‘Anglicanism and the official Protestant bodies tolerate almost every species of heterodox theology and disordered morality. The Anglicans, who once claimed to follow St Vincent of Lerins in holding only what all Christians at all times and in all places have believed, now teach what has never been believed anywhere by anyone, even on the far left of heresy… A man can deny the Virgin Birth and Bodily Resurrection of Christ and end up as Lord Bishop of Durham. There is even a “Sea of Faith” group for Anglican atheists. The chief consequence of twentieth-century ecumenism would seem to be the even greater distancing of the Reformation communities from the Catholic Church. The hopes of the Anglo-Papalists are in ruins. Or are they? In 2009, by the motu proprio Anglicanorum coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI established a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans reconciled with the Catholic Church, which would seem to fulfil the aspirations of the long neglected Anglo-Papalists of the 1930s. As Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP has recently said, in the Ordinariate we see a work of the Holy Spirit and an answer to the Church’s prayers for Christian unity. Reunion has come to pass, not “all round”, but for those brave souls who relinquished the material comforts of the Anglican Establishment in order to profess the Catholic faith, in the divine integrity of its truth, with and under Peter’.
Fr John Saward, from his foreword to Reunion Revisited: 1930s Ecumenism Exposed, 2017
by Fr Mark Vickers
Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fulness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword.
When the world cracked because of a sneer in heaven,
Leaving out for all time a scar upon the sky,
Thou didst rise up against the Horror in the highest,
Dragging down the highest that looked down on the Most High:
Rending from the seventh heaven the hell of exaltation
Down the seven heavens till the dark seas burn:
Thou that in thunder threwest down the Dragon
Knowest in what silence the Serpent can return.
Down through the universe the vast night falling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning!)
Far down the universe the deep calms calling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Sword!)
Bid us not forget in the baths of all forgetfulness,
In the sigh long drawn from the frenzy and the fretfulness
In the huge holy sempiternal silence
In the beginning was the Word.
When from the deeps of dying God astounded
Angels and devils who do all but die
Seeing Him fallen where thou couldst not follow,
Seeing Him mounted where thou couldst not fly,
Hand on the hilt, thou hast halted all thy legions
Waiting the Tetelestai and the acclaim,
Swords that salute Him dead and everlasting
God beyond God and greater than His Name.
Round us and over us the cold thoughts creeping
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the battle-cry!)
Round us and under us the thronged world sleeping
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Charge!)
Guard us the Word; the trysting and the trusting
Edge upon the honour and the blade unrusting
Fine as the hair and tauter than the harpstring
Ready as when it rang upon the targe.
He that giveth peace unto us; not as the world giveth:
He that giveth law unto us; not as the scribes:
Shall he be softened for the softening of the cities
Patient in usury; delicate in bribes?
They that come to quiet us, saying the sword is broken,
Break man with famine, fetter them with gold,
Sell them as sheep; and He shall know the selling
For He was more than murdered. He was sold.
Michael, Michael: Michael of the Mustering,
Michael of the marching on the mountains of the Lord,
Marshal the world and purge of rot and riot
Rule through the world till all the world be quiet:
Only establish when the world is broken
What is unbroken is the word.
G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936
O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: mercifully grant that as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven; so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; 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 any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (16:24). Without doubt, this is hard language, difficult to accept and put into practice, but the testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible for all who trust and entrust themselves to Christ. Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so. And the good and honest person is one who does not obscure God’s light with his own ego, does not put himself forward, but allows God to shine through.
This is the lesson we can learn from Saint Wenceslaus, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power. His gaze never moved away from Jesus Christ, who suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, as Saint Peter writes in the second reading that we just heard. As an obedient disciple of the Lord, the young prince Wenceslaus remained faithful to the Gospel teachings he had learned from his saintly grandmother, the martyr Ludmila. In observing these, even before committing himself to build peaceful relations within his lands and with neighbouring countries, he took steps to spread the Christian faith, summoning priests and building churches. In the first Old Slavonic “narration”, we read that “he assisted God’s ministers and he also adorned many churches” and that “he was benevolent to the poor, clothed the naked, gave food to the hungry, welcomed pilgrims, just as the Gospel enjoins. He did not allow injustice to be done to widows, he loved all people, whether poor or rich”. He learned from the Lord to be “merciful and gracious”, and animated by the Gospel spirit he was even able to pardon his brother who tried to kill him. Rightly, then, you invoke him as the “heir” of your nation, and in a well-known song, you ask him not to let it perish.
