‘There could be only one thing perfectly worthy of being offered to perfect Love, and that would be something that embodied perfect love perfectly in our human nature, if human nature is to offer it. The divine Person of the Son of God in perfect love assumed a human nature. His love achieved this triumph, that He turned the climax of hate into the climax of love, making a masterpiece of spiritual beauty out of His murder by men. After his Ascension the Holy Spirit came, and one of His ceaseless energies is to make effective in the Eucharistic rite the very presence and reality of the perfect Sacrifice once offered on Mount Calvary, uniting the Eucharist celebrated this morning with that past of Calvary and with the everlasting present of the heavenly worship. Here are we, with the power to offer God the perfect Sacrifice; that which we offer is one in reality of love and identity of intention with the Sacrifice on Mount Calvary; and it is also one with the heavenly worship wherein the angels and archangels join with us as we join with them. So it is the perfect offering of perfect love to the all-perfect God Whom we worship, Who is Love, that we human beings are able to offer. What makes the Catholic Church altogether different from, and superior to, every other body is this: that we are able to offer and present unto God not only our selves, our souls and bodies, but the self, the soul, and the body of the perfect Man, tested to the uttermost, proved to the uttermost, triumphant in the uttermost - the perfect, everlasting Sacrifice’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
O Lord, who has taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth: send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before 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.
‘This most lovely collect was introduced into the Prayer Book in 1549 to set before us in the plainest terms our proper aim in the forthcoming season of Lent. We are to use this opportunity not in order to acquire some of the more rare and exquisite graces of the Christian life, but to make sure of our competence in the most fundamental virtue of all.
We are not left in any doubt about the unique importance of charity. Both the beginning and the ending of the collect assure us of that. Jesus himself has taught us that “all our doings without charity are nothing worth”, and we know that without it an otherwise healthy person is reckoned as dead in the eyes of Christ.
It would be difficult to find words that put more strongly the position that for Christians the law of charity is the primary law of life, the standard to which all other regulations must conform. No other success in the sphere of living is of any lasting value unless it is permeated by the spirit of charity.
…One would be terrified if one felt that this charity was something one had to acquire for oneself: the consequences of not attaining it are so disastrous. Happily, however, we are told that this is not something we must win for ourselves. It is a gift. All we have to do is to reach out our hands and accept it, and then let it have its way with us. And so we pray that the Holy Spirit may pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘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.
‘Would that men might at last understand that it is impossible to attain to the thicket of manifold riches of the wisdom of God without entering into the thicket of manifold suffering, making that its consolation and desire! And how the soul which really longs for divine wisdom first longs for suffering, that it may enter more deeply into the thicket of the cross!
For this reason Saint Paul encouraged the Ephesians not to lose heart in tribulations, but to be strengthened, and rooted in love, that they might have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth; and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that they might be filled with all the fulness of God. For the gate whereby one may enter into these riches of his wisdom is the narrow gate of the cross. Many long for the delights to which that gate leads: but few they are indeed who are prepared to pass through it’.
from the Spiritual Canticle of St John of the Cross, 1542-1591
O God, who didst inspire thy holy Confessor Saint John with an ardent love of self-denial and of the Cross: grant that by constantly following his example, we may attain to everlasting glory; 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, forty years after his death in 1978 (I was *just* born within his papacy), Blessed Pope Paul VI is canonised by Pope Francis in the Vatican. Paul VI appointed Popes John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI to the College of Cardinals.
‘Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the divine law regarding matrimony, they did not also support mankind in the honest regulation of birth amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God.
The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened. But to those who consider this matter diligently it will indeed be evident that this endurance enhances man's dignity and confers benefits on human society.
The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognise and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers’.
from his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, On the Regulation of Birth, 1968
by Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
Lord, I come to Thee in a cloudy day
And bring to Thee my weight of weariness.
Forgive me if I do not kneel to pray
But sit in mute and utter helplessness.
O Lord most pitiful, stoop down to me;
The power is palsied that would rise to Thee.
In this lone church there is a sculptured rood
Crowning the entrance to Thy sanctuary:
Thou hangest patient, nailed and stained with blood,
Mary and John on either side of Thee.
To the dear love of that divine defeat
I bring my baffled soul, O Saviour sweet.
My need must cry to Thee, my soul is dumb,
And oh, my sky is dark as dark can be:
My fear must plead to Thee, my heart is numb,
Without response even to Calvary:
And yet, my lord, this awful sense of loss
Draws me with Dismas to Thee on Thy Cross.
Thou didst take life for us and lay it down,
Yielding Thyself to death’s cold helplessness;
Thou didst take thorns of sorrow for Thy crown;
Our hope is fashioned by the hopelessness
Of that dark night that heard Thy bitter cry
When Thou, the Lord of Love, for love wouldst die.
Saviour, forgive me if I flinch from fear
And teach me to go onward through the night,
Trusting that in the darkness Thou art near,
That following love I must be following light.
In this lone church may there be born in me
Love’s faith that faces fear courageously!
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Today is the Feast of the Holy Cross. Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal was offered this evening, followed by the Veneration of the Relic of the True Cross. Then home for tea and hot cross buns. A blessed Roodmass!
