‘Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual “lung” of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual “breath”, the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints’.
from a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, to the Benedictine Oblate Sisters
of the monastery of St Frances of Rome at Tor de’Specchi
O God, who amongst other gifts of thy grace, didst honour blessed Frances, thy handmaid, with the familiar converse of an Angel: grant, we beseech thee; that by the help of her intercession, we may be worthy to attain unto the fellowship of the Angels in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘If there is one time in the Church Year when we ought to feel the need to exercise faith and to pray fervently in faith it is Lent.
The usual tendency in our prayers is to ask God to help us, to aid us, to assist us and to strengthen us. All well and good, but sometimes hidden in such verbal requests is the general idea that we can do so much for ourselves and we only need God to come along and give us the extra push, to top up our strength. But in this prayer we begin by recognising as we meditate before almighty God our Father, who is the Omnipotent One, that in fact we need more than a push and a topping up: we need his help, power, grace and strength completely and wholly. For we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves in the real battles of life against adversaries much stronger than we are.
Therefore, from the position of total dependency upon God’s gracious power we ask the Father in the name of his well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that in body and soul we may be daily preserved and protected from all forms of evil and sin. We cannot predict as each day begins what bad things can and will happen to our body, from accident, disease, carelessness, or the evil will of others. Further, and significantly, we cannot predict what can and will happen to our soul - our mind, emotions and will - as it is open to testing and temptation. Evil thoughts, desires and imaginations can be generated within our souls by all kinds of stimuli, by the world and the devil’.
Peter Toon, 1939-2009
Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 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 The Second Sunday in Lent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘They are merry martyrs. “Thanks be to God”, said Perpetua, as she approached her martyrdom, “that I was merry in the flesh so am I still merrier here”. It’s reminiscent of our own Thomas More’s passing up Tower Hill to the place of his martyrdom, as merry as a bridegroom on the way to his wedding (so people reported). Felicity was so relieved that her daughter was born in prison and immediately adopted by a Christian: she had feared that as a consequence of her pregnancy she would be spared and lose the martyr’s crown.
Is it conceivable that sane young women, looking forward to motherhood, would die in such a spirit? It is conceivable to those for whom revelation sets forth the banquet of salvation, surpassing all other joys and endless in its festivity. We are the ones who should be pitied if we cannot make head or tail of their priorities’.
- Fr Aidan Nichols OP
O holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden of peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
O Holy and ever-blessed Jesu, who being the eternal Son of God and most high in the glory of the Father, didst vouchsafe in love for us sinners to be born of a pure virgin, and didst humble thyself unto death, even the death of the cross: Deepen within us, we beseech thee, a due sense of thy infinite love; that adoring a believing in thee as our Lord and Saviour, we may trust in thy infinite merits, imitate thy holy example, obey thy commands, and finally enjoy thy promises; who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
John Wesley, 1703-1791
Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height’.
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.
Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900
‘After the Sacraments and liturgical worship I am convinced there is no practise more fruitful for our souls than the Way of the Cross made with devotion. Its supernatural efficacy is sovereign. The Passion is the “holy of holies” among the mysteries of Jesus, the preeminent work of our Supreme High Priest; it is there above all that his virtues shine forth, and when we contemplate him in his sufferings he gives us according to the measure of our faith, the grace to practise the virtues that he manifested during these holy hours… At each station Our Divine Saviour presents himself to us in this triple character: as the Mediator who saves us by his merits, the perfect Model of sublime virtues, and the efficacious Cause who can, through his Divine Omnipotence, produce in our souls the virtues of which he gives us the example’.
Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, 1858-1923
‘The time of Lent now approaching, which has been anciently and very Christianly set apart, for penitential humiliation of Soul and Body, for Fasting and Weeping and Praying, all which you know are very frequently inculcated in Holy Scripture, as the most effectual means we can use, to avert those Judgments our sins have deserved; I thought it most agreeable to that Character which, unworthy as I am, I sustain, to call you and all my Brethren of the Clergy to mourning; to mourning for your own sins, and to mourning for the sins of the Nation.
