‘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.
‘On July 3, 1549, a fire broke out in the kitchen of the Royal hospital at Granada that had been founded by the Spanish king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella. It threatened to spread to the large wards where hundreds of sick were lying. The storm and fire bells rang loudly. People rushed from all sides, John in the lead. The fire was beyond control, firemen and volunteers were unable to extinguish it. No one dared to enter the burning building from which came the pitiful cries of the sick in the agony of imminent and certain death. Fire and smoke choked the exits. Those who could still arise from their beds stood pleading at the windows. The scene was enough to drive a person insane.
John could not stand idly by. Disregarding smoke and flame, he rushed in among the sick, opened doors and windows, gave terse orders and directions as to how they who could might save themselves; some he led, others he dragged or carried into the open, often two at a time. When all the bedridden were safe, he wasted no time in throwing coverlets, bed clothing, chairs and other valuables out of the windows, thus saving the property of the poor.
Then he took an axe, climbed to the roof and began chopping away vigorously. Suddenly the liberated flames leapt up high beside him. He fled, only to continue his heroic work in another part of the building. There too a wave of fire soon stopped him. He was standing literally between two infernos. Moments passed, he was lost in the heat of the flames and the choking smoke. A quarter of an hour - loud cries of fear could be heard for the brave man - and then he sprang from the fire, blackened by smoke but unscathed except for singed eyebrows. Joyously the crowd surrounded him, congratulating the saviour of the sick. John’s modesty, however, prevented him from accepting praise and honours’.
from The Life of St John of God by Bihlmeyer
quoted in The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who didst cause blessed John, by the fire of thy love, to pass unhurt amid the flames, and through him didst enrich thy Church with a new offspring: grant, by the pleading of his merits that our vices may be healed by the fire of thy charity, and that we may obtain thine eternal healing; 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.
‘Vibia Perpetua, a well-to-do young woman and mother, and Felicitas, a slave who gave birth to a child three days before suffering a martyr’s death, were catechumens. Against such prospective converts the persecution of Septimius Severus was particularly severe. These two holy women suffered death on the seventh of March in Carthage. The Breviary relates the following touching episode:
“Now the day had arrived when they were to be thrown to the wild beasts. Felicitas began to be sorrowful because she feared she would have to wait longer than her companions. For eight months she had been pregnant and therefore, according to Roman law, could not be executed before the birth of the child. But the prayers of her fellow sufferers hastened her time and she gave birth to a baby girl.
While she was suffering from the pains of childbirth, one of the guards called out to her, ‘If you are suffering so much now, what will you do when you are thrown to the wild beasts?’ ‘Now I suffer’, she answered, ‘but there Another will be in me, who will suffer for me, because I will suffer for Him’. When she was in travail she had sorrow, but when she was set before the wild beasts she rejoiced (Martyrology)”.
Finally, on the seventh of March, these heroic women were led into the amphitheatre and severely scourged. Then they were tossed about by an exceptionally wild cow, gored, and thrown to the ground’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O holy God, who gavest great courage to Saints Perpetua, Felicitas and their Companions: grant that, through their prayers, we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice, and be received into the garden of peace; 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 Casimir, to whom the Poles gave the title of “The Peace-maker”, was the third of the thirteen children of Casimir IV, King of Poland, and of Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Albert II... Devout from his infancy, the boy gave himself up to devotion and penance, and had a horror of anything approaching softness or self-indulgence. His bed was often the ground, and he was wont to spend a great part of the night in prayer and meditation, chiefly on the passion of our Saviour. His clothes were plain, and under them he wore a hair shirt. Living always in the presence of God, he was invariably serene and cheerful, and pleasant to all. The saint’s love of God showed itself in his love of the poor who are Christ’s members, and for the relief of these the young prince gave all he possessed, using in their behalf the influence he had with his father and with his brother Ladislaus when he became king of Bohemia.
