Dear, beauteous Saint! more white then day,
When in his naked, pure array;
Fresher then morning-flowers which shew
As thou in tears dost, best in dew.
How art thou chang’d! how lively-fair,
Pleasing and innocent an air,
Not tutor’d by thy glass, but free,
Native and pure shines now in thee!
But since thy beauty doth still keep
Bloomy and fresh, why dost thou weep?
This dusky state of sighs and tears
Durst not look on those smiling years,
When Magdal-castle was thy seat,
Where all was sumptuous, rare and neat
Why lies this Hair despised now
Which once thy care and art did show?
Who then did dress the much lov’d toy,
In Spires, Globes, angry Curls and coy,
Which with skill’d negligence seem’d shed
About thy curious, wilde, yong head?
Why is this rich, this Pistic Nard
Spilt, and the box quite broke and marr’d?
What pretty sullenness did hast
Thy easie hands to do this waste?
Why art thou humbled thus, and low
As earth, thy lovely head dost bow?
Dear Soul! thou knew’st, flowers here on earth
At their Lords foot-stool have their birth;
Therefore thy wither'd self in haste
Beneath his blest feet thou didst cast,
That at the root of this green tree
Thy great decays restor’d might be.
Thy curious vanities and rare;
Odorous ointments kept with care,
And dearly bought, (when thou didst see
They could not cure, nor comfort thee,)
Like a wise, early Penitent
Thou sadly didst to him present,
Whose interceding, meek and calm
Blood, is the worlds all-healing Balm
This, this Divine Restorative
Call’d forth thy tears, which ran in live
And hasty drops, as if they had
(Their Lord so near) sense to be glad
Learn, Ladies , here the faithful cure
Makes beauty lasting, fresh and pure;
Learn Marys art of tears, and then
Say, You have got the day from men .
Cheap, mighty Art! her Art of love,
Who lov’d much and much more could move;
Her Art! whose memory must last
Till truth through all the world be past,
Till his abus’d, despised flame
Return to Heaven, from whence it came,
And send a fire down, that shall bring
Destruction on his ruddy wing.
Her Art! whose pensive, weeping eyes,
Were once sins loose and tempting spies,
But now are fixed stars, whose light
Helps such dark straglers to their sight.
Self-boasting Pharisee ! how blinde
A Judge wert thou, and how unkinde?
It was impossible, that thou
Who wert all false, should’st true grief know;
Is’t just to judge her faithful tears
By that foul rheum thy false eye wears?
This Woman (say’st thou) is a sinner:
And sate there none such at thy dinner?
Go Leper, go; wash till thy flesh
Comes like a childes, spotless and fresh;
He is still leprous, that still paints:
Who Saint themselves, they are no Saints.
Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695
O Almighty God, whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene to be a witness to his Resurrection: mercifully grant that by thy grace, and assisted by her prayers, we may be healed of all our infirmities, and always serve thee in the power of his endless 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.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee: that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance; that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; 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 Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Out of our confidence in God’s good providence arises our joy in the work he has given us to do. There is in fact no happiness in human life quite like that of feeling that we are doing the one thing God wants us to do. We feel that we are “in tune with the infinite”, that we are working in harmony with a universe which at the roots of its being, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, is essentially rational. There is a good purpose in existence, and we are working to bring it out.
Thus we are bold enough to think that all history is organised for the Church and for the accomplishment of its proper ends. We may suffer many disappointments and temporary setbacks but the ultimate denouement is secure. “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom”. “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”.
The joy that this thought brings is not effervescent or easily dissipated. It is consonant with all godly quietness, that is, not a slothful lethargy, but an interior activity that preserves a perfect calm because it rests upon God.
…God’s governance of the world enables us to preserve that attitude of calm activity in perpetuity. We have lots to do, but we do it without fret or fuss, because we are really glad to be doing it and because we know that the issue is safe in the hands of God’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
A local Shrewsbury diocesan commemoration today as I offered Holy Mass in the Ordinary Form within the Wythenshawe Team for the Lancashire-born, and Cheshire-martyred, Saint John Plessington. The following is from the Shrewsbury diocesan website:
‘St John Plessington is one of two Shrewsbury saints to be canonised among the 40 martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, the other being St Margaret Ward. He is also one of six of the 40 martyred after they were accused of treason in the “Popish Plot”, which had been fabricated by Titus Oates, and which led to the deaths of more than 25 innocent Catholics in the late part of the 17th century.
