‘I have been a Catholic for less than six months and already it is difficult to understand why I did not submit thirty-eight years ago. The slowness with which I saw the truth; the misconceptions, which were only partly the result of my heredity and upbringing, as to what the Christian Faith in fact was; the individualism which persisted in pursuing a course for ‘reunion’ which I had worked out theoretically without a proper appreciation of the practical difficulties… - all these, and more, are part of a mea culpa which found relief in the formal utterance demanded and made gladly on my reception: “With a sincere heart and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error, heresy and sect opposed to the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church”.
I have tried to set down now, before the memory is blurred, the face of things as it appeared at the time; for the besetting temptation of every convert is to doubt, or at least to minimise, his own good faith in the days before his conversion. And, in the process, it has become clearer than ever to me that “the gift of faith” is, indeed, a gift dispensed by the mercy of God and in no way attainable by any intellectual process. “Credo ut intelligam” remains true.
…[T]here is an earlier passage in [Chesterton’s] Orthodoxy which I find even more appropriate: “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased”.
So, inside the walls, I have found the freedom and the safety and the happiness of the garden again’.
from The Walled Garden: An Autobiography, 1957
Hugh Ross Williamson was an Anglican priest, 1943-1955
‘We, the undersigned Priests and Deacons (or lay communicants) of the Catholic Church, in full communion with the See of Canterbury, desire, in respectfully approaching your Lordships, to express our deep sense of sorrow at the long continuance of the divisions of Christendom, and our deep sense of the manifold evils which result from this.
…We are mindful of the efforts made in former times by English and foreign Bishops and theologians, to effect, by mutual explanations on either side, a reconciliation between the Roman and Anglican communions.
And, considering the ultimate and visible unity which existed between the Church of England and the rest of Western Christendom, we earnestly entreat your Lordships seriously to consider the best means of renewing like endeavours; and to adopt such measures as may, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, be effectual in removing the barriers which now divide the Western branch of the Catholic Church.
But fully conscious that so great a gift as the healthful reunion of Christendom cannot be obtained by any effort of mere human wisdom, we further ask your Lordships specially to commend to the members of your flocks earnest and persevering prayer that God would so pour his love into the hearts of all Christians, that they may be drawn to be again one fold under one Shepherd’.
from a letter signed by 1,112 clergy (including Benson, Butler, Carter, Lee, Lowder, Mackonochie, and Pusey) and 4,453 laymen of the Church of England, to the bishops of the Anglican Communion gathering at Lambeth for the first time in 1867.
‘[T]here are three [gifts] in particular which former Anglicans bring into the Catholic Church. The first, as our friend Monsignor Ronald Knox so cleverly demonstrated, is apologetics. Cardinal Hume said to me once: “Peter, I know that everything you believe you had to fight for”. Unbeknownst to me, he heard me preach in Southwark Cathedral at the Catholic Renewal Conference. “I saw the way you defended the Catholic Faith”, he said, “in a way that my own friends and flock don’t need to. They take it for granted”. Ronald Knox, in his writings and in his pamphlets, was the exponent par excellence of that great gift of explaining simply the fundamental truths of the faith. I still have my Francis Hall Dogmatic Theology series, and I highly recommend them. They consist of something like twelve volumes, and they are possibly the only titles the American Church Union still publishes. Within them, there are good arguments for so many of the doctrines of the faith, so they are helpful for teaching and converting.
The second great gift that former Anglicans bring to the Catholic Church relates to the liturgy: Lex orandi, lex credendi… When it comes to worship, some of us Anglicans were doing it better than our Roman Catholic confreres. We read the rubrics and we kept them. The most recent rubrical guide to the new Roman Missal is by Monsignor Peter Elliott (another former Anglican who has made it to the purple). He has written his own guide on how worship should be done, and it is one of the gifts Anglicans have given the Catholic Church.
