Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To ‘run the race’, to ‘keep our hold’,
Ignore injustice, not give in,
And practise stern self-discipline;
A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.
But still it gives the chance to me
To praise our dear old C. of E.
So other Churches please forgive
Lines on the Church in which I live,
The Church of England of my birth,
The kindest Church to me on earth.
There may be those who like things fully
Argued out, and call you ‘woolly’;
Ignoring Creeds and Catechism
They say the C of E’s ‘in schism’.
There may be those who much resent
Priest, Liturgy, and Sacrament,
Whose worship is what they call ‘free’,
Well, let them be so, but for me
There’s refuge in the C of E.
And when it comes that I must die
I hope the Vicar’s standing by,
I won’t care if he’s ‘Low’ or ‘High’
For he’ll be there to aid my soul
On that dread journey to its goal,
With Sacrament and prayer and Blessing
After I’ve done my last confessing.
And at that time may I receive
The Grace most firmly to believe,
For if the Christian’s Faith’s untrue
What is the point of me and you?
But this is all anticipating
Septuagesima – time of waiting,
Running the race or holding fast.
Let’s praise the man who goes to light
The church stove on an icy night.
Let’s praise that hard-worked he or she
The Treasurer of the PCC.
Let’s praise the cleaner of the aisles,
The nave and candlesticks and tiles.
Let’s praise the organist who tries
To make the choir increase in size,
Or if that simply cannot be,
Just to improve its quality.
Let’s praise the ringers in the tower
Who come to ring in cold and shower.
But most of all let’s praise the few
Who are seen in their accustomed pew
Throughout the year, whate’er the weather,
That they may worship God together.
These, like a fire of glowing coals,
Strike warmth into each other’s souls,
And though they be but two or three
They keep the Church for you and me.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
And first, O Lord, I praise and magnify thy Name
For the Most Holy Virgin-Mother of God,
who is the Highest of thy Saints.
The most Glorious of thy Creatures.
The most Perfect of all thy Works.
The nearest unto Thee in the Throne of God.
Whom thou didst please to make
Daughter of the Eternal Father,
Mother of the Eternal Son.
Spouse of the Eternal Spirit,
Tabernacle of the most Glorious Trinity.
Mother of Jesus.
Mother of the Messias.
Mother of him who was the Desire of all Nations.
Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Mother of the King of Heaven.
Mother of our Creator.
Mother and Virgin.
Mirror of Humility and Obedience.
Mirror of Wisdom and Devotion.
Mirror of Modesty and Chastity.
Mother of Sweetness and Resignation.
Mirror of Sanctity.
Mirror of all Virtues.
The most illustrious Light in the Church,
wearing over all her beauties the veil of Humility
to shine the more resplendently in thy Eternal Glory.
Thomas Traherne, 1636-1674
‘All love, whether of child, parent, partner, friend, even of place, possession, or animal, holds the potential for suffering, because of death. We cannot possess or hold fast anything or anyone: it is all gift. Life contains inevitable partings and inescapable pain. The loveless are protected against this suffering: the zombie feels nothing. We are alive in proportion to our response to love, and our pain at parting is in proportion to the extent of that love... The deeper the love, the deeper its pain’.
Sister Wendy Beckett, 1930-2018
Præsta, quæesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui beati Valentini Martyris tui natalitia colimus, a cunctis malis imminentibus, eius intercessione, liberemur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
In this month dedicated to the Holy Family, a rosary meditation on the Joyful Mystery of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple:
‘When Our Lady asked her Child: “Son, why hast thou done so to us?” His answer teaches us the hierarchy, or due order, of obedience: obedience to God, which must always come first, and is often humanly mysterious. St Francis leaving his father’s house to do God’s will, St Clare, St Thomas Aquinas, must all have got strength from this Mystery.
Much more puzzling is the question why Our Lord, most loving of children, should have let His mother suffer that long – what must have seemed that endless – search. Journet, in Our Lady of Sorrows, sees an echo, a correspondence between Our Lady’s “Son, why?” and Our Lord’s cry on the Cross: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The three days’ loss is one of the Seven Sorrows that make Our Lady so close to her Son in His sacrifice.
