‘Whenever I am in Northumbria, I think about Cuthbert. He is, even today, a much-loved figure in the north, and I share with him a real love of the monastic life. Early in his youth he had entered the Monastery of Melrose, and, after being there for a while, became prior. He is fondly remembered for his visits to the neighbouring hamlets and cottages of the poor. He would gather the people around him, preaching, hearing confessions and doing whatever he could to alleviate their suffering.
He was asked to assume greater responsibilities and became Prior of Holy Island. I quite easily understand how, when he was at Holy Island, Cuthbert came to a crossroads in his life. He longed to be nearer to God, and his solution lay among the remote rocks, seven miles from Lindisfarne. Cuthbert became a hermit on Inner Farne, one of the Farne Islands.
A small cell and chapel were constructed for him on Inner Farne, where a spring supplied him with water and a small plot of land enabled him to grow barley for food. There he experienced peace and contentment in continual prayer and conversation with God’.
Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB OM, 1923-1999
Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Cuthbert from tending sheep to follow thy Son and to be a shepherd of thy people: in thy mercy, grant that we may so follow his example; that we may bring those who are lost home to thy fold; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘During the fourteen years that this holy Pope held the place of Peter, he was the object of the admiration of the Christian world, both in the East and West. His profound learning, his talent for administration, his position, all tended to make him beloved and respected. But who could describe the virtues of his great soul? that contempt for the world and its riches, which led him to seek obscurity in the cloister; that humility, which made him flee the honours of the Papacy, and hide himself in a cave, where, at length, he was miraculously discovered, and God himself put into his hands the Keys of Heaven, which he was evidently worthy to hold, because he feared the responsibility; that zeal for the whole flock, of which he considered himself not the master, but the servant, so much so indeed that he assumed the title, which the Popes have ever since retained, of Servant of the Servants of God; that charity which took care of the poor throughout the whole world; that ceaseless solicitude, which provided for every calamity, whether public or private; that unruffled sweetness of manner, which he showed to all around him, in spite of the bodily sufferings which never left him during the whole period of his laborious pontificate; that firmness in defending the deposit of the Faith, and crushing error wheresoever it showed itself; in a word, that vigilance with regard to discipline, which made itself felt for long ages after in the whole Church? All these services, and glorious examples of virtue have endeared our Saint to the whole world, and will make his name be blessed by all future generations, even to the end of time’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Almighty and merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Pope Gregory to be the servant of the servants of God, and didst inspire him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: preserve in thy Church the Catholic and Apostolic Faith they taught; that thy people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘No admiring contemporary wrote Aidan’s biography, and there are therefore but a few personal stories of him. But Bede, who, although he deplored his peculiarly Celtic ecclesiastical customs, had a most loving respect for him and refers to him always as “the good”, relates to instances of his spiritual power, which he had learnt from men who is integrity he trusted. A deputation, headed by a trusted priest, was going to Kent to fetch the royal bride for Oswy, and he came first to Lindisfarne to ask for prayers for his journey. Aidan when he blessed him gave him a little cruse of oil, saying, “On your return sea-voyage I know you will meet with stormy weather, but remember to cast this oil on the sea, and then the wind will subside, you will have a pleasant calm, and return in safety”. And all fell out as Aidan had foretold. The second story is of the Mercian invasion, when the dread King Penda was ravaging Northumbria and had attacked royal Bamborough, which he was firing with the wind in his favour. From his island of prayer Aidan could see the terrible flames leaping the city walls. “Behold, Lord, how great mischief Penda does!” The words were hardly out of his mouth when those standing by saw the sudden veering of the wind so that the fierce fire turned back on the attackers; which so alarmed them that they withdrew, realising that the city was under a supernatural protection against which their weapons would be useless. And what a perfect form of intercession: simply, “Behold, Lord.”’
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
O everlasting God, who didst send thy gentle Bishop Aidan to proclaim the Gospel in Britain: grant that, aided by his prayers, we may live after his teaching in simplicity, humility, and love for the poor; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saint Aidan, Bishop, and the Saints of Lindisfarne, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: “I am the truth”? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptising, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men. He was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ.