Although he was born in Dimples, near Garstang, Lancashire, St John exercised his ministry in Cheshire and North Wales, and he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 19th July 1679 at Boughton Cross, overlooking the River Dee at West Chester. What is remarkable about his execution is that St John wrote his speech for the scaffold ahead of his death. It was later printed and copies still exist. According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints the speech represents “a particularly clear statement of denial in the face of death of the charges upon which he was condemned”, charges which, had they been true, would have made him a dangerous criminal rather than a martyr.
St John told the crowd that there was not a shred of evidence of treason against him and he was dying solely on account of his priesthood. With great fortitude, he added: “Bear witness, good hearers, that I profess that I undoubtedly and firmly believe all the articles of the Roman Catholic faith, and for the truth of any of them, by the assistance of God, I am willing to die; and I had rather die than doubt of any point of faith taught by our holy mother the Roman Catholic Church”.
St John, who sometimes called himself William Pleasington or John Scarisbrick, had studied for the priesthood at the English College at Valladolid, Spain. He returned to England in 1663 and based himself largely at Puddington Hall, near Burton, Wirral, where he laboured without harassment for more than decade as chaplain to the Massey family and tutor to the children.
But in 1678 the pretended revelations of a conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and replace him with his Catholic brother James created national hysteria. In December that year they claimed their first victim, Edward Coleman, and until 1st July 1681, with the martyrdom of St Oliver Plunkett, Catholics were executed in locations all over England. According to a local tradition, St John was drawn into the plot at the insistence of a Protestant landowner simply because he had forbidden a match between his son and a Catholic heiress. Three witnesses gave false evidence of seeing St John serving as a priest: he forgave each of them by name from the scaffold.
The authorities had demanded that the quartered remains of St John were to be displayed at the four corners of Puddington Hall, near Burton, where he had served as chaplain to the obstinately Catholic Massey family and tutor to their children. When the soldiers arrived with the body, they were stoned by the locals and fled. The Masseys instead laid out the remains of the priest on an oak table to the hall in preparation for his burial’.
‘I know it will be said that a priest ordayned by authority derived from the See of Rome is, by the Law of the Nation, to die as a Traytor, but if that be so what must become of all the Clergymen of the Church of England, for the first Church of England Bishops had their Ordination from those of the Church of Rome, or not at all, as appears by their own writers so that Ordination comes derivatively from those now living’.
St John Plessington, c.1637-1679, from his speech on the scaffold
‘[T]his initiative of Pope Benedict is a response to a holy desire - your holy desire - both as groups and as individuals; that its purpose is to open a new way for the unity of the Catholic Church, visible under the successor of Peter, to be enlarged. It is a generous initiative and one which has always expected a generous response.
…“Anglicanorum Coetibus” seeks not only to offer a new invitation to those seeking the full communion of the Catholic Church, but it also seeks to enrich the Church with “elements of sanctification and truth” to be found within what is called “Anglican patrimony”. “Anglicanorum Coetibus” seeks to release that “force” by which Catholic unity can be more fully and visibly expressed, its beauty made more evident and its appeal more widely appreciated. Here it is so important to note that mission and communion are inextricably bound together.
…It is never easy to do something new in total fidelity to something familiar to so many. The tension is clear: for some the newness appears to be outside the familiar, not truly belonging to what they already know and love; for others it is important to move beyond the familiar precisely so as to demonstrate newness. So the questions still arise in the minds of many: on the one hand, some will ask if members of the Ordinariate are really Catholics? On the other, those who have joined the Ordinariate will ask if they are being truly distinctive enough or whether absorption into diocesan parishes and structures will be the inevitable end? This is not an easy path.
…This, I believe, is your challenge: to make evident aspects of the truth and beauty contained in Catholic teaching and life in a way that may have a particular appeal to sensitivities fashioned by the Anglican tradition and influence. This, perhaps, is at the heart of the specific gift you bring to our Church and to our common task of evangelisation’.
from an address by Vincent, Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
to the first Ordinariate Festival, Westminster, September 2014
O how glorious is the kingdom in which all the Saints rejoice with Christ,
and, clad in white robes, follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
V. Let the Saints be joyful in glory. R. Let them rejoice in their beds.
O ALMIGHTY GOD, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living; that through their intercession we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; 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.
from the Wednesday Commemoration of the Saints, St Gregory’s Prayer Book
1. I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
And his love made them strong;
And they followed the right for Jesus’ sake
The whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
And there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
Why I shouldn’t be one too.
3. They lived not only in ages past;
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.
Lesbia Scott, 1898-1986
In addition to being the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, today is also the memorial of Saint Osmund, a Norman nobleman and cleric who arrived on English shores with William the Conqueror. In 1070 Osmund was appointed Lord Chancellor of England and, eight years later, was consecrated as the second Bishop of Salisbury. It was during his episcopate, in 1092, that the first cathedral, at Old Sarum, was founded and consecrated. St Osmund was also one of the Chief Commissioners of the Domesday Book, and the progenitor of what became known as the Sarum Use.
