October 18th is St Luke’s feast. The great evangelist, as he is also known, was a citizen of Antioch in Syria, is said to have been one of Jesus’ first seventy two apostles and was a close friend of St Paul, who thought a lot of him and refers to him in the letter to the Colossians and in other letters.
He is, of course, known to us as the writer of one of the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. He is the only one who gives us the parable of the prodigal son and so gives us this clear and moving example of God’s love and mercy.
St Paul tells us he was a physician (Colossians) and no doubt his professional skills were of great service to Christ’s followers, both in treating ailments and, through private practice on the wealthy, as a source of income.
In present times, doctors and other healthcare workers are absolutely vital to us as we face the threats not only of Covid-19, but the myriad other ailments from corns to cancer than afflict us. May we then remember St Luke and think of our doctors as respected and beloved physicians.
“Authentic simplicity implies both detachment and renunciation. The Desert Ascetics …. Deliberately withdrew from a society and a church that had been corrupted by power and materialism. In the desert, these athletae Dei, or ‘athletes of God’ gave themselves fully to ascetic practices and continual prayer, both of which paved the way that leads to union with God. ……
In contrast to the questions we might ask of ourselves today, they asked themselves instead: How much more can I renounce? What can I do without? How can I learn to love as Christ did, with true compassion and without judging others? And, ultimately, How can I truly love my God?
Seeing all things through the ‘prism’ of simplicity inspired the early ascetics to become living embodiments of the truth emanating from the Gospel. This view is antithetical to the falsehood of the ways of the world. While Society, then and now, stressed the accumulation of possessions, the manipulation of others, the glorification of the individual, and the exaltation of the self, the desert ascetics found perfect contentment in the practice of …. simplicity, humility and frugality. Such practices made ample space within for God’s love and his Kingdom.”
Blessings of the Daily • Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
‘Turn off the lights’, ‘Don’t put the heating on, put on more clothing.’ ‘Walk, don’t use the car’ – these are some of the many ways in which we are encouraged to live simply. They are laudable and practical steps we can take. However, they scarcely touch the simplicity, humility and frugality Brother Victor-Antione describes. the present restrictions because of the pandemic does give us an opportunity to review that value of what we (used to) do in ‘normal life’. How much have we done without and what real difference has it made? What more could we do without? How much more could we give up? How can we make amends with the people we have fallen out with? How can we stop grumbling? And what would we have instead? Hopefully, more time for chatting with God. More time for listening to God. More opportunity to experience and share His love. TC
Last week I wrote about ‘waiting’ and its two meanings. This week is about ‘attend’ and its derivative, ‘attention’. Fear not! This is not the start of weekly lessons about words and their etymology. ‘Attention’, “attending’ and “attend” are all linked to the idea of waiting in a way that is crucial for anyone trying to meet God, especially through the Mass. To “attend” is derived from the Old French ‘atendre’ meaning ‘to wait for’, ‘to expect”, (Modern French ‘attendre)’. In turn this is from the Latin for ‘give heed to, stretch toward’: in other words “stretching one’s mind toward something’ or ‘concentrating’.
‘Waiting’ and ‘attending’ share the idea of’ expecting something to happen. However, waiting is passive, and comes to an end when something expected happens. Attending is the opposite: it is active and the person who ‘attends’ does more than letting time pass by. To attend they must ‘stretch’ their mind towards what is happening. For example, we may wait for the priest to enter, come to the altar and begin the Mass. From that point onward, we should engage in its celebration. It is unfortunate that nowadays “attend” carries with it the meaning “be there and watch”. We might ‘attend’ a wedding, or a wrestling match (there is a difference!) or the opening of parliament or the placing of wreaths on Remembrance Day. We are there, but not expected to take part, just to observe. Perhaps we sometimes think like this about going to Mass. “Oh I’ll think about it on Sunday, after I’ve been to Mass.”
Equating ‘attending mass’ to no more than “going to mass” or “being at mass” is understandable, but disappointing. Mass is the opportunity to meet and embrace Christ, experience His love for us and commit ourselves to his service. We cannot do this unless we plunge ourselves into the liturgy of the Mass, paying attention to each of its elements and taking an active part, not only in prayers, hymns and responses but also in concentrating on what is said, sung and preached – “stretching our minds to grasp their meaning” and hearing – not just listening to – God’s Word. Really, we should leave church after Mass exhausted by the effort we’ve put into it – tired but joyful that once again we have encountered God through his Son.
There are two meanings to “waiting”, depending on which preposition you use: “waiting for” means allowing time to go by until something happens: “waiting on” means serving someone, usually with food and drink.
I have experience, supported by what others have told me, of the habits of Parisian waiters. At a typical café, one can wait for the waiter to wait on you. They will then wait for you to pay and give them a suitable tip. Typically, this experience is spiced up by the waiter waiting for you to get his attention and decide to wait on you. All Parisian waiters go through a rigorous training programme to qualify for their jobs, though I’m not sure ‘Making the (foreign) Customer Wait’ is part of it. If not, they learn the art very quickly: - it is clearly an entertainment which they value as a diversion from the ennui of their daily work. I wonder sometimes whether it is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit God’s reminder to us that we have to be patient wait for things. We wait for blessings, we wait for love to come along, we wait for a pay rise, we wait for death and salvation, and so on. Also Parisian practice is a good reminder that though some may serve us, none are less than us, and, in fact, we are all servants – of God and of one another.
At this moment we wait for the ‘end’ of the Covid 19 disease, and a return to ‘normality’, even though the signs are that we face creating a new ‘normality, if only because Covid 19 is not going to go away. Our new ‘normality’ will include learning how to live side-by-side with it waiting for outbreaks which, hopefully, will be better managed as we learn more and more about its treatment.
Becoming more patient and more resilient, then, is a big challenge for generations brought up to expect instant gratification who will be in a time when ‘waiting for’ becomes both important and critical. Except in one respect. No, Parisian waiters have not been blessed by the Holy Spirit. Their practice cannot be God-given, since God does not want to place us in contexts where impatience (from ‘waiting for’) and resentment (for ‘waiting on’) breed sins of intemperance and anger. God is Love. A love we need not wait for, since it is available to us all the time. All we have to do is to stretch our hands out to grasp it, and our souls will be filled with His Love. Simple!
On October 15th , we celebrate St Teresa’s life and service to God. Born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus 28 March 1515 – 4 or 15 October 1582), was a Spanish noblewoman who felt called to the convent. Carmelite nun, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church, but not until over four centuries after her death. Active during the Catholic Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580.
Her written contributions, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus and her seminal work The Interior Castle, are today an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature. Together with The Way of Perfection, her works form part of the literary canon of Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practice, and continue to attract interest from people both within and outside the Catholic Church.
