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
‘Agatha went to prison radiant with joy and with head held high as though invited to a festive banquet. And she commended her agony to the Lord in prayer. The next day, as she again stood before the judge, she declared: “If you do not cause my body to be torn to pieces by the hangmen, my soul cannot enter the Lord’s paradise with the martyrs”. She was then stretched on the rack, burned with red-hot irons, and despoiled of her breasts. During these tortures she prayed: “For love of chastity I am made to hang from a rack. Help me, O Lord my God, as they knife my breasts”. Agatha rebuked the governor for his barbarity: “Godless, cruel, infamous tyrant, are you not ashamed to despoil a woman of that by which your own mother nursed you?”
Returning to prison, she prayed: “You have seen, O Lord, my struggle, how I fought in the place of combat; but because I would not obey the commands of rulers, my breasts were lacerated”. In the night there appeared to her a venerable old man, the apostle Peter, with healing remedies. Agatha, ever delicately modest, hesitated to show him her wounds. “I am the apostle of Christ; distrust me not, my daughter”. To which she replied: “I have never used earthly medicines on my body. I cling to the Lord Jesus Christ, who renews all things by His word”. She was miraculously healed by St Peter: “Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, I give you praise because by Your apostle You have restored my breasts”. Throughout the night a light illumined the dungeon. When the guards fled in terror, her fellow prisoners urged her to escape but she refused: “Having received help from the Lord, I will persevere in confessing Him who healed me and comforted me”.
Four days later she was again led before the judge. He, of course, was amazed over her cure. Nevertheless, he insisted that she worship the gods; which prompted another confession of faith in Christ. Then, by order of the governor, Agatha was rolled over pieces of sharp glass and burning coals. At that moment the whole city was rocked by a violent earthquake. Two walls collapsed, burying two of the governor’s friends in the debris. Fearing a popular uprising, he ordered Agatha, half-dead, to be returned to prison. Here she offered her dying prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, good Master, I give You thanks that You granted me victory over the executioners’ tortures. Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never-ending glory”. Thereupon she died’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the gentleness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom: grant, we beseech thee; that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of Saint Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain unto 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.
‘The glory of righteousness arises and lights every man who comes into this world and wishes him to come to knowledge of His name; at its setting it has cast rays of new brilliance upon the western lands of the western world. When its radiance had been cast into our midst from on high, there shone in the darkness of our night like a heavenly star brought among us a man of exemplary life called Gilbert. Chosen to be God’s servant in the land of England, he was born in a place called Sempringham of a distinguished family (something that usually and properly acts as an encouragement to virtue); but by the special nature of his life this man overcame both the world and his worldly origin’.
from The Book of St Gilbert (edited by Raymonde Foreville and Gillian Keir), Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we remember before thee all thy servants who have served thee faithfully in their generation, and have entered into rest, especially Gilbert of Sempringham, beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow in their steps; that with them we may be partakers of 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.
I’m asking very nicely now. Please help, Saint Blaise.
I can remember childhood days,
white candles held in front and crossed on my frail neck,
how from behind them I would look,
a roe behind two branches, apprehensively.
Mid-winter, and Saint Blaise’s Day,
my eyes were blinking, fixed upon the aged priest
wholly intent on praying just
to you, but bending over me kneeling before
the altar; true to sacred lore,
he muttered in a learned language neither I
nor he well understood. Yet my
health was preserved; you understood the formula;
you kept from me diptheria,
and inflammation of the tonsils, even croup,
with this result: I have grown up,
keeping, for half a century, so very well
that I’ve not thought of you at all.
O Bishop of Sebasta, don’t be hurt by my
ingratitude. Help me today!
You know the childish way in which we all go on:
we don’t look back, we cut and run
away along the drifting highway, letting go
the hands of higher beings; you
just smile at us as adults do, being wise, not hurt
by what is simply lack of thought,
smiling at us once more when, troubled, we return,
as I, I must admit, have done
today with beating heart… Please smile at me, Saint Blaise!
