 and 2015, to mark today’s feast of St Etheldreda, otherwise known as St Audrey.
‘Ely: it is a dull man who is not thrilled by his first sight, from rail or road, of this unexpected “isle” which rises out of the flat Fenlands like a tall ship riding calm seas. It is blown upon by winds of wine-like quality, encircled by the high dome of the East Anglian sky, broader and more luminous than the skies of other parts. The excitement which stirs the traveller on his first visit does not fade, but ever afterwards quickens his pulse when he remembers Ely, as do similar heights of the English landscape, age-old, crowned with ancient churches with a wealth of history, often prehistoric; Glastonbury, Lincoln, Durham, Ludlow.
…In the seventh century England was a land of small warring kingdoms whose chiefs, whether pagan of Christian, lived in constant warfare with each other. In the mid-century the King of East Anglia was Anna, a devout Christian who brought up his family most religiously. One of his daughters was Etheldreda, of great beauty, given early in marriage to a chief of the wide Fens, who died soon after, settling upon her the Isle of Ely.
…[Etheldreda] is the brightest of a constellation of royal and related ladies of the Saxon race, who left their noble homes for the simplicity and devotion of monasteries, where they reveal remarkable powers of government and a genius for organisation and for pioneering in the ways of spirituality: so that in venerating her we can, in one mental sweep, give thanks for all these strenuous women who consented to follow God in the most challenging and startling way of the three vows, and by this single-hearted fervour presented the newly-learnt faith in the boldest and plainest manner. Those years were the golden age of our national saints’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Fisher and More! in you the Church and State
Of England—England of the years gone by--
Her spiritual law, her civil equity,
Twins of one justice, for the last time sate
On equal thrones. ’Twas England’s day of fate:
Ye kenned the omens and stood up to die:
State-rule in Faith, ye knew, means heresy:
That truth ye wrote in blood, and closed debate
By act, not words. A blood as red, as pure,
They shed, that brave Carthusian brotherhood,
St Bruno’s silent sons. Martyrs! be sure
That o’er the land, thus doubly dyed and dewed,
The Faith your death confessed, shall rise renewed--
A tree of peace for ever to endure.
Aubrey de Vere, 1814-1902
‘[T]he Father of Mercies had so amplified and enlarged the bowels of his mercy that, although restrained by the bounds of the three-fold poverty – that is to say the pressing obligations of his debts, the confiscation of the property of his diocese, and above all the pressures of dearth and famine – he could never restrain the natural kindness of his heart which was filled with the generosity of true charity. For instance, Sir Richard de Bagendon, a prudent man who belonged to a military order and who was the saint’s brother according to the flesh, was in trusted with the care of the bishop’s estates. On one occasion he remarked that the Bishop had scarcely enough to provide for his own and therefore should not give so lavishly to such great numbers of the poor; the bishop, however, overflowed in the bowels of his goodness and replied, “My dear brother Richard is it just or right in the sight of God that we should eat and drink from the vessels of gold and silver while Christ in his poor is crucified with hunger and the poor are faint and dying from lack of nourishment?” And he added, “I know very well how to eat and drink from a wooden bowl or platter, just as my father did. Therefore, let these gold and silver vessels be taken and sold and with the money feed the limbs of Christ who redeemed us and ours not with corruptible gold and silver but with his own precious blood. My horse, too, is a fine and valuable animal. Let him be sold as well and let the money he fetches be used to feed Christ’s poor”’.
from the Life of St Richard, Bishop of Chichester by Ralph Bocking
Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“Preach Christ as born, and set forth his death; so that both the heart may believe by imitating the one who is slain, and the mouth may receive the sacrament of his Passion for its cleansing”.