To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”’
St Bede the Venerable, c.672-735
O God who didst send thy messenger, Saint John the Baptist, to be the forerunner of the Lord, and to glorify thee by his death: grant that we, who have received the truth of thy most holy Gospel, may bear our witness thereunto; and after his example and aided by his prayers, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘In spite of this reluctance to give up a secular life, yet in proportion as the light of Christian truth opened on Augustine’s mind, so was he drawn on to that higher Christian state on which our Lord and His Apostle have bestowed special praise. So it was, and not unnaturally in those times, that high and earnest minds, when they had found the truth, were not content to embrace it by halves; they would take all or none, they would go all lengths, they would covet the better gifts, or else they would remain as they were. It seemed to them absurd to take so much trouble to find the truth, and to submit to such a revolution in their opinions and motives as its reception involved; and yet, after all, to content themselves with a second-best profession, unless there was some plain duty obliging them to live the secular life they had hitherto led. The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, the pomp of life, the pride of station, and the indulgence of sense, would be tolerated by the Christian, then only, when it would be a sin to renounce them. The pursuit of gain may be an act of submission to the will of parents; a married life is the performance of a solemn and voluntary vow; but it may often happen, and did happen in Augustine’s day especially, that there are no religious reasons against a man’s giving up the world, as our Lord and His Apostles renounced it. When his parents were heathen, or were Christians of his own high temper, when he had no fixed engagement or position in life, when the State itself was either infidel or but partially emerging out of its old pollutions, and when grace was given to desire and strive after, if not fully to reach, the sanctity of the Lamb’s virginal company, duty would often lie, not in shunning, but in embracing an ascetic life. Besides, the Church in the fourth century had had no experience yet of temporal prosperity; she knew religion only amid the storms of persecution, or the uncertain lull between them, in the desert or the catacomb, in insult, contempt, and calumny. She had not yet seen how opulence, and luxury, and splendour, and pomp, and polite refinement, and fashion, were compatible with the Christian name; and her more serious children imagined, with a simplicity or narrowness of mind which will in this day provoke a smile that they ought to imitate Cyprian and Dionysius in their mode of living and their habits, as well as in their feelings, professions, and spiritual knowledge. They thought that religion consisted in deeds, not words. Riches, power, rank, and literary eminence, were then thought misfortunes, when viewed apart from the service they might render to the cause of truth; the atmosphere of the world was thought unhealthy:—Augustine then, in proportion as he approached the Church, ascended towards heaven’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
O merciful Lord, who didst turn Saint Augustine from his sins to be a faithful Bishop and teacher: grant that we may follow him in penitence and godly discipline; till our restless hearts find their rest in thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We are provided with a considerable amount of information about [St Monica] by her son in his autobiography, Confessions, one of the widest read literary masterpieces of all time. In them we learn that St Augustine drank in the name of Jesus with his mother’s milk, and that his mother brought him up in the Christian religion whose principles remained impressed upon him even in his years of spiritual and moral dissipation.
Monica never ceased to pray for him and for his conversion and she had the consolation of seeing him return to the faith and receive Baptism. God heard the prayers of this holy mother, of whom the Bishop of Tagaste had said: “the son of so many tears could not perish.” In fact, St Augustine not only converted but decided to embrace the monastic life and, having returned to Africa, founded a community of monks.
His last spiritual conversations with his mother in the tranquillity of a house at Ostia, while they were waiting to embark for Africa, are moving and edifying. By then St Monica had become for this son of hers, “more than a mother, the source of his Christianity.” For years her one desire had been the conversion of Augustine, whom she then saw actually turning to a life of consecration at the service of God. She could therefore die happy, and in fact she passed away on 27 August 387, at the age of 56, after asking her son not to trouble about her burial but to remember her, wherever he was, at the Lord’s altar. St Augustine used to say that his mother had “conceived him twice.”’
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who art the Comforter of them that mourn, and the Salvation of them that hope in thee, who didst graciously regard the tearful pleading of blessed Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine: grant, we beseech thee, at their united intercession; that we may truly lament our sins and be made worthy to obtain thy gracious pardon; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today is the memorial of the Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist priest and missionary to England, who received our great patron, St John Henry Newman, into the one fold of the Redeemer on 9 October 1845 at Littlemore, just outside Oxford.