“We are God’s work of art” Ephesians 2:10
A Message from SPUC – The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
‘On 24 June 2020, MPs voted by a huge majority in favour of Dr Rupa Huq MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics”. The Bill comes up for a Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 25 September.
Sarah Olney MP is also introducing a similar bill on Friday October 30. …..
….. We are launching a petition calling upon the Home Secretary to uphold the right of peaceful, law-abiding pro-life citizens to save the lives of unborn children and to offer help to pregnant women directly outside abortion clinics…..’
“St Paul says that we are all the work of God. If we truly believe this and try to live by the apostle’s statement, it means defying all our preconceived notions about others and, above all, about ourselves. St Paul gives us a new way of looking at reality, a reality that now appears to our eyes as transfigured by the light of God and renewed in Christ.
Each element of creation is, therefore, changed and made different. We can no longer “act as usual”, as if nothing has happened. We are now in Christ, and each of us is a new creation bearing the image of God. Therefore, we must show utmost respect to one another and to ourselves, because we are all God’s handiwork.
This is not always easy to do. We are weak, and often struggle and fail. We must pray for the sort of faith that strengthens our resolution, so that the grace of God may act in each of us, according to God’s wishes. It is said of St Seraphim of Sarov that he addressed each person he met with the salutation, “Christ is risen, my joy.” He called each and everyone “my joy” because he saw in them the work of God. This is another saint who has much to teach us.”
Br Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette: Blessings of the Daily
Pope Francis says:
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must [state] that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father.” (Apostolic Letter, 2016)
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good... Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”
A few days ago a friend, who volunteers in a care home, told me that she had been asked to become a fulltime member of the home’s staff. “Some jobs are not filled and we have sick leave and holidays to contend with, so we really are short-staffed at the moment,” she explained.
“The thing is, I love the residents, and get on well with colleagues. But,” she continued, “the truth is. I really don’t want to do it. Not fulltime. I only volunteered until I could go back to work in my ‘proper’ job, once it’s safe to do so…. At the same time, I couldn’t let them down. So, in the end, I said I’d do it.” She paused then said, “I didn’t sign up for it, but I guess he has better plans than mine.”
‘He’ is not her manager (who’s a woman), nor her husband or partner (she has neither). It’s God. Her faith is such that she always prays to discern what God’s intentions may be before taking any major decision. This humility and ability to put aside one’s own wants and listen for our Saviour’s wishes are not necessarily easy to see, including in ourselves– a kind of hidden ability.
This was on my mind when I watched a TV news item about the way some people have been abused and insulted for not wearing face masks in shops. The victims here are people with hidden disabilities conditions that have no physical appearance, but which mean that wearing a mask can prove impossible or harmful. It struck me that these incidents indicated another hidden disability – a spiritual one, when people, possibly out of fear, cast aside the tolerance, generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that they might normally offer.
Hidden spiritual abilities and disabilities characterise every one of us, whether we are aware of them or not. Let us fight our fears through repentance, humility and prayer that discerns God’s will, and our hidden spiritual disabilities shall be vanquished, as we rejoice, like my friend, in serving Him.
“They should practice the seeing of God’s presence in all things, in their conversations, their walks, in all that they see, taste, hear, understand, in all their actions, since His Divine Majesty is truly in all things by His presence, power and essence. This kind of meditation, which finds God our Lord in all things is easier than raising oneself to the consideration of divine truths which are more abstract.”
‘St Ignatius Loyola, The Letters of St Ignatius Loyola’ William J Young
This is a classic expression of one of the foundational themes of Ignation spirituality – that God is to be found in all things. Note the practical element of this theme - that it is easier to understand and more useful than more abstract prayer.
Today, we could pay particular attention to finding God in two places that Ignatius mentions – in conversations with others (e,g. after Mass) and in walking from place to place (e.g. from home to the shops or in the garden).
Source: “An Ignatian book of days” Jim Manney • Loyola Press 2014
Pope Francis has established 1 September as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, encouraging the Catholic community around the world to pray for our common home.
The day is inspired by Pope Francis' landmark encyclical Laudato Si’, which calls on "every person living on this planet" to care for our shared Earth.
He calls us all to celebrate this opportune moment to “reaffirm [our] personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation, as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
The World Day of Prayer is another opportunity for us to connect with our creator God and allow the Lord to redefine our relationship with the environment: from one of consumption and control to one of care and protection.
There are many ways to respond to Pope Francis’ call to care for the gift of God’s creation – why not take some time out of your day on 1 September to walk in your local park or take a few moments to thank God for the flowers growing in your garden? For more ideas go to https://cafod.org.uk/News/UKnews/Celebrate-World-Day-of-Prayer
August 15th is the usual day for celebrating Our Lady’s Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation.
There are some who still scratch their heads over the veracity of this event, although it was made dogmatic by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in the bull Munificentissimus Deus. As dogma, we are obliged to believe in it.
What does it mean for us on our daily journey towards God?
According to Pope Benedict XVI:
“By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.
Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.
We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand.
Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary's guidance.”
[General Audience, August 16, 2006].
This day celebrates one of the great mysteries of Christ’s life and mission. He took his three ‘core’ apostles. Peter, James and John, up a mountain (believed to be Mount Tabor) to pray with him. The apostles did what seemed to be a regular thing – they fell asleep while The Lord prayed! They awoke startled to find Jesus in conversation with Moses and Elijah. After the shock of recognising these Patriarchs of Israel, Peter suggested that he build three tents for them and Jesus, no doubt to protect them from the heat of the day. But Moses and Elijah were about to leave. At that point the apostles entered a white cloud and a voice told them who Christ was – the Son of God.
Christ did nothing without a purpose. His intention here was to bolster the apostle’s courage before his passion and execution. By selecting these three apostles he chose a small team whose combined talents would provide strength to all his followers in the dark days to come: Peter, a strong, if hasty, leader, not afraid to speak truth to the power of the Sanhedrin; James, an organiser who would establish the structures and disciplines of the early church; and John, the mystic who would illumine and inspire the early church’s faith and vision of Christ the King.
Between them they would be able to explore and explain this mystery, after Christ’s resurrection; how Moses represented the Law of the Old Testament; how Elijah represented the prophets and, thereby, God’s promises to his people. Most of all, the meeting with Jesus represented the convergence of the Law and the Torah with Christ’s Mission as the Messiah.
Sea Sunday – our annual celebration of the work of the Mission to Sea Farers. Seafarers need our help because they are often working in dangerous conditions, with no one else to turn to. The Mission’s chaplains support both men and women they support in 200 ports, and tailor their help to each and every one of them.
The Mission provides:
As you can see, the Mission undertakes massive amounts of work to support seafarers. It depends on donations to continue and expand this effort. You can help with a donation. Do this by sending $5 or to our Parish Treasurer who will forward it to the Mission. For details of how to send, use the same method as for your weekly offertory donations. See overleaf for details.