…The nobles of Hungary, dissatisfied with their king, Matthias Corvinus, in 1471 begged the King of Poland to allow them to place his son Casimir on the throne. The saint, at that time not fifteen years old, was very unwilling to consent, but in obedience to his father he went to the frontier at the head of an army. There, hearing that Matthias had himself assembled a large body of troops, and finding that his own soldiers were deserting in large numbers because they could not get their pay, he decided upon the advice of his officers to return home. The knowledge that Pope Sixtus IV had sent an embassy to his father to deter him from the expedition made the young prince carry out his resolution with the firmer conviction that he was acting rightly. King Casimir, however, was greatly incensed at the failure of his ambitious projects and would not permit his son to return to Cracow, but relegated him to the castle of Dobzki. The young man obeyed and remained in confinement there for three months. Convinced of the injustice of the war upon which he had so nearly embarked, and determined to have no further part in these internecine conflicts which only facilitated the further progress into Europe of the Turks, St Casimir could never again be persuaded to take up arms though urged to do so by his father and invited once more by the disaffected Hungarian magnates. He returned to his studies and his prayers, though for a time he was viceroy in Poland during an absence of his father. An attempt was made to induce him to marry a daughter of the Emperor Frederick III, but he refused to relax the celibacy he had imposed on himself.
St Casimir’s austerities did nothing to help the lung trouble from which he suffered, and he died at the age of twenty-six in 1484 and was buried at Vilna, where his relics still rest in the church of St Stanislaus. Miracles were reported at his tomb, and he was canonised in 1521’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God, who, amidst the pleasures of a temporal kingdom, didst endue thy blessed Saint Casimir with constancy to resist all temptations: grant, we beseech thee, that by his intercession, thy faithful people may learn to despise all things earthly, and to seek earnestly after all things heavenly; 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 Tuesday the first day of March in the grave
to die he went to lie.
There were on his grave, good end,
fine clergy singing a gloria,
angels of heaven on the bank of a stream
after his funeral.
The soul of a man who is buried
in the cemetery of David of Menevia
above all other land, it is not vain,
will not be condemned to the pit of hell;
no filthy devil will ever tread
on his land for all the world’s wealth.
If there were in a book of paper
every day as on a long summer’s day
one of the same nature as a public notary
with ink and steel-tipped pen
writing, it was profit,
his famous life,
hardly, however good he were,
would he ever manage to write
in three days and a full year
all the miracles which he performed.
from Mawl i Ddewi Sant: In praise of Saint David, c.1380-1400
by Iolo Goch (1320-1398), edited by Dafydd Johnston (b.1955)
O Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant David to be an apostle to the people of Wales, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: grant us, by his intercession, so to walk in that light; that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge that you are the Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge that you are the God of angels and powers and of all created beings, and of the whole company of the righteous who live in your sight, I thank you for making me worthy of this day and hour, that I should be given a part in the number of the martyrs, a share in the cup of your Christ and of resurrection to eternal life in soul and body through the incorruption that comes to us from the Holy Spirit.
May I be accepted this day before you as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you, the God of all truth, foreordained, prophesied to me, and now fulfil in me. Therefore I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you, together with the eternal and heavenly Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you with him and the Holy Spirit, now and to ages of ages. Amen”.
When he had said Amen to his prayer, the men in charge of the fire lit it, and a great flame blazed up. And we, to whom the vision was given, saw a marvel. We have been preserved alive to report the event to others.
The fire made something like a room, or the sail of a vessel filled with wind, and surrounded the body of the martyr like a kind of wall. Inside it he was not like burning flesh, but like bread being baked, or gold and silver refined in the fire. Moreover we smelt a fragrant scent like incense or other costly spices’.
from The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, 4th century, by Eusebius, c.260/65-c.339/40
Fulfil, O Lord, the petitions of thy servants who on this day devoutly reverence the passion of blessed Polycarp, thy Martyr and Bishop: and accept us, together with him, as a whole burnt-offering dedicated 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.
Though it will be transferred to Sunday in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, today is the Solemnity of the Chair of St Peter, the Titular Solemnity of the Ordinariate in the United States and Canada. Here follows a homily, preached on this day, during the Ordinariate’s 2014 pilgrimage to Rome, by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP.
‘According to tradition, the feast of the Chair of St Peter marks the anniversary of the day when St Peter, having borne witness to the divinity of Christ, was appointed by Our Lord to be the rock of his Church — quo electus est primus Petrus papa, as the very ancient Western liturgies have it. Peter is thus the first to be seated in the chair that then comes to symbolise the episcopal office of the pope as bishop of Rome.
