On this memorial of St John Bosco, his words of wisdom, as communicated to his Salesian brethren, on the challenge of being an educator.
‘Perhaps you think that what I am suggesting is too easy or not practical enough. Yet I assure you that if you abide by what I say, you will be successful. You will see that by these means you will win over those who in the be-ginning had not given the least cause for any hope.
If too often we see our efforts cast to the winds, devoid of any good results, if the fruit of our labours is nothing but a bunch of thorns and thistles, I believe we are to attribute this sad failure to the fact that we have not yet learned the way of keeping discipline in the manner I have explained above.
Only moral strength can win the human heart, which Saint Gregory tells us is like an impregnable fortress that cannot be conquered except by affection and kindness.
What I recommend is hard, I know, especially for young adults whose first inclination towards obtaining discipline is to act on the spur of the moment and inflict punishments. But I assure you; real success can only be the result of patience. Impatience merely disgusts the children and spreads discontent among the best of them.
Long experience has taught me that patience is the only remedy for even the worst cases of disobedience and irresponsiveness. Sometimes, after making many patient efforts without obtaining success, I deemed it necessary to resort to severe measures. Yet these never achieved anything, and in the end I always found that charity finally triumphed where severity had met with failure. Charity is the cure-all though it may be slow in affecting its cure.
Remember that education is a difficult art and that God alone is its true master. We will never succeed in it unless he teaches us the way. While depending humbly and entirely on him, we should try with might and main to acquire that moral strength which is a stranger to force and rigour. Let us strive to make ourselves loved, to instil into our children the high ideal of duty and the holy fear of God, and we will soon possess their hearts. Then, with natural ease, they will join us in praising Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our model, our patron, our exemplar in all things, but especially in the education of the young’.
St John Bosco, 1815-1888
O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘That the First Charles does here in triumph ride,
See his son reign where he a martyr died,
And people pay that reverence as they pass,
(Which then he wanted!) to the sacred brass,
Is not the effect of gratitude alone,
To which we owe the statue and the stone;
But Heaven this lasting monument has wrought,
That mortals may eternally be taught
Rebellion, though successful, is but vain,
And kings so killed rise conquerors again.
This truth the royal image does proclaim,
Loud as the trumpet of surviving Fame’.
‘On the Statue of King Charles I at Charing Cross in the Year 1674’
by Edmund Waller, 1606-1687
On this final ferial day of this month dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, a hymn by Edward Perronet. The son of a Kent vicar, Perronet grew to know and work alongside the Wesleys well, but later fell out with them, and with both the Church of England and the Methodist movement, and ended up pastoring dissenting congregations. In his will Perronet left money to William Shrubsole (1760-1806), the composer of the tune Miles Lane, written to accompany this hymn.
‘In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.
The last months of Thomas’ earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realised, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then “was worthless”. This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas’ personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God’s greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: “You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?” And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: “Nothing but Yourself, Lord!”’.
from a general audience, 2 June 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
Everlasting God, who didst enrich thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Saint Thomas Aquinas: grant to all who seek thee a humble mind and a pure heart; that they may know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Almighty and everlasting God: mercifully look upon our infirmities; and in all our dangers and necessities, stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend 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. - Collect for the Third Sunday after Epiphany from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The preoccupation of the medieval world with the thought of danger comes out again in this ancient prayer for peace. In this case the collect… begins with an almost pathetic acknowledgment of man’s weakness.
“Mercifully look upon our infirmities”. Actually this is the beginning of all religion. To recognise our weakness is perhaps humiliating, but it is nevertheless wholesome. It is in any case a piece of realism: it shows that we are in touch with facts. All the nonsense about “my unconquered soul”, and “my head is bloody but unbowed”, is seen at its true value. No man who really knows himself dare make such claims for his own, unaided strength. Far nearer the truth, however unpalatable, is the line of the hymn: “We are frail earthen vessels and things of no worth”.
Our infirmities are of every kind, physical, mental, moral. No one needs to stress our bodily weakness: it is so obvious that writers have been known to blame the Creator for having made man’s body so inefficient a tool. Our mental weakness is equally clear. How little can we remember to take in, and how difficult do we find it to think straight on any matter. Our moral weakness is even more glaring. We have indeed made so great a failure of the moral struggle that the modern novelist and dramatist try to avoid the issue by pretending that there are really no such things as morals. The cult of the passing moment, without any reference to permanent standards, is all that matters’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘[I]f we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.
Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.
Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realising that this also entails a service to the Church herself.
…[L]et us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).
Through our commitment in practise we can and must discover the truth of these words… we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour’.
from a general audience, 13 December 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
Heavenly Father, who didst send thine Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel, and gavest him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in the Faith: grant that, through their prayers, our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the Name of Jesus; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
On this Octave Day of the Church Unity Octave (otherwise known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity), the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, a prayer by Blessed John Henry Newman:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, when thou wast about to suffer, didst pray for thy disciples to the end of time that they might all be one, as thou art in the Father, and the Father in thee, look down in pity on the manifold divisions among those who profess thy faith, and heal the many wounds which the pride of man and the craft of Satan have inflicted upon thy people. Break down the walls of separation which divide one party and denomination of Christians from another… and bring them all into that one communion which thou didst set up in the beginning, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Teach all men that the see of Saint Peter, the Holy Church of Rome, is the foundation, centre, and instrument of unity. Open their hearts to the long-forgotten truth that our Holy Father, the Pope, is thy Vicar and Representative; and that in obeying him in matters of religion, they are obeying thee, so that as there is but one holy company in heaven above, so likewise there may be but one communion, confessing and glorifying thy holy Name here below. Amen.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. I have compared it with the New Religions; but this is exactly where it differs from the New Religions. The New Religions are in many ways suited to the new conditions; but they are only suited to the new conditions. When those conditions shall have changed in only a century or so, the points upon which alone they insist at present will have become almost pointless. If the Faith has all the freshness of a new religion, it has all the richness of an old religion; it has especially all the reserves of an old religion... A thing as old as the Catholic Church has an accumulated armoury and treasury to choose from; it can pick and choose among the centuries and brings one age to the rescue of another. It can call in the old world to redress the balance of the new’.
from Conversion and the Catholic Church, 1926, by G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936
‘I am a Catholic because the Church Christ founded and gave us is our literal, historical, temporal connector to Him. Without the connector, the wire that plugs into the infinite divine electricity, our souls die. We receive His life, His literal blood, through the umbilical cord of the Church’s Eucharist. It literally incorporates us into His corpus, His body.
We also receive His mind through the Church’s teachings. Infallible dogmas can come only from the only infallible mind in existence, the divine mind. But they do not save us; they are only the road map. Unlike Plato and Buddha, Jesus saved us by saying not “This is my mind” but “This is my body”. And not just by saying it but by doing it, by giving us His body, on the Cross and in the Eucharist and in the Church.
…He comes to us in His body today just as He came to us in His body two thousand years ago. And the Church is His body; it is “the extension of the Incarnation”.
The body we receive in Holy Communion is the very same body that He saved us with by offering it on the Cross. He has only one body, but it is in three places: on the Cross, in the Eucharist, and in the Church. And He is in the Church in two ways, or two dimensions, because we exist in two dimensions and so does He in His humanity: He is in the public, external, objective, visible institution that teaches and sanctifies His people, and He is also in the private, internal, subjective, invisible souls and bodies of His people who are baptised into His body and who receive His body into their bodies in the Eucharist and who thus become the cells in His Mystical Body, the Church.
When He said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53), did He mean by His “flesh” His mortal body on the Cross, His sacramental body in the Eucharist, or His Mystical Body in the Church? Wrong question. It’s not an either-or. Remember, He has only one body, not three.
To break with His body the Church is to break with Christ, just as to kiss or hit or heal or kill your body is to kiss or hit or heal or kill you. That’s why St Thomas More gave up his life over his king’s break with Rome’.
Dr Peter Kreeft
‘I have been a Catholic for less than six months and already it is difficult to understand why I did not submit thirty-eight years ago. The slowness with which I saw the truth; the misconceptions, which were only partly the result of my heredity and upbringing, as to what the Christian Faith in fact was; the individualism which persisted in pursuing a course for ‘reunion’ which I had worked out theoretically without a proper appreciation of the practical difficulties… - all these, and more, are part of a mea culpa which found relief in the formal utterance demanded and made gladly on my reception: “With a sincere heart and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error, heresy and sect opposed to the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church”.