‘Have mercy then on England; and behold, O Lord, if thou wilt accomplish this, new temples shall be raised to the honour of thy name, and new altars: sacrifices also shall be offered acceptable unto thee, even the sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist; and in these holy temples shall thy infinite majesty be praised and adored; Jesus thy son shall once more be loved and praised; and Mary also shall be praised and invocated. Vouchsafe then, O Lord, to accomplish with thy powerful arm this thing, which thou hast inspired me to beg of thee. I shall never be fully happy until I behold the completion of these my desires; I shall not die contented unless I behold brought back to the fold of thy Church the nations which for many years and ages have dwelt far off from thee. But if it be thy will that I die before I see this accomplished, I shall die contented only if I am assured that it shall one day come to pass after my death. Yes, O Lord, I am ready to die this instant, or to suffer the heaviest temporal calamity, on this condition, that England shall return to the true faith. I ask not, O Lord, to be the instrument of so great a work, no, to thee I leave it to choose who shall be the minister of thy mercies; only do I beg of thee the salvation of my dear brethren’.
from The Lamentation of England by Blessed Dominic Barberi, 1792-1849
O God, who didst choose thy Priest Blessed Dominic Barberi to be a minister of thy salvation, so that his teaching and example might help many to find peace and reconciliation in thy Church: mercifully guide our steps, we humbly pray, along that same way of love and truth, until by thy grace we gain its eternal reward; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There are many of the Saints of whom it may be said that we know very little more than just their names. Of St Bartholomew we know even less, because we are not even sure that this really was his name. Some scholars think that he may have been the same Apostle whom St John, in the first chapter of his gospel, calls Nathanael, and who was introduced to Jesus by Philip in the very first days of our Lord’s ministry. But this is not much more than a guess, and so, perhaps, we may be inclined to wonder why someone of whom so little is known that we are not even sure who he really was, ever came to have a place in the Calendar of Saints and be commemorated by many thousands of Christian people on this day every year for so many centuries.
This suggests a thought which is well worth pondering. It is given to very few of us to leave behind a name which will appear in the history books of later generations. Most of us are just ordinary folk, destined neither for fame nor, let us hope, for infamy… [but] though there may never be a monument erected in our honour and our names may be forgotten in a comparatively short time, yet there are memorials more enduring than brass or stone; memorials that live and breathe in the lives that we have touched, either for good or ill on our journey down the years.
‘[A]lthough we know nothing of his life, or even who he really was, I like to think of St Bartholomew not as a particular person but rather as a type and representative, the Patron Saint, so to speak, of all those unknown, unremembered people to whose quiet influence and good example we owe all that is finest and best in our own characters. They are ordinary folk for the most part; but they too are the saints of God, even though no churches are dedicated to their names and they are not included in the Calendar of Saints. And, in the words of a favourite hymn, “They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still.”’
Harry N. Hancock
O Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine Apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church; to love that Word which he believed, and both to preach and to receive the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Bernard, solidly based on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by a profound relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming a futile intellectual exercise, and lose their credibility. Theology takes us back to the “science of the saints,” to their intuitions of the mysteries of the living God, to their wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, which become the point of reference for theological thought. Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognise that man seeks God better and finds him more easily “with prayer than with discussion.” In the end, the truest figure of the theologian and of every evangeliser is that of the Apostle John, who leaned his head on the heart of the Master’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, by whose grace the blessed Abbot Bernard, kindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: grant, at his intercession; that we may be inflamed with the same spirit of love, and ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘On Friday, August 15, the feast of the Assumption, twenty-four hours after Father Maximilian Kolbe’s life had been “scientifically” terminated, Bruno Borgowiec and another prisoner, who served as the barber for the SS, came to remove his body from the washroom where they had placed it the day before. They put it in a rough wooden box and then carried it to the incinerator to be cremated.
Thus, of all the millions of human beings who lost their lives at Auschwitz, Father Maximilian Kolbe was probably the only one to be honoured with a coffin for his remains and something resembling funeral rites.
Here in a few rapid strokes of the brush is the story of a man who once told his brethren, in a meeting at Niepokalanow, “I insist that you become saints, and great saints! Does that surprise you? But remember, my children, that holiness is not a luxury, but a simple duty. It is Jesus who told us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. So do not think it is such a difficult thing. Actually, it is a very simple mathematical problem. Let me show you on the blackboard my formula for sanctity. Then you will see how simple it is. Do we have a piece of chalk?”