Wenceslaus died as a martyr for Christ. It is interesting to note that, by killing him, his brother Boleslaus succeeded in taking possession of the throne of Prague, but the crown placed on the heads of his successors did not bear his name. Rather, it bears the name of Wenceslaus, as a testimony that “the throne of the king who judges the poor in truth will remain firm for ever” (cf. today’s Office of Readings). This fact is judged as a miraculous intervention by God, who does not abandon his faithful: “the conquered innocent defeated the cruel conqueror just as Christ did on the cross” (cf. The Legend of Saint Wenceslaus), and the blood of the martyr did not cry out for hatred or revenge, but rather for pardon and peace’.
from a homily during an Apostolic Visit to the Czech Republic, 28 September 2009
by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who by the victory of martyrdom didst exalt blessed Wenceslaus from an earthly realm to the glory of thy heavenly kingdom: grant, we pray thee; that by his merits and intercession, we may be made heirs of the King of kings, even Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘During the past few days I have been reading about the simple, normal way of life that our Lord willed to live while he was on earth, and I saw that he loved this ordinary and lowly life so much that he abased himself, so far as lay in his power, to adapt himself to it, and that although he was the uncreated Wisdom of the Eternal Father, yet it was his will to preach his doctrine in a much more commonplace and ordinary style than his apostles did. I ask you to compare his discourses with the letters and sermons of St Peter, St Paul and the other apostles. It would seem that he assumed the style of a man of little learning, while that of the apostles seems to be the style of men with far greater knowledge than he had. What is ever more astonishing, it was his will that his sermons should produce much less in the way of results than did those of his apostles; for we may see in the Gospels that he gained his apostles and disciples almost always one by one, and that with trouble and difficulty, and yet by his first sermon St Peter converted five thousand. That, for sure, has given me more light and knowledge, or so it seems, on the marvellous humility of the Son of God than any other reflection on the subject that I have ever made’.
from a letter to a priest of the mission, 1633, by St Vincent de Paul, 1581-1660
O God, who didst strengthen blessed Vincent de Paul with apostolic power for preaching the Gospel to the poor, and for promoting worthiness in the clergy: grant, we beseech thee; that we who reverence his pious deeds may also be taught by the example of his virtues; 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.
‘These two saints, celebrated “physicians” of the ancient Church who used their art in the service of converting souls to Christ, are venerated as patrons by doctors and pharmacists. Their names occur in the Canon of the Mass and in the Litany of the Saints. The Martyrology reads: “In Aegea (Asia Minor) the holy martyr-brothers Cosmas and Damian. In the Diocletian persecution they were subjected to various tortures; they were cast into chains, locked in prison, thrown into the sea, tormented with fire, nailed to crosses, and shot at with arrows. Since with divine help they suffered all this unmaimed, they were beheaded” (about 360).
In imitation of their Saviour our two physician-saints sought to heal sick bodies in order to win and heal sick souls. The same procedure is still followed in mission lands. Care of sick bodies and care of sick souls lie very close to the Church’s heart, because no one is more ready for God’s kingdom than the sick. Every true Christian should have one or the other ill or disabled person to take care of’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we who celebrate the heavenly birthday of Saints Cosmas and Damian, thy Martyrs, may by their intercession be delivered from all evils that beset us; 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.
Continuing the theme of yesterday’s feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, today I’m sharing the original version of the Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn, written by Sir William Milner (1893-1960) and sung to the tune Lourdes, with its familiar refrain of the Aves. The hymn was revised by Father Hope Patten’s successor as Administrator of the Anglican shrine, Father Colin Stephenson, in 1960 (after Sir William’s death that year, and two years after Hope Patten’s death - canny timing, that). The version below is taken from the third edition of the The Pilgrims’ Manual, dated 1949 (the first edition was published in 1928, but the hymn predates this, as Father Cobb, in his history of the shrine, indicates that the first issue of Our Lady’s Mirror in 1926 mentions the hymn). In my 1949 manual the hymn is prefaced with these brief words of explanation: ‘This processional is based on the mediaeval legend, long loved by our Catholic forefathers’.
Comparing the two versions is an interesting exercise in literary taste, history, memory, and mixed emotion. The older form of the hymn is longer by five verses and, for those who enjoy the stuff of legend, it happily fleshes it out somewhat, particularly on the detail of Richeldis’ vision of the Virgin and the miraculous circumstances of the erection of the Holy House at the hands of Our Lady herself, with Lady Richeldis’ chaplain receiving an honourable mention. Also notable is that whereas the updated version of the hymn references Henry VIII as a ‘king who had greed in his eyes’ (the older version speaks, more poetically, of his ‘covetous eyes’) in relation to the treasures and wealth of the shrine, the older version sounds a more merciful note of regal rehabilitation (‘But his soul did repent, when he came for to die/And to Walsingham’s Lady for mercy did cry’). This is lacking in the present form, which feels, to me at least, notwithstanding the historical accuracy, just a tad heart-rending (especially when the accompanying organ sounds an ominous note during the verse; though I do realise that this is much enjoyed by others of a more mischievous disposition).
Father Stephenson’s version also includes a curious verse which, like the above, as an Anglican I always considered peculiar given the shrine’s place within the life of the established Church of England. Now, as a Catholic of the Ordinariate, it’s certainly much easier, theologically, to sing (‘And this realm which had once been Our Lady’s own Dower/Had its Church now enslaved by the secular power’), but its continued presence within the canon of the Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn of the Anglican shrine is even more baffling in light of the happy existence of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Sir William’s version makes no mention of this emasculation, thus rendering it more coherent for those Anglicans who have not (yet) taken up the generous offer of the Ordinariate which, if nothing else, promises that liberty for the Church from the slavish excesses of the secular power...
