‘St Norbert is usually painted holding a ciborium in his hand. He is distinguished by this symbol on account of his extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He inculcated in all his sermons the frequent use of this divine food, being sensible from daily experience, and from the words of truth itself, that a neglect, and much more a distaste or loathing of the Holy Communion, is a deplorable symptom of a most dangerous state in a spiritual life. A short interval in order to a better preparation is often a wholesome counsel, and sometimes a necessary duty. But “he who seldom approaches, because he is tepid and cold, is like one who should say I never approach the fire, because I am cold: I have not recourse to the physician, because I am sick”, as the devout Gerson writes. This divine sacrament is the most powerful strengthener of our weakness, the sovereign remedy of our spiritual miseries, and the source of heavenly comfort to alleviate the labours and sorrows of our mortal pilgrimage. The deeper sense we have of our spiritual indigence, with so much the greater eagerness ought we continually to cry out: If I shall but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be saved. Can we slight the most tender invitations of our divine Redeemer? Can we disobey his repeated commands, and contemn his threats? Above all, can we be insensible to that excess of infinite love by which he has wrought so many wonders, that he might here abide in us by the strongest alliance?’
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God, who didst make blessed Norbert, thy Confessor and Bishop, an illustrious preacher of thy Word, and through him didst render thy Church fruitful with a new offspring: grant, we beseech thee; that by his intercession and merits, we may be enabled by thy help to practise what he taught, both in word and deed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Let us stand firm in doing what is right and prepare to face temptations, so that we may hope for support from the Lord and be able to say to him: “Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next”.
Let us trust in the one who laid this burden upon us. What we cannot bear on our own, let us bear with the help of the one who is all-powerful and who said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
Let us stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord, because days of distress and anguish have come upon us. Let us die, if God wills, for the sacred laws of our fathers, so that we may be worthy to share an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us not be dumb watch-dogs or silent spectators: let us not be hirelings that flee at the approach of the wolf. Let us be watchful shepherds, guarding the flock of Christ, preaching to great and small alike, to rich and poor, preaching all that God has decreed to men of all degrees and ages, insofar as God gives us the power. Let us preach in season and out of season’.
from the letters of St Boniface, c.675-754
O God, who raised up the holy Bishop and Martyr Saint Boniface from the English nation to enlighten many peoples with the Gospel of Christ: grant, we pray; that we may hold fast in our hearts that faith which he taught with his lips and sealed with his blood; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“You were darkness once”, Saint Paul told the Ephesians, “but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5: 8). How eloquent were the words of Pope Paul VI in his homily at the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs!
“Who could foresee”, the Pope asked, “that with the great historical figures of African martyrs and confessors like Cyprian, Felicity and Perpetua and the outstanding Augustine, we should one day list the beloved names of Charles Lwanga, Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their twenty companions?” (Paul VI, Homily on the occasion of the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs, 18 October 1964).
Truly the Uganda Martyrs became light in the Lord! Their sacrifice hastened the rebirth of the Church in Africa. In our own days, all Africa is being called to the light of Christ! Africa is being called again to discover her true identity in the light of faith in the Son of God. All that is truly African, all that is true and good and noble in Africa’s traditions and cultures, is meant to find its fulfilment in Christ. The Uganda Martyrs show this clearly: they were the truest of Africans, worthy heirs of the virtues of their ancestors. In embracing Jesus Christ, they opened the door of faith to their own people (Cf. Acts. 14: 27), so that the glory of the Lord could shine on Uganda, on Africa’.
from the homily during his visit to the Shrine of the Holy Ugandan Martyrs, 7 February 1993
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who hast made the blood of Martyrs to be the seed of Christians: mercifully grant that the field which is thy Church, watered down with the blood shed by Saints Charles Lwanga and Companions, may be fertile and always yield thee an abundant harvest; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Justin, the son of Priscus, was a Greek by race, and was born at Nablus in Palestine. He passed his youth in the study of letters. When he grew to manhood he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a student of philosophy and examined the teaching of all the philosophers. He found in them only deceitful wisdom and error. He received the light of heaven from a venerable old man, who was a stranger to him, and embraced the philosophy of the true Christian faith. Henceforth he had the books of Holy Scripture in his hands by day and night, and his soul was filled with the divine fire enkindled by his meditations. Having thus acquired the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, he devoted his learning to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.
Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defences of the Christian faith. These he offered in the Senate to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons, together with Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, who were cruelly persecuting the followers of Christ. By these Apologies and his vigorous disputations in defence of the faith he obtained a public edict from the government to stay the slaughter of the Christians. But Justin himself did not escape. He had blamed the wicked life led by Crescens the Cynic, who caused him to be accused and arrested. He was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and questioned concerning the doctrine of the Christians. Whereupon he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses: “The right doctrine which we Christian men do keep with godliness is this: that we believe that there is one God, the maker and creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and who is to come to judge all mankind”’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who through the foolishness of the Cross didst wondrously teach blessed Justin Martyr the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ: grant to us by his intercession; that driving away the errors that beset us, we may attain unto steadfastness of faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Gregory VII — his name had been Hildebrand before becoming Pope — was born about the year 1020. For two years he was a Benedictine monk of Cluny (1047-1049), then he became a cardinal, and finally, in 1073, Pope. A strong character with a remarkable personality, he easily takes a place with the greatest popes in the Church’s history.
His life was one long struggle to purify and unify the Church, and to make her free and independent of secular powers. He enacted strict prohibitions against simony (the purchasing of ecclesiastical preferments), clerical concubinage, and lay investiture (appointment to ecclesiastical offices by civil authorities). On this later score he soon became involved in a dispute with the Emperor Henry IV which caused him untold trouble and which finally resulted in banishment and death. But his stand cleansed the Church and restored its status. Gregory died in exile with these words on his lips: "I loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile”.
Concerning him the Protestant historian Gregorovius wrote: “In the history of the papacy, there will always be two shining stars to reveal the spiritual greatness of the popes. The one is Leo, before whom the terrible destroyer Attila drew back; the other is Gregory, before whom Henry IV knelt in the garb of a penitent. Each of these world renowned men, however, engenders a different reaction. Where Leo inspires highest reverence for pure moral greatness, Gregory fills one with admiration because of an almost superhuman personality. The monk who won without weapons has more right to be admired than Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon.
“The battles fought by medieval popes were not waged with weapons of iron and lead, but with moral weapons. It was the application and operation of such lofty, spiritual means that occasionally raised the Middle Ages above our own. Alongside Gregory, Napoleon appears as a bloody barbarian… Gregory's accomplishment is a distinctly medieval phenomenon, to study it will always be exciting. The history of the Christian world would lose one of its rarest pages if this stalwart character, this artisan’s son in the tiara, were missing”’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, the strength of them that put their trust in thee, who didst stablish thy blessed Confessor and Pope Gregory the Seventh with the strength of constancy to defend the freedom of thy Church: grant we pray thee; that by his prayers and good example, we may valiantly conquer all things contrary to our salvation; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘In this history it shall appear in what faith your noble Realme was christened…, your highness shall see in how many and weighty points the pretend reformers of the Church in your Grace’s dominion have departed from the pattern of that sound and catholic faith planted first among Englishmen,… and described truly and sincerely by Venerable Bede so called in all Christendom for his passing virtue and rare learning, the author of this history’.
from the first English preface to The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731
by St Bede the Venerable, c.672-735
The preface above, addressed to Elizabeth I, was written in 1565 by Thomas Stapleton, a Catholic in exile, who was the first to translate Bede’s work into English.
O God, who hast caused thy Church to shine with the learning of blessed Bede, thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant that we thy servants may ever be enlightened by his wisdom, and holpen for his merits’ sake; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[W]e have heard and received report from the relation of diverse rumours that your bishops are not at all in harmony with the rule of the Catholic Faith according to the precepts of Scripture, and, on account of their animosities and verbal assaults, a grave schism and cruel scandal may arise in the Church of Christ, which the maxim of the Psalmist detests that says, “Much peace have they that love thy law and to them there is no stumbling block”. For truly, obedient harmony in religious matters unites with charity, just as harsh strife contaminates it. For the Psalmist enjoins the unity of brotherhood upon the followers of truth, saying, “God who maketh men of one manner to dwell together in a house”. This house, according to allegory, is understood to be the Church, spread throughout all points of the world. For indeed, heretics and schismatics, foreign to the society of the Church, sprouting up in the world and like, so to speak, the dreadful seed of darnels sown in the midst of a fertile crop, defile the harvest of the Lord by their contentious arguments. But the Apostolic Trumpet [Saint Paul] curbs the disgrace of altercation of this sort: “But if any man seems to be contentious”, he says, “we have no such custom nor does the Church of God… which does not have spot or wrinkle”. Indeed, the evangelical oracles proclaim that peace is the mother of Catholics and the authoress of the children of God’.