Today, this is what the universal Church does; [Jesus] established for her today on mount Sion a feast of fat things full of marrow, a two-fold richness, both inward and outward: he gave them his true body, inwardly and outwardly fattened with all spiritual strength and charity, and he bade them give it to those who believed in him. Whence, “It is firmly to be believed, and confessed with the mouth, that the very body which the Virgin bore, which hung on the Cross and lay in the tomb, which rose the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven: this body the Church truly makes daily, and gives to her faithful”. At the words: This is my body, bread is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, which confers an unction of double richness on whoever receives it worthily. It lessens temptation and stirs up devotion. And so it is called “a land flowing with honey and milk”, which makes sweet what is bitter and nourishes devotion. Unhappy he, who comes in to this banquet without the wedding garment of charity or penitence, because he who eats unworthily, eats damnation to himself. What fellowship has light with darkness?’
from a sermon on The Lord’s Supper by St Anthony of Padua, 1195-1231
Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; 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 Barnabas shines out in the pages of the New Testament as an eminent example of that faithful priesthood which does according to that which is in the heart and mind of God. When, not unnaturally, the members of the Church he had come to persecute were afraid of Saul of Tarsus, it was Barnabas who had faith in the reality of his conversion and was prepared to trust his penitence. That which Ananias began in the life of his great convert, Barnabas helped to complete by his loving ministry to the one who became his great fellow apostle. The priesthood is for the uniting of souls to the Lover of souls. The priest only comes between the soul and God to make more short and clear to the soul her union with her Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue thy holy Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts of the Holy Ghost: leave us not, we beseech thee, destitute of thy manifold gifts, nor yet of grace to use them always to thy honour and 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.
‘It was on his dear Iona that Columba found so many occasions for displaying that deep tenderness for all creation, that supernatural intimacy with creatures, that is so attractive in the lives of many saints. Numerous are the tales which reveal his power with Nature. One night in his hut he agonised in prayer over the pain of the world, the pain of evil, and of cruelty, and of a sinner’s death, holding it all against the pain of the Son of God on Calvary.
Columba had an especial devotion to the Cross of Christ, and through the dark hours he pondered on it. Worn out at last, he lay down on the stone that was always his bed, with his head on the stone pillow, and fell asleep. When he awoke he saw, sitting in the whole of the wall that did duty for a window, a robin. “Have you a song, red-breast?” asked Columba. At that the robin tilted his head, opened wide his shining eye on the saint, and sang a song so sweet that Columba, big man that he was, trembled at the beauty of it. And he understood the song of the birds, which told how he was in his nest near the great Cross upon which hung the Christ, how he saw Him white and bleeding, how the Christ looked at him with eyes so full of pain that he flew to Him and pressed his little brown breast on his forehead, trying to pull out one of the wounding thorns, trying to soften the suffering, so that his own breast was covered in blood. “My breast is red”, sang the bird, “for I saw Him die”. Columba felt his own heart enlarge with love for the Saviour as he listened to his tender song, and he at once wished to praise God for the bird and for its message. Carried away by his impetuous feelings, he knocked the wooden clapper which called the monks together for their services, and when they all came running, he told them of the bird’s song, and how even this tiny morsel of life and helped to ease Christ’s pain.
At the stone altar outside the church, Columba prepared to offer the praise of the Eucharist, his brethren all kneeling round; but first he raised his arms above his head and cried in his big, deep voice, “Come, all ye birds”. At once they came, flying through the air, which was just receiving its first glow of warmth from the sun climbing the eastern sky, flying in from all sides – little birds from the fields, big birds from the sea; larks and wrens, gulls and plovers, curlew and cormorants – all were there, and many others. “Peace to you from God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”, said Columba. And “Peace”, answered the birds. They stayed quietly to hear the Mass, and at the end the Abbot, turning, blessed not only the monks but also the birds. Then all flew off, except the robin, who again piped his tender notes. “Peace in the Name of the Trinity”, said Columba. “Peace in the Name of Christ”, sang the bird’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Photos from a visit to Canterbury Cathedral in May 2015, for this Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury.