Of course the older version had its critics long before Father Stephenson amended it. Michael Yelton, in his excellent history of Father Hope Patten and the Anglican shrine, notes that Sir William’s words ‘have often been criticised for their banality,’ and references Bishop Henley Henson’s (then-Bishop of Durham) attack on it as ‘pitiable rubbish’. But in these days of revived traditional worship in its hieratic register of English (think Divine Worship: The Missal...), I rather like it. It won’t catch on too widely, of course, because the present version, now nearly sixty years old, is much-treasured, not least because there are some memorable and even fun verses to be found therein (‘Then lift high your voices, rehearse the glad tale/Of Our Lady’s appearing in Stiffkey’s fair vale’, and ‘So crowded were roads that the stars, people say/That shine in the heavens were called Walsingham Way,’ for example). Nonetheless, perhaps Sir William’s old hymn can be dusted off and brought out in an Ordinariate context from time to time where the rhyming of ‘meads’ with ‘bedes’ is happily married in verse, and where the use of such old-fashioned phrases as ‘celestial-crowned’, ‘full wondrous’, ‘for to die’, ‘right soon’, ‘forthwith goodly store’, and the like might be regarded as (albeit antiquated) treasures to be shared... Anyway, judge it for yourself.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, Patroness of the Personal Ordinariates of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales (where it is a solemnity), and of the Chair of St Peter in the United States and Canada. Devotion to Our Lady under this ancient title is something held very dear by Catholics and Anglo-Catholics alike, and for those of us who came into the fulness of Catholic communion in the See of St Peter through the provision of Anglicanorum coetibus, it is especially significant. Before today’s feast was appointed as such on the calendar, in 2000, today was Our Lady of Ransom. It was a feast which, in England, focused the Church’s attention on the conversion of England, the return of apostates, and the forgotten dead. All appropriate themes given the ravages of the Reformation, and equally appropriate, then, that this devotion should be localised to the great and historic centre of Marian devotion and pilgrimage in England in Walsingham, a place which has become a focus for intense prayer for the reunion of Christendom, and for the rightful return of England to Our Lady as part of her divinely-given earthly dower. The photos above are from a visit to Walsingham in October last year. Our daughter Richeldis is greeting her namesake (the Saxon noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches, to whom Our Lady appeared in this village in 1061), and our son Dominic is assisting me as I offer the Holy Sacrifice, according to Divine Worship, in the Slipper Chapel, under the watchful gaze of Our Lady of Walsingham... and our daughter Verity. A blessed feast!
‘At Walsingham we should glory in all that unites us, and mourn in deepest penitence for all that divides us. In this place where we have recovered so much we may regard prayer for the full recovery of Catholic unity as a special obligation.
What of the future? It is the hope of all concerned with the Shrine that it may more and more take its place as a great spiritual force for evangelism and conversion in this land which was once “our Lady’s Dowry,” and which is so many ways at the present day is no great credit to her patronage. It is a visible demonstration in this world of unbelief that God became man in the fullest sense - He had a human mother - He lived in an ordinary little house - all these things are stated without equivocation in the Shrine of the Holy House of our Lady of Walsingham, and perhaps as you [ponder] its foundation, destruction, and restoration in our own time you may be led to think that God has allowed this to happen that the message of “The Word made Flesh” may come with special force in this age of materialism and that the warmth of devotion from England’s Nazareth may play its part in the conversion of England’.
from England’s Nazareth: A History of the Holy Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, 1959
by Donald Hole, revised by Colin Stephenson
O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, thy Divine Son, dying on the Cross, confided us to thy maternal care. Thou art our Mother, we desire ever to remain thy devout children. Let us, therefore, feel the effects of thy powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. Make thy Name again glorious in this place once renowned throughout our land by thy visits, favours, and many miracles. Pray, O Holy Mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed. O blessed Mary, Mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen. - Walsingham Pilgrims’ Manual.
Lord, I come to Thee in a cloudy day
And bring to Thee my weight of weariness.
Forgive me if I do not kneel to pray
But sit in mute and utter helplessness.
O Lord most pitiful, stoop down to me;
The power is palsied that would rise to Thee.
In this lone church there is a sculptured rood
Crowning the entrance to Thy sanctuary:
Thou hangest patient, nailed and stained with blood,
Mary and John on either side of Thee.
To the dear love of that divine defeat
I bring my baffled soul, O Saviour sweet.
My need must cry to Thee, my soul is dumb,
And oh, my sky is dark as dark can be:
My fear must plead to Thee, my heart is numb,
Without response even to Calvary:
And yet, my lord, this awful sense of loss
Draws me with Dismas to Thee on Thy Cross.
Thou didst take life for us and lay it down,
Yielding Thyself to death’s cold helplessness;
Thou didst take thorns of sorrow for Thy crown;
Our hope is fashioned by the hopelessness
Of that dark night that heard Thy bitter cry
When Thou, the Lord of Love, for love wouldst die.
Saviour, forgive me if I flinch from fear
And teach me to go onward through the night,
Trusting that in the darkness Thou art near,
That following love I must be following light.
In this lone church may there be born in me
Love’s faith that faces fear courageously!
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘For the third time this year, Holy Church comes claiming from her children the tribute of Penance which, from the earliest ages of Christianity, was looked upon as a solemn consecration of the Seasons.
