‘The activity of the Holy Spirit is a ceaseless energy affecting the individual members of the body of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, even as He made that company the principal medium of His energy at the Day of Pentecost, and has been with the Church in abiding love ever since. The world is not left without the Holy Spirit, but in the world the Church is the sphere in which we have the right to expect the working of the Holy Spirit, and in the Church are groups, Religious Orders, congregations, and in such are individuals, and of such are we ourselves.
If we have a religious vocation, it means that the Holy Spirit has especially separated us from the world that we may be taught and given power to yield ourselves to the reception of and the propagation of the life of the Spirit. A religious will love silence and solitude, and will gladly accept humiliation and suffering, for he is continually learning how such things make him a more loyal disciple of the Holy Spirit. It is a travesty of the religious state to think of it as an asylum of repose to which disillusioned people may retire. It is a condition of intense spiritual development, wherein the subject becomes the client of God the Holy Ghost, separated by Him from the world to become a centre of spiritual life.
Again and again in the history of the Church the Holy Spirit has made religious vocations the weapons with which He warred against the enemies of the Church. St Benedict and St Francis are eminent examples of this. What is true of the religious is true of every soul in its own degree. Every soul that God has created has some part, however humble, to bear in the great scheme of the eternal purpose of God, and to fit and enable each soul for its own particular vocation is the work of the ceaseless activity of God the Blessed Spirit’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously pour the Holy Ghost into our hearts: by whose wisdom we were created, and by whose providence we are governed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There is in the Divine Nature a Fatherhood and a Sonship, and we may certainly think of the Holy Spirit under the figure of Motherhood. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that our Lord was born of Mary, through His overshadowing that our Lady conceived and that of her and in her was created the Sacred Humanity.
Through His operation the Church came into being. After the Gospels come the Acts of the Apostles: those who had seen the Light were to live as children of the Light: those who had heard the Word were to preach the Word. But to do this they needed light and strength. There were many things our Lord had said they would forget, many they would not understand, many they would fear to act upon. They needed that things should be brought to their remembrance and interpreted, and they needed the courage of love to act upon them. All this the Holy Ghost brought them. He filled the apostles with power for their ministry. As He brought the world out of chaos, brooding over the waters, so He brooded over the sinful world, and brought the Church into being, and will at last bring it to perfection.
It is through the power of the Holy Ghost that the Eucharist is consecrated. Even as by His power the Divine Son became present on earth, so by His power our Lord becomes present on the Altar. We must remember that the Holy Ghost Who accomplishes this mystery is Himself always with us. It is the Holy Spirit Who mothers a soul. He bears with us patiently, checks us quietly and sometimes sternly, but, if we will go wrong, like a patient mother He goes with us where we go’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Most merciful God, we beseech thee: that thy Church, being gathered together in the Holy Ghost, may nevermore be disquieted by the assaults of her enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘God the Holy Trinity has had three great dealings with the world: God the Father in creating it, God the Son in redeeming it, God the Holy Spirit in bringing to fruition the work of redemption.
We are living under the dispensation of God the Holy Ghost. He is the power within us that fights against sin. The yearning after God in prayer, all the soul’s travail as it searches after God, is His secret. Through Him we feel contrition, and triumph over the temptation to despair. Through His grace we make good confessions. It needs a good deal of patience to be a true penitent. We get so tired of falling. It often seems as if we were going back instead of forward, as though it would have been much better if we had never started. But the Holy Spirit gives the strength of true penitence, which will not stay in that state of acquiescence with sin, and helps us to get up again, however many times we fall.
We know how hard it is to witness for Christ. St Peter broke down before that test. It is not strange if we find it very hard. Yet if we do witness to Him how happy we feel, and that happiness is the joy of the Holy Ghost. The supreme witness is that of the martyr. Often in life we are faced with a choice. Shall we spare ourselves and live quietly, keeping ourselves free of troubles and toil, or shall we deliberately choose to do that which we know will in the end wear us out and shorten our life? Since the Holy Ghost came at Pentecost the same power is with us that enabled our Lord to set His face as a flint and go up to Jerusalem’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty God, who as at this time didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of thy Holy Ghost: shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Why should one think it necessary to belong to the Church at all, and not content oneself with any group of Christian-minded people whose ways suit one’s temperament? There is, for instance, something very attractive about the methods and manners of the Quakers, with their direct sincerity, their really wonderful history, and their succession of saintly souls.