On the blackboard he wrote: w = W.
“A very clear formula, don’t you agree? The little “w” stands for my will, the capital “W” for the will of God. When the two wills run counter to each other, you have the cross. Do you want to get rid of the cross? Then let your will be identified with that of God, who wants you to be saints. Isn’t that simple? All you must do is obey!”’
Sergius C. Lorit
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, holpen by the prayers of this devoted servant of the immaculate Mother of God; we too may strive to serve others for thy glory, and become like unto thy dear Son, who loved his own even unto the end; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘On went Mother de Chantal, preaching community, unanimity and the love taught in the Gospels, by her own example showing faithfulness in the smallest details, evangelical poverty and simplicity; in the monasteries where she stayed she discouraged every effort to make a fuss over her. Each morning she rose before everyone else to serve as “Caller” so that the community would be able to get all their prayers done before things became too hectic. When she was on the road, Mother could not stop to eat until three or four in the afternoon, and in poor villages all she could get would be milk, black bread and curd cheese, but even with that simple fare “she was quite content, sharing her happiness with everyone she met, so that all around her there was an atmosphere of peace and holy joy.” Peace, joy, contentment – those were the marks of Mother de Chantal’s pilgrimages among her spiritual daughters. The only thing that ever bothered her was those “cheers”, towns whose whole populations lined the route to wave and applaud or insisted on holding meetings and banquets in her honour, those “triumphal processions” fit for a queen that made her trips so long and arduous. She was so humble that all the praise cut her to the quick and caused her horrible interior suffering’.
Fr André Ravier SJ, 1905-1999
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 Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘History confirms to us how glorious is the name of this Saint... His concern for the poor, the generous service that he rendered to the Church of Rome in the context of assistance and charity, his fidelity to the Pope which he took to the point of desiring to follow him in the supreme trial of martyrdom and the heroic witness of pouring our his blood, which he suffered only a few days later, are facts well known to all. St Leo the Great, in a beautiful homily, thus comments on the atrocious martyrdom of this “illustrious hero”: “The flames of could not overcome Christ’s love and the fire that burned outside was less keen than that which blazed within.” And he adds: “The Lord desired to spread abroad his glory throughout the world, so that from the East to the West the dazzling brightness of his deacon’s light does shine, and Rome is become as famous through Lawrence as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen." (Homily 85, 4: PL 54, 486).
…[W]hat better message can we glean from St Lawrence than that of holiness? He repeats to us that holiness, that is, going to meet Christ who comes ceaselessly to visit us, does not go out of fashion, on the contrary as time passes it shines brightly and expresses the perennial striving for God of humankind... May Lawrence, a heroic witness of the Crucified and Risen Christ be for each person an example of docile adherence to the divine will, so that, as we heard the Apostle Paul remind the Corinthians, we too may live in such a way as to be found “guiltless” in the day of Our Lord (cf. 1 Cor 1.7-9).
Pope Benedict XVI
‘Joyousness sprang out of [his] physical energy, the sleepiness that found no bed too hard, neither the bare ground, nor the altar steps, nor the carved stalls. He loved the company of others, particularly the young. His radiant purity drew to him the generous hearts of all youth and made his very hands cool of their passions some tempted undergraduates.
Austere and hardy, able easily to bear fatigue, affectionate, touched quickly to tears and laughter, devoted to others, full of a lively gaiety of heart, he had the very foundation of the preacher’s gifts. Well educated, happy in his memory, trained to argument, he never neglected any means of keeping himself perfect for the work. He was abstemious in his food, singing loudly with his clear voice across the hills, gesticulating even in his prayers with indefatigable energy; he swayed and carried audiences of every kind.
With all an artist’s temperament and emotion he had the gifts of organisation and command; decisive, humble, lovable, his only weakness was too zealous and eagerness at first in publishing (of course, with the best of all motives) his austerities and even pretending a holy hypocrisy.