‘As we look up at the Cross, let each one of us say, “Sin nailed Him there, and my sin had a share in it”. As the Cross reveals the value to God of the individual soul, each one of us can say, “It is a wonderful thing to think I am worth all that to Him. My poor worthless soul is none the less so precious to Him that He thought me worthy dying for, me, His sinful child”.
...We must remember that what we are celebrating today is a triumph, the supreme triumph of perfect human nature. We see our own nature transfigured, made in the image of God and fulfilling that image. In his contest with the prophets of Baal, when Elijah wished to make it clear that the fire would come from heaven was really divine, he recklessly bade the people to pour water over the sacrifice. If the fire came from God, let it be made clear that nothing man could do could stop that fire. He laid his sacrifice upon the altar and bade them pour barrels of water upon it: he bade them dig a trench round it and fill it with water. Then he prayed to the God of Israel, the fire descended, and the sacrifice was indeed accepted. Our Lord in His great sacrifice of Himself for us filled His trench with everything that sorrow, hate, tears, and blood could bring, and the victory is manifest. The thorns became His crown, the gibbet His altar and His throne, and the dire day of His death bears the name of Good Friday. People have often thought of Easter as the victory. Easter was not the victory, but the revelation of the victory. The Resurrection made the made victory clear. The victory is the victory of love, and we gather here today in all humility, penitence, and adoring love to celebrate that victory. On Calvary we see the way of love challenged by every force that can be brought against it, and we see Love winning in His defeat. Love’s greatest defeat has been Love’s greatest victory’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in a difficult and even humanly hopeless plight. Sacred Scripture teaches us this and Church history bears witness to this.
In fact, how many examples we could cite of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of Saints and of the Christian people! Among the testimonies of our epoch I would like to mention the examples of two Saints whom we are commemorating in these days: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated on 9 August, and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whom we will commemorate tomorrow, on 14 August, the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Their lives might seem to have been a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brightness of Love which dispels the gloom of selfishness and hatred shines forth. The following words are attributed to St Maximilian Kolbe, who is said to have spoken them when the Nazi persecution was raging: “Hatred is not a creative force: only love is creative”. And heroic proof of his love was the generous offering he made of himself in exchange for a fellow prisoner, an offer that culminated in his death in the starvation bunker on 14 August 1941.
“Hail Mary!” was the last prayer on the lips of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, as he offered his arm to the person who was about to kill him with an injection of phenolic acid. It is moving to note how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always a source of courage and serenity. While we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is one of the best-loved Marian feasts in the Christian tradition, let us renew our entrustment to her who from Heaven watches over us with motherly love at every moment. In fact, we say this in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”’.
from the general audience of 13 August 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, helped by the prayers of this devoted servant of the immaculate Mother of God; we too may strive to serve others for thy glory, and become like unto thy dear Son, who loved his own even unto the end; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Our sufferings are our triumph. Our endurance in your view redounds to our discredit; the fortitude of others to their honour. You may gain popularity by your injustice, but our sufferings and practical example continually attract new converts.
“Why then”, you say, “do you complain that we attack you, if you are willing to suffer; when you ought to love those at whose hands you suffer what you desire?” We are, certainly, willing to suffer; but it is in the same way as a soldier desires war. No one endures war willingly, since alarm and risk are involved in it: the battle nevertheless is carried on with every nerve; and he who complains of it, yet rejoices in it when victorious, because he is acquiring glory and spoil. It is our battle to be summoned to your tribunals, there to contend for the truth at the risk of our lives. It is our victory, too, in that we obtain that for which we contend. This victory gains for us both the glory of pleasing God, and the spoil of eternal life. But we are overwhelmed; yet only when we have won our cause; therefore we conquer, when we are slain; and in fact we escape, even when we are overwhelmed. You can call us then, if you like, “faggot-men”, and “half-axle-men”, because we are bound to the stock of a half-axle, and surrounded with faggots when we are burned. This is the robe of our victory, this is our triumphal vestment, in such a chariot do we celebrate our triumph. Naturally, therefore, we displease those whom we vanquish; for on those grounds we are deemed desperate and reckless men. But this very desperation and recklessness, with you, in the cause of glory or fame, uplifts the banner of valour... Here is a glory, licensed, because of human origin; which is attributed neither to the presumption of recklessness, nor to the persuasion of despair, in its contempt of death and every kind of cruelty; which is as much allowed to be endured for country, territory, empire, or friendship, as it is forbidden to be suffered for God! And yet you cast statues, and write inscriptions, and engrave titles, for all those men to last into eternity: and as far as you can, by means of monuments, you yourselves afford them a kind of resurrection from the dead. If he who hopes for this fact from God, suffers for God, he is deemed insane. But pursue your course, excellent governors, and you will be more popular with the multitude if you sacrifice the Christians to their wishes. Crucify, torture, condemn, crush us. For the proof of our innocence is found in your injustice. It is on this account that God suffers us to suffer this... [N]o cruelty of yours, though each were to exceed the last in its exquisite refinement, profits you in the least; but forms rather an attraction to our sect. We spring up in greater numbers as often as we are mown down by you : the blood of the Christians is a source of new life’.
from Apologeticus pro Christianis, Chapter 50, 197 AD, by Tertullian, c.155-c.240
O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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