Meditating on this Mystery, most people look back at the three days’ loss and finish their prayer in the Temple. But others go home with the Holy Family and stay awhile at Nazareth. Chesterton has pointed out that the Holy Family takes the ordinary human family and reverses its values. Yet in the life at Nazareth the human hierarchy was kept, even though its values were reversed.
The child was God, but He obeyed the man who was head of the house. He had gone to the Temple in direct obedience to His heavenly Father, but now for eighteen years he would obey God through His human mother, His human foster-father. It is one of the most amazing facts of the Christian economy that God chose a way of saving men that made two human beings strictly necessary. God needed Our Lady and St Joseph: Our Lord could not alone have made a human family’.
from The Splendour of the Rosary, 1948, by Maisie Ward, 1889-1975
‘With the inclusion of... a liturgical provision in Anglicanorum coetibus, the Holy See acknowledged the legitimate patrimony of Anglican ecclesial communities coming into full communion. The presumption here is that an essential part of that patrimony must be liturgical since worship expresses in a most tangible way not only the ethos of a community, but also the faith that prompted it to seek full communion in the first place. Just as it would be unthinkable to describe the Catholic Church without reference to its liturgical and sacramental life, so it would in some sense be for every ecclesial body. The manner in which an ecclesial community worships uniquely expresses its inner life.
The publication of Divine Worship was of historic significance in that this is the first time the Catholic Church acknowledged the value of liturgical forms in use in communities that emerged in the sixteenth century reformations and, moreover, undertaken to incorporate them. To be sure, the Church over the years has drawn elements of the musical traditions of these communities — such as hymns, motets, and chorales — but never official liturgical texts or usage.
…It is remarkable that the Catholic Church should have undertaken a formal process such as the Anglicanae traditiones Commission to identify and incorporate the richness of Anglican liturgical practice. In constituting a body of authoritative texts duly approved and promulgated by the Holy See, Divine Worship is true to the fundamental character of a liturgical “patrimony”.
It is massively important to recognise that the liturgical books comprised by Divine Worship arise from an exercise of Peter’s authority over the churches that recognises the authentic faith of the Church expressed in Anglican forms of worship and confirms that expression as a treasure or patrimony for the whole Church. In other words, the universal Church recognises the faith that is already hers expressed felicitously in another idiom. The elements of sanctification and truth that are present in the Anglican patrimony are recognised as properly belonging to the Church of Christ and thus as instruments of grace that move the communities where they are employed towards the visible unity of the Church of Christ subsisting in the Catholic Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). By further enriching those expressions through access to the Magisterium that authentically interprets the Word of God and preserves Christian teaching from error, the Catholic Church proposes this form of worship anew as an efficacious means of sacramental grace for future generations.
To be sure, the sources are Anglican, and many of the liturgical texts in Divine Worship have their origin in a situation of ecclesial rupture. Yet there is a powerful dynamism at work in the reintroduction of these texts in communities now in full communion with the See of Peter. It is not just that they are given a “new lease on life” in a new context or successive generation. These liturgical forms “return” to the Church having been purified and transformed in Catholic communion. Words pronounced at other times and in other context are no longer simply Cranmer’s poetry or an English assertion of independence from Rome, or now merely the eloquence or piety of the priest celebrant who speaks them, but rather the words of the Church and her faith’.
from a talk entitled Anglican Patrimony: A Perspective from the Holy See
given at a conference The Gospel and the Catholic Church: Anglican Patrimony Today
Oxford, April 2018, by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP
‘Rather less than eighty years ago, a little girl stood before the rock of Massabieille, in the township of Lourdes, on the slopes of the Pyrenees. No premonition of any divine event disturbed her thoughts; she was at play with her companions, and if she took off the shoes from her feet it was only to cross the stream that lay in their path. She heard a noise, like that of a strong wind; she turned, and saw that the trees in the valley were not bowed as a strong wind must bow them. She turned back towards the rock, and a rose-bush that grew in front of it. And now she saw the rose-bush flaming with something more bright, more pure, more beautiful than fire. She saw above it the figure of a Lady; what need to describe it in detail? Wherever Christendom reaches, the helpless aspirations of Christian artists have made that figure familiar to every human eye. The Lady said no word, but she made one sign, the sign of the cross; and the little girl, taking courage, said her rosary as if to defend her from harm. Then the Vision beckoned to her to come nearer; she drew back in alarm, and it vanished. She took off her other stocking, crossed the stream, and rejoined her companions, who had seen nothing. That was all; it was only in later visits that she realised what a grace had been bestowed upon her; that she, too, was to lead a world out of its captivity; draw it after her to worship God and celebrate the glories of his Mother on that mountain. It was only many days later that the gracious Lady revealed herself by name; lifted up her eyes to heaven and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception”’.
from a homily preached in 1934 by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling-place meet for thy Son: we humbly beseech thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; 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.