For more information about the Mission to Sea Farers go to https://www.missiontoseafarers.org/sea-sunday
There is something desperately dull about the prospect of week after week of green vestments stretching into the future. But then, all human life is like that. After the party, or the holiday, or the exam success, we come back in the end to the old routine of putting out the rubbish and making sure there will be milk for breakfast tomorrow. Ordinary Time is repetitive for a purpose and the green vestments signify something immensely important to us. The colour green symbolises hope, just as the burning fire of love is symbolised by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like all that grows, is always new and always fresh.
Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time because it is the season in which we are being neither especially penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white). Instead, the Spirit, having come down on us, is now living in us and acting through us. This offers a different kind of excitement from that of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost – not so much one of bustling about arranging celebrations, but quiet and thoughtful actions to grow our faith and allow the Spirit’s presence within us to give us a sense of God’s enduring love for us. It is a time too to look around and take time to savour the wonders and beauties of creation, now when Spring becomes Summer and the countryside flourishes in all its God-made glory.
As Gerald Manley Hopkins put it in Pied Beauty:
Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced- fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Also it is an opportunity to reflect that:
Now joy-filled Easter
and Pentecost are done,
we hear, question and once more
learn who truly is this Son,
remembered, made real, honoured
through the unvarying rite
of Ordinary Time, whose
constancy shapes, guides our sight
towards Advent, Nativity and
Lenten eager expectation.
This plain Time’s virtue lies not
in tedious repetition:
its rituals reveal threefold God’s
eternal dance of loving care
through which we, ordinary folk,
everlasting joy may share.
From ‘Ordinary Time’ • Tom Caple 2018
Now is Ordinary Time in the Church’s Calendar, at a point in which, in our daily lives, things are anything but ordinary! This period of loss and deprivation is a time of grief. Many grieve for the loss of loved ones and close friends; others grieve that they cannot be with or touch relatives; others grieve for the loss of ‘liberty’ under current rules; yet others grieve because the dangers of covid-19 remain a hidden threat .
Grief, in short, is not confined to deaths and funerals. Now is the time to show how we can cope with grief by our faith in God’s love. Here are some steps in controlling grief and transforming it into a gift of love.
1. Practising humility Opportunities to grow in humility tend to come by letting others into our grieving lives; such as unexpected weeping to a compassionate stranger or permitting a neighbour to clean our house.
2. Surrendering to God willingly all our needs Having a heart and mind that is open and willing to hand over our wants and needs into God’s hands.
3. Listening for and accepting God’s answer It does not mean we no longer care about our circumstances, only that we surrender our needs, cares, and concerns without expecting a specific outcome to our prayer.
4. Coping with the apparent absence of God When feeling as if God has forsaken or abandoned you; feeling spiritually dry or alone, you persevere courageously in trusting God’s love.
5. Showing Confidence in God’s Timing When you are feeling empty, exhausted, possibly abandoned by God and others – cultivate gratitude. Think of all the ways God has blessed you. Then, thank Him for what He is doing in your life. In this way we make everything a holy gift that He, in turn, moulds into healing, strength, and peace for us.
6. Preparing to accept what the future may bring When we pray without expectation of a certain outcome, then we will accept that our pain may not be taken away from us. Instead, it may be transformed into deeper love for Jesus, whose deep love in turn is given to us. Suffering and loss do not define us; they teach us how to love in a deeper and more meaningful way.
The Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year; it brings the Easter season to a close and celebrates the beginnings of the Church. This day is the Church’s birthday. Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room. A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk - but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and that the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.
People have scratched their heads over the gift of tongues that were bestowed to those in the Upper Room. However, gifts from God are have a subtlety beyond their appearance. This gift was more than the capacity to communicate with others. Those who were there were from many lands within the Roman Empire and outside, so the presence of people speaking different languages, as well as the common languages of Latin and Greek (and, for many, Hebrew) should have been no surprise. What did surprise, especially those not directly involved, was what was being said and understood.
Here is a mystery. What was said? One clue is that these were followers of Jesus, some well-established, others new converts. What the Holy Spirit must have made clear to them was the language they should use in Jesus’ name and therefore in God’s name. God is love and Jesus offered his love to all, freely and fully. The Spirit filled the apostles and followers with understanding of what and how to speak the language of love – Christ’s mission. And this is a new language, one rarely heard before in the pagan world. Live not in fear, captives of greed and oppression, but in the knowledge of the freedom Jesus has won for mankind: “God asks only that we return his love. “
No wonder the stupefied observers thought the apostles and followers were drunk. They were: but with the new understanding of what their beloved Christ was asking of them.
What is it?
World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication (the press, motion pictures, radio, television and the internet) afford the Church to communicate the gospel message.
Where did it come from?
The celebration followed the Second Vatican Council, which realised it must engage fully with the modern world.
Why it is celebrated every year?
In setting it up on Sunday 7th May 1967, less than two years after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI wanted to draw attention to the communications media and the enormous power they have for cultural transformation.
Engaging with the communications world
Increasingly aware of the world as a global village and the power of the media as a free market place for philosophies and values, the Church has sought to be in there with its message and to use the media to proclaim the values it sees are beneficial for human development and for the eternal welfare of people.
Analysis and action
Two important documents of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications – Communio et Progressio (1971) and Aetatis Novae (1992) have presented an analysis of the world of the communications media and made recommendations for the Church’s action.
This year Pope Frances has a special message: “I would like to devote this year’s Message to the theme of storytelling, because I believe that, so as not to lose our bearings, we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories. Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze. A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.:
Message from His Holiness Pope Francis
Get the whole of Pope Francis’ Message from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20200124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html - it’s a good read!
Those who have visited the Holy Land and seen the Shrines and other holy places will probably have been to Bethany on the Mount of Olives and seen the place from where Christ is said to have ascended into heaven. This place of wondrous joy is also remarkable because one can see, it is claimed, the print of Our Lord’s foot in the ground. I can’t remember whether it was the right or left foot. What was remarkable was that it was about 20 inches long! It is things like this that can undermine religion and the faith on which it is built. It can disillusion those who have a literal view of the events described in the Bible. It can confirm the scepticism of those who reject Christianity or, indeed, all religions. It can encourage a pick-your-own attitude to belief, making it adapted to individuals’’ preferences, rather than embracing the whole rich and rewarding scope of faith, and the teaching of the Church.
I doubt there are many people who believe that Jesus had 20” feet. Equally it would be no surprise to find that the majority of Christians dismiss the ‘relic’ as, at best, a misunderstanding, and, at worst, a trick to squeeze a bit more money from tourists. Both reactions miss the point, because this is a symbol, rather than a true representation of our saviour’s anatomy. Whist we can be aware of symbols (such as road signs) we are used to interpreting them for their relationship to the ‘real’ world. We think we see a representation of an outsize foot and respond by reference to our understanding of foot sizes that humans have. That’s understandable, but irrelevant. In terms of faith and what we believe, we need to ask what it could mean to have such an image before us. Perhaps it is meant show, not how big, but how great God is, or how powerful Jesus was – or both.