In making such an address to you as this, I follow the example of St Cyprian, that blessed Bishop and Martyr, who from his retirement wrote an excellent Epistle to his Clergy, most worthy of your serious perusal, exhorting them, by publick Prayers and Tears to appease the Anger of God, which they then actually felt, and which we may justly fear.
...That you may perform the office of publick Intercessour the more assiduously, I beg of you to say daily in your Closet, or in your Family, or rather in both, all this time of Abstinence, the 51st Psalm, and the other Prayers which follow it in the Commination. I could wish also that you would frequently read and meditate on the Lamentations of Jeremy, which Holy Gregory Nazianzen was wont to doe, and the reading of which melted him into the like Lamentations, as affected the Prophet himself when he Pennd them.
But your greatest Zeal must be spent for the Public Prayers, in the constant devout use of which, the Publick Safety both of Church and State is highly concerned: be sure then to offer up to God every day the Morning and Evening Prayer; offer it up in your Family at least, or rather as far as your circumstances may possibly permit, offer it up in the Church, especially if you live in a great Town, and say over the Litany every Morning during the whole Lent. This I might enjoyn you to doe, on your Canonical Obedience, but for Love’s sake I rather beseech you, and I cannot recommend to you a more devout and comprehensive Form, of penitent and publick Intercession than that, or more proper for the Season.
Be not discouraged if but few come to the Solemn Assemblies, but go to the House of Prayer, where God is well known for a sure Refuge: Go, though you go alone, or but with one besides your self; and there as you are God’s Remembrancer, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth’.
from ‘A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Thomas Ken) to his Clergy Concerning their Behaviour during Lent’, 1688.
‘Forgiveness is what matters most of all; to be forgiven, to be contrite for mortal sin is the most tremendous thing that could happen to you in your life. So of course it is very easy. You do not have to work at being forgiven; you only have to accept it, to believe in the forgiveness of God in Christ, in his eternal unconditional love for you.
But sin, any sin, even venial sin, has given you a kind of addiction to lesser things, the things of this world. So besides being forgiven we need to break out of this addiction. For the only way to God is in Christ, and Christ’s way to God was through crucifixion and death to the resurrection. There is no other way. The only way to God is through death. Christ did not die for us instead of us. He died to make it possible for us to die and rise again in him. And this is hard.
We have to go through the crucifixion, too…We have to go through the painful process of curing the addiction, kicking the habit, “drying out” or “cold turkey”, or whatever.
And this is what Lent is for. It reminds us that we come through death to life, through denial of self to our true selves, and it helps us to start the process – so that we may be ready for the final Easter when we rise in glory and freedom to live for eternity in the love of God’.
Herbert McCabe OP, 1926-2001
‘God beholds thee individually, whoever thou art. He “calls thee by name”. He sees thee, and understands thee, as he made thee. He knows what is in thee, all thy own peculiar feelings and thoughts, thy dispositions and likings, thy strength and thy weakness. He views thee in thy day of rejoicing, and thy day of sorrow. He sympathises in thy hopes and thy temptations. He interests himself in all thy anxieties and remembrances, all the risings and fallings of the spirit. He has numbered the very hairs of thy head and the cubits of thy stature. He compasses thee round and bears thee up and sets thee down.
…Thou art not only his creature (though for the very sparrows he has a care, and pitied the “much cattle” of Nineveh), thou art man redeemed and sanctified, his adopted son, favoured with a portion of that glory and blessedness which flows from him everlastingly unto the Only-begotten’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘Lent brings before us the vision of the One Who deliberately chose to pursue the perfect way at all costs, and Who followed the perfect way that He had chosen at the cost of a lonely death upon the gallows. To some people the main point about Lent is that it gives them the chance of listening to eloquent preachers. To other people Lent is a time to accept discomfort and especially to consider our Lord’s suffering. Perhaps we shall go deeper still if we realise that the secret of our Lord’s suffering and all the value of His Passion lay in the perfection of His obedience to the law of love which was expressed in the deliberate choice of His human will.