‘Osmund was count of Seez in Normandy, and came over with William the Conqueror, by whom he was created earl of Dorset. His life in the world was that of a saint in all the difficult states of a courtier, soldier, and magistrate. Brompton tells us, that he was for some time Lord High Chancellor of England. But the favour of his prince, and the smiles of fortune had no charms to a heart which loved and valued only heavenly goods: and he who had long enjoyed the world as if he enjoyed it not, fled naked out of Egypt, carrying nothing of its desires or spirit with him into the sanctuary, and embracing an ecclesiastical state, he chose to become poor in the house of the Lord. His sanctity and great abilities were too well known for him to be allowed to enjoy long his beloved obscurity, and, in 1078, he was forced from his solitude, and consecrated bishop of Salisbury, where his predecessor Herman had just before fixed his see. Saint Osmund built the cathedral in honour of the Blessed Virgin, in 1087, placed therein thirty-six canons, and dedicated the same in 1092: and this fabric being burnt by lightning, he rebuilt it in 1099… Being in every thing zealous for the beauty of God’s house, he made many pious foundations, beautified several churches, and erected a noble library for the use of his church. Throughout his whole diocese he placed able and zealous pastors, and had about his person learned clergymen and monks. Many whom the Conqueror invited over from France, and advanced to the first dignities in the English church, both secular and regular, were for introducing the particular ecclesiastical rites and offices of the places from which they came: whence great confusion was occasioned in the abbey of Glastonbury, under Thurston, a Norman, from Caen, whom the king had nominated abbot there, and in other places. To remove this inconvenience, and to regulate so important a part of the divine service with the utmost decency, piety, and devotion, Saint Osmund compiled the Use, or Breviary, Missal and Ritual, since called of Sarum, for his church: wherein he ascertained all the rubrics which were before not sufficiently determinate, or where books were inconsistent with each other, as it often happened, while transcribers took the liberty of varying from their copies: he adjusted and settled the ceremonial of divine worship in points that were before left to the discretion of them that officiated, which created confusion and disagreement in the celebration of the divine office, though all churches agreed in the substance.
…Saint Osmund wrote the life of Saint Aldhelm, and disdained not, when he was bishop, to copy and bind books with his own hand. The saint, though zealous for the salvation of others, and for the public worship of God, was always solicitous, in the first place, for the sanctification of his own soul. Being perfectly dead to the world, he was totally a stranger to ambition and covetousness, and lived in continual war with the pleasures of the senses. His patience having been exercised, and his soul purified by a lingering sickness, he departed to God, whose glory alone he had sought on earth, on the night before the 4th of December, in 1099. He was buried in his cathedral; his venerable remains were afterwards translated into the new cathedral, and, in 1457, were deposited in the chapel of our Lady in that church. His sumptuous shrine was destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII. His bones remain still interred in the same chapel and are covered with a marble slab, on which is the inscription only of the year MXCIX. He was solemnly canonised by Calixtus III in 1456’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God, whose miracles of old we perceive to shine forth even in our time to the glory and praise of thy Name, and to the honour of thy holy Confessor and Bishop Saint Osmund: mercifully grant that we who keep his festival may by his prayers both glorify thee in this present time, and be deemed worthy to enjoy thee in the world to come; 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 above photographs were taken during a parish pilgrimage I led from Calgary to Winchester in September 2013. The pilgrims visited the site of the Shrine of St Swithun, located in the retrochoir of Winchester Cathedral. The shrine was sadly destroyed by Henry VIII’s Commissioners - at 3 am under cover of darkness, no less - in September 1538. There remains, however, part of a short tunnel - known as the Holy Hole (seen above) - which was used by pilgrims to crawl beneath the shrine and so be in as closest proximity as possible to the saint in order to obtain his healing.
‘Everyone knows the name of St Swithin because his day is supposed to have a meteorological significance, but the man himself is a stranger to us. It is difficult to realise his personality or be stirred by it, yet in his lifetime he was of singular influence, greatly beloved, and soon popularly venerated as a saint, to whom numerous churches all over England were dedicated.
