‘Later than Cajetan of Vicenza and earlier than Ignatius of Loyola, Anthony was called to be the father of one of those religious families which arose in such numbers during the sixteenth century to repair the ruins of the house of God. Lombardy, exhausted and demoralised by the wars for the possession of the duchy of Milan, was encouraged by the sight of the heroic virtues of Zaccaria to believe, hope and love once again. She listened to his fiery exhortations calling her to repentance, to meditation on the Passion and to more fervent devotion to, and more solemn adoration of, the Blessed Sacrament. (St Anthony Mary Zaccaria was the first who exposed the sacred Host unveiled for the adoration of the faithful for forty hours, in memory of the time spent by our Saviour in the tomb. This pious custom passed from Milan to become the practice of the whole Church, and allusion has been made elsewhere to its special significance during the three days immediately preceding Lent.) Thus he was truly the precursor of St Charles Borromeo, who in his reform of the clergy, people and monasteries of Milan had as his earnest supporters Anthony’s sons and daughters, the Clerks Regular and the Angelic Sisters of St Paul.
It is noteworthy that out of love for Jesus crucified he would have the mystery of the cross brought to the mind of all by the ringing of the bell on Friday afternoon about vesper time. The holy name of Christ was ever on his lips, and in his writings, and as a true disciple of St Paul, he ever bore the mortification of Christ in his body. He had a singular devotion to the Holy Eucharist, restored the custom of frequent communions, and is said to have introduced that of the public adoration of Forty Hours. Such was his love of purity that it seemed to restore life even to his lifeless body. He was also enriched with the heavenly gifts of ecstasy, tears, knowledge of future things, and the secrets of hearts and power over the enemy of mankind. At length, after many labours, he fell grievously sick at Guastalla, whither he had been summoned as arbitrator in the cause of peace. He was taken to Cremona, and died there amid the tears of his religious and in the embrace of his pious mother, whose approaching death he foretold. At the hour of his death, which took place on the third of the Nones of July, 1539, when he was thirty-six years of age, he was consoled by a vision of the apostles, and prophesied the future growth of his Society. The people began immediately to show their devotion to this saint on account of his great holiness and of his numerous miracles. The cult was approved by Leo XIII, who solemnly canonised him on Ascension Day, 1897’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Grant us, O Lord God Almighty: that we, being filled with the spirit of thy blessed Apostle Paul, may learn that pre-eminent knowledge of Christ Jesus, whereby thou didst wondrously teach blessed Anthony Mary to establish in thy Church new households of priests and virgins; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holty Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
In April my son and I were privileged to be able to travel with the Manchester Oratory on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. One of the day visits during our stay was to Coimbra, 50 miles north, a city that dates back to the time of Roman occupation. Between 1131 and 1255 it served as the capital of Portugal, and its venerable university dates from 1290. All of which adds to its status, since 2013, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the Monastery of Santa-Clara-a-Nova lies the body of Elizabeth of Aragon, Queen Consort of Portugal from 1282 to 1325. After the death of her husband, King Dennis, Elizabeth retired to Coimbra, and to the Monastery of Santa-Clara-a-Velha, which she had earlier founded, and here she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. After her death in 1336 she was buried at Santa-Clara-a-Velha but following her canonisation in 1625 her body was later translated to Santa-Clara-a-Nova, where it remains to this day. Though the monastery no longer functions as such (Portugal has a complicated relationship with the Catholic Church, and with Religious in particular), Saint Elizabeth (or Isabel, as the Portuguese refer to her) lies - incorrupt - in an impressive precious silver-covered tomb above the high altar, still attracting the love and devotion of her people 682 years after her death.