from a letter to King Geraint by St Aldhelm, c.639-709
O God, who as on this day didst exalt thy blessed Bishop Saint Aldhelm to everlasting felicity: we pray thee; that by his merits and intercession, thy mercy may bring us unto that place whither he is gone before; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Having laid the foundation of a virtuous education in Wales, his native country, [Petroc] passed into Ireland, and there spent twenty years in sacred studies, and in the most fervent exercises of devotion and penance. For his further improvement he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and returning to Cornwall, shut himself up in a monastery of which he was himself the founder, at a place since called from him Petrocs-Stow, now Padstow, which stands at the mouth of the river Alan or Camel on the Bristol Channel.
...Bodmin, a flourishing town almost in the centre of Cornwall, about twelve miles from each of the two seas, was also illustrious for having been some time the dwelling-place of St Petroc, whom some distinguish from St Petroc of Padstow, because Dugdale calls him a bishop. But it was not uncommon in Ireland at that time, for eminent abbots to be raised to the episcopal dignity in their own monasteries by the neighbouring bishops. And Sir James Ware and Mr Harris find, in some Irish legends, the title of bishop promiscuously used for that of abbot. At least, neither in the registers or archives of Exeter, nor in Godwin, Le Neve, or any others is his name found in the lists of the bishops of Cornwall. And all accounts in Leland and others suppose the same St. Petroc to have retired from Padstow to Bodmin, and there founded a second monastery and a great church which king Athelstan afterwards favoured with great benefactions and singular privileges. In this place St Petroc ended his mortal course about the year 564, on the 4th of June. His shrine and tomb in Leland’s time, in the reign of Henry VIII, remained in the eastern part of the church of Bodmin, not far from the high altar. At Padstow he had, among others, three eminent holy disciples, Credan, Medan, and Dachan. From his numerous monastery at Bodmin, that place was anciently called Bosmana, or Bodmanachie, that is, the mansion of monks. This great church was originally served by monks: after king Athelstan’s munificent benefactions by secular clergy, and in the reign of Henry I it became a flourishing monastery of regular canons of St Austin. The relics of St Petroc were carried privately to St Meen’s monastery in Brittany in 1178; but upon the complaint of Roger, prior of the regular canons at Bodmin, the king of England procured them to be brought back and restored to the great church of Bodmin the year following, where it was still standing in Leland’s time.
St Petroc is titular saint of a church in Nivernois in France, Bodmin, and several other churches and chapels in Cornwall, Devonshire, &c.’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Petroc, may commend us unto thee: that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Rita’s hidden, simple life in religion was distinguished by obedience and charity; she performed many extreme penances. After hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ she returned to her cell; kneeling before her crucifix, she implored: “Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at least of one of Thy thorns”. Her prayer was answered. Suddenly one of the thorns detached and fastened itself in her forehead so deeply that she could not remove it. The wound became worse, and gangrene set in. Because of the foul odour emanating from the wound, she was denied the companionship of the other Sisters, and this for fifteen years.
Miraculous power was soon recognised in Rita. When Pope Nicholas IV proclaimed a jubilee at Rome, Rita desired to attend. Permission was granted on condition that her wound would be healed. This came about only for the duration of the trip. Upon her return to the monastery the wound from the thorn reappeared, and remained until her death.
As St Rita was dying, she requested a relative to bring her a rose from her old home at Rocca Porrena. Although it was not the season for roses, the relative went and found a rose in full bloom. For this reason roses are blessed in the Saint’s honour.
After St Rita’s death, in 1457, her face became beautifully radiant, while the odour from her wound was as fragrant as that of the roses she loved so much. The sweet odour spread through the convent and into the church, where it has continued ever since. Her body has remained incorrupt to this day; the face is beautiful and well preserved.
When St Rita died the lowly cell was aglow with heavenly light, while the great bell of the monastery rang of itself. A relative with a paralysed arm, upon touching the sacred remains, was cured. A carpenter, who had known the Saint, offered to make the coffin. Immediately he recovered the use of his long stiffened hands.