Yes, smile at me, upon my knees
before your simple altar-stone, a whimpering whelp –
smile if you like, Saint Blaise, but help!
The trouble is, you see, a treacherous disease
is killing me, starting to squeeze
my larynx tighter, and my air is running out,
just as a climber’s breath comes short
and climbing gets more difficult, or like a ton-
weight on my back; so I go on
in everlasting panting, while the surgeon’s knife
is threatening to preserve my life
by cutting up my wretched throat, that very throat
which I, farsightedly, held out
(remember, Blaise!) between your candles long ago…
Your consecrated larynx too,
when those so-wicked heathen were intent on killing,
blunt knives cut: so you know the feeling!
You know the blade’s edge and the taste of blood, you know
moments of desperation too
in the contraction of the torn windpipe, the fight
in terror as we suffocate.
Help! It is over now for you, you know it all,
you wise grown-up! You know quite well
what pain is bearable, how much is not too much
even for all the goodness which
is God, and what life’s worth… And even, maybe, that
death is nothing to write home about.
Mihály Babits, 1883-1941
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Blaise, thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may likewise rejoice in his protection; 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.
‘Don Bosco is a shining example of a life marked by apostolic zeal, lived at the service of the Church in the Congregation and in the Salesian Family. At the school of St Joseph Cafasso, your Founder learned to make his own the motto “Give me souls, take away all else”, as the synthesis of a model of pastoral action inspired by the figure and spirituality of St Francis de Sales. This model fits into the horizon of the absolute primacy of God’s love, a love that succeeds in shaping passionate personalities eager to contribute to Christ’s mission to set the whole earth ablaze with the fire of his love (cf. Lk 12.49). Besides the ardour of God’s love, another characteristic of the Salesian model is awareness of the inestimable value of “souls”. This perception by contrast generates an acute sense of sin and its devastating consequences in time and in eternity. The apostle is called to cooperate with the Saviour's redeeming action in order that no one be lost. “Saving souls”, precisely as St Peter said, was thus Don Bosco’s raison d’être. His immediate successor, Bl Michele Rua, summed up the life of your beloved Father and Founder in these words: “He did not give way, he did not speak, did not turn his hand to any task that did not aim at the salvation of young people.... He truly had only their souls at heart”’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; 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.
1. Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee,
Who in thy Sacrament art pleased to be;
Both flesh and spirit in thy presence fail,
Yet here thy presence we devoutly hail.
2. O blest memorial of our dying Lord,
Who living bread to men doth here afford!
O may our souls forever feed on thee,
and thou, O Christ, for ever precious be!
3. Fountain of goodness, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing blood;
Increase our faith and love, that we may know
The hope and peace which from thy presence flow.
4. O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see,
May what we thirst for soon our portion be,
To gaze on thee unveiled, and see thy face,
The vision of thy glory and thy grace.
St Thomas Aquinas, 1227-1274
translated by James Woodford, 1820-1885
‘When he went into church he heard what the Lord said in the gospel, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow”. He could not wait any longer, but went out and gave away even what he had kept back to the poor. He left his sister in the care of some well-known, trustworthy virgins, putting her in a convent to be brought up, and he devoted himself to the ascetic life not far from his home, living in recollection and practising self-denial.
He laboured with his own hands, for he had heard that “If anyone will not work, let him not eat”. And of what he earned, part he spent on food, and part he gave to the poor.
He prayed frequently, for he had learned that one ought to pray in secret, and pray without ceasing. He was so careful in his reading of scripture that nothing escaped him, but he retained it all; so that afterwards his memory served him in place of books.
And so all the people of the village, and the good men with whom he associated saw what kind of man he was and they called him “The friend of God”. Some loved him as a son, and others as though he were a brother’.