The third gift is pastoral care, one of the great marks of Anglicanism through history. Perhaps we have excelled as pastors because our parishes have been fractionally smaller (we haven’t had crowds of people). Our parishioners know they are a part of a community and a family, and we nurture them, sustain them, and help them on their pilgrimage. This is a great strength we must hold on to. We must resist the bureaucracy, and the committees, and all that activity that takes us away from pastoring souls. We must reemphasise that each and every one is precious and needs to be protected and developed’.
from his essay Conversion and Enrichment by Fr Peter Geldard
in Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church: Reflections on Recent Developments, 2011
‘The untroubled page of history in those early days, to which some profess to appeal, attests the fact that St Matthew 16:19 says that there was then but one Church on earth. There was no second no other, none like it, none beside it; and the centre and head of that Church was the centre and head of the Christian world. It was the city of Rome, and in that city of Rome the See of Rome, the apostolic throne on which sat the successors of the Chief of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. No one doubts this as to history in the past; but the history of the past is supposed to lay no jurisdiction over our consciences now. Men treat history as an idle page, which they may read for their amusement, but refuse as a guide for their consciences. And yet it is indubitable that the one only Church of God, the circumference of which rested on the sunrise and the sunset, had a centre, and that centre was in Rome. Take it then as a mere matter of fact. The Divine Architect, in describing the circuit of His kingdom on earth, placed one foot of His compass in the city of Rome, and with the other traced a circumference which included the whole world. The annals of the Church in succession recognise the Bishop who sat in Peter’s seat as head among the Bishops of the world. I need not wear away your time by citing testimonies. Any one who will take the page of history may read it. I raise no claim, as yet, to anything beyond the fact…
There follows also another truth, and it is an awful one, a truth which springs from the last so inseparably and by so strong a necessity, that I dare not pass it by. If, indeed, God the Holy Ghost being the midst of us, and if it be God the Holy Ghost Who speaks to us through the one Holy Catholic and Roman Church, then it imposes its doctrines on the consciences of men under pain of eternal death. It is under pain of eternal death to disbelieve that which God the Holy Ghost has revealed. To disbelieve what the Holy Ghost, through the Church of God, has taught, incurs the pain of eternal death for those who with their eyes openly reject it’.
Henry, Cardinal Manning, 1808-1892
(Anglican Archdeacon of Chichester 1840-1851; Catholic Archbishop of Westminster 1865-1892)
‘It was not Jesus’ practise to change his disciples’ names: apart from the nickname “sons of thunder”, which in specific circumstances he attributed to the sons of Zebedee and never used again. He never gave any of his disciples a new name.
Yet, he gave one to Simon, calling him “Cephas”. This name was later translated into Greek as Petros and into Latin as Petrus. And it was translated precisely because it was not only a name; it was a “mandate” that Petrus received in that way from the Lord. The new name Petrus was to recur frequently in the Gospels and ended by replacing “Simon”, his original name.
This fact acquires special importance if one bears in mind that in the Old Testament, a change of name usually preceded the entrustment of a mission.
…‘Peter will be the rocky foundation on which he will build the edifice of the Church; he will have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he sees fit; lastly, he will be able to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. It is always Christ’s Church, not Peter’s.
…This pre-eminent position that Jesus wanted to bestow upon Peter is also encountered after the Resurrection: Jesus charges the women to announce it especially to Peter, as distinct from the other Apostles; it is to Peter and John that Mary Magdalene runs to tell them that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and John was to stand back to let Peter enter first when they arrived at the empty tomb.
Then, Peter was to be the first witness of an appearance of the Risen One. His role, decisively emphasised, marks the continuity between the pre-eminence he had in the group of the Apostles and the pre-eminence he would continue to have in the community born with the paschal events, as the Book of Acts testifies.
His behaviour was considered so decisive that it prompted remarks as well as criticism.
At the so-called Council of Jerusalem Peter played a directive role, and precisely because he was a witness of authentic faith, Paul himself recognised that he had a certain quality of “leadership”.
Moreover, the fact that several of the key texts that refer to Peter can be traced back to the context of the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon Peter the ministry of strengthening his brethren, shows that the ministry entrusted to Peter was one of the constitutive elements of the Church, which was born from the commemoration of the Pasch celebrated in the Eucharist.