This time of the year celebrates five great events and mysteries of our Faith: Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, The Most Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The truth of each lies in what we are asked to believe and the strength of our belief is to be found in what the Church teaches, and our reflections on the meaning of these events. For example, why should God visit the apostles in the person of the Holy Spirit to ensure they understood their missionary role? What is the significance of the fire at Pentecost? Reflecting on these things and reading about them can help us understand both their actual and symbolic roles in our Faith.
This is important if we are to understand plagues and other disasters and what they might mean. In ancient times, plagues, floods, earthquakes and other unexpected catastrophes were often interpreted to mean that God was saying something, usually by way of warning or punishment. That belief has lasted, so that, for example, people took the Black Death (a fourteenth century pestilence) as God punishing the world for its sins. This belief in God the Awesome Avenger lingers today in some communities, and in some people’s beliefs.
Such vindictive action is nothing to do with the Christian God. As Richard Leonard points out in his article, “Jesus never sends a plague, a natural disaster, or turns anyone into a pillar of salt. If Jesus isn’t into murderous retribution, nor …… is God the Father. Jesus is the incarnate correction to false views of how God works in the world.”
It makes sense doesn’t it? If God is Love, and loves us so much that he asks his Son to take human form to guide us to a better understanding of that love and to sacrifice himself for the sake of that love, it makes no sense whatsoever to believe that the same God would act so punitively towards us. God did not send us COVID-19, whatever its origins. It is in great part the result of poor human practices and bad decisions.
“Spiritual sanity in these difficult days rests in seeing that every moment of the day God does what he did on Good Friday: not intervening to prevent humanity killing Jesus, but not allowing evil and despair to have the last word.” [Richard Leonard ibid.]
As the lockdown continues, the stress of having very limited freedom of movement and action is affecting people differently. Each of us, I guess, can get low and fret for an end to the restrictions. That end seems as far away as ever. This is particularly the case if we get bad news. For example, I have just heard that a very good friend has tested positive for the virus. Shocking and painful though this news is, I find some help in the writings of Blessings of the Daily:
“There are moments when one arrives at a point of despair and senselessness. But those moments are always God’s hour. It is then that he is most at work in us. It is out of sheer despair that I gaze at Jesus, both Crucified and Risen. I see the marks of his passion, the wounds he endured during his crucifixion, and, suddenly, I see this human body that endured so much suffering being transformed by the power of God into the glory of the Resurrection. He …. is rewarded precisely because of his immense sufferings…. It is this that gives me hope to look beyond my own struggles, my limitations, my own sense of despair …... As Christ’s disciples, we are called to follow him through his death into his Resurrection…. It is through faith that I can see light at the end oi the tunnel.”
Blessings of the Daily Brother Victoire-Antione d’Avila-Latourette
We are never alone on our journey. Even at the darkest times. Jesus is with us, just as he was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as we hear in today’s Gospel. Like them we may not always recognise his presence, but our faith tells us he is there, with crook and staff, the inspiration of our courage, the guardian of our hopes, the shepherd of our souls.
The Bishops of England & Wales have declared this year a Year of the Word called ‘The God Who Speaks”. During this year we are encouraged to re-discover the Word of God in our Bibles and renew our love for Scripture. To help us do this I will make available each week a resource sheet called ‘The Wednesday Word’. The sheet contains the following: Sunday’s readings and guidance for a prayerful reading of scripture in order to prepare more fully for the. coming Sunday’s Mass.
Sheets are at the back of the church and available at the website http//www.wednesdayword.org/
Please watch this space for news of other initiatives throughout the year. A deanery retreat day on the Bible is also planned for later this year.
In Western Europe, it has been customary for many centuries to include the name of a saint when naming a child– usually as the first personal name, and again after Confirmation. In the UK, there is a wide variety of first names given to boys and girls, but the most popular names seem to remain constant.
For example, the ten most popular name for girls in 2000 were, in order of popularity: -Chloe, Emily, Megan, Charlotte, Jessica, Lauren, Sophie, Olivia, Hannah, and Lucy.
18 years later the ten most popular girls’ names were: Olivia, Amelia, Ava, Isla, Emily, Mia, Isabella, Sophia, Ella, and Grace.
What seem to be significant changes are not so revolutionary, since all these names were in the top 50 list for both years. We may be in for some startling changes next year, if you accept Harper’s Bazaar’s forecast that the top ten will be Adah, Reese, Mika, Paisley, Amina, Teagan, Nova, Aura, Pearl, and Billie, completely different from what went before.
So what is happening to the convention of naming children after saints? It seems that parents now resist pressures to name their children after their parents or relatives. Instead, a growing habit is to find attractive, or interesting, or ‘celebrity,’ names. This is a pity. The use of saints’ names has a purpose over and above carrying on a ‘family name’. By naming a girl Elizabeth, or a boy John, one is seeking a spiritual ‘sponsor’ and role model for the child. (That is not to suggest that choosing ‘Catherine’ brings with it a wish for the child to be martyred! Rather it offers St Catherine’s depth of faith as a model.) Getting to know about one’s patron saint is a splendid – and often exciting – way of learning about how Christians put their faith into practice and the spiritual strengths they have to support their actions. In a community where multiple faiths (and none at all) flourish, using a Christian name is a way of declaring our identity as children of God. Getting to know more about our patron saints can also lead to more reflection about whom we name when we say In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the gala procession in honour of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15.
This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple.
The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas. At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession, which has become part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.
After celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, with its splendour in both the Church and the popular culture, it would be easy to overlook the significance of this feast. Yet Joseph and Mary’s presentation of the baby was no pro forma event. They did this to conform with the Law and in doing so God enters the Temple. The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled in the poor parents presenting their firstborn son along with their humble sacrifice of two turtledoves.
Simeon and Anna, having spent their lives in prayer and waiting in the Temple for the Messiah, have their ‘moment’ with the glorious Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. With Candlemas we celebrate the coming of the Light of the World. But a shadow also passes. Simeon not only proclaimed that he had seen his salvation, but also told the Mother of our Lord that her share would include a sorrow-pierced heart.
“The feast of the Epiphany, one of the most beautiful of the liturgical year is rich in content and meaning. We let its glow shine forth to penetrate our hearts, as we continue to contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, who came to dwell among us.
“Though [Christ’s} birth is the focal point of our Christmas celebration, there is another birth, more intimate and personal, of which the Fathers of the Church often spoke. It is the spiritual birth of the Son of God in the hearts of those who desire and welcome Him. ……..