From the ‘Life of St Anthony’ by St Athanasius, 296-373
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Bro. André Bessette, a native of Quebec in Canada, and a religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, experienced suffering and poverty at a very early age. They led him to have recourse to God through prayer and an intense inner life. As porter of the College of Notre Dame in Montreal, he demonstrated boundless charity and strove to relieve the distress of those who came to confide in him. With very little education, he had nevertheless understood where the essential of his faith was situated. For him, believing meant submitting freely and through love to the divine will. Wholly inhabited by the mystery of Jesus, he lived the beatitude of pure of heart, that of personal rectitude. It is thanks to this simplicity that he enabled many people to see God. He had built the Oratory of St Joseph of Mount Royal, whose faithful custodian he remained until his death in 1937. He was the witness of innumerable cures and conversions. “Do not seek to have your trials removed", he said, “ask rather for the grace to bear them well”. For him, everything spoke of God and of God's presence. May we, in his footsteps, seek God with simplicity in order to discover him ever present in the heart of our life! May the example of Bro. André inspire Canadian Christian life!’
from the homily at the Canonisation Mass, 17 October 2010, of St André Bessette
by Pope Benedict XVI
O Lord our God, who art friend of the lowly and who gavest to thy servant Saint André Bessette, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted: help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love, and so come to share with him in thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal
‘As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer’.
St Basil the Great, 330-379
Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to to know the power of thine unending love; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘It is a psychological fact that baffled wrath and baffled lust produce cruelty, but the whole revelation of love is that love is never baffled and has its own way of meeting and over-ruling the cruelties of sin. The slaughter of the Holy Innocents was due to the baffled wrath of Herod. But the same love that could conquer amidst all the cruelties of Calvary could conquer in ways that we may not understand, but can wholly trust, in this incident, in which the coming of the mysterious Child to His Maiden Mother brought such pain to so many little children and to so many mothers who were contemporaries of Blessed Mary.
The Church does not shirk stating the hard facts of life, but her liturgy twines the gold thread of faith, hope, and love amidst all the dark purple of her tapestries which portray for us life’s tragedies. The Festival of the Holy Innocents knits all child life to the sanctity of fellowship with the Holy Child, and the sufferings of little children are made to rank through this solemnity with the martyrdom of saints.
The fact that our Lord became a child must teach us that we cannot possibly think too sacredly of the responsibility of every kind of contact with child life, and in all our sadness at the knowledge of cruelties that have been done to the innocent and helpless we can comfort ourselves that there is a festival of the Holy Innocents. In the beautiful words of Baruch which form part of the proper lesson for the day we can say: “Be of good cheer, O my children… for my hope is in the Everlasting that He will save you… God will give you to me again with joy and gladness for ever”’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and nurslings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: mortify and kill all vices in us; and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith, even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Saint of the Sacred Heart
Sweet Teacher of the Word,
Partner of Mary’s woes,
And favourite of thy Lord!
Thou to whom grace was given
To stand where Peter fell;
Whose heart could brook the Cross
Of Him it loved so well!
We know not all thy gifts;
But this Christ bids us see,
That He who so loved all
Found more to love in thee.
Dear Saint! I stand far off,
With vilest sins opprest;
Oh may I dare, like thee,
To lean upon His breast?
His touch could heal the sick,
His voice could raise the dead!
Oh that my soul might be
Where He allows thy head.
The gifts He gave to thee
He gave thee to impart;
And I, too, claim with thee
His Mother and His Heart.
Ah teach me, then, dear Saint!
The secrets Christ taught thee,
The beatings of His Heart,
And how it beat for thee.
Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church: that she being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that she may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Today’s feast can easily be harmonised with Advent themes. The very name Lucy pulsates with light, a living symbol amid the season’s darkness (the days are now the shortest of the year). As a wise virgin Lucy advances with a burning lamp to meet the Bridegroom. She typifies the Church and the soul now preparing their bridal robes for a Christmas marriage.
