‘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.
The Ladder of St Augustine
Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!
All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.
The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;
The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;
All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will; --
All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.
The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before --
A path to higher destinies,
Nor deem the irrevocable Past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882
O merciful Lord, who didst turn Saint Augustine from his sins to be a faithful Bishop and teacher: grant that we may follow him in penitence and godly discipline; till our restless hearts find their rest in thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
At the Cross thy station keeping
With the mournful Mother weeping,
Thou, unto the sinless Son,
Weepest for thy sinful one.
Blood and water from His side
Gush; in thee the streams divide:
From thine eyes the one doth start,
But the other from thy heart.
Mary, for thy sinner, see,
To her Sinless mourns with thee:
Could that Son the son not heed,
For whom two such mothers plead?
So thy child had baptism twice,
And the whitest from thine eyes.
The floods lift up, lift up their voice,
With a many-watered noise!
Down the centuries fall those sweet
Sobbing waters to our feet,
And our laden air still keeps
Murmur of a Saint that weeps.
Teach us but, to grace our prayers,
Such divinity of tears,--
Earth should be lustrate again
With contrition of that rain:
Till celestial floods o’er-rise
The high tops of Paradise.
Francis Thompson, 1859-1907
O God, who art the Comforter of them that mourn, and the Salvation of them that hope in thee, who didst graciously regard the tearful pleading of blessed Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine: grant, we beseech thee, at their united intercession; that we may truly lament our sins and be made worthy to obtain thy gracious pardon; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Father Dominic of the Mother of God was a most striking missionary and preacher and he had great part in my own conversion and in that of others. His very look had a holy aspect which when his figure cam in sight in my circle most singularly affected me, and his remarkable “bonhomie” in the midst of his sanctity was in itself a real holy preaching. No wonder, then, I became his convert and penitent. He was a great lover of England. I grieved at his sudden death, and I thought and hoped he would receive from Rome the “aureola” of a Saint as is now to be’.
from a deposition, 1889, to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
concerning the cause for the beatification of Blessed Dominic Barberi, 1792-1849
O God, who didst choose thy Priest Blessed Dominic Barberi to be a minister of thy salvation, so that his teaching and example might help many to find peace and reconciliation in thy Church: mercifully guide our steps, we humbly pray, along that same way of love and truth, until by thy grace we gain its eternal reward; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[T]he Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man... in whose spirit there is no deceit”, but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: “How do you know me?”
Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.
His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.
Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognised both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognise only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.
We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael’s subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew’s presence even in India.
In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.
St Bartholomew’s relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.
To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary’.
from the general audience of 4 October 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI
O Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine Apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church; to love that Word which he believed, and both to preach and to receive the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Patroness of Peru, ever watch over the interests of thy fatherland. Respond to its people’s confidence in thee by warding off from them the calamities of even this present life: the earthquakes which spread terror through the land, and political convulsions such as have already so severely tried its independence. Extend thy guardianship to the neighbouring young republics; for they too love and honour thee. Hide from them and from thy native land the Utopian mirages which rise from the old world. Preserve them from the rash impulses and illusions to which their youth is liable. Guard them against the poisonous teachings of condemned sects, lest their hitherto lively faith should be corrupted. Lastly, o thou our Lord’s beloved Rose, smile upon the whole Church, who is enraptured today at the sight of thy heavenly beauty. Like her, we all desire to, as the Collect of the Mass says, “run in the fragrancy of thy sweetness”.
Teach us to let ourselves be prevented, like thee, by the dew of heaven. Show us how to respond to the advances of the divine sculptor, who one day allowed thee to see him making over to his loved ones the different virtues in the form of blocks of choice marble, which he expects them to polish with their tears, and to fashion with the chisel of penance. Above all, fill us with love and confidence. All that the material sun accomplishes in the vast universe, causing the flowers to bloom, ripening the fruits, forming pearls in the depth of the ocean, and precious stones in the heart of the mountains; all this, thou didst say, thy divine Spouse effected in the boundless capacity of thy soul, causing it to bring forth every variety of riches, beauty and joy, warmth and life. May we profit, even as thou didst, of the coming of the Sun of Justice into our hearts in the Sacrament of union; may we lay open our whole being to the influence of his blessed light; and may we become, in every place, the good odour of Christ’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who didst will that Saint Rose, bedewed with heavenly graces, should blossom forth among the peoples of the Americas as a flower of virginity and suffering: grant to us thy servants, so to run after her in the fragrance of her sweetness; that we may be found worthy to be made a sweet savour unto Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Pius X paid considerable attention to the reform of the Liturgy and, in particular, of sacred music in order to lead the faithful to a life of more profound prayer and fuller participation in the Sacraments. In the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), the first year of his Pontificate, he said that the true Christian spirit has its first and indispensable source in active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.
For this reason he recommended that the Sacraments be received often, encouraging the daily reception of Holy Communion and appropriately lowering the age when children receive their First Communion “to about seven”, the age “when a child begins to reason”.