But that passed, and out of the strenuous pressure of life he awoke to sincerity and strength. The dreamer of Fanjeaux saw before him the level plains of his whole career when he planned his friars and Prouille. His portrait shows us that dreamer whose dreams came true, and reveals line by line the hidden power that faced them in marshalled pageantry “through the gates of horn”’.
from ‘Life of St Dominic’, 1924, by Fr Bede Jarrett OP (1881-1934)
Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘[Saint John Vianney] got to heaven by keeping both feet on the ground. This is the sane balance of the saints, the wisdom of the serpent affixed to the innocence of the dove; without it, wisdom becomes sophistry, and innocence is bleached by naïveté. Vianney did often point to heaven, and it is not too fanciful to say that his finger rubbed against its gates. It has to be that way, for if heaven is out of reach it is also out of truth. The most pragmatic people have shown that it is not so, and even Christ, who came from farthest away, said that his home is within people. This can only mean that the road to heaven is along the route to souls, and that to lose a soul is also to lose everything besides a soul. Vianney is a witness; “Paradise is in the heart of the perfect, who are truly united to our Lord; hell in that of the impious; purgatory in the souls who are not dead to themselves”’.
Fr George Rutler
Almighty and merciful God, who didst wonderfully endue Saint John Vianney with pastoral zeal and a continual desire for prayer and penance: grant, we beseech thee; that by his example and intercession, we may win the souls of our brethren for Christ, and with them attain glory everlasting; 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.
‘Alphonsian spirituality is in fact eminently Christological, centred on Christ and on his Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation and on the Lord’s Passion were often the subject of St Alphonsus’ preaching. In these events, in fact, Redemption is offered to all human beings “in abundance”. And precisely because it is Christological, Alphonsian piety is also exquisitely Marian. Deeply devoted to Mary he illustrates her role in the history of salvation: an associate in the Redemption and Mediatrix of grace, Mother, Advocate and Queen.
In addition, St Alphonsus states that devotion to Mary will be of great comfort to us at the moment of our death. He was convinced that meditation on our eternal destiny, on our call to participate for ever in the beatitude of God, as well as on the tragic possibility of damnation, contributes to living with serenity and dedication and to facing the reality of death, ever preserving full trust in God’s goodness.
St Alphonsus Maria Liguori is an example of a zealous Pastor who conquered souls by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments combined with behaviour impressed with gentle and merciful goodness that was born from his intense relationship with God, who is infinite Goodness. He had a realistically optimistic vision of the resources of good that the Lord gives to every person and gave importance to the affections and sentiments of the heart, as well as to the mind, to be able to love God and neighbour’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be able to attain in gladness 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.
‘Martha and Mary are two sisters; they also have a brother, Lazarus, but he does not appear on this occasion. Jesus is passing through their village and, the text says, Martha received him at her home. This detail enables us to understand that Martha is the elder of the two, the one in charge of the house. Indeed, when Jesus has been made comfortable, Mary sits at his feet and listens to him while Martha is totally absorbed by her many tasks, certainly due to the special Guest.
We seem to see the scene: one sister bustling about busily and the other, as it were, enraptured by the presence of the Teacher and by his words. A little later Martha, who is evidently resentful, can no longer resist and complains, even feeling that she has a right to criticise Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me”. Martha would even like to teach the Teacher! Jesus on the other hand answers her very calmly: “Martha, Martha”, and the repetition of her name expresses his affection, “you are anxious and troubled about many things; only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her”. Christ’s words are quite clear: there is no contempt for active life, nor even less for generous hospitality; rather, a distinct reminder of the fact that the only really necessary thing is something else: listening to the word of the Lord; and the Lord is there at that moment, present in the Person of Jesus! All the rest will pass away and will be taken from us but the word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily actions’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘The bride saint saw the Mother of God, Queen of the Heavens, wearing a priceless crown. Her beautiful shiny hair fell around her shoulders. The Virgin was wearing a brilliant golden tunic and a veil as blue as the sky; Bridget fell into a contemplative ecstasy, as if an internal life alienated her from herself.
All of a sudden Saint John the Baptist appeared and said to her, “Listen closely: I am about to reveal the meaning of all of this to you. The crown means that the Blessed Virgin is the Queen and Lady and Mother of the King of angels. Her hair signifies that she is the purist of virgins and absolutely perfect. Her sky blue veil denotes that all worldly things are dead to her. Her golden tunic symbolises that she has proved ardent love and charity, both inwardly and outwardly.
