‘“May they rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them” - those millions among whom our friends are lost, those millions for whom we cannot choose but pray; because prayer is a sharing in the love of the heart of God, and the love of God is earnestly set towards the salvation of his spiritual creatures, by, through and out of the fire that purifies them.
The arithmetic of death perplexes our brains. What can we do but throw ourselves upon the infinity of God? It is only to a finite mind that number is an obstacle, or multiplicity a distraction. Our mind is like a box of limited content, out of which one thing must be emptied before another can find a place. The universe of creatures is queuing for a turn of our attention, and no appreciable part of the queue will ever get a turn. But no queue forms before the throne of everlasting mercy, because the nature of an infinite mind is to be simply aware of everything that is.
Everything is simply present to an infinite mind, because it exists; or rather, exists because it is present to that making mind. And though by some process of averaging and calculation I should compute the grains of sand, it would be like the arithmetic of the departed souls, an empty sum; I could not tell them as they are told in the infinity of God’s counsels, each one separately present as what it is, and simply because it is.
The thought God gives to any of his creatures is not measured by the attention he can spare, but by the object for consideration they can supply. God is not divided; it is God, not a part of God, who applies himself to the falling sparrow, and to the crucified Lord. But there is more in the beloved Son than in the sparrow, to be observed and loved and saved by God. So every soul that has passed out of this visible world, as well as every soul remaining within it, is caught and held in the unwavering beam of divine care. And we may comfort ourselves for our own inability to tell the grains of sand, or to reckon the thousands of millions of the departed.
And yet we cannot altogether escape so; for our religion is not a simple relation of every soul separately to God, it is a mystical body in which we are all members one of another. And in this mystical body it does not suffice that every soul should be embraced by the thoughts of God; it has also to be that every soul should, in its thought, embrace the other souls. For apart from this mutual embracing, it would be unintelligible why we should pray at all, either for the living or for the departed. Such prayer is nothing but the exercising of our membership in the body of Christ. God is not content to care for us each severally, unless he can also, by his Holy Spirit in each one of us, care through and in us for all the rest. Every one of us is to be a focus of that divine life of which the attractive power holds the body together in one.
So even in the darkness and blindness of our present existence, our thought ranges abroad and spreads out towards the confines of the mystical Christ, remembering the whole Church of Christ, as well militant on earth as triumphant in heaven; invoking angels, archangels and all the spiritual host’.
from a sermon preached, 1960, by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
Today marks the third anniversary of the death of one of our Parochial Vicars here at St John Henry’s, Victoria, Fr Michael Birch. Fr Michael was my predecessor as Rector of St John the Evangelist, Calgary (1974-1984), and he did much to build up the Catholic tradition in the parish, laying the foundations for its future entry into the Catholic Church in 2011. The top left-hand photo shows Fr Michael with the then-Anglican Bishop of Calgary, Morse Goodman. Fr Michael was received into the Catholic Church in 2012 and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood, for the Ordinariate, at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Victoria, in 2013. I had the honour of preaching at his First Mass, and the sad privilege of preaching at his Funeral Requiem Mass in the same cathedral in 2016. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory. Jesu, mercy. Mary, pray.
O God, who didst cause thy servant Michael, for whom we pray, to enjoy the office of Priest after the order of thine Apostles: grant unto him, we beseech thee; finally to rejoice in the company of those thy Saints in heaven whose ministry he did sometime share 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.
‘In this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to celebrate the Lord Jesus as King of the Universe. She calls us to look to the future, or more properly into the depths, to the ultimate goal of history, which will be the definitive and eternal kingdom of Christ. He was with the Father in the beginning, when the world was created, and he will fully manifest his lordship at the end of time, when he will judge all mankind. Today’s three readings speak to us of this kingdom. In the Gospel passage which we have just heard, drawn from the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus appears in humiliating circumstances – he stands accused – before the might of Rome. He had been arrested, insulted, mocked, and now his enemies hope to obtain his condemnation to death by crucifixion. They had presented him to Pilate as one who sought political power, as the self-proclaimed King of the Jews. The Roman procurator conducts his enquiry and asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33). In reply to this question, Jesus clarifies the nature of his kingship and his messiahship itself, which is no worldly power but a love which serves. He states that his kingdom is in no way to be confused with a political reign: “My kingship is not of this world… is not from the world”.