This contextualisation of the Primacy of Peter at the Last Supper, at the moment of the Institution of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Pasch, also points to the ultimate meaning of this Primacy: Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ for all time. He must guide people to communion with Christ; he must ensure that the net does not break, and consequently that universal communion endures. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all.
Thus, Peter is responsible for guaranteeing communion with Christ with the love of Christ, guiding people to fulfil this love in everyday life. Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognised by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us’.
from a general audience, 7 June 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
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
‘Among the opinions we can be sure to encounter is a certain uneasiness with our Missal’s use of traditional language and even the snarky charge that Divine Worship is really just a “Tudorbethan fantasy, an exercise in mock-Tudor nostalgia, or a Cranmerian pastiche with limited appeal and prospects only for evangelising a small set of gin-sipping anglophiles.” I exaggerate for effect, but only slightly – just wait until the blogs light up and start smoking with both sharp criticism and misplaced praise for the linguistic register of Divine Worship. Criticism of our sacral dialect is to be expected and is in fact quite understandable, given what we’ve lived through in the general linguistic confusion of the last fifty years and given the unfortunate politicising of liturgical expression, but I would suggest too that such misapprehension can be an occasion to rediscover and rethink the evangelising potential of Catholic worship in our distinct sacral idiom.
First observation: Liturgical language is not primarily a means of description or information; it is not and has never been the diffuse idiom of everyday communication and commerce; rather it is the Church’s focused, concentrated instrument of mediation to effect, to incarnate our participation in the saving mysteries of our faith and to immerse, to wash the faithful in the figural meanings of Holy Scripture.
Second observation: Liturgical language is stylised, enacted speech with its own kind of intelligibility, and far from excluding archaic elements it welcomes a modicum of traditional expressions and some ritualised conventions that “reach to the roots”, resonate in the auditory memory, and habituate an experience of worship wider, deeper, older than ourselves, transcending the gathered congregation in time and space to represent and configure our incorporation into the Communion of the Saints.
Third observation: Liturgical language is recursive and immersive; it bears and demands repetition, day by day, week by week, season by season, year by year, without ever exhausting its capacity to stimulate meditation and work ongoing conversion of life; its words are “poetic” in the sense of being athletic, even ascetic, by gently, insistently stretching the limits of expression in order to exercise, train, tune, and elevate our faculties that we might lift up our hearts to God and open out our lives in love and service.
Along these lines, recent decades have seen some new appreciation of the function of liturgical language, though it’s been an appreciation forged in fires of controversy and some ashes of compromise - as well you know. Still the ecclesial context is vital – what a difference it makes to be fully, unambiguously Catholic! Words, of course, signify their meanings in context, according to their arrangement, occasion, and purpose, the time, place, and attitude of their utterance (ad placitum ab suppositio as medieval grammarians were fond of saying). When we recite the familiar words of the Nicene Creed, I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, those words must mean something very different to us as Catholics than when we said the same words as Anglicans (with our fingers crossed!). It makes a profound difference to pray the Mass with the Collect for Purity at the beginning and the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the end, clustered now not around an equivocal Prayer of Consecration (one not altogether clear about what exactly it’s doing), but irradiating from the confidence of the Roman Canon and the power of the Holy Sacrifice. Such a context can literally transfigure the significance of familiar words. Yet we also know from our Anglican experience that the rich words of the Prayer Book can fall flat and ring hollow when an otherwise lovely lex orandi gets detached from an authoritative lex credendi and leaves lex vivendi prey to the zeitgeist of “lifestyle politics” and sets souls adrift.
It seems to me, then, that we have to learn to read our own Anglican history and to examine our habits and affections in a new key, a new context, not so much for the defensive retention of a “goodly heritage”, but to discover in its resources a new impetus for transfiguring mission’.
from a talk entitled Very Members Incorporate:
Some Reflections on the Sacral Language of Divine Worship
2 February 2015, by Dr Clinton Allen Brand KSG
Diary of a Church Mouse
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptised, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes...it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
‘The idea that there is a unique Anglican approach to Scripture was first proposed to me years ago during those first conversations that would eventually lead to the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. I must confess, initially I found this idea puzzling, partly because the greater incorporation of Sacred Scripture in the liturgical life of the Church is one of the express desires of the Second Vatican Council and even more recently underscored by the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God and the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini of Pope Benedict XVI. And yet, consistently and from various sources both Anglican and Catholic, historical and contemporary, one finds the assertion that the Anglican liturgy is distinguished by the prominence it gives to Scripture in the conduct of public worship and in the promotion of biblical piety.