‘St Augustine, strengthened by the encouragement of St Gregory, in company with the servants of Christ, returned to the work of preaching the word, and came to Britain. At that time, Ethelbert, king of Kent, was a very powerful monarch… Over against the eastern districts of Kent there is a large island called Thanet which, in English reckoning, is six hundred hides in extent. It is divided from the river Wantsum, which is about three furlongs wide, can be crossed in two places only, and joins the sea at either end. Here Augustine, the servant of the Lord, landed with his companions, who are said to have been nearly forty in number. They had acquired interpreters from the Frankish race according to the command of Pope St Gregory. Augustine sent to Ethelbert to say that he had come from Rome bearing the best of news, namely the sure and certain promise of eternal joys in heaven and an endless kingdom with the living and true God to those who received it. On hearing this, the king ordered them to remain on the island where they had landed and provided with all things necessary until he had decided what to do about them.
…Some days afterwards the king came to the island and, sitting in the open air, commanded Augustine and his companions to come thither to talk with him… [T]hey came endowed with divine not devilish power and bearing as their standard a silver cross and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a panel. They chanted litanies and uttered prayers to the Lord for their own eternal salvation and the salvation of those from whom and to whom they had come.
At the king’s command, they sat down and preached the word of life to himself and all his counts there present. Then he said to them, “The words and the promises you bring are fair enough, but because they are new to us and doubtful, I cannot consent to accept them and forsake those beliefs which I and the whole English race have held so long. But as you have come on a long pilgrimage and are anxious, I perceive, to share with us things which you believe to be true and good, we do not wish to do you harm; on the contrary, we will receive you hospitably and provide what is necessary for your support; nor do we forbid you to win all you can to your faith and religion by your preaching”. So he gave them a dwelling in the city of Canterbury, which was the chief city of all his dominions; and, in accordance with his promise, he granted them provisions and did not refuse them permission to preach’.
from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, c.731, by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
O God, who by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine, thy Confessor and Bishop, hast enlightened the English people with the light of the true faith: mercifully grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that have gone astray may return to the unity 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.
Scenes from visits to the five canonically established English Oratories - Manchester, Oxford, London, York, and Birmingham - on this Feast of St Philip Neri. Prayers for all Oratorian Fathers and Brothers, with much gratitude for their ministry and charism; a light shining in the darkness of this world.
‘[St Philip’s] apostolate was neither of the pen nor, chiefly at any rate, of the pulpit; if you came under his influence, it was because he plucked you by the sleeve, folded you to his heart. And he was always there; as well expect to find Ars without St John Vianney, as Rome without St Philip. In this, above all, he has bequeathed his own spirit to his children. The sons of St Ignatius are ready to be sent off, at a moment’s notice, on some perilous mission; the sons of St Philip, called to a different form of self-sacrifice, are always at home. Nor is their love of room like the Benedictine’s love of his cell; the Benedictine’s abbey is his fortress, the Oratorian’s house is an open town, where all the world may pass through. He gives you that freedom which of all others is today most lacking: freedom of access.
Reverend Fathers, you do not keep St Philip to yourselves; you share him with the world. Pray for us others, that we too may learn something of his spirit’.
from a sermon by Mgr Ronald Knox, preached at the London Oratory, Feast of St Philip Neri, 26 May 1951.