…[I]t was not as a wise ecclesiastical statesman and keeper of the King’s conscience that he would be applauded by the common people, but as the father-in-God of his diocese, and in particular of the royal city of Winchester, whose people would be able to observe him closely and appraise him truly. He erected not only churches but buildings in general, himself personally superintending the work… He was himself extremely frugal in his food and self-denying as to sleep. He chose to journey about his diocese on foot, often by night, in order to avoid fuss and ceremony; and he would travel barefoot to dedicate a new church. These rather impersonal habits, common to so many saints, nevertheless indicate a man living spiritually rather than naturally, which accounts for his power of working miracles which revealed itself after his death, according to the testimony of many who asked him to help them in sickness and trouble. Such was his humility that he ordered that when he died he should be buried in the churchyard, where people might tread on his grave and the rain fall on it. But a century later the great Bishop Ethelwold ordered the translation of his remains into the new Winchester Cathedral which he had built and which he dedicated to St Swithin. It is said that on July 15, the day appointed for the solemnity, there was such a deluge of rain that the coffin could not be touched, and the continuance of the rain for forty days showed the saint’s displeasure at his removal from his humble resting-place: hence the superstition which, by connecting a wet July with St Swithin, has prevented us from properly venerating him as a historic person who by reason of his consecrated life, played a great and influential part in the life of our nation’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the festival of thy servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness the people committed to his care; so we, rejoicing in our inheritance in Christ, may ever seek to build up thy Church in unity and 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.
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; grant that, O heavenly Father, for the sake of 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 Fourth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Though the Collect, Epistle and Gospel [in the Prayer Book] are all ancient, and were appointed in the Sarum Missal, we seem here to depart from the Roman Missal. Their Collect for today is ours for next Sunday, whilst ours today is theirs for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.
The Collect in language is very eloquent, and is conceived in the spirit of the prophets of old. It is also rhythmical in cadence. It is a close rendering of the ancient Latin prayer of St Gregory. It seems to be based on the opening words of the Epistle, which contrasts things temporal with the things eternal. We ask God to give us His mercy; to be our ruler and guide, that we may pass through things temporal – the life of this world – so that at length we may enjoy the life of the world to come – the things eternal.
…God is called in the Collect our protector if we put our trust in Him. Then if we trust Him He will be our ruler and guide.
If He is our ruler, then He must have rules for us to obey. Generally God’s rules are to be found in the Church. The Creeds provide us with what we must believe, the Commandments tell us what we must do. Prayer tells us how we must approach God, and the Sacraments tell us how God approaches us. We learn through the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church how to live. So we must guide our lives by these rules, then God will be our ruler.
How does God guide us? He has given us His Holy Spirit. He comes into the heart of each one of us at Baptism to be our guide. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the voice of conscience. We must listen for that voice. That is the voice that will help us in all dangers and adversities and carry us through all temptations. Take God for your ruler and guide, and you will find that He is your protector.
Do we have any of the things eternal in this life? Yes; the things temporal will pass away. Even our bodies in this life will come to an end, but the soul will still live on. Anything, any fruit which our souls produce, will continue in the life to come. There would be no point in asking God to be our ruler and guide if we were not going to carry the good characteristics and qualities of this life into the life of the world to come. So that we may enjoy the fullest benefits of that future life, we must develop the things eternal in this life’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
‘Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his see.
Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defence a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptised, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St Cunigund, a virgin to her family.
He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odour of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity. At length his life’s work was accomplished, and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify His servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the saints’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by thee in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms: grant, we pray, through his intercession; that amid the uncertainties of this world, we may hasten towards thee in perfect purity of 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.
‘Behold and see the virtue of this precious plenty of his dearworthy blood! It descended down into hell and burst their bonds and delivered them, all who were there who belong to the court of heaven. The precious plenty of his dearworthy blood overflows all the earth, and is ready to wash all creatures of sinne who are of good will, have been, and shall be. The precious plenty of his dearworthy blood ascends up into heaven in the blessed body of our lord Jesus Christ, and there is in him, bleeding, praying for us to the father, and is and shall be as long as we need’.
Julian of Norwich, c.1342-c.1430
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who didst come down from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and didst bear five wounds on the Cross, and didst pour forth thy precious Blood for the remission of our sins: we humbly beseech thee; that at the day of judgement we may be set at thy right hand, and hear from thee that most comfortable word, Come ye blessed into my Father’s Kingdom; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Concluding prayer of the Walsingham Chaplet of the Five Wounds, St Gregory’s Prayer Book.
‘We are used to speaking of St Benedict as one of the patrons of Europe. This is partly in acknowledgement of how Benedictine houses helped to preserve something of the coherence of a religiously focused culture in the uncertain and often chaotic period after the fall of Rome, as the new Germanic kingdoms emerged in the west. But is there a sense in which we can speak of Benedict and his rule as offering an orientation for Europe’s future? In the half-secularised, morally confused and culturally diverse continent we now inhabit, does the Holy Rule still provide a beacon for common life?