As one of the solemn acts of his jubilee, Pope Leo XIII canonised St Rita on the Feast of the Ascension, May 24, 1900’.
from ‘Heavenly Friends’, 1958, by Rosalie Marie Levy
Bestow upon us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which thou wert pleased to endow Saint Rita: so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[T]he beacons blazed news of the discovery to the capital and post-horsemen carried it throughout Christendom. Te Deums were sung in the imperial basilicas. No one who watched that day, while the Empress calmly divided her treasure, could have discerned her joy. Her work was finished. She had done what only the saints succeed in doing; what indeed constitutes their patent of sanctity. She had completely conformed to the will of God. Others a few years back had done their duty gloriously in the arena. Hers was a gentler task, merely to gather wood. That was the particular, humble purpose for which she had been created. And now it was done. So with her precious cargo she sailed joyfully away’.
from the novel ‘Helena’, 1950, by Evelyn Waugh, 1903-1966
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst reveal to blessed Helena the place where thy Cross lay hid, that through her, thou mightest enrich thy Church with this precious treasure: grant unto us at her intercession; that by the ransom of the life-giving Tree we may attain unto the rewards of eternal life; 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.
‘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.
‘Pope St John ruled the Church from 523 to 526. He travelled to Constantinople to seek aid from Emperor Justinian II against the Arian king, Theodoric. On his return, Theodoric invited him to Ravenna; upon his arrival he was seized and thrown into prison, where in the midst of filth and hunger, he died on May 18, 526. His body was transferred to St Peter’s, Rome. Pope John’s efforts to further the veneration of martyrs were well rewarded. When he visited the Emperor at Constantinople, the Greeks acknowledged the primacy of the Roman see. From his hands Justinian accepted the Emperor’s crown, and on the feast of Easter he celebrated Mass there according to the Roman rite’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O everlasting Shepherd, mercifully look upon thy flock: and through blessed John, thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church, keep her with thy perpetual protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Matthias was one of the first to follow our Saviour; and he was an eyewitness of all His divine actions up to the very day of the Ascension. He was one of the seventy-two disciples; but our Lord had not conferred upon him the dignity of an apostle. And yet, he was to have this great glory, for it was of him that David spoke, when he prophesied that another should take the bishopric left vacant by the apostasy of Judas the traitor. In the interval between Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, the apostolic college had to complete the mystic number fixed by our Lord Himself, so that there might be the twelve on that solemn day, when the Church, filled with the Holy Ghost, was to manifest herself to the Synagogue. The lot fell on Matthias; he shared with his brother-apostles the persecution in Jerusalem, and, when the time came for the ambassadors of Christ to separate, he set out for the countries allotted to him. Tradition tells us that these were Cappadocia and the provinces bordering on the Caspian Sea.
The virtues, labour, and sufferings of St Matthias have not been handed down to us: this explains the lack of proper lessons on his life, such as we have for the feasts of the rest of the apostles. Clement of Alexandria records in his writings several sayings of our holy apostle. One of these is so very appropriate to the spirit of the present season, that we consider it a duty to quote it. “It behooves us to combat the flesh, and make use of it, without pampering it by unlawful gratifications. As to the soul, we must develop her power by faith and knowledge”. How profound is the teaching contained in these few words! Sin has deranged the order which the Creator had established. It gave the outward man such a tendency to grovel in things which degrade him, that the only means left us for the restoration of the image and likeness of God unto which we were created, is the forcible subjection of the body to the spirit. But the spirit itself, that is, the soul, was also impaired by original sin, and her inclinations were made prone to evil; what is to be her protection? Faith and knowledge. Faith humbles her, and then exalts and rewards her; and the reward is knowledge’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O Almighty God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles: grant that thy Church, being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today, in the Ordinariate (in England & Wales, and Canada), is the Memorial of ‘St John the Apostle in Eastertide’. It was, until its removal by Pope St John XXIII from the revised General Roman Calendar of 1960, kept throughout the Catholic Church as ‘Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, before the Latin Gate’, a name that survived in Archbishop Cranmer’s Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer as ‘St John the Evangelist Ante Portam Latinam’. It also appeared in the calendars of the Anglican and English Missals of the early 20th century, and thus – in those places where that tradition was the practise – the feast continued to be celebrated long after it was dropped in 1960. As was once related to me by a certain Canadian monsignor (and this explains the Canadian patrimonial provision for today’s observance), the Anglican Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Canada kept today as their feast day, rather than the 27th December, because that date was both too close to Christmas and in Northern Ontario, too cold for much festivity!
