‘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.
‘“The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasising above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”.
Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotokos, and in abundance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St John the Baptist [is] the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the divine promises: John is that “prophet”, identified with Elijah, who was destined to be the immediate precursor of the Messiah, to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (cf. Matthew 11.14; 17.10-13). His Feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are (cf. John 1.1, 23; 1.7-8; 3.29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30): the Baptist’s words are a programme for every Christian’.
from his Angelus, 25 June 2006, by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Photos from two pilgrimages from Calgary to Ely, in 2009 and 2015, to mark today’s feast of St Etheldreda, otherwise known as St Audrey.
‘Ely: it is a dull man who is not thrilled by his first sight, from rail or road, of this unexpected “isle” which rises out of the flat Fenlands like a tall ship riding calm seas. It is blown upon by winds of wine-like quality, encircled by the high dome of the East Anglian sky, broader and more luminous than the skies of other parts. The excitement which stirs the traveller on his first visit does not fade, but ever afterwards quickens his pulse when he remembers Ely, as do similar heights of the English landscape, age-old, crowned with ancient churches with a wealth of history, often prehistoric; Glastonbury, Lincoln, Durham, Ludlow.
…In the seventh century England was a land of small warring kingdoms whose chiefs, whether pagan of Christian, lived in constant warfare with each other. In the mid-century the King of East Anglia was Anna, a devout Christian who brought up his family most religiously. One of his daughters was Etheldreda, of great beauty, given early in marriage to a chief of the wide Fens, who died soon after, settling upon her the Isle of Ely.
…[Etheldreda] is the brightest of a constellation of royal and related ladies of the Saxon race, who left their noble homes for the simplicity and devotion of monasteries, where they reveal remarkable powers of government and a genius for organisation and for pioneering in the ways of spirituality: so that in venerating her we can, in one mental sweep, give thanks for all these strenuous women who consented to follow God in the most challenging and startling way of the three vows, and by this single-hearted fervour presented the newly-learnt faith in the boldest and plainest manner. Those years were the golden age of our national saints’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Fisher and More! in you the Church and State
Of England—England of the years gone by--
Her spiritual law, her civil equity,
Twins of one justice, for the last time sate
On equal thrones. ’Twas England’s day of fate:
Ye kenned the omens and stood up to die:
State-rule in Faith, ye knew, means heresy:
That truth ye wrote in blood, and closed debate
By act, not words. A blood as red, as pure,
They shed, that brave Carthusian brotherhood,
St Bruno’s silent sons. Martyrs! be sure
That o’er the land, thus doubly dyed and dewed,
The Faith your death confessed, shall rise renewed--
A tree of peace for ever to endure.
Aubrey de Vere, 1814-1902
‘[T]he Father of Mercies had so amplified and enlarged the bowels of his mercy that, although restrained by the bounds of the three-fold poverty – that is to say the pressing obligations of his debts, the confiscation of the property of his diocese, and above all the pressures of dearth and famine – he could never restrain the natural kindness of his heart which was filled with the generosity of true charity. For instance, Sir Richard de Bagendon, a prudent man who belonged to a military order and who was the saint’s brother according to the flesh, was in trusted with the care of the bishop’s estates. On one occasion he remarked that the Bishop had scarcely enough to provide for his own and therefore should not give so lavishly to such great numbers of the poor; the bishop, however, overflowed in the bowels of his goodness and replied, “My dear brother Richard is it just or right in the sight of God that we should eat and drink from the vessels of gold and silver while Christ in his poor is crucified with hunger and the poor are faint and dying from lack of nourishment?” And he added, “I know very well how to eat and drink from a wooden bowl or platter, just as my father did. Therefore, let these gold and silver vessels be taken and sold and with the money feed the limbs of Christ who redeemed us and ours not with corruptible gold and silver but with his own precious blood. My horse, too, is a fine and valuable animal. Let him be sold as well and let the money he fetches be used to feed Christ’s poor”’.
from the Life of St Richard, Bishop of Chichester by Ralph Bocking
Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“Preach Christ as born, and set forth his death; so that both the heart may believe by imitating the one who is slain, and the mouth may receive the sacrament of his Passion for its cleansing”.