I have tried to set down now, before the memory is blurred, the face of things as it appeared at the time; for the besetting temptation of every convert is to doubt, or at least to minimise, his own good faith in the days before his conversion. And, in the process, it has become clearer than ever to me that “the gift of faith” is, indeed, a gift dispensed by the mercy of God and in no way attainable by any intellectual process. “Credo ut intelligam” remains true.
…[T]here is an earlier passage in [Chesterton’s] Orthodoxy which I find even more appropriate: “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased”.
So, inside the walls, I have found the freedom and the safety and the happiness of the garden again’.
from The Walled Garden: An Autobiography, 1957
Hugh Ross Williamson was an Anglican priest, 1943-1955
‘We, the undersigned Priests and Deacons (or lay communicants) of the Catholic Church, in full communion with the See of Canterbury, desire, in respectfully approaching your Lordships, to express our deep sense of sorrow at the long continuance of the divisions of Christendom, and our deep sense of the manifold evils which result from this.
…We are mindful of the efforts made in former times by English and foreign Bishops and theologians, to effect, by mutual explanations on either side, a reconciliation between the Roman and Anglican communions.
And, considering the ultimate and visible unity which existed between the Church of England and the rest of Western Christendom, we earnestly entreat your Lordships seriously to consider the best means of renewing like endeavours; and to adopt such measures as may, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, be effectual in removing the barriers which now divide the Western branch of the Catholic Church.
But fully conscious that so great a gift as the healthful reunion of Christendom cannot be obtained by any effort of mere human wisdom, we further ask your Lordships specially to commend to the members of your flocks earnest and persevering prayer that God would so pour his love into the hearts of all Christians, that they may be drawn to be again one fold under one Shepherd’.
from a letter signed by 1,112 clergy (including Benson, Butler, Carter, Lee, Lowder, Mackonochie, and Pusey) and 4,453 laymen of the Church of England, to the bishops of the Anglican Communion gathering at Lambeth for the first time in 1867.
‘[T]here are three [gifts] in particular which former Anglicans bring into the Catholic Church. The first, as our friend Monsignor Ronald Knox so cleverly demonstrated, is apologetics. Cardinal Hume said to me once: “Peter, I know that everything you believe you had to fight for”. Unbeknownst to me, he heard me preach in Southwark Cathedral at the Catholic Renewal Conference. “I saw the way you defended the Catholic Faith”, he said, “in a way that my own friends and flock don’t need to. They take it for granted”. Ronald Knox, in his writings and in his pamphlets, was the exponent par excellence of that great gift of explaining simply the fundamental truths of the faith. I still have my Francis Hall Dogmatic Theology series, and I highly recommend them. They consist of something like twelve volumes, and they are possibly the only titles the American Church Union still publishes. Within them, there are good arguments for so many of the doctrines of the faith, so they are helpful for teaching and converting.
The second great gift that former Anglicans bring to the Catholic Church relates to the liturgy: Lex orandi, lex credendi… When it comes to worship, some of us Anglicans were doing it better than our Roman Catholic confreres. We read the rubrics and we kept them. The most recent rubrical guide to the new Roman Missal is by Monsignor Peter Elliott (another former Anglican who has made it to the purple). He has written his own guide on how worship should be done, and it is one of the gifts Anglicans have given the Catholic Church.
The third gift is pastoral care, one of the great marks of Anglicanism through history. Perhaps we have excelled as pastors because our parishes have been fractionally smaller (we haven’t had crowds of people). Our parishioners know they are a part of a community and a family, and we nurture them, sustain them, and help them on their pilgrimage. This is a great strength we must hold on to. We must resist the bureaucracy, and the committees, and all that activity that takes us away from pastoring souls. We must reemphasise that each and every one is precious and needs to be protected and developed’.