There is a culture within Anglicanism wherein scriptural words, and images are almost a default starting position, a culture nourished and preserved in the parochial celebration of the Divine Office. This bears witness to the hallowed tradition of English monasticism which informs so much of Anglican worship. Additionally, the inclusion of the various scriptural “touchstones” throughout the Eucharistic liturgy (the Summary of the Law, the Comfortable Words, the Sentences, the fraction anthem “Christ our Passover”) is a distinctive Anglican feature which informs, underscores and punctuates the liturgical action. While the biblical intuition is present from the very beginning of Anglicanism when the insistence on the vernacular found expression in the beauty of the King James Bible and “Prayer Book English”, this approach to Scripture is more about reading the Bible liturgically, allowing the words and poetic cadences to linger, penetrate, and take root in the soul as a sustained, communal lectio.
Let us be mindful, though, that this approach to Holy Scripture is what one might call “less tangible” patrimony. One cannot point to it as demonstrably as one would point to, say, Evensong. As patrimony goes, its contours are much more subtle, defying both simple definition and replication. And yet, one need but read some of the Pastoral and Plain Sermons of John Henry Newman to see an eloquent example of this approach’.
from a talk entitled The Mission of the Ordinariate given 2 February 2013 in Houston
by Bishop Steven Lopes
‘God loves infinitely an infinite goodness; the Son loves it in the Father whence it comes, the Father loves it in the Son in whom he places it, and upon whom he pours it out: “This is my Son, my only beloved, in whom I am well-pleased”.
The Father’s unqualified delight, his outpouring of his Holy Spirit, comes down with Christ from heaven to earth.
When St John came to write the story of Christ’s baptism, he connected it with Jacob’s dream of the ladder from heaven to earth, on which the angels of God ascended and descended (John 1:32, 51; Genesis 28:12). And certainly the baptism has so many levels of meaning in it, that without ever going outside it we can run up as though by steps from earth to heaven and down again. At the height of it is the bliss of the Trinity above all worlds, in the midst is the sonship of Jesus to his heavenly Father; at the foot of it (and here it touches us) is the baptism of any Christian.
We cannot be baptised without being baptised into his baptism: and the unity we have with him both in receiving baptism and afterwards in standing by it, brings down on us the very blessing and the very Spirit he received. In so far as we are in Christ, we are filled with the Holy Ghost, and the Father’s good pleasure rests upon us; infinite Love delights in us’.
Austin Farrer FBA, 1904-1968
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ did take our nature upon him, and was baptised for our sakes in the river Jordan: mercifully grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may also be partakers of thy Holy Spirit; 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
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
‘The journey of the Magi gives us a mystical interpretation of the life of prayer. The Magi are represented to us as oriental sovereigns, who had everything that could satisfy their senses. Their first condition may represent the life which seeks to find satisfaction in material things. It is the witness of the soul, and of these wandering Wise Men, that we cannot be satisfied with the life of the senses. Hence that urge which the Wise Men felt to leave their comfortable life, their glittering courts, and go out they knew not where, following a beckoning which they felt certain called them – without, by the following of a star; within, by some spiritual hunger.
That urge is something which we all know. We cannot rest in the material; we must seek the spiritual. Sometimes we get tired, and perhaps we give up the quest for a while and try to settle down into material things, but we cannot do it. God is Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, because we ourselves, created in His image, are spiritual beings’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘These that came from the East were Gentiles, and that concerns us, for so are we. We may then look out, if we can see this star. It is ours, it is the Gentiles’ star. We may set our course by it, to seek and find, and worship him as well as they. So we come in, for “God hath also to the Gentiles set open a door of faith”, and that he would do this, and call us in, there was some small star-light from the beginning. This he promised by the patriarchs, shadowed forth in the figures of the Law, the Temple and the Tabernacle, the Prophets and the Psalms, and it is this day fulfilled. These wise men are come who not only in their own names but in ours make here their entry; came and sought after, and found and worshipped, their Saviour and ours, the Saviour of the whole world. A little wicket there was left open before, whereat divers Gentiles did come in; now the great gate set wide opens this day for all – for these here with their camels and dromedaries to enter and all their carriage. Christ is not only for russet cloaks, shepherds and such; but even grandees, great states such as these came, and when they came they were welcome to him – for they were sent for and invited by this star, their star properly.