I want to argue that it does: the Rule, after all, is not an archaeological document but something that is continually being reinterpreted in the life of the communities that are based upon it - like the Scriptures themselves. And it has long been recognised that what the Rule proposes for the common life of monks and nuns is a structure that can be adapted to the needs of Christian community more widely - as is shown in the extraordinary number of people who still seek to live as oblates or who regularly refresh their vision by sharing the life of Benedictine houses… If there is a civilisation to be saved, what are the dimensions of the Rule that point us towards the essentials that have to be preserved and nourished? Or, in slightly different terms, what are the political virtues that the Rule generates, and how are these capable of translation into the context of contemporary geopolitics, especially as regards our own continent? It may be that we can arrive at a fuller grasp of what it is now to see Benedict as patron of our troubled and changing continent.
…We cannot take it for granted that any political order, European or otherwise, will regard it as a priority to make possible a life of contemplative delight in God the Father. But what we can reasonably ask, in the light of the Rule, is that political order should recognise that it cannot survive without space for some exploration of what human identity is… The challenge that the politics of the Rule poses is how the public sphere might be able to give space to those practices and institutions that witness to the possibilities of the transcendent; how the ‘rumour’ is kept alive that there are levels of self-understanding and self-giving in service or adoration which keep the world of labour and production in perspective, and expose the world of passive entertainment as a narrowing and trivialising affair. The Rule declares that human communities may exist in which production, reflection and delight can interpenetrate. And it also declares that legitimate authority can be understood as an authority that only requires obedience in the light of practising it - obedience to the law that all hold in common and obedience in the wider sense of attention to the particularities of persons and situations.
We shan’t find in the Rule the ingredients of a constitution for any state or federation; but we shall find a set of perspectives on political virtue in the presence of God, which will give some edge to the questions that Christians should be putting to the prevailing systems of power in our world today and tomorrow. Patron saints are not there to be benign mascots; they are given so that nations and groups and individuals may have identifiable friends in the company of heaven who will give a particular direction and sharpness to the challenges of the gospel. We need to recover Benedict as that kind of patron for our presently confused continent; there is still much to do to spell out further the ways in which, both confronting and affirming, his Rule may open some windows in a rather airless political room and create a true workshop for the spirit’.
from an address ‘Benedict and the Future of Europe’, at St Anselmo, Rome, 21 November 2006
by Rowan Williams, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Archbishop of Canterbury, 2002-2012)
O eternal God, who didst make thine Abbot Saint Benedict a wise master in the school of thy service, and a guide for many called into the common life to follow the rule of Christ: grant that we may put thy love above all things, and seek with joy the way of thy commandments; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
In the Calendar of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter today is the memorial of Our Lady of the Atonement. It is an observance rich in significance for the Ordinariate in North America since Our Lady, under this title, is the patroness of the first Pastoral Provision parish within the United States, Our Lady of the Atonement, in Texas, established in 1983 under the care of Fr Christopher Phillips.
The Pastoral Provision is essentially the precursor to the Ordinariate in the United States and Canada, provided for by Pope St John Paul II in 1981 to allow for the establishment of personal parishes, the ordaining of Anglican priests to the Catholic priesthood, and the retention of elements of Anglican liturgical practice, in a form which later came to be known as the ‘Anglican Use’. In 2017 the Vatican determined that those remaining parishes of the Pastoral Provision that had not yet entered into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter were to be transferred to its jurisdiction. It was at this time that Our Lady of the Atonement entered the fold.
The devotion of Our Lady of the Atonement has its roots in the life and work of an Anglo-Papalist priest, Lewis Wattson. In 1899 Wattson, together with a small group of Anglican nuns, founded the Society of the Atonement, referencing Romans 5:11 (“We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement”), and professed religious vows, with Wattson taking the name Paul James Francis. From its foundation the Society, though a part of the Episcopal Church of the United States, promoted corporate reunion with the Holy See and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. Ten years later, in 1909, the Society - seventeen members strong - realised this goal for themselves with their own corporate reception into the Catholic Church. The process of canonisation for Father Paul, now Servant of God, was opened by Cardinal Dolan in 2015.
Within the Catholic Church the Society soon flourished - and flourishes still. Ten years after their reception into the Church the title ‘Our Lady of the Atonement’ was approved formally by Pope Benedict XV, with today’s feast day being approved by the Holy See in 1946. Given the roots of the devotion it was fitting that Father Phillips and his former Anglican community, now reconciled with the Holy See, should choose to dedicate themselves to Our Lady under this venerable title that is so expressive of that heartfelt desire - of Christ Himself - for his followers to be one with one another in Him. As Father Paul once said: “When we, therefore, give to our Blessed Mother the title of ‘Our Lady of the Atonement’, we mean ‘Our Lady of Unity’”. Father Paul’s prayers, together with those of Our Lady, have certainly sustained the steady growth of her parish in San Antonio over the past thirty-five years, as it has sought to share the treasures of the Anglican patrimony within the Catholic Church as a way of fulfilling Our Lord's prayer that “they may be one”.