Today, this is what the universal Church does; [Jesus] established for her today on mount Sion a feast of fat things full of marrow, a two-fold richness, both inward and outward: he gave them his true body, inwardly and outwardly fattened with all spiritual strength and charity, and he bade them give it to those who believed in him. Whence, “It is firmly to be believed, and confessed with the mouth, that the very body which the Virgin bore, which hung on the Cross and lay in the tomb, which rose the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven: this body the Church truly makes daily, and gives to her faithful”. At the words: This is my body, bread is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, which confers an unction of double richness on whoever receives it worthily. It lessens temptation and stirs up devotion. And so it is called “a land flowing with honey and milk”, which makes sweet what is bitter and nourishes devotion. Unhappy he, who comes in to this banquet without the wedding garment of charity or penitence, because he who eats unworthily, eats damnation to himself. What fellowship has light with darkness?’
from a sermon on The Lord’s Supper by St Anthony of Padua, 1195-1231
Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Barnabas shines out in the pages of the New Testament as an eminent example of that faithful priesthood which does according to that which is in the heart and mind of God. When, not unnaturally, the members of the Church he had come to persecute were afraid of Saul of Tarsus, it was Barnabas who had faith in the reality of his conversion and was prepared to trust his penitence. That which Ananias began in the life of his great convert, Barnabas helped to complete by his loving ministry to the one who became his great fellow apostle. The priesthood is for the uniting of souls to the Lover of souls. The priest only comes between the soul and God to make more short and clear to the soul her union with her Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue thy holy Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts of the Holy Ghost: leave us not, we beseech thee, destitute of thy manifold gifts, nor yet of grace to use them always to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘It was on his dear Iona that Columba found so many occasions for displaying that deep tenderness for all creation, that supernatural intimacy with creatures, that is so attractive in the lives of many saints. Numerous are the tales which reveal his power with Nature. One night in his hut he agonised in prayer over the pain of the world, the pain of evil, and of cruelty, and of a sinner’s death, holding it all against the pain of the Son of God on Calvary.
Columba had an especial devotion to the Cross of Christ, and through the dark hours he pondered on it. Worn out at last, he lay down on the stone that was always his bed, with his head on the stone pillow, and fell asleep. When he awoke he saw, sitting in the whole of the wall that did duty for a window, a robin. “Have you a song, red-breast?” asked Columba. At that the robin tilted his head, opened wide his shining eye on the saint, and sang a song so sweet that Columba, big man that he was, trembled at the beauty of it. And he understood the song of the birds, which told how he was in his nest near the great Cross upon which hung the Christ, how he saw Him white and bleeding, how the Christ looked at him with eyes so full of pain that he flew to Him and pressed his little brown breast on his forehead, trying to pull out one of the wounding thorns, trying to soften the suffering, so that his own breast was covered in blood. “My breast is red”, sang the bird, “for I saw Him die”. Columba felt his own heart enlarge with love for the Saviour as he listened to his tender song, and he at once wished to praise God for the bird and for its message. Carried away by his impetuous feelings, he knocked the wooden clapper which called the monks together for their services, and when they all came running, he told them of the bird’s song, and how even this tiny morsel of life and helped to ease Christ’s pain.
At the stone altar outside the church, Columba prepared to offer the praise of the Eucharist, his brethren all kneeling round; but first he raised his arms above his head and cried in his big, deep voice, “Come, all ye birds”. At once they came, flying through the air, which was just receiving its first glow of warmth from the sun climbing the eastern sky, flying in from all sides – little birds from the fields, big birds from the sea; larks and wrens, gulls and plovers, curlew and cormorants – all were there, and many others. “Peace to you from God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”, said Columba. And “Peace”, answered the birds. They stayed quietly to hear the Mass, and at the end the Abbot, turning, blessed not only the monks but also the birds. Then all flew off, except the robin, who again piped his tender notes. “Peace in the Name of the Trinity”, said Columba. “Peace in the Name of Christ”, sang the bird’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Photos from a visit to Canterbury Cathedral in May 2015, for this Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury.
‘St Augustine, strengthened by the encouragement of St Gregory, in company with the servants of Christ, returned to the work of preaching the word, and came to Britain. At that time, Ethelbert, king of Kent, was a very powerful monarch… Over against the eastern districts of Kent there is a large island called Thanet which, in English reckoning, is six hundred hides in extent. It is divided from the river Wantsum, which is about three furlongs wide, can be crossed in two places only, and joins the sea at either end. Here Augustine, the servant of the Lord, landed with his companions, who are said to have been nearly forty in number. They had acquired interpreters from the Frankish race according to the command of Pope St Gregory. Augustine sent to Ethelbert to say that he had come from Rome bearing the best of news, namely the sure and certain promise of eternal joys in heaven and an endless kingdom with the living and true God to those who received it. On hearing this, the king ordered them to remain on the island where they had landed and provided with all things necessary until he had decided what to do about them.