from his essay Conversion and Enrichment by Fr Peter Geldard
in Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church: Reflections on Recent Developments, 2011
‘The untroubled page of history in those early days, to which some profess to appeal, attests the fact that St Matthew 16:19 says that there was then but one Church on earth. There was no second no other, none like it, none beside it; and the centre and head of that Church was the centre and head of the Christian world. It was the city of Rome, and in that city of Rome the See of Rome, the apostolic throne on which sat the successors of the Chief of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. No one doubts this as to history in the past; but the history of the past is supposed to lay no jurisdiction over our consciences now. Men treat history as an idle page, which they may read for their amusement, but refuse as a guide for their consciences. And yet it is indubitable that the one only Church of God, the circumference of which rested on the sunrise and the sunset, had a centre, and that centre was in Rome. Take it then as a mere matter of fact. The Divine Architect, in describing the circuit of His kingdom on earth, placed one foot of His compass in the city of Rome, and with the other traced a circumference which included the whole world. The annals of the Church in succession recognise the Bishop who sat in Peter’s seat as head among the Bishops of the world. I need not wear away your time by citing testimonies. Any one who will take the page of history may read it. I raise no claim, as yet, to anything beyond the fact…
There follows also another truth, and it is an awful one, a truth which springs from the last so inseparably and by so strong a necessity, that I dare not pass it by. If, indeed, God the Holy Ghost being the midst of us, and if it be God the Holy Ghost Who speaks to us through the one Holy Catholic and Roman Church, then it imposes its doctrines on the consciences of men under pain of eternal death. It is under pain of eternal death to disbelieve that which God the Holy Ghost has revealed. To disbelieve what the Holy Ghost, through the Church of God, has taught, incurs the pain of eternal death for those who with their eyes openly reject it’.
Henry, Cardinal Manning, 1808-1892
(Anglican Archdeacon of Chichester 1840-1851; Catholic Archbishop of Westminster 1865-1892)
‘It was not Jesus’ practise to change his disciples’ names: apart from the nickname “sons of thunder”, which in specific circumstances he attributed to the sons of Zebedee and never used again. He never gave any of his disciples a new name.
Yet, he gave one to Simon, calling him “Cephas”. This name was later translated into Greek as Petros and into Latin as Petrus. And it was translated precisely because it was not only a name; it was a “mandate” that Petrus received in that way from the Lord. The new name Petrus was to recur frequently in the Gospels and ended by replacing “Simon”, his original name.
This fact acquires special importance if one bears in mind that in the Old Testament, a change of name usually preceded the entrustment of a mission.
…‘Peter will be the rocky foundation on which he will build the edifice of the Church; he will have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he sees fit; lastly, he will be able to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. It is always Christ’s Church, not Peter’s.
…This pre-eminent position that Jesus wanted to bestow upon Peter is also encountered after the Resurrection: Jesus charges the women to announce it especially to Peter, as distinct from the other Apostles; it is to Peter and John that Mary Magdalene runs to tell them that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and John was to stand back to let Peter enter first when they arrived at the empty tomb.
Then, Peter was to be the first witness of an appearance of the Risen One. His role, decisively emphasised, marks the continuity between the pre-eminence he had in the group of the Apostles and the pre-eminence he would continue to have in the community born with the paschal events, as the Book of Acts testifies.
His behaviour was considered so decisive that it prompted remarks as well as criticism.
At the so-called Council of Jerusalem Peter played a directive role, and precisely because he was a witness of authentic faith, Paul himself recognised that he had a certain quality of “leadership”.
Moreover, the fact that several of the key texts that refer to Peter can be traced back to the context of the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon Peter the ministry of strengthening his brethren, shows that the ministry entrusted to Peter was one of the constitutive elements of the Church, which was born from the commemoration of the Pasch celebrated in the Eucharist.
This contextualisation of the Primacy of Peter at the Last Supper, at the moment of the Institution of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Pasch, also points to the ultimate meaning of this Primacy: Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ for all time. He must guide people to communion with Christ; he must ensure that the net does not break, and consequently that universal communion endures. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all.
Thus, Peter is responsible for guaranteeing communion with Christ with the love of Christ, guiding people to fulfil this love in everyday life. Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognised by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us’.
from a general audience, 7 June 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; 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
‘Among the opinions we can be sure to encounter is a certain uneasiness with our Missal’s use of traditional language and even the snarky charge that Divine Worship is really just a “Tudorbethan fantasy, an exercise in mock-Tudor nostalgia, or a Cranmerian pastiche with limited appeal and prospects only for evangelising a small set of gin-sipping anglophiles.” I exaggerate for effect, but only slightly – just wait until the blogs light up and start smoking with both sharp criticism and misplaced praise for the linguistic register of Divine Worship. Criticism of our sacral dialect is to be expected and is in fact quite understandable, given what we’ve lived through in the general linguistic confusion of the last fifty years and given the unfortunate politicising of liturgical expression, but I would suggest too that such misapprehension can be an occasion to rediscover and rethink the evangelising potential of Catholic worship in our distinct sacral idiom.