It is only our Lord Who could die deliberately in the divinest way, but you and I can try to live deliberately in the best human way we can. Whatever we do not do, there is something we must do this Lent, and that is to try to deepen our prayer life. The Church calls us in Lent to express our Christian faith in a threefold sacrifice: first, a sacrifice for God, that is prayer; secondly, a sacrifice for others, that is almsgiving; thirdly, a sacrifice for our own self-discipline, and that is fasting.
Let us make a deliberate effort to pray, to think, to do, as we really do believe in our deepest and best selves that the God Who created us, died for us, cared for us, would have us do. Our Lord quite deliberately lived and died for us at His own expense. How often do we live heedlessly for ourselves at His expense? A daily dying to self-love will be our best answer to the appeal of Calvary’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
A busy week or so since Sexagesima, hence the lack of posts. My wife gave birth to our sixth child, a son, earlier this month, and yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter, our Feast of Title in this Ordinariate (which displaced the pre-Lenten Quinquagesima Sunday), I had the great honour of baptising him within our Sunday Mass. The music was glorious, but it was a special delight to hear Palestrina's Sicut cervus sung as we processed back to the high altar to resume the Mass. A joyfully patrimonial feast followed in the hall.
O Almimghty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandedst him earnestly to feed thy flock: make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same; that they may receive the crown of everlasting 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.
Yet earth was very good in days of old,
And earth is lovely still:
Still for the sacred flock she spreads the fold,
For Sion rears the hill.
Mother she is, and cradle of our race,
A depth where treasures lie,
The broad foundation of a holy place,
Man’s step to scale the sky.
She spreads the harvest-field which Angels reap,
And lo! the crop is white;
She spreads God’s Acre where the happy sleep
All night that is not night.
Earth may not pass till heaven shall pass away,
Nor heaven may be renewed
Except with earth: and once more in that day
Earth shall be very good.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘How wonderfully Lourdes proclaims the gospel. One cannot but be tempted to compare the simple and clear words of the apparition with the simplicity and clarity of the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel – the announcement to Mary, and to the world, of the incarnation.
One cannot go wrong here, for the words are all of the same source and inspiration, of the same Spirit. The one guarantees the other. It is the same heart and soul, the same Mary, who listens to the angel and who speaks to Bernadette. It is the same Spirit who gives Mary the grace to understand the angel’s message, and who moves her to speak to Bernadette according to God’s will.
The faithful and simple response of Bernadette is a replica of Mary’s. An innocent girl, ignorant of evil and wishing to know none, unpretentious and simple, putting herself at God’s disposal, strong in humility and, because of her humility, strong and firm in reacting to the divine Word: such was Mary and so was Bernadette to be’.
Gabriel, Cardinal Garonne, 1901-1994
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling-place meet for thy Son: we humbly beseech thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; 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 Scholastica, like her brother, dedicated herself to God from early youth. Information on the virgin Scholastica is very scanty. In his Second Book of Dialogues Pope St Gregory has described for us the last meeting between brother and sister:
“His sister Scholastica, who had been consecrated to God in early childhood, used to visit with him once a year. On these occasions he would go to meet her in a house belonging to the monastery a short distance from the entrance. For this particular visit he joined her there with a few of his disciples and they spent the whole day singing God’s praises and conversing about the spiritual life.
When darkness was setting in they took their meal together and continued their conversation at table until it was quite late. Then the holy nun said to him, ‘Please do not leave me tonight, brother. Let us keep on talking about the joys of heaven till morning’. ‘What are you saying, sister?’ he replied. ‘You know that I cannot stay away from the monastery’. The sky was so clear at the time, there was not a cloud in sight.
