‘St Bernard was not only a remarkable preacher of grace, he was also a preacher of truth. “The fulness of grace”, he declared, in an astonishing phrase in Song of Songs, Sermon 74, “does not consist of grace alone”. The Word, it is true, delights to come to us as our redeemer and friend, and even sometimes, in prayer, as our bridegroom. But, when he comes, Bernard says, he comes to us as truth as well as grace, as judge as well as friend. “[B]y the movement of my heart... did I perceive his presence”. There is, first of all, then, an awakening to grace and a profound sense of consolation. But there is also, Bernard notes at once, an experience of purification and a new awareness of truth. Things within us, which are opposed to the new life, are “plucked out”, we’re told, and even “destroyed”. And the heart that was as “hard as stone and diseased” finds itself pierced through. “I knew”, Bernard says, “the power of his might because my faults were put to flight and my human yearnings brought into subjection. I have marvelled at the depth of his wisdom when my secret faults have been revealed and made visible”. Effectively, what St Bernard is saying here is that if, in prayer, we experience only and always a sustained series of spiritual consolations and delights, but never what he calls “the truth of our condition in God’s sight”, then what we are experiencing is certainly not God. For this reason, in Sermon 74, Bernard implores the Word to come to him “full of grace and truth”.
“I need both of these: I need truth that I may not be able to hide from him, and grace that I may not wish to hide. Indeed, without both of these his visitation would not be complete, for the stark reality of truth would be intolerable without grace, and the gladness of grace might appear lax and uncontrolled without truth”.
Clearly, all that applies to prayer in this context, applies also to preaching. Bernard is well aware that, in the hands of the preacher, truth without grace, is a harsh, fundamentalist weapon. But he is also equally aware that grace without truth, is a mere sentimentality. “How many people”, he writes, “have received grace without profit because they have not also accepted a tempering measure of truth? In consequence they have luxuriated in it too much, without reverence or regard for truth.... To them it could be said... ‘Go, then, and learn what it means to serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice in him with awe’”.’
Fr Paul Murray OP
O God, by whose grace the blessed Abbot Bernard, kindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: grant, at his intercession; that we may be inflamed with the same spirit of love, and ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth: we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for 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 Eighth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect, Epistle and Gospel [in the Prayer Book] still follow the old English order of the Sarum Missal and are of ancient origin.
We admit that God’s providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth. Some people may say, why then pray? Why seek to alter what God has wisely ordered? The answer is that the arrangements of God’s providence leave room for prayer and its answer, that we may have the joy of being “fellow-workers with God” (2 Cor. 6:1). In the Collect therefore we pray that God may put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which be profitable for us.
…We pray, knowing that God’s providence will never fail. Each of us may need something different. What may be profitable for one may be useless to another, yet I think for all of us there are some things which will be profitable and which none of us can do without.
(a) Our Faith. Some people say that if God by His providence orders all things, then it is useless to try. That is foolish. God gave man a free will, so He limited Himself, and cannot force us to do His will. If man makes war, God cannot stop it, but He does bring good out of evil by His providence. Sin is war against God. Our faith in Him leads us to pray that He may give us things profitable for us, that our sin may not prevent Him from giving us these things.
(b) Our Hopes. When faced with difficulties or troubles, people lose not only their faith, but their hope. We hope for things unseen, not the things we can see. God will never let us down even though man may do so, because of His never-failing providence. That does not mean we shall not have to bear our troubles, which may be the Cross the Lord has called us to bear. Count your blessings, then you will bear your Cross cheerfully, knowing your hope is in God, and He will never fail us.
(c) Our Love. If we retain our faith and hope in God, then we are bound to love Him and for His sake we shall love others. Love begets love. The more love we give away, the more we shall receive in return, and so you see how God can give things profitable for us. We must use our free will aright, otherwise hurtful things may be our lot. God helps those who help themselves. Besides all this, we have the Church and Sacraments. They come through God’s never-failing providence, and they are profitable for us’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
On this feast of St Alphonsus de Liguori, and first day of the month traditionally dedicated to Our Blessed Lady’s Immaculate Heart, a prayer of St Alphonsus to the same.