Jesus clearly had no political ambitions. After the multiplication of the loaves, the people, enthralled by the miracle, wanted to take him away and make him their king, in order to overthrow the power of Rome and thus establish a new political kingdom which would be considered the long-awaited kingdom of God. But Jesus knows that God’s kingdom is of a completely different kind; it is not built on arms and violence. The multiplication of the loaves itself becomes both the sign that he is the Messiah and a watershed in his activity: henceforth the path to the Cross becomes ever clearer; there, in the supreme act of love, the promised kingdom, the kingdom of God, will shine forth. But the crowd does not understand this; they are disappointed and Jesus retires to the mountain to pray in solitude, to pray with the Father. In the Passion narrative we see how even the disciples, though they had shared Jesus’ life and listened to his words, were still thinking of a political kingdom, brought about also by force. In Gethsemane, Peter had unsheathed his sword and began to fight, but Jesus stopped him. He does not wish to be defended by arms, but to accomplish the Father’s will to the end, and to establish his kingdom not by armed conflict, but by the apparent weakness of life-giving love. The kingdom of God is a kingdom utterly different from earthly kingdoms’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in thy well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate’s severest rage disarm:
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please:
Our joys below it can improve,
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found,
And to her Maker’s praise confin’d the sound.
When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,
Th’immortal pow’rs incline their ear;
Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,
While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
And Angels lean from heav’n to hear.
Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater pow’r is giv’n;
His numbers rais’d a shade from hell,
Hers lift the soul to heav’n.
from Ode on St Cecilia’s Day by Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
Scarce lay the blossoms of her golden hair
Warm as a leveret in her mother’s hand
When on the wall her shadow gliding there
Haunted her young years with its stern demand.
She coveted no worldly vanity
As the tall steps she climbed with girlish grace,
Approaching unperturbed the galaxy
Of aged priests who kept the holy place.
She looked not back. There on the stone floor lay
The apple that her father gave as token
Of tenderness for all her tenderness.
She entered joyfully that blessed day
The templed walls, herself a shrine unbroken,
To wait till time shall reach its fruitfulness.
Ruth Schaumann, 1899-1975
On this memorial of St Edmund, King and Martyr, photographs from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk (Anglican cathedral and St Mary’s Church, formerly part of the dissolved abbey), taking during two pilgrimages from St John the Evangelist, Calgary to England in 2010 and 2015.
‘No Christian can be surprised that innocence should suffer. Prosperity is often the most grievous judgment that God exercises upon a wicked man, who by it is suffered, in punishment of his impiety, to blind and harden himself in his evil courses, and to plunge himself deeper in iniquity. On the other hand, God, in his merciful providence, conducts second causes, so that afflictions fall to the share of those souls whose sanctification he has particularly in view. By tribulation a man learns perfectly to die to the world and himself, a work which without its aid, even the severest self-denial, and the most perfect obedience, leave imperfect. By tribulation we learn the perfect exercise of humility, patience, meekness, resignation, and pure love of God; which are neither practised nor learned without such occasions. By a good use of tribulation a person becomes a saint in a very short time, and at a cheap rate. The opportunity and grace of suffering well is a mercy in favour of chosen souls; and a mercy to which every saint from Abel to the last of the elect is indebted for his crown. We meet with sufferings from ourselves, from disappointments, from friends and from enemies. We are on every side beset with crosses. But we bear them with impatience and complaints. Thus we cherish our passions, and multiply sins by the very means which are given us to crucify and overcome them. To learn to bear crosses well is one of the most essential and most important duties of a Christian life. To make a good use of the little crosses which we continually meet with, is the means of making the greatest progress in all virtue, and of obtaining strength to stand our ground under great trials. St Edmund’s whole life was a preparation for martyrdom’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God of unspeakable mercy, who didst give thy blessed Saint Edmund grace to overcome the enemy by dying for thy Name: mercifully grant to us thy servants; that by his intercession we may be found worthy to conquer and subdue the temptations of our ancient adversary; 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.
