‘Our sufferings are our triumph. Our endurance in your view redounds to our discredit; the fortitude of others to their honour. You may gain popularity by your injustice, but our sufferings and practical example continually attract new converts.
“Why then”, you say, “do you complain that we attack you, if you are willing to suffer; when you ought to love those at whose hands you suffer what you desire?” We are, certainly, willing to suffer; but it is in the same way as a soldier desires war. No one endures war willingly, since alarm and risk are involved in it: the battle nevertheless is carried on with every nerve; and he who complains of it, yet rejoices in it when victorious, because he is acquiring glory and spoil. It is our battle to be summoned to your tribunals, there to contend for the truth at the risk of our lives. It is our victory, too, in that we obtain that for which we contend. This victory gains for us both the glory of pleasing God, and the spoil of eternal life. But we are overwhelmed; yet only when we have won our cause; therefore we conquer, when we are slain; and in fact we escape, even when we are overwhelmed. You can call us then, if you like, “faggot-men”, and “half-axle-men”, because we are bound to the stock of a half-axle, and surrounded with faggots when we are burned. This is the robe of our victory, this is our triumphal vestment, in such a chariot do we celebrate our triumph. Naturally, therefore, we displease those whom we vanquish; for on those grounds we are deemed desperate and reckless men. But this very desperation and recklessness, with you, in the cause of glory or fame, uplifts the banner of valour... Here is a glory, licensed, because of human origin; which is attributed neither to the presumption of recklessness, nor to the persuasion of despair, in its contempt of death and every kind of cruelty; which is as much allowed to be endured for country, territory, empire, or friendship, as it is forbidden to be suffered for God! And yet you cast statues, and write inscriptions, and engrave titles, for all those men to last into eternity: and as far as you can, by means of monuments, you yourselves afford them a kind of resurrection from the dead. If he who hopes for this fact from God, suffers for God, he is deemed insane. But pursue your course, excellent governors, and you will be more popular with the multitude if you sacrifice the Christians to their wishes. Crucify, torture, condemn, crush us. For the proof of our innocence is found in your injustice. It is on this account that God suffers us to suffer this... [N]o cruelty of yours, though each were to exceed the last in its exquisite refinement, profits you in the least; but forms rather an attraction to our sect. We spring up in greater numbers as often as we are mown down by you : the blood of the Christians is a source of new life’.
from Apologeticus pro Christianis, Chapter 50, 197 AD, by Tertullian, c.155-c.240
O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; 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.
A poem by Christina Rossetti today to mark this great solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, which is also my fortieth birthday. The poem serves as a timely reminder to me that amidst my own ‘human errors manifold’, the gift that is a dual vocation and ministry of priest and husband requires me constantly to ‘launch out into the deep’, delving into the depths of the heart and soul in order to discover the great mystery of who God created and intends us to be in relation to Himself. This will, by necessity, involve ‘a fall, a rise, [and] a scaling’ of Heaven in order to obtain our ‘humbled heart’, and so, in time, pray God, to pass into that place where, ‘human-eyed’, we will behold the Beatific Vision for all eternity. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us in this great endeavour of life.
‘Launch out into the deep’, Christ spake of old
To Peter: and he launched into the deep;
Strengthened should tempest wake which lay asleep,
Strengthened to suffer heat or suffer cold.
Thus, in Christ's Prescience: patient to behold
A fall, a rise, a scaling Heaven’s high steep;
Prescience of Love, which deigned to overleap
The mire of human errors manifold.
Lord, Lover of Thy Peter, and of him
Beloved with craving of a humbled heart
Which eighteen hundred years have satisfied;
Hath he his throne among Thy Seraphim
Who love? or sits he on a throne apart,
Unique, near Thee, to love Thee human-eyed?
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Today is the sixth anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. Being the memorial of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, a defender of the Church's orthodoxy and apostolicity, it was indeed a fitting day on which to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Laus Deo!
‘Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor. Like a good Pastor, he had a good sense of proportion, a wealth of doctrine, and missionary enthusiasm. As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics, and to explain the truth of the faith clearly. His two extant works - the five books of The Detection and Overthrow of the False Gnosis and Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching (which can also be called the oldest “catechism of Christian doctrine”) - exactly corresponded with these aims. In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies.