‘A saint on the nation’s throne! Born in 1271, Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, was a model mother both for her own family and for her people. Her particular charism was that of peacemaker... The Divine Office notes the following events in her life. Already at her birth it appeared how in the future she would be a successful peacemaker among kings and kingdoms; for at that happy event her father and grandfather were reconciled, although previously they had been at odds. She gave her hand in marriage to King Dionysius of Portugal (1279-1325). Her married life was marked by zeal for virtue. She constantly strove to educate her children in the fear of God, to please her husband, and most of all, to please God. During practically half of the year she fasted on bread and water. Certain monies she wished to distribute to the poor changed into blooming roses in the middle of winter, so that her act would remain unknown to the king. After the death of her husband she became for widows a model of every virtue, even as previously she had been a model maid for maidens, and a model wife for wives. In patience and resignation she attended the funeral wearing the garb of the Poor Clares’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst adorn Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvellous grace for reconciling those in conflict: grant, through her intercession; that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God; 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 too often forget that faith is a matter of questioning and struggle before it becomes one of certitude and peace. One has to doubt and reject everything else in order to believe firmly in Christ, and after one has begun to believe, one’s faith itself must be tested and purified. Christianity is not merely a set of foregone conclusions. The Christian mind is a mind that risks intolerable purifications, and sometimes, indeed very often, the risk turns out to be too great to be tolerated. Faith tends to be defeated by the burning presence of God in mystery, and seeks refuge from him, flying to comfortable social forms and safe convictions in which purification is no longer an inner battle but a matter of outward gesture’.
Thomas Merton OCSO, 1915-1968
Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas be be doubtful in thy Son's Resurrection: grant to 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 Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Today it is quite a common thing to be able to say, in literal fact, that you have given your blood for somebody else. As it is, we have grown accustomed to a more violent, and, some would say, a less gracious metaphor. St John, at the beginning of his Apocalypse, refers to our Lord as one “who has proved his love for us by washing us clean from our sins in his own blood”.
It is not surprising that the Christianity of the Reformation, with its strong insistence on the doctrine of the Atonement, should have fastened on that language and made it familiar to us. For us Catholics, the Precious Blood is proposed as a special subject of meditation during this month of July, and for us, too, the same symbolism does duty. Read a Catholic poet like Crashaw, and you will find him referring to “that blood, whose least drops sovereign be To wash my worlds of sin from me”. Read an Evangelical poet like Cowper, and you will find him preaching the same doctrine; “The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day, And there may I, as vile as he, Wash all my sins away”. St John’s metaphor has become a commonplace of Christian devotion.
Do you still find it crude, over-strained, unacceptable? Be it so, we are not tied to any particular form of imagery which the piety of a past age has bequeathed to us. Only, in this month of July, we do well to remember the bitter Passion of our Lord, and that giving of his life-blood which sealed it, and seals us through it. A price was paid to redeem you (St Paul says); and because the price paid was so high, because the world itself was not worthy of such a ransom, we must go on reiterating, blindly and uncomprehendingly, our gratitude. Moreover, because the price paid for us was so high, no price can be too high which is demanded of us by our loyalty to Christ, though it should be death itself. To be always generous with God, to go on and on giving him of our best in spite of weariness and disillusionment, to despise soft options, and interpret our duty in terms of love, not in terms of mere justice, to be ready if we might to give him more than he asks of us, ready if that were possible to give him more than he deserves of us - that is the meaning of our devotion to the Precious Blood; may his grace make us worthy of it’.
from a sermon preached at the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Chelsea, 1956
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
Today, in the Calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is the feast of the Most Precious Blood. From 1849 to 1969 it was part of the General Roman Calendar, but was removed on account of its commemoration, as a theme, in the Masses of the Passion, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It remains however, in the Ordinary Form, as a Votive Mass, but it does not feature, under this title, in the Ordinariate’s liturgical usage. Rather, in Divine Worship: The Missal, provision is made for a Votive Mass of the Five Wounds, a medieval devotion, popular in England especially, which was found in the missal of the Sarum Use. The emblem of the Five Wounds was notably employed on the banner rallying the faithful - clergy, religious, and lay - in the famous Pilgrimage of Grace between 1536-1537 which saw unsuccessful uprisings across Northern England in protest at Henry VIII’s break with Rome and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Highly appropriate, then, that such a hallowed devotion, dear to Ecclesia Anglicana, should be revived in a collection intended to preserve, liturgically, the English spiritual tradition within the Catholic Church. The Collect and Postcommunion for the Mass of the Five Wounds in Divine Worship make specific mention of the Precious Blood, and whilst there is no feast of the same, it would be both suitable and felicitous to offer this beautiful Mass in this month of July, which remains dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Christ.
Fr Lee Kenyon