At her brother’s refusal Scholastica folded her hands on the table and rested her head upon them in earnest prayer. When she looked up again, there was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder accompanied by such a downpour that Benedict and his companions were unable to set foot outside the door. By shedding a flood of tears while she prayed, this holy nun had darkened the cloudless sky with a heavy rain. The storm began as soon as her prayer was over. In fact, the two coincided so closely that the thunder was already resounding as she raised her head from the table. The very instant she ended her prayer the rain poured down.
Realising that he could not return to the abbey in this terrible storm, Benedict complained bitterly. ‘God forgive you, sister!’ he said. ‘What have you done?’ Scholastica simply answered, ‘When I appealed to you, you would not listen to me. So I turned to my God and He heard my prayer. Leave now if you can. Leave me here and go back to your monastery’.
This, of course, he could not do. He had no choice now but to stay, in spite of his unwillingness. They spent the entire night together and both of them derived great profit from the holy thoughts they exchanged about the interior life. The next morning Scholastica returned to her convent and Benedict to his monastery.
Three days later as he stood in his room looking up toward the sky, he beheld his sister’s soul leaving her body and entering the heavenly court in the form of a dove. Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God in hymns of praise. Then, after informing his brethren of her death, he sent some of them to bring her body to the abbey and bury it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. The bodies of these two were now to share a common resting place, just as in life their souls had always been one in God”’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who for a testimony to the path of innocency didst cause the soul of blessed Scholastica, thy Virgin, to enter heaven in the appearance of a dove: grant unto us; that by her merits and intercession, we may walk in such innocency of life; that we may be 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.
‘Agatha went to prison radiant with joy and with head held high as though invited to a festive banquet. And she commended her agony to the Lord in prayer. The next day, as she again stood before the judge, she declared: “If you do not cause my body to be torn to pieces by the hangmen, my soul cannot enter the Lord’s paradise with the martyrs”. She was then stretched on the rack, burned with red-hot irons, and despoiled of her breasts. During these tortures she prayed: “For love of chastity I am made to hang from a rack. Help me, O Lord my God, as they knife my breasts”. Agatha rebuked the governor for his barbarity: “Godless, cruel, infamous tyrant, are you not ashamed to despoil a woman of that by which your own mother nursed you?”
Returning to prison, she prayed: “You have seen, O Lord, my struggle, how I fought in the place of combat; but because I would not obey the commands of rulers, my breasts were lacerated”. In the night there appeared to her a venerable old man, the apostle Peter, with healing remedies. Agatha, ever delicately modest, hesitated to show him her wounds. “I am the apostle of Christ; distrust me not, my daughter”. To which she replied: “I have never used earthly medicines on my body. I cling to the Lord Jesus Christ, who renews all things by His word”. She was miraculously healed by St Peter: “Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, I give you praise because by Your apostle You have restored my breasts”. Throughout the night a light illumined the dungeon. When the guards fled in terror, her fellow prisoners urged her to escape but she refused: “Having received help from the Lord, I will persevere in confessing Him who healed me and comforted me”.
Four days later she was again led before the judge. He, of course, was amazed over her cure. Nevertheless, he insisted that she worship the gods; which prompted another confession of faith in Christ. Then, by order of the governor, Agatha was rolled over pieces of sharp glass and burning coals. At that moment the whole city was rocked by a violent earthquake. Two walls collapsed, burying two of the governor’s friends in the debris. Fearing a popular uprising, he ordered Agatha, half-dead, to be returned to prison. Here she offered her dying prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, good Master, I give You thanks that You granted me victory over the executioners’ tortures. Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never-ending glory”. Thereupon she died’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the gentleness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom: grant, we beseech thee; that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of Saint Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The glory of righteousness arises and lights every man who comes into this world and wishes him to come to knowledge of His name; at its setting it has cast rays of new brilliance upon the western lands of the western world. When its radiance had been cast into our midst from on high, there shone in the darkness of our night like a heavenly star brought among us a man of exemplary life called Gilbert. Chosen to be God’s servant in the land of England, he was born in a place called Sempringham of a distinguished family (something that usually and properly acts as an encouragement to virtue); but by the special nature of his life this man overcame both the world and his worldly origin’.