The beginnings of the Winter, Spring, and Autumn quarters were sanctified by abstinence and fasting, and each of them, in turn, has witnessed heaven’s blessing falling upon their respective three months; and now, Autumn is harvesting the fruits which, divine mercy, appeased by the satisfactions made by sinful man, has vouchsafed to bring forth from the bosom of the earth, notwithstanding the curse that still hangs over her. The precious seed of wheat, on which man’s life mainly depends, was confided to the soil in the season of the yearly frosts, and with the first fine days, peeped above the ground; at the approach of glorious Easter, it carpeted our fields with its velvet of green, making them ready to share in the universal joy of Jesus’ resurrection; then, turning into a lovely image of what our souls ought to have been in the season of Pentecost, its stem grew up under the action of the hot sun; the golden ear promised a hundredfold to its master; the harvest made the reapers glad; and now that September has come, it calls on man to fix his heart on that good God, who gave him all this store. Let him not think of saying, as that rich man of the Gospel did, after a plentiful harvest of fruits: My soul! thou hast much goods laid up for many years! take thy rest! eat! drink! make good cheer! And God said to that man: Thou fool! this night, do they require thy soul of thee! and whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? Surely, there is too much of the Christian among us to allow us to be senseless in that way. If we would be truly rich with God, if we would draw down his blessing on the preservation, as well as on the production, of the fruits of the earth, let us, at the beginning of this last quarter of the year, have recourse to those penitential exercises, whose beneficial effects we have always experienced in the past. The Church gives us the commandment to do so, by obliging us, under penalty of grievous sin, to abstain and fast on these three days, unless we be lawfully dispensed.
Let us not, in our prayers and fasts, forget the new Priests and other Ministers of the Church who... are to receive the imposition of hands. The September ordination is not usually the most numerous of those given by the Bishop during the year. The sublime function to which the Faithful owe their Fathers and Guides in the spiritual life has, however, a special interest at this period of the year, which, more than any other, is in keeping with the present state of the world, which is one of rapid decline towards ruin. Our Year, too, is on the fall, as we say. The sun, which beheld rising at Christmas, as a giant who would burst the bonds of frost asunder and restrain the tyranny of darkness - now, as though he had grown wearied, is drooping towards the horizon; each day we see him gradually leaving that glorious zenith, where we admired his dazzling splendour, on the day of our Emmanuel’s Ascension; his fire has lost its might; and though he still holds half the day as his, his disc is growing pale, which tells us of the coming on of those long nights when Nature, stripped of all her loveliness by angry storms, seems as though she would bury herself forever in the frozen shroud which is to bind her. So it is with our world. Illumined as it was by the light of Christ and glowing with the fire of the Holy Ghost, it sees in these our days that charity is growing cold, and that the light and glow it had from the Sun of Justice are on the wane. Each revolution takes from the Church some jewel or other, which does not come back to her when the storm is over; tempests are so frequent that tumult is becoming the natural state of the times. Error predominates and lays down the law. Iniquity abounds. It is our Lord himself who said: When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find, think ye, Faith on earth?
Lift up, then, your heads, ye children of God! for your redemption is at hand. But from now until that time shall come, when heaven and earth are to be made new for the reign that is to be eternal, and shall bloom in the light of the Lamb, the Conqueror, days far worse than these must dawn upon this world of ours, when the elect themselves would be deceived, if that were possible! How important is it not, in these miserable times, that the Pastors of the flock of Christ be equal to their perilous and sublime vocation; let us then fast and pray; and how numerous soever may be the losses sustained in the Christian ranks of those who once were faithful in the practices of penance, let us not lose courage. Few as we may be, let us group ourselves closely round the Church, and implore of that Jesus, who is her Spouse, that he vouchsafe to multiply his gifts in those whom he is calling to the - now more than ever - dread honour of the Priesthood; that he infuse into them his divine prudence, whereby they may be able to disconcert the plans of the impious; his untiring zeal for the conversion of ungrateful souls; his perseverance even unto death in maintaining, without reticence or compromise, the plenitude of that truth which he has destined for the world, and the unviolated custody of which is to be, on the last Day, the solemn testimony of the Bride’s fidelity’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
‘“Jesus saw a man called Matthew at the tax office and he said to him, Follow me”. He looked at him not with the eyes of the body but rather with the eyes of interior pity. He saw a tax collector, and since he looked at him in pity and choosing him as a disciple, he said, “Follow me”. “Follow” meant “imitate” - not by the movement of his feet, but rather by a change of life. For whoever says he is following Christ ought himself to walk as Christ walked.
“He rose and followed him”. It is not to be wondered at that the tax collector should leave the earthly gains he was looking after at the first command of the Lord and that, abandoning riches, he should join the company of him who, he saw, had no wealth. For the Lord, who outwardly called him with words, through a hidden instinct secretly taught him to follow him: by the gift of divine grace the Lord enlightened his mind to understand that he who on earth called him away from temporal interests, could in heaven give incorruptible treasures.
“And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came out and sat down with Jesus and his disciples”. The conversion of one tax collector provided an example of penance and forgiveness to many tax collectors and sinners. In a wonderful and true sign of the future, he who was to become the apostle and teacher of the gentiles brought with him to salvation a multitude of sinners in the first moments of his own conversion. He began even in the earliest period of his belief his duties as a preacher, which he was to fulfil as he made progress in virtue. Furthermore, if we would penetrate to the inner significance of what took place, not only did he prepare a banquet for the Lord in his home on earth but, what was much more welcome to the Lord, he made a feast in the house of his soul by faith and love, as is testified by him who said: “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me”.