The true teaching... is not that invented by intellectuals which goes beyond the Church’s simple faith. The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops who received it in an uninterrupted line from the Apostles. They taught nothing except this simple faith, which is also the true depth of God’s revelation. Thus, Irenaeus tells us, there is no secret doctrine concealed in the Church’s common Creed. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly confessed by the Church is the common faith of all. This faith alone is apostolic, it is handed down from the Apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God. In adhering to this faith, publicly transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what their Bishops say and must give special consideration to the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and very ancient. It is because of her antiquity that this Church has the greatest apostolicity; in fact, she originated in Peter and Paul, pillars of the Apostolic College. All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome, recognising in her the measure of the true Apostolic Tradition, the Church's one common faith. With these arguments, summed up very briefly here, Irenaeus refuted the claims of these Gnostics, these intellectuals, from the start. First of all, they possessed no truth superior to that of the ordinary faith, because what they said was not of apostolic origin, it was invented by them. Secondly, truth and salvation are not the privilege or monopoly of the few, but are available to all through the preaching of the Successors of the Apostles, especially of the Bishop of Rome.
For Irenaeus, Church and Spirit were inseparable: “This faith”, we read again in the third book of Adversus Haereses, “which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also.... For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of grace” (3, 24, 1). As can be seen, Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church. Adhering to her teaching, the Church should transmit the faith in such a way that it must be what it appears, that is, “public”, “one”, “pneumatic”, “spiritual”. Starting with each one of these characteristics, a fruitful discernment can be made of the authentic transmission of the faith in the today of the Church. More generally, in Irenaeus’ teaching, the dignity of man, body and soul, is firmly anchored in divine creation, in the image of Christ and in the Spirit’s permanent work of sanctification. This doctrine is like a “high road” in order to discern together with all people of good will the object and boundaries of the dialogue of values, and to give an ever new impetus to the Church's missionary action, to the force of the truth which is the source of all true values in the world’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus, thy Martyr and Bishop, grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to establish thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest give thy people constancy in thy true religion; and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; 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.
‘[C]ontinuing our journey following the traces left by the Fathers of the Church, we meet an important figure: St Cyril of Alexandria. Linked to the Christological controversy which led to the Council of Ephesus in 431 and the last important representative of the Alexandrian tradition in the Greek Orient, Cyril was later defined as “the guardian of exactitude” - to be understood as guardian of the true faith - and even the “seal of the Fathers”. These ancient descriptions express clearly a characteristic feature of Cyril: the Bishop of Alexandria’s constant reference to earlier ecclesiastical authors (including, in particular, Athanasius), for the purpose of showing the continuity with tradition of theology itself. He deliberately, explicitly inserted himself into the Church's tradition, which he recognised as guaranteeing continuity with the Apostles and with Christ himself. Venerated as a saint in both East and West, in 1882 St Cyril was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, who at the same time also attributed this title to another important exponent of Greek Patristics, St Cyril of Jerusalem. Thus are revealed the attention and love for the Eastern Christian traditions of this Pope, who later also chose to proclaim St John Damascene a Doctor of the Church, thereby showing that both the Eastern and Western traditions express the doctrine of Christ’s one Church.
Cyril's writings - truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success - are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity. His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs. The basis of Cyril’s teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great Predecessor in the See of Alexandria. Among Cyril’s other writings, the books Against Julian deserve mention. They were the last great response to the anti-Christian controversies, probably dictated by the Bishop of Alexandria in the last years of his life to respond to the work Against the Galileans, composed many years earlier in 363 by the Emperor known as the “Apostate” for having abandoned the Christianity in which he was raised.
The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, “a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasising above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”. Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotòkos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; 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.
Another Anglican hymn today which makes reference to the Sacred Heart. O dearest Lord, written around 1930 as a poem entitled ‘The Sacred Wounds’ by Father Andrew of the Society of Divine Compassion, makes perhaps the most explicit reference to the Sacred Heart to be found in Anglican hymnals. As far as I have been able to ascertain the hymn, rich in medieval imagery of the Five Wounds of Christ, makes its first appearance in the Canadian Book of Common Praise in 1938, mentioned in yesterday’s post. The hymn can now be found in many contemporary hymnals, Anglican and Nonconformist, a fact that Father Andrew, a convinced Anglo-Catholic, I'm sure would have found remarkable beyond words.
O dearest Lord, Thy sacred Head
With thorns was pierced for me;
O pour Thy blessing on my head
That I may think for Thee.