Faithful to the task of strengthening his brethren in the faith, in confronting certain trends that were manifest in the theological context at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Pius X intervened decisively, condemning “Modernism” to protect the faithful from erroneous concepts and to foster a scientific examination of the Revelation consonant with the Tradition of the Church.
...The last months of his life were overshadowed by the impending war. His appeal to Catholics of the world, launched on 2 August 1914 to express the bitter pain of the present hour, was the anguished plea of a father who sees his children taking sides against each other. He died shortly afterwards, on 20 August, and the fame of his holiness immediately began to spread among the Christian people.
Dear brothers and sisters, St Pius X teaches all of us that at the root of our apostolic action in the various fields in which we work there must always be close personal union with Christ, to cultivate and to develop, day after day. This is the essence of all his teaching, of all his pastoral commitment. Only if we are in love with the Lord shall we be able to bring people to God and open them to his merciful love and thereby open the world to God’s mercy’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who for the defence of the Catholic faith, and the restoring of all things in Christ, didst fill thy Supreme Pontiff Saint Pius the Tenth, with heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude: graciously grant that, following his teaching and example, we may attain unto eternal rewards; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Bernard was not only a remarkable preacher of grace, he was also a preacher of truth. “The fulness of grace”, he declared, in an astonishing phrase in Song of Songs, Sermon 74, “does not consist of grace alone”. The Word, it is true, delights to come to us as our redeemer and friend, and even sometimes, in prayer, as our bridegroom. But, when he comes, Bernard says, he comes to us as truth as well as grace, as judge as well as friend. “[B]y the movement of my heart... did I perceive his presence”. There is, first of all, then, an awakening to grace and a profound sense of consolation. But there is also, Bernard notes at once, an experience of purification and a new awareness of truth. Things within us, which are opposed to the new life, are “plucked out”, we’re told, and even “destroyed”. And the heart that was as “hard as stone and diseased” finds itself pierced through. “I knew”, Bernard says, “the power of his might because my faults were put to flight and my human yearnings brought into subjection. I have marvelled at the depth of his wisdom when my secret faults have been revealed and made visible”. Effectively, what St Bernard is saying here is that if, in prayer, we experience only and always a sustained series of spiritual consolations and delights, but never what he calls “the truth of our condition in God’s sight”, then what we are experiencing is certainly not God. For this reason, in Sermon 74, Bernard implores the Word to come to him “full of grace and truth”.
“I need both of these: I need truth that I may not be able to hide from him, and grace that I may not wish to hide. Indeed, without both of these his visitation would not be complete, for the stark reality of truth would be intolerable without grace, and the gladness of grace might appear lax and uncontrolled without truth”.
Clearly, all that applies to prayer in this context, applies also to preaching. Bernard is well aware that, in the hands of the preacher, truth without grace, is a harsh, fundamentalist weapon. But he is also equally aware that grace without truth, is a mere sentimentality. “How many people”, he writes, “have received grace without profit because they have not also accepted a tempering measure of truth? In consequence they have luxuriated in it too much, without reverence or regard for truth.... To them it could be said... ‘Go, then, and learn what it means to serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice in him with awe’”.’
Fr Paul Murray OP
O God, by whose grace the blessed Abbot Bernard, kindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: grant, at his intercession; that we may be inflamed with the same spirit of love, and ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
On this memorial of St John Eudes, falling as it does within the traditional Octave of the Assumption, a fitting passage from his great work ‘The Admirable Heart of Mary’.
‘Mary appears in heaven because she comes from heaven, because she is heaven’s masterpiece, the Empress of Heaven, its joy and its glory, in whom everything is heavenly. Even when her body dwelt on earth, her thoughts and affections were all rapt in heaven.
She is clothed with the eternal Sun of the Godhead and with all the perfections of the Divine Essence, which surround, fill and penetrate her to such an extent that she has become transformed, as it were, into the power, goodness and holiness of God.
She has the moon under her feet to show that the entire world is beneath her. None is above her, save only God, and she holds absolute sway over all created things.
She is crowned with twelve stars that represent the virtues which shine so brightly in her soul. The mysteries of her life are as many stars more luminous by far than the brightest lights of the sky. The privileges and prerogatives God has granted to her, the least of which is greater than anything shining in the firmament of heaven, as well as the glory of the saints of Paradise and of earth, are her crown and her glory in a much fuller sense than the Philippians could be said to be the crown and joy of St Paul’.
St John Eudes, 1601-1680
O God, who didst wonderfully choose thy Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ: grant us, by his example and teachings; that, growing in knowledge of thee, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Stephen introduced into Hungary both the faith of Christ and the regal dignity. He obtained his royal crown from the Roman Pontiff; and having been, by his command, anointed king, offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. He built several houses of charity at Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople: and with a wonderfully munificent spirit of religion, he founded the archiepiscopal See of Gran and ten other bishoprics. His love for the poor was equalled only by his generosity towards them; for, seeing in them Christ himself, he never sent anyone away sad or empty-handed. So great indeed was his charity that, to relieve their necessities, after expending large sums of money, he often bestowed upon them his household goods. It was his custom to wash the feet of the poor with his own hands, and to visit the hospitals at night, alone and unknown, serving the sick and showing them every charity. As a reward for these good deeds his right hand remained incorrupt after death, when the rest of his body had returned to dust.