‘Now it is certain that amongst our neighbours are to be reckoned the souls in purgatory, who, although no longer living in this world, yet have not left the communion of saints… Therefore, we ought to succour, according to our ability, those holy souls as our neighbours; and as their necessities are greater than those of our neighbours; and as their necessities are greater than those of our other neighbours, for this reason our duty to succour them seems also to be greater.
But now, what are the necessities of those holy prisoners? It is certain that their pains are immense. The fire that tortures them, says St Augustine, is more excruciating than any pain that man can endure in this life: “That fire will be more painful than anything that man can suffer in this life”… And this only relates to the pains of sense. But the pain of loss (that is, the privation of the sight of God), which those holy souls suffer, is much greater; because not only their natural affection, but also the supernatural love of God, wherewith they burn, draws them with such violence to be united with their Sovereign Good, that when they see the barrier which their sins have put in the way, they feel a pain so acute, that if they were capable of death, they could not live a moment.
…They are destined to reign with Christ; but they are withheld from taking possession of their kingdom till the time of their purgation is accomplished. And they cannot help themselves (at least not sufficiently, even according to those theologians who assert that they can by their prayers gain some relief,) to throw off their chains, until they have entirely satisfied the justice of God’.
from ‘Prayer, The Great Means of Obtaining Salvation and All the Graces
Which We Desire of God’ by St Alphonsus di Liguori, 1696-1787
‘[A] characteristic of the divine household is the protection it affords us. It is not for nothing that a well recognised symbol of the Church is the ark. As Noah’s ark was a refuge for his family amid the swirling waters of the flood, so the Church is a place of safety for all who would escape from the dangers and temptations of the world.
We need not be ashamed of the desire for such safety. It is no mere “escapism”. We do not desire to be taken out of the world, or even from its harsher elements; we only ask to be protected from harm, and to be strengthened by the rest and refreshment so that we may fight again with renewed vigour and certainty of success’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in continual godliness: that through thy protection she may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in all good works, to thy glory of thy Name, 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 Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Weep for those who die in their wealth and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extent of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it may be, yet let us somehow assist them. But how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating others to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. When the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defence? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf’.
from Homilies on Philippians 3.4-10 by St John Chrysostom, d.407
Heavenly Father, Lord and Lover of souls, we pray to thee for those we believe are living still, though they have passed through the grave and gate of death and we see them no more. After the darkness here, grant them the light of vision; after the restlessness of sin, grant them the rest of union with thy will. Nearer to thee, they will not be farther from us: loving thee more, they will not love us less. Fulfil and finish in them thy perfect work, that they may know the more abundant life that he came to bring, who is the Resurrection and the Life, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen. - Father Andrew SDC, from St Gregory’s Prayer Book.
For the Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Laurence Binyon CH, 1869-1943
Some photos of today’s Solemn Mass of Requiem, which began with an Act of Remembrance and concluded with the Absolution of the Dead at the Catafalque. The setting of the Mass was the Missa pro defunctis, in Latin, and we sang ‘O God our help in ages past’, ‘I vow to thee my country’, and ‘O valiant hearts’, as well as a verse each of the National (‘O Canada’) and Royal (‘God save the Queen’) Anthems. The Offertory motet was Richard Farrant’s ‘Call to Remembrance’. The Dies irae was sung in English, according to Burgess’ plainsong setting, and the Libera Me was sung in Latin. We were very grateful to have a bugler from the 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery to play the Last Post and the Rouse for our Act of Remembrance. A very observance of Remembrance Sunday. The national celebration, tomorrow, of Remembrance Day will be kept with a Requiem Mass at 9.30 a.m.