How fitting then, that such a day, no longer universally observed by the majority of Catholics, should find harbour and be celebrated (with the same old Mass propers) in the ordinariates; a practical illustration indeed of that call to ‘maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift’.
‘One day Salome presented her two sons, James and John, to Jesus, and with a mother’s ambition asked Him to grant them the highest places in his Kingdom. In reply, the Saviour spoke of the chalice which He Himself would have to drink, and foretold that these two disciples would also drink of it. The elder, James the Great, was the first to give his Master this proof of his love. John, the younger brother, offered his life in testimony of Jesus’ divinity.
But the martyrdom of the latter Apostle called for a scene worthy of the event. Asia Minor, which his zeal had evangelised, was not a sufficiently glorious land for such a combat. Rome, whither Peter had transferred his Chair and where he died on his cross, and where Paul had bowed down his venerable head beneath the sword, alone deserved the honour of seeing the beloved disciple march on to martyrdom, with that dignity and sweetness which are the characteristics of this veteran of the Apostolic College.
In the year 95 John appeared before the tribunal of pagan Rome. He was convicted of having propagated, in a vast province of the Empire, the worship of a Jew who had been crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was considered a superstitious and rebellious old man, and it was time to rid Asia of his presence. He was, therefore, sentenced to an ignominious and cruel death.
A huge cauldron of boiling oil was prepared in front of the Latin Gate. The sentence ordered that the preacher of Christ be plunged into this bath. The hour had come for the second son of Salome to partake of his Master’s chalice. John’s heart leapt with joy. After cruelly scourging him, the executioners seized the old man, and threw him into the cauldron. But, lo! the boiling liquid lost all its heat; the Apostle felt no scalding. On the contrary, when they took him out again he felt all the vigour of his youthful years restored to him.
The praetor’s cruelty was foiled, and John, a martyr in desire, was to be left to the Church for some few years longer. An imperial decree banished him to the rugged Isle of Patmos, where God revealed to him the future of the Church even to the end of time’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who with the oil of gladness didst anoint blessed John a companion in the tribulation and patience of the Lord Jesus: grant us likewise to rejoice in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad with exceeding joy; 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. - Collect for Saint John the Apostle in Eastertide, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Let us praise God, then, for the martyrs who are our fellow Englishmen, in heaven. These are no distant figures from stained-glass windows; they are men of our blood, sharing our common speech and our national ways of thought. Blessed Thomas More, with his hearty good humour, and his jokes on the scaffold; John Kemble, asking leave to smoke a last pipe before his execution - could they be of any race but ours? And surely, if they have not forgotten among the delights of eternity the soft outlines and the close hedgerows and the little hills of the country that gave them birth, their prayers still rise especially, among all the needs of a distracted world, for our fellow countrymen and theirs, whom error blinds or sin separates from God. It is Mary’s month; she too, while a world lies prostrate at her feet, will not forget the land that was once called her dowry. May her intercession and theirs strengthen us and give us the confidence that never loses hope; and may our separated brethren, so long sought, so patiently wooed by the divine grace, return at last to their true allegiance, and make England a shrine of martyrs and a nursery of saints once more’.
from a sermon preached at English Martyrs, Sparkhill, Birmingham, May 1924
by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O merciful God, who, when thy Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, didst raise up men and women in England who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: give unto thy Church that peace which is thy will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven and be partakers together in the vision of thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Feast of the English Martyrs, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Now let us celebrate the Mass, directed by Philip and James. During the Fore-Mass they are our guides, readying us for the Sacrifice proper.
…In the Gospel [St John 14:1-13] we see the two apostles [Philip and James] with Christ between them. What a beautiful setting Easter time gives to the farewell sermons of Jesus! He is taking leave of His Church before ascending to heaven. He speaks softly, consolingly. Surely He will return; He leaves simply to prepare a place for us, then He will come to take us with Him so that we too may be where He is. In the midst of earthly troubles we need not be sad; we have a home in heaven. He Himself is readying it.
Jesus set the goal, He also showed the way. Disturbed and saddened, the apostles acted as if they knew neither the goal nor the way. With indulgent kindness Jesus said: I am the Way and, therefore, the Truth and the Life likewise. A lesson of tremendous importance! He is the focal point of our religious life, and consequently the only Way to heaven. Therefore we love to come to Mass where as the Way He gives instruction and commands, where as the Truth He speaks the Gospel message, and where as the Life He gives us His very Body in the blessed Eucharist.