O dearest Lord, Thy sacred Hands
With nails were pierced for me;
O shed Thy blessing on my hands
That they may work for thee.
O dearest Lord, Thy sacred Feet
With nails were pierced for me;
O pour Thy blessing on my feet
That they may follow Thee.
O dearest Lord, Thy sacred Heart
With spear was pierced for me;
O pour Thy Spirit in my heart
That I may live for Thee.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
An interesting baptismal hymn today, which I share in this month of the Sacred Heart on account of the author’s unconventional reference, insofar as mainstream Anglican hymnody is concerned, to the Lord's Heart in the second verse.
C.E. Riley, who was born in Liverpool, England, was an Anglican clergyman who went on to become the second Dean of Toronto and Rector of St James’ Cathedral from 1937 to 1961. Overall, the hymn, written in 1938, reflects a mixture of sound theology and straightforward prose, with a gentle Catholic emphasis, generally reflective of Canadian Anglicanism of the era, as can be seen throughout the compilation of hymns that make up the very fine hymnal known as The Book of Common Praise.
To the tune Shipston
Jesu, Son of blessèd Mary,
Once on earth a little child,
Pattern fair of holy living,
Gracious, loving, undefiled.
Though thy sacred heart was yearning
Heavy-laden souls to free,
Yet thou calledst little children
In their happiness to thee.
Thy dear kingdom still they enter
Through this Sacrament of grace;
In thy loving arms enfold them;
Hands of blessing on them place.
From the power of sin delivered
May they learn to live for GOD;
Guided by thy HOLY SPIRIT,
Nourished with the living WORD.
Grant that we, like little children,
Free from pride and guile may be;
Cheerful, trusting, safe, protected
By the Blessèd TRINITY.
Charles Edward Riley, 1883-1971
No. 254 in the Book of Common Praise:
being the Hymn Book of the Church of England in Canada (Revised 1938)
Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the patronal feast day of the Ordinariate Deanery of Saint John the Baptist in Canada. It was my privilege to serve as Dean for five years, and so my heartfelt prayers today are with all the communities, clergy, and laity as the Ordinariate continues its mission to preserve and share the great treasures of the Anglican tradition across the great dominion.
A former parishioner in Calgary wrote to me this morning, informing me that “We had hot weather up until today when it rained all morning and into the afternoon. We've had alternating periods of heat and rain and the city is looking green and gorgeous”. Such an image put me in mind of Christopher Smart's poem, written for today’s feast, which both echoes the abundance of that welcome summer growth in the world around us, as well as the great potential for spiritual growth within the barrenness of our mortal nature.
The ‘Ely Sequence’, sung at Ely Cathedral on 23rd June and 17th October
‘St Thomas More had no lack of plausible excuses if he had wanted to avoid the crown of martyrdom; no lack of sincere people who urged him to take refuge in them. Never, I suppose, was man so tempted both by friends and foes to abandon his purpose. His own wife, his own daughter took the part of his enemies, and entered into a loving conspiracy to save him from himself. But to friend and foe alike he opposed the impenetrable wall of his good-natured banter.
You see, he realised, long before other men of his time, that what stood before England was a complete parting of the ways. He saw that, in the conditions of his time, you must needs throw in your lot either with the old faith or with the heresies that were beginning to spring up all over Europe; that a nation which defied the authority of the Pope, although it might do so merely in the name of national independence, would be forced, sooner or later, into the camp of the heretic.
It is amazing to us, looking back upon all the intervening centuries have brought, that so many good men of that age – men who were afterwards confessors for the faith – were hoodwinked for the moment into following the King when he incurred the guilt of schism. But perhaps if were could think ourselves back rather more successfully into the conditions of the time, we should pardon them the more readily; and for that reason we should feel even greater admiration for the few men who, like our martyr, were wise enough to see what was happening. It was a time of national crisis, a time of intellectual ferment. There were only a few people who kept their heads, and those few who kept their heads lost their heads, like St Thomas More.
Let us thank God’s mercy for giving us the example and the protection of a great Saint, our own fellow-countryman, who knew how to absorb all that was best in the restless culture of his day, yet knew at once, when the time came, that he must make a stand here; that he must give no quarter to the modern world here. His remembrance has long been secure in the praise of posterity; it only remained for us to be assured by the infallible voice of the Church, what we could not doubt already, that he is with our Blessed Lady and the Saints in heaven. He knows our modern needs, let us turn to him in our modern troubles; his prayers will not be lacking for the great country he loved so, for the great city in which he lived and died.