Next Sunday is Septuagesima, the beginning of that period of Pre-Lent, consisting of three Sundays that precede and prepare the Church (according to the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite) for the great penitential season of Lent. The liturgical character of this period anticipates Lent by omitting the Alleluia and the Gloria from Mass, and the Te Deum from the Divine Office, and by clothing the church and her ministers in violet.
The ancient hymn below, translated by the eminent Anglican hymnographer, John Mason Neale, may be sung on this Sunday before Septuagesima, so as to emphasise the bittersweet loss of the Alleluia from the Sacred Liturgy; a word dear to the hearts of Christians, that will not now be heard again until the Easter Vigil. Here follows Neale’s own explanation:
‘The Latin Church, as it is well known, forbade, as a general role, the use of Alleluia in Septuagesima. Hence, in more than one ritual, its frequent repetition on the Saturday before Septuagesima, as if by way of farewell to its employment. This custom was enjoined in the German Dioceses by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 817: but various reasons render it probable that the following hymn is not of earlier date than the thirteenth century. The farewell to Alleluia in the Mozarabic rite is so lovely that I give it here. After the Alleluia Perenne, the Capitula are as follows:— “Alleluia in heaven and in earth; it is perpetuated in heaven, it is sung in earth. There it resounds everlastingly: here sweetly. There happily; here concordantly. There ineffably; here earnestly. There without syllables; here in musical numbers. There from the Angels; here from the people. Which, at the birth of Christ the Lord, not only in heaven, but the earth, did the Angels sing; while they proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will”. The Benediction:— “Let that Alleluia which is ineffably sung in heaven, be more efficaciously declared in your praises. Amen. unceasingly sung by Angels, let it here be uttered brokenly by all faithful people. Amen. That it, as it is called the praise of God, and as it imitates you in that praise, may cause you to be enrolled as denizens of the eternal mansion. Amen”. The Lauda:— “Thou shalt go, O Alleluia; Thou shalt have a prosperous journey, O Alleluia. R. And again with joy thou shalt return to us, O Alleluia. V. For in their hands they shall bear thee up; lest thou hurt thy foot against a stone. R. And again with joy thou shalt return to us, O Alleluia”’.
Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences, 1867, edited by John Mason Neale, 1818-1866
to the tune Tantum Ergo, The English Hymnal, no. 63
‘The life of the Venetian layman, Jerome Emiliani, was as it were “refounded” on the night of 27 September 1511, when, after making a sincere vow to Our Lady of Treviso to change his behaviour, through the intercession of the Mother of God he found himself freed from the chains of prison, which he himself later presented at the altar of the Virgin.
“Dirupisti vincula mea” (Ps 116:16). The verse of the Psalm expresses the genuine interior revolution that took place after that liberation, bound up with the tormented political events of that age. In fact, it represented an integral renewal of Jerome’s character: by divine intervention he was freed from the bonds of selfishness, pride, search for personal affirmation, so much so that his life, which had previously been dedicated primarily to temporal things, became oriented entirely to God, whom he loved and served particularly in the orphaned, the sick or abandoned young people.
Guided by events in his family, which caused him to become the guardian of all his orphaned nephews, St Jerome matured in his realisation that young people, especially those in difficult straits, could not remain alone, but needed one essential requirement for healthy growth, namely love. In him love was more important than ingenuity and because his was a love that flowed from the charity of God himself, it was filled with patience and understanding: attentive, tender and ready to sacrifice, like the love of a mother.
The Church of the 16th century, divided by the Protestant schism, and searching for a serious reform within itself, enjoyed a flowering of holiness that was the first and most original response to the demands for renewal. The witness of the saints says that it is necessary to trust in God alone: indeed, both personal and institutional trials serve to help faith grow. God has his plans, even if we do not manage to understand its provisions.