‘Dunstan… at an early age co-ordinated his many gifts and activities into a single channel, that of the direct service of God in England. There are even now many ways in which we, a thousand years later, are influenced by his creative mind and his practical genius. You may like to hear the church bells across the fields on a summer day or from the cathedral tower on a winter’s night: Dunstan ruled that all monasteries were to use the English custom of ringing bells, especially prolonging them on festivals, and it appears that all the great national functions graced by the King, his Court and the prelates were marked by much bell-ringing; and he himself, with his great collaborator, Bishop Ethelwold, cast two bells for Abingdon monastery. You may like to hear a lunch-hour organ recital: organs were probably known earlier, but they had ceased to be made in the ninth century; Dunstan and Ethelwold re-introduced and popularised them, taking a personal hand in their actual construction. One of the parts of a Gregorian setting of the Mass which is still sung, the Kyrie ‘Rex Splendens’, is the composition of Dunstan; the daily prayers for the royal family in the Prayer-book services go back to the ruling of Archbishop Dunstan; and if you ever slip into vulgar slang and refer to a person as having ‘been taken down a peg or two’, you may (says one tradition) all unconsciously be paying tribute to Dunstan, who, finding that dangerous quarrels in taverns often arose because customers drank more than their share or less than their boast, ordered that ale-pots should be fitted with metal pegs, which would show the level of the liquor and the fair share of each drinker. He has been called a dreamer of dreams and a visionary; if so, that condition made no difference to his practical commonsense and his vigorous power of furthering reforms. He is a man of such diversity of gifts and richness of character, possessing that super-abundance of vitality and energy which is not infrequently married to great abilities’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this festival of thy Bishops Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and governing thy Church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; 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.
‘Learning, if it puffs up the mind, or inspires any secret self-sufficiency, is an impediment to the communications of the Holy Ghost: simplicity and sincere humility being the dispositions which invite him into the soul. By these was Isidore prepared to find him an interior instructor and comforter. His earnestness in seeking lessons and instructions of piety made him neglect no opportunity of hearing them; and so much the more tender and the deeper were the impressions which they left in his soul, as his desire was the stronger and the more pure. His patience in bearing all injuries and in overcoming the envy of fellow-servants by cordial kindnesses, his readiness to obey his masters, and in indifferent things to comply with the inclinations of others, and humbly to serve every one, gave him the most complete victory over himself and his passions. Labour he considered as enjoined him by God in punishment of sin, and for a remedy against it. And he performed his work in a spirit of compunction and penance. Many object that their labours and fatigues leave them little time for the exercises of religion. But Isidore, by directing his attention according to the most holy motives of faith, made his work a most perfect act of religion. He considered it as a duty to God. Therefore he applied himself to it with great diligence and care, in imitation of the angels in heaven, who in all things fulfil the will of God with the greatest readiness and alacrity of devotion. The more humbling and the more painful the labour was, the dearer it was to the saint, being a means the more suitable to tame his flesh, and a more noble part of his penance. With the same spirit that the saints subdued their bodies by toils in their deserts, Isidore embraced his task. He moreover sanctioned it by continual prayer. While his hand held the plough, he in his heart conversed with God, with his angel guardian, and the other blessed spirits; sometimes deploring the sins of the world, and his own spiritual miseries, at other times in the melting words of the royal prophet, raising his desires to the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. It was chiefly by this perfect spirit of prayer, joined with, or rather engrafted upon a most profound humility and spirit of mortification, that St Isidore arrived at so eminent a degree of sanctity as rendered him the admiration of all Spain’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
I am Matthias; I am he who covers
The cloudy opening of the uttermost prison,
Where on went down - and is not re-arisen,-
Out of the Twelve who were the Lord Christ’s lovers,
About my name upon this day there hovers
A rumour of despair and desolation;
And even the Holy City’s glad salvation
Sighs for the memory of its exciled rovers.
I am Matthias, yea, and am another,
Installed within the bishopric of my brother;
I who am his oblivion am his fame.
I am the dream, upon your strife attending,
That all things, bound to a most perfect ending,
Shall be made one by Christ’s invincible Name.
Charles Williams, 1886-1945
‘Brethren, do not honour your fellow men for their earthly possessions, honour them for the image of God they bear in themselves. Do not esteem what you or what others have, but what you are. Look up to these saints at whose grave we are standing. The world lay invitingly before them, but they trampled upon it with disdain; a long life was before them, and health and wealth and children and comforts and good fortune. While the world was blossoming all about them, in their hearts it had already withered. You see, Christians, how the world shrivels and dies; should it then continue to bloom and blossom in your hearts?