We open the door at the sound of his voice to receive him, when we freely assent to his promptings, whether secret or open, and when we do what we know we should do. He enters, then, to eat with us and we with him, since he lives in the hearts of his elect by the gift of his love. He rejoices their hearts by the light of his presence in as much as they make more and more progress in their longing for heaven, and it is as though he himself delighted in the banquet of virtues which they spread for him’.
St Bede the Venerable, c.673-735
O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Saint Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist: grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches; and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[B]ehold: through this Liturgy of Canonisation the Blessed Korean Martyrs are inscribed in the list of the Saints of the Catholic Church. These are true sons and daughters of your nation, and they are joined by a number of missionaries from other lands. They are your ancestors, according to the flesh, language and culture. At the same time they are your fathers and mothers in the faith, a faith to which they bore witness by the shedding of their blood.
From the thirteen-year-old Peter Yu to the seventy-two-year-old Mark Chong, men and women, clergy and laity, rich and poor, ordinary people and nobles, many of them descendants of earlier unsung martyrs – they all gladly died for the sake of Christ.
…The Korean Martyrs have borne witness to the crucified and risen Christ. Through the sacrifice of their own lives they have become like Christ in a very special way. The words of Saint Paul the Apostle could truly have been spoken by them: We are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies… We are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh”.
The death of the martyrs is similar to the death of Christ on the Cross, because like his, theirs has become the beginning of new life. This new life was manifested not only in themselves – in those who underwent death for Christ – but it was also extended to others. It became the leaven of the Church as the living community of disciples and witnesses to Jesus Christ. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”: this phrase from the first centuries of Christianity is confirmed before our eyes.
Today the Church on Korean soil desires in a solemn way to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the gift of the Redemption. It is of this gift that Saint Peter writes: “You were ransomed… not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ”. To this lofty price, to this price of the Redemption, your Church desires, on the basis of the witness of the Korean Martyrs, to add an enduring witness of faith, hope and charity.
Through this witness may Jesus Christ be ever more widely known in your land: the crucified and risen Christ. Christ, the Way and the Truth and the Life. Christ, true God: the Son of the living God. Christ, true man: the Son of the Virgin Mary.
Once at Emmaus two disciples recognised Christ “in the breaking of the bread”. On Korean soil may ever new disciples recognise him in the Eucharist. Receive his body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine, and may he the Redeemer of the world receive you into the union of his Body, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
May this solemn day become a pledge of life and of holiness for future generations. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and is living in his Church today. “Yes it is true. The Lord has risen”. Amen. Alleluia!’
from the homily at the Canonisation Mass for the Korean Martyrs, 1984
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants: that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings, may likewise fast from sin within our souls; 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 Ember Wednesday in September, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Ember days of the “seventh month,” September (from septem meaning “seven”; September was formerly the seventh month in the calendar, March being the first) have retained more of their original “ember" character (i.e., a time of thanksgiving and spiritual renewal) than the other Ember days, which reflect more or less the spirit of the current liturgical season. Three themes are prominent in the Masses, that of harvest, that of the Jewish feasts of the seventh month, that of spiritual renewal. Originally the autumn Ember days commemorated a “wine-press feast,” and this accounts for the many references to the subject.
Secondly, the Jewish festivities during the seventh month were prognostic of the Christian Ember liturgy. For among the Jews three feasts were kept, the civil new year at the beginning of the month; the Day of Expiation, a day of strict penance on which the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with sacrificial blood; and, thirdly, the feast of Tabernacles, the joyful harvest festival which likewise was a memorial of the time Israel dwelt in tents while on the journey through the wilderness. Our present Ember days are not without relation to the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, the time at which the people lived in twig houses.
And lastly, the Ember days mean serious spiritual renewal, an occasion at which we ought to pray and fast and do penance. The character, then, of this week is thanksgiving and penance’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
to the tune St Cross, by J.B. Dykes, 1823-1876
Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
‘Born in Kemsing (Kent), the daughter of Edgar and Wulfryth, his concubine; a novice at Wilton, Edith was brought up from infancy at Wilton, where her mother returned after her birth. Two chaplains of this royal convent undertook her education, Radbod of Rheims and Benno of Trèves. This comprised not only letters but also script and illumination, sewing and embroidery. Edith also knew Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Elfstan of Ramsbury. As the king’s daughter she could have attained an important position in society three times, but three times she refused, preferring the obscurity of the cloister. Once, at her profession, her father, King Edgar, tried to remove her; another time she was nominated abbess of Winchester, Barking, and Amesbury, but over all three she appointed superiors and remained with her mother, now abbess of Wilton; in 978 after the murder of her half-brother Edward the Martyr, certain magnates wished to become queen, but she refused.