O Lord our God, whose Name only is excellent and thy praise above heaven and earth: we thank thee for all those who counted not their lives dear unto themselves but laid them down for their friends; grant us, we beseech thee, that having them always in remembrance we may imitate their faithfulness and sacrifice; 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 will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope”. The Church today has the same desire as the Apostle thus expressed to the first Christians. The truth concerning the dead not only proves admirably the union between God’s justice and his goodness; it also inspires a charitable pity which the hardest heart cannot resist, and at the same time offers to the mourners the sweetest consolation. If faith teaches us the existence of a purgatory, where our loved ones may be detained by unexpiated sin, it is also of faith that we are able to assist them; and theology assures us that their more or less speedy deliverance lies in our power. Let us call to mind a few principles, which throw light on this doctrine. Every sin causes a twofold injury to the sinner: it stains his soul, and renders him liable to punishment. Venial sin, which displeases God, requires a temporal expiation. Mortal sin deforms the soul, and makes the guilty man an abomination to God: its punishment cannot be anything less than eternal banishment, unless the sinner, in this life, prevent the final and irrevocable sentence. But even then the remission of the guilt, though it revokes the sentence of damnation, does not cancel the whole debt. Although an extraordinary overflow of grace upon the prodigal may sometimes, as is always the case with regard to baptism and martyrdom, bury every remnant and vestige of sin in the abyss of divine oblivion; yet it is the ordinary rule that for every fault, satisfaction must be made to God’s justice, either in this world or in the next’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Help, Lord, the souls which Thou hast made,
The souls to Thee so dear,
In prison for the debt unpaid
Of sins committed here.
Those holy souls, they suffer on,
Resign’d in heart and will,
Until Thy high behest is done,
And justice has its fill.
For daily falls, for pardon’d crime,
They joy to undergo
The shadow of Thy cross sublime,
The remnant of Thy woe.
Help, Lord, the souls which Thou hast made,
The souls to Thee so dear,
In prison for the debt unpaid
Of sins committed here.
Oh, by their patience of delay,
Their hope amid their pain,
Their sacred zeal to burn away
Disfigurement and stain;
Oh, by their fire of love, not less
In keenness than the flame,
Oh, by their very helplessness,
Oh, by Thy own great Name,
Good Jesu, help! sweet Jesu, aid
The souls to Thee most dear,
In prison for the debt unpaid
Of sins committed here.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘This faith hath always not only faithful people had; but also, as we say, very miscreants and idolaters have ever had a certain opinion and persuasion of the same – whether that of the first light and revelation given of such things to our former fathers… there hath always remained a glimmering that hath gone forth from man to man, from one generation to another, and so continued and kept among all people… or else that nature and reason have taught men everywhere to perceive it. For surely that they have such belief… not only by such as have been travelled in many countries among sundry sects, but also by the old and ancient writers that have been among them, we may well and evidently perceive. And in good faith, if never had there been revelation given thereof, nor other light than reason: yet, presupposed the immortality of man’s soul, which no reasonable man distrusted; and thereto agreed the righteousness of God, and his goodness, which scant the devil himself denieth… purgatory must needs appear. For since that God, of his righteousness, will not leave sin unpunished; nor his goodness will perpetually punish the fault after the man’s conversion: it followeth that the punishment shall be temporal. And, now, since the man often dieth before such punishment had… either at God’s hand, by some affliction sent him, or at his own, by due penance done – which the most part of people wantonly doth forsloth – a very child, almost, may see the consequent: that the punishment at the death remaining due and undone… is to be endured and sustained after. Which… since his majesty is so excellent whom we have offended… cannot of right and justice be but heavy and sore’.