…[T]here were at one time two feasts of the chair of St Peter. In the calendar in force until the reform of the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, 18 January marked the feast of the Chair of St Peter in Rome while 22 February that of the Chair of St Peter in Antioch. The second thing to notice is that there is actually a chair in the picture. The chair in question is associated with St Peter’s sojourn in Rome, and, in particular, with a chair venerated since ancient times as the cathedra Petri. Since the 17th century this wooden chair has been enclosed in the bronze of Bernini’s magnificent sculpture, enthroned above the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica and held aloft by the four Doctors of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius and Chrysostom).
The fact that there were at one time two feasts of the Chair of Peter reminds us that Christ consigned to Peter a munus, a ministry, that he exercised first in Jerusalem, and then at Antioch, and only ultimately at Rome. This recognition offsets the danger that the theology of the papal ministry can become, in effect, a theology of the primatial character of the see of Rome. Then we are tempted to concentrate on the history of the exercise of papal ministry by successive bishops of Rome, on the relationship of the bishop of Rome to the college of bishops, on the canonical dynamics of the bishop of Rome’s universal jurisdiction, on the relationship of the bishop of Rome to other patriarchal — and primatial — sees and implicitly to the leadership of other churches and ecclesial communities. Now don’t get me wrong: these are indeed important issues.
But the munus petrinum entrusted by Christ to Simon Bar Jonah is in fact both temporally and logically prior to its location in or its identification with the see of Rome. Before there was a primatial see at Rome, there was the divinely instituted ministry of Peter within the “college” of the Apostles. The primacy of the see of Rome was immediately recognised because it was the see from which Peter and his successors — in the exquisitely apt design of divine providence — would come to exercise their ministry. It could have been Jerusalem where Christ suffered and died under Pontius Pilate, or Antioch where his followers were first called “Christians”. The prominence of Rome — not only geopolitical and cultural, but specifically Christian as the place where the blood of the martyrs was shed and where the Apostles Peter and Paul sojourned and gave their lives for Christ — is naturally not to be overlooked. But the munus petrinum — the office of guiding and teaching and governing the Church — was bestowed upon Peter by Christ before ever he came to exercise it from the cathedra of the bishop of Rome.
And this brings us to the second fascinating thing about this feast: there is actually a chair in the picture, however obscure its history and provenance. An instance of the remarkable concreteness of Catholic sensibility, the association of an existing episcopal cathedra to be venerated spurs our faith and devotion as we contemplate the grace of the petrine ministry. Not for nothing is the chair of Peter considered a sacramental in Catholic theology and practice. Here we touch on the fundamental Catholic conviction that God uses the tangible and visible things of earthly existence both to signify and, uniquely in the sacraments, to bestow his spiritual gifts.
Above all, he uses consecrated persons as instruments of his grace. The Holy Father, the cardinals, the bishops, the priests, and the deacons of the Church: they are the instruments through whom God willed to pour out his grace on us in the Church through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments. In this way, God adapted himself to our human nature — by sending his only Son who in turn commissioned the Apostles and their successors — so that we might receive his word and his grace from other human beings. The hand of another human being blesses us, pours the water of Baptism on our foreheads, offers the body and blood of Christ to us in the Eucharist, and is raised in absolution unto the forgiveness of sins. Through these persons — St Peter first among them — and through these actions and objects, God’s grace is bestowed on us’.
Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP
O Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandest him earnestly to feed thy flock: make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same; that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Communion with Christ creates among Christians a unity of love. In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. “Christ’s Church”, he writes, “is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully Church”. This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us. Thus the service of the individual becomes “an expression of universality” (Ep 28, 9-23). However, the ideal image of “Holy Church” illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.
Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquility he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavour to prevent the divorce of Henry IV from his wife Bertha. And again, two years later, in 1071, he went to Monte Cassino for the consecration of the abbey church and at the beginning of 1072, to Ravenna, to re-establish peace with the local Archbishop who had supported the antipope bringing interdiction upon the city. On the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged him to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that the Lord should have raised up in the life of the Church a figure as exuberant, rich and complex as St Peter Damian. Moreover, it is rare to find theological works and spirituality as keen and vibrant as those of the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana. St Peter Damian was a monk through and through, with forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive. Yet, in that way he made monastic life an eloquent testimony of God’s primacy and an appeal to all to walk towards holiness, free from any compromise with evil. He spent himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time. He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and to the Church, but always remained, as he liked to describe himself, Petrus ultimus monachorum servus, Peter, the lowliest servant of the monks’.
from a general audience, 9 September 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we may so follow the teaching and example of thy blessed Confessor Saint Peter Damian; that learning of him to despise all things earthly, we may attain in the end to everlasting felicity; 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.