He was much given to prayer; and would spend almost entire nights without sleep, rapt in heavenly contemplation; at times he was seen ravished out of his senses, and raised in the air. By the help of prayer, he more than once escaped in a wonderful manner from treasonable conspiracies and from the attacks of powerful enemies. Having married Ghisella of Bavaria, sister of the emperor St Henry, he had by her a son Emeric, whom he brought up in such regularity and piety as to form him into a saint. He summoned wise and holy men from all parts to aid him in the government of his kingdom, and undertook nothing without their advice. In sackcloth and ashes, he besought God with most humble prayer, that he might not depart this life without seeing the whole kingdom of Hungary Catholic. So great indeed was his zeal for the propagation of the Faith, that he was called the Apostle of his nation, and he received from the Roman Pontiff, both for himself and for his successors, the privilege of having the Cross borne before them.
He had the most ardent devotion towards the Mother of God, in whose honour he built a magnificent church, solemnly declaring her patroness of Hungary. In return the Blessed Virgin received him into heaven on the very day of her Assumption, which the Hungarians, by the appointment of their holy king, call “the day of the Great Lady”. His sacred body, exhaling a most fragrant odour and distilling a heavenly liquor, was, by order of the Roman Pontiff, translated, amidst many and divers miracles, to a more worthy resting place, and buried with great honour. Pope Innocent IX commanded his feast to be celebrated on the fourth of the Nones of September; on which day Leopold I, emperor elect of the Romans and king of Hungary, had, by the divine assistance, gained a remarkable victory over the Turks at the siege of Buda’.
from the Roman Breviary
Grant thy Church, we pray, Almighty God: that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary, who fostered her growth while a king on earth, as her glorious defender in heaven, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Let us consider the tragic and sublime conclusion of Maximilian Kolbe’s innocent and apostolic life. It is mainly to this that we owe the glorification of the meek humble, hard working religious, exemplary follower of St Francis and knight in love with Mary Immaculate that the Church celebrates today. The circumstances of his departure from this life are so horrible and harrowing that we would prefer not to speak of them, and never to contemplate them again, in order not to see the depths of inhuman degradation to which the abuse of power can lead, an abuse which seeks to make a pedestal of grandeur and glory from the impassive cruelty it inflicts upon helpless beings that it has degraded to the rank of slaves and doomed to extermination. There were millions of these victims sacrificed to the pride of force and the madness of racism. Nevertheless it is necessary to scan this dark picture again in order to pick out, here and there, the gleams of surviving humanity. Alas, history cannot forget these frightful and tragic pages. And so it cannot but fix its horrified gaze on the luminous points that reveal, but at the same time overcome, their inconceivable darkness.
One of these points, perhaps the one glowing most brightly, is the calm, drained figure of Maximilian Kolbe. A serene hero, always pious and sustained by a paradoxical, yet reasonable confidence. His name will remain among the great; it will reveal what reserves of moral values lay among those unhappy masses, petrified by horror and despair.
Over this immense vestibule of death hovers a divine and imperishable word of life, that of Jesus revealing the secret of innocent suffering: to be the expiation, the victim, the burnt sacrifice and, above all, to be love for others. “There is no greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Jesus was speaking of himself in the imminence of his sacrifice for the salvation of men. Men are all friends of Jesus, if they at least listen to his words. Father Kolbe fulfilled his maxim of redeeming love in the fatal concentration camp of Oswiecim. And this by a double title’.
from the homily of Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
at the Beatification Mass for St Maximilian Kolbe, 17 October 1971
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, helped by the prayers of this devoted servant of the immaculate Mother of God; we too may strive to serve others for thy glory, and become like unto thy dear Son, who loved his own even unto the end; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Jane… came from a noble family (born 1572), was married by her father to the Baron von Chantal (1592). As mother she most zealously instructed her children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.
The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she born with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Francis of Sales; with his approval she left her father and children and founded the Visitation nuns.
…Few days in St Jane’s life were more heartbreaking than that on which she said adieu to her family and entered the convent. “Her departure was set for the twenty-ninth of May, 1610. On that day all her relatives met and at the Fremiot home. It was a large gathering, and all were in tears. Frances Chantal alone seemed to retain composure, but in her eyes too glistening tears betrayed how much strength of will was needed to keep her heart from breaking. She went from one to the other, and clasping each in turn, pleaded for forgiveness and commended herself to their prayers; but her attempts to dry their tears only resulted in fresh outbursts’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who madest Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in divers paths of life in the way of perfection: grant us, through her intercession; that, walking faithfully in our vocation, we may ever be examples of thy shining light; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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