…The shining example of St Jerome Emiliani, whom Blessed John Paul II defined as a “lay animator of the laity”, helps us to take to heart every form of poverty in our young people, whether moral, physical or existential, and especially the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem’.
from a message of Pope Benedict XVI, to the Order of Clerics Regular of Somasca, 20 July 2011
on the 500th anniversary of the prodigious liberation of their founder St Jerome Emiliani
O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; 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.
‘Am I grateful for my Anglican heritage? Yes, I am. Where did I first learn the Catholic Faith? At home, in the vicarage. Therefore I rejoiced when news of the Ordinariate came from Rome. I have been hoping for something like this for years.
…The Pastor of the nations is reaching out to give you a special place within the Catholic Church. United in communion, but not absorbed - that sums up the unique and privileged status former Anglicans will enjoy in their Ordinariates.
Catholics in full communion with the Successor of St Peter, you will be gathered in distinctive communities that preserve elements of Anglican worship, spirituality and culture that are compatible with Catholic faith and morals. Each Ordinariate will be an autonomous structure, like a diocese, but something between a Personal Prelature (as in Opus Dei, purely spiritual jurisdiction), or a Military Ordinariate (for the Armed Forces). In some ways, the Ordinariate will even be similar to a Rite (the Eastern Catholic Churches). You will enjoy your own liturgical “use” as Catholics of the Roman Rite. At the same time your Ordinaries, bishops or priests, will work alongside diocesan bishops of the Roman Rite and find their place within the Episcopal Conference in each nation or region.
There is no “hidden agenda” here, no popish trap!... This is a step of faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. It involves accepting all the teachings of the Church on faith and morals. Such a personal assent of faith needs to be formed and informed. To use an Anglican expression, please “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This summarises the Faith “once given”, embodied in one Word of God that comes to us, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, through Scripture and Tradition.
There will be sacrifices, but humility and suffering are parts of a faith journey - and many of you have already suffered much for the sake of conscience.
Yet you do not come to the Ordinariates with empty hands. As I learnt forty two years ago, you will lose nothing - but you will regain an inheritance stolen from us four centuries ago. That heritage was largely recovered by the giants of the Oxford Movement. I believe they smile on us now. In these early days, let us keep praying with them, so that together we may patiently work out how Pope Benedict’s project can be achieved’.
Bishop Peter Elliott, 2010 (Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Melbourne, 2007-2018)
67 years ago today the late King George VI died at his estate at Sandringham in Norfolk at the age of 56. His daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, was in Kenya at the time, en route for a tour of Australia. Though it was to be another sixteen months before her Coronation in Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth had become Queen. She was 25 years old. For the whole of her adult life Elizabeth has been Sovereign. She has surpassed Queen Victoria’s long reign of 63 years, and on the 31st January we learned that Elizabeth II passed Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine’s 66 year and 358 day reign to become the longest-reigning female ruler in history. It is a remarkable milestone, but one which is notable for the quality of service and dedication rendered by this Christian monarch to God on behalf the many peoples of her realms and territories throughout the world.
Today, then, is marked as Accession Day in those places where the Queen remains Head of State (the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, etc.). It was first marked during the reign of Elizabeth I, and later a ‘Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving’ was first published in 1576, and was renewed during the reign of James II in 1685. A collect in Divine Worship: The Missal is provided for use in the Commonwealth realms where the Ordinariate is present, and follows below.
‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it’.
on the occasion of her 21st birthday, as Princess Elizabeth, 1947
O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen; that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; 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.
Of your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of Monsignor Edwin Barnes, who died today, following a short illness, on this his 84th birthday. Pray also for his widow, Jane. Mgr Barnes served as Prinicpal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford, from 1987 to 1995, and served as the first Bishop of Richborough, a provinical episcopal visitor in the Province of Canterbury, from 1995 to 2002. He and his wife were received into full communion in 2011, after which he was ordained priest for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. In 2012 he was appointed a Chaplain of His Holiness. Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Jesu, mercy. Mary, pray.