First observation: Liturgical language is not primarily a means of description or information; it is not and has never been the diffuse idiom of everyday communication and commerce; rather it is the Church’s focused, concentrated instrument of mediation to effect, to incarnate our participation in the saving mysteries of our faith and to immerse, to wash the faithful in the figural meanings of Holy Scripture.
Second observation: Liturgical language is stylised, enacted speech with its own kind of intelligibility, and far from excluding archaic elements it welcomes a modicum of traditional expressions and some ritualised conventions that “reach to the roots”, resonate in the auditory memory, and habituate an experience of worship wider, deeper, older than ourselves, transcending the gathered congregation in time and space to represent and configure our incorporation into the Communion of the Saints.
Third observation: Liturgical language is recursive and immersive; it bears and demands repetition, day by day, week by week, season by season, year by year, without ever exhausting its capacity to stimulate meditation and work ongoing conversion of life; its words are “poetic” in the sense of being athletic, even ascetic, by gently, insistently stretching the limits of expression in order to exercise, train, tune, and elevate our faculties that we might lift up our hearts to God and open out our lives in love and service.
Along these lines, recent decades have seen some new appreciation of the function of liturgical language, though it’s been an appreciation forged in fires of controversy and some ashes of compromise - as well you know. Still the ecclesial context is vital – what a difference it makes to be fully, unambiguously Catholic! Words, of course, signify their meanings in context, according to their arrangement, occasion, and purpose, the time, place, and attitude of their utterance (ad placitum ab suppositio as medieval grammarians were fond of saying). When we recite the familiar words of the Nicene Creed, I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, those words must mean something very different to us as Catholics than when we said the same words as Anglicans (with our fingers crossed!). It makes a profound difference to pray the Mass with the Collect for Purity at the beginning and the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the end, clustered now not around an equivocal Prayer of Consecration (one not altogether clear about what exactly it’s doing), but irradiating from the confidence of the Roman Canon and the power of the Holy Sacrifice. Such a context can literally transfigure the significance of familiar words. Yet we also know from our Anglican experience that the rich words of the Prayer Book can fall flat and ring hollow when an otherwise lovely lex orandi gets detached from an authoritative lex credendi and leaves lex vivendi prey to the zeitgeist of “lifestyle politics” and sets souls adrift.
It seems to me, then, that we have to learn to read our own Anglican history and to examine our habits and affections in a new key, a new context, not so much for the defensive retention of a “goodly heritage”, but to discover in its resources a new impetus for transfiguring mission’.
from a talk entitled Very Members Incorporate:
Some Reflections on the Sacral Language of Divine Worship
2 February 2015, by Dr Clinton Allen Brand KSG
Diary of a Church Mouse
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptised, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes...it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
‘The idea that there is a unique Anglican approach to Scripture was first proposed to me years ago during those first conversations that would eventually lead to the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. I must confess, initially I found this idea puzzling, partly because the greater incorporation of Sacred Scripture in the liturgical life of the Church is one of the express desires of the Second Vatican Council and even more recently underscored by the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God and the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini of Pope Benedict XVI. And yet, consistently and from various sources both Anglican and Catholic, historical and contemporary, one finds the assertion that the Anglican liturgy is distinguished by the prominence it gives to Scripture in the conduct of public worship and in the promotion of biblical piety.
There is a culture within Anglicanism wherein scriptural words, and images are almost a default starting position, a culture nourished and preserved in the parochial celebration of the Divine Office. This bears witness to the hallowed tradition of English monasticism which informs so much of Anglican worship. Additionally, the inclusion of the various scriptural “touchstones” throughout the Eucharistic liturgy (the Summary of the Law, the Comfortable Words, the Sentences, the fraction anthem “Christ our Passover”) is a distinctive Anglican feature which informs, underscores and punctuates the liturgical action. While the biblical intuition is present from the very beginning of Anglicanism when the insistence on the vernacular found expression in the beauty of the King James Bible and “Prayer Book English”, this approach to Scripture is more about reading the Bible liturgically, allowing the words and poetic cadences to linger, penetrate, and take root in the soul as a sustained, communal lectio.