from The Book of St Gilbert (edited by Raymonde Foreville and Gillian Keir), Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we remember before thee all thy servants who have served thee faithfully in their generation, and have entered into rest, especially Gilbert of Sempringham, beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow in their steps; that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
I’m asking very nicely now. Please help, Saint Blaise.
I can remember childhood days,
white candles held in front and crossed on my frail neck,
how from behind them I would look,
a roe behind two branches, apprehensively.
Mid-winter, and Saint Blaise’s Day,
my eyes were blinking, fixed upon the aged priest
wholly intent on praying just
to you, but bending over me kneeling before
the altar; true to sacred lore,
he muttered in a learned language neither I
nor he well understood. Yet my
health was preserved; you understood the formula;
you kept from me diptheria,
and inflammation of the tonsils, even croup,
with this result: I have grown up,
keeping, for half a century, so very well
that I’ve not thought of you at all.
O Bishop of Sebasta, don’t be hurt by my
ingratitude. Help me today!
You know the childish way in which we all go on:
we don’t look back, we cut and run
away along the drifting highway, letting go
the hands of higher beings; you
just smile at us as adults do, being wise, not hurt
by what is simply lack of thought,
smiling at us once more when, troubled, we return,
as I, I must admit, have done
today with beating heart… Please smile at me, Saint Blaise!
Yes, smile at me, upon my knees
before your simple altar-stone, a whimpering whelp –
smile if you like, Saint Blaise, but help!
The trouble is, you see, a treacherous disease
is killing me, starting to squeeze
my larynx tighter, and my air is running out,
just as a climber’s breath comes short
and climbing gets more difficult, or like a ton-
weight on my back; so I go on
in everlasting panting, while the surgeon’s knife
is threatening to preserve my life
by cutting up my wretched throat, that very throat
which I, farsightedly, held out
(remember, Blaise!) between your candles long ago…
Your consecrated larynx too,
when those so-wicked heathen were intent on killing,
blunt knives cut: so you know the feeling!
You know the blade’s edge and the taste of blood, you know
moments of desperation too
in the contraction of the torn windpipe, the fight
in terror as we suffocate.
Help! It is over now for you, you know it all,
you wise grown-up! You know quite well
what pain is bearable, how much is not too much
even for all the goodness which
is God, and what life’s worth… And even, maybe, that
death is nothing to write home about.
Mihály Babits, 1883-1941
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Blaise, thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may likewise rejoice in his protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘Don Bosco is a shining example of a life marked by apostolic zeal, lived at the service of the Church in the Congregation and in the Salesian Family. At the school of St Joseph Cafasso, your Founder learned to make his own the motto “Give me souls, take away all else”, as the synthesis of a model of pastoral action inspired by the figure and spirituality of St Francis de Sales. This model fits into the horizon of the absolute primacy of God’s love, a love that succeeds in shaping passionate personalities eager to contribute to Christ’s mission to set the whole earth ablaze with the fire of his love (cf. Lk 12.49). Besides the ardour of God’s love, another characteristic of the Salesian model is awareness of the inestimable value of “souls”. This perception by contrast generates an acute sense of sin and its devastating consequences in time and in eternity. The apostle is called to cooperate with the Saviour's redeeming action in order that no one be lost. “Saving souls”, precisely as St Peter said, was thus Don Bosco’s raison d’être. His immediate successor, Bl Michele Rua, summed up the life of your beloved Father and Founder in these words: “He did not give way, he did not speak, did not turn his hand to any task that did not aim at the salvation of young people.... He truly had only their souls at heart”’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
1. Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee,
Who in thy Sacrament art pleased to be;
Both flesh and spirit in thy presence fail,
Yet here thy presence we devoutly hail.