Let us praise God, then, for our English martyrs, Thomas More and John Fisher and the Charterhouse monks, and, from Blessed Cuthbert Mayne onward, the long line of proscribed and hunted priests. Men of our blood, they have left sayings which ring more familiarly to us than the translated pieties of the Continent; men of our latter-day civilisation, they stand with more of human personality than the mist-wreathed heroes of the medieval world. And surely, if they have not forgotten among those delights of the eternity the soft outlines and the close hedgerows and the little hills of the island that gave them birth; if in contemplating the open face of God, they have not ceased to take thought for the well-loved kingdom that exiled and disowned them, the patiently evangelised people that condemned and hurried them to the gallows, their prayers still rise especially, among all the needs of a distracted world, for the souls we love whom error blinds or sin separates from God’.
from Captive Flames, 1940, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
‘The people who mass-produce statues and holy cards have done St Aloysius Gonzaga no favours. The standard image of the saint as a frail, doe-eyed novice has given us the wrong impression. It may even be responsible for the decline in devotion to St Aloysius. Yet Aloysius deserves a revival, especially as the patron saint of teenagers.
The time and place where he grew up – 16th-century Italy – is not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a killjoy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left.
Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself.
Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a programme he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director – St Robert Bellarmine – to guide him.
Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervour was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint.
To his credit, Aloysius recognised that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, “I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight.”
Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old.
In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace’.
O God, the giver of all spiritual gifts, who in the angelic youth of thy blessed Saint Aloysius didst unite a wondrous penitence to a wondrous innocence of life: grant, by his merits and intercession; that although we have not followed the pattern of his innocence, yet we may imitate the example of his penitence; 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.
‘Being led to execution, he came to a river which, with a most rapid course, ran between the wall of the town and the arena where he was to be executed. He there saw a great multitude of persons of both sexes, and of divers ages and conditions, who were doubtless assembled by Divine inspiration, to attend the blessed confessor and martyr, and had so filled the bridge over the river, that he could scarce pass over that evening. In truth, almost all had gone out, so that the judge remained in the city without attendance. St Alban, therefore, urged by an ardent and devout wish to attain the sooner to martyrdom, drew near to the stream, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, whereupon the channel was immediately dried up, and he perceived that the water had given place and made way for him to pass. Among the rest, the executioner, who should have put him to death, observed this, and moved doubtless by Divine inspiration hastened to meet him at the appointed place of execution, and casting away the sword which he had carried ready drawn, fell at his feet, praying earnestly that he might rather be accounted worthy to suffer with the martyr, whom he was ordered to execute, or, if possible, instead of him. Whilst he was thus changed from a persecutor into a companion in the faith and truth, and the other executioners rightly hesitated to take up the sword which was lying on the ground, the holy confessor, accompanied by the multitude, ascended a hill, about half a mile from the arena, beautiful, as was fitting, and of most pleasing appearance, adorned, or rather clothed, everywhere with flowers of many colours, nowhere steep or precipitous or of sheer descent, but with a long, smooth natural slope, like a plain, on its sides, a place altogether worthy from of old, by reason of its native beauty, to be consecrated by the blood of a blessed martyr. On the top of this hill, St Alban prayed that God would give him water, and immediately a living spring, confined in its channel, sprang up at his feet, so that all men acknowledged that even the stream had yielded its service to the martyr. For it was impossible that the martyr, who had left no water remaining in the river, should desire it on the top of the hill, unless he thought it fitting. The river then having done service and fulfilled the pious duty, returned to its natural course, leaving a testimony of its obedience. Here, therefore, the head of the undaunted martyr was struck off, and here he received the crown of life, which God has promised to them that love him. But he who laid impious hands on the holy man’s neck was not permitted to rejoice over his dead body; for his eyes dropped upon the ground at the same moment as the blessed martyr’s head fell. At the same time was also beheaded the soldier, who before, through the Divine admonition, refused to strike the holy confessor. Of whom it is apparent, that though he was not purified by the waters of baptism, yet he was cleansed by the washing of his own blood, and rendered worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then the judge, astonished at the unwonted sight of so many heavenly miracles, ordered the persecution to cease immediately, and began to honour the death of the saints, by which he once thought that they might have been turned from their zeal for the Christian faith. The blessed Alban suffered death on the twenty-second day of June, near the city of Verulam, which is now by the English nation called Verlamacaestir, or Vaeclingacaestir, where afterwards, when peaceable Christian times were restored, a church of wonderful workmanship, and altogether worthy to commemorate his martyrdom, was erected. In which place the cure of sick persons and the frequent working of wonders cease not to this day’.