But when we take up our New Testament, it is altogether impossible to escape the conclusion that our Divine Lord revealed Himself to a society. Christ did not broadcast certain sentences for the crowd to interpret, each in his own way. He did not give to the world disjointed teaching about the Father, and leave the world to form its own conclusions about that teaching. He did quite certainly reveal Himself to a group of people, to a society. He had an inner circle of disciples, and an innermost circle of apostles. He prepared these latter for the catastrophe of the last days, and admitted a chosen three to the innermost sanctuary of His soul, letting them see Him transfigured in His prayer on the mountain and disfigured by the agony of His prayer in the garden. When the catastrophe had accomplished itself, and He had been crucified, and they had forsaken Him and fled, it was back to them that He came in the power of His Resurrection life and continued to teach them in the light of that Resurrection the true significance of the darkness of Calvary. When, with the august ritual of the Ascension, the Sacred Humanity was withdrawn from the sphere of sight and sense and sound, it was upon this group, whom our Lord had trained and to whom alone He had manifested Himself in the great forty days between His Crucifixion and His Ascension, that the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘It was in the spring-time in Galilee, when the flowers appeared upon the earth, that the Resurrection of our Lord took place, and it is in the spring that, to nations of the Western world, the tidings of the Resurrection always come. Just then, when all nature is chanting songs and shouting messages of life resurgent, in the midst of the young leaves, with a carpet of glad flowers, set in a scene of blossom and beauty, is given to us the vision of the Risen Christ. Later, when the promise has been fulfilled and spring has become summer, and the blue sky already holds the secret of the Ascension, comes the messages of the revelation of Pentecost and the power of the Spirit, to rouse those who believe in Him to think of the Christ of power and prevailing purpose.
It is the gospel of the rise of man that is being preached to us now. Goethe once said to a friend, “Tell me of your faith. I have doubts enough of my own”. To us, weary with the knowledge of our many falls, comes our Lord to tell us of a power to rise that may be ours. His end in coming was not to judge but to save the world, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
The Church is not just an ark from a drowning world, or a place of refuge from a merciless conflagration. It is the power-house wherein we have sacramental points of contact with the Life behind our life. The power behind life is not just force, but purposive creative Personality, and our sacramental communion is contact with the Resurrection life of Christ our Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God: that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Ghost, may manifest thy power among all peoples to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Holy Ghost is the interpreter of the Word of God. Many people saw Jesus, many people touched Him. Many saw Him heal the sick and do beautiful things, and many saw Him die. Only three saw Him transfigured, only some saw Him risen, only a few saw Him ascend into heaven. The power by which the apostles saw Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, was the power of the Holy Ghost. Only love can see the true beauty of the beloved. So Simeon and Anna, when He was a child, beheld Him. So the shepherds and Wise Men beheld His glory, as did the penitent thief, by the power of the Holy Ghost. Not to all men, or any particular class of men, was this power vouchsafed, but to any who had eyes to see and to whom the vocation was given.
The Holy Spirit illuminates the Church. The Church is composed of very human people, as the Bible is composed of very human people, as the Bible is composed of very human stories. People can read the history of the Church without getting any profit, as they can read passages of the Bible to their hurt. None the less, the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Bible is the Word of God, and it is the Holy Spirit Who enables us to see this. The Church is the one kingdom which has an aristocracy of holiness, and holiness only, and the Bible is the one book that shows in all life the purposes of God and the education of conscience.
The Holy Ghost enables us to see the world as the world for which Christ died. Souls are always lovable, however much they sin. The Holy Spirit, Who pleads with souls, teaches us never to despair of souls’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts: that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into the truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship, The Missal.
Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and fly away with thee.
Where is that fire which once descended
On thy Apostles? thou didst then
Keep open house, richly attended,
Feasting all comers by twelve chosen men.
Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow,
That th’earth did like a heav’n appear;
The stars were coming down to know
If they might mend their wages, and serve here.
The sun which once did shine alone,
Hung down his head, and wisht for night,
When he beheld twelve suns for one
Going about the world, and giving light.
But since those pipes of gold, which brought
That cordial water to our ground,
Were cut and martyr’d by the fault
Of those, who did themselves through their side wound,
Thou shutt’st the door, and keep’st within;
Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
And if the braves of conqu’ring sin
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.