2. O blest memorial of our dying Lord,
Who living bread to men doth here afford!
O may our souls forever feed on thee,
and thou, O Christ, for ever precious be!
3. Fountain of goodness, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing blood;
Increase our faith and love, that we may know
The hope and peace which from thy presence flow.
4. O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see,
May what we thirst for soon our portion be,
To gaze on thee unveiled, and see thy face,
The vision of thy glory and thy grace.
St Thomas Aquinas, 1227-1274
translated by James Woodford, 1820-1885
‘The presence of the Risen Christ calls all of us Christians to act together in the cause of good. United in Christ, we are called to share his mission, which is to bring hope to wherever injustice, hatred and desperation prevail. Our divisions dim our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await in active hope and for which we pray trustingly, is no secondary victory but an important one for the good of the human family.
In the dominant culture today, the idea of victory is often associated with instant success. In the Christian perspective, on the contrary, victory is a long, and in our human eyes, not always uncomplicated process of transformation and growth in goodness. It happens in accordance with God’s time, not ours, and requires of us deep faith and patient perseverance. Although the Kingdom of God bursts definitively into history with Jesus’ Resurrection, it has not yet come about fully. The final victory will only be won with the Second Coming of the Lord, which we await with patient hope.
Our expectation of the visible unity of the Church must also be patient and trusting. Only in this frame of mind do our prayers and our daily commitment to Christian unity find their full meaning. The attitude of patient waiting does not mean passivity or resignation but rather a prompt and attentive response to every possibility of communion and brotherhood that the Lord gives us.
…I would like to entrust to St Paul’s intercession all those who, with their prayers and their commitment, are sparing no effort in the cause of Christian unity. Although, at times, one has the impression that there is still a long way to go to reach the reestablishment of communion and that the road is fraught with obstacles, I invite all to renew their determination to pursue, with courage and generosity, the unity which is God’s will, after the example of St Paul who, in the face of every kind of difficulty always firmly kept his trust in God which led to the fulfilment of his work.
Moreover, on this journey there is no lack of positive signs of rediscovered brotherhood and of a shared sense of responsibility for the great problems that are afflicting our world. All this is a cause of joy and of great hope and must encourage us to continue in our endeavour to reach the final goal all together, knowing that in the Lord our effort is not in vain (cf. 1 Cor 15:58). Amen’.
from his homily on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI
‘Newman never changed from the view which he had expressed so forcefully in Lectures on Anglican Difficulties (1850) that Anglo-Catholicism was inherently illogical and inconsistent. In 1882, by now a cardinal, he wrote that what Anglo-Catholic ritualists lacked, for all their dedication and even heroism under persecution, was “an intellectual foundation - which, sufficient for practical purposes, the Evangelicals seems to me to have”. It was a devastating indictment, but there was also a damning corollary: the lack of any real authority for the Anglo-Catholic position, a position which seemed to fly so manifestly in the face of the historical facts of the English Reformation, also seemed to Newman to carry within itself the seeds of theological liberalism. For a religion without either the biblical authority of Evangelicalism or the Magisterium of the Catholic Church could only be “a form of liberalism”, however liturgical and sacramental it might be’.
from his chapter ‘C.S. Lewis, Newman, and Conversion’, in ‘The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church’, 2010, by Fr Ian Ker.
‘Something better and fuller awaits us, if we discern God’s will rightly, and have the courage to try to fulfil it... [T]he kaleidoscope is turning and entirely uncharted and unexpected territory will be coming into view. We have grown up against the background of an ecclesial view where we knew our place as Catholic Anglicans, and how we fitted, or hoped to fit, into the wider pattern of the Church militant. Now, it seems, the inadequacy of that view is being revealed, and we have to allow God to reveal something more to us. We all feel confused and disquieted and none of us likes to feel the rock we have stood on, with such surety, is shifting (and even proving to have certain sandy properties we have never wanted to admit), but Jesus’ prayer on the Cross is our surrender to the Father’s will, and that is where we must base our hope. In human terms, yes, so much we have worked for seems to have collapsed, for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. But, perhaps, this is God’s moment, and through the breakdown of what we have known and valued, something infinitely grander and closer to his Heart, is beginning to emerge’.