‘O most pure Virgin Mary, I venerate thy most holy heart, which was the delight and resting-place of God, thy heart overflowing with humility, purity, and divine love. I, an unhappy sinner, approach thee with a heart all loathsome and wounded. O compassionate Mother, disdain me not on this account; let such a sight rather move thee to greater tenderness, and excite thee to help me. Do not stay to seek virtues or merit in me before assisting me. I am lost, and the only thing I merit is hell. See only my confidence in thee and the purpose I have to amend. Consider all that Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if thou canst. I offer thee all the pains of his life; the cold that he endured in the stable; his journey into Egypt; the blood which he shed; the poverty, sweats, sorrows, and death that he endured for me; and this in thy presence. For the love of Jesus, take charge of my salvation. Ah, my Mother, I will not and cannot fear that thou wilt reject me, now that I have recourse to thee and ask thy help. Did I fear this, I should be offering an outrage to thy mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in order to help them. O Lady, deny not thy compassion to one to whom Jesus has not denied his blood. But the merits of this blood will not be applied to me unless thou recommendest me to God. Through thee do I hope for salvation. I ask not for riches, honours, or earthly goods. I seek only the grace of God, love towards thy Son, the accomplishment of his will, and his heavenly kingdom, that I may love him eternally. Is it possible that thou wilt not hear me? No; for already thou has granted my prayer, as I hope; already thou prayest for me; already thou obtainest me the graces that I ask; already thou takest me under thy protection. My Mother, abandon me not. Never, never cease to pray for me, until thou seest me safe in heaven at thy feet, blessing and thanking thee forever. Amen’.
St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, 1696-1787
O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be able to attain in gladness 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.
O how glorious is the kingdom in which all the Saints rejoice with Christ,
and, clad in white robes, follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
V. Let the Saints be joyful in glory. R. Let them rejoice in their beds.
O ALMIGHTY GOD, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living; that through their intercession we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
from the Wednesday Commemoration of the Saints, St Gregory’s Prayer Book
1. I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
And his love made them strong;
And they followed the right for Jesus’ sake
The whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
And there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
Why I shouldn’t be one too.
3. They lived not only in ages past;
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.
Lesbia Scott, 1898-1986
‘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.
‘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.
‘By this action Christ our Master teaches us how in prayer we ought to use gestures by which the mind may be moved and uplifted, as we raise our eyes above, and join our hands, and bend our knees, using outward actions. Not that these outward signs make our prayer more effectual with God, for God is a searcher of hearts and he has not moved by outward signs. But these actions are done, or to be done, so that you may know that body and soul are united in prayer: for through the outer outward actions the body is conformed to the soul; and also that you, on your side, ought to help yourself to the utmost of your power; and then God will help you too. For he inspires you, and you ought to recognise his inspirations, and help yourself by following them; and you ought not to pray for yourself only, but for others also’.
from a sermon on St John 11:41, ‘Jesus raised his eyes to heaven’,
by St Bernardine of Siena, 1380-1444
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst endue blessed Bernardine, thy Confessor, with pre-eminent love of thy most holy Name: we beseech thee; that, by the virtue of his merits and intercession, thou wouldest graciously pour into our hearts the spirit of love towards thee; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us. O Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy upon us.
Jesus, the Eternal Widsom, have mercy upon us.
The Word made flesh, have mercy upon us.
Hated by the world, have mercy upon us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, have mercy upon us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, have mercy upon us.
Betrayed by Judas, have mercy upon us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, have mercy upon us.
Struck upon the cheek, have mercy upon us.
Accused by false witnesses, have mercy upon us.
Spit upon in the face, have mercy upon us.
Denied by Peter, have mercy upon us.
Mocked by Herod, have mercy upon us.
Scourged by Pilate, have mercy upon us.
Rejected for Barabbas, have mercy upon us.
Loaded with the cross, have mercy upon us.
Crowned with thorns, have mercy upon us.
Stripped of Thy garments, have mercy upon us.
Nailed to the tree, have mercy upon us.