Instead she built an oratory in honour of Denys, which was decorated by Benno with murals of the Passion of Christ and the martyrdom of Denys. At the dedication Dunstan was supposed to have prophesied her approaching death and the incorruption of her thumb. Edith was conspicuous for her personal service of the poor and her familiarity with wild animals. She died at the age of only 23; miracles at her tomb helped to establish her cult. Neither her apparently illegitimate birth nor King Cnut’s scepticism about any child of Edgar attaining holiness prevented her feast spreading to many monasteries and the Sarum calendar; three ancient church dedications are known. Her relics were translated in 997; from then on she was, with Iwi, Wilton’s principal saint’.
from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 1982, edited by David Hugh Farmer
O God, who didst will that thy Son our Lord should be born of a Virgin, and didst thereby give unto thy faithful a pattern of chastity: grant to us, through the prayers of Saint Edith thy Virgin, that purity of mind and body, whereby we may obtain the felicity promised to us by 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.
O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church: and, because she cannot continue in safety without thy succour; preserve her evermore by thy help and goodness; 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 Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is one of the most popular of the collects, especially loved by the clergy who are inclined to include it in any set of prayers they are called upon to say.
And why should they not? It is concerned with the Church, the special family of God to whose service they are pledged, and it emphasises the intimate relation the Church bears to God. It is his Church, the particular instrument of his revelation and redemption, the means by which the work of his Son is continued through the generations, the ‘body’ by which the Christ still functions on the earth.
As such it is of immediate concern to everyone of us. It is not a remote, inaccessible ideal. It is our near neighbour in the local parish church; it brings heaven to the meanest mission altar; it is on our doorstep in the figure of vicar or curate.
...“Let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church”. God’s agape or love, which is the very essence of his being, when it is directed towards men, the human element in the Church, necessarily manifests itself as pity or compassion. From the supreme height of his power and purity we must appear of a frailty that must call out all his desire to protect. Consequently having been cleansed, the Church prays to be defended, having full confidence that God will answer the prayer.
...The fact is that in the midst of all these dangers, open or disguised, the Church cannot continue in safety without God’s succour. We therefore ask him not only to set up a defensive barrier against its perils but also to preserve his Church evermore by filling it with his goodness.
What precisely the goodness of God means in this connection it may not be easy to say. But at least it includes the notion of kindness, which is of the essence of God’s nature and the foundation of all human virtues.
The safety of the Church depends entirely on God’s kindness, that is, compassionate love, and if all depends on kindness, obviously the Church herself must endeavour to reflect the same fundamental virtue. Our essential safety depends on our continued possession of it.
If we become afraid of losing love, or fear that kindness is disappearing from the Church, let us remember that the indwelling life of the Church is the Spirit and that Spirit is love. We can only lose the Spirit by losing life itself, and that the Church can never do’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Today is the memorial of Our Lady of the Sorrows, also known in the liturgy of Ordinariate as Saint Mary at the Cross.
‘Behold thy mother!... Behold thy son! No evangelist records this saying except St John, the disciple whom JESUS loved. The others tell, indeed, of the company of weeping women, faithful to the last, who watched by the Cross. But the presence of the mother of JESUS was unmarked except by the friend to whose care she was commended in the loving words which escaped the notice of the rest. Little is told about the Blessed Virgin in the Gospels; she is but the highly favoured handmaid of the Lord. But enough is told to assure us, what indeed we would readily believe, even if we were not told, that the tie between mother and Son was a perfect pattern of that most sacred relationship. From the beginning, she kept in her heart all that was said of her wondrous Son, she had a premonition that all generations would call her Blessed. Yet she had heard, in the days of His tender infancy, that because of Him the sword of grief would pierce her heart. And so now it had to come to pass. She saw Him brought to the Cross. But His love took thought for her future even in His last pains. He commended her to His best earthly friend, to the disciple who had drunk most deeply of His spirit. And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home’.
from Verba Crucis: Good Friday Addresses, 1915
by John Henry Bernard, 1860-1927 (Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, 1915-1919)
O Lord, in whose Passion, according to the word of Simeon, the sword of sorrow didst pierce the most sweet soul of the glorious Virgin and Mother Mary: graciously grant that we, who devoutly call to mind her sorrows, may obtain the blessed effects of thy Passion; 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.
Today is the Feast of the Holy Cross. Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal was offered this evening, followed by the Veneration of the Relic of the True Cross. Then home for tea and hot cross buns. A blessed Roodmass!
‘As we look up at the Cross, let each one of us say, “Sin nailed Him there, and my sin had a share in it”. As the Cross reveals the value to God of the individual soul, each one of us can say, “It is a wonderful thing to think I am worth all that to Him. My poor worthless soul is none the less so precious to Him that He thought me worthy dying for, me, His sinful child”.
...We must remember that what we are celebrating today is a triumph, the supreme triumph of perfect human nature. We see our own nature transfigured, made in the image of God and fulfilling that image. In his contest with the prophets of Baal, when Elijah wished to make it clear that the fire would come from heaven was really divine, he recklessly bade the people to pour water over the sacrifice. If the fire came from God, let it be made clear that nothing man could do could stop that fire. He laid his sacrifice upon the altar and bade them pour barrels of water upon it: he bade them dig a trench round it and fill it with water. Then he prayed to the God of Israel, the fire descended, and the sacrifice was indeed accepted. Our Lord in His great sacrifice of Himself for us filled His trench with everything that sorrow, hate, tears, and blood could bring, and the victory is manifest. The thorns became His crown, the gibbet His altar and His throne, and the dire day of His death bears the name of Good Friday. People have often thought of Easter as the victory. Easter was not the victory, but the revelation of the victory. The Resurrection made the made victory clear. The victory is the victory of love, and we gather here today in all humility, penitence, and adoring love to celebrate that victory. On Calvary we see the way of love challenged by every force that can be brought against it, and we see Love winning in His defeat. Love’s greatest defeat has been Love’s greatest victory’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Do you wish to know of the power of Christ’s blood? Let us go back to the ancient accounts of what took place in Egypt, where Christ’s blood is foreshadowed.