'[Our Lady] is necessarily “of the Atonement” since it was the will of God that she play a necessary part in the atonement or redemption. This is not to say that without her man would have remained unredeemed but that God’s plan gave her a large share in the redemptive work. When we address the Blessed Mother, as “of the Atonement”, we mean then, that there is some very close bond between the atonement and her, that she belongs to the atonement and the atonement to her. Mary, although her part is in no way similar in nature to that of her divine Son’s, cooperated with Jesus Christ, as no other creature did, in his work of reconciling man with God.
Her claim to this high title rests most solidly on the fact that she consented to become, and became the mother of the Redeemer; that she suffered with Jesus during the passion; and that all graces merited for mankind by Christ have come to us through Mary’.
Fr Paul of Graymoor, Servant of God, 1863-1940
O God, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; 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 outpouring of Christ’s blood is the source of the Church’s life. Saint John, as we know, sees in the water and blood which flowed from our Lord’s body the wellspring of that divine life which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit and communicated to us in the sacraments. The Letter to the Hebrews draws out, we might say, the liturgical implications of this mystery. Jesus, by his suffering and death, his self-oblation in the eternal Spirit, has become our high priest and “the mediator of a new covenant”. These words echo our Lord’s own words at the Last Supper, when he instituted the Eucharist as the sacrament of his body, given up for us, and his blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant shed for the forgiveness of sins.
Faithful to Christ’s command to “do this in memory of me”, the Church in every time and place celebrates the Eucharist until the Lord returns in glory, rejoicing in his sacramental presence and drawing upon the power of his saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been at the heart of Catholic faith; called into question in the sixteenth century, it was solemnly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent against the backdrop of our justification in Christ. Here in England, as we know, there were many who staunchly defended the Mass, often at great cost, giving rise to that devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist which has been a hallmark of Catholicism in these lands.
The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of our Lord’s continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age. Here the great crucifix which towers above us serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. Through him, with him, and in him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. In this sense we are caught up in his eternal oblation, completing, as Saint Paul says, in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church. In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world.
We see this aspect of the mystery of Christ’s precious blood represented, most eloquently, by the martyrs of every age, who drank from the cup which Christ himself drank, and whose own blood, shed in union with his sacrifice, gives new life to the Church. It is also reflected in our brothers and sisters throughout the world who even now are suffering discrimination and persecution for their Christian faith. Yet it is also present, often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world’.
from a homily preached at the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood, Westminster
18 September 2010, on the occasion of his Apostolic Journey to the United Kingdom
by Pope Benedict XVI
Precious Blood, ocean of divine mercy: flow upon us! Precious Blood, most pure offering: procure us every grace! Precious Blood, hope and refuge of sinners: atone for us! Precious Blood, delight of holy souls: draw us! Amen. – St Catherine of Siena.
O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us: and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We pray that we may be defended and comforted, a typical doublet but with a more special point than usual, because it puts first negatively and then positively the benefit for which we ask. We wish to be defended against all dangers and comforted in all adversities.
After all, we are very like children. No man can ever be so supremely self-confident that he never wants to be protected, shielded from harm. It is said that Gladstone’s favourite hymn was the Latin version of “Let me ever more abide hidden in thy wounded side”. The need that so great a statesman was not ashamed to confess is surely common to all.
More positively we desire comfort in adversity. “Comfort” makes one think of a mother soothing a sick child. Something of that overtone hovers about the word. But in this instance it is probably used in a sense nearer to its etymological meaning of “strengthen”. We can catch the sense if we remember the precise meaning of the word “fort” in a military connection, a fortress or strongpoint. To comfort is to make especially strong.
It is no doubt in this double sense that the Bible speaks of the angels comforting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and that Jesus could speak of his own Spirit as the Comfort (though in the latter instance there is the added thought of the advocate called in to help). In any case what we are asking for is not merely some help to relieve our pain but additional strength to enable us to meet and to bear it.
Dangers then may be taken to arise out of the changes and chances of this mortal life, and adversities may be taken to apply to our utmost need however and whenever experienced. If we are inclined to think that their prevalence is somewhat exaggerated and that we may quite possibly get along without encountering them at all, we should remember how many aspects of our life they cover. They may be either physical, moral, or spiritual… The toll of deaths on the roads warns us of our physical dangers. Temptations to get rick quick warn us of our moral dangers. While the materialism of modern society is a constant danger to our spiritual life.