‘All love, whether of child, parent, partner, friend, even of place, possession, or animal, holds the potential for suffering, because of death. We cannot possess or hold fast anything or anyone: it is all gift. Life contains inevitable partings and inescapable pain. The loveless are protected against this suffering: the zombie feels nothing. We are alive in proportion to our response to love, and our pain at parting is in proportion to the extent of that love... The deeper the love, the deeper its pain’.
Sister Wendy Beckett, 1930-2018
Præsta, quæesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui beati Valentini Martyris tui natalitia colimus, a cunctis malis imminentibus, eius intercessione, liberemur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
‘The life of the Venetian layman, Jerome Emiliani, was as it were “refounded” on the night of 27 September 1511, when, after making a sincere vow to Our Lady of Treviso to change his behaviour, through the intercession of the Mother of God he found himself freed from the chains of prison, which he himself later presented at the altar of the Virgin.
“Dirupisti vincula mea” (Ps 116:16). The verse of the Psalm expresses the genuine interior revolution that took place after that liberation, bound up with the tormented political events of that age. In fact, it represented an integral renewal of Jerome’s character: by divine intervention he was freed from the bonds of selfishness, pride, search for personal affirmation, so much so that his life, which had previously been dedicated primarily to temporal things, became oriented entirely to God, whom he loved and served particularly in the orphaned, the sick or abandoned young people.
Guided by events in his family, which caused him to become the guardian of all his orphaned nephews, St Jerome matured in his realisation that young people, especially those in difficult straits, could not remain alone, but needed one essential requirement for healthy growth, namely love. In him love was more important than ingenuity and because his was a love that flowed from the charity of God himself, it was filled with patience and understanding: attentive, tender and ready to sacrifice, like the love of a mother.
The Church of the 16th century, divided by the Protestant schism, and searching for a serious reform within itself, enjoyed a flowering of holiness that was the first and most original response to the demands for renewal. The witness of the saints says that it is necessary to trust in God alone: indeed, both personal and institutional trials serve to help faith grow. God has his plans, even if we do not manage to understand its provisions.
…The shining example of St Jerome Emiliani, whom Blessed John Paul II defined as a “lay animator of the laity”, helps us to take to heart every form of poverty in our young people, whether moral, physical or existential, and especially the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem’.
from a message of Pope Benedict XVI, to the Order of Clerics Regular of Somasca, 20 July 2011
on the 500th anniversary of the prodigious liberation of their founder St Jerome Emiliani
O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; 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 we are celebrating the memorial of St Agatha, martyred in Catania probably during the persecution of Decius in the third century. Agatha’s name corresponds to reality: St Agatha “is truly a good woman”, we read in the Liturgy of the Hours this morning, “coming forth from God in whose goodness she shares. She is good to her Spouse, Christ, and good also to us through sharing with us her goodness. ‘Good’ is the force and meaning of her name”.
God, our supreme good, is the source of all good things. I hope that you will all be “good”, that is, faithful witnesses to the love of our heavenly Father who fills us with so many gifts and calls us to share in his own joy.
Whoever has this faith, even in the midst of difficulties, preserves that deep peace born of a trusting abandonment to the ever provident and wise hands of God, who never disturbs the joy of his children except to prepare for them a deeper and greater joy’.
from a general audience, 5 February 1997, by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the gentleness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom: grant, we beseech thee; that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of Saint Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain 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.
Following a visit to Walsingham in October 2017 my wife and I decided, on the way back to Lancashire, to make our return via the small hamlet of Sempringham in Lincolnshire, famous as the home of Saint Gilbert, who was the only English saint to have founded a religious order in the Middle Ages: the Gilbertine Order of Canons Regular. Gilbert became the parish priest of St Andrew’s, Sempringham in 1131 and thereafter formed a community of lay sisters, followed by lay brothers, who first maintained the Rule of St Benedict. They later came under the care of Augustinian canons, with Gilbert serving as master general of the community. The community flourished and by the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541) there were 26 Gilbertine houses across England.