Moses said: “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish and smear the doors with its blood”. What does this mean? Can the blood of a sheep without reason save man who is endowed with reason? Yes, Moses replied, not because it is blood because it is a figure of the Lord’s blood. So today if the devil sees, not the blood of the figure smeared on the doorposts, but the blood of the reality smeared on the lips of the faithful, which are the doors of the temple of Christ, with all the more season will he draw back.
Do you wish to learn from another source the power of this blood? See where it began to flow, from what spring it flowed down from the cross, from the Master’s side. The gospel relates that when Christ had died and was still hanging on the cross, the soldier approached him and pierced his side with the spear, and at once there came out water and blood. The one was a symbol of baptism, the other side of mysteries. That soldier, then, pierced his side: he breached the wall of the holy temple, and I found the treasure and acquired the wealth. Similarly with the lamb. The Jews slaughtered it in sacrifice, and I gathered the fruit of that sacrifice - salvation.
“There came out from his side water and blood”. Dearly beloved, do not pass the secret of this great mystery by without reflection. For I have another secret mystical interpretation to give. I said that baptism and the mysteries were symbolised in that blood and water. It is from these two that the holy Church has been born “by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit,” by baptism and the mysteries. Now the symbols of baptism and the mysteries came from his side. It was from his side, then, that Christ formed the Church, as from the side of Adam he formed Eve.
That is why in his account of the first man Moses has the words, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” giving us a hint here of the Master’s side. For as at time God took a rib from Adam’s side and formed woman, so Christ gave us blood and water from his side and formed the Church. Just as then he took the rib while Adam was in a deep sleep, so now he gave the blood and water after his death.
Have you seen how Christ has united his bride to himself? Have you seen with what kind of food he feeds us all? By the same food we are formed and are fed. As a woman feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too Christ himself continually feeds those whom he had begotten with his own blood”’.
from the instructions to the catechumens by St John Chrysostom, c.349-407
O God of truth and love, who gavest to thy Bishop John Chrysostom eloquence to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation, and courage to bear reproach for the honour of thy Name: mercifully grant to the ministers of thy Word such excellence in preaching; that all people may share with them in the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today is the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary.
‘A person’s name means much more in the liturgy and in the Bible than to us moderns. It is an expression of one’s personality, of one’s whole being or nature. In many cases individuals who in sacred history were assigned special roles received from God a name suited to their mission. We may well admit that the name of the Mother of God did not befall her accidentally but through divine design. For us Christians the name Mary is a sacramental which is ever spoken and honoured with deepest piety. No wonder then that preachers and writers have sought to assign it meanings, to accord it highest praise. The liturgy offers various interpretations, e.g., “friend,” “mistress” (Peter Chrysologus in the third nocturnal), “star of the sea”. The is last title is widely used in the Office (although sound basis for such etymology is lacking). Upon it St Bernard builds an edifying homily to which we listen in the second nocturn. Also in the lovely Vesper hymn of Marian Offices, Ave, Maris Stella, this title used and explained in the third strophe.
Today’s feast is also a family feast in God’s great family. Mary not only is God’s Mother, she is the Mother of us Christians too. Some few days ago we celebrated her birthday, today her name day. And many of us have sisters who keep this day as a special union with their heavenly patroness.
Nor ought we be unmindful that today's feast is a thanksgiving celebration. It is the anniversary of Vienna’s wonderful, almost miraculous, deliverance from the Turks on September 12, 1683. Pope Innocent XI designated this day as one of gratitude for the victory of the Cross over the crescent, due to Mary’s intercession’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that thy faithful people who rejoice in the name and protection of the most holy Virgin Mary, may by her loving intercession be delivered from all evils on earth and be found worthy to come to everlasting joys in heaven; 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.
‘“Woman, behold thy son.” “Behold thy mother.” Can’t you see it all down the years since, till it drew near to you and me, until at last now she is your mother and mine? At Jerusalem, when they brought in the newly won Christians, and showed them to her, and her to them, and said: “This was His mother”. And then, as they went about His business, I see them telling her before they went out, and coming to her with their story when they returned, and her praying for their work, and loving it, because it was His work. And at Ephesus I do not see that it was different. And now that she is in Heaven when JESUS I cannot believe that it is different. What sort of Heaven would it be to a Mother to know nothing of how her Son’s dearest friends were prospering, and to be cut off from praying for them? So I believe that she is my Mother, and that I am her son, as much as any of the earthly Christians who lived during her earthly life, and I believe that she loves me, because JESUS loves me; and I believe that she prays for me, because she wills that I should become what JESUS would have me be. And in these days when I in London can hear a broadcasting announcer clearing his throat in Madrid, I do not find it difficult to believe that Our Lady hears me in Heaven when I ask her in my sore need to pray for me. I beg you, don’t set the resources of the spiritual kingdom below the present achievements of radio-telephony.