Let us be mindful, though, that this approach to Holy Scripture is what one might call “less tangible” patrimony. One cannot point to it as demonstrably as one would point to, say, Evensong. As patrimony goes, its contours are much more subtle, defying both simple definition and replication. And yet, one need but read some of the Pastoral and Plain Sermons of John Henry Newman to see an eloquent example of this approach’.
from a talk entitled The Mission of the Ordinariate given 2 February 2013 in Houston
by Bishop Steven Lopes
‘God loves infinitely an infinite goodness; the Son loves it in the Father whence it comes, the Father loves it in the Son in whom he places it, and upon whom he pours it out: “This is my Son, my only beloved, in whom I am well-pleased”.
The Father’s unqualified delight, his outpouring of his Holy Spirit, comes down with Christ from heaven to earth.
When St John came to write the story of Christ’s baptism, he connected it with Jacob’s dream of the ladder from heaven to earth, on which the angels of God ascended and descended (John 1:32, 51; Genesis 28:12). And certainly the baptism has so many levels of meaning in it, that without ever going outside it we can run up as though by steps from earth to heaven and down again. At the height of it is the bliss of the Trinity above all worlds, in the midst is the sonship of Jesus to his heavenly Father; at the foot of it (and here it touches us) is the baptism of any Christian.
We cannot be baptised without being baptised into his baptism: and the unity we have with him both in receiving baptism and afterwards in standing by it, brings down on us the very blessing and the very Spirit he received. In so far as we are in Christ, we are filled with the Holy Ghost, and the Father’s good pleasure rests upon us; infinite Love delights in us’.
Austin Farrer FBA, 1904-1968
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ did take our nature upon him, and was baptised for our sakes in the river Jordan: mercifully grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may also be partakers of thy Holy Spirit; 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
Happy memories today, on this memorial of Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, of the joy of Christian friendship spent in his former Cistercian abbey church, which was a memorable stop during a parish pilgrimage from Calgary to England in October 2013. Though we wandered and prayed amongst scenes of devastation and decay in what was once a great powerhouse of prayer, work, and charity, our stay with nearby Benedictine monks at Ampleforth Abbey enabled our pilgrim band to enter into these precincts with a keen sense of the busy and prayerful atmosphere that once permeated its hallowed walls. It is perhaps a testimony to Aelred and his brethren that that ambience hasn’t quite vanished here. Despite the ruined stones, Rievaulx’s exquisitely tranquil setting - which now provides its bare interior with a previously unseen take on the outside world - enables what remains to still feel very much like sacred ground.
‘You and I are here, and I hope that Christ is between us as a third. Now no one else is present to disturb the peace or to interrupt our friendly conversation. No voice, no noise invades our pleasant retreat. Yes, most beloved, open your heart now and pour whatever you please into the ears of a friend. Gratefully let us welcome the place, the time, and the leisure.
I am delighted to see that you are not prone to empty and idle talk, that you always introduce something useful and necessary for your progress. Speak then without anxiety. Share with a friend all your thoughts and cares, that you may have something either to learn or to teach, to give and to receive, to pour out and to drink in’.
St Aelred of Rievaulx, 1109-1167
Almighty God, who didst endow the blessed Abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship and the wisdom to lead others into the way of holiness: grant to thy people that same spirit of mutual affection; that in loving one another we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the eternal possession of thine unsurpassable 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. - Divine Worship: The Missal
‘The journey of the Magi gives us a mystical interpretation of the life of prayer. The Magi are represented to us as oriental sovereigns, who had everything that could satisfy their senses. Their first condition may represent the life which seeks to find satisfaction in material things. It is the witness of the soul, and of these wandering Wise Men, that we cannot be satisfied with the life of the senses. Hence that urge which the Wise Men felt to leave their comfortable life, their glittering courts, and go out they knew not where, following a beckoning which they felt certain called them – without, by the following of a star; within, by some spiritual hunger.