That the famous Sicilian martyr really lived may be deduced from the great popular veneration accorded her since most ancient times. The Acts detailing her sufferings, however, merit little credence. According to these she made a pilgrimage to Catonia with her mother, who suffered from haemorrhage, to venerate the body of St Agatha. After praying devoutly at the tomb, Agatha appeared to her in a dream and consoled her: “O virgin Lucy, why do you ask of me what you yourself can procure for your mother? For your faith too has come to her aid and therefore she has been cured. By your virginity you have indeed prepared for God a lovely dwelling”. And her mother actually was healed.
Immediately Lucy asked permission to remain a virgin and to distribute her future dowry among Christ’s poor. Child and mother returned to their native city of Syracuse, and Lucy proceeded to distribute the full proceeds from the sale of her property among the poor. When a young man, to whom Lucy’s parents had promised the virgin's hand against her will, had heard of the development, he reported her to the city prefect as a Christian. “Your words will be silenced”, the prefect said to her, “when the storm of blows falls upon you!” The virgin: “To God’s servants the right words will not be wanting, for the Holy Spirit speaks in us”. “Yes”, she continued, “all who live piously and chastely are temples of the Holy Spirit”. “Then”, he replied, “I shall order you put with prostitutes and the Holy Spirit will depart from you”. Lucy: “If I am dishonoured against my will, my chastity will secure for me a double crown of victory”.
Aflame with anger, the judge imposed the threatened order. But God made the virgin solidly firm in her place and no force could move her. “With such might did the Holy Spirit hold her firm that the virgin of Christ remained immovable”. Thereupon they poured heated pitch and resin over her: “I have begged my Lord Jesus Christ that this fire have no power over me. And in testimony of Him I have asked a postponement of my death”. When she had endured all this without the least injury, they pierced her throat with a sword. Thus she victoriously ended her martyrdom’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Lord our Saviour, who art the true Light that lighteneth every man: graciously hear us; that like as we do rejoice in the festival of blessed Lucy, thy Virgin and Martyr, so we may learn to follow her in all godly and devout affections; who liveth and reigneth with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[St Damasus] occupied the Chair of Peter from 366 to 384. The Church had recently acquired liberty and now it was the task of the popes to develop her potentialities, especially in matters pertaining to divine worship. Damsus proved himself equal to the task. It is to his credit to have given the Church a good translation of the Sacred Scriptures. He called upon St Jerome to render the Bible into Latin, the version later called the Vulgate. This translation is still used in the liturgy. On his feast day Damsus tells us: Read the Bible zealously.
He was also much interested in the liturgy. He is said to have introduced the chant of the psalms into all the Roman churches; the singing was to be by alternating choirs with the “Glory be to the Father…” added at the end of each psalm. In imitation of a custom at Jerusalem he introduced the Alleluia into Sunday Masses. Pope Damsus also provided honourable burial for the bodies of many martyrs and composed inscriptions in verse for almost all of the then-known martyrs, thereby becoming their highly distinguished panegyrist. St Jerome said of him: “He was the virgin teacher of a virgin Church”. A splendid encomium for any priest’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Grant, we pray thee, O Lord: that we may constantly exalt the merits of thy Martyrs, whom Pope Saint Damasus so venerated and loved; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
God, in thee have I trusted,
Saint Nicholas, to thee I entrust my prayers,
Upon thee both I cast my care,
even upon thee I throw my soul.
This is what thou exact from me
Thee, by thy commands, thee, by thy counsels.
Receive him who throws himself upon thee both,
Hast him who is prostrate before thee.
Keep me when I sleep, help me in what ever I do,
Inspire me in whatever I think,
Thee, Lord, by thy grace,
Thee, Nicholas, by thy intercession
Thee for the merits of thy so loved confessor,
Thee according to the name of thee and my Creator,
who is blessed for evermore. Amen.
St Anselm of Canterbury, c.1033-1109
O God, who didst adorn thy blessed Bishop Saint Nicholas with power to work many and great miracles: grant, we beseech thee; that by his prayers and merits, we may be delivered from the fires of everlasting torment; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate’s severest rage disarm:
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please:
Our joys below it can improve,
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found,
And to her Maker’s praise confin’d the sound.