…The sermon is over, our preachers are finished; these many truths are their legacy to us. Now we continue with the Sacrifice of Christ. It is also our sacrifice, we must offer it with Him. Therefore in solemn procession we approach the altar, led by our two apostles. There upon the altar they place the sum and substance of lives lived to the full – their joy, their sorrow, their labour for souls. And like an eagle enticing its young to fly into the light of the sun, so the two apostles invite us to unite our life’s sacrifices to theirs and offer all to the Father in union with Christ’s supreme oblation.
The two apostles have completed their task. Now they reverently withdraw. They take a position before the Lamb that was slain and yet lives, and offer the Mass with us. In Christ we constitute one great body – the faithful, the apostles, the saints – Christ’s mystical Body’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; 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.
‘The word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible and immaterial, came down to our world. Not that he had been far off before, since no part of creation was ever without him. Together with his Father he filled all things.
He came to us full of love for us and showed himself to us openly. He took pity on our race and our weakness and was so moved by the corruption that had got the better of us, that he could not allow death to rule over us any longer. Had death prevailed, creation would have perished and his Father’s work in forming man would have been in vain. Because he did not wish merely to be in a body or simply to be an apparition, he took to himself a nature which was no different from ours.
He built himself a temple, a body that is, in the Virgin, and so made himself an instrument in which to dwell and make himself known. In this way he took from us a body like our own and, since all men are subject to the corruption of death, he surrendered his body to death for all and offered it to the Father lovingly for our sake. His purpose was that, as all men died on him, the law of death which was in force against men should be abrogated. Death would have its final say in the body of the Lord and would thereafter be powerless against his fellow men. To turn men back from corruption to incorruption and rescue them from death to life, he himself destroyed death, as straw is bent up in a fire, by his incarnation and his glorious resurrection.
…So the word of God who is above all offered his own temple, his body, for the life of all, and by his death paid the debt that was due. United to us all by the human body that was his, the incorruptible Son of God clothed us all with incorruptibility by the promise of the resurrection. Even the corruption of death has no longer any power against men because of the Word who dwelt among them in one body’.
from his discourses by St Athanasius, c.296-373
Everliving God, whose servant Saint Athanasius bore witness to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation: give us grace, with all thy Saints, to contend for the truth and grow into the likeness 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.
A delayed (on account of the Easter Octave), but nonetheless blessed Saint George’s Day! A solemnity here in England, St George is also held in high honour in Canada. The Cross of St George was raised by John Cabot in Newfoundland in 1497, during the reign of Henry VII, thus earning its contemporary residents (and those in Labrador also) a provincial holiday! Today St George’s Cross features on four provincial flags, as well as within the Royal Union Flag. So in tribute to my former home of Alberta, here’s a poem in honour of the saint and his English settlers in the True North.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
‘O eternal Trinity, eternal godhead! This godhead, your divine nature, made immensely precious the blood of the only-begotten Son. Eternal Trinity, you are like a deep sea, in which the more I see, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek you. You fill the soul, yet somehow without satisfying it: In the abyss which you are you so fill the soul that it ever continues to hunger and thirst for you, desiring you, eager in your light to see you, who are the light.
With the light of my understanding, in your light I have tasted and seen the abyss which you are, eternal Trinity, and the beauty of your creation. Then looking at myself in you, I have seen that I am your image; this is a gift that I receive from you in your power, eternal Father, and in your wisdom, which is attributed to your only-begotten Son. The Holy Spirit who proceeds from you, Father, and from your Son has prepared me, giving me a will to love you.
Eternal Trinity, you are the Creator, I the creature. I have come to know, in the new creation you made of me in the blood of your Son, that you are in love with the beauty of your creature’.
from her Dialogue by St Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380
O merciful God, who gavest to thy servant Saint Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the Passion of Christ: grant that, through her prayers; we thy people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; 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 Vincent Ferrer’s father was an Englishman, who had been knighted at the siege of the city. On February 5th, 1367, having completed his studies in philosophy, he became a Dominican. He was moved to Barcelona in the next year, and in 1370 became lecturer in philosophy at the Dominican house in Lerida. In 1373, when he returned to Barcelona to the “Studium Arabicum et Hebraicum”, he was already a famous public preacher.