That urge is something which we all know. We cannot rest in the material; we must seek the spiritual. Sometimes we get tired, and perhaps we give up the quest for a while and try to settle down into material things, but we cannot do it. God is Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, because we ourselves, created in His image, are spiritual beings’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘These that came from the East were Gentiles, and that concerns us, for so are we. We may then look out, if we can see this star. It is ours, it is the Gentiles’ star. We may set our course by it, to seek and find, and worship him as well as they. So we come in, for “God hath also to the Gentiles set open a door of faith”, and that he would do this, and call us in, there was some small star-light from the beginning. This he promised by the patriarchs, shadowed forth in the figures of the Law, the Temple and the Tabernacle, the Prophets and the Psalms, and it is this day fulfilled. These wise men are come who not only in their own names but in ours make here their entry; came and sought after, and found and worshipped, their Saviour and ours, the Saviour of the whole world. A little wicket there was left open before, whereat divers Gentiles did come in; now the great gate set wide opens this day for all – for these here with their camels and dromedaries to enter and all their carriage. Christ is not only for russet cloaks, shepherds and such; but even grandees, great states such as these came, and when they came they were welcome to him – for they were sent for and invited by this star, their star properly.
They came a long journey, and they came an uneasy journey; they came a dangerous journey and they came now, at the worst season of the year. They stayed not their coming till the opening of the year, till they might have better weather and way, and have longer days and so more seasonable and fit to travel in. So desirous were they to come with the first, and to be there as soon as they possibly might; broke through all these difficulties, and behold, come they did.
And we, what excuse shall we have if we come not? If so short and easy a way we come not, as from our chambers hither? And these wise men were never a whit less wise for so coming; nay, to come to Christ is one of the wisest parts that ever these wise men did. And if they and we be wise in one Spirit, we will follow the same star, tread the same way, and so come at last wither they are happily gone before us.
And how shall we do that? In the old ritual of the church we find that on the cover of the canister wherein was the sacrament of His body, there was a star engraven, to shew us that now the star leads us thither, to His body there. So what shall I say now, but according as St John saith, and the star, and the wise men say “Come” and let whosoever will take of the Bread of life which came down from heaven to Bethlehem, the house of bread. Of which Bread the Church is this day the house, the true Bethlehem, and all the Bethlehem we have now left to come to for the Bread of Life – of that life which we hope for in heaven. And this our nearest coming that here we can come, till we shall by another coming ‘Come’ unto him in his heavenly kingdom. To which He grant we may come, that came to us in earth that we thereby might come to him and remain with him forever, Jesus Christ the Righteous’.
from a sermon preached on Christmas Day 1620
by Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626, Bishop of Winchester (1619-1626)
Kings should offer gold, rich, royal men –
And I am poor and no red gold have I;
Must I stay in the cold, sad shadows then,
While kings in light spread splendours splendidly?
Saints should offer incense, holy men –
My shabby soul is soiled and stained with sin;
Must I wait, shut without the stable then,
While saints join kings to offer gifts within?
Lo, I am not alone, but round me here
In the wan shadows, waiting wistfully
With nothing else to bring but only myrrh,
Stands silent, shy, a grey-clad company.
’Tis well for us, we of the common crowd,
That we may bring sad symbollings of myrrh,
Where God lies sleeping ’neath a stable shroud
Of common straw, and leave our offerings there.
We will be glad the incense makes a veil
To hide us somewhat, and the saint’s pure prayer
Goes with the golden gifts where we must fail;
Yet we will dare to bring our meed of myrrh.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Raymond was a noted canonist; he rendered great service to the Church through his redaction and codification of Pope Gregory the IX’s Decretals, a collection of juridical documents. At the age of forty-five, he entered the Dominican Order. He assisted in founding the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the ransom of captives, by drawing up a rule. He also had the gift of miracles, the most remarkable of which occurred on a return from the Balearic Isles to Barcelona. On that occasion he stretched his cloak on the sea and sailed the distance of 160 miles in six hours; arriving at his monastery, he entered through closed doors. He died in 1275, almost one hundred years old. Raymond was an excellent confessor, for which reason he is honoured as the patron saint of those who hear confessions’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who didst appoint blessed Raymond excellently to minister the Sacrament of Penance, and didst wondrously make for him a passage upon the waves of the sea: grant, we pray thee; that, at his intercession, we may bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, and be found meet to attain to the harbour of everlasting 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. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
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