Her Son placed seven lilies in her crown, the first is her humility, the second is her fear; the third is her obedience; the fourth her patience; the fifth her serenity; the sixth her sweetness, because she is sweet and gives to all who invoke her when asking for something; the seventh is mercy when in need: because if anyone invokes her she will give them whatever they need.
The Son of God has placed among these seven lilies seven precious stones: the first is her eminent virtue, because there are no spirits that have virtue of a higher degree than that of the Blessed Virgin; the second is her perfect purity because the Queen of Heaven has been so pure that not even the minimal stain of sin has been on her, and no demon has ever managed to find any impurity in her. She is truly the most pure for it was opportune for the King of glory to be placed solely in the purest vessel chosen above all the angels and all mankind. The third precious stone is her beauty, because the saints praise God for the beauty of His mother and this completes the joy of all the angels and saints. The fourth precious stone on the crown represents the wisdom of the Virgin Mother because being adorned with splendour and beauty she is filled to the brim and endowed with every wisdom of God. The fifth precious stone is her strength because through God she is strong enough to destroy and dispose of everything that has been created. The sixth stone is her sparkle and light, because she illuminates the angels whose eyes are clearer than light and the demons heel to her beauty and do not dare look at her splendour. The seventh stone is the fulness of every delight, of all spiritual sweetness, present within her with such richness that there is no joy that does not grow from hers, nor any delight that is not completed by the vision of her beauty”’.
from the Revelations of St Bridget of Sweden, 1303-1373
O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women of all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ 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.
When blessed Marie wip’d her Saviours feet,
(Whose precepts she had trampled on before,)
And wore them for a jewell on her head,
Shewing his steps should be the street
Wherein she thenceforth evermore
With pensive humblenesse would live and tread:
She being stain’d herself, why did she strive
To make Him clean who could not be defil’d?
Why kept she not her tears for her own faults,
And not his feet? Though we could dive
In tears like seas, our sinnes are pil’d
Deeper then they in words, and works, and thoughts.
Deare soul, she knew who did vouchsafe and deigne
To bear her filth, and that her sinnes did dash
Ev’n God himself: wherefore she was not loth,
As she had brought wherewith to stain,
So to bring in wherewith to wash;
And yet, in washing one, she washed both.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘[T]he Lord asks us to be prudent people, as Paul says, who do not continue in ignorance but try to understand what is the will of the Lord, to discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. He wants to see us endowed with keen and right judgment, with neither a perverted nor inverted sense of values, lest we become like those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter. The Lord seeks a people undefiled by vices, but endowed and adorned with virtues. Lives there such a man who does not want others to think and speak well of him, who is not upset by some evil mark or remark levied against him? Even criminals detained in prison constantly profess their innocence and want others to concur in their opinion. They know that once their innocence is discounted, they have nothing to look forward to except continued incarceration or the galley of a slave ship. God desires us to be truly rich, truly noble, endowed with a lofty spirit and generous heart so that we will spurn the worthless goods of earth and strive only for those of heaven’.
from a Lenten sermon by St Lawrence of Brindisi, 1559-1619
O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform 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.
‘William of Malmesbury says that though this good bishop was a rich treasure of all virtues, those in which he took most delight were humility and charity to the poor; and in the discharge of his episcopal functions he omitted nothing belonging to a true pastor. He built divers churches, and repaired others; and made his journeys on foot, accompanied with his clerks, and often by night to avoid ostentation. Being to dedicate any church, he with all humility used to go barefoot to the place. His feasting was not with the rich, but with the needy and the poor. His mouth was always open to invite sinners to repentance, and to admonish those who stood to beware of falling. He was most severe to himself, and abstemious in his diet, never eating to satisfy his appetite, but barely to sustain nature; and as to sleep, he admitted no more than what after long watching and much labour was absolutely necessary. He was always delighted with psalms and spiritual canticles, and in conversation would bear no discourse but what tended to edification.