They came a long journey, and they came an uneasy journey; they came a dangerous journey and they came now, at the worst season of the year. They stayed not their coming till the opening of the year, till they might have better weather and way, and have longer days and so more seasonable and fit to travel in. So desirous were they to come with the first, and to be there as soon as they possibly might; broke through all these difficulties, and behold, come they did.
And we, what excuse shall we have if we come not? If so short and easy a way we come not, as from our chambers hither? And these wise men were never a whit less wise for so coming; nay, to come to Christ is one of the wisest parts that ever these wise men did. And if they and we be wise in one Spirit, we will follow the same star, tread the same way, and so come at last wither they are happily gone before us.
And how shall we do that? In the old ritual of the church we find that on the cover of the canister wherein was the sacrament of His body, there was a star engraven, to shew us that now the star leads us thither, to His body there. So what shall I say now, but according as St John saith, and the star, and the wise men say “Come” and let whosoever will take of the Bread of life which came down from heaven to Bethlehem, the house of bread. Of which Bread the Church is this day the house, the true Bethlehem, and all the Bethlehem we have now left to come to for the Bread of Life – of that life which we hope for in heaven. And this our nearest coming that here we can come, till we shall by another coming ‘Come’ unto him in his heavenly kingdom. To which He grant we may come, that came to us in earth that we thereby might come to him and remain with him forever, Jesus Christ the Righteous’.
from a sermon preached on Christmas Day 1620
by Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626, Bishop of Winchester (1619-1626)
Kings should offer gold, rich, royal men –
And I am poor and no red gold have I;
Must I stay in the cold, sad shadows then,
While kings in light spread splendours splendidly?
Saints should offer incense, holy men –
My shabby soul is soiled and stained with sin;
Must I wait, shut without the stable then,
While saints join kings to offer gifts within?
Lo, I am not alone, but round me here
In the wan shadows, waiting wistfully
With nothing else to bring but only myrrh,
Stands silent, shy, a grey-clad company.
’Tis well for us, we of the common crowd,
That we may bring sad symbollings of myrrh,
Where God lies sleeping ’neath a stable shroud
Of common straw, and leave our offerings there.
We will be glad the incense makes a veil
To hide us somewhat, and the saint’s pure prayer
Goes with the golden gifts where we must fail;
Yet we will dare to bring our meed of myrrh.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘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
‘How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!
‘You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!
‘Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room before the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life, there was room for you, too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.
‘You are my especial patrons, and patrons of all latecomers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.
…‘For his sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be forgotten at the throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom’.
Saint Helena reflecting on the Magi in the novel ‘Helena’, 1950, by Evelyn Waugh, 1903-1966
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy Only Begotten Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may be led onward through this earthly life, until we see the vision of thy heavenly glory; 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
‘Come along, shepherds’, the Angels cried,
‘Come along, every one!
For great things happen on earth to-night,
And you shall see a wondrous sight –
In bed of straw, on napkin white,
Come down to earth from heaven’s height
God’s own Eternal Son’.
‘Come along, comrades’, the Shepherds cried,
And quick those men did run,
And in they pressed through the humble door,
And low they knelt on the stable floor,
Where Mary and Joseph, as poor as poor,
In rich contentment did adore
God’s own Eternal Son.
‘Come along, Christians’, the bells ring out,
‘Ding-a-dong, come along, come along!’