‘Today we are celebrating the memorial of St Agatha, martyred in Catania probably during the persecution of Decius in the third century. Agatha’s name corresponds to reality: St Agatha “is truly a good woman”, we read in the Liturgy of the Hours this morning, “coming forth from God in whose goodness she shares. She is good to her Spouse, Christ, and good also to us through sharing with us her goodness. ‘Good’ is the force and meaning of her name”.
God, our supreme good, is the source of all good things. I hope that you will all be “good”, that is, faithful witnesses to the love of our heavenly Father who fills us with so many gifts and calls us to share in his own joy.
Whoever has this faith, even in the midst of difficulties, preserves that deep peace born of a trusting abandonment to the ever provident and wise hands of God, who never disturbs the joy of his children except to prepare for them a deeper and greater joy’.
from a general audience, 5 February 1997, by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the gentleness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom: grant, we beseech thee; that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of Saint Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Following a visit to Walsingham in October 2017 my wife and I decided, on the way back to Lancashire, to make our return via the small hamlet of Sempringham in Lincolnshire, famous as the home of Saint Gilbert, who was the only English saint to have founded a religious order in the Middle Ages: the Gilbertine Order of Canons Regular. Gilbert became the parish priest of St Andrew’s, Sempringham in 1131 and thereafter formed a community of lay sisters, followed by lay brothers, who first maintained the Rule of St Benedict. They later came under the care of Augustinian canons, with Gilbert serving as master general of the community. The community flourished and by the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541) there were 26 Gilbertine houses across England.
‘[Gilbert] gave a rule to seven holy virgins who lived in strict enclosure in a house adjoining to the wall of his parish church of St Andrew at Sempringham, and another afterwards to a community of men who desired to live under his direction. The latter was drawn from the rule of the canon regulars; that given to his nuns, from St Bennet’s: but to both he added many particular constitutions. Such was the origin of the Order of the Gilbertines, the approbation of which he procured from Pope Eugenius III. At length he entered the Order himself, but resigned the government of it some time before his death when he lost his sight. His diet was chiefly roots and pulse, and so sparing that others wondered how he could subsist. He had always at table a dish which he called “the plate of the Lord Jesus”, in which he put all that was best of what was served up; and this was for the poor. He always wore a hair shirt, took his short rest sitting, and spent great part of the night in prayer. In this, his favourite exercise, his soul found those wings on which she continually soared to God. During the exile of St Thomas of Canterbury he and the other superiors of his Order were accused of having sent him succours abroad. The charge was false; yet the saint chose rather to suffer imprisonment and the danger of the suppression of his Order than to deny it, lest he should seem to condemn what would have been good and just. He departed to our Lord on the 3rd of February 1190, being one hundred and six years old. Miracles wrought at his tomb were examined and approved by Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the commissioners of Pope Innocent III in 1201, and he was canonised by that pope the year following’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we remember before thee all thy servants who have served thee faithfully in their generation, and have entered into rest, especially Gilbert, beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow in their steps; that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom; 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 Calendar of this portion of the year abounds with Martyrs; and, at the very onset, we meet with one of the most celebrated of these glorious champions of Christ. The scene of his pastoral virtues and his martyrdom, was Sebaste, a city of Armenia, the same that will give us forty martyred soldiers on a single day. The devotion to St Blase is, even to this day, most fervently kept up in the East, especially in Armenia. The Western Churches soon began to love and honour his memory, and so universally, that we might call him one of the most popular of our Saints. His Feast, however, with us, is only a simple, and the Church of Rome has given a mere Lesson on his Life.
Blase, whose signal virtues made him dear to the people of Sebaste in Armenia, was chosen Bishop of that City. When the Emperor Dioclesian waged his cruel persecution against the Christians, the Saint hid himself in a cave on mount Argeus, and there he remained sometime concealed, but was at length discovered by some soldiers of the governor Agricolaus, whilst they were hunting. They led him to the governor, who gave orders that he should be put into prison. During his imprisonment, many sick people, attracted by the reputation of his sanctity, came to him, and he healed them. Among these was a boy, whose life was despaired of by the physicians, on account of his having swallowed a bone, which could not be extracted from his throat. The Saint was twice brought before the governor, but neither fair promises nor threats could induce him to offer sacrifice to the gods. Whereupon, he was first beaten with rods, and then his flesh was torn with iron hooks whilst he lay stretched on the rack. At length, he was beheaded, and nobly gave testimony to the faith of Christ our Lord, on the third of the Nones of February’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Blaise, thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may likewise rejoice in his protection; 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.