“The mystery of Bethlehem is renewed each year, each Christmas, each day, in the innermost parcels of our hearts where Jesus seeks comfort and shelter. It is in our hearts that he seeks to make a permanent dwelling, revealing to us the meaning of His words in the Gospel. There, He teaches us how to pray and call upon His name. It is also in our innermost hearts that He shows us the Father’s face, for ‘he who sees me, sees the Father.’ Finally, He comes to this innermost part of ourselves, the most intimate of sanctuaries, when we receive Him in the Eucharist. It is there that He remains, as he did in the crib in Bethlehem, and in the arms of his Mother, waiting for our silent love and adoration.”
Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette OSB
“In its genuine simplicity, the nativity scene reminds us it is not the quantity of things that counts in life, but the quality of relationships. Drawing our gaze to God, who is poor in possessions and rich in love, it recalls us to what is essential.”
Pope Francis 30 December 2019
“John had done a great job of preparing the people for the coming of Jesus. St. Matthew records that “Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptized by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins,” (3.6) In the harsh solitude of the desert John had made the people ready for what would be a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
“The Baptist was such a success story that in order to deflect celebrity status away from himself he had to tell the crowd there at that very moment and in their very midst was one “who comes after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to carry his sandals,” (3.11).
“Never for a moment did John expect that Jesus would join the crowd in seeking to be baptized by him! John vehemently objected, “It is I who need baptism from you, and yet you come to me!” The reply of Jesus was even more emphatic, “Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands.” For Jesus it would have been utterly wrong for Him to stand as an aloof spectator to what was most obviously a God-inspired dramatic occurrence.
“John, therefore, went ahead in baptizing Jesus. Righteousness had demanded this. In so doing the Baptist had been given a glimpse of what it meant for the Son of God to become the Son of Mary - one of us, a member of the human family, a child of Adam. In this John had received a hint of how it would be throughout the ministry of Jesus.
“Ordinary people would realize that whatever Jesus had done for them and for others, whatever Jesus had said to them in his inspiring sermons and in his kindly chatting to them, had come from ‘one of them.’”
Extract from a homily by Fr Peter Clarke OP
Laetare is the Latin for Rejoice and comes from the first words of the Introit at Mass - Isaiah 66:10-11, which begins "Rejoice, O Jerusalem" and continues "Rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow".
Today, the Fourth Sunday, has been viewed traditionally as a day of celebration tinged with sadness, coming in the middle of Lent when Easter is in sight and Lenten austerity can be lessened briefly to encourage people to continue with the discipline of penance. So the purple of Lent is put aside and rose vestments are used instead.
In fact ‘Rose Sunday’ is another traditional name for this day, although by far the most recognisable name is ‘Mothering Sunday’ - not, note, “Mother’s Day”, which is a modern commercial invention.
Mothering Sunday got its name during the Middle Ages, when people were expected, at this time in Lent, to go to mass at their ‘Mother’ church; i.e. where they were baptised, or their parish church or their cathedral (a cathedral being the ‘mother’ of all the parish churches in a diocese).
In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented from doing so by conflicting working hours. Today is not much different.
As for “Mother’s Day”, my mother got it right: she would always say
”Why one Mother’s Day? Every Day should be Mother’s Day!!”
Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. "Easter" literally means "the feast of fresh flowers." We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons:
Why do we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus ?
Jesus has just ascended to rejoin his heavenly Father. Christ, of course, was not abandoning his followers. He went to fulfil his promise to send the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and inspire us in the mission Jesus has set us - to bring all to Him and to the path to heaven.
The Holy Spirit is not an “add-on”, a worthwhile bonus to the wonders of Jesus. St Basil the Great wrote:
“All living things turn to the Holy Spirit in their need for holiness. … The Holy Spirit … extends his own light to every mind to help in its search for the truth.”
This is what those in the upper room that day experienced - not just a capacity to communicate with their world, but the insight, wisdom and language to bring forth the Good News. And the Holy Spirit offers us the same gift - not a Berlitz course in a foreign language, but a far more exotic tongue - the language of love and salvation.
Today we complete the days of the Easter cycle - exactly fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus. Today we experience the descent of the Holy Spirit into our lives Today, he comes to reveal to each of us the hidden meaning of all that Jesus taught during his earthly years. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” John 14: 25-26)
Today, the Holy Spirit is given to us as he was once given to the Apostles: to understand with greater clarity and depth the teachings of Jesus. The gift of understanding is essential if we are to continue, in our own small way, the work of Jesus. The Holy Spirit descends upon the entire universe. We realise that he descends upon people of different places, races, cultures, tongues and times. He fills all things with the gift of himself.
Thus, today, both creation and the Church are renewed by the Holy Spirit who sustains all life.
Saint Seraphim of Saros never ceased to remind his disciples that, “The only purpose of Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.”
From Blessings of the Daily: Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
is the mystery of God within himself. A mystery in theology does not mean that something is unknowable, it refers to something beyond reason that is revealed by God. This is an important point: We can talk and write about the Holy Trinity and we can say some reasoned and necessary things–things that are true, but as true as they are, they are always going to be an incomplete truth about God. A good image for this might be a beach: Imagine a sandy beach with the sand representing the whole mystery of God. One person could pick up a few grains of sand in his or her hands and in holding those few grains they would be holding true grains of sand. In other words, part of the mystery literally could be grasped. As hard as one might try, however, it would be impossible for one person to grasp all of grains of sand in his or her hands. Basically, we can grasp something of the truth, but not all of it – and that’s okay! Humans are finite beings and trying to grasp the fullness of infinite truths is, quite simply, beyond us.
Well, from all eternity God existed both as one being but three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The masculine terms Father and Son are used, not because God is male or female but because they express the nature of a relationship between these two persons. Before there is anything there is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: The Father loves the Son with a perfect love and the Son loves the Father with a perfect love and the love which goes from the Father and Son is a perfect person: the Holy Spirit. The Greeks used a special word: ‘Perichoresis’ to describe this relationship. A good translation in English is ‘dancing’ From all eternity God exists as a perfect dance of love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To believe in God the Father, is to believe in God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit. It is to believe in a God who is communion of persons caught up in an eternal dance of love – and as Christians we called to share in that divine dance!
We celebrated this event on August 6th. In the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration, we see the explicit desire on the part of the eternal Father to glorify his Son before he undergoes the sufferings of his Passion. For the moment the veil covering his divinity is lifted and, suddenly, Jesus appears clothed in unsurpassed beauty. He is luminous, translucent with the Father’s glory. The disciples present at the event instantly recognise the glory of God shining from that human face. From the mysterious, enveloping cloud, they hear the solemn declaration: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt 17:5) This is the Father speaking, with nearly the exact words he spoke from on high at the baptism of Jesus. He bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the only Son of God, true God from true God, as we believe and assent in the Credo.
From Blessing of the Daily Br. Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Laturette
The Lord knows full well how His children have limited the time they have for each of the many tasks they put upon themselves to the point of exhaustion. This seems especially true today when life seems lived at breakneck speed.