...She is our Mother. He gave her to us. So when we pray with Gabriel, God’s archangel: “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women,” and with Elizabeth: “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, JESUS,” we add from ourselves as her children: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death”. And in Heaven “A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” will turn to her beloved Son, and an angel will come to help us and them to conquer in the fight’.
from Dom Bernard Clements OSB, 1880-1942
‘Mary is the “Regina Martyrum,” the Queen of Martyrs. Why is she so called? - she who never had any blows, or wound, or other injury to her consecrated person. How can she be exalted over those whose bodies suffered the most ruthless violence and the keenest torments for our Lord’s sake? She is, indeed, Queen of all Saints, of those who “walk with Christ n white, for they are worthy;” but how of those “who were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held?”
To answer this question, it must be recollected that the pains of the soul may be as fierce as those of the body. Bad men who are now in hell, and the elect of God who are in purgatory, are suffering only in their souls, for their bodies are still in the dust; yet how severe is that suffering! And perhaps most people who have lived long can bear witness in their own persons to a sharpness of distress which was like a sword cutting them, to a weight and force of sorrow which seemed to throw them down through bodily pain there was none.
What an overwhelming horror it must have been for the Blessed Mary to witness the Passion and the Crucifixion of her Son! Her anguish was, as Holy Simeon had announced to her, at the time of that Son’s Presentation in the Temple, a sword piercing her soul. If our Lord Himself could not bear the prospect of what was before Him, and was covered in the thought of it with a bloody sweat, His soul thus acting upon His body, does not this show how great mental pain can be? and would it have been wonderful Mary's head and heart had given way as she stood under His Cross?
Thus is she most truly the Queen of Martyrs’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall; keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; 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 Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect is ancient and, with the [Prayer Book] Epistle and Gospel, is the same as used before the Reformation, though both Epistle and Gospel are lengthened. It is interesting to notice how constantly the frailty of our nature is insisted on in the Collects.
In this Collect as elsewhere in the Prayer Book we call ourselves God’s Church. Keep us, thy Church, with thy perpetual mercy! We need God's protection because of our frailty or fragility; our good resolutions are so apt to be broken. So we ask to be kept from hurtful things to be given things profitable to our salvation.
...The Collect does not tell us the names of the things we need, but it says plainly that we need God’s help to keep us from things hurtful. God’s help comes to us through prayer and sacrament, through conscience guiding us, through God's holy inspiration, through the gifts of the Spirit, and they will lead us to things profitable to our salvation.
Just as we need to be careful about little things if we are to be profitable, in things spiritual we must be equally careful if they are to be profitable to our salvation. We need above all things the gift of holy fear... [w]e should be afraid to think or say or do anything which would injure God’s Holy Name, or his Word or his Church. If we have this sort of fear it will lead us to things profitable to our salvation’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
On this, Our Lady’s Nativity, another poem by the 17th century English Jesuit martyr, Saint Robert Southwell. Happy feast!
Our Lady’s Nativity
Joy in the rising of our orient star,
That shall bring forth that Sun that lent her light;
Joy in the peace that shall conclude our war,
And soon rebate the edge of Satan’s spite;
Lode-star of all engulf’d in worldly waves,
The card and compass that from shipwreck saves.
The patriarchs and prophets were the flowers
Which time by course of ages did distill,
And culled into this little cloud the showers
Whose gracious drops the world with joy shall fill;
Whose moisture suppleth every soul with grace,
And bringeth life to Adam’s dying race.
For God, on earth, she is the royal throne,
The chosen cloth to make his mortal weede;
The quarry to cut out our Corner-stone,
Soil full of fruit, yet free from mortal seed;
For heavenly flower she is the Jesse rod
The child of man, the parent of a God.
St Robert Southwell, c.1561-1595
What mist hath dimmed that glorious face?
What seas of grief my sun doth toss?
The golden rays of heavenly grace
lie now eclipsèd on the cross.
Jesus! my Love, my Son, my God,
behold thy mother washed in tears;
Thy bloody wounds be made a rod
to chasten these my latter years.
Thou messenger that didst impart
his first descent into my womb,
Come help me now to cleave my heart,
that I may there my Son intomb.
Ye angels all, that present were,
to show his birth in harmony;
Why are you not now ready here,
to make a mourning symphony?
But wail, my soul, thy comfort dies,
my woeful womb lament thy fruit;
My heart, give tears unto my eyes,
let sorrow string my heavy lute.
St Robert Southwell, c.1561-1595
‘Here I saw something of the compassion of Our Lady St Mary, for Christ and she were so one in love that the greatness of her love was the cause of the greatness of her pain. In this I saw the substance of natural love, developed by grace, which his creatures have for him.
This love was most supremely and surpassingly shown in his sweet Mother. For as much as she loved him more than all others, her pain surpassed all others. For always the higher, the stronger, the sweeter the love is, the greater is the sorrow of one who sees the body of a beloved suffer. So all his disciples and all his true lovers suffered far more when he suffered than when they themselves did. I am sure, from the way I feel myself, that the very least of them loved him so much more than they loved themselves that I am unable to put it into words’.
Julian of Norwich, c.1342-c.1430
Fr Lee Kenyon