Lord, though we change, thou art the same;
The same sweet God of love and light:
Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
The white dove cooeth in her downy nest,
Keeping her young ones warm beneath her breast:
The white moon saileth thro’ the cool clear sky,
Screened by a tender mist in passing by:
The white rose buds, with thorns upon its stem,
All the more precious and more dear for them:
The stream shines silver in the tufted grass,
The white clouds scarcely dim it as they pass:
Deep in the valleys lily cups are white,
They send up incense all the holy night:
Our souls are white, made clean in Blood once shed:
White blessed Angels watch around our bed: —
O spotless Lamb of God, still keep us so,
Thou Who wert born for us in time of snow.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘I adore Thee, O my Lord, as is most fitting, for Thou art gone to heaven to take my part there, and defend my interests. I have one to plead for me with the Lord of all. On earth we try to put ourselves under the protection of powerful men when we have any important business on hand; we know the value of their influence, and we make much of any promise they make us. Thou art omnipotent, and Thou dost exert Thy omnipotence for me. There are millions of men in the world: thou didst die for them all; but Thou livest for Thy people, whom Thou hast chosen out of the world. And still more marvellously dost Thou live for Thy predestinate. Thou hast engraven them upon the palms of Thy hands; their names are ever before Thee. Thou countest the full roll of them; Thou knowest them by heart: Thou orderest the crown of the world for them; and, when their number shall be completed, the world shall end.
For me, Thou hast chosen me for present grace – and thus Thou hast put me in the way for future glory. I know perfectly well that, whatever be Thy secret counsels about me, it will be simply, entirely, most really my own fault if I am not written in Thy book. I cannot understand Thee: I can understand myself enough to know and be sure of this. Thou hast put me on such especial vantage ground that the prize is almost in my hand. If I am at present in the society of Angels or Saints, it is hard if I cannot make interest with them that the fellowship begun between them and me should endure. Men of the world know how to turn such opportunities to account in their own matters. If Thou hast given me Mary for my Mother, who, O my God! is Thine, cannot I now establish, as it were, a family interest in her, so that she will not cast me off at the last? If I have the right to pray and the gift of impetration, may I not thereby secure that perseverance to the end, which I cannot merit, and which is the sign and assurance of my predestination? I have in my hands all the means of that which I have not, and may infallibly obtain, even though I cannot certainly secure it’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘St Norbert is usually painted holding a ciborium in his hand. He is distinguished by this symbol on account of his extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He inculcated in all his sermons the frequent use of this divine food, being sensible from daily experience, and from the words of truth itself, that a neglect, and much more a distaste or loathing of the Holy Communion, is a deplorable symptom of a most dangerous state in a spiritual life. A short interval in order to a better preparation is often a wholesome counsel, and sometimes a necessary duty. But “he who seldom approaches, because he is tepid and cold, is like one who should say I never approach the fire, because I am cold: I have not recourse to the physician, because I am sick”, as the devout Gerson writes. This divine sacrament is the most powerful strengthener of our weakness, the sovereign remedy of our spiritual miseries, and the source of heavenly comfort to alleviate the labours and sorrows of our mortal pilgrimage. The deeper sense we have of our spiritual indigence, with so much the greater eagerness ought we continually to cry out: If I shall but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be saved. Can we slight the most tender invitations of our divine Redeemer? Can we disobey his repeated commands, and contemn his threats? Above all, can we be insensible to that excess of infinite love by which he has wrought so many wonders, that he might here abide in us by the strongest alliance?’
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God, who didst make blessed Norbert, thy Confessor and Bishop, an illustrious preacher of thy Word, and through him didst render thy Church fruitful with a new offspring: grant, we beseech thee; that by his intercession and merits, we may be enabled by thy help to practise what he taught, both in word and deed; 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.
‘Let us stand firm in doing what is right and prepare to face temptations, so that we may hope for support from the Lord and be able to say to him: “Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next”.
Let us trust in the one who laid this burden upon us. What we cannot bear on our own, let us bear with the help of the one who is all-powerful and who said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
Let us stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord, because days of distress and anguish have come upon us. Let us die, if God wills, for the sacred laws of our fathers, so that we may be worthy to share an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us not be dumb watch-dogs or silent spectators: let us not be hirelings that flee at the approach of the wolf. Let us be watchful shepherds, guarding the flock of Christ, preaching to great and small alike, to rich and poor, preaching all that God has decreed to men of all degrees and ages, insofar as God gives us the power. Let us preach in season and out of season’.
from the letters of St Boniface, c.675-754
O God, who raised up the holy Bishop and Martyr Saint Boniface from the English nation to enlighten many peoples with the Gospel of Christ: grant, we pray; that we may hold fast in our hearts that faith which he taught with his lips and sealed with his blood; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘On Ascension Day in the fourth century AD at Jerusalem, Christians processed to the Mount of Olives to hear readings about Jesus’ ascension into heaven. But they actually kept the feast at Bethlehem on the same day as Pentecost. The two go together. The ascended Lord has not deserted his people; the great work is to begin with the coming of the spirit.