Reviled by the Jews, have mercy upon us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, have mercy upon us.
Wounded in the side, have mercy upon us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, have mercy upon us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, have mercy upon us.
Dying for our sins, have mercy upon us.
Taken down from the cross, have mercy upon us.
Laid in the sepulchre, have mercy upon us.
Rising gloriously, have mercy upon us.
Ascending into Heaven, have mercy upon us.
Sending down the Paraclete, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Sacrifice, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Mediator, have mercy upon us.
Jesus our Judge, have mercy upon us.
Be merciful. Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because through Thy Holy Cross Thou didst redeem the world.
Let us pray. O God, who for the redemption of the world wast pleased to be born; to be circumcised; to be rejected; to be betrayed; to be bound with thongs; to be led to the slaughter; to be shamefully gazed at; to be falsely accused; to be scourged and torn; to be spit upon, and crowned with thorns; to be mocked and reviled; to be buffeted and struck with rods; to be stripped; to be nailed to the cross; to be hoisted up thereon; to be reckoned among thieves; to have gall and vinegar to drink; to be pierced with a lance: through Thy most holy passion, which we, Thy sinful servants, call to mind, and by Thy holy cross and gracious death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and lead us whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end. Amen.
from his Litany of the Passion by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘How pleasing and dear to God is that soul, and how fruitful will his meditations be, in which he inwardly suffers the pains of Jesus’ passion, is wounded to the heart by His wounds, and by reflecting on his death experiences a love-death with Him.
…Most gracious Lord Jesus, I ask thee, who in thy vast love deigned to pray for thine enemies, to pray with that same love for me to the Father that He grant me full pardon for all my sins and mercifully free me from the punishment I deserve for them. Grant me a firm and abiding trust in thy love, that I yield not to despair because of the greatness of my sins, rather that I remember that thou hast come into this world to save sinners and that it was thy will to suffer, to be crucified, and to die for the sinful.
…Lord, let my soul rejoice in thee and find joy in thy salvation, as I reflect on thy most consoling words, your second utterance from the Cross, “Amen I say unto thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise”. May these words, more tender because they came from thee as thou hung upon thy Cross, be often on my lips and still more often in my heart. Words addressed to me from the lips of my crucified Lord are most endearing and eloquent, and for this reason they merit more serious attention and profound reflection.
…Let meditating on Jesus Christ and Him crucified be your daily prayer. Keep Jesus always before your eyes and keep ever near the foot of His Cross. Whether in life or death, enter the tomb with Jesus so that when Christ, who is your life, shall appear again, you will rise with Him in glory. Amen’.
from On the Passion of Christ According to the Four Evangelists by Thomas à Kempis, c.1380-1471
O Christ, my Lord, which for my sins didst hang upon a tree,
grant that thy grace in me, poor wretch, may still ingrafted be.
Grant that thy naked hanging there may kill in me all pride
and care of wealth, sith thou didst then in such poor state abide.
Grant that thy crown of pricking thorns, which thou for me didst wear,
may make me willing for thy sake all shame and pain to bear.
Grant that those scorns and taunts which thou didst on the cross endure
may humble me and in my heart all patience still procure.
Grant that thy praying for thy foes may plant within my breast
such charity as from my heart I malice may detest.
Grant that thy pierced hands, which did of nothing all things frame,
may move me to lift up my hand and ever praise thy name.
Grant that thy wounded feet, whose steps were perfect evermore,
may learn my feet to tread those paths which thou hast gone before.
Grant that those drops of blood which ran out from thy heart amain
may meek my heart into salt tears to see thy grievous pain.
Grant that thy blessed grave, wherein thy body lay awhile,
may bury all such vain delights as may my mind defile.
Grant that thy going down to them which did thy sight desire
may keep my soul, when I am dead, clean from the purging fire.
Grant that thy rising up from death may raise my thoughts from sin;
grant that thy parting from this earth from earth my heart may win.
Grant, Lord, that they ascending then may lift my mind to thee
that there my heart and joy may rest, though here in flesh I be. Amen.
St Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel, 1557-1595
O MOST HOLY MOTHER, Queen of Sorrows,
who didst follow thy beloved Son through all the Way of the Cross,
and whose Heart was pierced with a fresh sword of grief
at all the Stations of that most sorrowful journey,
obtain for us, we beseech thee, O most loving Mother,
a perpetual remembrance of our Blessed Saviour's Cross and Death,
and a true and tender devotion to all the mysteries of His most holy Passion.
Obtain for us the grace to hate sin,
even as He hated it in the agony in the garden;
to endure wrong and insult with all patience
as He endured them in the judgement hall;
to be meek and humble in all our trials
as He was before His judges;
to love our enemies even as He loved his murderers,
and prayed for them upon the Cross;
and to glorify God and to do good to our neighbour,
even as He did in every mystery of His suffering.
O Queen of Martyrs,
who by the Dolours of thy Immaculate Heart on Calvary,
didst merit to share the Passion of Our Most Holy Redeemer,
obtain for us some portion of thy compassion,
that for love of Jesus crucified,
we may be crucified to the world in this life,
and in the life to come may,
by His infinite merits and thy most powerful intercession,
reign with Him in glory everlasting.
1. My God, who could have imagined, by any light of nature, that it was one of Thy attributes to lower Thyself, and to work out Thy purposes by Thy own humiliation and suffering? Thou hadst lived from eternity in ineffable blessedness. My God, I might have understood as much as this, viz. that, when Thou didst begin to create and surround Thyself with a world of creatures, that these attributes would show themselves in Thee which before had no exercise. Thou couldest not show Thy power when there was nothing whatever to exercise it. Then too, Thou didst begin to show thy wonderful and tender providence, Thy faithfulness, Thy solicitous care for those whom Thou hadst created. But who could have fancied that Thy creation of the universe implied and involved in it Thy humiliation? O my great God, Thou hast humbled Thyself, Thou hast stooped to take our flesh and blood, and hast been lifted up upon the tree! I praise and glorify Thee tenfold the more, because Thou hast shown Thy power by means of Thy suffering, than hadst Thou carried on Thy work without it. It is worthy of Thy infinitude thus to surpass and transcend all our thoughts.
2. O my Lord Jesu, I believe, and by Thy grace will ever believe and hold, and I know that it is true, and will be true to the end of the world, that nothing great is done without suffering, without humiliation, and that all things are possible by means of it. I believe, O my God, that poverty is better than riches, pain better than pleasure, obscurity and contempt than name, and ignominy and reproach than honour. My Lord, I do not ask Thee to bring these trials on me, for I know not if I could face them; but at least, O Lord, whether I be in prosperity or adversity, I will believe that it is as I have said. I will never have faith in riches, rank, power, or reputation. I will never set my heart on worldly success or on worldly advantages. I will never wish for what men call the prizes of life. I will ever, with Thy grace, make much of those who are despised or neglected, honour the poor, revere the suffering, and admire and venerate Thy saints and confessors, and take my part with them in spite of the world.
3. And lastly, O my dear Lord, though I am so very weak that I am not fit to ask Thee for suffering as a gift, and have not strength to do so, at least I will beg of Thee grace to meet suffering well, when Thou in Thy love and wisdom dost bring it upon me. Let me bear pain, reproach, disappointment, slander, anxiety, suspense, as Thou wouldest have me, O my Jesu, and as Thou by Thy own suffering hast taught me, when it comes. And I promise too, with Thy grace, that I will never set myself up, never seek pre-eminence, never court any great thing of the world, never prefer myself to others. I wish to bear insult meekly, and to return good for evil. I wish to humble myself in all things, and to be silent when I am ill-used, and to be patient when sorrow or pain is prolonged, and all for the love of Thee, and Thy Cross, knowing that in this way I shall gain the promise both of this life and of the next.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
For Saturday: A prayer against weakness in well-doing
I. O My God, merciful and gracious, my soul groans under the loads of its own infirmity, when my spirit is willing, my flesh is weak; my understanding foolish and imperfect, my will peevish and listless, my affections wandring after strange objects, my fancy wilde and unfixed, all my senses minister to folly and vanity; and though they were all made for Religion, yet they least of all delight in that. O my God pity me, and hear me when I pray, and make that I may pray acceptably. Give me a love to Religion, an unwearied spirit in the things of God. Let me not relish or delight in the things of the world, in sensual objects, and transitory possessions; but make my eyes look up to thee, my soul be filled with thee, my spirit ravished with thy love, my understanding imployed in the meditation of thy Law, all my powers and faculties of soul and body wholly serving thee, and delighting in such holy ministeries.
II. O Most gracious God, what greater favour is there then that I may, and what easier imployment can there be then to pray thee, to be admitted into thy presence, and to represent our needs, and that we have our needs supplied onely for asking and desiring passionately and humbly. But we rather quit our hopes of heaven, then buy it at the cheapest rate of humble prayer. This, O God, is the greatest infirmity and infelicity of man, and hath an intolerable cause, and is an unsufferable evil.
III. O Relieve my spirit with thy graciousness, take from me all tediousness of spirit, and give me a laboriousness that will not be tired, a hope that shall never fail a desire of holiness not to be satisfied till it possesses, a charity that will alwayes increase; that I making Religion the business of my whole life, may turn all things into Religion, doing all to thy glory, and by the measures of thy Word and of thy Spirit, that when thou shalt call me from this deliciousness of imployment, and the holy ministeries of grace, I may pass into the imployment of Saints and Angels, whose work it is with eternal joy and thanksgiving to sing praises to the mercies of the great Redeemer of Men, and Saviour of Men and Angels, Jesus Christ our Lord: To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and worship, all service and thanks, all Glory and Dominon for ever and ever. Amen.
from The Golden Grove or A Manuall of Daily Prayers and Letanies, 1655
by Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1667 (Anglican Bishop of Down and Connor 1661-1667)
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 journey of the Magi gives us a mystical interpretation of the life of prayer. The Magi are represented to us as oriental sovereigns, who had everything that could satisfy their senses. Their first condition may represent the life which seeks to find satisfaction in material things. It is the witness of the soul, and of these wandering Wise Men, that we cannot be satisfied with the life of the senses. Hence that urge which the Wise Men felt to leave their comfortable life, their glittering courts, and go out they knew not where, following a beckoning which they felt certain called them – without, by the following of a star; within, by some spiritual hunger.
That urge is something which we all know. We cannot rest in the material; we must seek the spiritual. Sometimes we get tired, and perhaps we give up the quest for a while and try to settle down into material things, but we cannot do it. God is Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, because we ourselves, created in His image, are spiritual beings’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Lastly, let us remember before the Lord that multitude of which no man can number,
who in the hope of the resurrection have passed through the valley of the shadow of death;
and let us pray that the Lord may grant unto them his eternal light.
V. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord,
R. And may light perpetual shine upon them.
Into thy hands, O Lord, we commend the souls of the all the faithful departed,
as into the hands of a faithful Creator and most loving Saviour,
beseeching thee to grant unto them forgiveness and peace; Jesu, mercy.
Grant that all stain of sin may be done away,
and that in thy light they may see light; Jesu, mercy.
Grant unto them the renewing and enriching of thy gifts to them,
that with all their powers they may serve thee and thy kingdom; Jesu, mercy.
Grant to us, Lord, in our pilgrimage the help of their prayers; Jesu, mercy.
Grant to thy Church, Lord, the assurance of the communion of saints
and the joy of their fellowship: that they and we may be for ever one in thee; Jesu, mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Our Father...
Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before
the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Saviour
be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
from Cambridge Offices and Orisons, 1949
arranged by Eric Milner-White and BTD Smith
A visit to Chester Cathedral yesterday which, before the Reformation, was a Benedictine abbey in communion with Rome. The cloister has a remarkable collection of stained glass windows dedicated to the saints and holy men and women commemorated within the kalendar of the Church of England. Here is the window to Saint Gabriel the Archangel, and an accompanying prayer to Our Lady Mary for the conversion of England. Let the reader understand!
O BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England thy Dowry and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.
On this First Friday of the month, a day of devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a prayer:
My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all Thy tenderest human affections for us sinners. It is the instrument and organ of Thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection, all Thy Divine Charity towards us. All Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness. Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
A Celtic prayer on this memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels.
Thou angel of God who hast charge of me
From the dear Father of mercifulness,
The shepherding kind of the fold of the saints
To make round about me this night;
Drive from me every temptation and danger,
Surround me on the sea of unrighteousness,
And in the narrows, crooks, and straits,
Keep thou my coracle, keep it always.
Be thou a bright flame before me;
Be thou a guiding star above me,
Be thou a smooth path below me,
And be a kindly shepherd behind me,
Today, tonight, and for ever.
I am tired and I a stranger,
Lead thou me to the land of angels;
For me it is time to go home
To the court of Christ, to the peace of heaven.
O God, who in thine ineffable providence dost vouchsafe to send thy holy Angels to guard us: grant, of thy bountiful goodness; that we thy humble servants may continue in safety under their protection, and hereafter rejoice in their abiding fellowship; 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 thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants: and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please 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. - Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘To pray is to speak to God. Our Collect is about prayer. We ought to be able to speak to God about anything, including our thoughts and actions. He is interested in us and likes us to speak to Him. We may want to ask Him for something, that is petition, or we may want to thank Him for His gifts, that is thanksgiving, or we may want to pray for others, that is intercession, or we may want to praise Him for being what He is, that is adoration. Or again, we may want to confess our faults and failings, that is confession. So you see there are five different kinds of prayer, all of which have their place in our prayer life. Confession is often very necessary, but intercession and adoration are the best kinds of prayer because they are unselfish. All types of prayer are acceptable because God is our Father.
The Collect asks that we may pray in such a spirit that we may obtain our petitions. It prays that we may ask such things as shall please Thee. We shall only please God in our petitions if we ask for the right things - if we pray in the spirit of the Lord Jesus. Then it will be in His Name. So we must learn to love God more and more. We must thank Him for His gifts, we must learn to pray for others, and this means that we shall confess our sins. We must try and use the best type of prayer, Adoration. An old peasant who could not read or write used regularly to go in church each day and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. One day the Cure D’Ars asked him what he said, and the reply was that he said nothing, “I just look at Him, and He looks at me”. That is adoration. If we learn this type of prayer, and pray more for others, when we come to our own petitions they will more and more become the things that will please God’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
O Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay thee thy just dues of praise and thanksgiving, thou who by the wondrous assent of thy will didst rescue a fallen world? What songs of praise can our weak human nature recite in thy honour, since it is by thy intervention alone that it has found the way to restoration. Accept, then, such poor thanks as we have here to offer, though they be unequal to thy merits; and receiving our vows, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offences. Carry thou our prayers within the sanctuary of the heavenly audience, and bring forth from it the antidote of our reconciliation. May the sins we bring before Almighty God through thee, become pardonable through thee; may what we ask for with sure confidence, through thee be granted. Take our offering, grant us our requests, obtain pardon for what we fear, for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for the remission of our sins, and in thee, O blessed Lady, is our hope of reward. Holy Mary, succour the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for thy people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who keep thy holy commemoration feel now thy help and protection. Be thou ever ready to assist us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it thy continual care to pray for the people of God, thou who, blessed by God, didst merit to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
from The Prayers of Saint Brigid of Sweden
O Jesus! Inexhaustible Fountain of compassion,
Who in a profound gesture of love
Cried from the Cross ‘I thirst’,
Suffering there the thirst for the salvation of the human race.
I beg of Thee, my Saviour,
Inflame within our hearts a yearning towards perfection in all we do,
And extinguish in us the fire of concupiscence
And the passion of earthly desires. Amen.
O Jesus! Strong Lion, Immortal and Invincible King,
Remember the pain which Thou didst endure
When all the strength of Thy body and mind was utterly spent,
Thou didst bow Thy Head and say
‘It is finished!’
Through this anguish and grief, I beg of Thee, Lord Jesus,
Have mercy on me in the hour of my death,
When my mind will be in turmoil
And my soul in anguish. Amen.
‘Sweet Jesus, in my imagination I will prostrate myself on the soil, and lower still if I can manage, because I am the perpetrator and the criminal in [all your] painful death. I want to embrace the foot of the cross, prostrate on the ground... Like this I will lie here to catch some of your blood, sweet Jesu; I will not stir from here until I am marked with your precious blood as one of your own (flock), and my soul is softened in that pleasant bath; and in this way it may come about, sweet Jesu, that it may open my hard heart, which now is as hard as stone, to make it soft, to make what was dead in sin spring to life for your sake through the special influence (of your blood). Sweet Jesus, your precious passion raised up dead men out of their graves, it opened heaven, shattered the gates of hell, the earth trembled at it, and the sun lost its light... Come then, sweet Jesu, as it's your wish, and set alight a tiny spark of love within my soul, as you best know how, a touch of compassion for your suffering, from which my heart can be set ablaze and I can be brought to life through it, until I would be aflame with your love above everything else; and lave me in your blood so that I may forget all the prosperity of the world, and all physical attractions’.
from The Longer Meditations on the Passion by Richard Rolle, 1290-1345
‘All laud, honour, glory, and thanks be given to thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, for the sacred wound of thy right hand. For this holy wound sake forgive all such offences as I have committed by my five senses, and remit also all such things as I have displeased thee, in thought, word, and deed, in negligence when I served thee, in sinful delectations, whether the same was in sleep, or when I waked, wittingly or ignorantly. And for thy blessed passion sake, give me thy grace to remember as I should do thy holy death and blessed wounds, utterly to mortify my body and to give thee thanks. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory, and thanks be to thee, most sweet Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy left hand. For the same holy wound sake, be merciful to me, and vouchsafe to change in me whatsoever is displeasant unto thee: give me victory, against all my spiteful enemies and let me by thy grace subdue them all for thy bitter passion sake, deliver me from all perils both in this life & in the life to come and make me worthy of thy grace in thy heavenly country. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory, and thanks be to thee, most gracious Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy right foot. For this holy wound sake grant that I may do worthy penance for my sins. And I most humbly beseech thee for thy holy death sake, that thou keep me thy servant both day and night in thy grace and favour: deliver me from all misery both of body and soul: take my soul to thy protection and tuition at the dreadful judgement day: and bring it to thy celestial joys. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory, and thanks be given to thee, good Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy left foot. For this holy wound sake give me pardon and full remission of my sins, that being protected by thee I may deserve to escape the rigour of thy judgement. And for thy holy death sake I beseech thee most merciful Jesu that before my soul part from my body, I may worthily receive the sacrament of thy most holy body and blood, with unfeigned contrition of heart, sincere confession of my sins, perfect penance, with purity of mind and body: And being comforted with Avail, may come to everlasting salvation. Amen.
Laud, honour, glory and thanks be to thee, most benign Jesu, for the sacred wound of thy blessed side. For this holy wound sake, and for thy infinite mercy sake, which thou showed us, when thy side was pierced with the spear I beseech thee my saviour Jesu that as thou hast cleansed me by Baptism from original sin: so likewise by thy precious blood, which was now at this time both offered and received, all the world over, thou wilt deliver me from all perils, both such as are past, and present, or to come: And for thy holy death sake, give me a right faith, a sure hope, and perfect charity, that I may love thee, with all my heart and all my strength.
Strengthen me in all good works, and give me grace strongly to continue thy servant to the end: that I may both here and in the life to come, please thee. Amen.
Imprint Lord Jesus Christ thy holy wounds in my heart: and moisten my soul with thy holy blood: that whether so ever I turn I may ever see thee crucified before me: and that whatsoever I cast my eye upon, it may seem to me besprinkled with thy holy blood: and that I may being thus wholly directed to thee, may behold nothing but only thee: who livest with thy Father and the Holy Ghost forever. Amen’.
from Certayne devout Meditations very necessary for Christian men devoutly to meditate upon Morninge and Eveninge, every day in the weeke: Concerning Christ his lyfe and Passion, and the fruites thereof, Anon, c.1576
Fr Lee Kenyon
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