When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,
Th’immortal pow’rs incline their ear;
Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,
While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
And Angels lean from heav’n to hear.
Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater pow’r is giv’n;
His numbers rais’d a shade from hell,
Hers lift the soul to heav’n.
from Ode on St Cecilia’s Day by Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
On this memorial of St Edmund, King and Martyr, photographs from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk (Anglican cathedral and St Mary’s Church, formerly part of the dissolved abbey), taking during two pilgrimages from St John the Evangelist, Calgary to England in 2010 and 2015.
‘No Christian can be surprised that innocence should suffer. Prosperity is often the most grievous judgment that God exercises upon a wicked man, who by it is suffered, in punishment of his impiety, to blind and harden himself in his evil courses, and to plunge himself deeper in iniquity. On the other hand, God, in his merciful providence, conducts second causes, so that afflictions fall to the share of those souls whose sanctification he has particularly in view. By tribulation a man learns perfectly to die to the world and himself, a work which without its aid, even the severest self-denial, and the most perfect obedience, leave imperfect. By tribulation we learn the perfect exercise of humility, patience, meekness, resignation, and pure love of God; which are neither practised nor learned without such occasions. By a good use of tribulation a person becomes a saint in a very short time, and at a cheap rate. The opportunity and grace of suffering well is a mercy in favour of chosen souls; and a mercy to which every saint from Abel to the last of the elect is indebted for his crown. We meet with sufferings from ourselves, from disappointments, from friends and from enemies. We are on every side beset with crosses. But we bear them with impatience and complaints. Thus we cherish our passions, and multiply sins by the very means which are given us to crucify and overcome them. To learn to bear crosses well is one of the most essential and most important duties of a Christian life. To make a good use of the little crosses which we continually meet with, is the means of making the greatest progress in all virtue, and of obtaining strength to stand our ground under great trials. St Edmund’s whole life was a preparation for martyrdom’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God of unspeakable mercy, who didst give thy blessed Saint Edmund grace to overcome the enemy by dying for thy Name: mercifully grant to us thy servants; that by his intercession we may be found worthy to conquer and subdue the temptations of our ancient adversary; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.
Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy. In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3.1).
It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.
Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, “losing ourselves”, and it is precisely this that makes us happy’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Conference between Christ, the Saints, and the Soul
I am pale with sick desire,
For my heart is far away
From this world’s fitful fire
And this world's waning day;
In a dream it overleaps
A world of tedious ills
To where the sunshine sleeps
On th’ everlasting hills.
Say the Saints – There Angels ease us
Glorified and white.
They say – We rest in Jesus,
Where is not day nor night.
My Soul saith – I have sought
For a home that is not gained,
I have spent yet nothing bought,
Have laboured but not attained;
My pride strove to rise and grow,
And hath but dwindled down;
My love sought love, and lo!
Hath not attained its crown.
Say the Saints – Fresh Souls increase us,
None languish nor recede.
They say – We love our Jesus,
And He loves us indeed.
I cannot rise above,
I cannot rest beneath,
I cannot find out Love,
Nor escape from Death;
Dear hopes and joys gone by
Still mock me with a name;
My best beloved die
And I cannot die with them.
Say the Saints – No deaths decrease us,
Where our rest is glorious.
They say – We live in Jesus,
Who once died for us.
Oh, my Soul, she beats her wings
And pants to fly away
Up to immortal Things
In the Heavenly day:
Yet she flags and almost faints;
Can such be meant for me?
Come and see—say the Saints.
Saith Jesus – Come and see.
Say the Saints – His Pleasures please us
Before God and the Lamb.