St Luke records that Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, teaching them about the kingdom of God. He was then taken up out of their sight and appeared no more. St Mark says virtually the same and explains that Jesus went to sit on the right hand of God. St Matthew simply records the last appearance of Jesus to the Eleven, and Jesus’ charge to them to go and make disciples of all nations. We might be tempted to look upon this event as Jesus saying goodbye for the last time. It is Matthew who brings us back to earth with the words of Jesus, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”. As one preacher put it, the Ascension is not the farewell of the risen Lord, but his move “out of the here and into the everywhere”. The localised mission is at an end. Jesus has moved on a fairly small stage, as have the apostles. Now, the whole world is the field of their mission, and the risen Jesus is no more confined to the shores of Galilee or the secret places of Jerusalem but is present in every corner of the earth as he is today’.
John Halliburton, 1935-2004 (Canon Chancellor, St Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1989-2003)
‘“You were darkness once”, Saint Paul told the Ephesians, “but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5: 8). How eloquent were the words of Pope Paul VI in his homily at the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs!
“Who could foresee”, the Pope asked, “that with the great historical figures of African martyrs and confessors like Cyprian, Felicity and Perpetua and the outstanding Augustine, we should one day list the beloved names of Charles Lwanga, Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their twenty companions?” (Paul VI, Homily on the occasion of the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs, 18 October 1964).
Truly the Uganda Martyrs became light in the Lord! Their sacrifice hastened the rebirth of the Church in Africa. In our own days, all Africa is being called to the light of Christ! Africa is being called again to discover her true identity in the light of faith in the Son of God. All that is truly African, all that is true and good and noble in Africa’s traditions and cultures, is meant to find its fulfilment in Christ. The Uganda Martyrs show this clearly: they were the truest of Africans, worthy heirs of the virtues of their ancestors. In embracing Jesus Christ, they opened the door of faith to their own people (Cf. Acts. 14: 27), so that the glory of the Lord could shine on Uganda, on Africa’.
from the homily during his visit to the Shrine of the Holy Ugandan Martyrs, 7 February 1993
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who hast made the blood of Martyrs to be the seed of Christians: mercifully grant that the field which is thy Church, watered down with the blood shed by Saints Charles Lwanga and Companions, may be fertile and always yield thee an abundant harvest; 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.
Today marks the sixty-sixth anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which I mark by sharing some words on a spiritual aspect to the coronation - beyond the ceremony and rite itself - in a letter by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, to George V, following the King’s coronation in June 1911; words that are as applicable to our Queen now as they were a hundred years ago.
‘If our Coronation Service means anything, it means the promise of that help [from God], a promise accompanied by the knowledge of the King’s part that his people are in almost every English-speaking home praying for him and expecting that their prayers will be answered, and that God will indeed grant them as their head a “consecrated” man, not in any pedantic or over-wrought sense of the word – but a man who deliberately means, by the help of God, to lead a life of “service”, a life of straightforward devotion to some of the most important duties on Earth, a life of manly purity and justice and truth’.
Randall Davidson, Lord Davidson of Lambeth, GCVO PC, 1848-1930
Archbishop of Canterbury, 1903-1928
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.
‘Justin, the son of Priscus, was a Greek by race, and was born at Nablus in Palestine. He passed his youth in the study of letters. When he grew to manhood he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a student of philosophy and examined the teaching of all the philosophers. He found in them only deceitful wisdom and error. He received the light of heaven from a venerable old man, who was a stranger to him, and embraced the philosophy of the true Christian faith. Henceforth he had the books of Holy Scripture in his hands by day and night, and his soul was filled with the divine fire enkindled by his meditations. Having thus acquired the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, he devoted his learning to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.
Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defences of the Christian faith. These he offered in the Senate to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons, together with Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, who were cruelly persecuting the followers of Christ. By these Apologies and his vigorous disputations in defence of the faith he obtained a public edict from the government to stay the slaughter of the Christians. But Justin himself did not escape. He had blamed the wicked life led by Crescens the Cynic, who caused him to be accused and arrested. He was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and questioned concerning the doctrine of the Christians. Whereupon he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses: “The right doctrine which we Christian men do keep with godliness is this: that we believe that there is one God, the maker and creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and who is to come to judge all mankind”’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who through the foolishness of the Cross didst wondrously teach blessed Justin Martyr the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ: grant to us by his intercession; that driving away the errors that beset us, we may attain unto steadfastness of faith; 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.
‘When the Almighty God meant to stoop so low as to be fixed in our centre, he chose for his mother a holy person and a maid. She received the angel’s message with such sublimity of faith that her faith was turned to vision, her hopes into actual possession, and her grace into glory. She who was full of God, bearing God in her virgin womb and the Holy Spirit in her heart, arose with haste and gladness to communicate that joy which was designed for all the world. Let us notice how light and airy was the coming of the Virgin, as she made haste over the mountains; her very little burden which she bear hindered her not but that she might make haste enough; her spirit was cheerful, and her body full of life. And there is this excellency in religion, that when we carry Christ within us, his presence is not so peevish as to disturb our health, nor so sad as to discompose our cheerfulness, but he re-creates our body by charity and fills us with serenity. For as the virgin climbed mountains easily, so there is no difficulty in our life so great but it may be managed by those assistances we receive from the holiest Jesus, when we carry him about us.
Mary found no one so fit as her cousin Elisabeth to share the first emanations of her overjoyed heart, for she was to be the mother of the Baptist, who was sent as forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord her son. It is not easy to imagine what collision of joys was at this blessed meeting; two mothers of two great princes, the one the greatest that was born of woman, and the other his Lord. When these who were made mothers by two miracles came together, they met with joy and mysteriousness. The mother of our Lord went to visit the mother of his servant, and the Holy Ghost made the meeting festival. Never, but in heaven, was there more joy and ecstacy. For these women were hallowed and made big with religion and they met to unite their joy and their eucharist. By this God would have us know that when the blessings of God descend upon us, they should be published in the communion of the saints, so that our charity and eucharist may increase that of others, and the praises of God be sung aloud, till the sound strike at heaven and join with the alleluias which the morning stars in their orbs pay to their great creator’.
Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1667 (Anglican Bishop of Down and Connor, 1661-1667)
O God, who didst lead the Blessed Virgin Mary to visit Elizabeth, to their exceeding joy and comfort: grant unto thy people; that as Mary did rejoice to be called the Mother of the Lord, so we may ever rejoice to believe the Incarnation of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘If we compare the indifference shown by the Catholics of the present age for the Rogation Days, with the devotion wherewith our ancestors kept them, we cannot but acknowledge that there is a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the importance attached to these Processions by the Church, we cannot help wondering how it is that there are so few among the Faithful who assist at them. Our surprise increases when we find persons preferring their own private devotions to these public Prayers of the Church, which to say nothing of the result of good example, merit far greater graces than any exercises of our own fancying.
The whole Western Church soon adopted the Rogation Days. They were introduced into England at an early period; so, likewise, into Spain, and Germany. Rome herself sanctioned them by her own observing them; this she did in the 8th century, during the Pontificate of St Leo the Third. She gave them the name of the Lesser Litanies, in contradistinction to the Procession of the 25th of April, which she calls the Greater Litanies. With regard to the Fast which the Churches of Gaul observed during the Rogation Days, Rome did not adopt that part of the institution. Fasting seemed to her to throw a gloom over the joyous forty days, which our Risen Jesus grants to his Disciples; she therefore enjoined only abstinence from flesh-meat during the Rogation Days. The Church of Milan, which, as we have just seen, so strictly observes the Rogations, keeps them on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, that is to say, after the forty days devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection.
If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation Days, we must consider them as Rome does, - that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our Paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the Procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, but that the time for his departure is approaching. By prescribing Abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much she will feel the loss of her Spouse, who is so soon to be taken from her’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O Almighty God, who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of the people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Gregory VII — his name had been Hildebrand before becoming Pope — was born about the year 1020. For two years he was a Benedictine monk of Cluny (1047-1049), then he became a cardinal, and finally, in 1073, Pope. A strong character with a remarkable personality, he easily takes a place with the greatest popes in the Church’s history.