For round the Altar tapers shine,
Where waits our Saviour, yours and mine,
Veiled ’neath the mystic Bread and Wine,
And every soul should be a shrine
For God’s Eternal Son.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a Saint! She is the first daughter of the United States of America to be glorified with this incomparable attribute! But what do we mean when we say: “She is a Saint?’ We all have some idea of the meaning of this highest title; but it is still difficult for us to make an exact analysis of it. Being a Saint means being perfect, with a perfection that attains the highest level that a human being can reach. A Saint is a human creature fully conformed to the will of God. A Saint is a person in whom all sin - the principle of death - is cancelled out and replaced by the living splendour of divine grace. The analysis of the concept of sanctity brings us to recognise in a soul the mingling of two elements that are entirely different but which come together to produce a single effect: sanctity. One of these elements is the human and moral element, raised to the degree of heroism: heroic virtues are always required by the Church for the recognition of a person’s sanctity. The second element is the mystical element, which express the measure and form of divine action in the person chosen by God to realise in herself - always in an original way - the image of Christ (Cf. Rom. 8:29).
The science of sanctity is therefore the most interesting, the most varied, the most surprising and the most fascinating of all the studies of that ever mysterious being which is man. The Church has made this study of the life, that is, the interior and exterior history, of Elizabeth Ann Seton. And the Church has exulted with admiration and joy, and has today heard her own charism of truth poured out in the exclamation that we send up to God and announce to the world: She is a Saint!’
from the homily given at the Mass of Canonisation of St Elizabeth Ann Seton, 14 September 1975
by Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
O God, who didst crown with the gift of true faith Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s burning zeal to find thee: grant by her intercession and example; that we may always seek thee with diligent love and find thee in daily service with sincere faith; 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 the Most Holy Name of Jesus, one of my favourite hymns, so loved by my wife and I that we chose it for our wedding day (16 years ago tomorrow). The hymn was written in 1870 by Caroline Noel, the daughter of an Anglican priest. My preferred tune is that of Evelyns, composed by William Henry Monk (1823-1893).
1. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
2. At his voice creation sprang at once to sight:
All the Angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders in their great array.
3. Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners, unto whom he came;
Faithfully he bore it ,spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death he passed:
4. Bore it up triumphant, with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast,
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.
5. Name him, brothers, name him, with love as strong as death,
But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath;
He is God the Saviour, he is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped, trusted, and adored.
6. In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true:
Crown him as your captain, in temptations’ hour;
Let his will enfold you in its light and power.
7. Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With his Father’s glory, with his Angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him King of glory now.
Caroline Noel, 1817-1877
no.368 The English Hymnal (to the tune Evelyns)
‘With zeal and courage Basil opposed the heretics who denied that Jesus Christ was God as Father. Likewise, against those who would not accept the divinity of the Holy Spirit, he maintained that the Spirit is also God and “must be equated and glorified with the Father and with the Son”. For this reason Basil was one of the great Fathers who formulated the doctrine on the Trinity: the one God, precisely because he is love, is a God in three Persons who form the most profound unity that exists: divine unity.
In his love for Christ and for his Gospel, the great Cappadocian also strove to mend divisions within the Church, doing his utmost to bring all to convert to Christ and to his word, a unifying force which all believers were bound to obey.
To conclude, Basil spent himself without reserve in faithful service to the Church and in the multiform exercise of the episcopal ministry. In accordance with the programme that he himself drafted, he became an “apostle and minister of Christ, steward of God’s mysteries, herald of the Kingdom, a model and rule of piety, an eye of the Body of the Church, a Pastor of Christ's sheep, a loving doctor, father and nurse, a co-operator of God, a farmer of God, a builder of God's temple”.
This is the programme which the holy Bishop consigns to preachers of the Word - in the past as in the present –, a programme which he himself was generously committed to putting into practice. In 379 AD Basil, who was not yet 50, returned to God “in the hope of eternal life, through Jesus Christ Our Lord”.
He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ. He was a man of love for his neighbour. Full of the hope and joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be true Christians’.
from a general audience, 4 July 2007, by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to to know the power of thine unending love; 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.
‘Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray… that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Numbers 6:24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!’
Pope Benedict XVI, 1 January 2008
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been counted worthy to receive the Author of our life, 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.