All these we can face with a measure of equanimity if we rely on the defence and comfort supplied through God’s mercy’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and gives me guidance”. With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity.
The life of this simple girl – I shall concern myself only with highlights – we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished.
From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult and hazardous that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer.
Not all of us are expected to die a martyr’s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. This demands strength of character though it may not match that of this innocent girl. Still, a constant, persistent, and relentless effort is asked of us right up to the moment of our death. This may be conceived as a slow, steady martyrdom which Christ urged upon us when he said: “The kingdom of heaven is set upon and laid waste by violent forces”.
So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven.
from the homily by Venerable Pope Pius XII, 1876-1958
at the Canonisation Mass of St Maria Goretti, 24 June 1950
O God, the author of innocence and lover of chastity, who didst bestow the the grace of martyrdom on thy handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth: grant, we pray, through her intercession; that, as thou gavest her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying thy commandments; 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.
‘Anthony, born in upper Italy (1502), pursued the studies of the humanities and medicine before realising that he was called to be a spiritual physician. Ordained to the priesthood in 1528, he dedicated himself with fatherly love to strangers, to the oppressed and poor. He was regarded as “father” and “angel” by contemporaries. He founded a community of Clerks Regular, which he named after his favourite apostle, St Paul. They are now known as Barnabites. He spread devotion to Christ suffering and dying upon the Cross, added exposition of the Blessed Sacrament to the Forty Hours’ devotion in 1534, and furthered more frequent reception of holy Communion. He died at the early age of thirty-six in 1539.
“To Christ through the spirit of the apostle Paul”. Is not this the sincerest aim of every true liturgist? About a hundred times during the Church year the apostle of the Gentiles speaks to us in the Readings of the Mass, as today; and many times more in the Divine Office. “The in the spirit of the holy apostle Paul we may learn the all-excelling science of Jesus Christ” is the plea we make today in union with St Anthony’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Grant us, O Lord God Almighty: that we, being filled with the spirit of thy blessed Apostle Paul, may learn that pre-eminent knowledge of Christ Jesus, whereby thou didst wondrously teach blessed Anthony Mary to establish in thy Church new households of priests and virgins; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holty Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
The above photograph of a statue of St Elizabeth, Queen Consort of Portugal, was taken during a pilgrimage to the country in April last year. It stands tall outside the former monastery of Santa-Clara-a-Nova at Coimbra, where her remains lie in a tomb above the high altar.
‘O blessed Elizabeth! we praise God for thy holy works, as the Church this day invites all her sons to do. More valiant than those princes in whose midst thou didst appear as the angel of thy fatherland, thou didst exhibit in thy private life a heroism which could equal theirs, when need was, even on the battlefield. God’s grace was the motive-power of thy actions, and His glory their sole end. Often does God gain more glory by abnegations hidden from all eyes but His, than by great works justly admired by a whole people. It is because the power of His grace shines forth the more; and it is generally the way of His Providence to cause the most remarkable blessings bestowed on nations, to spring from these hidden sources. How many battles celebrated in history have first been fought and won in the sight of the Blessed Trinity, in some hidden spot of that supernatural world, where the elect are ever at war with hell, nay, struggle at times even with God Himself; how many famous treaties with peace have first been concluded between heaven and earth in the secret of a single soul, as a reward for those giant struggles which men misunderstand and despise! Let the fashion of this world pass away; and those deep-thinking politicians, who are said to rule the course of events, the proud negotiators and warriors of renown, all, when judged by the light of eternity, will appear for what they are: mere deceptions screening from the sight of men the only names truly worthy of immortality.
Glory then be to thee, through whom the Lord has deigned to lift a corner of the veil that hides from the world the true rulers of its destinies. In the golden book of the elect, thy nobility rests on better titles than those of birth. Daughter and mother of kings, thyself a queen, thou didst rule over a glorious land; but far more glorious is the family throne in heaven, where thou reignest with the first Elizabeth, with Margaret and with Hedwige, and where others will come to join thee, doing honour to the same noble blood which flowed in thy veins’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst adorn Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvellous grace for reconciling those in conflict: grant, through her intercession; that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
The Paschal feast was ended. Multitudes,
Unweeting what was done, that day had left
The gates of Zion for their far-off homes;
And there was silence, where but yesterday
Had been the hum of thousands. Olivet
Slept calmly underneath the waning moon,
And darkening shadows fell across the steeps
And hollows of Jerusalem. Deep night
Had drench’d the eyes of thousands. But, behold,
Within the upper room where Jesus broke
The bread of life, and pour’d the mystic wine
The night before He suffer’d, once again
The little band of those who loved Him most
Were gather’d. On the morrow morn they thought
To leave the holy city, holier now
Than ever in their eyes, and go to meet
Their Lord upon the Galilean hill.