Death is lurking everywhere, and grief, and trouble; from every quarter we are lashed at and sated with bitterness, we pursue the fleeting things of earth and cling to a sinking world. And because we cannot stop its fall, we perish with it. The very transitoriness of the world proves its worthlessness and the foolishness of adhering to it. Cling rather to eternal things, my dear brethren, so that you may come to the glory of heaven, a glory that you already possess through your faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns as King with the Father in union with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen’.
Pope St Gregory the Great, c.540-604
Images from a May 2015 visit to Pugin’s Shrine Church of St Augustine, Ramsgate in Kent to accompany words from Dom Bede Camm, the Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey. Dom Bede went to Keble College, Oxford and was ordained in the Church of England in 1888, serving as Curate at St Agnes, Kennington before being received into full communion in 1890. He made his first profession as a Benedictine a year later and transferred to Downside Abbey in 1913. Dom Bede had a great devotion to the English Martyrs and, in 1904, published a two volume collection of their lives. He had an early hand in saving the newly-founded Tyburn nuns from financial ruin, helping them to secure their home, which they had put up for sale. He also designed the famous replica Tyburn Tree canopy above the altar of the shrine.
‘I was brought up, as are so many nowadays, in the firm belief that the Church by Law Established was the true representative of the old Catholic Church in England, the Church of Anselm, Dunstan, and More. It was the Beatification of our Martyrs in 1886 which first directed my attention to them, and in reading their history I soon found the whole fabric of this belief tumbling about my ears like a pack of cards. Why did these Martyrs suffer torture and death? Simply for clinging to the Faith of their Fathers. They had not changed their religion, they were not the innovators; they died because they held dearer than life the old Faith of old England. We cannot serve two masters; we must choose between the cause for which these men fought, that is the old religion, and the new religion of their persecutors. If we wish to have our part with More and Campion, we cannot serve the Church of Cranmer and Elizabeth.
...We have long ago forgiven the horrors of Tyburn: the only revenge that we desire is the divine vengeance of Christ’s Martyrs who cry beneath the Altar of God, “How long, O Lord, How long?” Their one desire on earth was the conversion of their dear England; that, we may be sure, is their prayer now. It is also our own’.
from A Book of English Martyrs, 1915, by Dom Bede Camm OSB, 1864-1942
‘Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who - as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us”.
For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature “halfway” between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.
In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 AD He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 AD to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.
With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the “Symbol of faith” [“Creed”] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
In this fundamental text – which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration - the Greek term homooúsios is featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.
The fundamental idea of Athanasius’ entire theological battle was precisely that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God, he is the true God and it is through our communion with Christ that we can truly be united to God. He has really become “God-with-us”’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O eternal God! O eternal Trinity! Through the union of thy divine nature thou hast made so precious the blood of thine only-begotten Son! O eternal Trinity, thou art as deep a mystery as the sea, in whom the more I seek, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek. For even immersed in the depths of thee, my soul is never satisfied, always famished and hungering for thee, eternal Trinity, wishing and desiring to see thee, the true Light.
O eternal Trinity, with the light of understanding I have tasted and seen the depths of thy mystery and the beauty of thy creation. In seeing myself in thee, I have seen that I will become like thee. O eternal Father, from thy power and thy wisdom clearly thou hast given to me a share of that wisdom which belongs to thine Only-begotten Son. And truly hast the Holy Spirit, who proceedeth from thee, Father and Son, given to me the desire to love thee.
O eternal Trinity, thou art my maker and I am thy creation. Illuminated by thee, I have learned that thou hast made me a new creation through the blood of thine Only-begotten Son because thou art captivated by love at the beauty of thy creation.
O eternal Trinity, O Divinity, O unfathomable abyss, O deepest sea, what greater gift could thou givest me then thy very Self? Thou art a fire that burns eternally yet never consumed, a fire that consumes with thy heat my self-love. Again and again thou art the fire who taketh away all cold heartedness and illuminateth the mind by thy light, the light with which thou hast made me to know thy truth.