from The Passion of St Alban in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People
by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
O eternal Father, who, when the Gospel of Christ first came to England, didst gloriously confirm the faith of Alban by making him the first to win the martyr’s crown: grant that, assisted by his prayers and following his example in the fellowship of the Saints, we may worship thee, the living God, and faithfully witness to Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, im the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today is the memorial of Saint Romuald (c.951-1027), who established the eremitical Camaldolese Order around 1012. Here follows his ‘Brief Rule’, written prior to the foundation of the Order.
‘Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms – never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realise above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him’.
O God, who through Saint Romuald didst renew the manner of life of hermits in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach the heavenly realms on high; 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 which makes home in heaven is that which makes heaven home, and that is the reign there of a true and tender heart. When we speak of home, we do not mean bricks and mortar: when we speak of heaven, we do not really mean streets of gold and crystal seas, still less having everything we want. We cannot rest in that kind of thing. We cannot doubt that any world that is wholly God’s creation is altogether lovely and beautiful, but when we think about heaven as our home it is not because heaven is beautiful, but because God is there and we find our abiding-place in His Heart. As has been admirably said by a good Frenchman, “We do not find God in heaven, but we find heaven in God”. That is because we find home in God. The Sacred Heart is our sure home, and we must return again and again to that home in our prayer.
The Sacred Heart is a faithful heart. Probably we have all been faithful to some people but unfaithful to others. We have “let them down”, as we say. The Heart of Jesus has never let any one down. Our hope for the world, for the Church, for the great body of Christian people outside the Church, for our own solitary soul, is in His faithfulness. The apostles had their differences, St Paul sometimes withstood St Peter to the face, but their union was in the Heart of Jesus. It is the same with us today. There are many divisions amongst Christian people, but when we are troubled about the divisions in the Church, we can remember that there is one Heart which is always faithful, and if we are tempted to despair of union amongst ourselves we may none the less have hope of union in Him’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Here is a saint essentially English, close to us in circumstance and in character, paralleled in our own day. Richard of Wych was [born in 1197], the second son of a wealthy Worcestershire county family, early left an orphan. At his coming of age his brother found that they were much impoverished through the gross mismanagement of their estates, whereupon the intellectual Richard unselfishly delayed his going up to Oxford in order to act as his brother's bailiff. With characteristic thoroughness and energy, he studied farming so that he could undertake the improvement of the land. When at last he began his studies at Oxford he had to live in great poverty, being defrauded by the priest to whom he had entrusted his property: so poor were the three friends who lived together that they had only one gown between them and had to take it by turn to attend lectures. But despite all hardships Richard’s nature expanded in the academic atmosphere, and he later referred to his Oxford years as the happiest of his life. He then went to Paris, and on to the University of Bologna, where for seven years he studied and taught Canon Law. His fame spread, and he was chosen by the saintly Edmund Rich, Archbishop of Canterbury, to be his Chancellor and secretary. Richard served him with utter devotion, relieving him as far as he could of the turmoil of external affairs, being consistently courteous to those who sought the Archbishop’s aid; learning from him the while the secrets of a holy life, so that master and disciple leant equally one upon the other. He shared Edmund’s exile in France; after his friend’s death he studied theology in Orleans, where he lived most ascetically until he was there ordained priest. When Richard returned to his own land he became a country parish priest.
When the see of Chichester fell vacant, the Cathedral Chapter and the Archbishop of Canterbury desired the appointment of Richard, but Henry III wanted to fill it with a most unworthy person. Then began one of the familiar struggles between King and Church. Richard went to take counsel with the Pope and was consecrated Bishop, but on his return he found his episcopal manors confiscated and his entry into his cathedral city forbidden by royal command. So the dispossessed Bishop contented himself with living quietly with the parish priest of the fishing village of Tarring, and from there going about among his people, learning their problems and their wants at their own level, ignoring the scorn of the King’s courtiers and the rudeness of royal servants. His gentle dignity gradually gained recognition and his patience won the day when in 1243 Henry had to give way before the Pope’s threat of interdict, and Richard at last became truly Bishop. And how he blossomed; for he loved hospitality, “his charity was as wide as the halls of his palace”...Yet his warm hospitality and gracious manner disguised a personal hidden life of austerity; fasting, vigil, the ground for his bed. His almsgiving was so generous that in a time of dire famine there would have been nothing left to give away had not Richard's soldier-brother come to live with him and take charge of the household, becoming the bursar of the palace.