His life was one long struggle to purify and unify the Church, and to make her free and independent of secular powers. He enacted strict prohibitions against simony (the purchasing of ecclesiastical preferments), clerical concubinage, and lay investiture (appointment to ecclesiastical offices by civil authorities). On this later score he soon became involved in a dispute with the Emperor Henry IV which caused him untold trouble and which finally resulted in banishment and death. But his stand cleansed the Church and restored its status. Gregory died in exile with these words on his lips: "I loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile”.
Concerning him the Protestant historian Gregorovius wrote: “In the history of the papacy, there will always be two shining stars to reveal the spiritual greatness of the popes. The one is Leo, before whom the terrible destroyer Attila drew back; the other is Gregory, before whom Henry IV knelt in the garb of a penitent. Each of these world renowned men, however, engenders a different reaction. Where Leo inspires highest reverence for pure moral greatness, Gregory fills one with admiration because of an almost superhuman personality. The monk who won without weapons has more right to be admired than Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon.
“The battles fought by medieval popes were not waged with weapons of iron and lead, but with moral weapons. It was the application and operation of such lofty, spiritual means that occasionally raised the Middle Ages above our own. Alongside Gregory, Napoleon appears as a bloody barbarian… Gregory's accomplishment is a distinctly medieval phenomenon, to study it will always be exciting. The history of the Christian world would lose one of its rarest pages if this stalwart character, this artisan’s son in the tiara, were missing”’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, the strength of them that put their trust in thee, who didst stablish thy blessed Confessor and Pope Gregory the Seventh with the strength of constancy to defend the freedom of thy Church: grant we pray thee; that by his prayers and good example, we may valiantly conquer all things contrary to our salvation; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you’. – St John xvi.23
‘The real meaning of the prayer of intercession is that we seek in it to put the power of our own wills and the energies of our own affections at God’s disposal as a means of blessing for His world. Putting ourselves at His disposal, we implore His efficacious grace for the conversion of souls, for the spread of the holy Faith throughout the world, or for the welfare of our country, our friends, our family – for He would have us come to Him as persons with the individual petition which is the secret of each separate soul. But this petition will never have the character of reminding or instructing Him, but will rather be the soul’s confidence in His interest in the personal life, hopes, fears, and yearnings of each individual soul.
As every true act of satisfaction or reparation will always be in union with the everlasting Sacrifice of the Divine Son, so the prayer of petition will seek to unite itself with the intentions of the Sacred Heart, knowing that there is ever proceeding from Jesus our Lord the energy of a perpetual desire that all the human nature which He came to redeem may be wholly responsive to His Father’s love and wholly receptive of His Father’s blessing, and seeking to unite its own love, its own petition, with the stream of that desire’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Lord, from whom all good things do come: grant to us thy humble servants; that by holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; 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 Rogation Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘In this history it shall appear in what faith your noble Realme was christened…, your highness shall see in how many and weighty points the pretend reformers of the Church in your Grace’s dominion have departed from the pattern of that sound and catholic faith planted first among Englishmen,… and described truly and sincerely by Venerable Bede so called in all Christendom for his passing virtue and rare learning, the author of this history’.
from the first English preface to The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731
by St Bede the Venerable, c.672-735
The preface above, addressed to Elizabeth I, was written in 1565 by Thomas Stapleton, a Catholic in exile, who was the first to translate Bede’s work into English.
O God, who hast caused thy Church to shine with the learning of blessed Bede, thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant that we thy servants may ever be enlightened by his wisdom, and holpen for his merits’ sake; 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.
‘[W]e have heard and received report from the relation of diverse rumours that your bishops are not at all in harmony with the rule of the Catholic Faith according to the precepts of Scripture, and, on account of their animosities and verbal assaults, a grave schism and cruel scandal may arise in the Church of Christ, which the maxim of the Psalmist detests that says, “Much peace have they that love thy law and to them there is no stumbling block”. For truly, obedient harmony in religious matters unites with charity, just as harsh strife contaminates it. For the Psalmist enjoins the unity of brotherhood upon the followers of truth, saying, “God who maketh men of one manner to dwell together in a house”. This house, according to allegory, is understood to be the Church, spread throughout all points of the world. For indeed, heretics and schismatics, foreign to the society of the Church, sprouting up in the world and like, so to speak, the dreadful seed of darnels sown in the midst of a fertile crop, defile the harvest of the Lord by their contentious arguments. But the Apostolic Trumpet [Saint Paul] curbs the disgrace of altercation of this sort: “But if any man seems to be contentious”, he says, “we have no such custom nor does the Church of God… which does not have spot or wrinkle”. Indeed, the evangelical oracles proclaim that peace is the mother of Catholics and the authoress of the children of God’.
from a letter to King Geraint by St Aldhelm, c.639-709
O God, who as on this day didst exalt thy blessed Bishop Saint Aldhelm to everlasting felicity: we pray thee; that by his merits and intercession, thy mercy may bring us unto that place whither he is gone before; 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.