Fr Christopher Colven, writing in the wake of the 1992 decision of the Church of England to ordain women to the priesthood. Fr Colven was Priest Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (1981-1986), and has been the (Catholic) Rector of St James, Spanish Place, London, since 2009.
‘I accepted for a time the borderland of Anglicanism; but only on the assumption that it could really be Anglo-Catholicism. There is a distinction of ultimate intention there which in the vague English atmosphere is often missed. It is not a difference of degree but of definite aim. There are High Churchmen as much as Low Churchmen who are concerned first and last to save the Church of England. Some of them think it can be saved by calling it Catholic, or making it Catholic, or believing that it is Catholic; but that is what they want to save. But I did not start out with the idea of saving the English Church, but of finding the Catholic Church. If the two were one, so much the better; but I never conceived of Catholicism as a sort of showy attribute or attraction to be tacked on to my own national body, but as the inmost soul of the true body’.
from ‘The Catholic Church and Conversion’, 1926, by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936).
‘In my own case I was moved away from the rationalistic island mentality of a conservative Englishman, to a truly Catholic – that is universal – perspective. My mind, imagination, heart and soul were stretched. I had tried to package my God into being an English God: somewhat effete, consoling, and so understanding as to be undemanding. The relativism in faith and morals of many Anglican parishioners was summed up for me by one lady who had told me, “I love the Church of England, because it does not make any demands on you!” Like the National Health Service, the Church of England was the final state-approved emergency service to be used as and when you wished.
In my young arrogance [as an Anglican curate] I thought that I was not part of such a compromised Christianity and that I could change individual attitudes and whole congregations. Yet, I too had compartmentalised God and certainly thought I had my faith and my calling under decent middle-class control… How could I witness to truth and the universality of the faith in a denomination which had broken from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church? The institutionalised state Church here had more than stifled universality. The concept of authority had been rejected and thereby the teaching on faith and morals was Anglicised, almost in a politically correct way.
…It is not that I have rejected Anglicanism, only that Anglicanism wasn’t universal enough. Anglicanism is forever linked to England, and ecumenical work as an Anglican can only ever begin from that basis. As a Catholic, on the other hand, one works from a universal foundation… So I have come to understand more of our faith which I recognise now as the universal reconciliation and love offered by Christ on the Cross. The English cannot restrict such a Christianity to themselves and their own requirements, nor must I ever think again that I have got God boxed up, or figured out’.
from his chapter ‘Conversion and Ecumenism’, in ‘The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church’, 2010, by Neville Kyrke-Smith.
‘Far from being a portrayal of Protestantism (as some might say), the Church of England’s reconciliation with Rome would be its vindication and fulfilment. It would be neither a triumph for Anglo-Catholicism, nor a defeat for Evangelicalism. Certainly it would fulfil many aspirations of the Oxford Movement leaders who began their work 150 years ago with reunion at the centre of their hopes and prayers, but it would also rejoice the hearts of the sixteenth century reformers to find their insights welcomed into, and acknowledged by, the Roman Catholic Church, through a union which leaves unharmed their cherished traditions.
John de Satgé has written: “If indeed Anglicanism is, as I hope, to lose its independence within the Catholic unity, it will be because its vocation is fulfilled. Rome has at last listened and learned. That which was held in trust for the whole Church within the Anglican boundaries has had its effect. Anglican return to Rome would signify not failure but success”.
We have come a long way: but one step more’.
from ‘One Step More between Rome and Canterbury’, 1982, by Fr Michael Rear
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
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