So, in May we have the chance to slow a little, take time out from the daily hustle. This is because May is the Month of Mary, Christ’s Mother and, thus, the Mother of the Church.
She is the example, as well as the guide and inspiration, of everyone who, in and through the Church, seeks to be the servant of God and our sisters and brothers, and the obedient agent of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We have no evidence that Mary rushed about trying to do an impossible number of things all at once; nor that she scolded anyone; nor that she gossiped, argued or nagged to get her way. She took Time and did not let Time take her.
For Mary, God’s way determined her way (as in the Annunciation): she also knew that what she could not do, her Son would (Cana). Most of all, she understood that love - not the overbearing pressure of time - is the foundation and framework of a satisfied life,. Love springs from Faith and Mary lived a life of faith and piety. Piety is the virtue that protects us from reducing faith to unfeeling, loveless dogma and mindless praying.
So May is the time to renew our acquaintance of and love for God’s Mother. Saying one Hail Mary thoughtfully, or the Litany of Mary, are simple ways of renewing our reverence for her and reminding ourselves of the selfless, patient and faithful way she responded to God’s plan for her.
May this be the example we can follow in peace, freed from stress, now that the earth yields its fruits for us once more.
According to tradition, in an apparition to Lady Richeldis, the Blessed Virgin Mary fetched Richeldis’ soul from England to Nazareth during a religious ecstasy to show the house where the Holy Family once lived and in which the Annunciation of Archangel Gabriel occurred. Richeldis was given the task of building a replica house in her village, in England. The building came to be known as the "Holy House", and later became both a shrine and a focus of pilgrimage to Walsingham.
In passing on his guardianship of the Holy House, Richeldis' son Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a priory in Walsingham. The priory passed into the care of the Canons Regular of S Augustine, sometime between 1146 and 1174.
An immensely popular place of pilgrimage during the middle ages, the shrine was destroyed during the Reformation and restored in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Slipper Chapel is now the centre of what has become the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady and is regularly visited by people from the English dioceses and beyond. In mediaeval times this was the last staging post, where pilgrims began a 1 mile barefoot walk to the Shrine in the village. (Hence ‘Slipper’)
Carfin Lourdes Grotto, is a shrine in Scotland dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and was created in the early twentieth century. The "Carfin Grotto", as the shrine is locally referred to, was the brainchild of Father, later Canon, Thomas N. Taylor (died 1963), parish priest of St. Francis Xavier's Parish in the small, mining village of Carfin, two miles east of Motherwell.
Following a trip to Lourdes, Canon Taylor's vision was to build a religious memorial in honour of Our Blessed Lady. Since its opening in the early 1920s, the "grotto" has attracted pilgrims in the hundreds of thousands. For the past 90 plus years, the grotto shrine has offered a pilgrimage season with Sunday processions, rosaries, outdoor masses and dedicated Feast Day events which runs annually from early May until late September.
The evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879, was a very wet night. At about 8 o'clock the rain beat down in driving sheets when Mary Beirne, a girl of the village, accompanying the priest's housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin, home, stopped suddenly as she came in sight of the gable of the little church. There she saw standing a little out from the gable, were three life-size figures. She ran home to tell her parents and soon others from the village had gathered.
The witnesses stated they saw an apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist at the south gable end of the local small parish church, the Church of Saint John the Baptist. Behind them and a little to the left of Saint John was a plain altar. On the altar was a cross and a lamb (a traditional image of Jesus), with adoring angels
This is now Ireland’s National Marian Shrine, and is a popular pilgrimage centre, especially for those with illnesses or disabilities.
Legend tells how, in the Middle Ages, a beautiful statue of Our Lady, her Son on her lap, and a burning taper in her hand, appeared on the banks of the River Teifi in Cardiganshire. Any attempt to move the statue to the parish church in Cardigan resulted in its reappearing at the spot where it first appeared. It became a place of pilgrimage and St Mary’s church was built on that spot in 1158. The original statue was destroyed in the Reformation.
At the beginning of the 20th century, monks from Brittany gave their abbey church the name of Our Lady of Cardigan and revived the devotion. They made the same dedication to the small church they built in Cardigan in 1912 The monks left in 1916 and the devotion lapsed.
In 1952, Bishop Petit learned that there had once been a shrine in Cardigan and decided to restore it. He commissioned a new statue, which was blessed in Westminster Cathedral in 1956.
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Taper is now the national shrine for Wales and parish for the people of Cardigan and surrounding areas.
John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890) was one of the foremost churchmen and theologians of his day. He studied and then taught at Oxford University, and became the Vicar of St Mary the Virgin, the University Church; he was known for his intellect, his pastoral care, and his preaching.
A leading light of the Oxford Movement, which was seeking to move the Church of England in a Catholic direction, Newman left his considerable prospects and many friends behind when he converted to Catholicism in 1845, at a time when there was still widespread prejudice against Catholics in Britain.
Founding the first Oratorian community of priests in Birmingham in the late 1840s, he continued to write major works of theology and philosophy as a Catholic. He founded a university for Catholics in Ireland and, in 1859, The Oratory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.
He was made a Cardinal in 1879 and he died in 1890.
Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010.
Cardinal John Henry Newman is to be canonised after a second miracle in his name was confirmed by the Pope in February 2019. The canonisation (which has been welcomed by the Church of England) took place on October 13th 2019. It will make Newman the first English person who has lived since the 17th century to be officially recognised as a saint by the Church.
"I think to myself, 'I, too, could be here.’ That is, none of us can be sure that we would never commit a crime, something for which we'd be put in prison."
"We all make mistakes in life. And we all must ask forgiveness and make a journey of rehabilitation so we don't make them again."
“It must be kept in mind that penal sanctions have the aim of rehabilitation, while national laws should consider the possibility of establishing other penalties than incarceration. In this context, I would like once more to appeal to governmental authorities to abolish the death penalty where it is still in force, and to consider the possibility of an amnesty."
"Losing our freedom is not the same thing as losing our dignity. That is why we need to reject all those petty clichés that tell us we can't change, that it's not worth trying, that nothing will make a difference."
“Prisoners who are re-entering civic society ought not be punished anew by neglect, indifference or, worse, contempt.”
If one’s work as a Catholic is not united to Christ Jesus, it is no longer the “mission” to which the Church is called, Pope Francis told a group of religious brothers on Monday 29tth October .
“Let us not forget that the condition of every mission in the Church is that we are united to the Risen Christ as branches to the vine. Otherwise what we do is social activism,” the pope said Oct. 29.
“This is why I repeat to you the exhortation to remain in [Christ],” he continued. “First of all, we need to let ourselves be renewed in faith and hope by Jesus alive in the Word and in the Eucharist, but also in sacramental forgiveness. We need to be with him in silent adoration, in lectio divina, in the Rosary of the Virgin Mary.”