‘Having laid the foundation of a virtuous education in Wales, his native country, [Petroc] passed into Ireland, and there spent twenty years in sacred studies, and in the most fervent exercises of devotion and penance. For his further improvement he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and returning to Cornwall, shut himself up in a monastery of which he was himself the founder, at a place since called from him Petrocs-Stow, now Padstow, which stands at the mouth of the river Alan or Camel on the Bristol Channel.
...Bodmin, a flourishing town almost in the centre of Cornwall, about twelve miles from each of the two seas, was also illustrious for having been some time the dwelling-place of St Petroc, whom some distinguish from St Petroc of Padstow, because Dugdale calls him a bishop. But it was not uncommon in Ireland at that time, for eminent abbots to be raised to the episcopal dignity in their own monasteries by the neighbouring bishops. And Sir James Ware and Mr Harris find, in some Irish legends, the title of bishop promiscuously used for that of abbot. At least, neither in the registers or archives of Exeter, nor in Godwin, Le Neve, or any others is his name found in the lists of the bishops of Cornwall. And all accounts in Leland and others suppose the same St. Petroc to have retired from Padstow to Bodmin, and there founded a second monastery and a great church which king Athelstan afterwards favoured with great benefactions and singular privileges. In this place St Petroc ended his mortal course about the year 564, on the 4th of June. His shrine and tomb in Leland’s time, in the reign of Henry VIII, remained in the eastern part of the church of Bodmin, not far from the high altar. At Padstow he had, among others, three eminent holy disciples, Credan, Medan, and Dachan. From his numerous monastery at Bodmin, that place was anciently called Bosmana, or Bodmanachie, that is, the mansion of monks. This great church was originally served by monks: after king Athelstan’s munificent benefactions by secular clergy, and in the reign of Henry I it became a flourishing monastery of regular canons of St Austin. The relics of St Petroc were carried privately to St Meen’s monastery in Brittany in 1178; but upon the complaint of Roger, prior of the regular canons at Bodmin, the king of England procured them to be brought back and restored to the great church of Bodmin the year following, where it was still standing in Leland’s time.
St Petroc is titular saint of a church in Nivernois in France, Bodmin, and several other churches and chapels in Cornwall, Devonshire, &c.’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Petroc, may commend us unto thee: that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight; 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.
‘St Rita’s hidden, simple life in religion was distinguished by obedience and charity; she performed many extreme penances. After hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell; kneeling before her crucifix, she implored: “Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at least of one of Thy thorns”. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached and fastened itself in her forehead so deeply that she could not remove it. The wound became worse, and gangrene set in. Because of the foul odour emanating from the wound, she was denied the companionship of the other Sisters, and this for fifteen years.
Miraculous power was soon recognised in Rita. When Pope Nicholas IV proclaimed a jubilee at Rome, Rita desired to attend. Permission was granted on condition that her wound would be healed. This came about only for the duration of the trip. Upon her return to the monastery the wound from the thorn reappeared, and remained until her death.
As St Rita was dying, she requested a relative to bring her a rose from her old home at Rocca Porrena. Although it was not the season for roses, the relative went and found a rose in full bloom. For this reason roses are blessed in the Saint’s honour.
After St Rita’s death, in 1457, her face became beautifully radiant, while the odour from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The sweet odour spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. Her body has remained incorrupt to this day; the face is beautiful and well preserved.
When St Rita died the lowly cell was aglow with heavenly light, while the great bell of the monastery rang of itself. A relative with a paralysed arm, upon touching the sacred remains, was cured. A carpenter, who had known the Saint, offered to make the coffin. Immediately he recovered the use of his long stiffened hands.
As one of the solemn acts of his jubilee, Pope Leo XIII canonised St Rita on the Feast of the Ascension, May 24, 1900’.
from ‘Heavenly Friends’, 1958, by Rosalie Marie Levy
Bestow upon us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which thou wert pleased to endow Saint Rita: so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery; 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.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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