‘[Gilbert] gave a rule to seven holy virgins who lived in strict enclosure in a house adjoining to the wall of his parish church of St Andrew at Sempringham, and another afterwards to a community of men who desired to live under his direction. The latter was drawn from the rule of the canon regulars; that given to his nuns, from St Bennet’s: but to both he added many particular constitutions. Such was the origin of the Order of the Gilbertines, the approbation of which he procured from Pope Eugenius III. At length he entered the Order himself, but resigned the government of it some time before his death when he lost his sight. His diet was chiefly roots and pulse, and so sparing that others wondered how he could subsist. He had always at table a dish which he called “the plate of the Lord Jesus”, in which he put all that was best of what was served up; and this was for the poor. He always wore a hair shirt, took his short rest sitting, and spent great part of the night in prayer. In this, his favourite exercise, his soul found those wings on which she continually soared to God. During the exile of St Thomas of Canterbury he and the other superiors of his Order were accused of having sent him succours abroad. The charge was false; yet the saint chose rather to suffer imprisonment and the danger of the suppression of his Order than to deny it, lest he should seem to condemn what would have been good and just. He departed to our Lord on the 3rd of February 1190, being one hundred and six years old. Miracles wrought at his tomb were examined and approved by Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the commissioners of Pope Innocent III in 1201, and he was canonised by that pope the year following’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we remember before thee all thy servants who have served thee faithfully in their generation, and have entered into rest, especially Gilbert, beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow in their steps; that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Calendar of this portion of the year abounds with Martyrs; and, at the very onset, we meet with one of the most celebrated of these glorious champions of Christ. The scene of his pastoral virtues and his martyrdom, was Sebaste, a city of Armenia, the same that will give us forty martyred soldiers on a single day. The devotion to St Blase is, even to this day, most fervently kept up in the East, especially in Armenia. The Western Churches soon began to love and honour his memory, and so universally, that we might call him one of the most popular of our Saints. His Feast, however, with us, is only a simple, and the Church of Rome has given a mere Lesson on his Life.
Blase, whose signal virtues made him dear to the people of Sebaste in Armenia, was chosen Bishop of that City. When the Emperor Dioclesian waged his cruel persecution against the Christians, the Saint hid himself in a cave on mount Argeus, and there he remained sometime concealed, but was at length discovered by some soldiers of the governor Agricolaus, whilst they were hunting. They led him to the governor, who gave orders that he should be put into prison. During his imprisonment, many sick people, attracted by the reputation of his sanctity, came to him, and he healed them. Among these was a boy, whose life was despaired of by the physicians, on account of his having swallowed a bone, which could not be extracted from his throat. The Saint was twice brought before the governor, but neither fair promises nor threats could induce him to offer sacrifice to the gods. Whereupon, he was first beaten with rods, and then his flesh was torn with iron hooks whilst he lay stretched on the rack. At length, he was beheaded, and nobly gave testimony to the faith of Christ our Lord, on the third of the Nones of February’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Blaise, thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may likewise rejoice in his 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.
There came to me assistance,
Mary fair and Bride;
As Anna bore Mary,
As Mary bore Christ,
As Eile bore John the Baptist
Without flaw in him,
Aid thou me in mine unbearing,
Aid me, O Bride!
As Christ was conceived of Mary
Full perfect on every hand,
Assist thou me, foster-mother,
The conception to bring from the bone;
And as thou didst aid the Virgin of joy,
Without gold, without corn, without kine,
Aid thou me, great is my sickness,
Aid me, O Bride.
from the Carmina Gadelica, 1900
translated from the Gaelic by Alexander Carmichael, 1832-1912
O God, who to the blessed Abbess Brigid gavest grace to imitate Christ in his poverty, and with humble heart to follow him in the end: grant that all who enter the path of Gospel perfection may neither look back nor go astray from the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may attain the crown of eternal life whereunto thou dost call them; 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 Bosco, his words of wisdom, as communicated to his Salesian brethren, on the challenge of being an educator.
‘Perhaps you think that what I am suggesting is too easy or not practical enough. Yet I assure you that if you abide by what I say, you will be successful. You will see that by these means you will win over those who in the be-ginning had not given the least cause for any hope.
If too often we see our efforts cast to the winds, devoid of any good results, if the fruit of our labours is nothing but a bunch of thorns and thistles, I believe we are to attribute this sad failure to the fact that we have not yet learned the way of keeping discipline in the manner I have explained above.
Only moral strength can win the human heart, which Saint Gregory tells us is like an impregnable fortress that cannot be conquered except by affection and kindness.