On October 14th  Pope Francis canonised Pope Paul VI (1963-78). Pope Saint Paul oversaw the Vatican Council, making numerous reforms.
On October 14th, Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917 – 1980) was canonised by
Pope Francis. St Oscar lived almost all of his life in El Salvador.
On 23 February 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. Welcomed by the
government, many priests were disappointed, especially those openly supportive of
liberation theology. Progressive priests feared that his conservative reputation would
negatively affect commitment to the poor.
However, just 17 days after his appointment, something happened which had a profound effect on him. Fr. Rutilio Grande a personal friend who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor, was assassinated. St Oscar later said: "When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, 'If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.' Romero urged the government to investigate, but they ignored his request. Furthermore, the censored press remained silent.
He devoted the rest of his life to defending the vulnerable against the violence and cruelty of what became a Civil War. His sermons and broadcast speeches created many enemies in a country where assassination was commonplace. In March 1980 he urged soldiers who were Christians to keep to their faith and not follow orders to unjustly persecute and kill. The next day, saying mass at a hospital chapel, he was shot and killed. The revulsion and demands for justice raised by Salvadorans and the International Community have not yet led to the murderers being identified.
When he was beatified, Pope Francis said of him: "His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.” Hailed as a hero by supporters of liberation theology, St Oscar, according to his biographer, Jesus Delgardo, "was not interested in liberation theology" but faithfully adhered to Catholic teachings on liberation and a preferential option for the poor, desiring a social revolution based on interior reform.
St Oscar agreed with the Catholic – and not the materialist - vision of liberation theology. A journalist once asked him: 'Do you agree with Liberation Theology' And Romero answered: "Yes, of course. However, there are two theologies of liberation. One is that which sees liberation only as material liberation. The other is that of Paul VI. I am with Paul VI… The most profound social revolution is the serious, supernatural, interior reform of a Christian. The liberation of Christ and of His Church is not reduced to the dimension of a purely temporal project. It does not reduce its objectives to … a material well-being or only to initiatives of a political or social, economic or cultural order. Much less can it be a liberation that supports or is supported by violence."
St Oscar Romero, pray for us that we too will model our lives on Christ and have the courage to face evil and work for justice.
22 July was the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, one of the most maligned of Christ’s followers. Her name may refer to the town of Magdala a fishing village in Galilee, and she is mentioned in all four of the Gospels. In fact, she is mentioned by name twelve times, more than most of the apostles, and any other non-family women. Luke’s gospel (8:2-3) describes her as one of the followers of Jesus, contributing to his ministry out of their own pockets. This suggests that she was probably well-off. Both St Luke and St Mark write that seven demons had been driven out of her. In all four gospels she witnessed Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. As a messenger who brought news of the risen Christ to the apostles, she became known as the apostle of the apostles.
In later centuries, numerous myths and false accounts of her life and relationship to Jesus destroyed her reputation, regardless of the testimony of the Gospels. A central theme in the later story of Mary Magdalene was that she had been a prostitute (and, therefore, an object of scandal). This was reinforced by Pope Gregory I’s error in confusing her with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed ‘sinful woman’ who washed Christ’s feet (Luke 7:36-50) These falsehoods were refuted by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and Pope Francis raised her memorial to the status of a Feast in the Calendar in 2016. Nonetheless her status as a promiscuous woman has remained in popular culture to the present day. For example, the 2011 Film Resurrection portrays her as an experienced prostitute. It seems that bad-naming women and destroying reputations is an older game than social media trolls could ever have imagined.
Let us then celebrate St Mary Magdalene’s Feast on Wednesday next, rejoicing in the fact that she followed Christ and was trusted as the first to bring news of His Resurrection to the apostles and the world. Let us pray, too, for all those women who have suffered loss of dignity, abuse and degradation.
22 June: SS John Fisher (1469 – 1535) & Thomas More (1478 – 1535)
Both were martyred for opposing Henry VIII’s decision to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and pronouncing himself head of the Church of England. Both were very senior and important people in the government of England. St John was the Archbishop of Canterbury and St Thomas was Henry’s Chancellor. Their stories have been told and retold many times, sometimes with accuracy, at other times as unfounded attempts to prove that these saints were rogues.
23 June: Saint Etheldreda (636-679)
Also known as Æthelthryth or Audrey, Born in Exning, she was an East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian queen and Abbess of Ely Her father was King Anna of East Anglia, and her sisters were SS Wendreda and Seaxburh both of whom eventually founded abbeys.
Etheldreda founded a double monastery in Ely. These were destroyed in 870 by invading Danes.
24 June: The Nativity of St John the Baptist
The Nativity of John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde in 506 as one of that region's principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.
The Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate their exact dates, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way. The Nativity of John the Baptist anticipates the feast of Christmas.
The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are a group of Catholic lay and religious, men and women, executed between 1535 and 1679 for treason and related offences under various laws enacted by Parliament during the English Reformation. Their names are listed below. They died for the Faith as did many Protestants under Queen Mary.
• Saint John Almond
• Saint Edmund Arrowsmith
• Saint Ambrose Barlow
• Saint John Boste
• Saint Alexander Briant
• Saint Edmund Campion
• Saint Margaret Clitherow
• Saint Philip Evans
• Saint Thomas Garnet
• Saint Edmund Gennings
• Saint Richard Gwyn
• Saint John Houghton
• Saint Philip Howard
• Saint John Jones
• Saint John Kemble
• Saint Luke Kirby
• Saint Robert Lawrence
• Saint David Lewis
• Saint Anne Line
• Saint John Lloyd
• Saint Cuthbert Mayne
• Saint Henry Morse
• Saint Nicholas Owen
• Saint John Payne
• Saint Polydore Plasden
• Saint John Plessington
• Saint Richard Reynolds
• Saint John Rigby
• Saint John Roberts
• Saint Alban Roe
• Saint Ralph Sherwin
• Saint Robert Southwell
• Saint John Southworth
• Saint John Stone
• Saint John Wall
• Saint Henry Walpole
• Saint Margaret Ward
• Saint Augustine Webster
• Saint Swithun Wells
• Saint Eustace White
You can go online in a search engine/web browser and find out more about them. Some are Welsh, when Wales was considered part of England.
May 3rd was the feast day of two apostles, about whom little is known, Saint James and St Philip.
This James is known as James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, to avoid confusion with the other James (the Great) son of Zebedee.
We know a little more about Philip, who is mentioned frequently in the Gospels. He was from Bethsaida, as were Peter and Andrew. He probably first heard of Jesus through being a disciple of John the Baptist. Jesus seemed to trust him greatly. Selecting him to find food for the multitude.
“I am forever grateful to St Philip for some of his questions to Jesus, because it is in Philip’s request, “Lord show us the Father” that Jesus elaborates on his relationship to his Father, one of the most beautiful texts in the Gospel of John.