All bosoms swell’d with gladness, all save one;
One heart amid that group of light and love
Was desolate and dark: nine weary days
Of doubt, which shado’d all eternity,
Had written years of suffering on his brow.
The worst he fear’d to him was realised,
Life quench’d, for ever quench’d, and death supreme.
Jesus was dead. And vainly others told,
How they had seen and heard their risen Lord;
Himself had seen the lifeless body hang
Upon the cross; and, till he saw like them
And like them touch’d the prints in hands and side,
He would not, for he could not, hope again.
But there has been enough of sorrow now
For that true mourner, sorely tried but true:
And as they communed of an absent Lord
Jesus was there, though doors were shut and barr’d,
There in the midst of them; and from His lips,
Who is Himself our Peace, the words of peace
Fell as of old like dew on every heart,
But surely sweetest, calmest, tenderest
On one most torn and tost. The waves were still;
Day broke; the shadows fled: nor this alone,
Love offer’d all which bitterest grief had ask’d,
And laying bare the inly bleeding wound
Heal’d it, which haply else had bled afresh
In after years, till faith adoring claim’d
In One, whom sense no longer sought to touch,
The Lord of life, the everlasting God.
O Master, though our eyes have never look’d
Upon Thy blessèd face and glorious form,
Grant us to trust Thee with a perfect trust,
And love Thee and rejoice in Thee unseen,
And prove the heaven of Thy beatitude
On those who, though they see Thee not, believe.
Edward Bickersteth, 1825-1906
(Bishop of Exeter, 1885-1900)
Almighty and everliving God, who for the greater confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son’s Resurrection: grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ; that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today marks fourteen years of ordained ministry. I was ordained a deacon and priest in the Church of England fourteen and thirteen years ago, respectively, on this day. Whilst it was with thanksgiving and joy that that ministry was set aside, I continue to be deeply grateful for all the good that I received from the Church of England and the Anglican tradition. To mark this memory, and transition, I share a prayer composed by Basil, Cardinal Hume, former Archbishop of Westminster, which was approved by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith:
‘The Holy Catholic Church recognises that not a few of the sacred actions of the Christian religion as carried out in communities separated from her can truly engender a life of grace and can rightly be described as providing access to the community of salvation. And so we now pray:
Almighty Father, we give you thanks for the years of faithful ministry of your servant in the Anglican Communion, whose fruitfulness for salvation has been derived from the very fulness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church. As your servant has been received into full communion and now seeks to be ordained to the presbyterate in the Catholic Church, we beseech you to bring to fruition that for which we now pray. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen’.
Thrilling news today that Blessed John Henry Newman will be canonised in Rome at 10 am on Sunday 13th October. Cardinal Newman remains a central figure in the life and work of both the Congregation of the Oratory in England (which he founded), and the Personal Ordinariates (he is the patron of the English and Welsh Ordinariate). His writings, devotions, prayers, hymns and meditations continue to enliven and inspire, drawing Anglicans and others into the fulness of Catholic communion; a journey he himself made ‘out of the shadows and symbols unto truth’. On this traditional feast day of the Most Precious Blood (to which the whole of July is dedicated), a meditation, by Newman, exhorting us to trust in that Blood.
‘There are men who think that God is so great that He disdains to look down upon us, our doings and our fortunes. But He who did not find it beneath His Majesty to make us, does not think it beneath Him to observe and to visit us. He says Himself in the Gospel: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? and not one of them is forgotten before God. Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows”. He determined from all eternity that He would create us. He settled our whole fortune – and, if He did not absolutely decree to bring us to heaven, it is because we have free will, and by the very constitution of our nature He has put it in part out of His own power, for we must do our part, if to heaven we attain. But He has done every thing short of this. He died for us all upon the Cross, that, if it were possible to save us, we might be saved. And He calls upon us lovingly, begging us to accept the benefit of His meritorious and most Precious Blood. And those who trust Him He takes under His special protection. He marks out their whole life for them; He appoints all that happens to them; He guides them in such way as to secure their salvation; He gives them just so much of health, of wealth, of friends, as is best for them; He afflicts them only when it is for their good; He is never angry with them. He measures out just that number of years which is good for them; and He appoints the hour of their death in such a way as to secure their perseverance up to it’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Fr Lee Kenyon
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