from ‘The Supplication of Souls’, 1529, by St Thomas More, 1478-1535
A joyful day yesterday as we kept, as a parish family, today’s anniversary of the promulgation in 2009 of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. By the direction of our bishop all parishes and parochial communities in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, with the gift of an indulgence attached, offered a Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost in thanksgiving for this occasion, concluding with a Solemn Te Deum. We were blessed to hear Hassler’s Missa Secunda for the Kyrie, Sanctus-Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, and an English setting of the Missa de Angelis for the Gloria and Credo. We also heard Palestrina’s Super flumina Babylonis, appointed for the Offertory for Trinity XX, and Attwood’s sublime Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire as our Communion motet. The Anglican patrimony was well represented with Come down, O Love divine for our opening hymn, Come, thou Holy Spirit, come for the Offertory, and O thou who camest from above as our final hymn. The Te Deum, sung in English following the Postcommunion Prayer, was according to the Ambrosian melody. An inspiring liturgical and musical offering to the glory of God, meaningful fellowship, and much hope for the future of the Ordinariate here in Victoria. We give thanks to God, and to Pope Benedict, for this great gift of communion now bearing fruit in our portion of the vineyard.
Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth: mercifully hear our prayers, and grant to this Ordinariate all things needful for its spiritual welfare (priests and deacons to labour in this portion of thy vineyard; holy, learned, and zealous religious; churches complete in the beauty of holiness). Strengthen and confirm the faithful; protect and guide the children; visit and relieve the sick; turn and soften the wicked; arouse the careless; recover the fallen; restore the penitent. Remove all hindrances to the advancement of thy truth; and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within the fold of thy holy Church, to the honour and glory of thy blessed Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. - St Gregory’s Prayer Book.
‘Today... we commemorate all of the faithful departed, who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith and... who sleep in Christ”. It is very important that we Christians live a relationship of the truth of the faith with the deceased and that we view death and the afterlife in the light of Revelation. Already the Apostle Paul, writing to the first communities, exhorted the faithful to “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since”, he wrote, “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep”. Today too, it is necessary to evangelise about the reality of death and eternal life, realities particularly subject to superstitious beliefs and syncretisms, so that the Christian truth does not risk mixing itself with myths of various types.
In my Encyclical on Christian hope, I questioned myself about the mystery of eternal life. I asked myself: “Is the Christian faith a hope that transforms and sustains the lives of people still today?” And more radically: “Do men and women of our time still long for eternal life? Or has earthly existence perhaps become their only horizon?” In reality, as St Augustine had already observed, all of us want a “blessed life”, happiness. We rarely know what it is like or how it will be, but we feel attracted to it. This is a universal hope, common to men and women of all times and all places. The expression “eternal life” aims to give a name to this irrepressible longing; it is not an unending succession of days, but an immersion of oneself in the ocean of infinite love, in which time, before and after, no longer exists. A fulness of life and of joy: it is this that we hope and await from our being with Christ.
Today we renew the hope in eternal life, truly founded on Christ’s death and Resurrection. “I am risen and I am with you always”, the Lord tells us, and my hand supports you. Wherever you may fall, you will fall into my hands and I will be there even to the gates of death. Where no one can accompany you any longer and where you can take nothing with you, there I will wait for you to transform for you the darkness into light. Christian hope, however, is not solely individual, it is also always a hope for others. Our lives are profoundly linked, one to the other, and the good and the bad that each of us does always affects others too. Hence, the prayer of a pilgrim soul in the world can help another soul that is being purified after death. This is why the Church invites us today to pray for our beloved deceased and to pause at their tombs in the cemeteries. Mary, Star of Hope, renders our faith in eternal life stronger and more authentic, and supports our prayer of suffrage for our deceased brethren’.
Pope Benedict XVI
‘The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.
Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy. In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3.1).
It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.
Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, “losing ourselves”, and it is precisely this that makes us happy’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Fr Lee Kenyon