‘On this feast we commemorate the Purification of our Lady, her act of obedience to the law of her Church and her people, her humble act of thanksgiving for the birth of her Child. The feast is also called the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and is known familiarly as Candlemas. In the Greek Church the festival is called ‘The Meeting’ (Hypapante), and commemorates the meeting of Simeon and Anna.
This old man, Simeon, had been waiting for the redemption of Israel, and longing for the fulfilment of hopes which only on this day did he rightly understand. As the Blessed Mother enters the Temple bearing in her arms the Holy Child, suddenly the Light comes to him, he realises the meaning of the Temple. The sacred building has been waiting for this entrance, for His possession Whom he holds in his arms. The Temple of Solomon was made for that day when the glory of God filled it. Now into this Temple is brought by the Blessed Mother the Presence of God in a yet more wondrous way, and Simeon feels the light smiting down upon him. Life, religion, the Temple – all are for the possession of God.
St Paul says, “Know ye not your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” We must make this temple of our souls a fit place for His Presence. We are given light, and we must walk as the children of light. Light is given to us not to save us trouble, but to enable us to take more trouble; not to save us thought, but to enable us to think more truly, more deeply. Our religion is mean to us nothing less than this: that we are to be possessed by the Presence of God’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ 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.
There came to me assistance,
Mary fair and Bride;
As Anna bore Mary,
As Mary bore Christ,
As Eile bore John the Baptist
Without flaw in him,
Aid thou me in mine unbearing,
Aid me, O Bride!
As Christ was conceived of Mary
Full perfect on every hand,
Assist thou me, foster-mother,
The conception to bring from the bone;
And as thou didst aid the Virgin of joy,
Without gold, without corn, without kine,
Aid thou me, great is my sickness,
Aid me, O Bride.
from the Carmina Gadelica, 1900
translated from the Gaelic by Alexander Carmichael, 1832-1912
O God, who to the blessed Abbess Brigid gavest grace to imitate Christ in his poverty, and with humble heart to follow him in the end: grant that all who enter the path of Gospel perfection may neither look back nor go astray from the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may attain the crown of eternal life whereunto thou dost call them; 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.
On this memorial of St John Bosco, his words of wisdom, as communicated to his Salesian brethren, on the challenge of being an educator.
‘Perhaps you think that what I am suggesting is too easy or not practical enough. Yet I assure you that if you abide by what I say, you will be successful. You will see that by these means you will win over those who in the be-ginning had not given the least cause for any hope.
If too often we see our efforts cast to the winds, devoid of any good results, if the fruit of our labours is nothing but a bunch of thorns and thistles, I believe we are to attribute this sad failure to the fact that we have not yet learned the way of keeping discipline in the manner I have explained above.
Only moral strength can win the human heart, which Saint Gregory tells us is like an impregnable fortress that cannot be conquered except by affection and kindness.
What I recommend is hard, I know, especially for young adults whose first inclination towards obtaining discipline is to act on the spur of the moment and inflict punishments. But I assure you; real success can only be the result of patience. Impatience merely disgusts the children and spreads discontent among the best of them.
Long experience has taught me that patience is the only remedy for even the worst cases of disobedience and irresponsiveness. Sometimes, after making many patient efforts without obtaining success, I deemed it necessary to resort to severe measures. Yet these never achieved anything, and in the end I always found that charity finally triumphed where severity had met with failure. Charity is the cure-all though it may be slow in affecting its cure.
Remember that education is a difficult art and that God alone is its true master. We will never succeed in it unless he teaches us the way. While depending humbly and entirely on him, we should try with might and main to acquire that moral strength which is a stranger to force and rigour. Let us strive to make ourselves loved, to instil into our children the high ideal of duty and the holy fear of God, and we will soon possess their hearts. Then, with natural ease, they will join us in praising Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our model, our patron, our exemplar in all things, but especially in the education of the young’.
St John Bosco, 1815-1888
O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘That the First Charles does here in triumph ride,
See his son reign where he a martyr died,
And people pay that reverence as they pass,
(Which then he wanted!) to the sacred brass,
Is not the effect of gratitude alone,
To which we owe the statue and the stone;
But Heaven this lasting monument has wrought,
That mortals may eternally be taught
Rebellion, though successful, is but vain,
And kings so killed rise conquerors again.