What I recommend is hard, I know, especially for young adults whose first inclination towards obtaining discipline is to act on the spur of the moment and inflict punishments. But I assure you; real success can only be the result of patience. Impatience merely disgusts the children and spreads discontent among the best of them.
Long experience has taught me that patience is the only remedy for even the worst cases of disobedience and irresponsiveness. Sometimes, after making many patient efforts without obtaining success, I deemed it necessary to resort to severe measures. Yet these never achieved anything, and in the end I always found that charity finally triumphed where severity had met with failure. Charity is the cure-all though it may be slow in affecting its cure.
Remember that education is a difficult art and that God alone is its true master. We will never succeed in it unless he teaches us the way. While depending humbly and entirely on him, we should try with might and main to acquire that moral strength which is a stranger to force and rigour. Let us strive to make ourselves loved, to instil into our children the high ideal of duty and the holy fear of God, and we will soon possess their hearts. Then, with natural ease, they will join us in praising Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our model, our patron, our exemplar in all things, but especially in the education of the young’.
St John Bosco, 1815-1888
O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; 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 addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.
The last months of Thomas’ earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realised, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then “was worthless”. This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas’ personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God’s greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: “You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?” And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: “Nothing but Yourself, Lord!”’.
from a general audience, 2 June 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
Everlasting God, who didst enrich thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Saint Thomas Aquinas: grant to all who seek thee a humble mind and a pure heart; that they may know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the 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.
‘[I]f we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.
Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.
Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realising that this also entails a service to the Church herself.
…[L]et us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).
Through our commitment in practise we can and must discover the truth of these words… we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour’.
from a general audience, 13 December 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
Heavenly Father, who didst send thine Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel, and gavest him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in the Faith: grant that, through their prayers, our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the Name of Jesus; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; 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
Happy memories today, on this memorial of Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, of the joy of Christian friendship spent in his former Cistercian abbey church, which was a memorable stop during a parish pilgrimage from Calgary to England in October 2013. Though we wandered and prayed amongst scenes of devastation and decay in what was once a great powerhouse of prayer, work, and charity, our stay with nearby Benedictine monks at Ampleforth Abbey enabled our pilgrim band to enter into these precincts with a keen sense of the busy and prayerful atmosphere that once permeated its hallowed walls. It is perhaps a testimony to Aelred and his brethren that that ambience hasn’t quite vanished here. Despite the ruined stones, Rievaulx’s exquisitely tranquil setting - which now provides its bare interior with a previously unseen take on the outside world - enables what remains to still feel very much like sacred ground.
‘You and I are here, and I hope that Christ is between us as a third. Now no one else is present to disturb the peace or to interrupt our friendly conversation. No voice, no noise invades our pleasant retreat. Yes, most beloved, open your heart now and pour whatever you please into the ears of a friend. Gratefully let us welcome the place, the time, and the leisure.
I am delighted to see that you are not prone to empty and idle talk, that you always introduce something useful and necessary for your progress. Speak then without anxiety. Share with a friend all your thoughts and cares, that you may have something either to learn or to teach, to give and to receive, to pour out and to drink in’.
St Aelred of Rievaulx, 1109-1167
Almighty God, who didst endow the blessed Abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship and the wisdom to lead others into the way of holiness: grant to thy people that same spirit of mutual affection; that in loving one another we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the eternal possession of thine unsurpassable goodness; 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
‘Raymond was a noted canonist; he rendered great service to the Church through his redaction and codification of Pope Gregory the IX’s Decretals, a collection of juridical documents. At the age of forty-five, he entered the Dominican Order. He assisted in founding the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the ransom of captives, by drawing up a rule. He also had the gift of miracles, the most remarkable of which occurred on a return from the Balearic Isles to Barcelona. On that occasion he stretched his cloak on the sea and sailed the distance of 160 miles in six hours; arriving at his monastery, he entered through closed doors. He died in 1275, almost one hundred years old. Raymond was an excellent confessor, for which reason he is honoured as the patron saint of those who hear confessions’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who didst appoint blessed Raymond excellently to minister the Sacrament of Penance, and didst wondrously make for him a passage upon the waves of the sea: grant, we pray thee; that, at his intercession, we may bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, and be found meet to attain to the harbour of everlasting 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
Fr Lee Kenyon
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