Come and taste My Sweets – saith Jesus –
Be with Me where I am.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Today, the Feast of the Apostles Ss Simon and Jude, is a day of some personal significance. This was the day, in 1903, that the College of the Resurrection was founded by the Anglican monastic Community of the Resurrection, at Mirfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and this Foundation Day was always kept at the College with much rejoicing. Over the past hundred years a number of the men, myself included, who were formed for ministry in the Church of England at Mirfield eventually found their way into the full communion of the Catholic Church. One of the present members of the Community, Monsignor Robert Mercer CR (pictured above in a 1960s CR booklet entitled ‘Bread of Life’), the former Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland, is now a priest of the Ordinariate in England. Today, I give happy thanks for the invaluable contribution that Mirfield – College and Community – made in forming me for pastoral and sacramental ministry, and further teaching me the Catholic Faith within the Church of England. It was, though I’m sure unintended(!), for myself and many others, a great impetus towards communion with the See of Peter and, as such, the Collect for today is particularly fitting.
O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone: grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine; that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Chad governed his diocese of Lichfield two years and a half, and died in the great pestilence on the 2nd of March, in 673. Bede gives the following relation of his passage: “Among the eight monks whom he kept with him at Lichfield, was one Owini, who came with Queen Ethelred, commonly called St Audry, from the province of the East Angles, and was her major-domo, and the first officer of her court, till quitting the world, clad in a mean garment, and carrying an axe and a hatchet in his hand, he went to the monastery of Lestingay, signifying that he came to work, and not to be idle; which he made good by his behaviour in the monastic state. This monk declared that he one day heard a joyful melody of some persons sweetly singing, which descended from heaven into the bishop’s oratory, filled the same for about half an hour, then mounted again to heaven. After this, the bishop opening his window, and seeing him at his work, bade him call the other seven brethren. When the eight monks were entered his oratory, he exhorted them to preserve peace, and religiously observe the rules of regular discipline; adding that the amiable guest who was wont to visit their brethren had vouchsafed to come to him that day, and to call him out of this world. Wherefore he earnestly recommended his passage to their prayers, and pressed them to prepare for their own, the hour of which is uncertain, by watching, prayer, and good works”. The bishop fell presently into a languishing distemper, which daily increased, till, on the seventh day, having received the body and blood of our Lord, he departed to bliss, to which he was invited by the happy soul of his brother St Cedd and a company of angels with heavenly music. He was buried in the Church of St Mary, in Lichfield; but his body was soon after removed to that of St Peter, in both places honoured by miraculous cures, as Bede mentions. His relics were afterwards translated into the great church which was built in 1148, under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin and St Chad, which is now the cathedral, and they remained there till the change of religion’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of thy Bishops Chad and Cedd: grant to us, thy humble servants, the same faith and power of love; that, as we rejoice in their triumph, we may profit by their example and prayers; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Driven by the fire of the Holy Spirit, the holy apostles travelled throughout the earth. Inflamed with the same fire, apostolic missionaries have reached, are now reaching, and will continue to reach the ends of the earth, from one pole to the other, in order to proclaim the word of God. They are deservedly able to apply to themselves those words of the apostle Paul: “The love of Christ drives us on”.
The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal. The zealous man desires and achieve all great things and he labours strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.
Because he is concerned also for his neighbour, the man of zeal works to fulfil his desire that all men be content on this earth and happy and blessed in their heavenly homeland, that all may be saved, and that no one may perish for ever, or offend God, or remain even for a moment in sin. Such are the concerns we observe in the holy apostles and in all who are driven by the apostolic spirit.
For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he deserves and works with all this strength to inflame all men with the fire of God’s love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labours strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate him by his prayers, his labours, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls’.
St Anthony Mary Claret, 1807-1870
O God, who for the evangelisation of peoples didst strengthen the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret with admirable charity and long-suffering: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things that are thine, we may earnestly devote ourselves to winning our brethren for Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The reality that John Paul II was a saint became increasingly apparent to me in the years I worked together with him… [He] did not ask for applause and never looked troubled when he was making difficult decisions. He acted in accord with his faith and beliefs, and he was willing to endure blows against him. I could and should not imitate him, but I did try to continue his legacy and his mission the best way I could. Without him, my spiritual and theological journey is not even imaginable’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy Universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
The Acolyte’s Toolbox