By this mirrored light I know thou are the highest good, a good above all good, a fortunate good, an incomprehensible good, an unmeasurable good, a beauty above all beauty, a wisdom above all wisdom, for thou art wisdom itself, the food of angels, the fire of love that thou givest to man.
Thou art the garment covering our nakedness. Thou feedest our family with thy sweetness, a sweetness thou art from which there is no trace of bitterness. O eternal Trinity! Amen.
A prayer to the Most Holy Trinity by St Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380
John Keble, 1792-1866
Restrictions continue, but so does the celebration of the Church’s liturgy in this Easter season. Today is St George’s Day, an observance that always falls in Eastertide, and appropriately so since it teaches us that even in the moment of martyrdom, the final victory - for us, as it was for St George - is assured. I am, of course, naturally disappointed that St George does not possess the rank of a feast in Canada, especially given the long association of the saint and his cross with this dominion. John Cabot planted the English flag on Canadian soil in 1497, and that flag remains a constitutive part of Canadian heraldry and her national and provincial flags to this day (red and white are Canada’s colours for this reason) - an emblematic reminder of the English roots of this nation.
Which is a useful segue into my sharing, again, the following poem, so expressive of those English settlers who arrived to make a new life in this nation, but never forgot their heavenly patron, that great ‘Soul of England’.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
The first of many, alas, private Masses to be offered following the suspension of all public Masses in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and the Diocese of Victoria. Today we honoured, with as much solemnity as could be mustered given the circumstances, Saint Joseph, Spouse of Our Blessed Lady and patron of Canada. This is indeed a painful time for those unable to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion; certainly a lot more than most intended giving up for Lent... As I go to the altar each day, though, I carry with me the hearts and intentions of those unable to be physically present with me in pleading the Holy Sacrifice. After today’s Mass we said the following prayer, apposite in its wording for our time, invoking the help of St Joseph.
To thee, O blessed Joseph, we fly in our tribulation and, after imploring the help of thy holy Spouse with confidence, we ask also for thy intercession. By the affection which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and by the paternal love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee to look kindly upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ acquired by his precious blood, and with thy powerful aid to help us in all our needs.
Protect, most careful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen people of Jesus Christ. Keep us, loving father, from all pestilence of error and corruption. From thy place in heaven be thou merciful with us, most powerful protector, in this warfare with the powers of darkness; and as thou didst once rescue the Child Jesus from imminent danger of death, so now defend the holy Church of God from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Guard each of us by thy constant patronage, so that, sustained by thy example and help, we may live a holy life, die a holy death, and obtain the everlasting happiness of heaven. Amen. - The English Ritual.
‘Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual “lung” of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual “breath”, the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints’.
from a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, to the Benedictine Oblate Sisters
of the monastery of St Frances of Rome at Tor de’Specchi
O God, who amongst other gifts of thy grace, didst honour blessed Frances, thy handmaid, with the familiar converse of an Angel: grant, we beseech thee; that by the help of her intercession, we may be worthy to attain unto the fellowship of the Angels in thy heavenly kingdom; 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.
‘They are merry martyrs. “Thanks be to God”, said Perpetua, as she approached her martyrdom, “that I was merry in the flesh so am I still merrier here”. It’s reminiscent of our own Thomas More’s passing up Tower Hill to the place of his martyrdom, as merry as a bridegroom on the way to his wedding (so people reported). Felicity was so relieved that her daughter was born in prison and immediately adopted by a Christian: she had feared that as a consequence of her pregnancy she would be spared and lose the martyr’s crown.
Is it conceivable that sane young women, looking forward to motherhood, would die in such a spirit? It is conceivable to those for whom revelation sets forth the banquet of salvation, surpassing all other joys and endless in its festivity. We are the ones who should be pitied if we cannot make head or tail of their priorities’.
- Fr Aidan Nichols OP
O holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden 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. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
The Acolyte’s Toolbox