This truth the royal image does proclaim,
Loud as the trumpet of surviving Fame’.
‘On the Statue of King Charles I at Charing Cross in the Year 1674’
by Edmund Waller, 1606-1687
On this final ferial day of this month dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, a hymn by Edward Perronet. The son of a Kent vicar, Perronet grew to know and work alongside the Wesleys well, but later fell out with them, and with both the Church of England and the Methodist movement, and ended up pastoring dissenting congregations. In his will Perronet left money to William Shrubsole (1760-1806), the composer of the tune Miles Lane, written to accompany this hymn.
‘In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.
The last months of Thomas’ earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realised, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then “was worthless”. This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas’ personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God’s greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: “You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?” And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: “Nothing but Yourself, Lord!”’.
from a general audience, 2 June 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
Everlasting God, who didst enrich thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Saint Thomas Aquinas: grant to all who seek thee a humble mind and a pure heart; that they may know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Almighty and everlasting God: mercifully look upon our infirmities; and in all our dangers and necessities, stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Third Sunday after Epiphany from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The preoccupation of the medieval world with the thought of danger comes out again in this ancient prayer for peace. In this case the collect… begins with an almost pathetic acknowledgment of man’s weakness.
“Mercifully look upon our infirmities”. Actually this is the beginning of all religion. To recognise our weakness is perhaps humiliating, but it is nevertheless wholesome. It is in any case a piece of realism: it shows that we are in touch with facts. All the nonsense about “my unconquered soul”, and “my head is bloody but unbowed”, is seen at its true value. No man who really knows himself dare make such claims for his own, unaided strength. Far nearer the truth, however unpalatable, is the line of the hymn: “We are frail earthen vessels and things of no worth”.
Our infirmities are of every kind, physical, mental, moral. No one needs to stress our bodily weakness: it is so obvious that writers have been known to blame the Creator for having made man’s body so inefficient a tool. Our mental weakness is equally clear. How little can we remember to take in, and how difficult do we find it to think straight on any matter. Our moral weakness is even more glaring. We have indeed made so great a failure of the moral struggle that the modern novelist and dramatist try to avoid the issue by pretending that there are really no such things as morals. The cult of the passing moment, without any reference to permanent standards, is all that matters’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘[I]f we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.
Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.
Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realising that this also entails a service to the Church herself.
…[L]et us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).
Through our commitment in practise we can and must discover the truth of these words… we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour’.
from a general audience, 13 December 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
Heavenly Father, who didst send thine Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel, and gavest him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in the Faith: grant that, through their prayers, our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the Name of Jesus; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
On this Octave Day of the Church Unity Octave (otherwise known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity), the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, a prayer by Blessed John Henry Newman:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, when thou wast about to suffer, didst pray for thy disciples to the end of time that they might all be one, as thou art in the Father, and the Father in thee, look down in pity on the manifold divisions among those who profess thy faith, and heal the many wounds which the pride of man and the craft of Satan have inflicted upon thy people. Break down the walls of separation which divide one party and denomination of Christians from another… and bring them all into that one communion which thou didst set up in the beginning, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Teach all men that the see of Saint Peter, the Holy Church of Rome, is the foundation, centre, and instrument of unity. Open their hearts to the long-forgotten truth that our Holy Father, the Pope, is thy Vicar and Representative; and that in obeying him in matters of religion, they are obeying thee, so that as there is but one holy company in heaven above, so likewise there may be but one communion, confessing and glorifying thy holy Name here below. Amen.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. I have compared it with the New Religions; but this is exactly where it differs from the New Religions. The New Religions are in many ways suited to the new conditions; but they are only suited to the new conditions. When those conditions shall have changed in only a century or so, the points upon which alone they insist at present will have become almost pointless. If the Faith has all the freshness of a new religion, it has all the richness of an old religion; it has especially all the reserves of an old religion... A thing as old as the Catholic Church has an accumulated armoury and treasury to choose from; it can pick and choose among the centuries and brings one age to the rescue of another. It can call in the old world to redress the balance of the new’.
from Conversion and the Catholic Church, 1926, by G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936
Fr Lee Kenyon
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