Jesus said to him “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14: 8-9, 11
“Often, when at prayer, I seem to get nowhere. I then glance at the large ikon of Christ, the Pantocrator, in our chapel and reflect on Jesus’ response to Philip….
“I know I cannot comprehend God, that his mystery is beyond me, but I know that in the Ikon I see Jesus. Trusting his words, I know in an inexplicable way that in seeing Jesus I also see the Father.”
Blessings of the Daily Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette
St James is the patron saint of apothecaries; pharmacists; dying people; fullers; pastry chefs.
St Philip is the patron saint of hatters and pastry chefs.
St. Catherine of Siena was born during the outbreak of the plague in Siena, Italy on March 25, 1347. She was the 25th child born to her mother, although half of her brothers and sisters did not survive childhood. Catherine herself was a twin, but her sister did not survive infancy. Her mother was 40 when she was born. Her father was a cloth dyer.
At the age of 16, Catherine's sister, Bonaventura, died, leaving her husband as a widower. Catherine's parents proposed that he marry Catherine as a replacement, but Catherine opposed this. She began fasting and cut her hair short to mar her appearance. Her parents attempted to resist this move to avoid marriage, but they were unsuccessful. Her fasting and her devotion to her family, convinced them to relent and allow her to live as she pleased. Despite Catherine's religious nature, she did not choose to enter a convent. Instead she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, which allowed her to associate with a religious society while living at home.
Something changed her when she was 21. She described an experience she referred to as her "mystical marriage to Christ.” Such mystical experiences change people, and St. Catherine was no exception. In her vision, she was told to re-enter public life and to help the poor and sick. She immediately went into public to help people in need. She often visited hospitals and homes where the poor and sick were found. Her activities quickly attracted followers who helped her in her mission to serve the poor and sick. She was drawn further into the world as she worked, and eventually she began to travel, calling for reform of the Church and for people to confess and to love God totally. She became involved in politics, and was key in working to keep city states loyal to the Pope.
She died in 1380, aged 33. She is the patroness against fire, illness, and of the United States, Italy, miscarriages, people ridiculed for their faith, sexual temptation, and nurses.
It is something of an oddity that we celebrate St Stephen’s feast day at Christmas, some thirty years before he was martyred. Yet, it is in the third week of Eastertide where we read of his reproof of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council which had accused him of “speaking against this holy place (The Temple) and the law”.
In his response he turned the tables on his accusers, claiming that they were the ones who, with their ancestors, resisted the Holy Spirit and persecuted prophets. Naturally this did not go down well, and the council members drove him from Jerusalem and stoned him to death.
What Stephen did before the council was to stand up to those who had been responsible for the legal murder of Jesus. You have become his betrayers, his murderers.” [Acts 7,51-8.1] As such it is a message to all Christians to stand up in defence of our Saviour. The stones we face today are the jibes, lies, and objections hurled at Our Lord and at us, his followers, each ‘stone’ intended to hurt with dismissal, denial and claims that our faith has no meaning or goodness.
As the stones rained down on him, Stephen knelt in prayer: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” [Acts ibid.] Even as an agonising death overtook him, he called for mercy on his persecutors, as Christ did on the Cross.
Before this, Stephen had been an active follower standing for Christ, busy in synagogue and meeting places bringing the Good News to fellow Jews and irritating the Establishment to the point where they decided to get rid of him.
In these ways - standing up to Christianity’s opponents, being humble in praying for their salvation and standing amongst non-believers proclaiming the Good News - he is the very model of an active Christian we should all aim to be.
Felix of Burgundy, also known as Felix of Dunwich (died 8 March 647 or 648), was the first bishop of the East Angles. He is widely credited as the man who introduced Christ-ianity to the kingdom of East Anglia. Felix travelled from his homeland of Burgundy to Canterbury before being sent by Honorius to Sigeberht of East Anglia's kingdom in about 630. On arrival in East Anglia, Sigeberht gave him a see at Dommoc (possibly Walton, Suffolk or Dunwich in Suffolk). Felix helped Sigeberht to establish a school in his kingdom "where boys could be taught letters". He died on 8 March 647 or 648, having been bishop for seventeen years. His relics were translated from Dommoc to Soham Abbey and then to the abbey at Ramsey.
Patron saint of sailors, merchants, repentant thieves, archers, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students
On December 19th, we celebrate the memorial of St Nicholas. Like many early saints we know little about St Nicholas. He was born (c. 270) into an affluent Greek family in Myra (now Demre, in Turkey) and, after becoming a priest at an early age, became Bishop of that area, and served there until his death c.343. Over the centuries, many tales have been told about his life and miracles, although there is little evidence to support the claims made for him in most of these.
The most famous story is about how he rescued three sisters from the threat of becoming prostitutes. He heard about a devout man who had lost all his money; his three daughters had no dowry and no prospects of marriage. Instead, they would be sold into prostitution. Rather than humiliate the man by a display of his generosity, Nicholas visited the man’s house over three nights and, on each occasion, threw a bag of gold coins through an external window. This meant that the girls would each have a dowry and could marry. From this and other tales, he became renowned for his generosity, modesty and discretion. St Nicholas’ descendant is, of course, Santa Claus, who secretly visits families at Christmas to give them gifts. As the commercial world has kidnapped Santa,
Saint Nicholas’ purpose in helping the poor has disappeared under an avalanche of goods. This misses the point: St Nicholas was motivated by two things: first, following Christ in aiding the poor (”Blessed are the merciful’); second, following Christ in respecting the poor. So, as you go about giving presents this year, think like St Nicholas, not ‘Santa’, and seek out someone who needs your gift. This doesn’t have to be money…A CAFOD World Gift given under a relative’s name may be a blessing for a poor person elsewhere and a blessing for the relative. Or again, ten minutes talking to a lonely person may be a bigger, better gift than a box of chocolates.
He was an Irish monk who did much to establish Christianity throughout the British Isles and particularly in East Anglia. Born in Ireland, he established a monastery at Rathmat, on the shores of Loch Corrib, and then journeyed to England where he founded another at Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth.
Remembered especially on January 16th.
St Antony is the originator of the monastic life. He was born in Egypt: when his parents died, he listened to the words of the Gospel and gave all his belongings to the poor. He went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work.
He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them. Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He lived to be 105, and died in 356.
Remembered especially on January 17th.
Remembered especially in January on the first Sunday after the Christmas period.
Patron saint of virgins, chastity, and gardeners. Remembered especially on January 21st.
Patron saint of writers and journalists. Remembered especially on January 24th.
Remembered especially on January 26th.
Doctor of the Church Remembered especially on January 28th.
A man who dedicated his life to the service of abandoned young people. Founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Remembered especially on January 31st.
Patron saint of Ireland
Remembered especially on March 17th.