…Some days afterwards the king came to the island and, sitting in the open air, commanded Augustine and his companions to come thither to talk with him… [T]hey came endowed with divine not devilish power and bearing as their standard a silver cross and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a panel. They chanted litanies and uttered prayers to the Lord for their own eternal salvation and the salvation of those from whom and to whom they had come.
At the king’s command, they sat down and preached the word of life to himself and all his counts there present. Then he said to them, “The words and the promises you bring are fair enough, but because they are new to us and doubtful, I cannot consent to accept them and forsake those beliefs which I and the whole English race have held so long. But as you have come on a long pilgrimage and are anxious, I perceive, to share with us things which you believe to be true and good, we do not wish to do you harm; on the contrary, we will receive you hospitably and provide what is necessary for your support; nor do we forbid you to win all you can to your faith and religion by your preaching”. So he gave them a dwelling in the city of Canterbury, which was the chief city of all his dominions; and, in accordance with his promise, he granted them provisions and did not refuse them permission to preach’.
from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, c.731, by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
O God, who by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine, thy Confessor and Bishop, hast enlightened the English people with the light of the true faith: mercifully grant that by his intercession the hearts of them that have gone astray may return to the unity of thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Scenes from visits to the five canonically established English Oratories - Manchester, Oxford, London, York, and Birmingham - on this Feast of St Philip Neri. Prayers for all Oratorian Fathers and Brothers, with much gratitude for their ministry and charism; a light shining in the darkness of this world.
‘[St Philip’s] apostolate was neither of the pen nor, chiefly at any rate, of the pulpit; if you came under his influence, it was because he plucked you by the sleeve, folded you to his heart. And he was always there; as well expect to find Ars without St John Vianney, as Rome without St Philip. In this, above all, he has bequeathed his own spirit to his children. The sons of St Ignatius are ready to be sent off, at a moment’s notice, on some perilous mission; the sons of St Philip, called to a different form of self-sacrifice, are always at home. Nor is their love of room like the Benedictine’s love of his cell; the Benedictine’s abbey is his fortress, the Oratorian’s house is an open town, where all the world may pass through. He gives you that freedom which of all others is today most lacking: freedom of access.
Reverend Fathers, you do not keep St Philip to yourselves; you share him with the world. Pray for us others, that we too may learn something of his spirit’.
from a sermon by Mgr Ronald Knox, preached at the London Oratory, Feast of St Philip Neri, 26 May 1951.
‘Dunstan… at an early age co-ordinated his many gifts and activities into a single channel, that of the direct service of God in England. There are even now many ways in which we, a thousand years later, are influenced by his creative mind and his practical genius. You may like to hear the church bells across the fields on a summer day or from the cathedral tower on a winter’s night: Dunstan ruled that all monasteries were to use the English custom of ringing bells, especially prolonging them on festivals, and it appears that all the great national functions graced by the King, his Court and the prelates were marked by much bell-ringing; and he himself, with his great collaborator, Bishop Ethelwold, cast two bells for Abingdon monastery. You may like to hear a lunch-hour organ recital: organs were probably known earlier, but they had ceased to be made in the ninth century; Dunstan and Ethelwold re-introduced and popularised them, taking a personal hand in their actual construction. One of the parts of a Gregorian setting of the Mass which is still sung, the Kyrie ‘Rex Splendens’, is the composition of Dunstan; the daily prayers for the royal family in the Prayer-book services go back to the ruling of Archbishop Dunstan; and if you ever slip into vulgar slang and refer to a person as having ‘been taken down a peg or two’, you may (says one tradition) all unconsciously be paying tribute to Dunstan, who, finding that dangerous quarrels in taverns often arose because customers drank more than their share or less than their boast, ordered that ale-pots should be fitted with metal pegs, which would show the level of the liquor and the fair share of each drinker. He has been called a dreamer of dreams and a visionary; if so, that condition made no difference to his practical commonsense and his vigorous power of furthering reforms. He is a man of such diversity of gifts and richness of character, possessing that super-abundance of vitality and energy which is not infrequently married to great abilities’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this festival of thy Bishops Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and governing thy Church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon