‘[T]he Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man... in whose spirit there is no deceit”, but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: “How do you know me?”
Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.
His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.
Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognised both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognise only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.
We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael’s subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew’s presence even in India.
In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.
St Bartholomew’s relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.
To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary’.
from the general audience of 4 October 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI
O Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine Apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church; to love that Word which he believed, and both to preach and to receive 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. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Patroness of Peru, ever watch over the interests of thy fatherland. Respond to its people’s confidence in thee by warding off from them the calamities of even this present life: the earthquakes which spread terror through the land, and political convulsions such as have already so severely tried its independence. Extend thy guardianship to the neighbouring young republics; for they too love and honour thee. Hide from them and from thy native land the Utopian mirages which rise from the old world. Preserve them from the rash impulses and illusions to which their youth is liable. Guard them against the poisonous teachings of condemned sects, lest their hitherto lively faith should be corrupted. Lastly, o thou our Lord’s beloved Rose, smile upon the whole Church, who is enraptured today at the sight of thy heavenly beauty. Like her, we all desire to, as the Collect of the Mass says, “run in the fragrancy of thy sweetness”.
Teach us to let ourselves be prevented, like thee, by the dew of heaven. Show us how to respond to the advances of the divine sculptor, who one day allowed thee to see him making over to his loved ones the different virtues in the form of blocks of choice marble, which he expects them to polish with their tears, and to fashion with the chisel of penance. Above all, fill us with love and confidence. All that the material sun accomplishes in the vast universe, causing the flowers to bloom, ripening the fruits, forming pearls in the depth of the ocean, and precious stones in the heart of the mountains; all this, thou didst say, thy divine Spouse effected in the boundless capacity of thy soul, causing it to bring forth every variety of riches, beauty and joy, warmth and life. May we profit, even as thou didst, of the coming of the Sun of Justice into our hearts in the Sacrament of union; may we lay open our whole being to the influence of his blessed light; and may we become, in every place, the good odour of Christ’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who didst will that Saint Rose, bedewed with heavenly graces, should blossom forth among the peoples of the Americas as a flower of virginity and suffering: grant to us thy servants, so to run after her in the fragrance of her sweetness; that we may be found worthy to be made a sweet savour unto Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Pius X paid considerable attention to the reform of the Liturgy and, in particular, of sacred music in order to lead the faithful to a life of more profound prayer and fuller participation in the Sacraments. In the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), the first year of his Pontificate, he said that the true Christian spirit has its first and indispensable source in active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.
For this reason he recommended that the Sacraments be received often, encouraging the daily reception of Holy Communion and appropriately lowering the age when children receive their First Communion “to about seven”, the age “when a child begins to reason”.
Faithful to the task of strengthening his brethren in the faith, in confronting certain trends that were manifest in the theological context at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Pius X intervened decisively, condemning “Modernism” to protect the faithful from erroneous concepts and to foster a scientific examination of the Revelation consonant with the Tradition of the Church.
...The last months of his life were overshadowed by the impending war. His appeal to Catholics of the world, launched on 2 August 1914 to express the bitter pain of the present hour, was the anguished plea of a father who sees his children taking sides against each other. He died shortly afterwards, on 20 August, and the fame of his holiness immediately began to spread among the Christian people.
Dear brothers and sisters, St Pius X teaches all of us that at the root of our apostolic action in the various fields in which we work there must always be close personal union with Christ, to cultivate and to develop, day after day. This is the essence of all his teaching, of all his pastoral commitment. Only if we are in love with the Lord shall we be able to bring people to God and open them to his merciful love and thereby open the world to God’s mercy’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who for the defence of the Catholic faith, and the restoring of all things in Christ, didst fill thy Supreme Pontiff Saint Pius the Tenth, with heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude: graciously grant that, following his teaching and example, we may attain unto eternal rewards; 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 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.
On this memorial of St John Eudes, falling as it does within the traditional Octave of the Assumption, a fitting passage from his great work ‘The Admirable Heart of Mary’.
‘Mary appears in heaven because she comes from heaven, because she is heaven’s masterpiece, the Empress of Heaven, its joy and its glory, in whom everything is heavenly. Even when her body dwelt on earth, her thoughts and affections were all rapt in heaven.
She is clothed with the eternal Sun of the Godhead and with all the perfections of the Divine Essence, which surround, fill and penetrate her to such an extent that she has become transformed, as it were, into the power, goodness and holiness of God.
She has the moon under her feet to show that the entire world is beneath her. None is above her, save only God, and she holds absolute sway over all created things.
She is crowned with twelve stars that represent the virtues which shine so brightly in her soul. The mysteries of her life are as many stars more luminous by far than the brightest lights of the sky. The privileges and prerogatives God has granted to her, the least of which is greater than anything shining in the firmament of heaven, as well as the glory of the saints of Paradise and of earth, are her crown and her glory in a much fuller sense than the Philippians could be said to be the crown and joy of St Paul’.
St John Eudes, 1601-1680
O God, who didst wonderfully choose thy Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ: grant us, by his example and teachings; that, growing in knowledge of thee, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel; 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.
‘Stephen introduced into Hungary both the faith of Christ and the regal dignity. He obtained his royal crown from the Roman Pontiff; and having been, by his command, anointed king, offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. He built several houses of charity at Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople: and with a wonderfully munificent spirit of religion, he founded the archiepiscopal See of Gran and ten other bishoprics. His love for the poor was equalled only by his generosity towards them; for, seeing in them Christ himself, he never sent anyone away sad or empty-handed. So great indeed was his charity that, to relieve their necessities, after expending large sums of money, he often bestowed upon them his household goods. It was his custom to wash the feet of the poor with his own hands, and to visit the hospitals at night, alone and unknown, serving the sick and showing them every charity. As a reward for these good deeds his right hand remained incorrupt after death, when the rest of his body had returned to dust.
He was much given to prayer; and would spend almost entire nights without sleep, rapt in heavenly contemplation; at times he was seen ravished out of his senses, and raised in the air. By the help of prayer, he more than once escaped in a wonderful manner from treasonable conspiracies and from the attacks of powerful enemies. Having married Ghisella of Bavaria, sister of the emperor St Henry, he had by her a son Emeric, whom he brought up in such regularity and piety as to form him into a saint. He summoned wise and holy men from all parts to aid him in the government of his kingdom, and undertook nothing without their advice. In sackcloth and ashes, he besought God with most humble prayer, that he might not depart this life without seeing the whole kingdom of Hungary Catholic. So great indeed was his zeal for the propagation of the Faith, that he was called the Apostle of his nation, and he received from the Roman Pontiff, both for himself and for his successors, the privilege of having the Cross borne before them.
He had the most ardent devotion towards the Mother of God, in whose honour he built a magnificent church, solemnly declaring her patroness of Hungary. In return the Blessed Virgin received him into heaven on the very day of her Assumption, which the Hungarians, by the appointment of their holy king, call “the day of the Great Lady”. His sacred body, exhaling a most fragrant odour and distilling a heavenly liquor, was, by order of the Roman Pontiff, translated, amidst many and divers miracles, to a more worthy resting place, and buried with great honour. Pope Innocent IX commanded his feast to be celebrated on the fourth of the Nones of September; on which day Leopold I, emperor elect of the Romans and king of Hungary, had, by the divine assistance, gained a remarkable victory over the Turks at the siege of Buda’.
from the Roman Breviary
Grant thy Church, we pray, Almighty God: that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary, who fostered her growth while a king on earth, as her glorious defender in heaven, 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 consider the tragic and sublime conclusion of Maximilian Kolbe’s innocent and apostolic life. It is mainly to this that we owe the glorification of the meek humble, hard working religious, exemplary follower of St Francis and knight in love with Mary Immaculate that the Church celebrates today. The circumstances of his departure from this life are so horrible and harrowing that we would prefer not to speak of them, and never to contemplate them again, in order not to see the depths of inhuman degradation to which the abuse of power can lead, an abuse which seeks to make a pedestal of grandeur and glory from the impassive cruelty it inflicts upon helpless beings that it has degraded to the rank of slaves and doomed to extermination. There were millions of these victims sacrificed to the pride of force and the madness of racism. Nevertheless it is necessary to scan this dark picture again in order to pick out, here and there, the gleams of surviving humanity. Alas, history cannot forget these frightful and tragic pages. And so it cannot but fix its horrified gaze on the luminous points that reveal, but at the same time overcome, their inconceivable darkness.
One of these points, perhaps the one glowing most brightly, is the calm, drained figure of Maximilian Kolbe. A serene hero, always pious and sustained by a paradoxical, yet reasonable confidence. His name will remain among the great; it will reveal what reserves of moral values lay among those unhappy masses, petrified by horror and despair.
Over this immense vestibule of death hovers a divine and imperishable word of life, that of Jesus revealing the secret of innocent suffering: to be the expiation, the victim, the burnt sacrifice and, above all, to be love for others. “There is no greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Jesus was speaking of himself in the imminence of his sacrifice for the salvation of men. Men are all friends of Jesus, if they at least listen to his words. Father Kolbe fulfilled his maxim of redeeming love in the fatal concentration camp of Oswiecim. And this by a double title’.
from the homily of Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
at the Beatification Mass for St Maximilian Kolbe, 17 October 1971
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.
‘St Jane… came from a noble family (born 1572), was married by her father to the Baron von Chantal (1592). As mother she most zealously instructed her children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.
The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she born with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Francis of Sales; with his approval she left her father and children and founded the Visitation nuns.
…Few days in St Jane’s life were more heartbreaking than that on which she said adieu to her family and entered the convent. “Her departure was set for the twenty-ninth of May, 1610. On that day all her relatives met and at the Fremiot home. It was a large gathering, and all were in tears. Frances Chantal alone seemed to retain composure, but in her eyes too glistening tears betrayed how much strength of will was needed to keep her heart from breaking. She went from one to the other, and clasping each in turn, pleaded for forgiveness and commended herself to their prayers; but her attempts to dry their tears only resulted in fresh outbursts’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who madest Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in divers paths of life in the way of perfection: grant us, through her intercession; that, walking faithfully in our vocation, we may ever be examples of thy shining light; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘On this day Blessed Laurence earned his triumph when he trod underfoot the noisy world and rejected its blandishments, thereby defeating the devil who sought his soul. Accordingly the Church of Rome commends this day to our observance. Laurence carried out the office of deacon in the Church, as you know. In that office he administered Christ’s sacred blood to the faithful; and for Christ’s sake he shed his own blood. The blessed apostle John clearly expounded the mystery of the Lord’s Supper when he said: “Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so should we lay down our lives for our brothers”. Saint Laurence understood this and acted accordingly. His self-sacrifice was similar in kind to that which he received at the altar. He loved Christ in his life and imitated him in death.
Brethren, let us imitate Laurence if we truly love Christ. We cannot show a better proof of our love than by imitating him. “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we might follow in his footsteps”. It is clear from these words that the apostle Peter understood that, since Christ suffered on behalf of those who follow his footsteps, his passion is of no avail to those who do not imitate him. The holy martyrs imitated him even to the point of shedding their blood in emulation of his passion. But it was not only the martyrs that imitated him. When they passed into eternity, the bridge was not broken down, nor did the fountain dry up after they drank from it’.
from a sermon by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
Almighty God, who didst endue blessed Lawrence with power to overcome the fires of his torments: give us grace, we beseech thee, to quench the flames of our sins; 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.
‘[T]hree days before her tragic end, Edith Stein approaching some Sisters in the monastery of Echt, in the Netherlands, said to them: “I am ready for anything. Jesus is also here in our midst. Thus far I have been able to pray very well and I have said with all my heart: ‘Ave, Crux, spes unica’”. Witnesses who managed to escape the terrible massacre recounted that while Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, dressed in the Carmelite habit, was making her way, consciously, toward death, she distinguished herself by her conduct full of peace, her serene attitude and her calm behaviour, attentive to the needs of all. Prayer was the secret of this Saint, Co-Patroness of Europe, who, “Even after she found the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, she was to live to the full the mystery of the Cross”’.
from the general audience of 13 August 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI
O God of our fathers, who didst lead the blessed Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know thy crucified Son and imitate him even unto death: mercifully grant that, by her intercession, all men may know Christ as Saviour, and through come to thine eternal vision; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today’s memorial of St Dominic is always a happy one. It is my son’s onomastico, an expression of our family’s love of, and reliance upon, this great saint for our own Dominic’s spiritual growth and wellbeing. Happy memories today, also, of a visit in May 2016 to the splendid Dominican Church of the Holy Rosary, Portland, Oregon, pictured above.
‘So noble in character, so ardently on fire with divine love was Dominic that there can be no doubt that he was a chosen vessel of grace. Except when he was moved to pity and compassion he always displayed great firmness of mind. A joyous heart is reflected in the countenance, and Dominic revealed his tranquillity of soul by the joyful kindliness of his look.
Everywhere, in Word and in deed, he showed himself to be a herald of the gospel. By day no one was more affable, more friendly than he with his brethren and companions, no one more fervent than he in vigils and prayer at night. His conversation was always either with God or about God; rarely did he speak on other matters, and this practice he commended to his disciples.
Dominic’s frequent and special prayer for himself was to beg from God true and efficacious charity for the salvation of men, for he was convinced that just as our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, gave himself totally for our salvation, only when he, Dominic, had devoted himself to the winning of souls would he be truly a member of Christ. When he had pondered the matter long and deeply he founded the Order of Friars Preachers for this very purpose.
He often exhorted the friars, both in his writings and by his words, to study constantly the sacred scriptures, in the old and new testaments. He always carried a copy of the gospel according to Saint Matthew and the epistles of Saint Paul; these he had studied to such an extent that he almost knew them off by heart.
Several times Dominic was chosen as bishop, but he always refused the office, preferring to live in poverty with his brethren, than to possess any bishopric. All his life he preserved his purity intact. He longed ardently to be beaten, to be cut into little pieces, to die for his faith. Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a wholehearted follower of the apostolic way of life, and there is no doubt that he shares in heaven the glory of the apostles themselves”’.
from selected sources of the history of the Order of Preachers
Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Sixtus II, an Athenian, was first a philosopher, and then a disciple of Christ. In the persecution of Valerian, he was accused of publicly preaching the Faith of Christ; and was seized and dragged to the temple of Mars, where he was given his choice between death and offering sacrifice to the idols. As he firmly refused to commit such an iniquity, he was led away to martyrdom. As he went, St Laurence met him, and with great sorrow, spoke to him in this manner: “Whither goest thou, Father, without thy son? Whither art thou hastening, O holy Priest, without thy Deacon?” St Sixtus answered: “I am not forsaking thee, my son; a greater combat for the Faith of Christ awaiteth thee. In three days thou shalt follow me, the Deacon shall follow his Priest. In the meanwhile distribute amongst the poor whatever thou hast in the treasury.” He was put to death that same day, August 6, together with the Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, and the Subdeacons Januarius, Magnus, Vincent, and Stephen. The Pope was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus, but the other Martyrs in the cemetery of Praetextatus. He sat eleven months and twelve days; during which time he held an ordination in the month of December, and ordained seven Deacons, four Priests, and two Bishops’.
from the Roman Breviary
O God, who dost vouchsafe unto us to celebrate the heavenly birthday of thy holy Martyrs blessed Pope Sixtus and his Companions: grant us to rejoice in the perpetual felicity of their fellowship in heaven; 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.
‘Oswald not only learned to hope for the kingdom of heaven, which has been unknown to his ancestors, but was also granted by Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, an earthly kingdom greater than they enjoyed. For at length he brought under his sceptre all the peoples and provinces of Britain speaking the four languages, British, Pictish, Scottish, and English.
Although he reached such a height of powers, Oswald was always wonderfully humble, kindly, and generous to the poor and strangers. The story is told how on the Feast of Easter one year, Oswald sat down to dine with Bishop Aidan. A silver dish of food was set before him, and they were on the point of raising their hands to bless the food, when the servant who was appointed to relieve the needs of the poor came in and informed the king that a great crowd of needy folk were sitting in the road outside begging alms of the king. Oswald at once ordered his own food to be taken out to the poor, and the silver dish to be broken up and distributed among them. The bishop, who was sitting beside him, was deeply moved to see such generosity, and taking hold of the king’s right hand, exclaimed, “May this hand never wither with age”. Later events proved that his prayer was heard; for when Oswald was killed in battle, his hand and arm were severed from his body, and they remain uncorrupted to this day. They are preserved as venerated relics in a silver casket at the church of Saint Peter in the royal city, which is called after a former queen named Bebba (Bebbanburh, now Bamburgh).
Through King Oswald’s diplomacy the provinces of Deira and Bernicia, formerly hostile to each other, were peacefully united and became one people. Oswald was nephew to King Edwin by his sister Acha; and it is fitting that so great a predecessor should have so worthy a man of his own blood to maintain his religion and his throne’.
from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, c.731, by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
Almighty, everlasting God, who by the martyrdom of blessed King Oswald hast hallowed this day with holy joy and gladness: grant unto our hearts the increase of thy charity; that we, who honour his glorious battle for the faith, may imitate his constancy even unto death; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We now desire to add a word for the French pilgrims who have come to assist at the glorification of St Peter Julian Eymard, priest, confessor, founder of two religious families consecrated to the worship of the Blessed Sacrament.
He is a saint with whom We have been familiar for many years, as We said above, when as Apostolic Nuncio to France, Providence granted Us the happy opportunity to visit his native land, La Mure d’Isère, near Grenoble.
We saw with Our own eyes the poor bed, the humble dwelling where this faithful imitator of Christ gave up his beautiful soul to God. You can surmise, beloved Sons, with what emotion We recall that memory on this day when it is given Us to confer upon him the honours of canonisation.
The body of St Peter Julian Eymard is preserved in Paris: but the saint is also somehow present at Rome, in the person of his sons, the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament; it is also a sweet memory for Us to recall visits that We used to make to their Church of St Claude-des-Bourguignons (San Claudio), to unite Ourselves for a few moments to their silent adorations.
Besides St Vincent de Paul, St John Eudes, the Curé of Ars, Peter Julian Eymard takes his place in the ranks of the incomparable glory and honour of the country that witnessed their birth, but whose beneficial influence extends far beyond, namely, to the whole Church.
His characteristic distinction, the guiding thought of all his priestly activities, one may say, was the Eucharist: eucharistic worship and apostolate. Here, We would like to stress this fact in the presence of the Priests and of the Servants of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in presence also of the members of an Association which is dear to the heart of the Pope, that of the Priest Adorers assembled at this time in Rome, who have come in great numbers to honour this great friend of the Eucharist.
Yes, dear Sons, honour and celebrate with Us him who was so perfect an adorer of the Blessed Sacrament; after his example, always place at the centre of your thoughts, of your affections, of the undertakings of your zeal this incomparable source of all grace: the Mystery of Faith, which hides under its veils the Author Himself of grace, Jesus the Incarnate Word.
Venerable Brethren and dear Sons, such are the lessons inspired by today’s triple canonisation. Our hearts are filled with joy and emotion and from Our lips praise and thanksgiving rise to the Lord who has given new splendour to the countenance of the Church in the year of the Ecumenical Council.
New Saint Confessors, Peter Julian Eymard, Anthony Mary Pucci, Francis Mary of Camporosso, stand by the altar of the confession of St Peter while Mass is being offered. Through your intercession maintain in our hearts the extraordinary fervour of this historical hour, by obtaining for mankind abundant gifts of heavenly peace which have their law and their security in Jesus Christ – gifts of peace which are the joy of the Church, the consolation of pastors, the honour of the clergy and of God’s holy people. Amen. Amen’.
from the homily of Pope St John XXIII, 1881-1963
at the Canonisation Mass of St Peter Julian Eymard, 9 December 1962
O God, who didst adorn Saint Peter Julian Eymard with a wonderful love for the sacred mysteries of the Body and Blood of thy Son: graciously grant that we, too, may be worthy to receive the delights he drew from this divine banquet; 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 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.
On this feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, I share a letter, written in 1553 to St Peter Canisius, but addressed the whole of his Society of Jesus, on the requirement of all its members to pray fervently and regularly for the conversion of Germany and England ‘back to the purity of the Christian faith and religion’; a reminder that, notwithstanding his great Indo-Chinese missionary endeavours, St Ignatius founded his order against the backdrop of the turmoil of the European and English Reformations.
‘Ignatius of Loyola, General of the Society of Jesus, to my beloved brothers in Christ, superiors and subjects of the Society of Jesus, everlasting health in our Lord.
The order of charity by which we should love the whole body of the Church in her head, Jesus Christ, requires a remedy to be applied, especially to that part which is more seriously and dangerously affected. Therefore, it seems to us that we should, as far as our slender resources allow, to bestow with special attention the help the Society is able to give to Germany and England and the northern nations which are so grievously afflicted with the disease of heresy.
Though many of us have already carefully attended to this by other means, applying Masses and prayers for many years now, still, in order to give this duty of charity a wider field and a longer life, we enjoin on all rectors and superiors, who are placed over others, to celebrate, if they are priests, and to have those under their authority celebrate one Mass each month to God; and those who are not priests, their prayers for the spiritual needs of Germany and England, so that at length the God of these nations and of all others that are infected with heresy may have pity on them and deign to lead them back to the purity of the Christian faith and religion.
It is our desire that these prayers continue as long as these nations need our help, and that no province, even those in farthest India, be exempt from this duty of charity’.
St Ignatius of Loyola, c.1491-1556
O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; 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.
Martha her love and joy expressed
By care to entertain her guest;
While Mary sat to hear her Lord,
And could not bear to lose a word.
The principle in both the same,
Produced in each a different aim;
The one to feast the Lord was led,
The other waited to be fed.
But Mary chose the better part,
Her Saviour’s words refreshed her heart;
While busy Martha angry grew,
And lost her time and temper too.
With warmth she to her sister spoke,
But brought upon herself rebuke;
One thing is needful, and but one,
Why do thy thoughts on many run?
How oft are we like Martha vexed,
Encumbered, hurried, and perplexed!
While trifles so engross our thought,
The one thing needful is forgot.
Lord teach us this one thing to choose,
Which they who gain can never lose;
Sufficient in itself alone,
And needful, were the world our own.
Let grovelling hearts the world admire,
Thy love is all that I require!
Gladly I may the rest resign,
If the one needful thing be mine!
John Newton, 1725-1807
Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; 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.
‘Oh! How radiantly the rising sun shone in Anne’s womb when Mary’s body there was brought to life by the coming of the soul; Mary, whose coming to be angels and humans had so ardently desired to see!
Just as a good zither player could approve of an unfinished zither if he could foresee it would have a pleasing tone, so did the Creator of all things greatly love Mary in her childhood, both in body and in soul, for he knew beforehand that her words and deeds would please him more than all beautiful music’.
St Bridget of Sweden, c.1303-1373
O God, who didst choose blessed Joachim and holy Anne that of them might be born the Mother of thine Only Begotten Son: grant unto us, at their intercession, a place in the fellowship of thine elect, wherein for ever to praise thee for thy loving-kindness; 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.
Hail Sacred James; in Graces so Compleat,
That the whole Church gave Thee, the stile of Great,
Yet, till in Him, the Spirit did Reside,
Hee felt the Stormes of Dire Revenge, and Pride;
So much did Passion Him, and John Inflame,
That Christ did Both, the Sons of Thunder Name.
They in Their Mothers Proud Suite did Partake,
And twixt th’ Apostles, the First strife did make.
When a Samarian Village did Refuse
To Lodge Him, and the Rest, Since They were Jews,
Had His Pow’r Equall been, to His Desire,
Hee had, Like Sodome, Ruin’d it with Fire.
Such darken’d Frailty does to men Belong,
Till Grace Enlightens Them, and makes them Strong.
He Could not See, till Christ the Vaile did Draw,
How mild the Gospell is, above the Law.
These Crimes, the Sacred Scripture does Relate,
After His Call to the Apostolate:
To shew, That in the Church the Loftiest Place,
Will not Restrain, Since nothing can, but Grace,
But Christ, who what He would bee, did Foreknow,
(Since Hee who makes us doe, Knows what wee’ll Doe)
And who did Goodnes more, then Kinred Rate,
Did Choose Him, one of his Triumvirate,
While Those, who nearer were to Him Ally’d,
To share in that vast Honour, were Deny’d.
But He, and John, JESU’S First call obey’d
Leaving their Home, Their Father, and Their Trade.
Which proves, Those are unworthy of Christs Call
Who to obey it, will not give up all.
Peter, and these great Brothers, were made Blest,
With Favours not Extended to the Rest.
Twas These Three only, Jesus with Him Lead,
When He Rais’d Jairus Daughter from the Dead.
These on Mount Tabor saw the Glorious Three,
The Greatest sight, next to the Trinity.
And onely They, the Griev’d Spectators stood,
When on the Mount Hee sweat great Drops of Blood.
After Our Lords Ascention first of All,
Hee taught the Jews, disperst at Stephens Fall.
Then spread the Faith, (if Elder Times say True)
...And, to His Pious Life Due Rev’rence Pay,
When in the west Saint James much time had spent,
Back to Jerusalem again he went.
Herod Agrippa, by Decree of Rome
To the Judaick Empire being Come,
That Slavish Fawning to His Countrey brought,
Which Hee, under Caligula, was Taught;
Tho, Hee in the Jews Paths did strictly Tread,
Yet Hee, Romes Emperour a God Decreed.
By this, the Tyrant Hee did hope to gain,
And then, to wash off that Blasphemous Stain,
The Christian Church Hee did with Fury wast,
And Our Apostle into Prison Cast.
The Jews extolling this, Hee did proceed,
And his Sin Finish’d, Cutting off his Head.
How Frantick are th’ Idolators of Fame?
Who fell their Soules in hope to buy a Name.
At our Saints Death, such Charming Truths Hee said,
That Hee, his Keeper a Blest Martyr, made.
Nothing can to the Spirit give Restraint,
One moment turn’d a Goaler, to a Saint.
Of All th’ Illustrious Twelve, the Sacred Word
Does only Our Saints Martyrdome Record.
Angells to Heav’n His Blessed Spirit Bear,
And then, an Angell struck His Murtherer.
Cesarea saw Him, whom They did Admire,
And call a God, under God’s wrath expire.
But All Spaines Empire Judge, that They are Blest,
Thinking His Bones at Compostella Rest.
Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, 1621-1679
‘[I]n 1371 [Bridget’s] deepest desire was crowned: to travel to the Holy Land, to which she went accompanied by her spiritual children, a group that Bridget called “the friends of God”. In those years the Pontiffs lived at Avignon, a long way from Rome: Bridget addressed a heartfelt plea to them to return to the See of Peter, in the Eternal City. She died in 1373, before Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome definitively. She was buried temporarily in the Church of San Lorenzo in Panisperna in Rome but in 1374 her children, Birger and Karin, took her body back to her homeland, to the Monastery of Vadstena, the headquarters of the Religious Order St Bridget had founded. The order immediately experienced a considerable expansion. In 1391 Pope Boniface IX solemnly canonised her. Bridget’s holiness, characterised by the multiplicity of her gifts and the experiences that I have wished to recall in this brief biographical and spiritual outline, makes her an eminent figure in European history. In coming from Scandinavia, St Bridget bears witness to the way Christianity had deeply permeated the life of all the peoples of this Continent. In declaring her Co-Patroness of Europe, Pope John Paul II hoped that St Bridget — who lived in the 14th century when Western Christianity had not yet been wounded by division — may intercede effectively with God to obtain the grace of full Christian unity so deeply longed for. Let us pray, dear brothers and sisters, for this same intention, which we have very much at heart, and that Europe may always be nourished by its Christian roots, invoking the powerful intercession of St Bridget of Sweden, a faithful disciple of God and Co-Patroness of Europe’.
from a general audience, 27 October 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women of all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Dear, beauteous Saint! more white then day,
When in his naked, pure array;
Fresher then morning-flowers which shew
As thou in tears dost, best in dew.
How art thou chang’d! how lively-fair,
Pleasing and innocent an air,
Not tutor’d by thy glass, but free,
Native and pure shines now in thee!
But since thy beauty doth still keep
Bloomy and fresh, why dost thou weep?
This dusky state of sighs and tears
Durst not look on those smiling years,
When Magdal-castle was thy seat,
Where all was sumptuous, rare and neat
Why lies this Hair despised now
Which once thy care and art did show?
Who then did dress the much lov’d toy,
In Spires, Globes, angry Curls and coy,
Which with skill’d negligence seem’d shed
About thy curious, wilde, yong head?
Why is this rich, this Pistic Nard
Spilt, and the box quite broke and marr’d?
What pretty sullenness did hast
Thy easie hands to do this waste?
Why art thou humbled thus, and low
As earth, thy lovely head dost bow?
Dear Soul! thou knew’st, flowers here on earth
At their Lords foot-stool have their birth;
Therefore thy wither'd self in haste
Beneath his blest feet thou didst cast,
That at the root of this green tree
Thy great decays restor’d might be.
Thy curious vanities and rare;
Odorous ointments kept with care,
And dearly bought, (when thou didst see
They could not cure, nor comfort thee,)
Like a wise, early Penitent
Thou sadly didst to him present,
Whose interceding, meek and calm
Blood, is the worlds all-healing Balm
This, this Divine Restorative
Call’d forth thy tears, which ran in live
And hasty drops, as if they had
(Their Lord so near) sense to be glad
Learn, Ladies , here the faithful cure
Makes beauty lasting, fresh and pure;
Learn Marys art of tears, and then
Say, You have got the day from men .
Cheap, mighty Art! her Art of love,
Who lov’d much and much more could move;
Her Art! whose memory must last
Till truth through all the world be past,
Till his abus’d, despised flame
Return to Heaven, from whence it came,
And send a fire down, that shall bring
Destruction on his ruddy wing.
Her Art! whose pensive, weeping eyes,
Were once sins loose and tempting spies,
But now are fixed stars, whose light
Helps such dark straglers to their sight.
Self-boasting Pharisee ! how blinde
A Judge wert thou, and how unkinde?
It was impossible, that thou
Who wert all false, should’st true grief know;
Is’t just to judge her faithful tears
By that foul rheum thy false eye wears?
This Woman (say’st thou) is a sinner:
And sate there none such at thy dinner?
Go Leper, go; wash till thy flesh
Comes like a childes, spotless and fresh;
He is still leprous, that still paints:
Who Saint themselves, they are no Saints.
Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695
O Almighty God, whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene to be a witness to his Resurrection: mercifully grant that by thy grace, and assisted by her prayers, we may be healed of all our infirmities, and always serve thee in the power of his endless life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
A local Shrewsbury diocesan commemoration today as I offered Holy Mass in the Ordinary Form within the Wythenshawe Team for the Lancashire-born, and Cheshire-martyred, Saint John Plessington. The following is from the Shrewsbury diocesan website:
‘St John Plessington is one of two Shrewsbury saints to be canonised among the 40 martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, the other being St Margaret Ward. He is also one of six of the 40 martyred after they were accused of treason in the “Popish Plot”, which had been fabricated by Titus Oates, and which led to the deaths of more than 25 innocent Catholics in the late part of the 17th century.
Although he was born in Dimples, near Garstang, Lancashire, St John exercised his ministry in Cheshire and North Wales, and he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 19th July 1679 at Boughton Cross, overlooking the River Dee at West Chester. What is remarkable about his execution is that St John wrote his speech for the scaffold ahead of his death. It was later printed and copies still exist. According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints the speech represents “a particularly clear statement of denial in the face of death of the charges upon which he was condemned”, charges which, had they been true, would have made him a dangerous criminal rather than a martyr.
St John told the crowd that there was not a shred of evidence of treason against him and he was dying solely on account of his priesthood. With great fortitude, he added: “Bear witness, good hearers, that I profess that I undoubtedly and firmly believe all the articles of the Roman Catholic faith, and for the truth of any of them, by the assistance of God, I am willing to die; and I had rather die than doubt of any point of faith taught by our holy mother the Roman Catholic Church”.
St John, who sometimes called himself William Pleasington or John Scarisbrick, had studied for the priesthood at the English College at Valladolid, Spain. He returned to England in 1663 and based himself largely at Puddington Hall, near Burton, Wirral, where he laboured without harassment for more than decade as chaplain to the Massey family and tutor to the children.
But in 1678 the pretended revelations of a conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and replace him with his Catholic brother James created national hysteria. In December that year they claimed their first victim, Edward Coleman, and until 1st July 1681, with the martyrdom of St Oliver Plunkett, Catholics were executed in locations all over England. According to a local tradition, St John was drawn into the plot at the insistence of a Protestant landowner simply because he had forbidden a match between his son and a Catholic heiress. Three witnesses gave false evidence of seeing St John serving as a priest: he forgave each of them by name from the scaffold.
The authorities had demanded that the quartered remains of St John were to be displayed at the four corners of Puddington Hall, near Burton, where he had served as chaplain to the obstinately Catholic Massey family and tutor to their children. When the soldiers arrived with the body, they were stoned by the locals and fled. The Masseys instead laid out the remains of the priest on an oak table to the hall in preparation for his burial’.
‘I know it will be said that a priest ordayned by authority derived from the See of Rome is, by the Law of the Nation, to die as a Traytor, but if that be so what must become of all the Clergymen of the Church of England, for the first Church of England Bishops had their Ordination from those of the Church of Rome, or not at all, as appears by their own writers so that Ordination comes derivatively from those now living’.
St John Plessington, c.1637-1679, from his speech on the scaffold
O how glorious is the kingdom in which all the Saints rejoice with Christ,
and, clad in white robes, follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
V. Let the Saints be joyful in glory. R. Let them rejoice in their beds.
O ALMIGHTY GOD, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living; that through their intercession we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
from the Wednesday Commemoration of the Saints, St Gregory’s Prayer Book
1. I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
And his love made them strong;
And they followed the right for Jesus’ sake
The whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
And there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
Why I shouldn’t be one too.
3. They lived not only in ages past;
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.
Lesbia Scott, 1898-1986
In addition to being the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, today is also the memorial of Saint Osmund, a Norman nobleman and cleric who arrived on English shores with William the Conqueror. In 1070 Osmund was appointed Lord Chancellor of England and, eight years later, was consecrated as the second Bishop of Salisbury. It was during his episcopate, in 1092, that the first cathedral, at Old Sarum, was founded and consecrated. St Osmund was also one of the Chief Commissioners of the Domesday Book, and the progenitor of what became known as the Sarum Use.
‘Osmund was count of Seez in Normandy, and came over with William the Conqueror, by whom he was created earl of Dorset. His life in the world was that of a saint in all the difficult states of a courtier, soldier, and magistrate. Brompton tells us, that he was for some time Lord High Chancellor of England. But the favour of his prince, and the smiles of fortune had no charms to a heart which loved and valued only heavenly goods: and he who had long enjoyed the world as if he enjoyed it not, fled naked out of Egypt, carrying nothing of its desires or spirit with him into the sanctuary, and embracing an ecclesiastical state, he chose to become poor in the house of the Lord. His sanctity and great abilities were too well known for him to be allowed to enjoy long his beloved obscurity, and, in 1078, he was forced from his solitude, and consecrated bishop of Salisbury, where his predecessor Herman had just before fixed his see. Saint Osmund built the cathedral in honour of the Blessed Virgin, in 1087, placed therein thirty-six canons, and dedicated the same in 1092: and this fabric being burnt by lightning, he rebuilt it in 1099… Being in every thing zealous for the beauty of God’s house, he made many pious foundations, beautified several churches, and erected a noble library for the use of his church. Throughout his whole diocese he placed able and zealous pastors, and had about his person learned clergymen and monks. Many whom the Conqueror invited over from France, and advanced to the first dignities in the English church, both secular and regular, were for introducing the particular ecclesiastical rites and offices of the places from which they came: whence great confusion was occasioned in the abbey of Glastonbury, under Thurston, a Norman, from Caen, whom the king had nominated abbot there, and in other places. To remove this inconvenience, and to regulate so important a part of the divine service with the utmost decency, piety, and devotion, Saint Osmund compiled the Use, or Breviary, Missal and Ritual, since called of Sarum, for his church: wherein he ascertained all the rubrics which were before not sufficiently determinate, or where books were inconsistent with each other, as it often happened, while transcribers took the liberty of varying from their copies: he adjusted and settled the ceremonial of divine worship in points that were before left to the discretion of them that officiated, which created confusion and disagreement in the celebration of the divine office, though all churches agreed in the substance.
…Saint Osmund wrote the life of Saint Aldhelm, and disdained not, when he was bishop, to copy and bind books with his own hand. The saint, though zealous for the salvation of others, and for the public worship of God, was always solicitous, in the first place, for the sanctification of his own soul. Being perfectly dead to the world, he was totally a stranger to ambition and covetousness, and lived in continual war with the pleasures of the senses. His patience having been exercised, and his soul purified by a lingering sickness, he departed to God, whose glory alone he had sought on earth, on the night before the 4th of December, in 1099. He was buried in his cathedral; his venerable remains were afterwards translated into the new cathedral, and, in 1457, were deposited in the chapel of our Lady in that church. His sumptuous shrine was destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII. His bones remain still interred in the same chapel and are covered with a marble slab, on which is the inscription only of the year MXCIX. He was solemnly canonised by Calixtus III in 1456’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God, whose miracles of old we perceive to shine forth even in our time to the glory and praise of thy Name, and to the honour of thy holy Confessor and Bishop Saint Osmund: mercifully grant that we who keep his festival may by his prayers both glorify thee in this present time, and be deemed worthy to enjoy thee in the world to come; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
The above photographs were taken during a parish pilgrimage I led from Calgary to Winchester in September 2013. The pilgrims visited the site of the Shrine of St Swithun, located in the retrochoir of Winchester Cathedral. The shrine was sadly destroyed by Henry VIII’s Commissioners - at 3 am under cover of darkness, no less - in September 1538. There remains, however, part of a short tunnel - known as the Holy Hole (seen above) - which was used by pilgrims to crawl beneath the shrine and so be in as closest proximity as possible to the saint in order to obtain his healing.
‘Everyone knows the name of St Swithin because his day is supposed to have a meteorological significance, but the man himself is a stranger to us. It is difficult to realise his personality or be stirred by it, yet in his lifetime he was of singular influence, greatly beloved, and soon popularly venerated as a saint, to whom numerous churches all over England were dedicated.
…[I]t was not as a wise ecclesiastical statesman and keeper of the King’s conscience that he would be applauded by the common people, but as the father-in-God of his diocese, and in particular of the royal city of Winchester, whose people would be able to observe him closely and appraise him truly. He erected not only churches but buildings in general, himself personally superintending the work… He was himself extremely frugal in his food and self-denying as to sleep. He chose to journey about his diocese on foot, often by night, in order to avoid fuss and ceremony; and he would travel barefoot to dedicate a new church. These rather impersonal habits, common to so many saints, nevertheless indicate a man living spiritually rather than naturally, which accounts for his power of working miracles which revealed itself after his death, according to the testimony of many who asked him to help them in sickness and trouble. Such was his humility that he ordered that when he died he should be buried in the churchyard, where people might tread on his grave and the rain fall on it. But a century later the great Bishop Ethelwold ordered the translation of his remains into the new Winchester Cathedral which he had built and which he dedicated to St Swithin. It is said that on July 15, the day appointed for the solemnity, there was such a deluge of rain that the coffin could not be touched, and the continuance of the rain for forty days showed the saint’s displeasure at his removal from his humble resting-place: hence the superstition which, by connecting a wet July with St Swithin, has prevented us from properly venerating him as a historic person who by reason of his consecrated life, played a great and influential part in the life of our nation’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the festival of thy servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness the people committed to his care; so we, rejoicing in our inheritance in Christ, may ever seek to build up thy Church in unity and love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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