Richard had essentially the pastoral heart; he loved to tend the sick, help the miserable, teach and preach to his flock. His last year was spent in what would now be termed a mission to the diocese, which he began from his own cathedral; then he journeyed throughout Sussex and Kent, preaching with such fervour that everywhere crowds came, hung on his words, and responded. He was called to preach the crusade in Westminster Abbey. Back in his own diocese he gave himself no rest, but soon started again on one of his preaching tours. At Dover he did what he had wanted to do for years: he consecrated a church, with a cemetery set aside for the poor, in honour of his beloved patron Blessed Edmund. This fulfilment of his dearest wish he took to be a sign of his approaching death, and lo, the very next day he fell ill of a fever and, though nursed devotedly by his friend the priest Simon of Tarring, he died [in 1253], joyfully looking forward to going to the Father. He was buried in his cathedral at Chichester before the altar of Blessed Edmund: such was the renown of his holiness, he was canonised in 1262; and Chichester honours him to this day’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; 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.
A hymn in honour of the Sacred Heart today, written by Father Francis Stanfield, a priest of the Diocese of Westminster, who was also the author of the very popular Catholic hymn, Sweet Sacrament divine. Father Stanfield, like his father and brother (who was also a priest), had been an Anglican before his reception into the Catholic Church. In the 1880s he became Parish Priest of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, close to The Strand, in central London; a parish that was elevated to the dignity of a shrine church of the Blessed Sacrament by Cardinal Nichols in June 2018. Mgr Ronald Knox preached there on 26 occasions.
O Sacred Heart,
Our home lies deep in thee;
On earth thou art an exile’s rest,
In heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.
O Sacred Heart,
Thou fount of contrite tears;
Where’er those living waters flow,
New life to sinners they bestow,
O Sacred Heart.
O Sacred Heart,
Our trust is all in thee,
For though earth’s night be dark and drear,
Thou breathest rest where thou art near,
O Sacred Heart.
O Sacred Heart,
When shades of death shall fall,
Receive us ’neath thy gentle care,
And save us from the tempter’s snare,
O Sacred Heart.
O Sacred Heart,
Lead exiled children home,
Where we may ever rest near thee,
In peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart.
Fr Francis Stanfield, 1835-1914
‘We must go forth into the world with a heart which imitates the Heart of Jesus. It is for us to seek to have that Heart really communicated to us; it is for us to ask him to take our hearts away and gives us his, - that Heart which he yearns to find reproduced.
The Heart of Jesus is the formative principle of the Body of Christ. It is not merely a heart which sympathises with us from without, but from within, so that our heart may find itself cheered in the knowledge of his fellowship; our own heart, our own longings passed away, because our own self is lost in the Body of Christ. We can no longer be a law unto our own selves, for we have Christ as the law of our being. To act for our own selves, to act according to the impulses of our own heart, is to allow a separation from him, which is indeed an outrage against that spiritual nature into which we have been gathered.
There is no sin to those living in the Heart of Jesus. “In him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). The power of God fills that holy enclosure, the love of God quickens all that are therein, the power of God sustains us in every way.
Dwell in the Heart of Jesus. Read the mysteries of love which can only be found in that sacred enclosure; as thou goest on thy way let this be the power of all thy actions, so will he make thee to triumph’.
Richard Meux Benson SSJE, 1824-1915
‘With his outstanding gifts of intelligence, balance, apostolic zeal and, primarily, mystic fervour, Anthony contributed significantly to the development of Franciscan spirituality.
Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord's humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.
Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ's love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realise how great your human dignity and your value are... Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).
In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.
Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: “If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satisfy your intellect” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59)’.
from a general audience, 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Church describes the heart of her Incarnate Lord as a treasure-house of all wisdom and knowledge. Most evidently, the popular devotion which tinges our prayer during the month of June is a devotion to the whole of our Lord's sacred humanity, not to one single part or aspect of it. That we should treat the Sacred Heart as the symbol of his emotional nature is not surprising. The language of lovers has claimed the heart for its symbol ever since the Middle Ages, and we have learned, in consequence, to treat it as the centre of the feelings, relegating the intellect to the head. The “heart-work” which John Wesley was for ever vindicating against its critics was precisely the enlistment of the emotions in the service of religion.
But from the beginning it was not so. To the Hebrews, as to the Romans, the heart was the seat of the intellect; “My son, give me thy heart” is only an appeal for the pupil’s attention, and the “largeness of heart” granted to King Solomon was wisdom, not sensibility. This habit of speech is found in the New Testament as in the Old; nor is the distinction between heart and head observed in the liturgy, where cor and mens seem be to almost interchangeable. Have we a right to limit the range of the Sacred Heart by making it a symbol of our Lord's human tenderness, nothing else?
It is well that the sinner should find pardon, the mourner comfort, in the source from which pardon came to the Magdalen, comfort to the widow of Naim. But there are other burdens that may be cast, if we will, on those patient shoulders. There is (for example) a kind of intellectual fatigue which overtakes us when we are introduced to the daring speculations of modern science; we cannot understand the very terms of them. Well, here is the effigy of that Heart which is the treasure-house of all wisdom and all knowledge. We have found a fresh avenue of approach; “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee”’.
from Lightning Meditations, 1959, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
To the tune Aurelia
The ‘Son of Consolation’,
Saint Barnabas the good,
Filled with the Holy Spirit
And faith in Christ the Lord,
In lowly self-oblation,
To make an offering meet,
Laid down his earthly riches
At the Apostles’ feet.
The Son of Consolation,
In following his Lord
Attained the martyr’s glory,
And entered his reward:
With him is faith now ended,
For ever lost in sight,
Where love made perfect fills him
With praise and joy and light.
All sons of consolation,
How great their joys will be
When Christ the King shall tell them
‘You did it unto me’:
The merciful and loving
The loving Lord shall own,
And set them as his jewels
Around the Father’s throne.
Maud Coote, 1852-1935
The Second Sunday after Trinity from The Christian Year, 1827, by John Keble, 1792-1866
‘God is love, and so that we may have some idea of this love, he gives a share of it to mothers. The heart of a mother with her unwearying tenderness, the constancy of her solicitude, the inexhaustible delicacy of her affection, is a truly divine creation, although God has placed in her only a spark of his love for us. Yet, however imperfectly a mother's heart reflects the divine love towards us, God gives us our mothers to take his place in some manner with us. He places them at our side, from our cradles, to guide us, guard us, especially in our earliest years when we have so much need of tenderness.
Hence imagine the predilection with which the Holy Trinity fashioned the heart of the Blessed Virgin chosen to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. God delighted in pouring forth love into her heart, in forming it expressly to love a God-Man.
In Mary’s heart were perfectly harmonised the adoration of a creature towards her God, and the love of a mother for her only Son’.
Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, 1858-1923
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst prepare an habitation meet for the Holy Ghost: mercifully grant that we, celebrating with devout mind the festival of the same Immaculate Heart, may be enabled to live after thine own Heart; 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 feast of the Sacred Heart reveals the vulnerability of God. It is difficult for those who are Thomists to use, of God, the word “vulnerability”. How can an unchanging God be vulnerable? It is only in his Son made man that we can get a glimpse of this. Again, one can produce a list of situations in which Our Lord showed his vulnerability: his reaction to the ingratitude of the nine lepers; his weeping over Jerusalem; his grief at the death of Lazarus; his evident affection for Martha and Mary; and his reaction to his betrayal by Judas: “You betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Read the Gospels again and again, and you will encounter the vulnerability of Our Lord. It seems that God became man to feel what man can feel, to show that he understands. And we can see, since Christ's humanity is part of him and part of the life of the Trinity, how there can be vulnerability in the Trinity itself.
It was to St Gertrude, so it is said, that St John talked about the Sacred Heart: St John, we may say, is the theologian of the Sacred Heart. The Office of the Sacred Heart lays stress on the piercing of Christ's side and the outpouring of water and blood. This was his moment of glory, his hour: the water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit; the blood, the Holy Eucharist. Christians down the ages, contemplating the pierced side of Christ, have witnessed at that moment the birth of the Church.