In 1377 he was sent to Toulouse for further study; there he attracted the attention of the Legate of the future Avignon antipope, Cardinal Pedro de Luna, whose suite he joined, being himself a strong advocate of the claims of the Avignon popes as against those of Rome. He preached a great deal, particularly to Jews and Moors, and converted a rabbi of Valladolid, who, later became Bishop Paul of Burgos, and associated with St Vincent in his strenuous and successful attempts to convert the Jews of Spain.
Disillusioned in his attempts to heal the schism between Rome and Avignon, St Vincent saw a vision of our Lord standing between St Dominic and St Francis, commissioning him directly to go about preaching penance. He was released by Benedict XIII in November 1399 to do this, and continued his preaching and wandering throughout western Europe until his death, being followed by a crowd of penitents and flagellants which varied from 300 to 10,000. He was in Aragon when the throne became vacant and with his brother, Boniface, a Carthusian, was instrumental in choosing Ferdinand of Castille as prince.
In 1416 he withdrew his own allegiance and that of the kingdom of Aragon from Benedict XIII, because the Avignon antipope had made no serious attempt to heal the schism and had refused the request made by the council of Constance that he should resign in order to make possible a new and undisputed election to the papacy. St Vincent’s decision had the effect of deposing Benedict and of making possible an end to the schism. St Vincent died on April 5th, 1419, at Vannes in Brittany, where his relics are venerated. He was canonised by Pope Calixtus II in 1455’.
from The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, 1958, edited by John Coulson, 1919-1993
O God, who didst vouchsafe to illumine thy Church by the merits and preaching of blessed Vincent thy Confessor: grant to us thy servants; that we may both be instructed by his example, and by his advocacy be delivered from all adversities; 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.
‘Isidore sought in Christ’s example the definitive confirmation of a just orientation of life and said: “The Saviour Jesus offers us the example of active life when during the day he devoted himself to working signs and miracles in the town, but he showed the contemplative life when he withdrew to the mountain and spent the night in prayer”. In the light of this example of the divine Teacher, Isidore can conclude with this precise moral teaching: “Therefore let the servant of God, imitating Christ, dedicate himself to contemplation without denying himself active life. Behaving otherwise would not be right. Indeed, just as we must love God in contemplation, so we must love our neighbour with action. It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both the one and the other form of life, nor can we live without experiencing both the one and the other”. I consider that this is the synthesis of a life that seeks contemplation of God, dialogue with God in prayer and in the reading of Sacred Scripture, as well as action at the service of the human community and of our neighbour. This synthesis is the lesson that the great Bishop of Seville has bequeathed to us, Christians of today, called to witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium’.
from a general audience, 18 June 2008, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, by whose providence blessed Isidore was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate 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.
‘Francis of Paola founded the Minim Order, a branch of the Franciscans (1454). These “Hermits of St Francis of Assisi” dwelt in small houses, and as “least” brethren, endeavoured to live a more austere and humble life than the “Fratres Minores”.
The saint worked numerous miracles. He had a favourite ejaculation, one that welled up from the depths of his physical and spiritual being: “Out of love”. This was an all-powerful ejaculation for him and for his companions. “Out of love” the heaviest stone was light; “Out of love” he admonished and punished; “Out of love” he once crossed the sea without a boat.
For on a certain occasion the saint wanted to go from the Italian mainland to Sicily. A boat was lying in the harbour. Francis asked the owner if he would take him and his companion along on the boat. “If you pay, monk”, the sailor answered sulkily, “I will take you along”. “Out of love”, the saint humbly pleaded; “for I have no money with me”. “Then I have no ship for you”, came the mocking reply. “Out of love”, was Francis’ answer, “forgive me if I go away”. He walked about a stone’s throw to the shore, knelt down, and blessed the sea. Then, to the sailor’s great surprise, the saint suddenly stood up, stepped out on the tossing waves, and with firm foot trod over the surging sea.
St Francis of Paola stood high in the esteem of the French king, Louis XI, whom he helped prepare for death’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who, by exalting the humble, didst raise the blessed Confessor Francis to the glory of thy Saints: grant, we beseech thee; that, through his merits and example, we may attain with gladness unto the rewards promised to them that are lowly of heart; 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.
It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.
The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.
With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, though above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.
‘O Sapientia’ by Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007
O God, who from the house of thy servant David didst raise up Saint Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son, and spouse of his Virgin Mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; 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.