‘Sylvester I reigned as Pope from 314 to 335, succeeding Pope Melchiades. Because of his banishment to Mount Soracte, he was considered a “confessor” and counted among the martyrs. During his pontificate the Church began to come out of the darkness of the catacombs. He was a friend of Emperor Constantine, confirmed the first General Council of Nice (325), gave the Church a new discipline for the new era of peace. He might be called the first “peace Pope” after centuries of bloody persecution. A series of illustrious basilicas were erected during his reign (Lateran, St Peter’s, St Paul’s).
Numerous legends dramatise his life and work, e.g., how he freed Constantine from leprosy by baptism; how he killed a ferocious dragon that was contaminating the air with his poisonous breath. Such legends were meant to portray the effects of baptism and Christianity’s triumph over idolatry. For a long time the feast of St Sylvester was a holyday of obligation. The Divine Office notes: He called the weekdays ferias, because for the Christian every day is a “free day” (the term is still in use; thus Monday is feria secunda)’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Be merciful to the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd of our souls: and keep us in thy continual protection at the intercession of Saint Sylvester, whom thou didst raise up to be shepherd of the whole Church; 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 Jesus Christ, who by thy wondrous holiness didst adorn a human home, and by thy subjection to Mary and Joseph didst consecrate the order of earthly families: grant that we, being enlightened by the example of their life with thee in thy Holy Family, and assisted by their prayers, may at last be joined with them in thine eternal fellowship; 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.
Today, in the Calendar of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, is the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his martyrdom on this day in 1170 whilst on his way to Vespers. Saint Thomas is the Patron of the pastoral clergy in England and Wales. The above photographs were taken in May 2015 during a parish pilgrimage to Canterbury, where I was privileged to be able to offer Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal in the Chapel of All Saints at Canterbury Cathedral. Saint Thomas Becket, pray for the clergy.
The Archbishop preaches in the Cathedral on Christmas morning 1170.
‘“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. The fourteenth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Dear children of God, my sermon this morning will be a very short one. I wish only that you should ponder and meditate the deep meaning and mystery of our masses of Christmas Day. For whenever Mass is said, we re-enact the Passion and Death of Our Lord; and on this Christmas Day we do this in celebration of His Birth. So that at the same moment we rejoice in His coming for the salvation of men, and offer again to God His Body and Blood in sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. It was in this same night that has just passed, that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’; at this same time of all the year that we celebrate at once the Birth of Our Lord and His Passion and Death upon the Cross. Beloved, as the World sees, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the World will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overborne by mourning, or mourning will be cast out by joy; so it is only in these our Christian mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason. But think for a while on the meaning of this word ‘peace’. Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced Peace, when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with War and the fear of War? Does it seem to you that the angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?
Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples ‘My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you’. Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbours, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember then that He said also, ‘Not as the world gives, give I unto you’. So then, He gave to His disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.
Consider also one thing of which you have probably never thought. Not only do we at the feast of Christmas celebrate at once Our Lord’s Birth and His Death: but on the next day we celebrate the martyrdom of His first martyr, the blessed Stephen. Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ? By no means. Just as we rejoice and mourn at once, in the Birth and in the Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.
Beloved, we do not think of a martyr simply as a good Christian who has been killed because he is a Christian: for that would be solely to mourn. We do not think of him simply as a good Christian who has been elevated to the company of the Saints: for that would be simply to rejoice: and neither our mourning nor our rejoicing is as the world’s is. A Christian martyrdom is no accident. Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man’s will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity. Not so in Heaven. A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, seeing themselves not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead from which they draw their being.
I have spoken to you today, dear children of God, of the martyrs of the past, asking you to remember especially our martyr of Canterbury, the blessed Archbishop Elphege; because it is fitting, on Christ’s birth day, to remember what is that Peace which He brought; and because, dear children, I do not think I shall ever preach to you again; and because it is possible that in a short time you may have yet another martyr, and that one perhaps not the last. I would have you keep in your hearts these words that I say, and think of them at another time.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen’.
from Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot OM, 1888-1965
O God, for whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas Becket fell by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all who call upon him for succour may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire; 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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