That is why we observe the Feast of the Sacred Heart. We need to come to the first principles of the spiritual life: the tremendous love God has for each one of us. The consciousness should not only be an inspiration and a consolation to ourselves - it should be a model of our reactions to each other’.
Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB OM, 1923-1999
O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very Heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: grant, we beseech thee; that the devout homage of our hearts which we render unto him, may of thy mercy be deemed a recompense acceptable in thy sight; 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.
translated by Edward Caswall Cong Orat, 1814-1878
‘Devonshire should show far greater pride than she does in this most notable of her sons, for the boy born in Crediton in 680, of rich and noble parentage, lived to become the most outstanding person in all northern Europe who yet remained single-hearted enough to choose a martyr's death.
He received full authority to labour in central Europe... an English Benedictine monk about to repay the debt to Europe which England owed for the Benedictine monks sent to her as missionaries at the end of the sixth century.
Boniface began in Saxony, and then went on to his first call, Friesland, where he worked with and learnt much from the aged and experienced Bishop Willibrord... [I]n 722 he was recalled again to Rome and consecrated bishop. For the next twenty years he worked in Hesse and Thuringia, preaching, converting, organising, founding monasteries and nunneries, repairing churches burnt by infuriated heathen.
The succeeding Pope made him Archbishop of Mainz, primate of all Germany, and there was endless scope for his immense energy and unflagging zeal. Not only did he found many bishoprics and call councils, having indeed “the care of all the churches”, he was also the adviser of kings.
Boniface could... have ended his days as an ecclesiastical statesman, as a powerful Court success, treading a path of privilege in his old age; but he elected to remain faithful to his first love, simple missionary work. When he was seventy-five years old he appointed as his successor one of his Wessex followers, made his testament, and departed with some fifty companions to rough Friesland, carrying with him his shroud, a copy of the Gospels and a work of St Ambrose, of a good death. His mission was attended with great success, and on the eve of Whit-Sunday 755 Boniface was to hold a big confirmation of the converts. The expectant missionary camp was, however, invaded not by a procession of white-robed catechumens but by a rabble of savage warriors, who came to avenge their gods and plunder the Christian invaders. Boniface forbade his followers to fight: “Children, let us not return evil for evil. The day long expected has now come. Fear not them who kill the body but put all your trust in God who will quickly give you entrance to His kingdom”. A remnant escaped by flight, but most of the missionaries gathered around their aged leader. It is said that Boniface awaited the sword's blow with his head laid upon his beloved Gospels, or else that he held the holy book to his heart, which was thrust through without piercing the text: however that may be, a blood-stained Bible is still shown at Fulda as the saint’s relic.
This glorious martyrdom brought both grief and joy to his own land, where a synod determined immediately that his death-day, June 5, should be held in yearly honour by the English Church’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
O God, who raised up the holy Bishop and Martyr Saint Boniface from the English nation to enlighten many peoples with the Gospel of Christ: grant, we pray; that we may hold fast in our hearts that faith which he taught with his lips and sealed with his blood; 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.
‘Devotion to the Sacred Heart is sometimes suspected of being idolatrous, or dismissed as being sentimental or sugary - the fad of Roman Catholics or “extreme Anglicans”. It is not only a grave mistake to do this but it results in great spiritual loss. Because such devotion is scriptural, primitive and Catholic.
Devotions to the sacred humanity of Jesus have ever been encouraged and authorised in the Church (Devotion to the Holy Name, the Five Wounds, the Holy Face, etc.). Because it is essential to Catholic truth that we should remember the true manhood of Christ and because personal love of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Passion is the mainspring of true religion, especially among English people freed from the strait-jacket in which the influence of continental protestantism has kept their religious life and spirit.
Such devotion rightly and naturally centres upon the crucified Saviour and finds its completion in adoration of the Sacred Heart. A hymn which is known and dear to thousands in this lands expresses this sentiment:
“Jesus, who gave himself for you
Upon the cross to die
Opens to you his Sacred Heart,
O to that heart draw nigh”.
Let us recall the words of Dr Pusey in his “Open Letter to the Bishop of London”: “Each wound has its own treasure-house of the depths of the Divine Mercy, its own antidote to sin. Chiefly were they ever drawn to the very Abyss of His unsearchable Love, His Pierced Side and His opened Heart there to draw of the fountains of salvation and to penetrate to the inmost recesses of His boundless Charity”’.
Raymond Raynes CR, 1903-1958
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
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