‘After this the Priest says, Holy things to holy men. Holy are the gifts presented, having received the visitation of the Holy Ghost; holy are you also, having been deemed worthy of the Holy Ghost; the holy things therefore correspond to the holy persons. Then ye say, One is Holy, One is the Lord, Jesus Christ. For One is truly holy, by nature holy; we too are holy, but not by nature, only by participation, and discipline, and prayer.
After this ye hear the chanter inviting you with a sacred melody to the communion of the Holy Mysteries, and saying, O taste and see that the Lord is good. Trust not the judgment to your bodily palate no, but to faith unfaltering; for they who taste are bidden to taste, not bread and wine, but the anti-typical Body and Blood of Christ.
In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?
Then after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, draw near also to the Cup of His Blood; not stretching forth your hands, but bending , and saying with an air of worship and reverence, Amen, hallow yourself by partaking also of the Blood of Christ. And while the moisture is still upon your lips, touch it with your hands, and hallow your eyes and brow and the other organs of sense. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted you worthy of so great mysteries.
Hold fast these traditions undefiled and, keep yourselves free from offence. Sever not yourselves from the Communion; deprive not yourselves, through the pollution of sins, of these Holy and Spiritual Mysteries. And the God of peace sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23): To whom be glory and honour and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and world without end. Amen’.
On the Sacred Liturgy and Communion from Catechetical Lecture 23
by St Cyril of Jerusalem, c.313-386
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that at the intercession of thy blessed Bishop Saint Cyril, we may learn to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent; that we may be found worthy to be numbered for ever among the sheep that hear his voice; 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.
‘Having for forty years led a most saintly life in the married state, upon which she entered when but twelve years of age, Frances retired from the world, where she had endured every sort of tribulation. But she had given her heart to her God long before she withdrew to the cloister. Her whole life had been spent in the exercise of the highest Christian perfection, and she had ever received from our Lord the sublimest spiritual favours. Her amiable disposition had won for her the love and admiration of her husband and children: the rich venerated her as their model, the poor respected her as their devoted benefactress and mother.
God recompensed her angelic virtues by these two special graces: the almost uninterrupted sight of her guardian angel, and the most sublime revelations. But there is one trait of her life which is particularly striking, and reminds us forcibly of St Elizabeth of Hungary, and of St Jane Frances Chantal: her austere practices of penance. Such an innocent, and yet such a mortified, life is full of instruction for us. How can we think of murmuring against the obligation of mortification when we find a saint like this practising it during her whole life? True, we are not bound to imitate her in the manner of her penance; but penance we must do, if we would confidently approach that God who readily pardons the sinner when he repents, but whose justice requires atonement and satisfaction’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O Frances, sublime model of every virtue! thou wast the glory of Christian Rome, and the ornament of thy sex. How insignificant are the pagan heroines of old compared with thee! Thy fidelity to the duties of thy state, all thy saintly actions, had God for their one single end and motive. The world looked on thee with amazement, as though heaven had lent one of its angels to this earth. Humility and penance put such energy into thy soul, that every trial was met and mastered. Thy love for those whom God Himself had given thee, thy calm resignation and interior joy under tribulation, thy simple and generous charity, to every neighbour – all was evidence of God’s dwelling within thy soul. Thy seeing and conversing with thy angel guardian, and the wonderful revelations granted thee of the secrets of the other world, how much these favours tell us of thy merits! Nature suspended her laws at thy bidding; she was subservient to thee, as to one that was already face to face with the sovereign Master, and had the power to command. We admire these privileges and gifts granted thee by our Lord; and now beseech thee to have pity on us, who are so far from being in that path in which thou didst so perseveringly walk. Pray for us, that we may be Christians, practically and earnestly; that we may cease to love the world and its vanities; that we may courageously take up the yoke of our Lord and do penance; that we may give our pride; that we may be patient and firm under temptation. Such was thy influence with our heavenly Father, that thou hadst but to pray, and a vine produced the richest clusters of fruit, even in the midst of winter. Our Jesus calls Himself the true Vine; ask Him to give us of the vine of His divine love, which His cross has so richly prepared for us. When we remember how frequently thou didst ask Him to let thee suffer, and accept thy sufferings for poor sinners, we feel encouraged to ask thee to offer thy merits to Him for us. Pray too for Rome, thy native city, that her people may be stanch to the faith, edifying by holiness of life, and loyal to the Church. May thy powerful intercession bring blessings on the faithful throughout the world, add to their number, and make them fervent as were our fathers of old.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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