By his counsel and advice King Ethelwolf, in a Mycel synod, or great council of the nation, in 854, enacted a new law by which he gave the tithes, or tenth part of his land, throughout the kingdom to the church, exempt and free from all taxations and burthens, with an obligation of prayers in all churches for ever for his own soul, on every Wednesday, &c. This charter, to give it a more sacred sanction, he offered on the altar of St Peter at Rome in the pilgrimage which he made to that city in 855. He likewise procured it to be confirmed by the pope. He carried with him to Rome his youngest and best beloved son, Alfred, rebuilt there the school for the English, and ordered to be sent every year to Rome one hundred mancuses for the pope, one hundred for the church of St Peter, and as much for that of St Paul, to furnish them with lights on Easter Eve. He extended the Romescot, or Peterpence, to his whole kingdom. He reigned two years after his return from Rome, and died in 857. He ordained that throughout all his own hereditary lands every ten families shall maintain one poor person with meat, drink, and apparel; from whence came the corrodies, which still remain in divers places. St Swithin departed to eternal bliss, which he had always thirsted after, on the 2nd of July, 862, in the reign of King Ethelbert. His body was buried, according to his order, in the churchyard, where his grave might be trodden on by passengers’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the festival of thy servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness the people committed to his care; so we, rejoicing in our inheritance in Christ, may ever seek to build up thy Church in unity and love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The founders of the great religious orders have picked up, each in his own characteristic way, that one life-giving message which our Lord Jesus Christ brought to earth. St Francis seized upon his poverty, St Philip Neri on his simplicity, St Paul of the cross on his love of suffering, St Ignatius on his untiring zeal to do the will of his heavenly Father. But the great saint whose memory we are celebrating today, the founder, directly or indirectly, of all our Western monastic institutions, caught up and preserved for ever as the watchword of his order a single word from that interview in the cenacle; the word “peace”. In a world so full of unruly agitations and turbulent emotions there should be cells - tombs, if you will - where men should live consciously striving to attain the peace of Christ... That motto, Pax, which you see written up everywhere in Benedictine monasteries, is the same motto you see written up in graveyards, and for the same reason. They have inherited the peace of the first Easter Day, the peace which came from a tomb’.
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; 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 Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr, [was] a girl who, in spite of being very young, was able to show strength and courage against evil. I invoke her for you, dear young people, so that she may help you to choose good always, even when it is to your cost; for you, dear sick people, so that she may sustain you in bearing your daily suffering; and for you, dear newlyweds, so that your love may always be faithful and full of reciprocal respect’.
from a general audience, 7 July 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying thy commandments; 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.
‘Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest;
and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’. (St John 14.5-6)
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Between 64 and 314 every single day held for the faithful believer the ever-present threat of a frightful death: the period is divided fairly evenly into the years of active bloodshed and those of relative quiet. And every so often, during those two hundred and fifty years of history, we shall hear that cry of distress and agony rising heavenwards again, just as it had risen from the gardens of the Vatican glade in Nero’s day. But from the moment of the first tortures the faith had known how to transform that cry into a cry of hope’.
from The Church of Apostles and Martyrs, by Henri Daniel-Rops, 1901-1965
O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘As our Lord built the house of his life upon the foundation of faith in the Divine Love, so he could only build the house of his Church on the foundation of faith in himself. When Peter by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost cried, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’, our Lord felt that he had found the rock faith on which he could begin to build.
If we consider the three typical names by which our Lord called his apostles – Simon, Peter, and Satan – Simon may stand for the natural man, Peter for the redeemed man, and Satan for the rebellious man. All of us are in our first natural beginning Simon, born into this world with natural desires and the power of choice. But right at our birth the Church of Christ meets and puts us into the supernatural order by baptism; and as our minds develop and our wills become more definitely our own, there is presented to us more and more clearly the Gospel and the Person of Christ, that we may make our personal choice. All of us who have felt the spell of his beauty have cried out at some time, ‘Thou art the Christ!’ and so passed from the state of Simon to the state of Peter. Each one of us has to make that confession of faith. But when we have made that personal acceptance of our Lord, then we have to learn the lesson of the Cross, and to accept him as the crucified, suffering Messiah, taking up our cross for his sake, that we may not fall into condemnation and merit the rebuke of the name of Satan, the Adversary’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O God, who hast hallowed this day by the martyrdom of thine Apostles Peter and Paul: grant unto thy Church, in all things, to follow the precepts of those through whom she received the beginning of religion; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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